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THE deep-sea soundings, made of late years in the Atlantic, reveal the fact that the Azores are the mountaintops of a colossal mass of sunken land; and that from this center one great ridge runs southward for some distance, and then, bifurcating, sends out one limb to the shores of Africa, and another to the shores of South America; while there are the evidences that a third great ridge formerly reached northward from the Azores to the British Islands.
When these ridges--really the tops of long and continuous mountain-chains, like the Andes or the Rocky Mountains, the backbone of a vast primeval Atlantic-filling, but, even then, in great part, sunken continent, were above the water, they furnished a wonderful feature in the scenery and geography of the world; they were the pathways over which the migrations of races extended in the ancient days; they wound for thousands of miles, irregular, rocky, wave-washed, through the great ocean, here expanding into islands, there reduced to a narrow strip, or sinking into the sea; they reached from a central civilized land--an ancient, long-settled land, the land of the godlike race--to its colonies, or connections, north, south, east, and west; and they impressed themselves vividly on the imagination and the traditions of mankind, leaving their image even in the religions of the world unto this day.
As, in process of time, they gradually or suddenly settled
into the deep, they must at first have formed long, continuous strings of islands, almost touching each other, resembling very much the Aleutian Archipelago, or the Bahama group; and these islands continued to be used, during later ages, as the stepping-stones for migrations and intercourse between the old and the new worlds, just as the discovery of the Azores helped forward the discovery of the New World by Columbus; he used them, we know, as a halting-place in his great voyage.
When Job speaks of "the island of the innocent," which was spared from utter destruction, he prefaces it by asking, (chap. xxii):
"15. Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?
"16. Which were (was?) cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood."
And in chapter xxviii, verse 4, we have what may be another allusion to this "way," along which go the people who are on their journey, and which "divideth the flood," and on which some are escaping.
The Quiche manuscript, as translated by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, gives an account of the migration of the Quiche race to America from some eastern land in a very early day, in "the day of darkness," ere the sun was, in the so-called glacial age.
When they moved to America they wandered for a long time through forests and over mountains, and "they had a long passage to make, through the sea, along the shingle and pebbles and drifted sand." And this long passage was through the sea "which was parted for their passage." That is, the sea was on both sides of this long ridge of rocks and sand.
[1. Tylor's "Early Mankind," p. 308.]
The abbé adds:
"But it is not clear how they crossed the sea; they passed as though there had been no sea, for they passed over scattered rocks, and these rocks were rolled on the sands. This is why they called the place 'ranged stones and torn-up sands,' the name which they gave it in their passage within the sea, the water being divided when they passed."
They probably migrated along that one of the connecting ridges which, the sea-soundings show us, stretched from Atlantis to the coast of South America.
We have seen in the Hindoo legends that when Rama went to the Island of Lanka to fight the demon Ravana, he built a bridge of stone, sixty miles long, with the help of the monkey-god, in order to reach the island.
In Ovid we read of the "settling down a little" of the island on which the drama of Phaëton was enacted.
In the Norse legends the bridge Bifrost cuts an important figure. One would be at first disposed to regard it as meaning, (as is stated in what are probably later interpolations,) the rainbow; but we see, upon looking closely, that it represents a material fact, an actual structure of some kind.
Gylfe, who was, we are told, A king of Sweden in the ancient days, visited Asgard. He assumed the name of Ganglere, (the walker or wanderer). I quote from the "Younger Edda, The Creation":
"Then asked Ganglere, 'What is the path from earth to heaven?'"
The earth here means, I take it, the European colonies which surround the ocean, which in turn surrounds Asgard; heaven is the land of the godlike race, Asgard. Ganglere therefore asks what is, or was, in the mythological past, the pathway from Europe to the Atlantic island.
"Har answered, laughing, 'Foolishly do you now ask. Have you not been told that the gods made a bridge from earth to heaven, which is called Bifrost? You must have seen it. It may be that you call it the rainbow. It has three colors, is very strong, and is made with more craft and skill than other structures. Still, however strong it is, it will break when the sons of Muspel come to ride over it, and then they will have to swim their horses over great rivers in order to get on.'"
Muspel is the blazing South, the land of fire, of the convulsions that accompanied the comet. But how can Bifrost mean the rainbow? What rivers intersect a rainbow?
