Part 1: The Solid Earth Hypothesis
Part 2: The Hollow Earth Hypothesis
Part 3: Polar Puzzles
Part 4: Mythology, Paradise and the Inner World
1. The Imperishable Sacred Land
2. Shambhala and Agharta
3. A northern paradise
4. Inner kingdoms
Theosophy teaches that a series of seven root-races or humanities will develop during the present fourth round of the earth’s evolution. The first humanity is said to have appeared in the mid-Palaeozoic, about 150 million years ago (according to the theosophical timescale), and we are currently in the fifth. Each lives on its own ‘continent’, a word referring not only to the main continental area where the evolution of a root-race takes place but also to all the dry land that exists during the life-period a particular root-race. Just as the root-races overlap, so parts of the continents of one root-race become incorporated into the continental system of the next.1
The first continent is known as the Imperishable Sacred Land and is the most mysterious of the seven continents. It is said to be located in the region of the north pole.
This ‘Sacred Land’ ... is stated never to have shared the fate of the other continents; because it is the only one whose destiny it is to last from the beginning to the end of the Manvantara throughout each Round. It is the cradle of the first man and the dwelling of the last divine mortal, chosen as a Shishta for the future seed of humanity. Of this mysterious and sacred land very little can be said, except, perhaps, according to a poetical expression in one of the Commentaries, that the ‘polestar has its watchful eye upon it, from the dawn to the close of the twilight of “a day” of the GREAT BREATH’ [In India called ‘The Day of Brahma.’].2
The statement that the first continent never sinks or perishes is repeated many times, and this characteristic distinguishes it from the other continents.3
The first continent surrounded and included the north pole and extended somewhat southwards from the pole in seven different zones, like the leaves of a lotus. These zones included Greenland, Spitzbergen, Sweden, Norway and Siberia, together with other former land areas in the far north that have since been submerged. The central locality of the first continent was right at the north pole. H.P. Blavatsky writes:
If, then, the teaching is understood correctly, the first continent which came into existence capped over the whole North Pole like one unbroken crust, and remains so to this day, beyond that inland sea which seemed like an unreachable mirage to the few arctic travellers who perceived it.4
G. de Purucker drew attention to the phrase ‘If, then, the teaching is understood correctly’, and pointed out that Blavatsky was not permitted to give out all she had been taught.5
If the earth is hollow, as the review of The Hollow Globe by Lyon and Sherman in The Theosophist implies, then the first continent could refer to two different things: the polar land on the outer surface of the earth, and the sacred central land or ‘inner circle’ in the earth’s interior, which will continue to exist until the earth reaches the end of its life-period. Likewise, terms such as ‘the blessed land of eternal light and summer’ and ‘the land of the eternal sun’6 could refer either to the polar land at a time when the earth’s axis was more or less upright, or to the inner central land if the earth’s interior is self-luminous or contains a central sun.
Tibetan sacred texts speak of a mystical kingdom called Shambhala, hidden behind snow peaks somewhere north of Tibet, where the most sacred Buddhist teachings – the Kalachakra or Wheel of Time – are preserved. It is prophesied that a future king of Shambhala will come with a great army to free the world from barbarism and tyranny, and will usher in a golden age. Similarly, the Hindu Puranas say that a future world redeemer – the kalki-avatara, the tenth and final manifestation of Vishnu – will come from Shambhala. Both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions say it contains a magnificent central palace radiating a powerful, diamondlike light.
The mythical paradise of Shambhala is known under many different names:
It has been called the Forbidden Land, the Land of White Waters ..., the Land of Radiant Spirits, the Land of Living Fire, the Land of the Living Gods and the Land of Wonders. Hindus have known it as Aryavarsha, the land from which the Vedas come; the Chinese as Hsi Tien, the Western Paradise of Hsi Wang Mu, the Royal Mother of the West; the Russian Old Believers, a nineteenth-century Christian sect, knew it as Belovodye and the Kirghiz people as Janaidar. But throughout Asia it is best known by its Sanskrit name, Shambhala, meaning ‘the place of peace, of tranquillity,’ or as Chang Shambhala, northern Shambhala, the name Hindus use to distinguish it from an Indian town of the same name. ... [A]t the end of his life the Chinese Taoist teacher Lao-Tzu, returned to Shambhala, although he called it Tebu Land. ...
[I]t is regarded by most esoteric traditions as the true center of the planet, as the world’s spiritual powerhouse and the heartland of a brotherhood of adepts from every race and country who have been influential in every major religion, every scientific advance and every social movement in history.1
Buddhist texts say that Shambhala can be reached only by a long and difficult journey across a wilderness of deserts and mountains, and warn that only those who are called and have the necessary spiritual preparation will be able to find it; others will find only blinding storms, empty mountains or even death. One text says that the kingdom of Shambhala is round, but it is usually depicted as an eight-petalled lotus blossom – a symbol of the heart chakra. Indeed, an old Tibetan story states that ‘The kingdom of Shambhala is in your own heart.’ As Edwin Bernbaum points out, the guidebooks to Shambhala, whose puzzling directions are a mixture of realism and fantasy, can be read, on one level, as ‘instructions for taking an inner journey from the familiar world of the surface consciousness through the wilds of the subconscious to the hidden sanctuary of the superconscious’.2
The Land of Shambhala. In the centre are Mount Meru and the King’s palace,
surrounded by eight petal-shaped regions with their 96 principalities.
