Lemuria, the strangest continent that never existed

Philip Schlatter should have stopped writing in 1858. That’s when he published one of the foundational texts of biogeography, the science that studies the distribution of species and ecosystems through space and time.

Lemur Fossils in Madagascar and India

But there was one small primate that didn’t quite fit in with Schlatter’s division of the world into six biogeographic worlds. He’s found fossils of lemurs in both Madagascar and India, though those two places belong to completely separate worlds. (In the parlance of today’s biogeography, those are the African and Indo-Malian tropics, respectively.)

Plot (yes, that’s the actual term) of a ring-tailed lemur enjoying a bowl of fruit and vegetables at the Wildlife World in China. This species is named after the Roman ghosts, which in turn gave their name to the ghost continent. (Credit: CFOTO/Future publication via Getty Images)

So he did what other scientists of the time were doing when faced with similar discontinuities: He proposed the construction of a massive land bridge that would once connect Madagascar to India. And he gave that hypothetical continent, now swallowed up by the Indian Ocean, an apt name: Lemuria.

It was 1864, and since then, Schlatter’s serious scientific work has been overshadowed by his creations – because Lemuria turns out to be one of the strangest continents that ever existed. Perhaps Sklater’s creativity arrived at just the right time to fill a fertile niche in fiction. After two-thirds of the nineteenth century, there are very few real places left to be discovered. The sudden addition of an entire continent to the map—however speculative and sunk it was—inspired other scientists (and other less scientifically minded thinkers) to develop theories about Lemuria that went far beyond simply explaining the whereabouts of the tiny primates.

Lemuria, the ancestral home of mankind?

In 1870, German biologist Ernst Haeckel suggested that Lemuria could be the ancestral home of mankind, as a means of explaining the “missing links” in the fossil record of early humans. (Rejecting Darwin’s hypothesis of the African origin of mankind, Hegel initially favored India as the cradle of mankind.)

In the 1880s, Lemuria transitioned from scientific hypothesis to pseudoscientific fact when Helena Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, incorporated it into her esoteric, primitive New Age belief system. Based on Hegel’s theory, it suggested that the Lemurians were the third “radical race” of humanity.

With the help of Charles W. Leadbeater, a theosophist who claimed knowledge of Lemuria through “astral clairvoyance,” William Scott Elliot explained Blavatsky’s vision of Lemuria and its radical races. in Lost Lemuria (1904), Scott Elliott placed Lemuria in the Pacific Ocean, and described the Lemurians as 15 feet long, brown-skinned, flat-faced, and with bird-like lateral vision. They can walk backwards and forwards with equal ease and reproduce with eggs. Interbreeding with animals eventually gave rise to the ape-like ancestors of some hominids.

Map of the most important rivers in the world.

Hegel’s theory of the origin of humanity: somewhere in Lemuria, in a place called “Paradise”. (credit: Ernst Haeckel: The History of Creation (1876), translation revised by E. Ray Lancaster / Public Domain)

In India, Lemuria has been adopted by some Tamil nationalists and mystics as an affirmation of Kumari Kandam, a legendary sunken land first mentioned in 15th century Tamil literature. Tamil revivalists identified Lemuria with this ancient cradle of Tamil civilization.

The continent’s Tamil name (i.e. Kumari Kandam) can be translated as “Land of the Maiden”. Some have speculated that Kumari Kandam was a matrilineal society where women chose their husbands and owned all the property. Kumari Kandam is one of the many references in ancient Indian texts to lands lost in southern India to the ocean. These are likely records of historical tsunamis and other natural disasters.

in Lost Continent Mu (1926) and subsequent books, James Churchward re-uses the legend of the lost continent and the civilization of Lemuria, renaming it Mu, taking a cue from Scott Elliott, and placing it in the Pacific Ocean.

Underground city bejeweled

In the American imagination, Lemuria became closely associated with Mount Shasta in Northern California, which according to Frederick Spence Oliver (in his 1894 book) Live on two planets) and other occultists It was the last refuge for the survivors of the sunken Lemuria, who lived there in a bejeweled underground city called Telos.

According to some of the more outlandish theories, other survivors of the sunken Lemuria turned out to be at sea, becoming whales, dolphins and mermaids. Others have walked among humans as shamans and prophets since then, explaining why so many religions are similar. Unfortunately, there is no information about whether some Lemurians actually transformed into lemurs.

