THE GREEK MYTHS
Alford argues that in order to understand Platos story of
Atlantis, it is vital to set it against the context of earlier Greek
myths such as the works of Homer and Hesiod dating to the 8th-7th
centuries BC. Below is an article, adapted from Alan Alfords
book The Atlantis Secret, which was first published
by UFO Magazine in England in September 2001. In this article, Alan
cites numerous examples of cataclysmic thought in the myths and
scientific cosmogonies of the ancient Greeks, and discusses why
modern scholars have overlooked the significance of cataclysmic
theories of myth. He also touches on the important distinction between
actual cataclysmic events from the historical past and theorised
cataclysmic events from the mythical past.
Investigation into the Myths, Mysteries and Mysticism of the Greeks
By Alan F. Alford
The Truth of the Myths
It was a fundamental idea in ancient times and it is being
increasingly recognised today that myths were a form of transmission
of truths about the ancient past. But opinions have
always varied as to what these truths are. To some researchers,
the myths preserve a truth about enlightened human beings and a
lost civilisation. To others, the myths preserve a truth about an
alien intervention in the origins of man. And to others, the myths
preserve a truth concerning the 26,000-year precessional cycle.
Evidently, the truth behind ancient myths lies decidedly
in the mind of the beholder.
In the modern language, the word myth is synonymous
with a fiction or a lie. But in the ancient Greek language, a myth
(muthos) meant simply an utterance or a traditional
tale, and these tales, usually of gods and heroes, were held
to be true stories about the ancient past. Such was the opinion
of Plato who, writing in the 4th century BC, asserted that there
was a truth behind the myths, though not one of the kinds listed
above. In Timaeus, Plato used the myth of Phaethon, the son
of the Sun-god, to suggest that the myths concealed a truth about
cataclysms. He had a wise old Egyptian priest explain the way of
the world to Solon thus:
Solon, Solon, you Greeks are ever children... There have been,
and there will continue to be, numerous disasters that have destroyed
human life in many kinds of ways. The most serious of these involve
fire and water, while the lesser ones have numerous other causes.
And so also among your people the tale is told that Phaethon,
child of the Sun, once harnessed his fathers chariot, but
was unable to drive it along his fathers course. He ended
up burning everything on the Earths surface and was destroyed
himself when a lightning bolt struck him. This tale is told as
a myth, but the truth behind it is that there is a deviation in
the heavenly bodies that travel around the Earth, which causes
huge fires that destroy what is on the Earth across vast stretches
of time... after the usual number of years, there comes the heavenly
was the truth behind the Phaethon myth, according to Plato. But
what about the other Greek myths? Did they, too, convey truths of
cataclysms in the ancient past?
of the Greeks
In Platos Timaeus, the myth of Phaethon is followed by the
story of Atlantis the island-continent that sank into the
sea following a cataclysm of earthquakes and floods. The story,
according to Plato, was true. But in what sense was it true? In
search of an answer to this ever perplexing mystery, and curious
to learn more about the foundations of Western philosophy, I initiated
a study into the ancient Greek myths in their entirety. The result
is my new book 'The Atlantis Secret' (to be published 8th October
2001) which not only contains a complete decoding of the Atlantis
story, but also a complete decoding of all Greek myths, mysteries
What is the link between Atlantis and the Greek myths? The answer,
in a nutshell, is that they all convey a true story about cataclysms.
A few examples will set the scene.
In Hesiods Theogony, the creation of the Universe stemmed
from an original fall of the sky, when Ouranos, the Mountain
of Heaven, descended and impregnated Gaia, Mother Earth. In
Ouranos came, bringing on Night, and desirous of love, he spread
himself over Gaia (Earth), stretched out in every direction.
a result of this impregnation, terrible monsters were born inside
the womb of Gaia, causing her to groan as a result of the tight-pressed
forces inside her. One of these Titans-gods was Kronos, who castrated
Ouranos and ascended to heavenly Mount Olympus to become its new
ruler. Hesiod then goes on to describe Kronos impregnating Gaia
(in her name of Rhea), after which there occurred a cataclysmic
struggle between the Titans of Kronos and an alliance of gods led
Hundred-handers then engaged the Titans in grim slaughter, with
sheer cliffs in their stalwart hands... the boundless sea roared
terribly round about, the Earth crashed loudly, and the broad
Heaven quaked and groaned. Tall Olympus was shaken to its foundations
by the onrush of the immortals; the heavy tremors from their feet
reached misty Tartarus, as did the shrill din of the indescribable
onset and the powerful bombardment. So it was when the two sides
discharged their woe-laden missiles at each other.
battle raged on, finely poised, until Zeus himself entered the affray.
