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Lemuria (/lɪˈmjʊəriə/), or Limuria, was a continent proposed in 1864 by zoologist Philip Sclater, theorized to have sunk beneath the Indian Ocean, later appropriated by occultists in supposed accounts of human origins. The theory was discredited with the discovery of plate tectonics and continental drift in the 20th century.[1]

The hypothesis was proposed as an explanation for the presence of lemur fossils on Madagascar and the Indian subcontinent but not in continental Africa or the Middle East. Biologist Ernst Haeckel's suggestion in 1870 that Lemuria could be the ancestral home of humans caused the hypothesis to move beyond the scope of geology and zoogeography, ensuring its popularity outside of the framework of the scientific community.

Occultist and founder of theosophy Helena Blavatsky, during the latter part of the 19th century, placed Lemuria in the system of her mystical-religious doctrine, claiming that this continent was the homeland of the human ancestors, whom she called Lemurians. The writings of Blavatsky had a significant impact on Western esotericism, popularizing the myth of Lemuria and its mystical inhabitants.

Theories about Lemuria became untenable when, in the 1960s, the scientific community accepted Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift, presented in 1912, but the idea lived on in the popular imagination, especially in relation to the Theosophist tradition.

Evolution of the idea[edit]

Lemuria was hypothesized as a land bridge, now sunken, which would account for certain discontinuities in biogeography. This idea has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics. Sunken continents such as Zealandia in the Pacific, and Mauritia[2][original research?] and the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean do exist, but no geological formation under the Indian or Pacific oceans is known that could have served as a land bridge between these continents.[3][original research?]

The idea of Lemuria was later incorporated into the philosophy of Theosophy and has persisted as a theme in pseudoarchaeology and discussions of lost lands. There is a vast fringe literature pertaining to Lemuria and to related concepts such as the Lemurian Fellowship and other things "Lemurian". All share a common belief that a continent existed in what is now either the Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean in ancient times and claim that it became submerged as a result of a geological cataclysm. An important element of the mythology of Lemuria is that it was the location of the emergence of complex knowledge systems that formed the basis for later beliefs.

The concept of Lemuria was developed in detail by James Churchward, who referred to it as Mu and identified it as a lost continent in the Pacific Ocean. Churchward appropriated this name from Augustus Le Plongeon, who had used the concept of the "Land of Mu" to refer to the legendary lost continent of Atlantis. Churchward's books included The Lost Continent of Mu, the Motherland of Men (1926), The Children of Mu (1931), The Sacred Symbols of Mu (1933), Cosmic Forces of Mu (1934), and Second Book of Cosmic Forces of Mu (1935). The relationships between Lemuria/Mu and Atlantis are discussed in detail in the book Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature (1954) by L. Sprague de Camp.

Scientific origins[edit]


In 1864, "The Mammals of Madagascar" by zoologist and biogeographer Philip Sclater appeared in The Quarterly Journal of Science. Using a classification he referred to as lemurs, but which included related primate groups,[4] and puzzled by the presence of their fossils in Madagascar and India, but not in Africa or the Middle East, Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India had once been part of a larger continent (he was correct in this; though in reality this was Mauritia[5] and the supercontinent Gondwana).

The anomalies of the mammal fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that... a large continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans... that this continent was broken up into islands, of which some have become amalgamated with... Africa, some... with what is now Asia; and that in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands we have existing relics of this great continent, for which... I should propose the name Lemuria![4]


Sclater's theory was hardly unusual for his time; "land bridges", real and imagined, fascinated several of Sclater's contemporaries. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, also looking at the relationship between animals in India and Madagascar, had suggested a southern continent about two decades before Sclater, but did not give it a name.[6] The acceptance of Darwinism led scientists to seek to trace the diffusion of species from their points of evolutionary origin. Before the acceptance of continental drift, biologists frequently postulated the existence of submerged land masses to account for populations of land-based species now separated by barriers of water. Similarly, geologists tried to account for striking resemblances of rock formations on different continents. The first systematic attempt was made by Melchior Neumayr in his book Erdgeschichte in 1887. Many hypothetical submerged land bridges and continents were proposed during the 19th century to account for the present distribution of species.


Map describing the origins of "the 12 varieties of men" from Lemuria (1876)
The coat of arms of the British Indian Ocean Territory with the inscription (in Latin) "Limuria is in our charge/trust".

After gaining some acceptance within the scientific community, the concept of Lemuria began to appear in the works of other scholars. Ernst Haeckel, a Darwinian taxonomist, proposed Lemuria as an explanation for the absence of proto-human "missing links" in the fossil record. According to another source, Haeckel put forward this thesis before Sclater, without using the name "Lemuria".[7]


The Lemuria theory disappeared completely from conventional scientific consideration after the theories of plate tectonic and continental drift were accepted by the larger scientific community. According to the theory of plate tectonics, Madagascar and India were indeed once part of the same landmass (thus accounting for geological resemblances), but plate movement caused India to break away millions of years ago, and move to its present location. The original landmass, Mauritia[8] and the supercontinent Gondwana prior to that, broke apart; it predominantly did not sink beneath sea level.

Kumari Kandam[edit]

"Lemuria" in Tamil nationalist mysticist literature as Kumari Kandam, connecting Madagascar, South India, and Australia (covering most of the Indian Ocean)

Some Tamil writers such as Devaneya Pavanar have associated Lemuria with Kumari Kandam, a legendary sunken landmass mentioned in the Tamil literature, claiming that it was the cradle of civilization. A Tamil commentator, Adiyarkunallar, described the dimensions that extended between the Pahrali River and the Kumari River in the Pandyan country that was taken over by the ocean later on.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Since the 1880s, the concept of Lemuria has had a prominent place in the mythology of Theosophy, anthroposophy and other occult beliefs, inspiring many novels, television shows, films, and music. These are not scientific ideas, but fall within the realm of pseudoarchaeology and popular culture.


