The only subject that now remains to be dealt with is the evolution of religious ideas. Between the spiritual aspiration of a rude but simple race and the degraded ritual of an intellectually cultured but spiritually dead people, lies a gulf which only the term religion, used in its widest acceptation, can span. Nevertheless, it is this consecutive process of generation and degeneration which has to be traced in the history of the Atlantean people.
It will be remembered that the government under which the Rmoahals came into existence, was described as the most perfect conceivable, for it was the Manu himself who acted as their king. The memory of this divine ruler was naturally preserved in the annals of the race, and in due time he came to be regarded as a god, among a people who were naturally psychic, and had consequently glimpses of those states of consciousness which transcend our ordinary waking condition. Retaining these higher attributes it was only natural that this primitive people should adopt a religion which, though in no way representative of any exalted philosophy, was of a type far from ignoble. In later days this phase of religious belief passed into a kind of ancestor-worship.
The Tlavatli, while inheriting the traditional reverence and worship for the Manu, were taught by Adept instructors of the existence of a Supreme Being whose symbol was recognised as the sun. They thus developed a sort of sun worship, for the practice of which they repaired to the hill-tops. There they built great circles of upright monoliths. These were intended to be symbolical of the sun's yearly course, but they were also used for astronomical purposes--being placed so that, to one standing at the high altar, the sun would rise at the winter solstice behind one of these monoliths, at the vernal equinox behind another, and so on throughout the year. Astronomical observations of a still more complex character connected with the more distant constellations were also helped by these stone circles.
We have already seen under the head of emigrations how a later sub-race--the Akkadians--in the erection of Stonehenge, reverted to this primitive building of monoliths.
Endowed though the Tlavatli were with somewhat greater capacity for intellectual development than the previous sub-race, their cult was still of a very primitive type.
With the wider diffusion of knowledge in the days of the Toltecs, and more especially with the establishment later on of an initiated priesthood and an Adept emperor, increased opportunities were offered to the people for the attainment of a truer conception of the divine. The few who were ready to take full advantage of the teaching offered, after having been tried and tested, were doubtless admitted into the ranks of the priesthood, which then constituted an immense occult fraternity. With these, however, who had so outstripped the mass of humanity, as to be ready to begin the progress of the occult path, we are not here concerned, the religions practised by the inhabitants of Atlantis generally being the subject of our investigation.
The power to rise to philosophic heights of thought was of course wanting to the masses of those days, as it is similarly wanting to the great majority of the inhabitants of the world to-day. The nearest approach which the most gifted teacher could make in attempting to convey any idea of the nameless and all-pervading essence of the Cosmos was necessarily imparted in the form of symbols, and the sun naturally enough was the first symbol adopted. As in our own days too, the more cultivated and spiritually-minded would see through the symbol, and might sometimes rise on the wings of devotion to the Father of our spirits, that
"Motive and centre of our soul's desire,
Object and refuge of our journey's end,"
while the grosser multitude would see nothing but the symbol, and would worship it, as the carved Madonna or the wooden image of the Crucified One is to-day worshipped throughout Catholic Europe.
Sun and fire worship then became the cult for the celebration of which magnificent temples were reared throughout the length and breadth of the continent of Atlantis, but more especially in the great "City of the Golden Gates"--the temple-service being performed by retinues of priests endowed by the State for that purpose.
In those early days no image of the Deity was permitted. The sun-disk was considered the only appropriate emblem of the godhead, and as such was used in every temple, a golden disk being generally placed so as to catch the first rays of the rising sun at the vernal equinox or at the summer solstice.
An interesting example of the almost unalloyed survival of this worship of the sun-disk may be instanced in the Shinto ceremonies of Japan. All other representation of Deity is, in this faith, regarded as impious, and even the circular mirror of polished metal is hidden from the vulgar gaze save on ceremonial occasions. Unlike the gorgeous temple decorations of Atlantis, however, the Shinto temples are characterized by an entire absence of decoration--the exquisite finish of the plain wood-work being unrelieved by any carving, paint or varnish.
But the sun-disk did not always remain the only permissible emblem of Deity. The image of a man--an archetypal man--was in after days placed in the temples and adored as the highest representation of the divine. In some ways this might be considered a reversion to the Rmoahal worship of the Manu. Even then the religion was comparatively pure, and the occult fraternity of the "Good Law" of course did their utmost to keep alive in the hearts of the people the spiritual life.
