Atlantis and the Origin of the Mystery Schools
A secret program of spiritual education survived from antediluvian times
Each of the religious myths of ancient pagan culture traced their people’s origins back to a parent culture: a long-lost mother civilization that had once existed and flourished during antediluvian times.
The story of civilization stretches back into the deep past and involves a long-lost era of civilization that was once highly advanced but which tragically collapsed and disappeared from the face of the earth due to the catastrophic consequences of a great flood or “deluge”.
In scholarly literature today, this prehistoric civilization is most often referred to as “Atlantis”, a name derived from Plato’s famous teachings about the subject.
The origin of the Mystery Schools goes back to Atlantis - many thousands if not millions of years before the first schools of philosophy were founded during the Axial Age.
The Axial Age is the historical age that extends from roughly 600 BC to 400 AD, an age of empire when philosophy first emerged and spread across the world.
The conclusion of the Axial Age would mark the end of the entire “pagan” era of civilization. The fall of Rome is the great representation of this collapse. After its demise, the remnants of its institutional order were re-assembled into a new model for civilization: a world order centered around the Roman Catholic Church’s vast empire over Europe.
In this essay, we’ll be investigating the origin of the Mystery Schools in Atlantis and track the descent of its legacy through the ages.
This article is part of an ongoing series investigating the birth of philosophy out of the Mystery Schools of the ancient world. Here, we are going to trace the origin of the Mysteries back in time to the heyday of the once-great global empire of Atlantis.
The seeds of philosophy’s origins trace back to the secret Mystery Schools of the ancient world. By exploring the story of Atlantis, we’ll deepen our understanding of philosophy and better appreciate the special role that it is destined to play in the future evolution of human civilization.
1. Atlantis and the Origins of Civilization
The earliest records of civilization present modern scientists with an uncomfortable problem.
Most scientists today are taught an ideology of Darwinian creationism, one that views modern civilization as beginning with the herd dynamics of primates, which in time evolved into neanderthals, who in turn evolved into primitive humans living in a tribal, hunter gatherer existence.
While it is possible that at an extremely remote time something like this situation did actually take place in terms of an initial origin point for civilization arising primitive humanoid base elements (see: Lemuria), when we consider the full range of facts available to us today, it is clear that in between the initial emergence of primitive mankind (whenever that was) and the rise of the first agrarian states in Eurasia around 10,000 years ago is a lost era of civilization whose narrative arc, in terms of its origin, development, maturation, decline, and death, was played out already long ago.
The truth is, the farther back we go in our investigations of human history, the more we find that facts don’t fit into a model that matches the Darwinian prediction. Rather than finding the descendants of modern civilization beginning in a primitive state and moving upward, we find that long ago mankind had already built a highly advanced global empire, which, having achieved an initial “golden age”, fell into decay and collapse, its destruction so thorough that its memory has largely become lost to the sands and seas of time.
Ancient civilization was in many ways at its most culturally advanced level at the oldest periods of its history. The farther back we go, the more advancement we find in terms of the complexity and excellence of cultural artifacts left by these civilizations.
The mysterious Great Pyramid of Giza is case in point: it is a geometric and architectural masterpiece that is so old that no one has any actual clue when or how it originated. It is an unbelievable mystery. It is a living piece of evidence that alone destroys any Darwinian attempt to track the origins of modern civilization to primitive hunter-gatherer groups.
Clearly, there is a missing link in academic science’s orthodox explanation for human origins. Their theory of primate origins is still taught in school, yet the fact of the Great Pyramid’s existence is alone all the proof scientists need to invalidate that theory.
Every great mythology of the ancient world explicitly states the same core truth: our current age of civilization - everything that followed after 10,000 BC - is a descendent of a yet earlier age of global civilization that once reigned supreme over the Earth.
By the time accurate historical records begin to be written down around 500 BC, ancient civilization was already long in the process of decline.
Myths and records from these civilizations inform us that long ago, well before their own time, a great civilization had once ruled the world. This civilization achieved great heights but was ultimately destroyed in a deluge of its own making.
The re-emergence of civilization after the deluge was just that, a second emergence, not an initial invention. It was a restatement of a model of civilization that previously existed in the Atlantean states.
