THEOSOPHY, Vol. 27, No. 3, January, 1939
(Pages 99-105; Size: 19K)
(Number 47 of a 59-part series)
THE PREHISTORIC GREEKS
ON a blustery February afternoon in 1874 the German-American archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann climbed the hard steep road leading to the Cyclopean citadel of Mycenae, in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnesian peninsula. As he gazed upward at the grim outlines of the ancient fortress, sharply etched against the dull grey sky, his heart beat high with anticipation, for he knew that he was approaching the scene of one of the greatest tragedies of the heroic age of Greece. For in that citadel Agamemnon, after his return from the Trojan War, was slain by his wife Clytemnestra, who in turn was murdered by her children, Orestes and Electra.
Professor Schliemann had already begun to suspect that the stories of the Trojan War were limned upon an Atlantean background. While excavating in Troy he had found, in the treasure house of Priam, an exquisitely wrought bronze vase bearing the inscription: From King Chronos of Atlantis. Ten years later, while wandering through the Louvre in Paris, he came across its mate, which had come to light in Tiahuanaca, on the South American continent. If, before he died in 1890, this intuitive man had been fortunate enough to read Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, he might have learned that the Trojan War coincided with the cycle of events described in the Mahabharata, and that Homer's Iliad was but a copy of the Ramayana.
Homer declared that Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had lived in Mycenae, and, according to Pausanius, they were buried there. Armed with this information, Schliemann began his excavations. In the hillside tombs he found a number of skeletons wearing golden crowns, masks and girdles, and a vast treasure house filled with golden ornaments which, he believed, had once adorned fair Helen of Troy.
Scholars who had previously regarded the Iliad as a fairy tale now began to wonder if it could possibly be a record of some prehistoric race. When the Cyclopean fortress of Tiryns was excavated by Schliemann, Professor Sayce of Oxford suggested that the word Tiryns came from some pre-Aryan language spoken in the peninsula before the Greeks arrived.
The Greeks themselves called these prehistoric settlers Pelasgians. But who were the Pelasgians? Were they primitive Neolithic men, or did they belong to some mighty civilization of which the very name has been forgotten? What sort of people built the magnificent Lion Gate of Mycenae, with an enormous slab, weighing a hundred tons, poised a full twenty feet above the level of the ground? Who laid out the great hillside tombs of Mycenae, with their 45-foot domes built without a keystone? Professor Schliemann was convinced that "the architects who planned Mycenae and Tiryns certainly possessed an engineering and calculating skill which was not surpassed by the builders of the Pyramids."
The excavations of Sir Arthur Evans in Crete proved that these early settlers belonged to a highly cultured race. They had built a road across the island upon which they travelled in wheeled chariots. Their palaces were equipped with bath-rooms, running water, drainage systems, heating devices, and even elevators! Their artificers in ivory and bronze "wrought masterpieces which remain today among the world's greatest works of art." (Breasted, The Conquest of Civilization.)
Who were these mighty builders? Pausanius said that "the walls of Tiryns were built by the Cyclopes," and Euripides called the plain of Argos the "Cyclopean land." The identity of the Cyclopes is shrouded in mystery. One might expect the Greeks would themselves have left a record of their forefathers. They did, but in a form unacceptable to modern scholars. The Greeks preserved the record of the races which preceded them in their myths.
The word myth in Greek means an oral tradition, one which was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Plato considered the myths as "vehicles of great truths well worth the seeking." Even Ruskin declared that "to the mean person the myth always meant little; to the noble person, much."
We of the present day are content to accept a monkey as our ancestor, but the proud Greeks traced their lineage to the Gods. These gods were divided into three distinct classes: the Immortals, who dwelt on Mount Olympus; the inferior gods, who animated Nature; and the demi-gods, half mortal and half immortal. Here we have the three lines of evolution -- Monadic, physical, and intellectual.
The Gods of Olympus may be regarded in seven different ways. The meaning of the myths depends on the personification of the gods, which may be any of the following: of the noumena of the intelligent Powers of nature; of Cosmic Forces; of celestial bodies; of self-conscious gods; of psychic and spiritual powers; of Divine Kings on earth; and finally, as actual historical characters. If the Greek myths are interpreted from this last point of view, we will have a picture of the four races which preceded our own.
The Greeks allegorized the four Races as four Ages, using the four metals -- gold, silver, bronze and iron -- to symbolize the steps of descent into materiality.
The Golden Age was the period when the First Race lived in the "Sacred Imperishable Land" which capped the North Pole. The forms of this Race were ethereal. They could walk, run, fly, and see objects at a distance. They were sexless and the principle of Kama had not yet been developed. Thus it was said that in the Golden Age war was unknown and no one coveted the possessions of another.
