(Investigator 126, 2009 May)

For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia and to which your city put an end. This power came out of the Atlantic Ocean... Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others.

The above extracts are from the Dialogues of Plato (428 348 BC) and are from the original account of the lost continent of Atlantis.

It was described by Critias in the dialogues as being exceptionally rich and fertile, protected against the cold winds and intensively cultivated. It was ruled by a federation of ten kings, led by the descendant of Atlas. They met in the Ancient Metropolis for conference, consultation and a ritual bull game. Technologically, it was an advanced civilization with written laws and knowledge of metalworking, engineering and architecture that enabled its inhabitants to build temples, canals, tunnels and harbours.

Critias goes on to describe the end of the legendary continent in the following words, “...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.”

This description of the legendary continent was based by Critias on information and documents passed on to him by his grandfather and which concerned what Egyptian priests had told Solon (640 558 B.C.), Solon being an Athenian statesman and law maker who visited Egypt and had learned of the former Atlantean Empire during conversations with the priests. The time of Atlantis’ catastrophic demise was said to have taken place 9000 years before the alleged conversations.

Since the discovery of America, hundreds of books have been written by writers who have accepted Plato’s description of Atlantis as fact, and have endeavoured to explained the disappearance of such a large continent. Among them was an American by the name of Ignatius Donnelly, who wrote Atlantis, the Antediluvian World (1882). He gave an account of a culturally and technologically advanced civilization’s rise from barbarism, similar to that of Critias. This line of thinking was endorsed by another writer, W. Scott Elliot, whose book, The Story of Atlantis, was published in 1890, and re issued by the Theosophical Society in 1962.

Scott Elliot’s method of research into the history of Atlantis was however, unconventional. His information was obtained by means of “astral clairvoyance”, which depends on a belief that all past events are recorded and exist on the astral plane to which the souls of the dead have access. Scott Elliot’s astral research revealed that Atlantis once occupied most of what is now the Atlantic Ocean more than one million years ago, and the rulers were a race of giants called the Toltecs. Their downfall came when they turned to black magic, retribution coming in the shape of the cataclysm which sank Atlantis beneath the waves. Occultists believe that through deep meditation they too can penetrate the plane and view historical events.

Edgar Cayce (1877 1945), the famous American psychic healer and prophet, had a twenty year vision of Atlantis and claimed to have been (among others) the heir to the throne of that kingdom in a previous life. He too spoke of an advanced civilization commanding extraordinary powers of extra sensory perception, telepathy, and a community that had the aeroplane and electricity. His prophecies, which are well documented and on file at the Association for Research and Enlightenment at Virginia Beach, USA, forecast the re-emergence and discovery of portions of Atlantis in the latter half of this [the 20th] century. This prediction seemed to become a reality when Charles Berlitz wrote about the discovery of Atlantean ruins off the coast of Bimini in the Caribbean and which appeared to be a road that runs under the sea parallel to the shore. Marine archaeologist J. Manson Calentine and historian David D. Zink, came to the conclusion that the discovery was indeed an ancient road.

In the last decade, many channelers (people whose bodies and minds have allegedly been taken over by discarnate spirits) have claimed to be speaking with the voices of warriors and kings from the long lost civilizations. Ms J.Z. Knight, whose spirit control claims to be Ramtha, a former Atlantean warrior, and who is probably the best known, built up a multi million dollar business conducting seminars at which she dispenses his wisdom and advice.

It’s a fact of life, that romantic and pseudo scientific explanations of the human past have a more popular appeal than the works of professional scholars in archaeology and related disciplines. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the works of Erich von Daniken, Charles Berlitz, and books written by numerous other authors about the mythical lost continent.

The nascence of the legend has already been given but to it should be added that Critias, the originator of the story, said that he’d heard it from his grandfather, who heard it from his father, who heard it from the sage Solon, who heard it from some Egyptian priests. That is, an anecdotal account translated from the original and passed on by word of mouth over at least six or seven generations. As many people have a problem repeating verbatim what they were told only a matter of minutes before, given the inevitable distortions, misinterpretations and embellishments over that period of time, the tale would bear little resemblance to the original event even if it were true. However, the source of the story is of little concern, for the legend when placed in its historical, literary and philosophical contexts, is clearly a literary device and was used by Plato on a number of occasions.

Technologically, so fiction writers tell us, Atlantis was extremely advanced, with written laws, an exceptional grasp of architecture and engineering and considerable social amenities. Then, within a space of twenty four hours, the entire continent and civilization disappeared off the face of the earth. The date of the empire’s collapse, according to Solon’s conversations with the Egyptian priests, is about 9600 BC, at which time writing and metal work had not been discovered anywhere in the world. According to historical records, monumental architecture dates back only to 4000 BC, horses were not introduced into Europe until about 3000 BC and the earliest farming communities date from 7000 BC, Atlantis as described by Plato therefore, is an impossible concept and was accepted by Aristotle as an imaginary kingdom devised by Plato to illustrate certain political theories.

