The Ancient League of Nations: Atlantis
A description of the lost Atlantis was written by Plato; it introduces the league formed by the ten benevolent kings who ruled over the lesser nations and the three great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa; and who bound themselves by oath to obey the divine laws of enduring empire… This was the philosophic democracy, with all men having the right to become wise through self-discipline and self-improvement, thus achieving the only aristocracy recognized by Natural Law. … The Atlantis story continues to the later decision of the kings to use their united power to enslave all the peoples of the earth, and the consequent destruction of Atlantis by earthquake and fire … interpreted politically, it is the story of the breaking up of the ideal pattern of government.
The tradition of the Lost Empire as descended from Solon was enlarged and embellished according to the formulas of the Orphic theology; but it does not follow necessarily that Plato intended to disparage the idea that a lost continent had actually existed west of Europe. Plato was a philosopher; he saw in the account of the fall of Atlantis an admirable opportunity to summarize his convictions concerning government and politics.
The Critias first describes the blessed state of the Atlantean people under the benevolent rulership of ten kings who were bound together in a league. These kings were monarchs over seven islands and three great continents. From the fable we can infer that the ten rulers of the Atlantic league were philosopher kings, endowed with all virtues and wise guardians of the public good. These kings obeyed the laws of the divine father of their house, Poseidon, god of the seas.
In the capital city of Atlantis stood the temple of Poseidon, and in it a golden figure of the god. In this shrine also stood a column of precious substance inscribed with the laws of enduring empire. The ten kings took their oath together to obey these laws, and they chose one of their number, usually of the family of Atlas, to be the chief of their league.
It was written on the column of the law that the ten kings of Atlantis should not take up arms against each other, for any reason. If one of them should break this law the other nine were to unite against him to preserve the peace.
In all matters concerning the public good the ten kings were to deliberate together, and each should be mindful of the just needs of the others; for they were the members of one body and regents over the lands of a blessed god.
The kings had not the power of life or death over any of their subjects except with the consent of the majority of the ten; and each was responsible to the whole league for his conduct in the administration of his own State.
In this way Plato describes the government of the Golden Age, in which men live on earth according to the laws of heaven.
By the three great continents of Atlantis are to be understood, Europe, Asia, and Africa; and by the seven islands, all the lesser peoples of the earth. The league of the ten kings is the cooperative commonwealth of mankind, the natural and proper form of human government. The Atlantis, therefore, is the archetype or the pattern of right government, which existed in ancient days but was destroyed by the selfishness and ignorance of men.
Plato, it must be remembered, was a monarchist by philosophic conviction, but his ideal king was the wise man perfect in the virtues and the natural ruler of those less informed than himself. This king was the father of his people, impersonal and unselfish, dedicated to the public good, a servant of both the gods and his fellow men. This king was descended of a divine race; that is, he belonged to the Order of the Illumined; for those who come to a state of wisdom then belong to the family of the heroes–perfected human beings.
Plato’s monarchy was therefore a philosophic democracy; for all men had the right to become wise through self-discipline and self-improvement. One who achieved this state was by virtue of his own action a superior man, and this superiority was the only aristocracy recognized by Natural Law.
Competition is natural to the ignorant; and cooperation is natural to the wise. Obeying the pattern established by the gods, the divine kings bound themselves into the common league to obey its laws, preserve the peace, and punish any whose ambition might impel them to tyranny or conquest.
Here then, is a pattern of world government to insure the prosperity of all peoples and activate the preservation of the peace.
Plato describes at some length the prosperity of the Atlantic Isles under this benevolent rulership. The citizens were happy, and poverty was unknown. A world trade was established, and the ships of the Atlantean marine traveled the seven seas, bringing rich treasures to the motherland. There was little crime; the arts flourished; and the sciences were cultivated in great universities. Men had no enemies, and war was unknown.
The god Poseidon guarded the destinies of his domains and favored the Atlantic Empire with a good climate and fertile soil.
Men followed the occupations which they preferred and lived a communal existence, together sharing the fruits of their labors. It was Plato’s conviction that the human being was not created merely to engage in barter and exchange, but rather to perfect himself as the noblest of the animals, endowed with reason and the natural ruler of the material world.
The Critias then describes the gradual change that came about in the course of the ages. In the beginning the Atlanteans saw clearly that their wealth and prosperity increased as a result of friendship. But gradually the divine portion of their consciousness began to fade away in them; their souls became diluted with a mortal admixture and human nature gained ascendency. They became unseemly and lost those spiritual virtues which were the fairest of their precious gifts.
It is the story of how man departed from the perfect pattern of his conduct, and in the end denied the very truths which were the foundations of his strength. With the loss of his spiritual perception, material ambitions increased, and the desire for conquest was born. Men yearned after that which they had not earned, and gazed with covetous eyes upon the goods of others.
The rulers of the State were corrupted by the common evil; the ten kings were no longer friends; they no longer conferred together in the temple of Poseidon to decide all matters under the common oath. Thus was the great league dissolved by selfishness and ambition. It was then that war came into being, and with it tyranny and oppression, and despotism and the exploitation of peoples.
At last the kings of Atlantis decided to use their common power to enslave all the peoples of the earth. They gathered a vast army and attacked Europe from the sea, even going so far as to besiege the Athenian States. And so they broke the law of the gods; for the twelve deities had so divided the earth that to each race and nation was given its proper part.
Zeus, father of the gods, who carries in his hand the thunderbolts of divine retribution, perceived the evil of the time, and resolved to punish the arrogance of the Atlanteans. But even Olympus is a commonwealth, and the other eleven gods were summoned to the council hall of the immortals.
“When all the gods had assembled in conference, Zeus arose among them and addressed them thus–” … it is with this line that Plato’s story of Atlantis ends; and the words of Zeus remain unknown.
But the results of the conference are not left in doubt. Zeus hurled his thunderbolts against the empire of the sea, shaking it with earthquakes and then destroying it by horrible combustion. The only records that remained were in vague traditions and two columns set up under the temple at Sais. The destruction of Atlantis can be interpreted politically as the breaking up of the ideal pattern of government.
So complete was this destruction, that men forgot there is a better way of life, and since have accepted the evils of war and crime and poverty as inevitable. The world lost too all sense of its own unity; each man’s hand was thereafter raised against his neighbor. The perfect state disappeared under a deluge of politics; the priests of Poseidon gave way to the priesthood of Mammon.
Plato’s political vision was for the restoration of the Empire of the Golden Age. The old ways of the gods must be restored, he was convinced, if human beings are to be preserved from the corruptions which they have brought upon themselves. Plato sought this end when he established his university at Athens–the first school of formal education in history. Here men were taught the great truths of religion, philosophy, science, and politics, to restore to them the vision of the perfect State.
Excerpt from The Secret Destiny of America
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