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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lemuria: The Land Before Atlantis

Just over one hundred years ago, the visionary William Scott-Elliott drew a map of the world. But the unfamiliar continents on Scott-Elliott's map looked very different from those found on our own maps. What he had drawn were the mystic coastlines of Lemuria. But what was Lemuria, and where had the idea come from? 

Earlier in the 19th century society was abuzz with the then-revelutionary ideas of Charles Darwin, and when it was noted that Madagascan lemurs were as widespread as Africa and India, a reason had to be found for how they crossed the oceans. Nowadays we know that the great drift of the continents can provide much of the explanation, but with no other evidence available, the 19th century provided its own answer: there must have been a huge landmass between the oceans which later sank beneath the waves. An English zoologist suggested a name for this ill-fated land: Lemuria, after the lemurs.

But what had begun as a scientifically motivated idea drifted into other very different waters. The Russian occultist Madame Blavatsky took up the idea of the lost land, and her writings (most of which were claimed to have been written in trance) tell of seven mysterious 'root races' which existed before humans as we know them today. Not all of these root races were material beings, and the third were the Lemurians, whom she described as 'giant, ape-like beings', who had no written language, but who could communicate telepathically. After the destruction of Lemuria it was the turn of Atlantis, and as the fourth root race was the first to have material bodies, the Lemurians presumably were somewhere between the first two (named the astral and etheric) and the material Atlanteans, so presumably were able to slip between both the ethereal and the material worlds.

After Madame Blavatsky, William Scott-Elliott stepped onto the stage to carry the idea forward, but the story of Lemuria had yet another twist. In 1932 a Los Angeles reporter visiting the Mount Shasta region in northern California saw unexplained lights swirling around the mountain (my reconstruction above). A local told him that these strange lights were 'Lemurians holding ceremonials', and so the whole aura of Mount Shasta being the last refuge for these semi-visible beings took hold, and was further enhanced by fictional works that cast the location and its mysterious inhabitants as a refuge for a priestly community charged with guarding ancient wisdom.

POSTSCRIPT: When I began writing this post, I had no idea that it might contain a possible connection with the Bigfoot phenomenon. But one thing is clear: at the time that she was writing (or being 'dictated' to?), Blavatsky could have had no knowledge of the later Bigfoot reports. A mysterious race of 'giant, ape-like beings', able to communicate telepathically and perhaps dematerialise at will? Several witnesses report inexplicable feelings that a sighted Bigfoot creature had gotten 'into their mind'. One witness, a veteran of several encounters with a specific individual, even described the sensation as a 'mind grab' - as unpleasant as it was unwelcome. And the idea that Bigfoot can slip in and out of our material world is also supported by the experiences of several witnesses. More questions than answers - but maybe on my first image for this post, instead of painting a mystic 'Mount Shasta' guardian being, it would have been more appropriate - and closer to Blavatsky's own description - had I shown Bigfoot! And curiously enough, northern California is replete with reports of the Bigfoot phenomenon.

Jennifer Westwood: 'Lemuria: The Elusive Continent', in The Atlas of Mysterious Places

B. Ann Slate and Alan Berry: 'Bigfoot'. Whether you give credence to the phenomenon or not, Slate and Berry's book, as unputdownable as any thriller and at times genuinely chilling, makes for compelling reading. I first read it back in the '70's, and am gratified to learn from recent reviews that it is now regarded as a classic in its field. Alan Berry was the first researcher to record purported Bigfoot vocalizations. When on his website I listened to one of them with my headphones innocently turned to max volume, I so shocked that I involuntarily tore off my headset. Whatever made those sounds, it certainly wasn't mere human mimicry. And to forestall the obvious next question: no, it sure wasn't a bear either! An original edition is now worth around $70.oo, but reprints should still be available.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hawkwood and Divine Retribution

"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

Stern words indeed. These are almost the very last words spoken in the book of Revelation, and therefore in the Bible itself. They read like a sort of 1st century notice of copyright, reinforced with the threat of terrible divine retribution. And they apply to me.

For awhile now I have been working on a video which is my own interpretation of the book of Revelation, and in the course of creating that video I have indeed been 'adding unto' and 'taking away from' the words which are written there. I have shaped and changed the visions of John of Patmos to suit my own creative ends, following wherever my own vision of things led me.