"Then said Ganglere, 'The gods did not, it seems to me, build that bridge honestly, if it shall be able to break to pieces, since they could have done so if they had desired.' Then made answer Har: 'The gods are worthy of no blame for this structure. Bifrost is indeed a good bridge, but there is nothing in the world that is able to stand when the sons of Muspel come to the fight.'"
Muspel here means, I repeat, the heat of the South. Mere heat has no effect on rainbows. They are the product of sunlight and falling water, and are often most distinct in the warmest weather.
But we see, a little further on, that this bridge Bifrost was a real structure. We read of the roots of the ash-tree Ygdrasil, and one of its roots reaches to the fountain of Urd:
Here the gods have their doomstead. The Asas ride hither every day over Bifrost, which is also called Asa-bridge."
And these three mountain-chains going out to the different continents were the three roots of the tree Ygdrasil, the sacred tree of the mountain-top; and it is to this "three-pronged root of the world-mountain" that the
Hindoo legends refer, (see page 238, ante): on its top was heaven, Olympus; below it was hell, where the Asuras, the comets, dwelt; and between was Meru, (Mero Merou,) the land of the Meropes, Atlantis.
The Asas were clearly a human race of noble and godlike qualities. The proof of this is that they perished in Ragnarok; they were mortal. They rode over the bridge every day going from heaven, the heavenly land, to the earth, Europe.
We read on:
"Kormt and Ormt,
And the two Kerlaugs
These shall Thor wade
When he goes to judge
Near the Ygdrasil ash;
For the Asa-bridge
Burns all ablaze--
The holy waters roar."
These rivers, Kormt and Ormt and the two Kerlaugs, were probably breaks in the long ridge, where it had gradually subsided into the sea. The Asa-bridge was, very likely, dotted with volcanoes, as the islands of the Atlantic are to this day.
"Then answered Ganglere, 'Does fire burn over Bifrost?' Har answered: 'The red which you see in the rainbow is burning fire. The frost-giants and the mountain-giants would go up to heaven if Bifrost were passable for all who desired to go there. Many fair places are there in heaven, and they are protected by a divine defense.'"
We have just seen (p. 371, ante) that the home of the godlike race, the Asas, to wit, heaven, Asgard, was surrounded by the ocean, was therefore an island; and that around the outer margin of this ocean, the Atlantic,
[1. Elder Edda, "Grimner's Lay," 29.]
the godlike race had given lands for the ice-giants to dwell in. And now we read that this Asa-bridge, this Bifrost, reached from earth to heaven, to wit, across this gulf that separated the island from the colonies of the ice-giants. And now we learn that, if this bridge were not defended by a divine defense, these troublesome ice-giants would go up to heaven; that is to say, the bold Northmen would march across it from Great Britain and Ireland to the Azores, to wit, to Atlantis. Surely all this could not apply to the rainbow.
But we read a little further. Har is reciting to Ganglere the wonders of the heavenly land, and is describing its golden palaces, and its mixed population of dark and light colored races, and he says:
"Furthermore, there is a dwelling, by name Himinbjorg, which stands at the end of heaven, where the Bifrost bridge is united with heaven."
And then we read of Heimdal, one of the gods who was subsequently killed by the comet:
"He dwells in a place called Himinbjorg, near Bifrost. He is the ward," (warder, guardian,) "of the gods, and sits at the end of heaven, guarding the bridge against the mountain-giants. He needs less sleep than a bird; sees an hundred miles around him, and as well by night as by day. His teeth are of gold."
This reads something like a barbarian's recollection of a race that practiced dentistry and used telescopes. We know that gold filling has been found in the teeth of ancient Egyptians and Peruvians, and that telescopic lenses were found in the ruins of Babylon.
But here we have Bifrost, a bridge, but not a continuous structure, interrupted in places by water, reaching from Europe to some Atlantic island. And the island-people regarded it very much as some of the English look
upon the proposition to dig a tunnel from Dover to Calais, as a source of danger, a means of invasion, a threat; and at the end of the island, where the ridge is united to it, they did what England will probably do at the end of the Dover tunnel: they erected fortifications and built a castle, and in it they put a ruler, possibly a sub-king, Heimdal, who constantly, from a high lookout, possibly with a field-glass, watches the coming of the turbulent Goths, or Gauls, or Gael, from afar off. Doubtless the white-headed and red-headed, hungry, breekless savages had the same propensity to invade the civilized, wealthy land, that their posterity had to descend on degenerate Rome.
