by Aleister Crowley
"In particular there is a sort of novel, "The Lost Continent", purporting to
give an account of the civilization of Atlantis. I sometimes feel that this
lacks artistic unity. At times it is a fantastic rhapsody describing my ideals
of Utopian society; but some passages are a satire on the conditions of our
existing civilization, while others convey hints of certain profound magical
secrets, or anticipations of discoveries in science."
--- Crowley, writing of the Summer of 1913 e.v. from Confessions, p. 730.
Last year I was chosen to succeed the venerable K-Z --- who had it in his mind to die, that is, to join Them in Venus, as one of the Seven Heirs of Atlantis, and I have been appointed to declare, so far as may found possible, the truth about that mysterious lost land. Of course, no more than one seventh of the wisdom is ever confided to one of the Seven, and the Seven meet in council but once in every thirty-three years. But its preservation is guaranteed by the interlocked systems of "dreaming true" and of "preparation of the antinomy." The former almost explains itself; the latter is almost inconceivable to normal man. Its essence is to train a man to be anything by training him to be its opposite. At the end of anything, think they, it turns out to be its opposite, and that opposite is thus mastered without having been soiled by the labours of the student, and without the false impressions of early learning being left upon the mind.
I myself, for example, had unknowingly been trained to record these observations by the life of a butterfly. All my impressions came clear on the soft wax of my brain; I had never worried because the scratch on the wax in no way resembled the sound it represented. In other words, I observed perfectly because I never knew that I was observing. So, if you pay sufficient attention to your heart, you will make it palpitate.
I accordingly proceed to a description of the country.
Atlas is the true name of this archipelago --- continent is an altogether false term, for every "house" or mountain peak was cut from its fellows by natural, though often very narrow waterways. The African Atlas is a mere offshoot of the range. It was the true Atlas that supported the ancient world by its moral and magical strength, and hence the name of the fabled globe-bearer. The root is the Lemurian "Tla" or "Tlas", black, for reasons which will appear in due course. "A" is the feminine prefix, derived from the shape of the mouth when uttering the sound. "Black woman" is therefore as near a translation as one can give in English; the Latin has aendered of the Virgin ("L") and the Serpent ("S"). "THEOS" (root "O," first written "0") means the Sun in his strength and also the Lingam-Yoni conjoined. "CHRISTOS" is "The love of passion of the Rising Sun ("R") and the Serpent" ("S"). The "I" and "T" indicate certain details which are foreign to the present discussion. "NEUMA" (Atlantean "NM") is the "Arch of the Woman," "MARIA," the Woman of the Sun. The words "MEITHRAS" and "ABRAXAS" are again derived from Atlas. "The woman entered, Lingam being conjoined with Yoni, bears the Sun from her serpent womb" and "From the womb's mouth the Sun (cometh seeking) a womb for his desire, even the womb of a serpent," the course of the year being signified in this manner, as usualy with the ancients. This plain of an idea corresponding to each letter was carried out very strictly: thus "TLA," black, means the stigma or mark of the virgin's womb, "IA" (Hail! Greeting!) "Face to Face," from the other peculiarity described above. These few examples will suffice to indicate the singular character of the language, and the way in which its essential dogmatic symbols have been incorporated by the heirs of Atlas in the inmost sanctuaries of races which they deemed worthy of such assistance.
I must not pass over in silence the question of sacrifice to the gods, to which a passing reference has already been made. Such sacrifices were not very frequent; the victims were the "failures," those who were useless to the social economy. As they represented capital expenditure, the object was to recover this, at least, since no interest could be expected. The victim was therefore handed over to a High Priest or Priestess, who extracted the life by an instrument devised for and excellently adapted to the purpose, so that it died of exhaustion. The life thus regained was given to "the gods" in a manner too complex to be described in this brief account.
The early age at which puberty occurred was due to design. The normal period of gestation had also been shortened to four months. This was all part of the scheme to economize time. Old age had been almost done away with by the great readiness of the Atlanteans to "go and see" at the first sign of failing power. No doubt, further improvements would have been made but for the loss of interest in the matter, all generation being regarded as "the old experiment," not likely to repay the trouble of further research. In the 200 or 300 years of a man's full vigour, only 8 years on the average was the wastage of childhood, and even this was not all waste, since some time at least must be necessary for the experts to discover and direct the tendencies of the mind. The body ought therefore to be regarded as an engine, the theoretical limit of whose efficiency had been reached.
