Saturday, 16 May 2020

Room 207 Press Webinars #1: The Scam From Atlantis

Madame Blavatsky will never not be judging you.
The Scam from Atlantis, Monday 1st June 8pm BST and 8pm EDT

So I've gotta eat. And more specifically, I've been asked a bunch of times if I'll be doing more talks, because talks are a thing I do. Hi, by the way. If you've not come here before, I'm Howard David Ingham, and I've written professionally about occult history, religion and, most recently, movies for twenty years, and a couple of years ago I wrote a book called We Don't Go Back: A Watcher's Guide to Folk Horror (obligatory Amazon UK link) which got nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, which is nice.

I'm starting on 1st June with The Scam from Atlantis: the occult roots of fake archaeology, which deals with an abiding lifelong obsession of mine: Atlantis.

This is personal to me, has been since I was a kid, and my dad used to keep his books on the occult on a high shelf and one day I balanced on a stack of wobbly chairs and got them down, and there was this one about Atlantis, only I'm not talking about your Plato Atlantis or your Robert E Howard Atlantis, your Graham Hancock Atlantis or even your Doug McClure Atlantis, I'm talking about the dream Atlantis of Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner, William Scott-Elliot and Charles Leadbeater. The Hyperborean age of the Lhas. The Lost Lemuria.

This was a world invented by and for psychics. Mystics. Dreamers. Not filtered through any lens of pulp fantasy, either. I wouldn't read the American writers who riffed on this stuff until well into adulthood, and that was probably a good thing.

I was about eleven, and I'd discovered Dungeons and Dragons about the same time (I still have the box, purple sides, Erol Otus dragon, acquired second hand from some older lads down the road who couldn't make head or tail of it, at a time when everyone else had the Elmore dragon), and in my lonely head the blurry second-hand fragments of theosophical imaginations turned into lost ancient worlds full of psychic three-eyed beastmen who domesticated dinosaurs (and when you are eleven nothing catches your imagination like a giant with a dinosaur on a lead. Nothing), and tribes of sad blue giants who walked through lands scoured by the depredations of airship fleets commanded by crazed tyrant witch-kings. This was in the books. This was all there, I swear to God, with Chris Foss paintings of Sky-Chariots and diagrams of the concentric islands of Poseidonis and discussions of cosmic memory and theosophical root races. All there.
From my Dad's Atlantis book.

But the problem is, the more you read about it, the more you see the problems with it. As time went on, the magical Atlantis of my childhood began to exist in tension with horrific undercurrents. When you realise that the root races of man corresponded with the late 19th/early 20th century orthodoxy that humans had subspecies, and that the Lemurians were Black, and the Atlanteans were Asian, and they were replaced by the fifth race, and the fifth race are the Aryans... and that the history of Atlantis was tied up with this, it gets a little concerning.
Click to see the big version of this. It's from a family encyclopedia, dated 1927.

The Atlantis that mystics like Madame Blavatsky and Edgar Cayce invented came from Ignatius Donnelly, and he had this whole “pyramids in Egypt and pyramids in South America – what are the chances?” thing going on, a basic error of misapplied imagination that has inspired a whole history of wannabe archaeologists – Graham Hancock, Erich von Däniken, and the others – who all work on the assumption that the Black and Brown people who yet live in the places where these awe inspiring monuments were built couldn't possibly be the descendants of the ones who built them, and that they must have been built by people from Somewhere Else.

This seminar ran on 1st June 2020. 
 
You can buy tickets for all the seminars in the series on the main seminar page.

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