The word Asas is not, as some have supposed, derived from Asia. Asia is derived from the Asas. The word Asas comes from a Norse word, still in use in Norway, Aas, meaning a ridge of high land. Anderson thinks there is some connection between Aas, the high ridge, the mountain elevation, and Atlas, who held the world on his shoulders.
The Asas, then, were the civilized race who inhabited a high, precipitous country, the meeting-point of a number of ridges. Atlas was the king, or god, of Atlantis. In the old time all kings were gods. They are something more than men, to the multitude, even yet.
And when we reach "Ragnarok" in these Gothic legends, when the jaw of the wolf Fenris reached from the earth to the sun, and he vomits fire and poison, and when Surt, and all the forces of Muspel, "ride over Bifrost, it breaks to pieces." That is to say, in this last great catastrophe of the earth, the ridge of land that led from the British Islands to Atlantis goes down for ever.
[1. The Younger Edda," Anderson, note, p. 226.]
And in Plato's description of Atlantis, as received by Solon from the Egyptian priests, we read:
"There was an island" (Atlantis) "situated in front of the straits which you call the Columns of Hercules; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from the islands you might pass through the whole of the opposite continent," (America,) "which surrounds the true ocean."
Now this is not very clear, but it may signify that there was continuous land communication between Atlantis and the islands of the half-submerged ridge, and from the islands to the continent of America. It would seem to mean more than a passage-way by boats over the water, for that existed everywhere, and could be traversed in any direction.
I have quoted on p. 372, ante, in the last chapter, part of the Sanskrit legend of Adima and Héva, as preserved in the Bagaveda-Gita, and other sacred books of the Hindoos. It refers very distinctly to the bridge which united the island-home of primeval humanity with the rest of the earth. But there is more of it:
When, under the inspiration of the prince of demons, Adima and Héva begin to wander, and desire to leave their island, we read:
"Arriving at last at the extremity of the island"--
We have seen that the bridge Bifrost was connected with the extremity of Asgard--
"they beheld a smooth and narrow arm of the sea, and beyond it a vast and apparently boundless country," (Europe?) "connected with their island by a narrow and rocky pathway, arising from the bosom of the waters."
This is probably a precise description of the connecting ridge; it united the boundless continent, Europe, with
the island; it rose out of the sea, it was rocky; it was the broken crest of a submerged mountain-chain.
What became of it? Here again we have a tradition of its destruction. We read that, after Adima and Héva had passed over this rocky bridge--
"No sooner did they touch the shore, than trees, flowers, fruit, birds, all that they had seen from the opposite side, vanished in an instant, amidst terrible clamor; the rocks by which they had crossed sank beneath the waves, a few sharp peaks alone remaining above the surface, to indicate the place of the bridge, which had been destroyed by divine displeasure."
Here we have the crushing and instant destruction by the Drift, the terrific clamor of the age of chaos, and the breaking down of the bridge Bifrost under the feet of the advancing armies of Muspel; here we have "the earth" of Ovid "settling down a little" in the ocean; here we have the legends of the Cornishmen of the lost land, described in the poetry of Tennyson; here we have the emigrants to Europe cut off from their primeval home, and left in a land of stones and clay and thistles.
It is, of course, localized in Ceylon, precisely as the mountain of Ararat and the mountain of Olympus crop out in a score of places, wherever the races carried their legends. And to this day the Hindoo points to the rocks which rise in the Indian Ocean, between the eastern point of India and the Island of Ceylon, as the remnants of the Bridge; and the reader will find them marked on our maps as" Adam's Bridge" (Palam Adima). The people even point out, to this day, a high mountain, from whose foot the Bridge went forth, over which Adima and Héva, crossed to the continent; and it is known in modern geography as "Adam's Peak." So vividly have the traditions of a vast antiquity come down to us! The legends
of the Drift have left their stamp even in our schoolbooks.
And the memory of this Bridge survives not only in our geographies, but in our religions.
Man reasons, at first, from below upward; from godlike men up to man-like gods; from Cæsar, the soldier, up to Cæsar, the deity.
Heaven was, in the beginning, a heavenly city on earth; it is transported to the clouds; and there its golden streets and sparkling palaces await the redeemed.
This is natural: we can only conceive of the best of the spiritual by the best we know of the material; we can imagine no musical instrument in the bands of the angels superior to a harp; no weapon better than a sword for the grasp of Gabriel.