He plunged down from Olympus (where he had been acting as cupbearer
to Kronos) and threw his whole might against the Titans:
continuous lightning flashes Zeus went, and the bolts flew thick
and fast amid thunder and lightning from his stalwart hand, trailing
holy flames. All around, the life-bearing Earth rumbled as it
burned... The whole land was seething, and the streams of Oceanus,
and the undraining sea. The hot blast enveloped the chthonic Titans;
the indescribable flames reached the divine heavens... it was
just as if Earth and the broad Heaven above were coming together.
a result of this battle, Kronos and his Titans were deposed from
Olympus and consigned to Tartarus (the innermost depths of the Earth).
Included among these Titans were the four brothers Atlas, Prometheus,
Epimetheus and Menoitios, who provide yet further examples of cataclysmic
thought in Greek religion.
Atlas, for example, was confined at the ends of the Earth, where
Zeus forced him to support the Heaven, either with his head, hands
and shoulders, or in the form of Mount Atlas, or by supporting the
pillars that hold Earth and Heaven together in opposition.
Atlas role was to maintain the world order of Zeus by preventing
the Heaven from collapsing again onto the Earth. Clearly, the idea
of cataclysms was fundamental to the Greek view of the cosmos.
The myths of Prometheus provide further grist to the cataclysmic
mill. According to Hesiod, Zeus had chained Prometheus to a pillar
and sentenced him to an eternity of torture by an eagle. But this
age-old tale was elaborated upon later by the dramatist Aeschylus,
who described how Zeus had chained Prometheus to the Caucasus
Mountain, and plunged it into the Underworld amidst earthquakes,
thunderbolts and violent storms, which shook the foundations of
Heaven and Earth. Prometheus would remain in the Underworld for
an eternity, or at least until the end of the age when a further
cataclysm might elevate him from the murky depths.
The concept of world ages was of tremendous importance in the Greek
myths. The first world age had begun when Ouranos impregnated Gaia
and then returned to Heaven, taking up residence on Mount Olympus.
The second world age had been instigated when Kronos castrated Ouranos
and replaced him upon Mount Olympus. And the third world age had
begun when Zeus deposed Kronos (it was made ever lasting after he
vanquished Typhoeus and the Giants).
Significantly, each of these world ages began with, and was ended
by, a cataclysm. And it was hinted that the present world age, too,
might be ended by a cataclysm, which would herald another new age
in the cycle.
In parallel with these world ages were the ages of man. According
to Hesiod, the present race of man (the iron race) had been preceded
by three earlier races the golden race, the silver race,
and the bronze race respectively. Each of these three peoples had
been destroyed by cataclysms, at the command of the gods, the most
recent of which had been the flood of Deucalion. The disappearance
of Atlantis, rather intriguingly, was dated by Plato to the third
cataclysm before this flood of Deucalion.
The Deucalion myth is perhaps the best known of all the Greek cataclysm
myths, owing to its resemblance to the Noahs Ark story. Curiously,
in the Greek myth, the hero Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha renew
the race of man not by sexual means, but by throwing stones. The
idea, as I explained in my book 'When The Gods Came Down' (2000),
was that meteorites had been the seed of mankind a further
example of cataclysmic thought in the Greek myths.
In the light of this, it is no coincidence that Hesiod linked the
battle of Zeus and the Titans to the founding of a meteorite cult.
Kronos, he said, had swallowed the meteorite, but had been forced
by Zeus to eject it, whereupon Zeus fixed it in the Earth at Delphi
to be a monument and a thing of wonder for mortal men.
This famous meteorite was known to the Greeks as the great
navel-stone of the Earth.
Cataclysms? What Cataclysms?
My overview has been brief, but it gives a general picture of the
Greek myths which I have been studying during the past eighteen
months. To me, it seems self-evident that cataclysms were of fundamental
importance in Greek religion and mythology, even though the exact
nature of the cataclysms remains as yet unclear.
But scholars have other ideas. To their mind, gods such as Ouranos,
Kronos and Zeus have nothing to do with cataclysms, but rather personified
rain, hailstones, thunder and lightning. Thus their home, Mount
Olympus, belonged not in the heavens (i.e. in space), but in the
troposphere. Remarkably, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1999) lends
this weather-gods theory the status of an undisputed fact:
to the Greek poet Homer, Heaven was located on the summit of Olympus,
the highest mountain in Greece and the logical home for a weather
is complete baloney. As I explain in 'The Atlantis Secret', the
true Mount Olympus lay not in the aer of the troposphere
but in the higher realm of the aither, i.e. in the true heavens.