The evil days, however, were drawing near when no altruistic idea should remain to redeem the race from the abyss of selfishness in which it was destined to be overwhelmed. The decay of the ethical idea was the necessary prelude to the perversion of the spiritual. The hand of every man fought for himself alone, and his knowledge was used for purely selfish ends, till it became an established belief that there was nothing in the universe greater or higher than themselves. Each man was his own "Law, and Lord and God," and the very worship of the temples ceased to be the worship of any ideal, but became the mere adoration of man as he was known and seen to be. As is written in the Book of Dzyan, "Then the Fourth became tall with pride. We are the kings it was said; we are the Gods.... They built huge cities. Of rare earths and metals they built, and out of the fires vomited, out of the white stone of the mountains and of the black stone, they cut their own images in their size and likeness, and worshipped them." Shrines were placed in temples in which the statue of each man, wrought in gold or silver, or carved in stone or wood, was adored by himself. The richer men kept whole trains of priests in their employ for the cult and care of their shrines, and offerings were made to these statues as to gods. The apotheosis of self could go no further.
It must be remembered that every true religious idea that has ever entered into the mind of man, has been consciously suggested to him by the divine Instructors or the Initiates of the White Lodge, who throughout all the ages have been the guardians of the divine mysteries, and of the facts of the supersensual states of consciousness.
Mankind generally has but slowly become capable of assimilating a few of these divine ideas, while the monstrous growths and hideous distortions to which every religion on earth stands as witness, must be traced to man's own lower nature. It would seem indeed that he has not always even been fit to be entrusted with knowledge as to the mere symbols under which were veiled the light of Deity, for in the days of the Turanian Supremacy some of this knowledge was wrongfully divulged.
We have seen how the life and light giving attributes of the sun were in early times used as the symbol to bring before the minds of the people all that they were capable of conceiving of the great First Cause. But other symbols of far deeper and more real significance were known and guarded within the ranks of the priesthood. One of these was the conception of a Trinity in Unity. The Trinities of most sacred significance were never divulged to the people, but the Trinity personifying the cosmic powers of the universe as Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer, became publicly known in some irregular manner in the Turanian days. This idea was still further materialized and degraded by the Semites into a strictly anthropomorphic Trinity consisting of father, mother and child.
A further and rather terrible development of the Turanian times must still be referred to. With the practice of sorcery many of the inhabitants had, of course, become aware of the existence of powerful elementals--creatures who had been called into being, or at least animated by their own powerful wills, which being directed towards maleficent ends, naturally produced elementals of power and malignity. So degraded had then become man's feelings of reverence and worship, that they actually began to adore these semi-conscious creations of their own malignant thought. The ritual with which these beings were worshipped was bloodstained from the very start, and of course every sacrifice offered at their shrines gave vitality and persistence to these vampire-like creations--so much so, that even to the present day in various parts of the world, the elementals formed by the powerful will of these old Atlantean sorcerers still continue to exact their tribute from unoffending village communities.
Though inaugurated and widely practised by the brutal Turanians, this blood-stained ritual seems never to have spread to any extent among the other sub-races, though human sacrifices appear to have been not uncommon among some branches of the Semites.
In the great Toltec empire of Mexico the sun-worship of their forefathers was still the national religion, while the bloodless offerings to their beneficent Deity, Quetzalcoatl, consisted merely of flowers and fruit. It was only with the coming of the savage Aztecs that the harmless Mexican ritual was supplemented with the blood of human sacrifices, which drenched the altars of their war-god, Huitzilopochtli, and the tearing out of the hearts of the victims on the summit of the Teocali may be regarded as a direct survival of the elemental -worship of their Turanian ancestors in Atlantis.
It will be seen then that as in our own days, the religious life of the people embraced the most varied forms of belief and worship. From the small minority who aspired to initiation, and had touch with the higher spiritual life--who knew that good will towards all men, control of thought, and purity of life and action were the necessary preliminaries to the attainment of the highest states of consciousness and the widest realms of vision--innumerable phases led down through the more or less blind worship of cosmic powers, or of anthropomorphic gods, to the degraded but most widely extended ritual in which each man adored his own image, and to the blood stained rites of the elemental worship.
It must be remembered throughout that we are dealing with the Atlantean race only, so that any reference would be out of place that bore on the still more degraded fetish-worship that even then existed--as it still does--amongst the debased representatives of the Lemurian peoples.
All through the centuries then, the various rituals composed to celebrate these various forms of worship were carried on, till the final submergence of Poseidonis, by which time the countless hosts of Atlantean emigrants had already established on foreign lands the various cults of the mother-continent.