Nevertheless, the idea that Shambhala is also located in the material world is firmly rooted in Tibetan tradition. Opinions on where the kingdom might lie, however, differ markedly. Some Tibetans think it might be in Tibet, perhaps in the Kunlun mountains; more point toward the region around Mongolia and Sinkiang province of China; but most believe that Shambhala is in Siberia or some other part of Russia. Some lamas believe it is hidden in the desolate, uninhabited wastes of the Arctic. According to Lama Kunga Rimpoche, ‘Shambhala is probably at the North Pole, since the North Pole is surrounded by ice, and Shambhala is surrounded by ice mountains’. Finally, a few lamas believe that Shambhala exists outside the earth on another planet or in another ‘dimension’.3
Bernbaum once had a dream of going with a guide to the north pole. As they approached the pole, the air became warmer and the snow cover thinner until there was only grassy tundra, flowers and a balmy breeze. Finally they came to a round pond with a small island that had a pole right at the centre. He turned to his guide and protested, ‘But this is impossible! This can’t be the north pole; there’s supposed to be ice and snow up here.’ The guide merely pointed at the island and said with a smile, ‘There’s the pole.’ Bernbaum related his dream to Lama Chopgye Trichen Rimpoche, who remarked: ‘That may have been the entrance to Shambhala.’4
The Russian artist, philosopher and explorer Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) travelled through China and Mongolia to the borders of Tibet in 1925-1928. During a conversation with a lama, he was told: ‘Great Shambhala is far beyond the ocean. It is the mighty heavenly domain. It has nothing to do with our Earth. ... Only in some places, in the Far North, can you discern the resplendent rays of Shambhala.’ When pressed by Roerich, the lama conceded that the heavenly Shambhala had an earthly counterpart. Indeed, the expression ‘the resplendent rays of Shambhala’ seems to be a reference to the aurora that manifests in the polar region. But the lama also described Shambhala as a ‘far-off valley’, hidden in the midst of high mountains, with hot springs and rich vegetation.
The lama stated that the ruler of Shambhala is ‘ever vigilant in the cause of mankind’: he sees all the events of earth in his ‘magic mirror’ and ‘the might of his thought penetrates into far-off lands’. He continued: ‘Uncountable are the inhabitants of Shambhala. Numerous are the splendid new forces and achievements which are being prepared there for humanity.’ The lama confirmed that messengers from Shambhala are at work in the world, and that even the ruler himself sometimes appears in human form. He stressed that the secrets of Shambhala are well guarded, and that it is impossible for anybody to reach Shambhala unless their karma is ready and they are called.5
The modern theosophical tradition, too, recognizes that Shambhala is a real place:
Shambhala ..., although no erudite Orientalist has yet succeeded in locating it geographically, is an actual land or district, the seat of the greatest brotherhood of spiritual adepts and their chiefs on earth today. From Shambhala at certain times in the history of the world, or more accurately of our own fifth root-race, come forth the messengers or envoys for spiritual and intellectual work among men.
This Great Brotherhood has branches in various parts of the world, but Shambhala is the center or chief lodge. We may tentatively locate it in a little-known and remote district of the high tablelands of central Asia, more particularly in Tibet.6
It is surrounded by an akashic veil of invisibility; and an army of airplanes might fly over it and see it not. All the armies of all the nations on earth might pass it by and not know that it existed. ... It is quite an extensive tract of country. ... [I]n it are gathered some of the most valuable records of the human race ... There, surrounded by the greatest and most evolved human beings, the Silent Watcher of the Earth has his invisible abode.7
Shambhala, our ‘spiritual home’, is said in theosophy to comprise two localities on earth. One of them is ‘situated in the highlands of Asia, somewhere to the westward of the meridian line passing through Lhassa’.8 Long ago, this locality was a sacred island in a vast Central Asian inland sea, known as the ‘abyss of learning’ or ‘sea of knowledge’, and was accessible via subterranean passages. According to tradition, this place exists to this day as an oasis surrounded by the Gobi desert.9
But there is also another holy locality, alluded to in all the great exoteric religions:
this spot is the summit of what in the Hindu Puranas is called Shveta-dvipa, Mount Meru or Sumeru. It is the north pole of the earth, so chosen not for its geographical qualities, if such there be, but on account of its astronomical position. ... [I]t is the mystical north pole, geographically identical with the north pole of the earth, but mystically quite different ...10
In other words, Shambhala, in one of its meanings, is the Sacred Imperishable Land. Theosophical literature also states that there is an even higher Shambhala located in the sun, and that all these different localities are inhabited by classes of entities with which the human race is spiritually and intellectually connected.
Bearing in mind that the Central Asian Shambhala is said to be protected by an ‘akashic veil’ which renders it invisible and impenetrable, it is interesting to note that in the review of The Hollow Earth in The Theosophist, the reviewer suggests that explorers may have been prevented from penetrating further north into what was then suspected to be an open polar sea by ‘the exercise of some occult power’. This could be interpreted to mean that there is something in the northern polar region that is being concealed – not by a military/government conspiracy but by occult forces.
