“From a careful consideration of Plato’s description of Atlantis it is evident that the story should not be regarded as wholly historical but rather as both allegorical and historical. Origen, Porphyry, Proclus, Iamblichus, and Syrianus realized that the story concealed a profound philosophical mystery, but they disagreed as to the actual interpretation. Plato’s Atlantic symbolizes the threefold nature of both the universe and the human body. The ten kings are the tetractys, or numbers which are born as five pairs of opposites. … With the trident scepter of Poseidon these kings held sway over the inhabitants of the seven small and three great islands comprising Atlantis. Philosophically, the ten islands symbolize the triune power of the Superior Deity and the seven regents who bow before His eternal throne.” ~Manly P. Hall
One reason we have so much difficulty understanding the writings of the ancients is that we tend to think everything they wrote is intended to be historical fact, or is completely symbolic allegory. Plato’s tale of Atlantis is just one of many that are a mixture of both. The trick is knowing what to look at as fact and what to interpret as allegory and try to find it’s real meaning. In can get even more confusing when something is a historical fact, yet is used as allegory to explain something else. Sometimes, it is fairly obvious, such as when we read about flying ships in ancient Hindu books, that this was almost certainly allegory, but what is it’s meaning?
Hall tells us that the tale of Atlantis is allegory for the threefold nature of the universe and the body. What does he mean by that? I thing he is saying that just as man is made up of three “bodies”: the physical, the psychic and the spiritual, so is the universe, and Plato reflects this in his description of Atlantis. So if you search for a place that meets the physical description of Atlantis in the hope of finding the place, it won’t work. Atlantis was a real place, but the description of it is largely allegorical.
Hall goes on to tell us the ten kings of Atlantis in Plato’s tale represent the Tetractys, a triangle made of ten dots arranged like the pins in bowling. According to Wikepedia, each number in this tringle has a meaning. One is the Monad, unity, God. Two is the Dyad and represents power. Three represents harmony and four is the kosmos. It also symbolizes in it’s four rows the four elements of ancient science: air, earth, water, and fire. Pythagorians prayed to this allegorical shape as follows:
- “Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men! O holy, holy Tetractys, thou that containest the root and source of the eternally flowing creation! …”
- It also relates to the Kabbalist Tree of Life symbol and to certain card arrangements used in Tarot card readings.
- Hall then tells us the kings of Atlantis carried the trident sceptor as a symbol of their power. I found this particularly interesting since one of the places that some consider the true location of Atlantis is the South Americal country of Peru, and one of the many mysteries of Peru is a giant trident, usually called a cendelabra which is shown above in a photo I took in 2014 during our group trip to Peru.
- By what about the sinking of Atlantis? This may vary well be allegorical as well. Hall believe is symbolizes a descent from “rational, organized consciousness” into “the illusionary, impermanent realm of irrational, mortal ignorance”. I would word it differently and say it represents the sinking of a spiritually advanced civilization into one of materialism and all that goes with it: greed, wars, selfishness, etc.
- The important point is that Plat didn’t write history, so his writing on Atlantis should be enough to tell us it is not a history book, but one of philosophical and spiritual allegory and instead of wasting time and money trying to find it’d physical ocation, let’s instead learn from the philosophical meaning and turn away from the materialism that destroyed them.