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.Hawkwood
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.