The black art of Atlantis
For some time after Kelson and Curtis had left him, Hamar lolled back in his seat, lost in thought. Thought, as he told himself repeatedly, should be the poor man's chief recreation—it costs nothing: and if one wants a little variety, and the walls of one's rooms are tolerably thick, one can think aloud. Hamar often did, and derived much enjoyment from it.
"I'm convinced of one thing," he suddenly broke out; "I'd rather be hungry than cold. One can, in a measure, cheat one's stomach by chewing leather or sucking pebbles, but I'll be hanged if one can kid one's liver. It's cold that does me! A touch of cold on the liver! I could jog along comfortably on few dollars for food—but it's a fire, a fire I want! The temperature of this room is infernally low after sunset: and half a dozen coats and three pairs of pants don't make up for half a grateful of fuel. Hunger only makes me think of suicide—but cold—cold and a chilled liver—makes me think of crime. Yes, it's cold! Cold that would make me a criminal. I would steal—burgle—housebreak—cut the sweetest lady's throat in Christendom—for a fire!
"There! that little outbreak has relieved me. Now let me have a look at the book."
He dragged the volume towards him, and despite the feeling of antagonism with which it had inspired him, and despite the cynical attitude he had, up to the present, adopted towards the supernatural, he speedily became engrossed. On a few leaves, somewhat clumsily inserted between the cover and first page of the book, Hamar read an account, presumably in the author's own penmanship, of how he, Thomas Maitland, after being shipwrecked, had remained on Inisturk Island for a fortnight before being rescued, and had spent the greater portion of that time in examining the books, etc., in the chest he had found—his only food—shell-fish and a keg of mildewy ship's biscuits.
He was taken, so the account ran, by his rescuers, on the barque Hannah, to London, where he lived for five years. His lodgings were in Cheapside, and it was there that he compiled his work on Atlantis, having obtained his subject matter from the Atlantean books he had managed to bring with him, and which, after an enormous amount of perseverance and labour, he had translated into English. Though these books were subsequently destroyed in a big fire that demolished the entire street, luckily for him, he had sent his MS. to the publishers, Messrs. Bettesworth and Batley, a week or so before the conflagration broke out; so that he was, at any rate, spared the loss of his own arduous and invaluable work.
The publishers did not accept the MS. at once. At that time there were very severe laws in operation against anything savouring of witchcraft and magic, and as the manuscript dealt at length with these subjects, and in a manner that left no doubt whatever that he, Thomas Maitland, had practised sorcery extensively, Messrs. Bettesworth and Batley were forced to consider whether it would be injurious to them to publish it. Mrs. Bettesworth was eventually consulted—as indeed she always was, on extraordinary occasions—and her interest in the MS. being roused, she decided in its favour. Within a week of its publication, however, it was suppressed by law; all the copies saving three presentation ones to the author, which he successfully concealed, were destroyed; Messrs. Bettesworth and Batley were put in the stocks on Ludgate Hill and fined heavily, and he, Thomas Maitland, was ordered to be arrested, flogged and imprisoned.
"But," wrote Maitland, "I was not to be caught napping. My previous adventures and hairbreadth escapes had rendered me unusually wary, and perceiving a number of people, among whom were two or three sheriff's officers, approaching my house, I at once interpreted their mission, and climbing through a trap-door leading on to the roof of the building, nimbly made my way to the end of the row, and slipping down a waterpipe easily eluded my enemies. London, however, being now too hot to hold me, I booked passage on board the Peterkin, a Thames trading vessel of some eighty tons, and sailed for Boston. My flight had been so hasty that I brought very little with me—nothing in fact except the clothes I stood in—a stout winter suit of home-spun brown cloth, a cloak, and a pair of good, strong leather leggings—a purse of fifty sovereigns (all I had), a knife, pistol and two copies of my precious book, the third copy, alas! I had left behind in my hurry."
After giving a few unimportant details as to his life on board ship, Maitland went on to say:
"Owing to a succession of storms the Peterkin was driven out of her course, and after narrowly escaping being dashed to pieces on the Florida reefs, Lat. 24½° N., Long. 82° W., we ran ashore with the loss of only two lives—the second mate and cabin boy—on the Isthmus of Yucatan, close to the estuary of a river. Here we were forced to spend nearly a year, during which time I made several journeys of exploration into the interior of the continent. In the course of one of my rambles amid a dense mass of tropical foliage, I suddenly found myself face to face with a gigantic stone Sphinx, which I at once recognized and identified. It was Tat-Nuada, an Atlantean deity, elaborately described in one of the burned books. Much excited, I set to work, and, after clearing the base of the idol of fungi and other vegetable growth adhering to it, discovered a superscription in Atlantean dialect to the effect that the image had been set up there by one Hullir—to commemorate the destruction of Atlantis, of which catastrophe Hullir believed himself and his family, i. e. his wife Ozilmeave and daughters, Taramoo and Nikétoth, and the crew of his yacht, the Chaac-molré (ten in number), the sole survivors.
