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Lemuria /lɨˈmjʊəriə/ is the name of a hypothetical "lost land" variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept's 19th-century origins lie in attempts to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics. Although sunken continents do exist – like Zealandia in the Pacific as well as Mauritia and the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean – there is no known geological formation under the Indian or Pacific Oceans that corresponds to the hypothetical Lemuria.
Though Lemuria is no longer considered a valid scientific hypothesis, it has been adopted by writers involved in the occult, as well as by some Tamil writers in India. Accounts of Lemuria differ, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean as a result of a geological, often cataclysmic, change, such as pole shift.
In 1864 the zoologist and biogeographer Philip Sclater wrote an article on "The Mammals of Madagascar" in The Quarterly Journal of Science. Using a classification he referred to as lemurs but which included related primate groups, and puzzled by the presence of their fossils in both Madagascar and India but not in Africa or the Middle East, Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India had once been part of a larger continent. He wrote:
The anomalies of the Mammal fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that ... a large continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans ... that this continent was broken up into islands, of which some have become amalgamated with ... Africa, some ... with what is now Asia; and that in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands we have existing relics of this great continent, for which ... I should propose the name Lemuria!
Sclater's theory was hardly unusual for his time: "land bridges", real and imagined, fascinated several of Sclater's contemporaries. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, also looking at the relationship between animals in India and Madagascar, had suggested a southern continent about two decades before Sclater, but did not give it a name. The acceptance of Darwinism led scientists to seek to trace the diffusion of species from their points of evolutionary origin. Prior to the acceptance of continental drift, biologists frequently postulated submerged land masses in order to account for populations of land-based species now separated by barriers of water. Similarly, geologists tried to account for striking resemblances of rock formations on different continents. The first systematic attempt was made by Melchior Neumayr in his book Erdgeschichte in 1887. Many hypothetical submerged land bridges and continents were proposed during the 19th century, in order to account for the present distribution of species.
After gaining some acceptance within the scientific community, the concept of Lemuria began to appear in the works of other scholars. Ernst Haeckel, a German Darwinian taxonomist, proposed Lemuria as an explanation for the absence of "missing link" fossil records. According to another source, Haeckel put forward this thesis prior to Sclater (but without using the name "Lemuria"). Locating the origins of the human species on this lost continent, he claimed the fossil record could not be found because it sunk beneath the sea.
The Lemuria theory disappeared completely from conventional scientific consideration after the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift were accepted by the larger scientific community. According to the theory of plate tectonics (the current accepted paradigm in geology), Madagascar and India were indeed once part of the same landmass (thus accounting for geological resemblances), but plate movement caused India to break away millions of years ago, and move to its present location. The original landmass, the supercontinent Gondwana, broke apart; it did not sink beneath sea level.
In 1999, drilling by the JOIDES Resolution research vessel in the Indian Ocean discovered evidence that a large island, the Kerguelen Plateau, was submerged about 20 million years ago by rising sea levels. Samples showed pollen and fragments of wood in a 90-million-year-old sediment. Although this discovery might encourage scholars to expect similarities in dinosaur fossil evidence, and may contribute to understanding the breakup of the Indian and Australian land masses, it does not support the concept of Lemuria as a land bridge for mammals.
In 2013, the study of grains of sand from the beaches of Mauritius led to the conclusion that a similar landmass would have existed between 2,000 and 85 million years ago.
Blavatsky, Elliot, and Bramwell
"Lemuria" entered the lexicon of the occult through the works of Helena Blavatsky, who claimed that the Mahatmas had shown her an ancient, pre-Atlantean Book of Dzyan. Lemuria is mentioned in one of the 1882 Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. According to L. Sprague de Camp, Blavatsky's concept of Lemuria was influenced by other contemporaneous writers on the theme of lost continents, notably Ignatius L. Donnelly, American cult leader Thomas Lake Harris and the French writer Louis Jacolliot.
Within Blavatsky's complex cosmology, which includes seven "Root Races", the "Third Root Race" occupied Lemuria. She describes them as about 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, sexually hermaphroditic, egg-laying, mentally undeveloped and spiritually more pure than the following "Root Races". Before the coming of the Lemurians, the second "Root Race" is said to have dwelled in Hyperborea. After the subsequent creation of mammals, Mme Blavatsky revealed to her readers, some Lemurians turned to bestiality. The gods, aghast at the behavior of these "mindless" men, sank Lemuria into the ocean and created a "Fourth Root Race" – endowed with intellect – on Atlantis.
The later theosophical author William Scott-Elliot gave one of the most elaborate accounts of lost continents. The English theosophist received his knowledge from Charles Webster Leadbeater, who communicated with the Theosophical Masters by "astral clairvoyance". In 1896 he published The Story of Atlantis, followed in 1904 by The Lost Lemuria, in which he included a map of the continent of Lemuria as stretching from the east coast of Africa across the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.
James Bramwell portrayed Lemuria in his book, Lost Atlantis, as "a continent that occupied a large part of what is now the South Pacific Ocean". He described the people of Lemuria in detail and characterised them as one of the "root-races of humanity". According to Bramwell, Lemurians are the ancestors of the Atlanteans, who survived the period "of the general racial decadence which affected the Lemurians in the last stages of their evolution". From "a select division of" the Atlanteans – after their promotion to decadence – Bramwell claims the Aryan race arose. "Lemurians, Atlanteans, and Aryans are root-races of humanity", according to Bramwell.
Lemuria and Mount Shasta
In 1894, Frederick Spencer Oliver published A Dweller on Two Planets, which claimed that survivors from a sunken continent called Lemuria were living in or on Mount Shasta in northern California. Oliver claimed the Lemurians lived in a complex of tunnels beneath the mountain and occasionally were seen walking the surface dressed in white robes.
In 1931 Harvey Spencer Lewis using the pseudonym Wisar Spenle Cerve wrote a book (published by the Rosicrucians) about the hidden Lemurians of Mount Shasta that a bibliography on Mount Shasta described as "responsible for the legend's widespread popularity." This belief has since been repeated by Guy Warren Ballard, followers of the Ascended Masters and the Great White Brotherhood, and , The Summit Lighthouse, Church Universal and Triumphant, and Kryon.
Kumari Kandam and Lemuria
Some Tamil writers such as Devaneya Pavanar have tried to associate Lemuria with Kumari Kandam, a legendary sunken landmass mentioned in the Tamil literature, claiming that it was the cradle of civilization.
In popular culture
- Evolution of lemurs, primate from Madagascar
- Kumari Kandam
- Lost city
- Legends of Mount Shasta
- Mauritia (microcontinent)
- Mu (lost continent)
- Phantom island
- Jane Roberts
- Ramaswamy, Sumathi (2004). The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24032-4.
- Frederick Spencer Oliver, A Dweller on Two Planets, 1905
- Manufactured folklore: Shasta Lemuria.