The Peaks of Atlantis

Frequent allusion is made, in the pages of the Secret Doctrine, to the reminiscences still existing among the Polynesians of the vanished continent of Atlantis; and the general statement is made that these tribes of the Pacific Islands, who are the pure descendants of one of the earliest sub-races, have extensive legends of the cataclysms that destroyed the once great continent, and of the dispersal of the races that inhabited it. It is further shown that the universalness of these traditions among the most distant islands of the Pacific, among tribes that have been separate from the days of these early migrations, is a proof, and a very convincing one, that the legends refer to real events that affected the whole Polynesian race—events, moreover, of such magnitude and import as to stamp themselves indelibly in the memory of the migrating Polynesians, and to overshadow and colour every subsequent event in their history. The traditions referred to are these.

The name the Polynesians give to the land from which they migrated is Hawahiki, or Hawaiki, the former being probably the true form. Among some tribes, as, for instance, the Maori of New Zealand, Hawaiki is clearly remembered as a real country from which the tribes migra ed. With other tribes, as in the Hervey and Marquesan Islands, “either the geographical existence has faded to a mere poetical dream of spirit-land, or it has become the veritable Hades, the shadowy underworld of death, and even of extinction.” (Tregear, Maori Comparative Dictionary.)

In the legends of New Zealand there is no detailed account of the land itself, but many allusions to it occur in the general traditions and mythology. The Maori race living in Hawaiki are described as having nearly the same customs, ceremonies, and weapons, as the inhabitants of New Zealand had when discovered by the first explorers. It is related that there was a great temple there, a college in which the sons of the priest-chiefs were taught mythology, history, astronomy, and magic. It was a sacred edifice, and its building was attended by many important religious ceremonies.

Both the priest who taught, and the initiate-pupils, were held sacred during the period of instruction, which lasted five years. The congregation of priest-chiefs (hierophants), was known as Aha-Alii. The priesthood was divided into ten colleges, under a Master, the highest of the initiates. The first three colleges were for teaching magic and incantations, powerful sorcery, to cause death or injury to foes. The fifth, for divination, and for causing the body of a living person to be possessed by a spirit of the dead; the sixth for surgery and medicine; the seventh for architecture; the tenth for soothsaying and prophecy. The ritual was very rigid. The divisions were further sub-divided, and were bound by stringent oaths and laws. The principal deity was one unknown in other Polynesian worship, and is probably a paraphrase or substitute for the Divine Name.

In Hawaii, the land of Hawaiki is described as on the large continent to the east, where man was first created. It is also called the “Hidden Land” and the “Land of Divine Water.” This country, as the “dark mountain,” is described as paradise. And this paradise it seems possible a man can reach again. The tradition says “It was a sacred land: a man must be righteous to attain to it; if faulty, he cannot go there, nor enter into the dark mountain.” A great chief, sailing from Hawaiki towards the morning star, first discovered Hawaii, and carried thither his wife and children. It is probable that the Hawaiian traditions here quoted refer to more than one continent in the past.

The Marquesans say that in Hawaiki was

The tree of life, firmly rooted in heaven above,
The tree producing in all the heavens,
The bright and sprightly sons.

Hawaiki, for the Marquesans, is “below,” a world of death and fire. Thither went their great ancestor, to get the gift of fire for man from the fire-goddess. Hawaiki is spoken of in the Marquesan legends of the deluge as the first land appearing after the flood: “Great mountain ridges, ridges of Hawaiki.”

In the Gambier Islands and Mangareva, Hawaiki has become more spiritualized. It signifies either an abyss, or hades, or antipodes: and also a land mentioned in ancient song. In Mangaia and the Hervey Islands, Hawaiki has lost all geographical character. It is the underworld, where the sun goes to rest at night, and whither the souls of the dead depart. These and other legends testify amply to the memory of Hawaiki, or the Sacred Ancestral Land, in the memory of the Polynesians. Some account may be given, at a future date, of their traditions of the cataclysms that destroyed it.

The Return of the Wisdom Religion

It is a notable illustration of the rapidity of cyclic change and the widespread activity of the world’s awakening, that the first key to the Mystery Language given out just four years ago in the Secret Doctrine has already become an accepted fact of official science, has already been turned to the exploration of the ancient texts.