"Here, then, to my unutterable joy, was strong corroborative evidence of the great disaster narrated in detail in the manuscripts I had found in Inisturk Island. The existence of Atlantis was now thoroughly substantiated. On all sides of me I stumbled across further evidences of these early settlers. Here, standing in bold outline on a slight eminence, was a stone edifice adorned with symbolical carvings of eggs, harps, mastodons, triangles, and numerous other objects, all of which were capable of interpretation, and indicated that the building was a temple to some god.
"I was much struck by the extraordinary similarity in many of the things I saw—notably in the sphinx, idols and symbols—to many I had seen in Egypt, and to some extent in Ireland, and I at once set to work to draw up a careful analogy between the languages of those countries.
"The word Banchicheisi I found to contain the Celtic ban, a barrow; and Coptic isi, plenty; whilst I recognized in the words Coulmenes, the Celtic Coul, a man's name, i. e. Finn, son of Coul; in Thottirnanoge, the Coptic Thoth, i. e. name of ancient Egyptian deity, and Erse Tirnanoge, the name of the wife of Oisin, the last of the Feni; in Chaac-molrée the Coptic deity, ré; in Ozilmeave, the Celtic Meave, a girl's name; in Taramoo, the Celtic Tara, a girl's name; and in Nikétoth, toth, the Erse technical form of feminine gender; and comparing the alphabets I traced a very striking likeness between the Atlantean—
"and the Gaelic or Erse and the Coptic and Erse and many of the other letters. To the Atlantean
"I could, however, find no likeness.
"From all these similarities, i. e. in architecture, symbols, letters, and words, I could come to no other conclusion than that there was some strong connecting link between Atlantis and ancient Ireland and Egypt.
"Assuredly this great link could not have been merely due to stray survivors of the great catastrophe! Was it not much more probable that the earliest inhabitants of Ireland and Egypt had originally migrated from Atlantis, carrying its language, and ways and customs with them? Moreover, since the Atlanteans were so deeply versed in magic and everything appertaining to the occult, this migration would account for the mysticism that has always been so closely associated with Egypt and Ireland, and for the psychic faculty so strongly observable in the inhabitants of these two countries.
"I was highly satisfied—I had proved much and my discoveries had upset many of the theories advanced by the modern sages. I could now positively assert that the wisdom of the world came not from the East but from the West. It was to the golden West—to Banchicheisi, capital of Atlantis, that humanity owed its knowledge of the sciences and arts, and of all things good and evil. Eden, if Eden existed at all, was not in Asia, it was in Atlantis; and the Deluge, that is recorded in the Hebrew Bible, and is traditional in the histories of nearly every tribe and nation, was none other than the mighty inrush of the ocean over Atlantis, due to some abnormal submarine earthquake.
"Of what eventually became of the Atlanteans whose relics I had so opportunely alighted upon, I could only surmise.
"The last record I found was on a tablet set up by Nikétoth. On this she spoke of the death of Hullir and Ozilmeave, of the inter-marriage of the crew of the Chaac-molré with native women; of the consequent growth of the colony; and of her determination to leave it, and, accompanied by a chosen few, to push her way further inland.
"The anxiety of my comrades to leave the continent, perforce put an end to my explorations, and in the beginning of the year 1692—exactly ten months after our landing—the Peterkin was refloated.
"This time nothing happened to impede our progress, and in April of the same year, we sighted Boston. Here I remained for some months, making many new friends, and studying magic and sorcery. But the love of travel had laid so strong a hold on me that I again took to a roving life. I set sail for Spain in November 1692; landed at Corunna, and made my way to Madrid, where I arrived on January 1, 1693."
For the rest, Hamar had to turn to Messrs. Fox and Pool's addendum, i. e. the footnote that Matt Kelson had read aloud.
Hamar was now inclined to regard the book in a very different light. What he had read seemed to him to be set down in too simple, straightforward, and, at the same time, detailed a manner to be other than true. Up to the present he had not believed in ghosts and witches, for the very simple reason that—like all sceptics—he had never inquired into the testimony respecting them. He had pooh-poohed the subject, because every one he knew pooh-poohed it, and also because it had never seemed worth his while to do otherwise. But provided he thought it would pay him, he was ready to believe in anything—in Christianity, Mahommedanism, Buddhism, Theosophy, or any other creed; and granted the book he had in his hands was really written by Maitland, and Maitland was bona fide (which Hamar saw no reason to doubt), and granted, also, that Maitland was sane and logical—which from his writing he certainly appeared to be—then there was a certain amount in the volume that in Hamar's opinion was "a find." Needless to say, he referred to the magic of the Atlanteans—the art through the practice of which they had got in touch with the Powers that could endow them with riches. The actual history of Atlantis—once he was satisfied there had been such a place—did not interest him. He skimmed through it quickly, and I append a brief summary, only, for the benefit of more intelligent and disinterested readers.
