In a comment about yesterday’s blog post about the Akashic Records and their origin in Theosophy, John J. McKay asked if I knew anything about the Theosophical connection to James M. Churchward’s imaginary Naacal Tablets, supposedly prehistoric records of a lost civilization on the sunken continent of Mu. The connection did not immediately spring to mind, so I thought I’d look into it.
The word “Naacal” originates in the work of the extremely imaginative Augustus Le Plongeon (1825-1906), the French antiquarian who explored the Maya ruins of Central America and imagined them the motherland of all civilization. In his 1896 book Queen Móo and the Egyptian Sphinx, he wrote of the high priests of the Maya: “those Maya adepts (Naacal—‘the exalted’), who, starting from the land of their birth as missionaries of religion and civilization, went to Burmah, where they became known as Nagas, established themselves in the Dekkan, whence they carried their civilizing work all over the earth” (1900 edition, p. xxiv; emphasis in original).
James Churchward—falesly claiming to be a colonel—had discussed lost civilizations with Le Plongeon. He removed the Naacal from the Maya lands and placed them instead on Mu, a fictitious Pacific continent, in his 1926 book The Lost Continent of Mu, Motherland of Man. Churchward claimed that on a trip to India, he met an Indian priest, one of just three in all India who could read the lost language of Naacal. After assuaging the priest’s doubts about his motives, Churchward gained access to tablets containing Naacal texts. The priest helped translated the texts, which revealed the “history” of Mu.
The Naacal tablets revealed for Churchward that 13,000 or more years ago Mu was, in essence, the Theosophical Lemuria (with which it is often identified), on which white Aryan humans ruled over a motley assortment of darker slave races, and they were also monotheistic creationists, rejecting Darwin’s “monkey theories,” in Churchward’s words, thousands of years before they were proposed!
Of course no Naacal tablets have ever been brought to light, and they are obviously a fiction. In later books the discovery of the Naacal tablets miraculously moved from India to Tibet. Last year, the late Philip Coppens claimed that Churchward’s Naacal library really existed in India; of course, the evidence for managed to recede toward the horizon in direct proportion to the observer’s effort to catch up to it.
Churchward was familiar with the tenets of Theosophy, and he seriously studied Madame Blavatsky’s fictitious Stanzas of Dzyan, another lost text whose discovery exactly paralleled that of the Naacal tablets. Like Churchward a half century later, Blavatsky also claimed to have traveled to Tibet where she said that the Occult Brotherhood kept the ancient manuscripts of this pre-human text hidden away from prying eyes, written in the unknown language of Senzar, which she claimed was the original of Sanskrit. At any rate, with the help of the Occult Brotherhood, she “translated” the Stanzas of Dzyan in The Secret Doctrine, which revealed the mystical philosophy of the earliest humans.
Churchward wrote in The Children of Mu (1931) that Dzyan was “the writings of a disordered brain, wandering about in fog.” However, he folded it into his Muvian cosmology by making it a “Hindu book written in Sanskrit about 1500 B.C.” (thus denying any special role for Blavatsky) and claiming that it was based on the Naacal writings he had himself translated, thereby placing himself above Blavatsky as a revealer of truth!
While I can’t confirm that Churchward was directly copying Blavatsky, the parallels between the two make independence rather unlikely. Both claimed to have (a) traveled to India, (b) met with occult keepers of knowledge, (c) gained access to occult texts, (d) translated these texts from a forgotten language, (e) failed to bring the originals of the texts back for scientific study, (f) and claimed that the texts revealed secrets about human prehistory. The structural similarities in the narratives of discovery are impossible to miss. Where they differ is that Blavatsky kept this mostly spiritual, with the Dzyan stanzas merely blubbering about mystical mumbo-jumbo that she needed to explicate with occult information about Atlantis and Lemuria, while Churchward claimed that the Naacal tablets plainly laid out the history of Atlantis and Mu, without the later encrustation of Oriental philosophy.
From this, as well as Churchward’s emphasis on the superiority of White Aryans and monotheism, it becomes possible to understand his Mu myth as an attempt to strip Theosophy of the Oriental trappings of its Indian mysticism. (At the time, the cult was based in Benares, India and focused on Hindu-derived occult traditions.) Perhaps he had had enough of the East during his years as a tea grower in Sri Lanka. His Mu would be Theosophy for the mind of the common (Anglo-American) man: pure, monotheistic, Aryan, and plainspoken in the Anglo-Saxon tradition.
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