When the first agrarian states arose in Central Eurasia and North Africa almost ten thousand years ago, it marked not the first occasion civilization was ever on this Earth but rather an attempt to resurrect civilization from the ashes of Atlantis.
Records indicate that as recently as twelve thousand years ago there existed a highly advanced civilization that arose as a maritime-based mercantile empire. Its dominion expanded out from a capital home base located on a now-disappeared island continent in the Atlantic Ocean to reach a global network of colonies and vassal states.
The great stone pyramids and megalithic monuments that scatter the world are remnants of this ancient global civilization and are living proof of the incredible advances attained by it.
The legacy of the lost Atlantean civilization would eventually inspire remnant groups who survived the apocalypse to resurrect civilization from its ashes. In this way, the early states of Mesopotamia, China, the Mediterranean, and Central America were descendants of a now-forgotten earlier age of history, one that thousands of years, a worldwide deluge, and a shift in continental distribution has largely concealed from modern awareness.
10,000 BC is the date that Plato gives for the final collapse of Atlantis and the great deluge that resulted, an event that would reset the continental distribution of Earth and wipe out many civilized populations in the process.
The scattered communities that remained after Atlantis’s demise would eventually recover and give birth to the first states of the 7th to 8th millennia BC . These civilizations all traced their ancestry back to a mother civilization: Atlantis.
The early civilizations that arose around ten thousand years ago were not the first civilizations ever born; rather, each was the descendent of an older ancestor. This older ancestor was shared in common by all: it was an ancient empire who’s dominion once stretched across the globe.
It is this mysterious antediluvian civilization, lost beneath the waves and the sands of time, that is the true progenitor of our civilization. And it is here that we must look to discover the first origins of the Mystery Schools that would dominate the religious institutions of the first postdiluvian Atlantean successor states.
2. The Mystery Schools Originate in Atlantis
From the records that have been passed down, we know that Atlantis was once ruled as a religious autocracy. The monarch was the divinely appointed king of both the state and the state religion and his advisors were an elite council of priests.
The ruling elite of Atlantis dedicated a significant portion of their vast resources toward the effort of building and maintaining great monolithic monuments and temples in key locations all over the world, each dedicated to honoring the great God of the Universe and the spiritual powers or “gods” that this Divine Being placed in charge of His creation.
The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Egypt are two prominent examples that remain to this day of outstanding religious monuments once constructed by the priest-magicians of ancient Atlantis in honor of the spiritual powers in nature they held to be sacred.
At some remote age, the high priests of these ancient peoples first mastered the mysteries of fire. This sacred knowledge was used by the priesthood to construct mankind’s first great age of civilization.
This was an age of magic, when society was ruled by shaman-priests who had mastered the formulas of alchemy and astrology. These sages could work magic over the elemental forces of nature and ruled the world with their occult powers.
There was a large gap in occult knowledge and ability between the priesthood and the common man. The priesthood jealously guarded the advanced formulas and systems of occult knowledge that they possessed, putting under tight control who had access to it.
As a result, the powers attained by the elite of the priesthood towered head and shoulders above the ability of the common citizen. Consequently, this was an age of paternalistic governance, with the Atlantean elite exerting absolute rule over the lower castes and the primitive tribes outside its empire like “gods among men”.
Th Atlantean priesthood guarded the sacred knowledge of its wisdom teachings carefully, protecting and preserving it within an institution that would come to be known as the Mystery Schools.
As Manly P. Hall describes them, “The Mystery systems of initiation were organized to teach the science of human regeneration by which the inner faculties of the soul could be stimulated and unfolded. … These sacred institutions flourished collectively for thousands of years.” (Light of the Vedas)
The Mysteries were tightly guarded and ruled over by an elite caste of priest-magicians.
The high priests of Atlantis governed their world empire through an interconnected network of state-temple complexes that were politically and economically linked through a system of global trade based out of the Atlantean capital city.
The Atlantean monarchy and the priesthood of its state religion ruled their empire out of a capital city located on a now-disappeared land mass in the Atlantic Ocean.
The great temple complex at the center of this cosmopolitain capital city was connected to a larger network of temples located in vassal states and colonies at strategic locations around the world. Through their Mystery Schools, their sacerdotal elite trained the first dynasties of Atlantis’s imperial leadership.
Overall, the Atlantean state was a religious autocracy ruled by a divinely-appointed monarch, a hierarchy of priests, and an administrative and aristocratic elite.
The Mystery School was the central institution of Atlantis, with all other institutions (the state, the religion, the economy) orbiting around it.
The monarch was not only the head of the state but also the high priest of the State Religion and an initiate of the State Mysteries. The aristocracy were also expected to be initiates and to govern wisely and benevolently.
3. The Archetypal “Fall of Atlantis”
Besides a few scattered archaeological remnants, the primary information we have about the lost age of Atlantis is from the stories of ancient mythology that have come down to us from ancient times.
It is clearly stated in the most ancient teachings of past civilizations that human civilization first emerged out of the vision and leadership of great spiritual teachers who came from across the seas to bring civilization to early man.
Atlantis’s global empire was economically and politically linked together through a complex system of trade, with different world hubs connected by maritime trade routes. Likely, the Promethean heroes being referred to in ancient myth were missionaries from the original Atlantean Mystery School who would have arrived to their destinations by sea, hence the references in ancient myth of people who came from the sea to bring knowledge and civilization to primitive peoples.
The Atlantean priesthood served as teachers and civilizers for primitive peoples living on the borderland of its global maritime empire. Some of these vassal colonies would survive the deluge that eventually struck Atlantis’s home continent. These remnant groups would later resurrect the memory of Atlantis in the early agrarian states of ten thousand years ago that rose up after the deluge.
The myths that tell us about the glories of the Atlantean civilization also inform us as to the circumstances surrounding its decline and fall.
In myth, the fall of Atlantis is typically associated with corruption setting in within a segment of the priesthood. This dissenting group develops into a cult with political aspirations at odds with the higher orders of the Atlantean Mystery School.
The dissenting sect orchestrates a coup over their political adversaries and begins to redirect the institutions of religion and state toward the achievement of ends that are inspired by their personal ambitions rather than by their allegiance to a larger spiritual ideal.
One method of control that this corrupted priesthood attempted was to hoard for itself the wisdom teachings about the mysteries of alchemy.
The corrupt priesthood, which was based out of the Atlantean capital city, destabilized the Mystery Schools by attempting to hoard its secrets for itself. Through use of offensive aggression, it blocked and obscured the occult teachings from being perpetuated by temples and orders not under its political control.
In pursuit of their private ambitions, the priesthood would move to capture the state and aristocracy, ruling them through their monopolization of the knowledge of the Mystery Schools. In a sense, they had separated themselves from the spiritual center of the Mystery Schools and had re-appropriated its teachings in the pursuit of a self-serving imperial agenda.
In technical terms, this misuse of sacred knowledge is termed “black magic.”
The general population, which had once looked to its elite castes as great civilizing influences in the world, instead became enslaved by them.
The entire Atlantean pattern of civilization had departed from its adherence to the great laws governing human existence in this world.
This departure from the Law temporarily brought great power to a small elite while retarding the growth for a large majority. But it eventually and inevitably would cause the destruction of the entire the Atlantean empire.
Simply put, all things which move against the laws of nature must gradually be destroyed by falling out of harmony with nature’s processes.
Atlantis’s fall into corruption occurred when its elite sought to pursue the glory of itself rather than to discipline itself toward following what should have been its mission: to serve, protect, and progress the Divine Plan of the great Creating Power.
As they fell into corruption, the Atlantean priesthood shifted their attention toward expanding their material and temporal control over the world. Consequently, they lost sight of their responsibilities to a larger spiritual plan and purpose - one that extends above and beyond this earthly dimension. As a consequence of this transgression, Atlantis was destroyed in an act of karmic justice.
In retrospect, the Atlantean hypothesis of human origins explains several as-yet unsolved mysteries of ancient history:
One key mystery that Atlantis solves is why artifacts from the earliest agrarian states ascend in quality as time goes backwards toward the point of the deluge. Meaning: the degree of civilization attained by our ancestors was at its greatest at its oldest points.
For example, the most spiritually and artistically mature Chinese art is the oldest, and the earliest pyramid temples in Egypt are the most geometrically and mathematically precise. Over time, the quality of artifacts in these two cultures evidences a decline in artistry, complexity, and mastery of esoteric symbolism. This state of affairs is satisfactorily explained by the theory that these civilizations were descendants from an earlier model and were attempting to resurrect its memory, achieving less and less degrees of success as time advanced.
Another mystery that the Atlantis hypothesis explains is why the early civilizations of these regions emerge almost fully formed. It’s like they went from zero to sixty, popping up out of nowhere already in highly advanced states of development. How did they emerge? Where did they come from? The answer in each case points to Atlantis. In fact, the religious mythologies of these cultures explicitly state that this is the case.
A third mystery that the Atlantis hypothesis explains is why ancient myths all over the world directly claim their cultures to be descendants from a high civilization of antiquity. Each explicitly acknowledges that their institutions were originally developed from a “mother civilization” that once thrived long ago but was destroyed in a deluge. This tale is found in similar forms all over the world; Atlantis explains why.
4. The Place of Atlantis in a Larger World Plan
To summarize what we’ve covered so far: the emergence of the Mysteries as a dominant institution ruling over the affairs of mankind begins with the lost antediluvian empire of Atlantis and the elite caste of priests and initiates who governed the institution of occult knowledge that once made Atlantis great.
According to ancient records, the sinking of the Atlantean home continent - a large island landmass located in the Atlantic Ocean - caused a catastrophic flood event or “deluge” to sweep across the globe, throwing a globally interconnected system of civilization into a state of complete meltdown.
When the Atlantean civilization fell, it was the home capital that was destroyed, not the entire empire. After the deluge, many peripheral Atlantean colonies and vassal states survived in modified form. In time, these would recover to become the seeds from which subsequent civilizations would emerge, such as those in ancient America, China, Mesopotamia, and Europe.
After the collapse of Atlantis, Mystery School systems modeled on the earlier Atlantean design were resurrected in various forms by priesthoods ruling over the first agrarian states of ten thousand years ago.
These early states first sprouted up between the 6th and 8th millennia BC, meaning that a period of between 2,000 and 5,000 years separated the deluge and the resurrection of civilization.
After its re-emergence within early agrarian states, the Mysteries would continue in its basic Atlantean form through numerous subsequent ages that would follow. The trend moves down gradually to the time of the Axial Age, when a major transition takes place in the Mystery School lineage due to the emergence of philosophy.
The Axial Age references a time period of between 800 and 1200 years in which two important events in world history transpired:
a) The religious institutions of the pagan world collapsed, destroying the old home base that the Mysteries had so long been concealed within, and
b) Philosophy first emerged as a public-facing institution.
With the emergence of philosophy, the esoteric knowledge and rituals of the Mysteries moved into a new form that existed independently of the priesthood and interfaced more directly with society outside of the temple walls.
Philosophy first emerged during the tail end of the collapse of the religious institutions of antiquity, a process whose origins extend back to deep history and which culminated during the events of the Axial Age.
With the decline and collapse of the pagan world order, the sacred knowledge previously monopolized by the priesthood would move out of its former stronghold, which had been within the priesthood and temples of the state religion, and move instead into a new custom-crafted vehicle specially designed to receive it. This new vehicle was philosophy (as discussed in my previous article).
After the collapse of the old order of civilization, philosophy would become completely free from involvement with the ancient temples and their priesthoods and it would move to become an autonomous force on the world stage. Here, it would become linked to various roaming schools, sects, secret societies, and guilds, who navigated themselves in secret through the challenges of the Dark Ages which had descended across Europe during the first millennia of the Christian era.
The move of philosophy out of the temple would break a pattern that had first become ingrained back in Atlantis: the monopolization of the Mystery teachings by elite sects of the priesthood of the state religion.
The priesthood’s monopolization of the Mysteries begins with Atlantis. Atlantean society was a religious autocracy that was ruled by the elite of its priesthood.
There was no concept of secular society in Atlantis; no idea that the world could be anything other than a creation of higher spiritual powers or “gods”. The reality of these powers were experienced more directly in those times. At that time society was ruled by priest-magicians, who leveraged their occult knowledge of the inner secrets of nature’s laws in order to rule an empire whose dominion extended across all earthly spectrums, from the elements of nature to the institutions of civilization.
The state had no separation from religion in Atlantean times. This division would not take place fully until the Axial Age empires.
In the golden age of Atlantis, the state, religion, and the Mystery Schools were united as one.
Atlantis’s decline comes with a corruption setting in within the priesthood, not with the Mystery Schools itself. The Mystery Schools did not fall into disgrace; the priesthood did.
Before this decline, there had never been a need to differentiate between the priesthood and the initiates of the Mysteries; they were one in the same. But in Atlantis there emerged a sect within the priesthood of evil sorcerers who absconded with a portion of the Mystery teachings and misused this sacred knowledge in order to rule the world. Having misused the sacred teachings, these dark magicians do not deserve the title of “initiate”.
The religion institutions of man and the priesthoods in charge of them were originally in alignment with the higher leadership of the Mystery Schools - the transcendent heavenly Hierarchy that rule it - and did not become polarized away from being united with it until the Atlantean priesthood polarized itself into light and dark aspects.
With the corruption of Atlantis, a cleavage was formed in the institutions of human governance between one polarity who seeks to govern mankind according to the will of God and another polarity who wishes to govern according to their own personal will and desire.
The ultimate consequence of this cleavage was the deluge, when the Atlantean empire was wiped from the face of the Earth. That which breaks the law of its own existence can never survive. Atlantis did this and for this reason was removed from the Earth
The highest grades of the Mysteries have always remained pristine. It is the challenge of man to build an earthly institution, global in dominion, capable of re-establishing a link with its heavenly archetype. This was once achieved in the golden age of Atlantis, and our challenge is to make it happen once again.
In esoteric philosophy, Atlantis is treated as one of seven stages or sub-cycles that together constitute one great cycle of existence for mankind here on Earth . More specifically, it is said to reside in the fourth position out of the seven total sub-cycles that together form the one Great Cycle .
Being one stage in a larger process, Atlantis was never intended to last forever. But for the successor stage of Atlantis to emerge, Atlantis itself would have to die. Hence, Atlantis’s destruction was part of a larger cosmic process of creative destruction, one where the old must always die so as that, from its ashes, the new may be born.
For this reason, we, as philosophers, should ultimately treat the tragedy of Atlantis as an act of creative destruction. Atlantis was not just a lost civilization; it represents an earlier stage of man’s evolution that had come to completion. Therefore, it had to “die” in order for the next stage in man’s evolution to be “reborn”.
According to great philosophical teachers such as Helena Blavatsky and Manly P. Hall, Atlantis existed as the fourth in a master cycle of seven sub-cycles. The fact that it occupies the median position in the set of seven cycles implies that it existed at the nadir point of the Great Cycle: the point where the first half of the Great Cycle ends (comprised of 3.5 cycles) and the where the second half begins (also 3.5 cycles).
In the teachings of ancient philosophy, Atlantis occupied the pivot point between two great motions that were taking place within the greater 7-cycle supersystem it was a part of. These two motions are involution and evolution.
The idea is that creation begins and ends at a transcendent Alpha and Omega point, which equates to a condition of profound spiritual Unity. This is a condition outside of time and space that is eternal and divine in nature.
In the teachings of philosophy, creation moves forth and back from this point: from a state of integration with it, toward a state of maximum distance away from it, and then inevitably back to a state of complete immersion within it.
In simple terms, involution involves the motion of Spirit toward Matter. This is an expansive motion that Matter limits by imposing entropy upon it.
This involutionary motion of Spirit into Matter reaches a nadir point and then swings back with evolution, which is a motion in which the spiritual seeds that moved into Matter grow back out toward the Alpha and Omega point of their own own origin.
Atlantis was the pivot point between the involutionary and evolutionary waves of this larger cycle of existence: of Spirit moving into Matter and then back out. Its great collapse represents the transition point between involution and evolution, with its archetypal “Fall” representing the nadir point of Spirit’s descent into Matter.
Overall, Atlantis’s fall is an archetypal event that was part of a larger world pattern. It represents the culmination of an involutionary path and a bottoming-out associated with God having reached the nadir point of His own creative process.
The fall of Atlantis symbolizes the furthest descent that Spirit would make into Matter. It corresponds with man falling into his most corrupt state and having to experience the ultimate consequence of this corruption.
From the time of the deluge onward, a great evolutionary pull has been set up in the world. From the point of Atlantis’s archetypal fall, mankind has gradually been impelled on a mission to gradually elevate itself into higher and higher states of spiritual, mental, and physical development. In this way, we direct the spirit within back toward its ultimate re-union with Source.
This development occurs in stages, with incremental progress being tempered by frequent backslides. But in the long term, mankind is evolving itself gradually back up toward the attainment of a new golden age, where a New Atlantis will be built out of the ruins of the old.
Through this New Atlantis, the Human Spirit will be propelled further up the evolutionary ladder, which is the path it must take back toward the Omega point, where it will once again be dissolved into union with the one spiritual Reality that underpins all existence.
5. Re-Incarnation and the Quest for a New Atlantis
Subtly implied behind all this is a re-incarnation concept, with one World Soul incarnating through seven sub-cycles of one great evolutionary growth process.
The same World Soul was present within Atlantis that is currently existing within and through the institutions of modern civilization.
All individual souls are part of this one World Soul. By implication, each soul living today was once an Atlantean and is reborn now by means of reincarnation.
In between now and Atlantean times is a long cycle of development, where the soul, in both its individual and collective forms, is challenged to grow by undergoing the trials, tribulations, and initiations of life experience.
Similarities between early civilizations and Atlantis indicate these successor civilizations were more than merely culturally influenced by their antediluvian predecessor. In fact, the same souls who had once lived in Atlantis had re-incarnated in the civilizations of the new age. Thus, they began the postdiluvian era by trying to reconstruct the model of civilization that they had previously known.
By implication of this line of reasoning, the same cohort of souls that live today here on Earth once lived through the times of Atlantis. It was also this same cohort of souls who incarnated immediately after Atlantis in order to populate the early agrarian states of 10,000 year ago.
By the time that the early states of 6-8,000 BC emerged, the world stage had been reset from the previous Atlantean pattern due to the catastrophic consequences of a deluge. But while the outside factors of the world had changed, it would take many lifetimes for old habits, tendencies, and karma to be broken overcome within the soul of man.
The entirety of human history reveals one vast developmental program for the evolution of the World Soul. Until we understand this, we will never be able to take the next step in the evolution of our civilization.
Through experiences gained in each age of mankind’s history, the soul is gradually stimulated to develop and unfold its own potentials. This is true on both individual and collective levels, hence the need for the World Soul to reincarnate in a progressive sequence of developmental stages.
Until the final cycle of the final stage of the World Soul’s evolutionary program is completed, the Great Work remains incomplete. Thus, human evolution remains a work in progress.
Atlantis was an earlier stage in this program of development and modern civilization is its current phase. Future phases will come, and it is our task to bridge the gap between then and now.
Zooming out and considering the big picture, what I’m arguing - and what Manly P. Hall originally argued - is that our civilization is the successor of ancient Atlantis.
This is true not only on a physical level but also on a metaphysical one: meaning, on a soul level, persons living today are reincarnations of individuals formerly existing in Atlantean times. Likewise, our collective civilization is a reincarnation of an early Atlantean model.
When we consider the emphasis on reincarnation that the early philosophical schools placed in their teachings, it is clear that that great teachers such as Pythagoras, Plato, and Gautama Buddha believed that souls living in our current age were once Atlanteans who lived through the great drama of the empire’s rise, attainment of glory, fall into corruption, and destruction into oblivion.
With Atlantis’s collapse, the evolutionary journey of the souls occupying Atlantean bodies was not destroyed; it was just beginning. Those same souls were and are destined to reincarnate in future ages in order to work out the karma they had accumulated during the rise and fall of the Atlantean empire, which we all at some point lived through.
This means that we are all children of Atlantis. As descendants, we have inherited the karma of this previous age and are still working through it, our goal being to eventually overcome it in order to create a new golden age of world peace and enlightenment - a New Atlantis, where the Mysteries will once again be enthroned as the heart and center of a global civilization.
Alexander Sachon, 4.21.22