Publisher: Llewellyn Publications, Llewellyn WorldWide, Ltd.,2141 Woodale Dr
Location: Woodbury, MN
Cover: Joanna Willis
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 03/30/2008
Summary: A scientific approach to Plato’s Atlantis and what may be the final.
The complete title of this book is ATLANTIS: ANCIENT LEGACY, HIDDEN PROPHECY. Good title but it does not do justice to the scholarly content of the book. ATLANTIS is the most erudite, straightforward and definitive book you will probably find on the history and mythology of the “lost continent”. In this relatively short two-hundred and fifty-seven page book, which includes a glossary, John Michael Greer answers just about every question an Atlantis skeptic would want answered and an Atlantis believer would prefer not be raised.
ATLANTIS starts appropriately with “Plato’s Riddle” as chapter one. From the scant mention of Atlantis in Plato’s Timaeus, Greer examines the context in which Plato used Atlantis as an example of a civilization gone bad. For Plato, was Atlantis a real place in a forgotten age, the existence of which was told to him by the priests of Egypt? Greer provides an illuminating answer and really comes back to answer it in the final chapters of the book. In between start and finish, we learn of Atlantis the mythology and Atlantis the legacy. They are entirely different subject matter.
Greer gives ample warning that he is going off the Atlantis beaten path when he mentions the “modern myth of progress”. Though Greer does not go into the details, there is no evidence that human kind has changed over the 150,000 to 200,000 years of its existence. What has changed and what continues to flow in an ever widening circumference of expansion, are the perspectives and beliefs we have about our place in the Universe. However, from the early twentieth century education models imposed by public schools and higher education, the verdict that human society is claiming a ladder of progress has been ingrained in all of us. There is no ladder. There is no progress. There is only change. At one time the fuel propelling the perspective of change came from religion and mystical beliefs. Today, the fuel is coming from science. Science, in turn, is evolving back into a mind-set (quantum physics) approaching religion and mystical belief. We are in fact at a tipping point. In essence, this is where Greer’s ATLANTIS starts and ends. Our civilization is the next “Atlantis” for reasons Greer illuminates with breath-taking clarity, and he is calling for a new “Atlantis” priesthood–”seed bearers” he calls them–to preserve our present level of knowledge and beliefs. The “call” sort of misses the point. It is a curious faux pas in the context of a book effectively bridging the common sense divide between religion and science. What exactly is the point of taking a snapshot of an apparition, a ghost?
The mythology of Atlantis got its start in modern times with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society (with Colonel Henry Steele Olcott). Greer precedes his discussion of Blavatsky with a look at others who preserved and expanded upon Plato’s original mention of Atlantis. By the nineteenth century, two hundred years after the last mention of Atlantis by Guillaume Postel and John Dee in the 17th century, the way was open for Blavatsky and other mystics as well as writers such as Jules Verne to portray Atlantis as a developed civilization which crumbled into the eroding waters of ocean and time. In this discussion, Greer stresses the point that occultism (“‘hidden philosophy'”) is not a religion. The reason he stresses the point is probably because much of what came out of the renewed interest in Atlantis after Blavatsky took on the flavor of religious belief. Reincarnation, a tenet of nearly all main stream religions except Christianity, became a pivotal requisite in the Atlantis myth adhered to by Blavatsky as well as mystics such as Edgar Cayce. Greer also cites entertainment media–books, movies–which took up the Atlantis myth, implanting the idea in the popular mind as a possibility if not fact.
Greer’s book is unusual in that it traces this history of Atlantis as mythology from Plato to the early twentieth century with such scholarly and “objective” discipline. That in itself make the book work reading. But he goes a step farther. A lot farther.
“Earth changes”, a phrase familiar to all who have read sessions from Edgar Cayce, is introduced into Greer’s discussion in an attempt to explain how a island-continent–which Atlantis was purported to be–could disappear with barely a trace.
There is this “thing” our modern age has for “impending disasters” and human responsibility for such disasters. Remember the “population time bomb”? The refined definition of “over population” is now given as a condition in which the density of a population exceeds its survival resources. The popular definition started out as simply too many people in the world. Aside from the latest “impending disaster” pushing the last “impending disaster” from prominence, time has a way of dulling the dagger of doom these disasters portend. Factor in a little logic, as opposed to descriptive statistics which rely upon speculation and guesses, and most “impending disasters” turn out to be manageable conditions requiring changes in perspective and attitude (as opposed to new technological gadgetry).
Greer uses ATLANTIS to examine the latest “impending disaster” and extract a legacy for the myth of doomed Atlantis. It is an artful job and extremely well done. The legacy of Atlantis is that a civilization can vanquish into the mist of time from natural disaster–with or without Man’s implicit contribution, as Greer points out.
In surveying the science of geology, Greer identifies potential disasters waiting to occur which are part of the cyclic life of Earth. It is not a question of whether they will or will not occur. The only question is when. In a chapter he titles, “Destruction by Water”, we learn that “mostly buried in undersea mud, are trillions of tons of methane hydrates–chunks of ice filled with methane (CH4), also known as swamp gas, a carbon compound produced by rotting organic matter”. According to the U. S. Geological Survey , methane, a “greenhouse” gas, is 10 times more effective than carbon dioxide in causing climate warming. Ocean methane has been leaking into the atmosphere for thousands of years, every since the last ice-age. Isn’t it Mankind who is supposed to be polluting the air and leading the planet into a greenhouse demise?
As top of the food chain, it is very difficult to miss an opportunity to place ourselves as Mankind being on top of everything else as well–including geological cycles. (Later, if we survive long enough, we might eventually take credit for the birth and death of stars). While Greer takes a gigantic leap in placing human effort, civilization, in its proper place as a co-dependent element of the Universe and the earth specifically, he stops just short of admitting that Mankind does not control things. Hence, the call for “seed bearers” and an attempt to control the next development of civilization. A minor transgression. Read the book. It is eye-opening.