“Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others…
“But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.”
— Plato, Timaeus (360 B.C.), cited from The Active Mind Directory
The story of Atlantis is told by Plato in two of the Socratic dialogues. He says that the story is true, recounted by the elder Critias as told by Solon (c. 638 – c. 558 BC), who had in turn received it from Egyptian priests. The modern view is that it is a fabrication which Plato created to convey his social views, though it may certainly have been based on older accounts of a mythic character, regarding events which had supposedly taken place some 9000 years earlier. And some aspects, such as the origins of the Atlanteans as half-human and half-gods, certainly belong to what we would consider today to be fiction or superstition. But the purpose of stories handed down through the oral tradition was not to relate historical facts so much as to convey meanings that could contribute to the reflections and greater wisdom of the listeners.
This is the goal of the present site. Using the Atlantis story as a loose framework, we suggest that there are remarkable parallels or echoes in the world today, and lessons we need to learn lest we suffer a similar fate. The obvious parallels have to do with sea level rise, which is occurring as a result of global warming, and the possible disappearance of large parts of our technological civilization under the oceans. But perhaps the broader meaning has to do with the hubris and willful ignorance which accompanied the Atlanteans’ downfall, and the failure to recognize the very real dangers that we are creating for ourselves in altering the delicate harmonies of nature.
The following are additional notes regarding some of the most notable uses of the Atlantis myth, including the unfinished novel by Francis Bacon, in which he imagines a society based on science as well as religion. The story also has a personal significance, to be recounted briefly here.
From the Critias:
Looking towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile. Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side. In this mountain there dwelt one of the earth born primeval men of that country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe, and they had an only daughter who was called Cleito.
The maiden had already reached womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon fell in love with her and had intercourse with her, and breaking the ground, inclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet.
There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed about the temples, but the most important was the following: They were not to take up arms against one another, and they were all to come to the rescue if any one in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house; like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas.
And the king was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the majority of the ten. Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the following reasons, as tradition tells:
For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them.
By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.
Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as follows-*
* The rest of the Dialogue of Critias has been lost or perhaps was never written.