“All the ancient records,” says the Secret Doctrine (I. 310), “were written in a language which was universal, and known to all nations alike in old days, but which is now intelligible only to the few. Like the Arabic figures, which are plain to a man of every nation, all the words of that mystery language signified the same thing to each man of whatever nationality.” A further illustration is drawn from the Chinese writing, which is intelligible to all those who use the same character, whatever may be their spoken language; this is because the Chinese characters are symbols or ideograms; representations of a thought, and not of a sound.

Compare this with the following explanation given by Mr. W.M. Adams, formerly fellow of New College, at a University Extension lecture in Oxford a short time ago. Some months before, Mr. Adams had pointed out at a meeting of the Royal Society of Literature that a number of resemblances existed between the hieratic or priestly character of Ancient Egypt and those of the Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Basque, Sanskrit, Runic, and other languages, though their phonetic values differed for the most part in the different languages.

“For the transference of the sound,” says the Academy, in a note on Mr. Adams’ lecture—“for in the lecturer’s view the sound varies, and not the letter—Mr. Adams was unable to account at the time; but since then he has followed up the principle laid down by Champollion and claims now to have made such an application as will explain the majority of alphabetic values. According to that illustrious discoverer, every hieratic character was the cipher of an object represented in the corresponding hieroglyphic picture, and derived its phonetic value from the initial sound in the nature of the object represented by that hieroglyph. And Mr. Adams maintains that the key to the transference is obtained by observing that the sound represented by any character in a non-Egyptian alphabet is the initial sound in the vernacular name of the object represented in the Egyptian hieroglyph, except in a few instances where the Egyptian value is retained. This principle or ‘law of transvocalization,’ Mr. Adams illustrated by a great number of examples taken from different alphabets.”

This “discovery” of the key to the mystery language, explained most fully in the Secret Doctrine, carries with it a warning. A translator, however learned, can never produce a true version of a real sacred book written in the mystery language unless he has fully mastered this key, and has learned to translate the thought of the original, instead of merely translating the sound. This should be borne in mind by novices in the study of the great Eastern religions, who, on the strength of a mere translation of the sounds, are often too ready to condemn the sacred books, as so much meaningless nonsense. The thought of these ancient treatises will gradually be revealed; but the shallow minds that are too ready to condemn before understanding will have no part in the revelation.

The key is nearest the surface in the hieratic records of Egypt, the translations of these, therefore, are closest to the teachings of the Secret Doctrine. Take, for instance, this account of the Egyptian teaching on death, in the Asiatic Quarterly (Oct., 1892, p. 378). “As far as we can at present understand Egyptian metaphysical doctrines as to the destination and experiences of the soul after death, it appears that, in their ideas, the extinction of the vital spark immediately produced an important change in the spiritual economy, for the soul thereupon became divided into four parts, one the Ba or soul proper, which went away to Amenti, the nether world, at sunset on the day of death, generally being supposed to accomplish the journey in the form of a human-headed bird; and the Ka, or shade, which either remained for ever on earth near the mummy, and therefore in the tomb, or, if it was supposed to temporarily rejoin the Ba, was at any moment able to return to earth beside the corpse. The other divisions of the spirit were the shade Khaibit, and the luminous spirit Khou, and sometimes a sort of composite spirit is delineated uniting the figures of all four. The earth-dwelling ghost, or Ka, appears to have been represented to an Egyptian mind as an exact but ethereal and invisible counterpart of the deceased, and it was to this invisible double of the defunct that the sepulchral worship was addressed,” and not to the soul, or Ba.

To this is added a note full of significance, pointing out that, in the opinion of two distinguished scholars, M. Maspero and Mr. Flinders Petrie, the Pharaohs had a Ka spirit (“ethereal and invisible counterpart”) while alive on earth, and that the cartouche contained the Ka name. Considerable light will be shed on the meaning of this remarkable statement by referring to the teaching of the Secret Doctrine on the king-hierophants of Ancient Egypt.

Thus the Wisdom Religion returns to the light of day. It will be part of the irony of destiny if this restoration takes place through the work of outsiders, through the inability of Theosophists to grasp firmly and adequately use the numberless keys that have been lavishly given to them.

Christianity and Buddhism Contrasted

Surgeon-General Sir William Moore, K.C.I.E., while reading a paper on The Opium Question, at a recent meeting of the East India Association, took occasion to contrast Buddhism, the faith of the opium-smoking Chinese, with Christianity, the faith of the opium-manufacturing English. After touching on the question whether the export of opium to China is, as asserted by the missionaries, the real cause of the failure of missionary effort in China, Sir William Moore looked for the true reason of that failure elsewhere.