Mount Olympus in Greece was just a symbol of the true Mount Olympus,
which supposedly existed in the invisible aether, as if in a parallel
The seriousness of this misunderstanding has been fatal to scholars
understanding of the Greek myths. By making the journeys of the
gods begin and end in the clouds, they have dismissed, at a stroke,
the idea of cataclysms, and invented, instead, a completely new
myth involving weather-gods.
How can todays scholars be so adrift from the reality of what
the Greeks actually said? One reason is that the pioneering scholars
of the 18th and 19th centuries had little or no concept of meteorites
and meteoritic impacts. As astonishing as it might seem to us, the
majority of scientists in those days regarded comets as harmless
objects and disputed the idea that stones could fall from the sky.
The American president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), for example,
when he heard reports about meteorites, allegedly said: I
would sooner believe that two Yankee professors lied than that stones
fell from the sky. Similarly, at around the same time, the
French Academy of Sciences stated dismissively that in our
enlightened age there can still be people so superstitious as to
believe stones fall from the sky.
Such was the backdrop of scientific ignorance against which scholars
of the 18th and 19th centuries formed their opinions of ancient
myths (not just the Greek, but also the Egyptian and Mesopotamian).
It would have taken a brave man indeed to stake his reputation on
a seemingly cranky idea.
Quite why scholars of the 20th century should have ignored cataclysmic
theories of myths is more of a mystery, but part of the answer can
be summed up in two words: Immanuel Velikovsky. This problem became
evident when I contacted a few scholars to discuss my ideas. As
soon as the word cataclysm was mentioned, the scholar
would immediately become suspicious and defensive, mutter some dismissive
remark about Velikovsky, and politely bring the conversation to
The result of the Velikovskian affair, it would seem, is that scholars
automatically associate cataclysms with a theory of
actual, historical events in our solar system, and thus treat the
subject with extreme caution. As one scholar explained to me:
the scarcity of cataclysmic theories of myth, I think it takes
a fair amount of courage to stick ones neck out in such
a way. In the academic world, of course, such theories are usually
avoided because of their extremely hypothetical nature.
paraphrase, scholars consider it most unlikely that cataclysms could
be the basis of ancient myths because cataclysms are rare and exceptional
phenomena, for which categoric proof is very hard to come by.
Is this really true? One might concede the point if one were dealing
with a specific date or a limited time period, such as the early
centuries of Greek civilisation. But surely cataclysms are not extremely
hypothetical if we consider a broad period lasting for several
millennia. If, for example, we were to contemplate the neolithic
period, or the period of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations
(running for several millennia from 4000 BC), then at least one
major cataclysm would surely become a certainty.
Comets and Cataclysms
In recent decades, a number of eminent Hellenists, notably Walter
Burkert and Martin West, have built up a mountain of evidence linking
the Greek myths to the much older myths of the Near East, Mesopotamia
in particular. It is their firmly held opinion that the Greek myths
belong to an earlier time and to an earlier place.
Might the Greek myths reflect cataclysms from an earlier epoch?
As readers of my previous books 'The Phoenix Solution' and 'When
The Gods Came Down' will be well aware, the myths of Egypt and Mesopotamia
are indeed pervaded by cataclysmic ideas. One thinks, for example,
of the Babylonian Enuma Elish in which Marduk defeats the
sky-goddess Tiamat. Or the Akkadian myths in which Ninurta defeats
the evil god Zu. Or the Deluge myths in The Epic of Gilgamesh
and the Atra-Hasis Epic. Or the myths of the sky falling
and the gods descending from Heaven these being widespread
in Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Egypt. Whilst the oldest versions of
these myths date to around 2350-2000 BC, it is surely the case that
they herald from the very earliest periods of Egyptian and Sumerian
What inspired such ideas? The answer, almost certainly, is mans
experiences with comets, bolides and meteorites. In a series of
recent studies, the scientists Victor Clube and Bill Napier have
argued that Enckes Comet and the Taurid meteor stream are
the remnants of a huge comet, Proto-Encke, that broke apart in our
solar system around eighty thousand years ago. In their 1990 book
'The Cosmic Winter', Clube and Napier plotted a series of dates
at which the Earths orbit would have been intersected by the
orbit of the comets debris, producing a high risk of cataclysmic
collisions. Significantly, one of these dates, c. 3900-3600 BC,
marked the formative phase of the Sumerian and Egyptian civilisations.