In hollow-earth lore, the inner world is sometimes called Agharta (also known as Agarttha or Agharti), which is supposedly the name of a subterranean kingdom in Tibetan mythology. In reality, there is no mention of this name in either Sanskrit or Tibetan literature. The myth of Agartha began in the 1870s; it was invented and promoted by three Western esotericists: Joseph-Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre (1842-1909), Ferdinand Ossendowski (1876-1945) and René Guénon (1886-1951).1
Saint-Yves claimed that ‘Agarttha’ was a Sanskrit word meaning ‘unassailable’; but the Sanskrit word with that meaning is agribhita. Agarttha, he said, was the name of a largely subterranean kingdom located in Asia, and it had 20 million inhabitants ruled by the ‘Sovereign Pontiff’, or ‘Brahatma’. Ossendowski called it ‘Agharti’ and said that its 800 million inhabitants were ruled by the ‘King of the World’, or ‘Brahytma’. He located it in the region between the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts, but stated that the subterranean system extended as far as the Americas. Guénon asserted that accounts of Agharta were widespread in Central Asia and Mongolia. The idea is a distorted echo of Shambhala, though many hollow-earthers believe that Shambhala (or ‘Shamballah’) is the name of a city in Agharta.
Max Fyfield’s ‘anything goes’ map of the hollow earth.
The diagram below was allegedly obtained during a German expedition to Tibet in the 1930s.2 Some hollow-earthers believe it shows the ‘Tibetan world of Agharta’.3 The diagram’s authenticity cannot be confirmed. It is one of a large number of reportedly formerly classified documents (in German and Russian) that the Russian UFO Research Station (RUFORS) received from an anonymous source in 2008/2009. Much of the material is very outlandish,4 and it has not attracted much interest outside conspiracist circles. Some researchers have declared the documents to be forgeries.5 According to certain documents, the Nazis learned from the Tibetans that the earth had a hollow interior and central sun, and they discovered a subterranean world, known as ‘Agartha’, beneath Antarctica, accessible by submarine.
For English, German and Russian versions of this diagram, and further analysis, click here.
It is well documented that some Nazis were interested in the hollow-earth theory. The main proponent was Peter Bender, a friend of Hermann Göring. Bender advocated the ‘Koreshan’ version of the theory: that we live on the concave inner surface of a hollow globe 8000 miles across (comprising the entire universe!); the sun is a small globe located at its centre, and the moon, planets and stars are smaller bright globes floating around it. This theory originated with Cyrus Teed (1839-1908), who attracted a huge following in the US. In 1942 an experiment was carried out with the aid of German military officers to test the theory by pointing a telescopic infrared camera skywards at an angle of 45° in an effort to photograph enemy warships located elsewhere on the earth’s inner surface. The experiment was a total failure, and Bender, his wife and several associates were sent to a death camp for making fools of themselves and the Nazi Reich.6
Traditions of a paradisiacal, primeval land in the far north are universal. Sometimes this sacred land is said to be located in the ‘centre’ or ‘navel’ of the earth. In one sense, this refers to the north pole, which appears to be in the ‘centre’ of the earth if the planet is viewed from above the pole. But clearly such expressions could also refer to the earth’s interior. The northern paradise is often associated with a world tree, a world mountain or pillar from which four rivers emerge, and a world-engirdling serpent. The pillar, mountain or tree links our own ‘middle earth’ with the upper and lower worlds.1 All these symbolic features can be interpreted on different levels – terrestrial, astronomical and spiritual.
In Hindu mythology Meru* is the mystical mountain at the centre of the world, where Indra, king of the gods, has his jewelled palace. Victoria LePage points out that ‘Mount Meru is conceived of as the earth’s navel as well as its central staff, its source of life and power spreading out from the central region to the eight outer zones, and from thence to the world.’2 The symbolism here is derived from embryology: just as the embryo grows from the navel outwards, so does the earth. ‘Meru’ actually has several different meanings, including a mountain in Asia, the north geographical pole, the north celestial pole, the earth’s spin axis, the world axis connecting earth to higher realms, and the cerebrospinal axis of the human body.
*Like the Egyptians and the Akkadians, the Indians conceived of two opposed polar mounts: the arctic Meru, known as Sumeru (su = good, beautiful), was the dwelling of the gods, and the antarctic Meru, or Kumeru (ku = bad, miserable), was the dwelling of the demons.
Meru, the Olympus of the Indians, is said to be situated in the centre or navel of the earth. It was guarded by serpents, which ‘watched the entrance to the realm of Secret Knowledge’. According to tradition, it was the ‘land of bliss’ of the earliest Vedic times. Occult teachings ‘place it in the very centre of the North Pole, pointing it out as the site of the first continent on our earth, after the solidification of the globe’.3 In the ancient astronomical text Surya-Siddhanta (12:34), Meru is described as ‘passing through the middle of the earth-globe, and protruding on either side’.4 According to H.P. Blavatsky, ‘Meru is not “the fabulous mountain in the navel or centre of the earth,” but its roots and foundations are in that navel, though it is in the far north itself. This connects it with the “central” land “that never perishes” ...’5
Just as the human body contains a series of chakras, or subtle energy centres, linked by the sushumna, a central channel in the spinal cord, so there may be corresponding energy centres on and in the body of the earth. Shambhala is sometimes described as the main power centre, with auxiliary centres scattered about the globe.6 In theosophy, the heart of mother earth is said to beat ‘under the foot of sacred Shambhala’, and we are told:
Occult teaching corroborates the popular tradition which asserts the existence of a fountain of life in the bowels of the earth and in the North Pole. It is the blood of the earth, the electro-magnetic current, which circulates through all the arteries; and which is said to be found stored in the ‘navel’ of the earth.7
This inner reservoir of physical and psychospiritual life-forces may correspond in one sense to the root-chakra (muladhara chakra) in the human body, situated at the base of the spine. From this viewpoint, Meru represents the central duct or path of terrestrial kundalini or shakti running through the earth.8
Some Hebrew legends speak of a place called Luz – an underground city near a sacred mountain called the ‘abode of immortality’. An almond tree, named luz in Hebrew, grew near it, a hollow in its roots leading down to the underground centre. René Guénon saw this as another version of the archetypal mountain/tree/cave complex symbolizing Shambhala. He stated that the real significance of Luz is that it corresponds in planetary terms to the muladhara chakra, whose kabalistic name in Hebrew is luz. The name derives from a root word denoting that which is concealed, secret and silent; it also connotes a kernel – the innermost part of the almond. The most common iconographic depiction of Shambhala is similar to the four-spoked muladhara chakra, the subtle ‘earth-centre’ in the human body.9
In his book Paradise Found, William Warren writes:
[T]he earliest inhabitants of the Tigro-Euphrates basin located ‘the Centre of the Earth,’ not in their own midst, but in a far-off land, of sacred associations, where ‘the holy house of god’ is situated, – a land ‘into the heart whereof man hath not penetrated;’ a place underneath the ‘overshadowing world-tree,’ and beside the ‘full waters.’ No description could more perfectly identify the spot with the Arctic Pole of ancient Asiatic mythology.10
In The Chaldean Account of Genesis, we read: ‘[H]uman beings ... the great gods created, and in the earth the gods created for them a dwelling. ... [I]n the midst of the earth they grew up and became great, and increased in number, Seven kings, brothers of the same family ...’ Iranian, Indian, Chinese, Scandinavian and Aztec literature also refers to this ambiguous location at ‘the centre of the earth’.11
The Japanese paradise was situated ‘on the top of the globe’ and at the same time ‘at the centre of the earth’. It was called the ‘island of the congealed drop’. Its first roof-pillar was the earth’s axis, and over it was the pivot of the vault of heaven. Similarly, the Chinese terrestrial paradise, round in form, is described not only as at the centre of the earth, but also as directly under Shang-te’s heavenly palace, which is declared to be in the polestar, and is sometimes called the ‘palace of the centre’. The Egyptians located their Ta Neter, or land of the gods, in the extreme north.12 Today there is an echo of these ancient traditions in the fact that children send notes to Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, in his ‘wonderland’ at the north pole, asking for gifts.
The Eskimos have legends that they came from a fertile land of perpetual sunshine in the north. They believe that after death the soul descends beneath the earth, first to an abode rather like purgatory, but good souls then descend further to a place of perfect bliss where the sun never sets.13 In Psalm 48:2 of the Bible, Mount Zion is said to be ‘in the far north’, and in Ezekiel (28:13-14) Eden, ‘the garden of God’, is placed on the ‘holy mountain of God’. In Hebrew tradition, the primeval Eden is sometimes said to be at the ‘centre of the earth’.14 In his Divine Comedy, Dante located hell in the earth’s interior, in line with medieval theology. However, 16th-century writers like Guillaume Postel and Georg Braun suggested that God made the earthly paradise inaccessible to humanity by placing it beneath the north pole.15
According to the Hindu Kurma Purana, an island called Shveta-Dvipa, or White Island, lay in the northern sea, the paradisiacal homeland of great yogis possessing supreme wisdom and learning.16 Blavatsky writes: ‘According to Tibetan tradition the White Island is the only locality which escapes the general fate of other dwipas and can be destroyed by neither fire nor water, for – it is the “eternal land”.’17
North of the Himalayas, possibly in the Tarim Basin, lay Uttarakuru or northern Kuru, a version of Shambhala which the Mahabharata describes as the blissful land of the sages towards which Arjuna, the warrior prince of the Bhagavad-Gita, travelled in search of enlightenment. It is described as a place of marvels where magic fruit trees yield the nectar of immortality. It is said to be one of four regions surrounding Mount Meru like the four petals of a lotus and to be the homeland of the siddhas, enlightened yogis famed for their miraculous powers.18
Greek mythology speaks of a mysterious northern yet ever-springlike land called Hyperborea (‘beyond the north wind’), situated beyond the mountains – in some accounts situated under the north pole – to which Apollo journeyed in his chariot of swans.19 There the true ‘omphalos’ or navel of the earth was located. For the Orphics, the island of Electris, the seat of the gods, lies under the polestar in the furthest waters of Tethys.20 The Mandean Gnostics believed that an ideal earth, an earth of light peopled by a divine race of superhumans, was situated in the north, separated from our world by a high mountain of ice. It is said to exist ‘between heaven and earth’, and Henry Corbin concludes that it does not refer to the north of our globe but to the ‘cosmic north’, i.e. superphysical realms.21 But, like Shambhala, it might also have an earthly counterpart.