So much I mention of the customs of the Atlanteans with regard to marriage, education and religious sacrifices.
[#23] MAR is Atlantean (also Sanscrit) for die. This word throws light on their conception of death.
[#24] Note that no tautologies defile its linguistic wells. "As I have written" is never changed to "as I have observed, noted, described, said, indicated, remarked, pointed out" and so on.
[#25] I must revert for a moment to the language. OIK, Greek "OIKOS" meant the "House of the penetrating men." NOM, Greek "NOMOS", the "arch of the House of the Women," "i.e." that which roofed them in or protected them. Hence "the law."
The origin of Atlas is lost in the obscurity of antiquity. The official religious explanation is this: "We came across the waters on the living Atla," which is pious but improbable. A mystic meaning is to be suspected. The lay historian says "We came, escaping from destruction, eight persons in a ship, bearing the living Zro." This reminds me one of later legends of presumably equal value. Poets frankly claim "We descended from heaven," and it has been seriously urged that seafarers would have preferred the plains to the rocks. The law of contrariety to Nature explains this away. Others maintain that the earliest settlers came "by air," or "through air." This must mean balloons or airplanes, as flying was not known until centuries after. What is definitely known is that the earliest settlers were of a purely fighting race.
An Atlantean Homer, Ylo, has described the first battle in such detail as to leave no doubt that he is retelling facts --- a marked contradiction to his earlier books. There appear to have been but few Atlanteans, unless the names given are those of chiefs, which internal evidence contraverts. The natives were armed with every possible instrument of precision, having cavalry and artillery in abundance, as well as weapons that must have been as superior to the modern rifle (unless Ylo exaggerates) as that is to the arquebus. In spite of this the men of Atlas "smote them with rods" or "fell upon them with their cones," and routed them utterly. This mention of rods and cones has absurdly suggested to commentators that the Atlanteans used their eyes, and hypnotized the enemy. To state such an opinion is sufficient to expose its author to the contempt of the thoughtful. Altogether 86 battles were fought, extending over five years, before the natives were reduced to sue for peace. This was granted on generous terms, which the colonists broke, as soon as they dared to do so, in accordance with the invariable rule of colonists, then as much as today. However, it was nigh on an hundred years before the first college of Magic was established. Previously the Atla had been carried about as occasion demanded. It was now enshrined with some decency of ceremonial upon a mountain. About three hundred years later we find ourselves face to face with the first great Mystery of Atlas. This is a translation of the record of that most strange event.
"Now it came to pass that all men turned black and died, and that the living Atla abode alone, bearing Mercury, whereof the Sun knoweth. Thus came again the true men of Atlas, and their women, bearing gods and goddesses. And the void suffered nothing, and the earth was at peace. Now then indeed arose Art, and men builded, being blind. And there was light, and some of the light wrought mischief. Wherefore the wise men destroyed them with their Magic, and there is no record because it is written in that which is." A sort of "Si" "monumentum quaeris, circumspice" seems here implied. In any case there were clearly two gaps unbridgeable between the early struggles of the settlers, the period of great buildings, and the modern period, which proved stable of "houses." The "houses" were only made possible by the perfecting of Zro, and this helps considerably to fix the date. The next 2500 years were years of peaceable progress; the labour-mills were run without a hitch, and the next event was the discovery of black phophorus. It had been the custom to worship the Atla with lights, and these lights had been candles of yellow phosphorus in golden sheathes. At that time the Atla was veiled. At one festival of Spring the veils were burnt up, the lights extinguished, and the yellow phosphorus was found to have been turned into the black powder. The Magicians examined this, and brought Zro to its ninth stage. This revolutionized the condition of things: old age and disease were no more, and death voluntary. Strangely enough this led directly to the Great Conspiracy.
At the end of this period of 2500 years the system of "houses" was well established. There were over 400 such "houses," each of perhaps 1000 souls on an average. These were governed by 4 "houses of houses" whose rulers took orders from the High House, at the head of which was the living Atla. The plain principle of Atla was revolution; and like all revolutionary bodies, was obliged to adopt the strictest form of autocracy. A democracy is always soddenly conservative. The only hope is to catch it in one of its moments of crazy enthusiasm, and crush it before it has time to recover. Caesar and Napoleon both did this as far as they could: Cromwell and Porfirio Diaz did the same within narrower limits.
Now a certain sophist --- for philosopher one cannot call him --- tried to enunciate a magical law to the effect that the present standard of life was all that could be desired; that further progress would be harmful, that Venus was not worth attaining, and that the sole endeavour of the Magicians should be to preserve things as they were. That such a proposition could be supposed a "law" reflects no credit on its author or its supporters. Yet of these it found many. The ninth stage of Zro was a leap calculated to unsettle the calmest mind. Its reality had begared the optimist's daydream. Poets had thrown down their stilettos. High Priests who had spent decades in hopeful experiment saw their results attained by an entirely different method. In short, two thirds of the people were infected with the heresy, and hoped to hear it promulgated as a Law of Magic.
It should here be explained that every Law of Magic had its turn as the principal law of practical working, and the school supporting any law, or insisting on it, became prominent with it. Every dominant law in all history had always been made insignificant by a new discovery about Zro, or other matter of practical importance, just as the "Peace with Honour" battle-cry of Disraeli was drowned by the calculation of the cost of warships, soldiers and patriotism. Each step in Zro had consequently implied the rise to power of a new school; and the sophist was ambitious, and yet the law he wished to establish was the ruling law of the servile races.
The "law" was accordingly sent to the High House for approval. Some opposition may have been forseen, but no one was prepared for the blackness of disapproval which actually radiated, striking hearts cold. A course without precedent, no answer was vouchsafed. On the contrary, even normal communication was suspended. The houses which favoured the innovation --- 333 in numbers --- took counsel, came to the decision that it was useless to oppose the High House, and were about to acquiesce, when a woman who had once been in the presence of "To Her" rose and thought vehemently "The Living Atla is the head of our conspiracy." In other words, they were the loyalists, the Magicians of the High House the rebels. This was why they had cut themselves off, because their own head was against them. It was instantly resolved to go to the High House, and demand the custody of "To Her." Nearing the goal, however, a remnant of the ancient reverence half cowed even the ringleaders --- I may mention that five of every six of the heretics were women --- when they saw a stern phalanx of Magicians, its point threatening their centre. As they wavered, a woman cried "They are only men such as we are." The ranks stiffened; on all sides the army closed upon the tiny phalanx, which only numbered 66 all told. It was then that the truth was known. Ere a blow could be struck, the attacking party vanished;
[#26] Needle-sharp daggers of Zro in its seventh stage were used to write on the rock walls of Atlas.
it was instantaneous and complete annihilation. From that moment it was certain that the ruling power in Atlas was Something infinitely more awful than the Living Atla. In order to avoid any possible repetition of such a disaster --- for the Magicians of the High House knew that any manifestation of the Supreme must undo the work of centuries --- they gave out that they had become too terrible to look upon, and for the future they always appeared with heavy veils, or rather masks, since for the most part they were carven fantastically by the wearers in their leisure hours. A further alteration was made in the system of government. The head of one of the "houses of houses" was made supreme: the High House took no part in affairs of state. Thus the Atla was to all intents and purposes deposed, although the same reverence and sacrifice were paid to it as formerly. It became a "constitutional monarch," in our modern jargon.
The next thousand years were years of serious trial in other ways. The toil of repopulation was excessive, and there was a revolt or rather strike of the servile races, which was ended by the substitution of "bread from heaven" for those products of the earth on which they had formerly been fed, a diet which proved so adapted to their natures that no labour troubles ever recurred.
The Greek legends of the wars between Gods, giants, Titans are traditional of a real war or series of wars which continued with intervals over 200 years. The enemy had developed naval armament to an extreme. Their tactics were these:
1. To wipe out the servile races and so to interfere with the production of Zro.
2. To rush and destroy the High House.
The first of these met with a great deal of success, the floating rock being struck with projectiles and sunk. This occurred chiefly on the outlaying islands, where they were not too much afraid to make raids in force. They also sent epidemic disease of many kinds. Atlas was reduced to such extremity in these ways that at one time the waterways were forced and the assault on the High House was actually carried out, bombardment continuing day and night for months together. Through a misunderstanding of well known magical law, Atlanteans at that time considered themselves prohibited from employing any other defence than the rods and the cones of their forefathers; and these, it appears, were useless against machinery, or against men protected by fortification in such a way that they could not be got at from any quarter. Thus the sharklike submarines of the enemy were unassailable. The war was therefore at first entirely one-sided. A certain youthful Magician, however, resolving to die for his country if need were, decided to retaliate. He had found that Zro in its nascent state ("i.e." between the globes) had the power of bringing about endothermic reaction, seawater for example, becoming caustic soda and hydrochloric acid; and further that this acid thus produced was many thousand times more active than in its normal state. For example, the rock basins in which he conducted his first experiment dissolved as rapidly as butter under boiling oil. He then prepared a number of pairs of receiver-globes, and dropped them in the vicinity of the enemy's submarines by night. In this manner he destroyed the hulls of almost the whole fleet in a single night; and the remainder fled in panic at dawn. They returned the following year, carrying out daylight raids only and devoting themselves chiefly to destroying the labour-mills. The young magician had been rewarded for his services by being presented to the Atla, and this example encouraged others to find means of attacking the invaders. Artificial darkness was therefore invented, and combined with the former method; but this was only partially successful, the tremendous pace of the "sharks" enabling them to evade any threatening clouds. They did enormous
[#27] This matter is not for open discussion. Even at this distant date it would be dangerous to do so much even as indulge in speculation.
damage, and the supplies of Zro were seriously curtailed. Things now went from bad to worse, and culminated in the attack on the High House, the besiergers keeping their battleships surrounded by rafts of fire, so that attack was impossible even by night. It was then that the High House called on the heorism of its sons. Armed with long swords of Zro, they plunged into the sea, to perish under the tooth of the "Zhee-Zhou," but not before they had time to hack the invading battleships to shreds. Their floating torch-rafts only assisted the attack by directing the swimmers to their quarry. The attack on the High House had aroused Atlas at last. A counter invasion was plotted and carried out with immediate and complete success, the enemy being exterminated, and their country not merely ravaged but destroyed by arousing the forces of earthquake. All activity of this kind however was deprecable, a recurrence was guarded against by removing the High House to the lofty mountain previously described, and a "house" was chosen to cultivate the art of war, and entrusted with the duty of destroying any living thing that might approach within a hundred miles of Atlas.
Only one other adventure of historical importance remains to be recorded. It is the attempt of some foolish Atlanteans to found an "Empire," and so to be entirely distinguished from the missionary effort referred to previously. The original settlement of Atlas, as has been the case with all flourishing colonies, was made by a few hardy pioneers, who strengthened themselves gradually by growth. But Atlas in her momentary madness poured out blood and treasure in the fatuous attempt to impose alien domination on lands utterly unsuited to the genius of the people. The idea, of course, was to increase the supply of labour and consequently of crude Zro. In the first place the adventure was expensive. It was uneconomical (in the scientific sense) to send ships with less than 1000 fighting men. The Zro required for these meant the employment of at least 7000 serviles, and the naval construction was therefore of a colossal order. But although little difficulty was found in conquering the country in the military sense, the natives had to be almost exterminated, and the labour of the survivors proved difficult to enforce. It was even then not a tenth as efficient as that of the serviles at home. The imported serviles moreover caught native diseases, and died in hundreds; and though by prodigious sacrifices the West African Empire was kept going for nearly 200 years, it had to end at last no less ingloriously than the French adventure in Mexico, or the English in India, and South Africa.
The main causes were the impossibility of breeding children in a climate so unsuitable, even of maintaining their own women, and above all the fact that the crude Zro was not of a quality equal to that obtained in Atlas, and that the Zro generated by the Atlanteans themselves was not to be made at all outside their own country. The lesson was learnt. Until the end no further attempt was made to advance in any but the true direction. The great majority of the colonists returned to Atlas; but many, degenerating as is the fashion with colonists of this conquering kind, abandoned Zro for gross food, intermarried with the natives, and have generally degenerated yet further to races inferior even to the present descendants of those who were in those days the equivalents of the serviles of Atlas.
[#28] I write a little, but not much, in advance of the events. To illustrate the theory here advanced I will ask the reader to compare the results of the attempts to colonize America by (a) the whole military power of Spain at her zenith, (b) the handful of exiles in the "Mayflower."
