The Empires of Atlantis: The Origins of Ancient Civilizations and Mystery Traditions Throughout the Ages
Marco M. Vigato | Bear & Company | January 18, 2022 | 416 pages | ISBN: 9781591434337 | $25
Everything you need to know about The Empires of Atlantis, a new book by Italian Atlantis research Marco Vigato, can be summed up in one of the blurbs that opens the volume. It’s from Frank Joseph, the former head of the American Nazi Party and a convicted child molester, who can nevertheless only bring himself to tepidly praise the author for having a “different perspective.” That anyone thought this endorsement was a good idea tells you exactly how careful and ethical the brain trust behind Bear & Company’s latest foray into recycling Ignatius Donnelly is. (Bear & Company is an imprint of Inner Traditions, the publisher of occult and pseudoscientific books.) Vigato goes on to thank Graham Hancock, the Ancient Origins website, and conspiracy theory podcasts for inspiring and encouraging him.
Vigato’s exploration of Atlantis hits all the usual notes, but he claims to have a radically different idea about how to prove the reality of Atlantis; namely, to absolve himself of the need for scientific evidence. “This is a nonconventional book that combines two radically different approaches: that of modern science and that of the Western esoteric tradition. The product is an entirely new picture of the true origins of civilization.” When material evidence fails, he gives himself permission to suggest esoteric and occult explanations, thus removing the argument from the realm of the provable.
Things don’t get off to a very good start when Vigato says that he is not bound by Plato’s description of Atlantis and denies that the civilization vanished in a day and a night, as Plato said. Therefore, what he seeks to find isn’t the Atlantis of Plato but rather a generic “lost civilization” in the style of Graham Hancock, whose fingerprints he claims to see in Göbekli Tepe, Giza, and other familiar locations. He accepts Robert Schoch’s redating of the Sphinx to the Ice Age, a claim no mainstream geologist endorses, and his arguments are transparently summarized from Graham Hancock’s books and those of Hancock’s followers. A long section discussing the Edfu Building Texts as evidence for Atlantis is an obvious summary of the parallel discussion in Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, including the conclusions that do not follow from the evidence. The succeeding section on Mexican art from the Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Xochicalco as evidence of Atlantis is derived directly from Colin Wilson and Rand Flem-Ath’s The Atlantis Blueprint (2008), ultimately recycling Auguste Le Plongeon’s faulty claim from 1901. Le Plongeon thought Mexico to be an Atlantean stronghold, and Vigato tries to preserve the argument, despite the chronological challenges, by positing an “esoteric” continuity that allows Atlantis to survive in Mexico with thousands of vacant years between eruptions of Atlantean influence because it’s all part of a divinely ordained 25,000-year cycle governed by the wobble of the Earth’s axis. Don’t ask. It’s Abu Mashar’s faulty astrology as misunderstood by Hamlet’s Mill and Graham Hancock.
And so it goes, for chapter after chapter of “research” pulled from earlier, better books. The second chapter fixates on esoteric notions of cyclical time and the decline Ages of Man (gold, silver, bronze, etc.) familiar to everyone who has read a pseudo-history book in the past half century. A big blob of text takes seriously the made-up mysteries of Theosophy as a potentially authentic account of Earth’s prehistory, but in tracing the various ideas of Helena Blavatsky’s successors, Vigato offers no indication that he sees the racist underpinnings of various systems that separate humanity into separately created races or ranks them based on their supposed evolutionary perfection. This naturally leads to a credulous discussion of the various Near Eastern lists of kings stretching back into hoary antiquity, though our author seems to know nothing of the centuries of criticism and commentary about the mythological nature of the antediluvian kings of Mesopotamia and Egypt or the corruptions that have creeped into the texts over the millennia. Many of the dates for the Egyptian king lists, for example, were rewritten, revised, or remixed by later writers to conform to theological or astrological agendas. Nor does the author seem to consider the interactions of cultures around the Near East, choosing to see the various Greek accounts of Near Eastern rulers as independent and accurate representations not just of other cultures but also the deep past. For example, he seems unaware that the Phoenician mythology preserved in the fragments of Sanchuniathon has been euhemerized, indicating that the stories have been altered to fit into a Hellenizing framework.
Vigato occasionally strikes on something interesting, without quite understanding what he found. He correctly notes that the ten kings of Atlantis bear a close similarity to those of the antediluvian kings of Babylon, just as the end of Atlantis echoes the divine wrath of the Near Eastern Flood Myth. However, instead of following the obvious conclusion that Plato modeled his text on Near Eastern myths known to him, Vigato concludes that all the various myths of antediluvian kings and floods are independent memories of Atlantis, a claim Ignatius Donnelly made in 1882. He even makes use of fragments from the Arab-Islamic myth of the antediluvian pyramids, but it is obvious from his outdated transliterations and ignorance of variants and parallel texts that he doesn’t know any modern scholarship on the subject and is copying uncritically from his source, Col. Vyse’s Operations, published in 1840. Humorously, he also takes the medieval Arabic stories as true reflections of a genuine Ice Age tradition, 13,000 after the fact. His long discussion of Fallen Angels and their Near Eastern parallels is worse than I would have imagined; the sources he cites are only those in the public domain, and he relies heavily on the uncorrected Cory’s Ancient Fragments (1828/1832 and 1876), despite the volume’s many errors.
At this point, a quarter of the way through the book, it is clear that the author’s fifteen years of research were primarily spent in reading other pseudo-archaeology books of dubious value, with little understanding of the underlying source texts or their relationships to their cultures or each other.