I cite Clube and Napiers description of what ancient man would
have witnessed in the skies:
slow evolution of the cometary orbits ensures that, at a few brief
epochs in the past, the orbital tracks of the major comet and
Earth intersected. Close encounters with a major, active fragment,
over those centuries, must have been spectacular if not terrifying,
with the comet nucleus, brighter than Venus, crossing the sky
in a few hours, accompanied by a complex, striated red tail bisecting
the sky. Meteor storms of ferocious intensity, recurring annually
when the Earth crossed the debris of the comet, must have taken
place during those epochs, the shooting stars blazing out from
a small region of sky in Taurus or Aries. On some such occasions
the sky must have been filled with brilliant fireballs, such storms
lasting for several hours. Some of these fireballs would on occasion
reach the upper atmosphere or the ground, and there would be explosions
there could be no doubting the association of these spectacular
phenomena with the supreme being in the sky.
Clube and Napiers theory, we have a catalyst and a time scale
that provides a very plausible explanation for the cataclysmic ideas
in ancient religion and myths. And yet, if we are yet to make sense
of it all, there remains one vital puzzle piece that still needs
to be grasped.
The Exploded Planet Hypothesis
It is all very well proposing that historical comets were the trigger
for cataclysmic myths, but the fact of the matter is that ancient
myths rarely describe cataclysms in historical terms. Rather, the
fundamental theme, shared by the myth-makers of Greece, Egypt and
Mesopotamia, was that the cataclysms occurred at the beginning of
time, when the seeds of life were first sown in the Earth. It follows,
by definition, that these cataclysms could not have been witnessed
by any man and thus should not be described as historical cataclysms.
On the contrary, they may best be described as mythical cataclysms
imaginary events which, even so, were held to be true as
a matter of unquestioning faith (a perfect analogy, here, is the
modern concept of the Big Bang). The point is fundamentally important
and yet, until now, it seems to have eluded everybody.
What appears to have happened is that ancient man witnessed cataclysms,
such as those triggered by Comet Proto-Encke, and then drew upon
those experiences to generate a hypothesis concerning the beginning
of the world and the origins of life. The outcome of these deliberations,
revealed in my books 'The Phoenix Solution' and 'When The Gods Came
Down', was the Exploded Planet Hypothesis the idea that a
living planet had exploded and sown the seeds of life in the Earth.
But this hypothesis then became a dogma in the hands of the Egyptians
and Sumerians, whose religions may best be described as Exploded
Planet cults. Just as Christians, today, believe that Jesus
died on the cross and came back to life again, so did the Egyptians
and Sumerians believe that a living planet had died in Heaven and
come back to life again.
Because the Exploded Planet was, by nature, invisible, ancient peoples
worshipped it by means of visible symbols (such as the Sun, Moon
and stars) and thereby sowed the seeds for later confusion. Nevertheless,
the myth-makers made sure that the true story of the
Exploded Planet would never be forgotten. It shows through, for
example, in the belief in Heaven as an Earth-like planet (particularly
evident in Egyptian tombs), and in the description of Heaven and
Earth as twins, and in the use of identical metaphors
to refer to both Heaven and Earth.
The same ilk of clues feature in the Greek myths, too. In Theogony,
Hesiod referred to Ouranos, the Mountain of Heaven,
as one equal to Gaia, the Earth, implying that Ouranos,
too, was a planet. And in the Iliad, Homer had Zeus boast
of how he could reconstitute an Earth-like planet in Heaven:
come on, try it, gods... Hang a golden rope down from Heaven,
and all you gods and goddesses take hold of it: but you could
not pull Zeus down from Heaven to the ground... But whenever I
had a mind to pull in earnest, I could haul you up, earth and
sea and everything; then I could hitch the rope on the peak of
Olympus, so that everything, once more, should hang in mid-air.
Homer knew it or not, he had described the Exploded Planet to a
tee, as indeed would several famous philosophers of the 6th-4th
Anaximander, for example, described how all things had begun with
the tearing apart of a mysterious mass called the Unlimited.
A nuclear reaction inside the Unlimited had caused it to produce
a sphere of flame which first surrounded it and then exploded into
rings of fire. These rings of fire had then fallen to Earth and
become buried in the Underworld, whence they gave birth to the fiery
lights of the heavens the Sun, Moon and stars.