This disproves not a spiritual and superior state; it simply shows the poverty and paucity of our poor intellectual apparatus, which, like a mirror, reflects only that which is around it, and reflects it imperfectly.
Men sometimes think they are mocking spiritual things when it is the imperfection of material nature, (which they set so much store by,) that provokes their ridicule.
So, among all the races which went out from this heavenly land, this land of high intelligence, this land of the master race, it was remembered down through the ages, and dwelt upon and sung of until it moved upward from the waters of the Atlantic to the distant skies, and became a spiritual heaven. And the ridges which so strangely connected it with the continents, east and west, became the bridges over which the souls of men must pass to go from earth to heaven.
The Persians believe in this bridge between earth and
paradise. In his prayers the penitent in his confession says to this day:
"I am wholly without doubt in the existence of the Mazdayaçnian faith; in the coming of the resurrection of the latter body; in the stepping over the bridge Chinvat; as well as in the continuance of paradise."
The bridge and the land are both indestructible.
Over the midst of the Moslem hell stretches the bridge Es-Sirat, "finer than a hair and sharper than the edge of a sword."
In the Lyke-Wake Dirge of the English north-country, they sang of
The Brig of Dread
Na braider than a thread."
In Borneo the passage for souls to heaven is across a long tree; it is scarcely practicable to any except those who have killed a man.
In Burmah, among the Karens, they tie strings across the rivers, for the ghosts of the dead to pass over to their graves.
In Java, a bridge leads across the abyss to the dwelling-place of the gods; the evil-doers fall into the depths below.
Among the Esquimaux the soul crosses an awful gulf over a stretched rope, until it reaches the abode of "the great female evil spirit below" (beyond?) "the sea."
The Ojibways cross to paradise on a great snake, which serves as a bridge.
The Choctaw bridge is a slippery pine-log.
The South American Manacicas cross on a wooden bridge.
Among many of the American tribes, the Milky Way is the bridge to the other world.
[1. Poor, "Sanskrit Literature," p. 151.]
The Polynesians have no bridge; they pass the chasm in canoes.
The Vedic Yama of the Hindoos crossed the rapid waters, and showed the way to our Aryan fathers.
The modern Hindoo hopes to get through by holding on to the cow's tail!
Even the African tribes, the Guinea negroes, believe that the land of souls can only be reached by crossing a river.
Among some of the North American tribes "the souls come to a great lake," (the ocean,) "where there is a beautiful island, toward which they have to paddle in a canoe of white stone. On the way there arises a storm, and the wicked souls are wrecked, and the heaps of their bones are to be seen under the water, but the good reach the happy island."
The Slavs believed in a pathway or road which led to the other world; it was both the rainbow (as in the Gothic legends) and the Milky Way; and, since the journey was long, they put boots into the coffin, (for it was made on foot,) and coins to pay the ferrying across a wide sea, even as the Greeks expected to be carried over the Styx by Charon. This abode of the dead, at the end of this long pathway, was an island, a warm, fertile land, called Buyau.
In their effort to restore the dead men to the happy island-home, the heavenly land, beyond the water, the Norsemen actually set their dead heroes afloat in boats on the open ocean.
Subsequently they raised a great mound over boat, warrior, horses, weapons, and all. These boats are now being dug up in the north of Europe and placed in the
[1. Tylor's "Early Mankind," p. 362.
2. Poor, "Sanskrit and Kindred Literatures," pp. 3 71, 372.
great museums. They tell a marvelous religious and historical story.
I think the unprejudiced reader will agree with me that these legends show that some Atlantic island played an important part in the very beginning of human history. It was the great land of the world before the Drift; it continued to be the great land of the world between the Drift and the Deluge. Here man fell; here he survived; here he renewed the race, and from this center he repopulated the world.
We see also that this island was connected with the continents east and west by great ridges of land.
The deep-sea soundings show that the vast bulk of land, of which the Azores are the outcroppings, are so connected yet with such ridges, although their crests are below the sea-level; and we know of no other island-mass of the Atlantic that is so united with the continents on both sides of it.
Is not the conclusion very strong that Atlantis was the island-home of the race, in whose cave Job dwelt; on whose shores Phaëton fell; on whose fields Adam lived; on whose plain Sodom and Gomorrah stood, and Odin and Thor and Citli died; from which the Quiches and the Aztecs wandered to America; the center of all the races; the root of all the mythologies?
Next: Chapter IV. Objections Considered