The fictitious pseudohistorical Atlantis of Brasseur de Bourbourg, Augustus Le Plongeon, and Ignatius Donnelly has had a long and ignominious influence on the word. I came across a bizarre argument from 1914 and 1915 that the swastika is proof of the existence of Atlantis and that Atlantis is therefore also the garden of Eden from the Bible, for the four branches of the swastika symbolize the four rivers of Eden. In reality, the swastika is one of the most common shapes used in cultures around the world, due to its simplicity and symmetry. It is almost certainly an independent invention many times over, but Atlantis theorists have speculated that the shape, like the equally obvious pyramid form, could only have been invented by a race of lily-white supermen on a paradisiacal Atlantic island.
Normally, I’d go through an argument like this point for point, but it is so transparently false that there is little more to do than to point and laugh… well, at least until we remember that such claims would eventually help Hitler and the Nazis to give symbolic weight to the “Aryan” origin of the swastika.
The argument was put forward by an M. A. Blackwell in a series of fifteen (!) articles (first and last here and here) in The Word magazine, a Theosophical publication, entitled “The Swastika in Relation to Plato’s Atlantis and the Pyramid of Xochicalco.” The author admitted to having been inspired by Le Plongeon’s 1913 claim that the monumental center of Xochicalco, a Mesoamerican center founded around 650 CE and taking influence from Teotihuacan and the Maya, was actually a scale model copy of the center of Atlantis around the temple of Poseidon. From that origin, Blackwell started to wonder if the swastika was the symbolic legacy of Atlantis as much as pyramids were its physical progeny.
The swastika (and variants of the cross) has many meanings, esoteric and exoteric, most of which convey the idea of good, beneficence. The swastika existed in prehistoric times, in the old and new worlds, among civilized and uncivilized peoples. […] It will be seen that the swastika is found wherever the Atlanteans have held dominion. Was Atlantis then, the birthplace of the swastika? There is a mass of evidence to corroborate the fact that Atlantis did exist and was the center from which emanated the great ancient civilized nations of both worlds. Brasseur de Bourbourg, LePlongeon, Donnelly, and other writers have pointed out striking similarities, such as their traditions, religions, symbols, and the names of their deities.
Basically, Blackwell’s endless series is warmed over Donnelly, but with a Theosophical bent and a desire to find Theosophy’s occasionally beloved swastika in the history of Atlantis. The whole thing would be completely forgettable but for the fact that the swastika became entwined with Nazism as the symbol of Aryanism, or, as Hitler put it in Mein Kampf, symbolic of “the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work.” Germans has been using swastikas as symbols of Aryan identity for years, among the Thule Society and the New Templars, dating back even before Blackwell wrote. But among the Nazis the swastika became imbued with a pseudoscientific history and connections back to Atlantis, Thule, and other fictitious lands. His argument is a silly sidelight on what was ultimately a dark path of pseudoscience.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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