Blavatsky theorised that Australia was a remnant inland region of Lemuria and that Aboriginal Australians and Aboriginal Tasmanians (which she identified as separate groups) were of Lemurian and Lemuro-Atlantean origin, after cross-breeding with animals. Her idea was subsequently developed in pseudo-histories and fiction of the white Australian popular culture of the 1890s and early 1900s, including the writings of nationalist Australian poet Bernard O'Dowd, author Rosa Campbell Praed in My Australian Girlhood, author John David Hennessey in An Australian Bush Track and George Firth Scott's novel The Last Lemurian: A Westralian Romance.[10][11]

Robert Dixon suggests that the popularity of the idea of "lost races" like Lemurians and Atlanteans reflected the anxieties of colonial Australians, that "when Englishness is lost there is nothing to replace it".[10] A. L. McCann attributes Praed's use of the Lemuria trope to an "attempt to create a lineage for white settlers without having to confront the annihilation of Indigenous people".[12]

Telos Mount Shasta[edit]

In 1894, Frederick Spencer Oliver published A Dweller on Two Planets, an occult book which claimed that survivors from Lemuria were living in a complex of tunnels beneath the mountain of Mount Shasta in northern California. This city, known as Telos: City of Light boasted fur-lined carpeted floors and jeweled walls, all signs of opulence. Spencer also claimed that Lemurians could be seen walking the surface in white robes.[13] In 1931, Harvey Spencer Lewis, who went by the pseudonym Wishar Spenle Cerve[14][15] wrote Lemuria: the Lost Continent of the Pacific, which popularized the idea that Shasta was a repository for Lemurians.[16]

In the 1930s, Guy Warren Ballard claimed to have been approached by Saint Germain who told him he could endow him with knowledge and wisdom. Ballard wrote and published the book Unveiled Mysteries under the alias Godfré Ray King, where Ballard claimed to be the person that Saint Germain was speaking through to get to the world. The belief in Telos has been proliferated by Ballard and his followers, as well as other religious groups like the Ascended Masters, the Great White Brotherhood, The Bridge to Freedom, The Summit Lighthouse, Church Universal and Triumphant, and Kryon.[17][citation needed] Every year, members of these religious groups make pilgrimage to Mount Shasta, a journey that is marked by various yearly festivals and events. The Saint Germain Foundation hosts the annual "I AM COME!" Pageant, on the Life of Jesus the Christ in Mt. Shasta. The Rainbow Family hosts a Rainbow Gathering every August to commemorate the pilgrimage.[18][19] These religions are often a mix of spiritual practices, based largely on native, Christian, Buddhist and Taoist traditions, synthesizing their beliefs, and excluding "negative" aspects of such religions. For example, the Saint Germain Foundation.[19] does not include Jesus' crucifixion in their teachings.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roos, Dave. "Did the Lost Continent of Lemuria Ever Exist?". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  2. ^ Morelle, Rebecca (2013-02-25). "BBC News - Fragments of ancient continent buried under Indian Ocean". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
  3. ^ "Navigation News". Frontline.in. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
  4. ^ a b Neild, Ted Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet Harvard University Press (2 Nov 2007) ISBN 978-0-674-02659-9 pp. 38–39
  5. ^ "An Entire Lost Continent Was Found Under the Island of Mauritius". Forbes.
  6. ^ Neild, Ted Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet Harvard University Press (2 Nov 2007) ISBN 978-0-674-02659-9 p.38
  7. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Lost Continents, 1954 (First Edition), p. 52
  8. ^ "Fragments of continents hidden under lava in Indian Ocean: New micro-continent detected under Reunion and Mauritius".
  9. ^ "Login - Single Sign On | The University of Kansas". login.ku.edu. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  10. ^ a b Bongiorno, Frank (2000). "Aboriginality and historical consciousness: Bernard O'Dowd and the creation of an Australian national imaginary" (PDF). Aboriginal History. 24: 39–58 – via ANU Press.
  11. ^ "The Lost Lands of Mu and Lemuria: Was Australia Once Part of a Sunken Continent? – New Dawn : The World's Most Unusual Magazine". Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  12. ^ "Stargazing with Rosa Praed". Sydney Review of Books. 2016-10-31. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  13. ^ Oliver, Frederick Spencer (1894). A Dweller on Two Planets.
  14. ^ Cerve, Wishar S. (1931). Lemuria, The Lost Continent Of the Pacific (PDF). AMORC. dust jacket.
  15. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (Mar 1999). Religious leaders of America: a biographical guide to founders and leaders of religious bodies, churches, and spiritual groups in North America (2nd ed.). Cengage Gale. p. 332. ISBN 978-0810388789.
  16. ^ Meisse, William C. (1993). Mount Shasta: an annotated bibliography. College of the Siskiyous. p. 146.
  17. ^ King, Godfré Ray (1982). Unveiled Mysteries (4 ed.). Saint Germain Press.
  18. ^ Duntley, Madeline (2014). "Spiritual Tourism and Frontier Esotericism at Mount Shasta, California". International Journal for the Study of New Religions. 5 (2): 123–150. doi:10.1558/ijsnr.v5i2.26233. ISSN 2041-952X.
  19. ^ a b Huntsinger, Lynn; Fernández‐giménez, María (2000-10-01). "Spiritual Pilgrims at Mount Shasta, California". Geographical Review. 90 (4): 536–558. doi:10.1111/j.1931-0846.2000.tb00353.x. ISSN 0016-7428.

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