The Avestan term ‘Airyanem Vaejah’ (Pahlavi: Eran-Vej) designates the cradleland of the Aryan-Iranians, located not in any of the earth’s seven climates, but at the centre of the central zone, the eighth climate.22 It was there that Yima, the ‘first man’, received the command to construct a vara, or enclosure, where the most highly developed humans, animals and plants would be gathered in order to save them from the deadly winter unleashed by the demonic powers so that they might one day refurbish a transfigured world. This vara or paradise had a gate and luminescent windows which secreted an inner light within, for it was illuminated by both uncreated and created lights. Its various meanings include a subterranean sanctuary, an ark and the human body.23
Airyanem Vaejah, the ‘primeval land of bliss’, appears to be identical to Shveta-Dvipa, Mount Meru, the Sacred Imperishable Land and Shambhala (in its several meanings).24 Blavatsky quotes Fargard 1:2 of the Vendidad, where ‘we find Ahura-Mazda saying to Spitama “the most benevolent” – that he made every land dear to its dwellers, since otherwise the “whole living world would have invaded the Airyana-Vaego”’.25 According to Fargard 2:40, ‘The one thing missed there is the sight of the stars, the moon, and the sun, and a year seems only as a day.’26
As with the idea of a paradisiacal cradleland of humanity at the north pole, references to networks of caverns and tunnels and/or an inner world within the earth are commonplace in the world’s religions, myths, legends and folklore. The attributes assigned to the underworld range from heavenly to hellish, and its inhabitants likewise range from superhuman to subhuman. Myths and legends generally embody multiple levels of meaning, and the underworld can also refer to nonphysical planes of reality.
During his travels in Asia, Nicholas Roerich spent a lot of time studying local folklore, which included tales of lost tribes or subterranean dwellers. Numerous legends in Central Asia ‘outline the same story of how the best people abandoned the treacherous earth and sought salvation in hidden countries where they acquired new forces and conquered powerful energies’.1 While crossing the Karakorum pass, his Ladakhi guide said to him: ‘Do you know that in the subterranean caves here many treasures are hidden and that in them lives a wonderful tribe which abhors the sins of the earth?’
And again when we approached Khotan the hoofs of our horses sounded hollow as though we rode above caves or hollows. Our caravan people called our attention to this, saying, ‘Do you hear what hollow subterranean passages we are crossing? Through these passages, people who are familiar with them can reach far-off countries.’ When we saw entrances of caves, our caravaneers told us, ‘Long ago people lived there; now they have gone inside; they have found a subterranean passage to the subterranean kingdom. Only rarely do some of them appear again on earth. ...’
Great is the belief in the Kingdom of the subterranean people. Through all Asia, through the space of all deserts, from the Pacific to the Urals, you can hear the same wondrous tale of the vanished holy people. And even far beyond the Ural Mountains, the echo of the same tale will reach you.2
There is rumoured to be a vast underground network of caves and tunnels under the whole of Central Asia, with many passages radiating out from the spiritual hub of Shambhala.3 According to popular belief, there are numerous secret subterranean passages beneath India, whose entrances are guarded by elementals which assume the shape of rocks or other natural features. For instance, Varanasi (Benares), whose ancient name is Kashi, is said to be connected by a tunnel to Gupta Kashi (‘gupta’ = secret, hidden), an underground city in the Himalayas, about 50 miles from Badrinath.4 The mahatmas speak of ‘the inner subterranean recesses of L’Hassa’, the capital of Tibet.5
Mesoamerica and South America have long been rumoured to be honeycombed with long, mysterious tunnels, some of them running for hundreds of miles, from Columbia in the north through Peru and Bolivia to Chile in the south, and to the Amazon jungle in the east. Only a few sections of these tunnels have so far been discovered.6 H.P. Blavatsky mentions an immense tunnel running from Cuzco to Lima in Peru, and then extending south into Bolivia.7 In Egypt, a vast subterranean world is traditionally believed to extend from the catacombs of Alexandria to Thebes’ Valley of the Kings. The subterranean crypts of Thebes were known as the serpent’s catacombs, the serpent being a symbol of wisdom and immortality.8
Many Native American peoples believe that their ancestors originated in a joyous subterranean realm, or took refuge in caverns to escape past cataclysms. The Cherokee Indians speak of a subterranean world much like our own, with mountains, rivers, trees and people.9 The Aztecs said their ancestors came from a land called Aztlan, and that after escaping its destruction they ended up in a cavern called Chicomoztoc, or the Seven Cavern Cities of Gold, where they lived before emerging to the surface world.10 The Mexican demi-god Votan describes a subterranean passage, a ‘snake’s hole’, which runs underground and terminates at the root of the heavens; he himself was allowed to enter it because he was a ‘son of the snakes’.11
The Hopi Indians hold their rituals in an underground chamber known as the kiva.
