Lemuria, the lost continent of the Pacific, has been discussed
in nineteenth- and twentieth-century occult literature as
the Pacific equivalent of Atlantis. It is distinct, however, in that
it is a completely modern invention, having originated in the
middle of the nineteenth century as a means to solve some
problems of biology. Biologists had noted the existence of very
similar flora and fauna in southern India and Ceylon (now Sri
Lanka) and southern Africa. The problem was that these species
did not exist on the lands between. Before scientists had
arrived at an understanding of continental drift, Philip L.
Schattler proposed the idea of a land bridge between southern
India and southern Africa. The lemur was a prominent animal
whose habitat was being researched, and Schattler gave the
Leland, Charles Godfrey Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
name Lemuria to his hypothesized land bridge. The idea was
quickly adopted by a number of biologists, including Ernst
Haekel (1834–1891), who further hypothesized that Lemuria
was the home of the missing original hominoids. (Many yet-tobe-discovered
skeletons would point in different directions.) By
the 1880s, the lost continent of Lemuria would be an honest (if
soon-to-be-discarded) scientific theory.
In the 1880s, however, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder
and major theorist of the Theosophical Society, integrated
the idea of Lemuria into her understanding of human
evolution. Humans evolved through a series of root races, she
said. She claimed that the contemporary Anglo-Saxons were
the fifth root race. The two previous root races had emerged
on Atlantis and Lemuria, respectively. Blavatsky’s account of
Lemuria led to further discussion in the theosophical writings
of Charles W. Leadbeater and to the major book, The Story of
Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria, by W. Scott-Elliot. What had started
as a hypothetical land bridge between Africa and India had become
a sizable continent stretching from India to New Zealand.
Australia was a remnant and the Aborigines were descendants
of the continent’s dwellers.
Lemuria was soon identified with the lost continent of Pan
described in Oahspe A New Age Bible, a channeled text from the
hand of Spiritualist John B. Newbrough. Pan was said to be a
large continent located in what is today the north Pacific. Pan’s
remnants theoretically included the western coast of California,
whose unique flora and fauna were another problem for nineteenth-century
A third source of speculation on Lemuria derives from the
work of Augustus Le Plongeon, an archaeologist working in the
late nineteenth century in Central America. At the time, the
Mayan hieroglyphs in the Yucatán had not been deciphered,
but Le Plongeon claimed significant progress in that regard.
He suggested that the writing at Chichen Itza told the story of
a princess Moo and an ancient continent to the east (Atlantis)
that he called Mu. He presented his findings in 1896 in a book,
Queen Moo and the Eqyptian Sphinx, but after he was given a brief
hearing before his archaeological colleagues, his ideas were dismissed.
Le Plongeon would be long forgotten if his papers had not
passed to one James Churchward (1832–1936). Churchward
claimed to have seen what he called the Naacal tablets, a set of
materials written in the lost Naacal language. The tablets told
the story of a lost continent in the Pacific as described by a few
of the survivors of the continent’s fiery destruction. Churchward
claimed to have seen the tablets in India, but no one else
to the present day has ever seen them. Combining the Le
Plongeon material with stories of the Naacal tablets in his 1926
book The Lost Continent of Mu, Churchward proposed the idea
of a huge continent in the Pacific south of Hawaii.
The notions about Lemuria, Pan, and Mu were melded in
the 1931 Rosicrucian classic, Lemuria The Lost Continent of the
Pacific. According to H. Spencer Lewis (writing under the pen
name Wishar S. Cerve), Lemuria was a mid-Pacific continent.
When it was destroyed, a sliver of it was jammed against North
America and became California. It is especially associated with
Mt. Shasta, a prominent volcano in northern California that
has become the focus of occult speculation in its own right. Five
years after Lewis’s book was published, the Lemurian Fellowship,
a theosophical occult group, was founded in Chicago. Its
leader, Robert Stelle, expanded on the now-entrenched occult
myth in two books, An Earth Dweller Returns (1940) and The Sun
Rises (1952).
In the last generation Lemuria has become a standard part
of New Age mythology and is frequently mentioned in channeled
literature. Among the interesting twists on the idea of Lemuria
is that attributed to ‘‘Ramtha,’’ the entity who speaks
through J. Z. Knight. ‘‘Ramtha’’ says he was a Lemurian. Lemuria,
according to ‘‘Ramtha,’’ was not a separate continent
but a section of the ancient continent of Atlatia (as he calls Atlantis).
An initial cataclysm, some thirty-five thousand years
ago, destroyed the northern half of the continent, including
Lemuria. Survivors found shelter in Onai, the great port city of
Atlatia. ‘‘Ramtha’’ says he was born of a Lemurian mother who
had escaped to Onai.
Blavatsky, Helena P. The Secret Doctrine. 2 vols. London
Theosophical Publishing, 1889.
Cerve, Wishar S. [H. Spencer Lewis]. Lemuria The Lost Continent
of the Pacific. San Jose, Calif. Supreme Grand Lodge,
AMORC, 1931.
Churchward, James. The Lost Continent of Mu. New York
Ives Washburn, 1926.
Le Plongeon, Augustus. Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx.
New York The Author, 1896.
Melton, J. Gordon. New Age Encyclopedia. Detroit Gale Research,
Walton, Bruce, ed. Mount Shasta Home of the Ancients. Mokelume
Hill, Calif. Health Research, 1985.