The Second Race lived in the Age of Silver and occupied the Hyperborean Continent. The Greeks called it the "land of the gods," for it was the favorite abode of Apollo, the god of light, and its inhabitants were his beloved priests. The story of this Race is contained in the myth of Uranos, the King of the Second Continent. He personified the creative forces of nature, while his wife Gaea represented matter, the basis of all forms. According to the legend, Uranos produced giants and nymphs from drops of his own blood, suggesting the method of reproduction in this Race. He is said to have devoured his own children and to have been devoured by his son, indicating the fruitless efforts of unaided nature to create real men of mind.
The Third Race, of the Age of Bronze, inhabited Lemuria. This Race was itself divided into three periods. The early Lemurians were sexless, producing their young by exuding drops of vital fluid, which formed an egg-shaped ball. The myth of Leda, whose twin sons were gestated in an egg, refers to this early method of procreation. Then came a cycle of bisexuality. Plato gives us a description of the Third Race at this point of its evolution. "Our nature of old," he wrote, "was not the same as it now is. It was then androgynous. Our bodies were round, and the manner of their running was circular. Hence Zeus divided them into two." Finally mankind became male and female, and since that time the reincarnating Ego has depended upon the union of the sexes for the production of its physical vehicle.
At the beginning of the Fourth Round on this globe, every class of being was one-eyed. The "one-eyed Cyclops" of Greek mythology, those giants fabled as sons of Coelus and Terra, three in number, represented the last three sub-races of the Lemurians, for the two front eyes, as physical organs, did not appear until the beginning of the Fourth Race. The myth of Ulysses, who visited the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus and destroyed his vision by means of a fire-brand, symbolizes the atrophy of the "third eye." The adventure of Ulysses with the pastoral Cyclops, a giant race, is an allegorical record of the gradual passing of the Cyclopean civilization of stone and gigantic buildings to the more physical and sensuous culture of the Atlanteans, which finally caused the "eye of wisdom" to disappear.
In the middle of the Third Race, the "lighting up of Manas" occurred. At the beginning of our evolution the Monad (the "vivifying agent" present in every atom in the universe) had been plunged first into the lowest form of matter, the mineral. Gradually, by the passage of the Life Wave through the vegetable and animal kingdoms, a superior form was evolved -- ready at last for the Host of Manasaputra whose destiny it was to incarnate upon this globe. Some of these mindless human forms were neither ready nor suitable for occupancy and remained destitute of higher knowledge until the Fourth Race. Into those forms which were half ready, a spark of intelligence was infused. Into those forms which were ready, the "Lords of the Flame" entered, kindling the germ of mind in the "mindless men" and adding to them the flame of their own Manas.
The story of the "lighting up of Manas" is found in the myth of the Titan Prometheus, creator of men. He first moulded a form which could stand upright, so that, while the animals looked down to the earth, man could fix his gaze upon the stars. When the form was completed, Prometheus lighted a torch at the chariot of the sun and gave the fire of mind to men. Enraged because this made of man a God, Jupiter chained Prometheus to a rock and sent an eagle to tear at the vitals of the suffering Titan. His destined deliverer, Hercules, told him how he could free himself from his bondage--The myth of Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Leda by a mortal and an immortal father, also shows the difference between the "mindless men" and the incarnating Egos who ensouled them. Castor was the son of a mortal while Pollux had Jupiter for his father. In a battle in which both engaged Pollux came out victorious, but Castor was stricken. In sorrow Pollux asked Jupiter to be allowed to die with his brother. Jupiter told him he could not die because he came of an immortal race, but that he might share his immortality with Castor by passing half his existence underground, the other half in the heavenly abodes. This semi-immortality was accepted by Pollux. The occult meaning of the allegory is given by H.P.B.:The soul of man can never be enslaved
Save by its own infirmities; nor freed
Save by its own strength and own resolve
And constant vision and supreme endeavor.Here we have an allusion to the "Egg-born," Third Race; the first half of which is mortal, i.e., unconscious in its personality, and having nothing within itself to survive; and the latter half of which becomes immortal in its individuality, by reason of its fifth principle being called to life by the informing gods, and thus connecting the Monad with this earth. This is Pollux; while Castor represents the personal, mortal man, an animal of not even a superior kind, when unlinked from the divine individuality. "Twins" truly; yet divorced by death forever, unless Pollux, moved by the voice of twinship, bestows on his less favoured mortal brother a share of his own divine nature, thus associating him with his own immortality. (The Secret Doctrine II, 123.)Practically all of the gods of Greece are of a northern origin, originating in Lemuria toward the end of the Third Race after its physical evolution was completed. The Fourth Race is, with Hesiod, that of the heroes who fell before Thebes, or under the walls of Troy. The Trojan War, therefore, although an historical event of some 6,000 years ago, was also a symbol of other events which took place upon the continent of Atlantis. The Atlanteans developed from a nucleus of northern Lemurian men, centered, roughly speaking, toward a point of land which is now in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The early Atlanteans were three-eyed, having two in front and a third eye at the back of the head. The Greeks preserved the record of this race in a statue of the three-eyed Zeus, discovered in the Acropolis of Argos and believed to be the oldest statue ever found in Greece.