“When Christianity,” he said, “encounters the older religion, Buddhism, it meets an opponent somewhat worthy of its steel. Christianity is then in a different position than when confronting the so-called faiths of Africans, Fiji Islanders, and natives of Madagascar. Although the missionaries may speak of Buddhists as ‘heathen,’ the life of Christ and the life of Buddha both began very similarly, and the morality inculcated by the two religions will bear comparison. Buddhism teaches the most essential virtues as truthfulness, benevolence, purity, patience, humility, courage, and contemplation. Offensive and gross language is forbidden; and nothing is to be said to stir up ill-will or to excite enmity, and it is laid down as a duty on all occasions to act as a peacemaker.”

We cannot but note, in passing, that the phrase “opponent somewhat worthy of its steel” admirably describes the method of too great a part of Christian propaganda: as for example, when the Spaniards visited the natives of South America with the baptism of the sword; or, more recently, when the Christian Churches of Uganda endeavoured to solve doctrinal questions with rifle bullets.

Sir W. Moore continues: “Conversion to Christianity involves the belief of certain statements, the counterparts of which, if found in Buddhism, are regarded as impossible and untrue by Christians. And the whole sacrificial theory of the reconciliation of the divine being to sinful man by means of a bloody offering on his behalf, is utterly and thoroughly repugnant to the educated Buddhist.” It is impossible to praise too highly the courage of Sir William Moore, in thus facing the anathema of English bigotry, which loves to masquerade under the title of “Christian opinion,” like some unclean hyena in the fleece of a spotless lamb.

Let us supplement this estimate of Buddhism from a Christian pen by one of Christianity as it appears to a Buddhist, a writer in the journal of the Japanese Shingon sect. After an eloquent eulogy of the pure morality of Christianity, the writer says that when he looks at the great influence of Christianity the glory of it seems to fill the whole world. Yet when it reaches a certain point, it must stop. This check on its progress has already begun, and, though it is still powerful, its kingdom is destined to disappear, like the empires of the Cæsars and Alexander.

“What we term Buddha,” says this Japanese critic, “corresponds to what Christians conceive as God. Christians attribute to God the human capacities of feeling and thinking, as we do to Buddha; only we are more logical, for if God has human impulses of good, he must also have capacity, however small, for evil, and thus he could not be perfect. We avoid this by seeing the culmination of human faculties in Buddha, while transcendent perfection is to be imagined in Absolute Being alone.

“The Christian idea of the nature of the future life, and of its single judgment day with a final sentence, is not as reasonable as the Buddhist doctrine of a succession of future lives, of a gradual improvement or deterioration. The teachings of Christ embody everlasting truth, fervent, noble, flashing upon us like lightning, startling and illumining us. The personality of Christ is the magnetic power of Christianity. In all this there is nothing that conflicts with what a Buddhist believes,” and, therefore, we, may add, nothing to which a Buddhist can be “converted.”

“But,” continues this writer, “Christian doctrines have another side, a side of superstition and ignorance. Like the sickness of the healthy man, it will cause the end of Christianity, if not cured. Chief among these superstitions is the doctrine of the Trinity. The fact is, that the doctrine of the Trinity dates back to Eastern tradition” (where, we may note, it was rightly and philosophically understood); “it was kept in the Christian system, as history shows, because it helped out another of the unsound Christian doctrines, that of salvation.”

The writer concludes by saying that if Christianity continues to cling to these superstitions, the doctrine of three personal gods, and the atonement by the shedding of blood, it will lose its hold on the world. Christianity must make a choice between casting away its errors, or losing its power over men by retaining them. If the latter alternative be chosen, then the days of the Christian Church are numbered; “but if Christianity does cast away its errors, and continue on the path of its progress, it will progress into Buddhism.” A different conclusion, this, from the “conversion” of the “heathen” Buddhists, that inspires the missionary’s prayer.

The Easter Island Inscriptions

“The Easter Island relics,” says the Secret Doctrine, “are the most astounding and eloquent memorials of the primeval giants. They are as grand as they are mysterious; and one has but to examine the heads of the colossal statues that have remained unbroken on that island, to recognize in them at a glance the features of the type and character attributed to the fourth race giants.”

