James Churchward (February 27, 1851 – January 4, 1936) is best known as a British born occult writer. However, he was also an inventor, engineer, and skilled fisherman. Churchward is most notable for proposing the existence of a lost continent, called Mu, in the Pacific Ocean. His writings on Mu are considered to be pseudoscience.
James was born in Bridestow, Okehampton, Devon at Stone House to Henry and Matilda (née Gould) Churchward. James had four brothers, George Gould (1839–1924), Matthew Henry (1841–1915), William Gould (1844–1913), and Albert (1852–1925), and four sisters, Matilda (b. 1846), Elizabeth (1849-?), Eleanor Steed (1847–1881), Heroine Roey(1854–1946). In November 1854, James' father died and the family moved to Matilda's parent's home Northcotts Cottage, in the hamlet of Kigbear, near Okehampton, Devon. Census records indicate the family next moved to London when James was 18 years of age after his grandfather George Gould died.
He was the elder brother of the Masonic author Albert Churchward (1852–1925.) He was a tea planter in Sri Lanka before coming to the US in the 1890s. In James' biography entitled My Friend Churchey and His Sunken Continent, he discussed Mu with Augustus Le Plongeon and his wife in the 1890s. He patented NCV Steel, armor plating to protect ships during World War I, and other steel alloys. After a patent-infringement settlement in 1914, James retired to his 7+ acre estate on Lake Wononskopomuc in Lakeville, Connecticut, to answer the questions from his Pacific travels. In 1926, at the age of 75, he published The Lost Continent of Mu: Motherland of Man, which he claimed proved the existence of a lost continent, called Mu, in the Pacific Ocean.
Claims and hypothesis
According to Churchward, Mu "extended from somewhere north of Hawaii to the south as far as the Fijis and Easter Island." He claimed Mu was the site of the Garden of Eden and the home of 64,000,000 inhabitants - known as the Naacals. Its civilization, which flourished 50,000 years before Churchward's day, was technologically more advanced than his own, and the ancient civilizations of India, Babylon, Persia, Egypt and the Mayas were merely the decayed remnants of its colonies.
Churchward claimed to have gained his knowledge of this lost land after befriending an Indian priest, who taught him to read an ancient dead language (spoken by only three people in all of India). The priest disclosed the existence of several ancient tablets, written by the Naacals, and Churchward gained access to these records after overcoming the priest's initial reluctance. His knowledge remained incomplete, as the available tablets were mere fragments of a larger text, but Churchward claimed to have found verification and further information in the records of other ancient peoples.
His writings attempt to describe the civilization of Mu, its history, inhabitants, and influence on subsequent history and civilization.
Churchward claimed that the ancient Egyptian sun-god Ra originated with the Mu; he claimed that "Rah" was the word which the Naacals used for "sun" as well as for their god and rulers.
Alfred Metraux undertook research on Easter Island in the 1930s, and in 1940 published a monograph on Easter Island which includes a rebuttal of the hypothesis that Easter Island was a remnant of a sunken continent. In the second half of the twentieth century, improvements in oceanography, in particular understanding of seafloor spreading and Plate Tectonics, have left little scientific basis for geologically recent lost continents such as Mu.
Science writer Martin Gardner wrote that Churchward's books contain geological and archeological errors and are regarded by scholars as a hoax. The archaeologist Stephen Williams in Fantastic Archaeology (1991) described his writings as pseudoscience. Williams has written that his "translations are outrageous, his geology, in both mechanics and dating, is absurd, and his mishandling of archaeological data, as in the Valley of Mexico is atrocious."
Gordon Stein in Encyclopedia of Hoaxes (1993) has noted that Churchward's claims have no scientific basis. According to Stein "it is difficult to assess whether Churchward really believed what he said about Mu, or whether he was knowingly writing fiction."
Brian M. Fagan has written that Churchward's evidence for Mu was made from "personal testimonials, false translations, notability of tablets from Mesoamerica, and spurious reconstructions from archaeological and artistic remains. Although it has attracted some following, it has never received scholarly or scientific support."
Churchward is mentioned in fiction in the short stories Through the Gates of the Silver Key by H. P. Lovecraft and Out of the Aeons by Lovecraft and Hazel Heald. Churchward and the lost island of Mu also appear in Philip K. Dick's Confessions of a Crap Artist.
Churchward's writings are used as a source for the following books:
- Lemuria and Atlantis: Studying the Past to Survive the Future by Shirley Andrews.
- Lost Cities of China, Central Asia & India by David Hatcher Childress
- Lost Cities of Atlantis, Ancient Europe & the Mediterranean by David Hatcher Childress
- Timeless Earth by Peter Kolosimo
- The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story ever Sold by Acharya S
- Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha, and Christ Unveiled by Acharya S
- Mu, a comic book from the Corto Maltese series, by Hugo Pratt
- The fantastical floating continent of Zeal from Chrono Trigger video game has several oblique references to a philosophy called "Nu".
UK-based electronic music record-label Planet Mu has released three compilation albums with titles copied from Churchward's own books: The Cosmic Forces of Mu (2001), Children of Mu (2004) and Sacred Symbols of Mu (2006).
- Fishing Among the 1,000 Islands of the St. Lawrence (1894)
- A Big Game and Fishing Guide to Northeastern Maine (1897)
- The Lost Continent of Mu Motherland of Man (1926)
- Copies of Stone Tablets Found by William Niven at Santiago Ahuizoctla Near Mexico City (1927)
- Books of the Golden Age (1927)
- The Children of Mu (1931)
- The Lost Continent of Mu (1931)
- The Sacred Symbols of Mu (1933)
- Cosmic Forces of Mu (1934)
- Second Book of Cosmic Forces of Mu (1935)
- Gardner, Martin. (1957). Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Dover Publications. p. 170. ISBN 0-486-20394-8
- Fagan, Brian M. (1996). The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press. p. 582. ISBN 978-0195076189
- Williams, William F. (2000). Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Facts on File. p. 225. ISBN 978-0816033515
- Nunn, Patrick D. (2008). Vanished Islands And Hidden Continents Of The Pacific. University of Hawaii Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0824832193
- Williams, Stephen. (1991). Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0812213126
- Stein, Gordon. (1993). Encyclopedia of Hoaxes. Gale Group. pp. 52-53. ISBN 0-8103-8414-0
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 100. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.
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