This has included a necessary pushing beyond the limiting dualities of the scriptures (God=good, Devil=bad) to portray a perceived mystic connection between The Woman Clothed with the Sun, who in John's writings is presented as all that is virtuous, and the Whore of Babylon, who is portrayed as being vile beyond redemption - a connection so extreme that the description of mere heresy hardly covers it.

So am I holding my breath waiting for assorted plagues to strike me down, and for my impending banishment from the holy city to take effect? Hardly. It is an easy matter to start thinking along the lines of: 'if I do (or don't do) such-and-such, then bad things will happen to me', and the line between faith and fear-driven superstition can be crossed without our even being aware of it.

My video REVELATIONS has since been uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed here:
REVELATIONS: The End of Time

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Anthony of the Desert: Life as Fiction

"Not all true things are the truth" cautioned [1]Clement of Alexandria. He had in mind those writings which he considered to be heretical, but which are now perceived as orthodox. His very orthodox fellow Alexandrian, the bishop Athanasius, earned his own place in history by ordering the destruction of all texts which he personally considered fell outside what was right and proper for Christians to accept as The Truth.

History, as we know, is full of grand ironies. It was the fear of Athanasius' destructive edicts which led a group of unknown monks to remove over fifty volumes from their precious library in the nearby monastery and seal them in a large earthenware jar. The jar they then buried in the Egyptian desert sands. That jar would lay silent and undiscovered for the following sixteen centuries, its contents safely preserved within. When it was rediscovered in 1945 those contents would become known as the Gnostic gospels, and would at last give the writers of these early texts their own place in history. Some voices, it seems, are just not meant to be silenced.

The secrets which those recovered texts tell is a post on this blog for another time. What is relevant here is another claim to fame by Athanasius (the engraving, below): as the author of what became a hugely popular biography of Saint Anthony - Anthony of the Desert, as he became known. One Christian history [2]website which I am currently viewing claims that Athanasius is "ranked, even today, among the greatest exponents of Christian doctrine". The article unsurprisingly fails to mention the bishop's destructive zeal, which went beyond the burning of books to include his annexing of the churches and monasteries where these books were accepted spiritual texts.

But in Athanasius' drive to silence any dissenting voices, the widely-popular Anthony (Albrecht Dürer's engraving, below) presented the bishop with a problem. Anthony's whole life had been an expression of all which the bishop disagreed with: an intensely personal quest for an experience of the divine, which was itself an expression of gnostic values which involved the sidelining of any hierarchical Church authority - including that of a bishop. Ah, what to do, then, about Anthony?

The canny bishop seems to have approached the problem of Anthony with the shrewdness of a spin doctor. Instead of attacking the popular visionary, and so risking disfavour among the populace, Athanasius decided to reinvent him. In the supposedly biographical 'Life of Anthony', the articulate and erudite saint is transformed into an illiterate and humble monk, who rejects the personal values which the real Anthony held, and whose life is the very paragon of all the doctrines which the bishop advocated. Athanasius even tacked on a wholly fictitious ending to his story, in which the saint bequeaths his humble hermit's cloak to the author as his worthy successor. Perhaps predictably, the so-called biography was a huge and influential success. More than that, it came to be viewed as a true account of the saint's life, and the effectiveness of Athanasius' rewriting of reality is seen even today in the catholic acceptance of this most gnostic of visionaries as one of their own.

It is only through the discovered letters, now accepted by scholars as being written by Anthony himself, that we know the true picture. And it seems that without any gainsaying documents, history - even someone's life - can be turned into a work of fiction.

This post is complementary to my current post about Anthony of the Desert on my other blog, which portrays Anthony's visions. You are welcome to visit and read my post Temptations.

[1] Clement would himself suffer the same fictionalizing process as Anthony: a Gnostic who was reinvented by the church as a pillar of Catholic orthodoxy - as also was Paul. In his own lifetime a Gnostic, Paul's writings were later amended to give them an orthodox bias, and several of his letters were forged by other hands to become the scriptural writings now in the New Testament. 'Saint Paul' is therefore also an invention of the Church of Rome.
[2] Athanasius: Pugnacious Defender of Orthodoxy

Elaine Pagels: 'Revelations: Visions, Prophesy and Politics in the Book of Revelation'
Samuel Rubenson: 'The Letters of Anthony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint'