I forget exactly how it happened, but some fairly recent Internet surfing brought me to the story of Atlantis and other lost continents, and I found a mention of a book called Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature
, by L. Sprague de Camp. Thinking it sounded interesting, I checked it out from the library, and just finished reading it today. I quite liked the book, which does a good job at debunking the Atlantis myth, while also mentioning other lost continents (notably Mu and Lemuria) and thoroughly tracing the theme's development from its earliest mention by Plato through the works of later adherents to the idea. These include people who tried to rationalize the story, as well as occultists who claim that Atlantis was the origin of all civilization and Lemuria was inhabited by four-armed egg-laying hermaphrodites. One particular occult account of Lemuria, namely that some survivors of the sunken continent relocated to Mount Shasta in California, is the origin of two of my favorite songs penned by Mr. Frank Black
. Really, most occult beliefs seem to me to be more or less a grab bag, taking elements from various world religions without any regards to their original context.
One idea not strictly related to Atlantis that the book touches upon is the Greek idea of a continent surrounding the encircling ocean. The sixth century monk Kosmas placed Paradise in the eastern part of this far continent. As stated in the book, it's pretty common for cultures, upon exploring previously unknown territory and finding that it ISN'T inhabited by satyrs, Gorgons, or cherubim with flaming swords guarding mystical gardens, to simply transfer these things outward to still-unexplored lands. So, even though Genesis specifically mentions the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (which Kosmas did work into his map
, albeit in a somewhat convoluted way) in conjunction with Eden, people in later eras placed it in areas other than the Middle East. Actually, although the Bible does say Eden is "in the East," it also says that the Land of Nod is "east of Eden," so the writers obviously didn't think it was as far east as it was possible to go. I once looked up where people thought Eden was supposed to have been located, and came up with everything from Jerusalem to Africa, with some asserting that it would have been submerged in Noah's flood (which I guess makes sense from the standpoint of a Biblical literalist, and most non-literalists probably don't think the Garden of Paradise actually existed anyway).