Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where everything is magical and sparkly and full of rainbows. At first I thought that Shirley MacLaine’s new claims about Atlantis put her squarely in the corner of unicorns and rainbows, but after reading a bit more about her magical mystery tour of the remnants of Atlantis it seems much more like the goofball claims are cover for deeper concerns that I have no real interest in exploring.
This is, of course, not the first time that MacLaine has made unusual claims. She famously believes in past lives, and she has also expressed her belief in lost continents like Lemuria and Mu.
MacLaine has a new book coming out next week called Above the Line: My “Wild Oats” Adventure, which is putatively a memoir of the making of her upcoming film Wild Oats. The Washington Post carried a review this week in which we can read about how MacLaine had a vision of Atlantis while undergoing hydrotherapy, which sparked memories of her past deaths:
Plunging through her “memory terror,” she discovered that she had once co-created “a gigantic flying dragon who could move and travel anywhere.” She then glimpsed a vast island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “The star people told me that it was the center of all energy for the Earth and was connected to each land mass, which would one day become countries.” When the island began to sink, “I found myself crying, desperate to understand what had happened and why. The star people said, ‘Every feeling has its season.’ I asked out loud, ‘Does God have both positive and negative polarity? Is all this destruction part of a plan?’ They said nothing.”
This island, of course, is Atlantis, and MacLaine believes it to be identical with the Canary Islands, where Wild Oats was filmed. She apparently speculates that the love of money led to the fall of Atlantis, and she claims that she is profoundly impacted by ancient events: “The prehistory of the past affected me every day.”
The Star People are more of an ancient astronaut idea, popularized in the 1980s by writers like Brad Steiger, who argued that aliens known as star people are hiding secretly among us to inaugurate a new Golden Age of humanity.
According to the review, MacLaine name drops “Madame Blavatsky and Edgar Cayce and Charles Berlitz,” all names associated with crazy fringe ideas, including Atlantis. Charles Berlitz was one the 1970s leading advocates of the Canary Islands as Atlantis, and this is undoubtedly the origin of MacLaine’s belief. He was, of course, not the first writer to make such a claim, and we can find it as far back as we care to look. It was a popular idea in the nineteenth century, and if we assume that Marcellinus spoke of the Canaries, it perhaps goes back to Greco-Roman antiquity.
But perhaps most interesting is that the Canaries as Atlantis attracted the attention of the Nazis. The Ahnenerbe, the Nazi archaeology organization, planned to excavate the Canaries to prove that they were the remnants of Atlantis and the homeland of the Aryan race, but when they were prevented from doing so by the outbreak of war, they collaborated with Franco’s fascists in Spain to carry out the plan. Fascist archaeologist Julio Martinez Santa Olalla headed up the effort, and the Nazis provided funding in the hopes of exporting their Aryan view of prehistory to Spain. As always, even the goofiest of claims is never more than a few nodes away from a connection to something dark.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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