In my remarks on Zro I have a necessarily somewhat diffuse account of the properties of this remarkable substance. It must now be made clearer that the crude Zro in its nine stages produced by the serviles, and consumed in the "houses" was in each stage of inferior quality to that of the same degree produced by the Atlanteans, and consumed by the High House. For example, the crude Zro was made in a labour-mill with all sorts of insulations. The first stage of the priest's Zro could be made anywhere and at any time, and naturally directed itself to the receptable for it without any precautions. It must, I think, be presumed that the Zro generated in the High House was again of far greater purity and potency. Very little of it can have been used in the experiments of the Magicians, and it is therefore necessary to account for enormous quantities, produced during many centuries of uninterrupted labour. I have, however, no data of any kind for this investigation; the mysteries of the High House have ever been inscrutable, and were not wholly delivered to the Heirs of Atlas. They must be rediscovered by the Magicians of the new race. It may be that in some form or other the Zro had been made stable, and used to impregnate the column which is alleged to have been driven "through the Earth"; perhaps, and less improbably, only to the depth of a few hundred miles. This column, however long it may have been, had certainly its top immediately beneath the reservoir of the High House. It had been completed about 70 years before the "catastrophe" but apparently no effort was made to utilize it in any way. To me it appears probable that in some one mind the whole "catastrophe" was brooding, that the column was part of the device, and that the event which I shall now describe was the other part.
This event was the birth of a child in the High House, a child without the distinguishing mark of the daughters of Atlas. That any child at all should have been born there is so incredible that I am inclined to suspect an improper use of the word "born." I think rather that a Magician brought Zro to its eleventh stage, when it takes human form, and lives! The alternative theory is that of the "Angel of Venus" described in the chapter on the Underground Gardens of Atlas. The supporters of this theory hold that the child was not born of a Priestess, but of the Living Atla.
In any case, the whole country gave itself up to unbridled rejoicing. Work was carried on at a greater speed than ever before: one might say a delirium of labour. For eleven years this continued without cessation, and then without warning came the order to repair to the High House --- every man, woman and child of Atlas. What was then done, I know not, and dare not guess; that same day seven volunteers, heroic exiles from the reward of so many centuries of toil, voluntary maroons on the discarded planet, the Heirs of Atlas, turned their faces from the High House, and severally sought distant mountains, there each to guard his share of the Secrets of the Holy Race, and in due time to discover and train up fit children of other races of the Earth so that one day another people might be founded to undertake another such task as that now ended.
Hardly had the pinnacle of Atlas melted into the sea behind them, than the "catastrophe" occurred. The High House and the column beneath it, with all the inhabitants of Atlas, shot from the Earth with the vehemence of a million lightnings, bound for that green blaze of glory that scintillated in the West above the sunset.
Instantly the Earth, its god departed, gave itself up to anguish. The sea
rushed unto the void of the column and in a thousand earthquakes Atlas, "houses"
and plains together were overwhelmed forever in the ocean. Tidal waves rolled
round the world; everywhere great floods carried away villages and towns;
earthquakes roocked and tempest roared; tumult was triumphant. For years after
the catastrophe the dying tremors of the Event still shook mankind with
fear. And the eternal waves of the great mother rolled over
Atlas, save where Earth in her agony thrust up gaunt pinnacles, bare masts of
wreckage to mark the vanished continent. Save for its heirs, of whose successors
it is my highest honour to be the youngest and the least worthy, oblivion fell,
like one last night in which the Sun should be forever extinct, upon the land of
Atlas and its people.
Shall such high purpose fail of emulation, such achievement and example not excite us to like striving? Then let Earth fall indeed from her high place in heaven, and mankind be outcast forever from the Sun! Men of Earth! Seek out the heirs of Atlas; let them order you into a phalanx, let them build you into a pyramid; that may pierce that appointed which awaits you, to establish a new dynasty of Atlanteans to be the mainstay and mainspring of the Earth, the pioneers of their own path to heaven, and to our lord and Father, the Sun! And he put his hand upon his thigh, and swore it.
By the ineffable " ," "Tla," and the holy Zro, did he swear it, and entered into the body of the new Atla that is alive upon the Earth.
[#29] The Legend of the Deluge is derived from this event.