H.P. Lovecraft and Atlantis, Part 1

In our examination of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Temple,” a few references were made of Atlantis.  That is, Karl Heinrich, Graf von Altberg-Ehrenstein was convinced that the temple he discovered in his watery tomb at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean was the mysterious land of Atlantis. While references to Atlantis are peppered throughout Lovecraft’s tales, he certainly did not believe that the legend of Atlantis, a continent that sank into the Atlantic Ocean sometime around 9,000 B.C., was based on fact.

Atlantis_Paul_Alexander An interpretation of Atlantis by Paul Alexander

According to S. T. Joshi, Lovecraft thought of Atlantis simply as a myth and if there were any remains of a sunken continent it would most likely be somewhere in the Pacific Ocean (The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, 2001). Lovecraft also hypothesized that the idea of a continent to the west of Europe, whether sunken or still existing, may have been a reference to the Americas (Selected Letters V. (1934-1937) H.P. Lovecraft, edited by August Derleth and James Turner, 1976). In fact, this passage from a letter to Frederic Jay Pabody, dated 19 June 1936, summarizes Lovecraft’s views on Atlantis:

“Thus I feel sure that the Platonic Atlantis is a sheer myth (based on America perhaps) – unless, as recent scholars have suggested, it is a case of confused identify…with some region in North Africa…”

While Plato is frequently associated with the creation of the legend of Atlantic, he actually reported hearing about it from his uncle Critias, who was a Greek politician with a very questionable reputation. Critias heard it from his grandfather, who heard it from another politician who, in turn, heard about it from some unknown Egyptian priest (https://omni.media/atlantis-theories). Is it possible that this unknown Egyptian priest was a disciple or direct ancestor of none other than the Pharaoh Nephren-Ka? In Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark,” it is mentioned that the Shining Trapezohedron sunk with Atlantis, only later to be found by a Minoan fisherman in his nets. Thus, the legend of Atlantis is a very old one.

the_scroll_of_the_black_pharaoh_by_jasonmckittrick-d4utqd7 Scroll of the Black Black Pharaoh by Jason McKittrick

As previously mentioned, the first time Lovecraft mentions Atlantis is in his short story “The Temple.” In that tale, he references Ignatius Donnelly’s account of Atlantis (Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, 1882) as well as W. Scott-Elliot’s Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria (1925). Donnelly’s book claimed that Plato’s account of Atlantis was based on fact and that all of ancient civilization (at least those known to us) originate from the people of Atlantis. In Donnelly’s account, many of the world’s religions and mythology are based on Atlantis and the people of Atlantis were the first to use iron, before the island continent sunk into the ocean.

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In W. Scott-Elliot’s book, Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria, he expanded on the theosophical writings of Helena Blavatsky’s regarding the history of man and others on Earth. Theosophy is the study of mystical and occult philosophies, regarding the mysteries of life and the cosmos. As has been frequently cited a number of times, while Lovecraft found these writing amusing, even inspirational for some of his tales of ancient civilizations unknown to modern humans, he did not believe in any of the claims made by these authors. To Lovecraft Atlantis and other mysterious continents such as Lemuria and Mu were mere myth.

Artist-representation-Atlantis

Next time we will identify and discuss more references of Atlantis in the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. Thank you – Fred.

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2 thoughts on “H.P. Lovecraft and Atlantis, Part 1

  1. HPL commenting on the possibility from “recent scholars” on Atlantis being North African might be a reference to the German ethnographer Leo Frobenius. In his 1913 “The Voice of Africa” he goes into some detail on his belief that Atlantis was in what is now modern Nigeria, with the Yoruba culture being descended from Etruscans who built Atlantis, and who in turn crossed the Atlantic to influence Mayan civilization. Percy Fawcett’s 1924 “Lost Trails, Lost Cities” also expounds on his belief that ancient Atlantis was a remnant of the civilization that existed when South America and Africa were still united, and the Platonic destruction of Atlantis was the geological cataclysm that split the two continents apart.

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