The myth lay dormant for centuries and then, writers who have accepted as the literal truth Plato’s account, have embellished the story. Even its alleged location has been variously put in regions far removed from “beyond the pillars of Hercules”, the name believed to have been given by the Greeks to the Straits of Gibraltar.

Is there an explanation other than man’s predilection for tales of mystery and the unknown?

Between 1750 1450 BC, a wealthy and powerful maritime power called Minos was based on the island of Crete. They enjoyed a high standard of living and their palaces in places like Knossos and Phaistos were well designed, luxurious and durable. Can Plato’s story be reconciled in any way with the existence of this advanced civilization or any other known facts which would conform to the requirements of the historian, the geophysicist, the anthropologist and the archaeologist? Not if we accept the date of the disaster as 9600 BC. But if the Egyptian priests or Solon had confused 900 with 9000, then an entirely different picture emerges, for this would make the date coincide with a great natural cataclysm which took place in the Aegean, the world’s greatest known volcanic explosion, that of the island of Santorini, just over 110 kilometers north of Crete. The effects of such an eruption can be gauged by comparing the size of the caldera of Santorini with that of Krakatoa.

When Krakatoa exploded in Indonesia in 1883, the noise was heard nearly 5000 kilometers away, over 250 towns in Java and Sumatra were destroyed, 36,000 people were killed and the volcanic dust which rose to a height of 80 kilometers fell as far away as Japan, Africa and Europe.

Santorini’s caldera is five times as large as Krakatoa’s. The effects of such an explosion in the landlocked and island-¬studded Aegean must have been catastrophic beyond imagination, almost completely wiping out the flourishing Minoan empire. Discoveries by geophysicists and archaeologists confirm that the great empire of Minoan Crete suffered a series of natural disasters in the latter part of the 16th century BC, and prior to that, about 1500 BC, a fertile island north of Crete was totally destroyed by a volcanic eruption. In 1967, an archaeological expedition led by Professor Marinatos of Athens, uncovered Minoan remains under the pumice of Santorini. The discovery confirmed that a catastrophe of immeasurable proportions had taken place.

While an impressive sight, the “Bimini road”, off the coast of Florida, also favoured as evidence of the lost continent of Atlantis is, according to geologists, common “beach rock” found in many parts of the world including Australia. It is a process of nature, formed of sand and calcium carbonate and has been subject to the changes wrought by nature over the aeons. Shell material embedded in core samples taken from the “road”, have been carbon dated and shown to be just over two thousand years old, too young to have been associated with any mythical lost continent.

The most damaging argument against the possible former existence of a large continent in the Atlantic Ocean is Plate Tectonics, the theory of continental drift. In 1915, a German meteorologist, Alfred Wegener, produced a coherent picture of how prehistoric earth might have looked with its land masses joined. At first the theory was ridiculed, then in the 1960s, geologists began to find evidence that would support Wegener’s hypothesis. Based on modem topographic and core sampling techniques, it was concluded that the upper crusts such as continents and large islands though composed of rigid elements, were in fact mobile.

These ‘floating’ masses were being forced apart by molten rock constantly forcing its way up through cracks between the plates. There are also ‘swallowing cracks’ or subduction zones where gravity is at work drawing plate edges downward. According to the concept, the Atlantic Ocean straddles a crack known as the Mid Atlantic Ridge, the issue from which is in effect, a gradually expanding field of cooled rock. The three giant plates now known as the North and South American and African continents are constantly being shifted by the slow expansion of this field. Thus on the basis of modern plate tectonics now accepted by geophysicists and oceanographers, Atlantis cannot have existed where it is generally supposed to have — in the Atlantic. Even the believers’ argument that the mythical continent could have been swallowed up by a subduction zone is not feasible as subduction takes too long to have disposed of a whole continent in five thousand years. Further, the only one in the entire Atlantic Ocean is a small one in the vicinity of the Caribbean whose function appears to be to adjust tension between the North and South American Plates.

Finally, it should be borne in mind that all the oceans of the world have been subject to detailed surveys by oceanographers and nothing remotely resembling a former continent has ever been found.


Bacon, E. and Galanopoloulos, A.G. 1969. Atlantis. Nelson.
Berlitz, Charles. 1985. Atlantis. Fontana Paperbacks.
Comell, James. 1976. Where Did They Go? Scholastic Book Services. Charroux, Robert. 1974. Lost Worlds. Fontana.
Grant, J. 1988. Great Mysteries. New Burlington Books.
Randi, J. 1981. “Atlantean Road: The Bimini Beach Rock.” Skeptical Inquirer. 5(3): 42 43
Scott Elliot, W. 1914. The Story of Atlantis. Theosophical Society.
Thomas, Andrew. 1975. Atlantis, From Legend to Discovery. Sphere Books Ltd. London.

[From: Edwards, H. A Skeptic’s Guide to the New Age, Australian Skeptics Inc.]

Harry Edwards examines the paranormal on this website: