Book Review: Atlas Of Atlantis And Other Lost Civilizations

Atlas Of Atlantis And Other Lost Civilizations, by Joel Levy

It is a difficult matter to construct an atlas, a serious atlas that is, of an imaginary land. Yet this book manages to do so in a way that is both deeply profound and deeply disturbing. Taking an approach that is both geographical and largely chronological in nature, the author first broadens his scope from the origins of the Atlantis myth in the writings of Plato and then examine how this myth was popularized and transformed in the 19th and 20th centuries by such thinkers as Ignatius Donnelly, Graham Hancock, and many others, whose biographies are examined along with their theories and the case various people make for Atlantis, Thule, Mu, Lemuria, and other related lost continents and island civilizations. The broadened scope allows the author to examine many potential cases of real life cities flooded over the course of ancient history from the coast of Japan to the early Sundanese villages just approaching civilization, and also to examine the troubling gnosticism and occult practice behind much of the recent study of such lost civilizations, and the New Age and Environmentalist movement spawned by them.

In terms of its contents, the book consists of a wide variety of material that is viewed with a sense of respect for Plato’s thoughts and a pervasive sense of irony and skepticism about many, though not all, of the modern writers who have attempted by speculate about various theories of Atlantis. A few parallels run through discussions about Atlantis and other lost civilizations. For one, there is a widespread belief in a flood that destroyed an early civilization, leaving few survivors, something that can be found in various tales throughout the world as well as in biblical history. The contents include biographical materials about noted thinkers and researchers in general Atlantis studies, the locations and case for and against their being a potential source for various myths about lost civilizations, specifically relating to the account told by Plato. After reading several such accounts, which range from Antarctica to Cuba to the Incas and Toltecs, to the coast of Japan or Indonesia, along with options in the Greek Islands, Cyprus, and the coast of Spain, there are a few patterns that come to mind readily for the discerning reader.

Among these patterns is the fact that from its origins, Atlantis (or something that sounds a lot like Atlantis) has often been discussed as a stalking-horse for larger political and philosophical and religious ideals that one might not want to discuss openly. Likewise, connections have often been drawn between pyramids and a supposedly ancient monument-building culture whose rule spanned throughout much of the world. On top of this, there has been a strong body of people, usually considered cranks, who have sought to use stories of Atlantis to portray various occult or magical practices, or to point to the previous existence of what were at the time of the theorist to be cutting-edge technologies. Likewise, the fact that so many legitimate sites showing earthquake and flood destruction can be found all over the world going back thousands of years suggests that people have a tendency to build important cities close to dangers of flooding, and that flooding happens fairly typically to many such civilizations, which accounts for the resonance that the story of Atlantis has for our times, with the fears of rising seas inundating many of the cities where people live today. The myths we tell about the past often relate to our concerns about the present and our fears about the future, and that is as true about Atlantis as it is for anything else. It also pays to be skeptical about those who claim to have mystical knowledge and desire a following, but one does not need to study Atlantis to have that sort of insight.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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