Empedocles, in a similar vein, described how all things had begun
with a God-Sphere, which had been torn apart by the forces of Strife.
Strife waxed mightily in the members of the Sphere,
he said: they all trembled in turn. As a result of this
discord, the elements of earth, air, fire and water had been born,
culminating in all material things on the Earth.
Anaxagoras, meanwhile, suggested that, at the beginning of time,
the Universe had tilted towards the south in order that some
parts might become uninhabitable and others habitable. Thus
his famous line: All things were together. After a visit
to Egypt, he returned to Greece to declare that meteorites had seeded
the beginning of all life on Earth.
And then there was Plato, the author of the Atlantis story. In his
famous Theory of Forms, he envisaged all things on Earth as being
corrupt copies of perfect originals which existed in the heavenly
world of Forms. This world of the perfect archetypes
was an invisible, metaphysical construct, which lay beyond the visible
heavens. In Phaedo, Plato described it explicitly as an Earth-like
planet, which he called the true Heaven, the true Light and
the true Earth. Scholars, by their own admission, have been
baffled by these ideas, but it must be said that the Theory of Forms
is the Exploded Planet cult to a tee.
Many of Platos ideas were Pythagorean in origin, and it is
no coincidence that a Pythagorean theory of cosmogony dominates
Platos Timaeus, in which the story of Atlantis is told.
Here, the world of Forms is personified by the Demiourgos
(God) who creates the visible Universe as a sphere in his own spherical
image. The story is a cosmogonical riddle, intended for initiates
who had the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
But what, we might ask, is it doing in the middle of the story about
The answer, revealed in 'The Atlantis Secret', is that Atlantis
was no lost continent or lost civilisation, but something far more
important a metaphor for the lost planet that stood at the
heart of the ancient religions. How did this metaphor work? The
answer is not immediately obvious, and I would rather not give the
game away in this article lest I spoil the fun for the reader of
my book. Suffice to say, however, that Plato was no historian or
geographer, but a mystic. Therefore, when he declared that the story
of Atlantis was true, he had a mystical truth
in mind. To Plato, the true Atlantis lay in Heaven, in the invisible
world of God and the gods.
A True Story?
Does the Exploded Planet myth represent a scientific truth? Modern
scientists are indeed speculating that the molecules of life might
have been conveyed to the Earth by meteorites and comets. In recent
years, evidence of biological organisms has been found in meteorites,
as has salt water, whilst in July of this year a British team of
scientists claimed to have evidence of primitive extraterrestrial
bacteria floating high in the Earths stratosphere. All of
these discoveries seem to vindicate the ancients belief that
meteorites were the seeds of life.
The Exploded Planet is a thornier issue, but even here the scientific
evidence tends to suggest that the ancient myth-makers were right.
The astronomer Tom Van Flandern, in particular, has mounted a powerful
argument for the origin of comets and asteroids in the explosions
of planets and moons. In his opinion, the original solar system
included two additional planets in the region where the main asteroid
belt now lies. For an overview of his theory, see my book 'The Phoenix
Solutio'n or my website http://www.eridu.co.uk.
Beyond this, however, there are greater questions to be asked pertaining
to the nature of life itself. Is a planet just a lump of rock, or
is it a living organism (the Gaia Hypothesis)? If the latter, does
a planet, like a human being, have a consciousness? And, if so,
what happens to that consciousness if the body dies?
The ancients asked and answered this question. As if with one voice,
they declared that the Exploded Planet had conveyed to the Earth
an invisible breath of life, which we would call the soul or spirit
of God (cf Genesis 1:2). Thus all creatures, man included, comprised
an Earth-born body and a Heaven-born soul. It was the belief of
the Egyptians, and later the Orphics and Pythagoreans, that this
soul could return, upon the death of the body, to the Exploded Planet
whence it came.
Plato was an outspoken advocate of this soul religion.
To him, the most important truth of the Atlantis story (and other
Exploded Planet myths) was not the physical seeding of life on Earth,
but the transmission of the soul-substance from Heaven to Earth,
with all that that entailed. As I argue in 'The Atlantis Secret',
Platos theory of the soul stands independent from the Exploded
Planet Hypothesis, and fits with the modern Big Bang myth or any
other Universal origin myth we care to choose. Thus, whilst it is
fascinating to study the physical origins of the world and life,
Plato would urge us rather to consider the metaphysical aspects
of these questions, so that we might ultimately recognise the greatest
truth of all that the soul of man does exist and is as old
as the Universe itself.