In the center of the kiva, on the altar level and directly below the roof opening, is the sunken fire pit in which a fire is lighted in the New Fire Ceremony ..., for life began with fire. Next to it is the small hole in the floor called the sipapuni. Etymologically derived from the two words for ‘navel’ and ‘path from,’ the sipapuni thus denotes the umbilical cord leading from Mother Earth and symbolizes the path of man’s Emergence from the previous underworld. ... The ladder represents the reed up which man climbed during his Emergence ...12
The Hopis believe there has been a succession of four worlds. The first world was destroyed by fire, the second by a poleshift, and the third by flooding. Some chosen people were saved from the disasters that destroyed the first two worlds by taking refuge underground, and some survived the destruction of the third world by being sealed inside hollow reeds. The Pima Indians speak of the emergence into our world being effected through a spiral hole that was bored up to the earth’s surface.13
Legends of ancestral origins in subterranean lands are also found in Africa and Australia. Australian aborigines believe their ancestors came up out of the ground, travelled about the country and created new tribes, then ‘ultimately journeyed away beyond the confines of their territory, or went down into the ground again’. According to the native traditions of the Caroline Islands, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, a subterranean race of giants went underground in ancient times. Once inhabitants of the lost continent of Chamat, they will one day ‘emerge and remake the world’. Natives of the Trobiand Islands believe that their ancestors emerged from a subterranean existence through a special hole. Tribes in Bengal and Burma (Myanmar) also believe their ancestors emerged from a subterranean world.14
In Hindu mythology there are many tales of the Nagas, a race of semi-divine serpent-people, who ruled a subterranean kingdom, Patala, filled with incredible wealth. Patala was said to be the lowest of the seven regions of the Indian underworld. These regions are collectively called Bila-svarga, the ‘subterranean heaven’, which is described as a place of great beauty. The sun and moon cannot be seen there, but the jewels decorating the hoods of the Nagas are said to emit an effulgence that illuminates the entire region of Bila-svarga. Few mortals were ever allowed to enter the lower world, but there were said to be many hidden entrances in the mountains of India and Kashmir.15 In Tibet there is a major mystical shrine called Patala, which is said to lie above an ancient cavern and tunnel system, extending throughout the Asian continent and possibly beyond. The Nagas are related to the Rakshasas, an underworld race of ‘demons’, who possess a ‘magical stone’ or ‘third eye’ in the middle of the forehead.
In China, the Lung Wang (dragon kings) closely resemble the Nagas in many respects. They are said to dwell either in the ‘celestial realm’, i.e. the stars and planets, or beneath the surface of the earth. They, too, possess a ‘magical pearl’ in their foreheads, a mystical or divine eye or source of power. Like the Nagas, some of the entrances to their palaces or kingdoms can be found beneath lakes and rivers or behind waterfalls.16 According to an ancient Chinese record, the Twelve Branches, all things began to germinate in the hidden recesses of the underworld. In the Ten Stems, it is said that at the ninth stem, light begins to nourish all things in the recesses below.17
The Egyptian underworld or kingdom of the dead was called the Duat (or Tuat), ruled by Osiris.18 Within the Duat were the Fields of Peace, which the Greeks equated with the Elysian Fields. In Old Kingdom times the Duat was commonly supposed to be situated somewhere under the earth. In this airless, waterless and lightless place dwelt both the blessed and the damned. The kingdom of Osiris was also placed in the west, where the dead sun-god of the day passed at night. In addition, the Duat denoted the sky region dominated by the constellations of Orion, Taurus and Leo, and divided by the ‘winding waterway’ or Milky Way.
The Duat is sometimes described as the ‘reversed world’ or ‘inverted precinct’,19 and in the Pyramid Texts we read: ‘O Osiris the King, I am Isis; I have come into the middle of this earth, into the place where you are.’20 Osiris was the Egyptian phoenix, which was ‘the bringer of the life-giving essence, the hike, a concept akin to our idea of magic, which the great cosmic bird carried to Egypt from a distant and magical land beyond the earthly world’. This was the ‘Isle of Fire’, ‘the place of everlasting light beyond the limits of the world, where the gods were born or revived and whence they were sent into the world’. This is a reference to the Duat.21
The Duat, or Hidden Place, was sometimes conceived as a completely enclosed Circle of the Gods, formed by the body of Osiris. At the head-point there was an opening to the skies symbolized by the goddess Nut, through which the imperishable star (symbolized by the celestial disk) could be reached (see below).22
The Egyptian god Aker was the ‘chief of the gate of the Abyss’, which was the netherworld but also the ‘realm of the sun’.23
The Celtic Otherworld was variously known as the Land of the Dead, the Land of the Living, the Land of Many Colours, the Promised Land, the Delightful Plain, the Land of Youth, the Land of Summer, and the Land under the Wave. In most of the stories, it was viewed as a pleasant land located somewhere beneath the sea, but in others it was to be found beneath the hills or entered via ancient burial mounds.24 As in other traditions, the Celtic underworld is associated with cauldrons. In the Mabinogion, the land of Annwn (‘unplumbed’ or ‘bottomless’), the Welsh underworld, contains a mystical cauldron which can restore the dead to life once more if they are submerged in it and brought out again.25
The Ancient Greek poet Pindar wrote: ‘Happy is he who, having seen these rites [the Eleusinian mysteries], goes below the hollow earth; for he knows the end of life and he knows its god-sent beginning.’26 In the Critias (120), Plato says that the ‘holy habitation of Zeus’ is situated ‘in the centre of the world’.27 In The Republic (part 4), he says that Apollo, the traditional interpreter of religious matters, delivers his interpretation ‘from his seat at the earth’s centre’.28 William Warren adds:
His real home is among ‘the Hyperboreans,’ in a land of almost perpetual light ... According to Hecataeus, Leto, the mother of Apollo and his sister Artemis, was born on an island in the Arctic Ocean, ‘beyond the North wind.’ Moreover, on this island ... Apollo is unceasingly worshiped in a huge round temple ...29
In the Phaedo Plato speaks of many cavities and ‘wonderful regions’ in the earth, and of subterranean flows of water, mud and fire.