Old map of the world with red lines.

Map of late-period Lemuria, in the Pacific Ocean, and other continents from that mythic past (in red), superimposed on a map showing present-day shores. (Credit: William Scott Elliott: The story of the lost Atlantis and Lemuria (1930) / public domain)

Lemuria finally fell off the map in the 1960s, when Alfred Wegener’s theory of plate tectonics became widely accepted. Tectonic activity explains continental drift, eliminating the need for hypothetical land bridges like Lemuria.

And as a kind of consolation, scientists studying plate tectonics found that India and Madagascar king They were part of the same continent in the deep past, not just once but twice: they were neighbors in Mauritia, a small Precambrian continent (2.5 billion to 800 million years ago), and in Gondwana, a much younger supercontinent (formed by about 510 million years ago). years ago). India and Madagascar finally separated about 70 million years ago.

However, Lemuria is still alive

Scientific Lemuria may be dead, but Mystic Lemuria lives on. The Kumari Kandam theory remained in history textbooks in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu until the 1980s. In 1981, the state government funded a documentary that attempted to reconcile the sinking continent theory with continental drift, and to show that Lemuria was scientifically correct. New maps of the sunken supercontinent Thamel keep popping up from time to time, sometimes as far south as Antarctica.

Lemuria isn’t the only ingredient in the other cocktail that continues to draw people toward Mount Shasta, but it’s by no means the least. Visitors to the area sometimes report seeing seven-foot-tall Lemurians walking on the surface in flowing white robes, presumably on a break from their subterranean existence.

In the comments section of a local magazine article about the Lemurians, one of them states: “I can tell you the story of a girl from the Bay region who was told by her parents that if she and her sister got out of the car while they were stopping for fuel, Dunsmere the Lemurians would think they wanted to sacrifice them on the mountain and take them away.” .

Map showing the location of Koman Kandaman.

Lemuria furthered Tamil theories about Kumari Kandam, a legendary Tamil sunken wonderland. (Credit: Brady Dodd via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Lemuria also lives in Ramona, a small town in Southern California and the seat of the Lemuria Fellowship. Founded in 1936, the Fellowship is a religious organization that transmits wisdom revealed to its founder by a group of masters descended from Mu (the Pacific version of Lemuria).

Reincarnation, Karma, and Christ

Lemurian philosophy says that if we live according to universal laws (including belief in reincarnation, karma, and the teachings of Christ), we will reach an advanced stage of civilization. Its guiding principle is balance: spiritually, physically, and mentally. Students who first successfully completed a correspondence course and then advanced training could join the Lemurian system. The order supports itself in part by selling the arts and crafts made by its members.

Map of the Pacific Ocean Map of the Pacific Ocean.

Map of the lost continent of Mu, the Pacific version of Lemuria. (Credit: James Churchward: Golden Age Books (1927) / Public Domain)

One of their wooden cups is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. That should rank high on the list of bizarre consequences that Philip Sclatter could not have foreseen when he came up with Lemuria a century and a half ago.

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Even stranger is the fact that the British government now uses the word “Lemuria” to describe its small territorial holdings in the Indian Ocean. The coat of arms of the British Indian Ocean Territory (i.e. the Chagos Archipelago) bears the motto: Under the supervision of our LemuriaLatin for “Lemuria in Our Responsibility”.

The restless souls of the unburied dead

A final word on lemurs. These amazing creatures are only found in Madagascar. So what was Sclatter talking about? The confusion is the result of the definition change. In the 1860s, the definition of lemurs also included the slender loris, another small primate, already found in India (and Sri Lanka). Although they share some similarities, the species are not closely related, having diverged about 70 million years ago.

Lemurs were named in the 1850s by Carl Linnaeus himself, the founder of the current system of biological nomenclature. Linnaeus got the name from ancient Rome, where he was lemurs They were the restless souls of the unburied dead. May 9, 11 and 13 during the festival LemuriaThe father of the family would wake up in the middle of the night to calm down lemurs throwing black beans behind him. Those who are not satisfied with this food will be frightened by the knocking of bronze vessels.

A road with a mountain in the background.

The majestic summit of Mount Shasta, visible here from Highway 97, exerts a powerful mystical influence on a wide range of spiritual traditions, from Native American and Buddhist to Lemurian. (Credit: Frank Schulenberg via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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