A further description is quoted from The Countries of the World:

“Their workmanship is of a high order, and it is believed that the race who formed them were the frequenters of the natives of Peru and other portions of South America. Even at the date of Captain Cook’s visit, some of the statues, measuring twenty-seven feet in height and eight across the shoulders, were lying overthrown, while others still standing appeared much larger. One of the latter was so lofty that the shade was sufficient to shelter a party of thirty persons from the heat of the sun. The platforms on which these colossal images stood averaged from thirty to forty feet in length, twelve to sixteen broad, all built of hewn stone in the Cyclopean style, very much like the walls of the temple of Pachacamac, or the ruins of Tia-Huanaco in Peru.”

Further details touching Easter Island—which takes its name from its discovery on Easter Day, 1722—are contained in the Journal of the Polynesian Society:

“At the south-west end of the island is a collection of ruins of nearly a hundred stone houses, built in regular lines and facing the sea. They are generally about forty feet long, by thirteen feet wide, roofed over with slabs overlapping like tiles. The walls are five feet thick, about five feet high, and consist of layers of flat stones faced inside with flat slabs. The inside walls are painted in black, white, and red, with pictures of mythical beasts and birds, and geometrical figures. In one of these houses was found a stone statue about eight feet high, and weighing four tons, now in the British Museum. On the back of the head of the statue is carved a bird, over which is a solar crown, and on either side a paddle, with a human face on the spade-shaped blade.

“On some of the walls of the cliffs are carved huge faces, and on each headland of the island stand enormous stone statues. On one platform fifteen images were found, ranging from three to thirty-five feet in height. They are of human shape as to the upper part of the figure, and have crowns of a different kind of stone—red tufa—from the rest of the figures, which are made of grey lava. The platforms are built of sea-worn stones, the rocks composing the outer face being hewn and fitted with the greatest nicety, without cement, mortised and tenoned together. They are built on sloping ground, presenting a seaward face of twenty or thirty feet high, and from two hundred to three hundred feet long.

“The tradition that the islanders came from Rapa-iti is curious, as that island also contains huge platforms, and a five-tiered fort of solid stone. Figures resembling the smaller statues of Easter Island were found on the little island of Raivavai, and also at Pitcairn and Tupuai. The most valuable productions of Easter Island are the celebrated tablets of wood, carved with figures, undeciphered up to the present.”

Quite recently, an attempt has been made by Dr. A. Carroll, of Sydney, to decipher these tablets, with results which, if reliable, will confirm the tradition which connects Easter Island with Peru. Dr. Carroll writes:

“While engaged in studying the languages, histories, antiquities, and inscriptions of the ancient American peoples, I came upon similarities to the Easter Island characters. With these as keys, I discovered what certain groups expressed, and from these, proceeding upon the recognized methods of decipherment, I succeeded in reading into the original languages, and translating into English the Easter Island inscriptions.

“In ancient America, from the northern Lenipe to the nations in Anahuac, from these through Central America, and thence onward to what is now Peru, to Bolivia, and to Chili, many peoples used hieroglyphic, phonetic and other writings before the Inca monarchs interdicted their use. Many of these old peoples of Western America sailed and traded over wide regions of the Pacific Ocean. One of the places to which they sailed was Easter Island, then much larger than it is at present.”

Dr. Carroll continues:

“I obtained copies of the Easter Island inscriptions, and upon examining them was much impressed with the many instances in which the characters were similar to those used by the oldest civilized nations in America, who wrote in hieroglyphics or in phonetic characters.”

Dr. Carroll then satisfied himself that the inscriptions in Easter Island were entirely unlike any form of writing used by Polynesians, and hence concluded that the writers of the Easter Island inscriptions were not Polynesians.

A series of coincidences gradually led Dr. Carroll to the opinion that the writers of the Easter Island inscriptions, who were evidently not Polynesians, must have been natives of South-Western America, who are known to have navigated the Pacific long before the days of Columbus. The similarity of the hieroglyphics with the ancient picture-writing of South America confirmed this view, and it only remained to compare the language of the Easter Island inscriptions with the languages of the South American hieroglyphics. This Dr. Carroll believes he has succeeded in doing; and, following this comparative method he has translated portions of the Easter Island inscriptions, which we shall recur to in a subsequent number.