In religion the Atlanteans had reached all the great thoughts which underlie our modern creeds. They had attained to the conception of one universal, omnipotent, great First Cause. We find the worship of this One God in Peru and in early Egypt. They looked upon the sun as the mighty emblem, type, and instrumentality of this One God. Such a conception could only have come with civilization. It is not until these later days that science has realized the utter dependence of all earthly life upon the sun's rays:
"All applications of animal power may be regarded as derived directly or indirectly from the static chemical power of the vegetable substance by which the various organisms and their capabilities are sustained; and this power, in turn, from the kinetic action of the sun's rays.
"Winds and ocean currents, hailstorms and rain, sliding glaciers, flowing rivers, and falling cascades are the direct offspring of solar heat. All our machinery, therefore, whether driven by the windmill or the water-wheel, by horse-power or by steam--all the results of electrical and electro-magnetic changes--our telegraphs, our clocks, and our watches, all are wound up primarily by the sun.
"The sun is the great source of energy in almost all terrestrial phenomena. From the meteorological to the geographical, from the geological to the biological, in the expenditure and conversion of molecular movements, derived from the sun's rays, must be sought the motive power of all this infinitely varied phantasmagoria."
But the people of Atlantis had gone farther; they believed that the soul of man was immortal, and that he would live again in his material body; in other words, they believed in "the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." They accordingly embalmed their dead.
The Duke of Argyll ("The Unity of Nature") says:
"We have found in the most ancient records of the Aryan language proof that the indications of religious thought are higher, simpler, and purer as we go back in time, until at last, in the very oldest compositions of human speech which have come down to us, we find the Divine Being spoken of in the sublime language which forms the opening of the Lord's Prayer.
The date in absolute chronology of the oldest Vedic literature does not seem to be known. Professor Max Muller, however, considers that it may possibly take us back 5000 years. . . . All we can see with certainty is that the earliest inventions of mankind are the most wonderful that the race has ever made. . . . The first use of fire, and the discovery of the methods by which it can be kindled; the domestication of wild animals; and, above all, the processes by which the various cereals were first developed out of some wild grasses-these are all discoveries with which, in ingenuity and in importance, no subsequent discoveries may compare. They are all unknown to history--all lost in the light of an effulgent dawn."
The Atlanteans possessed an established order of priests; their religious worship was pure and simple. They lived under a kingly government; they had their courts, their judges, their records, their monuments covered with inscriptions, their mines, their founderies, their workshops, their looms, their grist-mills, their boats and sailing-vessels, their highways, aqueducts, wharves, docks, and canals.
They had processions, banners, and triumphal arches for their kings and heroes; they built pyramids, temples, round-towers, and obelisks; they practised religious ablutions; they knew the use of the magnet and of gunpowder. In short, they were in the enjoyment of a civilization nearly as high as our own, lacking only the printing-press, and those inventions in which steam, electricity, and magnetism are used. We are told that Deva-Nahusha visited his colonies in Farther India. An empire which reached from the Andes to Hindostan, if not to China, must have been magnificent indeed. In 'its markets must have met the maize of the Mississippi Valley, the copper of Lake Superior, the gold and silver of Peru and Mexico, the spices of India, the tin of Wales and Cornwall, the bronze of Iberia, the amber of the Baltic, the wheat and barley of Greece, Italy, and Switzerland.
It is not surprising that when this mighty nation sank beneath the waves, in the midst of terrible convulsions, with all its millions of people, the event left an everlasting impression upon the imagination of mankind. Let us suppose that Great Britain should to-morrow meet with a similar fate. What a wild consternation would fall upon her colonies and upon the whole human family! The world might relapse into barbarism, deep and almost universal. William the Conqueror, Richard C?ur de Lion, Alfred the Great, Cromwell, and Victoria might survive only as the gods or demons of later races; but the memory of the cataclysm in which the centre of a universal empire instantaneously went down to death would never be forgotten; it would survive in fragments, more or less complete, in every land on earth; it would outlive the memory of a thousand lesser convulsions of nature; it would survive dynasties, nations, creeds, and languages; it would never be forgotten while man continued to inhabit the face of the globe.
Science has but commenced its work of reconstructing the past and rehabilitating the ancient peoples, and surely there is no study which appeals more strongly to the imagination than that of this drowned nation, the true antediluvians. They were the founders of nearly all our arts and sciences; they were the parents of our fundamental beliefs; they were the first civilizers, the first navigators, the first merchants, the first colonizers of the earth; their civilization was old when Egypt was young, and they had passed away thousands of years before Babylon, Rome, or London were dreamed of. This lost people were our ancestors, their blood flows in our veins; the words we use every day were heard, in their primitive form, in their cities, courts, and temples. Every line of race and thought, of blood and belief, leads back to them.
Nor is it impossible that the nations of the earth may yet employ their idle navies in bringing to the light of day some of the relics of this buried people. Portions of the island lie but a few hundred fathoms beneath the sea; and if expeditions have been sent out from time to time in the past, to resurrect from the depths of the ocean sunken treasure-ships with a few thousand doubloons bidden in their cabins, why should not an attempt be made to reach the buried wonders of Atlantis? A single engraved tablet dredged up from Plato's island would be worth more to science, would more strike the imagination of mankind, than all the gold of Peru, all the monuments of Egypt, and all the terra-cotta fragments gathered from the great libraries of Chaldea.
May not the so-called "Ph?nician coins" found on Corvo, one of the Azores, be of Atlantean origin? Is it probable that that great race, pre-eminent as a founder of colonies, could have visited those islands within the Historical Period, and have left them unpeopled, as they were when discovered by the Portuguese?
We are but beginning to understand the past: one hundred years ago the world knew nothing of Pompeii or Herculaneum; nothing of the lingual tie that binds together the Indo-European nations; nothing of the significance of the vast volume of inscriptions upon the tombs and temples of Egypt; nothing of the meaning of the arrow-headed inscriptions of Babylon; nothing of the marvellous civilizations revealed in the remains of Yucatan, Mexico, and Peru. We are on the threshold. Scientific investigation is advancing with giant strides. Who shall say that one hundred years from now the great museums of the world may not be adorned with gems, statues, arms, and implements from Atlantis, while the libraries of the world shall contain translations of its inscriptions, throwing new light upon all the past history of the human race, and all the great problems which now perplex the thinkers of our day?