THE search for the lost city of Atlantis has engaged our greatest minds for centuries. The very word itself seems to cast a mysterious spell over the psyche of the most rational explorer to the extent that so many possible sites have been found for Atlantis, it might be quicker to list the locations that haven’t been claimed for it as have.
Ever since amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered, in the 19th century, what he claimed was the ancient mythological city of Troy, the hunt for Atlantis began to take on something of the fervour of a Boy’s Own adventure. And in recent years, the pace has quickened even more. With the invention of Google Earth, anyone with a computer can now have a god’s-eye view of the seas that Poseidon would have resented with a vengeance, and the latest “discovery of Atlantis” appears in the news with alarming regularity.
But my understanding about Atlantis is different. It is my belief that Plato, the first writer about Atlantis, used this flooded land as a metaphor in his secret teachings. I also believe that Atlantis as a literary device provides far more value, and can bring far more meaning into our own lives, than the mere discovery of an historical location with not one stone left upon the other.
So why haven’t we understood what Plato really meant before? Did we not have the technology or the science to unravel the deeper meaning?
Even at the time that Plato was writing, this teaching had to be hidden within layers of allegory and metaphor. Plato would have realised, in seeing the execution of his own master, Socrates, that these philosophical ideas can be so easily misunderstood.
But in addition, as an initiate of the Egyptian Mystery Schools, Plato was under pain of death not to reveal to the masses what he’d learned in the temples there. These secret teachings were only transmitted orally to those adepts that were deemed ready to receive them, who’d undergone lengthy apprenticeships. This was partly to preserve the sanctity of the teachings, but also to keep them out the hands of those that would use them for their own gain.
But for us today to understand why Plato used the literary device of Atlantis, we don’t need a new invention or a more sophisticated computer program. Rather, we have to go back to recover something we’ve lost. What needs to improve is not our ability to discover lost geographical landscapes on our Earth, but our ability to reclaim lost cognitive landscapes within our own collective consciousness.
The Deluge that flooded Atlantis was not one sent by Poseidon, nor any other archetypal god of Olympus. It was sent by the earthly Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ~ religion, science, economics and Light Entertainment. What has been deliberately drowned, dumbed down and disappeared off the face of the Earth, like the Missing of some autocratic South American regime, is not Atlantis but our understanding of how to read ancient myths and how they gave meaning to our early ancestors’ lives.
What has been submerged into the darkest waters of the firmament is our understanding of the connectivity of meaning ~ how meaning makes connections as much as those that travel through space or time.
We’re used to seeing ourselves connected in space; of understanding how our place on the globe relates to a friend’s place on the globe. We’re used to seeing ourselves connected through time; of understanding our place within our line of ancestors and descendants. But we’re no longer schooled, as the ancients were, to see ourselves as part of the microcosm within the macrocosm. Or put another way, we’re not taught to perceive ourselves within a holographic framework which transcends space and time in which we are all connected through meaning to the universal Web like the one woven by the Three Norns.
This connectivity of meaning has been drowned in a Darwinian delusion of random and meaningless evolutionary processes; the so-called Blind Watchmaker of Richard Dawkins and the blind demiurge of the Gnostics. It has been lost in religions turning mythological heroes into historical leaders. It has been submerged under the mechanical processes of Newtonian materialism, which is only now being gradually moved aside by a more enlightened physics that recognises the possibility of multi dimensions and of an energetic Field which governs matter.
Ever since science ‘killed God’, it has had to assume the storyteller’s mantle, the responsibility for telling us who we are and where we come from. But now, the very best minds in science are moving towards a startlingly different view of the universe and our place within it than the one we’ve been taught to perceive.
Still, like the Blind Watchmaker, the universities and the media are obliviously churning out the same old tired dogma about who we are. And so we’re left grasping feebly around us in the Wasteland for something to believe in, like the Arts — and to stare wistfully at mythic landscapes painted during the more enlightened Renaissance, like lost and dispossessed souls dimly remembering their former home and hearth land… by the rivers of Babylon.
But now it’s finally time to go back home. And like Theseus, we will have to retrace our steps along a circuitious, labyrinthine route. And like Orpheus, we should never look back.