One of the cavities in the earth is not only larger than the rest, but pierces right through from one side to the other. It is of this that Homer speaks when he says ‘Far, far away, where lies earth’s deepest chasm’; while elsewhere both he and many other poets refer to it as Tartarus.30
In his Protagoras (320d) Plato says that when the cycle came for ‘mortal creatures’ to be formed, the gods fashioned them from the elements of earth and fire ‘in the interior of the earth’.31
In the Greek view, the lands of the living were divided from Tartarus, the land of the dead, by fierce obstacles, rivers, and bodies of water or fire. The greatest of these was Oceanus, which not only comprised all the seas of the world, but was also the largest of the ‘rivers’ which the Greeks believed swept into and through Tartarus, to emerge from the underworld on the opposite side of the earth. Other subterranean torrents included Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and the Styx, the river of death. Tartarus was said to ‘sink twice as far below the earth as the earth was beneath the sky’, and to be bounded by many perils. As well as being the home of the dethroned gods called the Titans, it contained a variety of regions or kingdoms, ranging from the Elysian Fields to the many grottoes, caverns and pits of torment reserved for the damned.32
The 1st-century Roman philosopher Seneca spoke of people who ‘forced their way into the caverns’ and entered the bowels of the earth, ‘penetrating to the deepest hiding places’, where they saw ‘great rushing rivers, and vast still lakes’, a world where ‘the whole of nature was reversed. The land hung above their heads, while winds whistled hollowly in the shadows, while in the depths, frightful rivers led nowhere into perpetual and alien night.’33 He also wrote: ‘A time will come in later years when the Ocean will unloosen the bands of things, when the immeasurable earth will lie open, and Thule will no longer be the extreme point among the lands.’34 Clearly nothing on the earth’s surface could lie further north than Ultima Thule (the Land of the Ultimate North).
The Scandinavian and Germanic peoples envisioned the world as an immense yew or ash tree, the limbs and roots of which spread into a variety of realms or planes of existence. The World Tree, Yggdrasil, plunged its deep roots into several subterranean kingdoms, which all bordered a vast primordial void called Ginnungagap. One root of Yggdrasil led into Niflheim, the land of the dead. As in the Greek underworld, many waters flowed out from the depths and into the human world; in Niflheim it was the spring/river Hvergelmir (meaning ‘roaring cauldron’), which boiled and churned relentlessly. The 11 tributaries of the Hvergelmir emptied into the central void of Ginnungagap. The second of Yggdrasil’s roots found its way into the lands of the gods, Asgard and Vanaheim. While often pictured as a land high in Yggdrasil’s branches, this realm was a subterranean one as well. In fact, the only world of Norse cosmology that is not in some sense subterranean is that of Midgard (middle earth), the surface world. Bifrost, the ‘rainbow bridge’, stretched from Midgard across Ginnungagap into Asgard.35
The Scandinavian tree of life (Yggdrasil), growing on the cosmic mountain.
In the Elder Edda, Odin says: ‘No one has ever known or will ever know the vastness of the roots of that ancient tree.’ This is a reference not only to the created world and heavens, but also to the root-like cavern system beneath the surface world. Also issuing from the depths of the World Tree was the titanic world-serpent or ouroboros which encircled the earth and held its tail in its teeth. It was called ‘the girdle of the world’, and its writhings beneath the sea were one of the sources of storms and earthquakes. The main entrance to the subterranean realms lay in the north. Similarly, the Greeks believed that one of the entrances to Tartarus lay beyond Hyperborea, and the entrance to the Finnish underworld lay north of Lapland, where the earth and sky met.