To trace the rise and follow the progress in detail of the archaic religions, which in historic times have blossomed into such diverse and antagonistic forms, would be an undertaking of great difficulty, but the illumination it would throw on matters of transcendent importance may some day induce the attempt.
In conclusion, it would be vain to attempt to summarize what is already too much of a summary. Rather let us hope that the foregoing may lend itself as the text from which may be developed histories of the many offshoots of the various sub-races-histories which may analytically examine political and social developments which have been here touched on in the most fragmentary manner.
One word, however, may still be said about that evolution of the race--that progress which all creation, with mankind at its head, is ever destined to achieve century by century, millennium by millennium, manvantara by manvantara, and kalpa by kalpa.
The descent of spirit into matter--those two poles of the one eternal substance--is the process which occupies the first half of every cycle. Now the period we have been contemplating in the foregoing pages--the period during which the Atlantean race was running its course--was the very middle or turning point of this present manvantara.
The process of evolution which in our present Fifth Race has now set in--the return, that is, of matter into spirit--had in those days revealed itself in but a few isolated individual cases--forerunners of the resurrection of the spirit.
But the problem, which all who have given the subject any amount of consideration must have felt to be still awaiting a solution, is the surprising contrast in the attributes of the Atlantean race. Side by side with their brutal passions, their degraded animal propensities, were their psychic faculties, their godlike intuition.
Now the solution of this apparently insoluble enigma lies in the fact that the building of the bridge had only then been begun--the bridge of Manas, or mind, destined to unite in the perfected individual the upward surging forces of the animal and the downward cycling spirit of the God. The animal kingdom of to-day exhibits a field of nature where the building of that bridge has not yet been begun, and even among mankind in the days of Atlantis the connection was so slight that the spiritual attributes had but little controlling power over the lower animal nature. The touch of mind they had was sufficient to add zest to the gratification of the senses, but was not enough to vitalize the still dormant spiritual faculties, which in the perfected individual will have to become the absolute monarch. Our metaphor of the bridge may carry us a little further if we consider it as now in process of construction, but as destined to remain incomplete for mankind in general for untold millenniums--in fact, until Humanity has completed another circle of the seven planets and the great Fifth Round is half way through its course.
Though it was during the latter half of the Third Root Race and the beginning of the Fourth that the Manasaputra descended to endow with mind the bulk of Humanity who were still without the spark, yet so feebly burned the light all through the Atlantean days that few could be said to have attained to the powers of abstract thought. On the other hand, the functioning of the mind on concrete things came well within their grasp, and as we have seen it was in the practical concerns of their every-day life, especially when their psychic faculties were directed towards the same objects, that they achieved such remarkable and stupendous results.
It must also be remembered that Kama, the fourth principle, naturally obtained its culminating development in the Fourth Race. This would account for the depths of animal grossness to which they sank, whilst the approach of the cycle to its nadir inevitably accentuated this downward movement, so that there is little to be surprised at in the gradual loss by the race of the psychic faculties, and in its descent to selfishness and materialism.
Rather should all this be regarded as part of the great cyclic process in obedience to the eternal law.
We have all gone through those evil days, and the experiences we then accumulated go to make up the characters we now possess.
But a brighter sun now shines on the Aryan race than that which lit the path of their Atlantean forefathers. Less dominated by the passions of the senses, more open to the influence of mind, the men of our race have obtained and are obtaining a firmer grasp of knowledge, a wider range of intellect. This upward arc of the great manvantaric cycle will naturally lead increasing numbers towards the entrance of the Path, and will lend more and more attraction to the transcendent opportunities it offers for the continued strengthening and purification of the character- strengthening and purification no longer directed by mere spasmodic effort, and continually interrupted by misleading attractions, but guided and guarded at every step by the Masters of Wisdom, so that the upward climb when once begun should no longer be halting and uncertain, but lead direct to the glorious goal.
The psychic faculties too, and the godlike intuition, lost for a time but still the rightful heritage of the race, only await the individual effort of reattainment, to give to the character still deeper insight and more transcendent powers. So shall the ranks of the Adept instructors--the Masters of Wisdom--be ever strengthened and recruited, and even amongst us today there must certainly be some, indistinguishable save by the deathless enthusiasm with which they are animated, who will, before the next Root Race is established on this planet, stand themselves as Masters of Wisdom to help the race in its upward progress.