by William Scott-Elliot
I picked this up because I read somewhere it was inspirational to Robert E Howard for his Conan stories. But I don’t think that’s true; at least nothing I’ve read anywhere in Howard (Conan or otherwise) fits, apart from the name “Lemuria” (I think) and I think there’s a reference to the Hyperborean age in Atlantis. Oh, and I think I recall something about Akkadians in Howard. But I can’t really connect what’s written here to what Howard wrote, which always struck me as very “real” feeling.
This is two books: The first is on Atlantis, and it is as woo-woo as you can imagine. Scott-Elliot was a theosophist, someone who sought “direct knowledge” of the mysteries of existence. Which sounds okay, I suppose, but I think what it amounted to was entering into a trance and “writing history”. I won’t even comment on whether such a thing is possible or if the things here are true, but they are pretty wild and reminded me uncannily of how I build fantasy universes for stories and games (except that I deliberately try to avoid fact).
The funny thing is that the second book starts out very solid (wrong by current lights, but not implausible for the science of the time) with descriptions of possible other land masses. I hadn’t even noticed it was the same author! Then it starts to reference the first book and goes right back in to the woo-woo.
It was kind of cool. I had just finished Foucault’s Pendulum which is centered on how conspiracy theories craft their theories using each other as references, which is the hallmark of the theosophists of this time. Eco mentions Blatavasky numerous times, as does Scott-Elliot. And I think Haeckel came up in Foucault as well.
Also, although I didn’t realize it at the time, both this and Eco are reflected in the Machen book I read The Secret Glory which is also about hidden truths and the quest for the grail. It’s always fun when books intersect like that.