As we move deeper into the book, the author becomes more mystical, accepting the idea from Theosophy and Anthroposophy that modern humans first evolved in Atlantis from the incarnation of a supernatural essence that transformed mere apes into humans. I would try to discuss the author’s use of haplogroup X, Rh- blood, and other fragments of science to defend this position, but, truth be told, the author barely understands it himself, having cited all of it from previous books about Atlantis and seems utterly unaware of scientific rebuttals of past claims, nor does he attempt to refute them. And when he does cite primary sources, Vigato makes the amateur’s error of treating every text written at any time as authentically ancient, independent, and truthful. Therefore, his discussion of prehistory collapses all myths and legends from antiquity to modern times into a series of coeval and coequal stories, thus ignoring their development over time, relationship to one another, and attempts to create mythic precedent for real events.
However, Vigato accidentally stumbles onto a profound truth when he talks about the supernatural origins of humanity and its paranormal potential: “The search for our Atlantean ancestors becomes therefore also a search for our divine origins to unlock this potential in all and each one of us.” And that, ultimately, is what it’s all about: searching for (im)plausibly (pseudo-)scientific reasons to believe in God, the afterlife, and all the other divine detritus that material science disenchanted more than a century ago.
The second half of the book is a mixture of Theosophy, Graham Hancock, and Ancient Aliens, wrapped around an attempt to synthesize Blavatsky, Rudolph Steiner, Edgar Cayce, and other occultists’ fact-free fantasies into a single meta-fantasy of Earth’s “forgotten” history. What, exactly, are we to make of someone who with a straight face proclaims the Great Pyramid a work of the “neo-Atlantean period” of 10,500 BCE? Or still believes in the myth of “flash-frozen” mammoths and earth-crust displacement pole shifts? I should, at this point, have a long, incensed discussion of all the ways Vigato mangles the myth of antediluvian wisdom, particularly the Pillars of Wisdom erected either by Enoch, Seth, or the Watchers—for Vigato knows the story only from secondary accounts and not the voluminous primary sources. After all, I wrote a book that is rooted in untangling this myth. But it is so very obvious that Vigato has neither critical capacity nor the ability to research beyond fringe books.
I will confine myself instead to observing that Vigato cannot understand that ancient cultures near to one another influenced one another’s mythologies, and he makes the ridiculous claim that the Nephilim were the sons not of Watchers or Sethites but of paranormal Atlanteans possessed of divine essence: “In purely genetic terms, the Nephilim were thus 75 percent Atlantean and 25 percent hominin.” Naturally, he doesn’t bat an eye at describing the prehistoric superhuman divine heroes as white skinned, blue-eyed, and blond, nor does he notice that nineteenth century racists imagined the Master Race as being Aryan Übermenschen. Even Graham Hancock eventually came around to realizing identifying the “gods” as white men was bad optics.
Eventually, the author realizes that Vigato doesn’t actually think of “Atlantis” as Plato’s sunken city. Instead, he is using it to slap a veneer of Greek legitimacy on a theological idea: His Atlantis is actually the subtitle of Ignatius Donnelly’s book: the antediluvian world. But where Donnelly thought the Bible took inspiration from Atlantis, Vigato prefers to imagine the pre-Flood world depicted in Abrahamic religions’ apocryphal legends and pagan myths was a super-civilization of divine heroes possessed of superior white genes and supernatural wisdom. He even suggests that Satan is trying to hide the truth about the antediluvian world as part of “a great deception aimed at depriving mankind of its rightful place in the universe and of its legitimate right to knowledge.” It’s not quite clear how he squares that with God’s insistence in Genesis that the pre-Flood world was full of such sin that it warranted the end of all flesh. But his selective knowledge shows that he has no real understanding of the deeper issues involved in his subject. He talks of how legends prove that postdiluvian civilization began at Babel, with the Tower, though the very sources he knows only partially from his secondhand sources offer an alternative that placed the origins of postdiluvian civilization in Egypt, where the priest Philemon, who rode with Noah on the Ark, took Mizraim to recover the pre-Flood wisdom. The story isn’t true, of course, but it’s from the same story Vigato claimed was true—and he has no idea.
The final part of the book is primarily a summary of Graham Hancock’s various works, notably Fingerprints of the Gods, Heaven’s Mirror, and Magicians of the Gods. It ends, as Fingerprints does, with fear-mongering about the end of the world. Vigato claims that only when our civilization has completely collapsed with the “Atlantean sages” (the Watchers, the Apkallu, etc.) return to restore Atlantean values. Just think about that: Vigato has reimagined the Christian Millennium and the Apocalypse of Revelation with the villains of Christianity, the Fallen Angels and the Nephilim, elevated to the savior role previously held by Christ. Even if Vigato doesn’t think of it in those terms, it is the upshot of any effort to glorify the pagan myths that the Judeo-Christian theologians tried to diabolize.
But, ultimately, the unspoken motive behind such efforts is the creation of a new, glorious, and divinely sanctioned mythic history for the white race—sorry, European and Euro-Americans—who can turn to this fallen kingdom for a puissant precedent to justify the efforts they make to cling to empire and the comfort of imagining divine blood flows through their own veins. I’m sure Vigato and most of his readers don’t think of it that way. They’d probably tell you they are just following the “facts.” But this theme was obvious when Ignatius Donnelly explicitly imagined Atlantis as the forebear of the white empires of the Victorian era, and nothing has changed since then, except that the emphasis has shifted with the fate of empire from the power of Atlantis in its prime to how it supposedly preserved white culture around the world after the collapse. The Empires of Atlantis is not about Atlantis as much as it is about Western Civilization. Vigato doesn’t want Atlantis to have been destroyed because he fears the West might disappear as well.
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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