At the height of their civilization the Atlanteans were giants both in body and in intellect, and were greater scientists than those of the present day. For one thing, they had aeroplanes which were operated by solar force. Homer's vessels "going without sails or oars" refers to them, as does the myth of Icarus, who was warned by his father Daedalus to flyUnfortunately for their own future, the Atlanteans turned their knowledge to evil uses. Many modern practices such as vivisection, blood transfusion, the transplanting of animal glands to human bodies -- even the craze for personal wealth and power -- are the Karmic product of the sins of the Atlanteans, a defiance of nature which caused their destruction as a race and the catastrophic submergence of their continent....nor low, nor high,
If low, thy plumes may flag the ocean's spray,
If high, the sun may dart his fiery ray.
The Greeks preserved the tradition of the sinking of Atlantis in the myth of Deucalion. The legend says that after the fourth race had passed its apex of development, a change occurred in men. Modesty, truth and honor fled, and in their place came crime, fraud, cunning and the wicked love of gain. Seeing the condition into which the earth had fallen, Jupiter determined to destroy it and form a new land where men would have fresh opportunities to live a virtuous life. So the waters came and covered the land, leaving only Mount Olympus above the waves. There Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha found shelter, and from them sprang the new, fifth race.
Thousands of years after, Solon, the great Athenian law-giver and one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, visited Egypt and recounted the myth of Deucalion to one of the priests of Saïs. The priest assured Solon that it was the record of an actual historical event which had occurred some 9,000 years before. He told the Greek sage of the last of the Atlantean Islands, which he called Atlantis, but which was really the Island of Poseidonis, picturing in detail its high mountains, canals, bridges, and harbors filled with vessels from foreign ports. He gave a full account of the inhabitants of the island and their customs, describing in particular the laws of the country and the method of their enforcement. On his return to Athens Solon wrote down the tale in epic form. Plato inherited his manuscript and repeated the story in the Timaeus and Critias. For more than 2,000 years the world regarded Plato's story as a fable. But in the last quarter of last century Ignatius Donnelly and H. P. Blavatsky provided indisputable proofs of the existence of Atlantis.
Long before the island of Poseidonis sank beneath the waves, one of the early sub-races of the Aryan stock descended from the high plateaux of Asia and emigrated to islands in the West. There they resided for some thousands of years, intermarrying with members of the last, or seventh sub-race of the Atlanteans. Ages later these people, called Atlantean Aeolians because of their long stay on the remnants of the lost continent, were to become the ancestors of the Greeks, for when some of the islands around Poseidonis showed signs of sinking, they had again to leave their homes. They built a flotilla of arks and sailed through the Pillars of Hercules (the Straits of Gibraltar) into the Mediterranean Sea. Some of them colonized the coasts of Italy and Spain. Others went on into the Aegean Sea and settled on the Greek Isles and in Thessaly, to which they gave the name of Aeolia. The Atlantean Aeolians were, therefore, the "autochthones" of Greece, the forefathers of the Hellenes, the builders of the Cyclopean citadels and fortresses which still puzzle the archaeologist.
Before Professor Schliemann died, he expressed his firm conviction that Atlantis had been the cradle of the human race. His son, devoting fifteen years to submarine exploration around the African coast, found many relics of Atlantis: wall-fragments, representing a ceremonial dance; a cave-temple of highly artistic construction; two great high-roads, and several unexplained lighthouses on the African coast which he believed were built by Atlantean navigators.
The objections to Professor Schliemann's theory that the modern races of mankind came from Atlantis are based on the same blind negation which refuses a hearing to Theosophic philosophy: both contradict prevailing speculations, and must therefore be denied with little or no investigation. While interest in the subject of Atlantis grows yearly, not until the biological and anthropological significance of that continent are grasped by science can we say that its real existence has been admitted. For then, and only then, will modern civilization come into its heritage of the true, the secret knowledge of the ancient Greeks.
THE GREEK MYSTERIES
(Part 48 of a 59-part series)
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