In the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, the underworld or ‘Great Below’ was a place of immense size and great terror, filled with a wide range of beings, including spirits, the undead, humanoids and savage guardians. In his search for everlasting life, Gilgamesh first had to reach the mountain of Mashu, connected with the heavens above and the netherworld below. Having been allowed to enter the ‘gate’, he descended into the bowels of the earth through 12 double-hours of darkness before reaching ‘an enclosure as of the gods’, filled with brilliance, where there was a garden made entirely of precious stones.36 According to Diodorus Siculus, the Chaldees imagined the earth to have the form of a round boat turned upside down and to be hollow underneath.37
The Bible describes the underworld or hell as a ‘bottomless pit’ (Revelation 9:1-2) and ‘the abyss’ (Romans 10:7), a place of punishment and misery, the abode of Satan and his demons. Other references to subterranean realms and life include the following:
... at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth ... (Philippians 2:10, Revised Standard Version)
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it ... (Revelation 5:3)
In saying, ‘He [Christ] ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? (Ephesians 4:9)
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)
Jesus refers to this place as ‘Eden’ or paradise. Some hollow-earthers have read into the following quotation a reference to the alleged polar hole in the Arctic:
He stretches out the north over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing. (Job 26:7)
In the apocryphal Book of Enoch,38 Enoch speaks of proceeding to ‘the middle of the earth’, where he beheld a ‘blessed land’, ‘happy and fertile’ (25:1, 26:1). An angel shows him ‘the first and last secrets in heaven above, and in the depths of the earth: In the extremities of heaven, and in the foundations of it, and in the receptacle of the winds’ (59:2-3). There are said to be cavities in the earth and ‘mighty waters’ under it (65:1, 87:5, 95:2). Enoch sees an abyss ‘opened in the midst of the earth, which was full of fire’ (89:34); the abyss is said to be ‘on the right side of the earth’, which, according to Blavatsky, can mean in the north.39 There is also a reference to seven great rivers, four of which ‘take their course in the cavity of the north’ (76:6-7).
On Easter Island (Rapa Nui) the creator of the world and of life was called Make-Make. According to legend, ‘Make-Make rolled earth into a ball, thrust his hand into the middle of it to make a hole then breathed into the hole. A young man, He Repa, came out of it.’40
Finally, the following passage from The Secret Doctrine contains several enigmatic statements referring to the far north and possibly to the inner earth. Speaking of the Kaf mountains of Persian legend, Blavatsky writes:
Whatever they may be in their geographical status, whether they are the Caucasian or Central Asian mountains, it is far beyond these mountains to the North, that legend places the Daevas [giants] and Peris; the latter the remote ancestors of the Parsis or Farsis. Oriental tradition is ever referring to an unknown glacial, gloomy sea, and to a dark region, within which, nevertheless, are situated the Fortunate Islands, wherein bubbles, from the beginning of life on earth, the fountain of life. But the legend asserts, moreover, that a portion of the first dry island (continent), having detached itself from the main body, has remained, since then, beyond the mountains of Koh-Kaf, ‘the stony girdle that surrounds the world.’ A journey of seven months’ duration will bring him who is possessed of ‘Sulayman’s ring’ to that ‘fountain,’ if he keeps on journeying North straight before him as the bird flies. Journeying therefore from Persia straight north, will bring one along the sixtieth degree of longitude, holding to the west, to Novaya Zemlya; and from the Caucasus to the eternal ice beyond the Arctic circle would land one between 60 and 45 degrees of longitude, or between Novaya Zemlya and Spitzbergen. This, of course, if one has the dodecapedian horse of [King] Hoshang or the winged Simurgh [a marvellous bird, the Persian phoenix] of Tahmurath (or Taimuraz) [third king of Persia], upon which to cross over the Arctic Ocean.*
*[The Caucasian bards] say that it requires seven months for a swift horse to reach the ‘dry land’ beyond Kaf, holding north without ever deviating from one’s way.
Nevertheless, the wandering songsters of Persia and the Caucasus will maintain, to this day, that far beyond the snow-capped summits of Kap, or Caucasus, there is a great continent now concealed from all. That it is reached by those who can secure the services of the twelve-legged progeny of the crocodile and the female hippopotamus, whose legs become at will twelve wings*; or by those who have the patience to wait for the good pleasure of Simurgh-anke, who promised that before she dies she will reveal the hidden continent to all, and make it once more visible and within easy reach, by means of a bridge, which the Ocean Daevas will build between that portion of the ‘dry island’ and its severed parts.** This relates, of course, to the seventh race, Simurgh being the Manvantaric cycle.
*Bailly thought he saw in this horse a twelve-oared ship. ... But the ‘horse’ [has] a more occult primitive meaning. The crocodile and the hippopotamus ... represented divine symbols ... Poseidon is, in Homer, the God of the Horse, and assumes that form himself to please Ceres. Arion, their progeny, is one of the aspects of that ‘horse,’ which is a cycle.
**The severed parts must be Norway and other lands in the neighbourhood of the Arctic Circle.
It is very curious that Cosmas Indicopleustes, who lived in the sixth century A.D., should have always maintained that man was born, and dwelt at first in a country beyond the Ocean, a proof of which had been given him in India, by a learned Chaldean ... He says: ‘The lands we live in are surrounded by the ocean, but beyond that ocean there is another land which touches the walls of the sky; and it is in this land that man was created and lived in paradise. During the Deluge, Noah was carried in his ark into the land his posterity now inhabits.’ The twelve-legged horse of Hoshang was found on that continent named the dry island.
The ‘Christian topography’ of Cosmas Indicopleustes and its merits are well known; but here the good father repeats a universal tradition, now, moreover, corroborated by facts. Every arctic traveller suspects a continent or a ‘dry island’ beyond the line of eternal ice.41
Yet no such island or continent in the far north has yet been discovered – on the earth’s outer surface.
Mysteries of the Inner Earth: Contents
Theosophy and the hollow earth
Tibetan diagram of the hollow earth?