The Atlanteans were the oldest intelligent race in the world—they existed contemporaneously with Paleolithic man, with whom their mariners and explorers frequently came in contact, and about whom their novelists wrote the most delightful stories, just as Fenimore Cooper and Mayne Reid, in these days, have written the most delightful stories about the Red Indians. In religion they were polytheists; they believed that, in the work of Creation, many Powers participated; that some of these Powers were benevolent, some malevolent, whilst others—neither benevolent nor malevolent—were merely neutral. To the benevolent creative Powers they attributed all that is beautiful in the world (i. e. certain of the trees, plants, flowers, animals, insects, and pleasing colours and scents); all that is fair and agreeable in the human being, such as affection, love, kindness, the arts and sciences—in a word all that in any degree affected the welfare of mankind; and to the malevolent creative Powers they attributed all that was noxious in creation; all that was harmful to man, and detrimental to his moral and physical progress (i. e. diseases, and all savage and filthy passions); all races of low intelligence, viz. Paleolithic and Neolithic man—and all those born with black or red skins (those colours being particularly significant of the malignant Occult Elements); all destructive animals; (i. e. reptiles such as the teleosaurus, steneosaurus, etc.; birds, such as the ptereodactyl, vulture, eagle, etc.; mammals, such as the cave lion, cave tiger, etc.; fish, such as the shark, octopus, etc.); and all ugly and venomous insects.
These earliest records show that at one time the physical and superphysical world were in close touch; all kinds of spirits—trolls, pixies, nymphs, satyrs, imps, Vagrarians, Barrowvians, etc.—mixing freely with living human beings; but that as the population increased and civilization evolved, superphysical manifestations became more and more rare, until finally they became restricted to certain conditions dependent on time and locality.
Up to this period there had been no state religion—no temples in Atlantis. If any one wished for a particular favour from the Occult Powers—for example, from the Rabsés, the Occult Powers of music; the Brakvos, the Occult Powers of medicine; or the Derinas, the Occult Powers of love, they retired to some secluded spot and held direct intercourse with these Powers. The idea of praying to an invisible being—who might or might not hear them—never entered their minds; they were far too matter of fact for that—and it was not until superphysical manifestations had become confined to a very select few, that the plan of erecting public buildings in spots frequented by the spirits, so that all who wished could assemble there and communicate with them, was proposed and put into operation. In these buildings, however, the spirits did not choose always, to appear to order—sometimes they quitted the spot where the edifice had been erected; sometimes they would only appear there periodically; and sometimes, out of perversity, they would appear when least expected. But whether occult manifestations really took place in these buildings or not, those assembled to see them were persuaded by those in charge of the building, who saw thereby an opportunity of making money, that the spirits were actually there; and in due time these buildings became known as temples, and their showmen as priests. Every temple was dedicated to an individual spirit—one to the Spirit Bara-boo; another to the Spirit Karaboro, and so on; whilst in the absence of genuine spirit manifestations, prayers, incantations and rituals, invented by the priests, always attracted a large concourse of people to these temples, and finally proved a greater source of attraction than the spirits themselves.
It was to gain favours from the Occult Powers that donations from the public were at first invited, then demanded; and the priests in this manner accumulated vast fortunes. Later on, too, there sprang up, in connection with these temples, colleges for the training of young men—invariably selected from the wealthy classes—to the priesthood; and from the parents of these youthful aspirants large fees, which in course of time became exorbitant, were extracted, thereby furnishing another source of revenue to the priests. The most famous colleges for the training of priests in Atlantis were those of Bara-boo-rek at Keisionwo, Karaboro-rek at Diniangek, and Ballygarap-rek at Tijimin.
It was in the reign of Barrahneil, fifty-first sovereign of the Dynasty of Shaotak, that the evocation of spirits (from which modern spiritualism takes its origin) commenced. Barrahneil was most eager to see a superphysical manifestation. Being of a somewhat poetical turn of mind he was particularly enamoured of fairies, and in the hope of seeing one, constantly frequented their favourite haunts, i. e. woods, caves, and lonely isolated habitations. But all to no purpose—they never would manifest themselves to him. At last, he lost patience. Against the advice of his oldest and most trusty counsellors, and accompanied by one or two of his favourite courtiers, he went to an excessively lonely spot in the heart of a desert, and besought spirits—spirits of any sort—he did not care what—to manifest themselves. To his surprise—for he had grown extremely sceptical—an Occult form, half man and half beast, materialized. It informed them that it was Daramara, i. e. in Atlantis, the Unknown—that it had no beginning and no end, and that it would remain an impenetrable mystery to them during their existence in the physical sphere, but would be fully revealed to them when they passed over into Malanok—one of the superphysical planes. On this, and on several subsequent occasions, when it manifested itself to them, it gave them instructions with regard to evocation, and described to them the tests they must undergo before they could acquire the great powers the Unknown was able to bestow on them, namely, (1) second sight; (2) divining other people's thoughts and detecting the presence of waters and metals; (3) thought transference, i. e. being able to transmit messages, irrespective of distance, from one brain to another without any physical medium; (4) hypnotism; (5) the power to hold converse with animals; (6) invisibility, i. e. dematerializing at will; (7) walking on, and breathing under, water; (8) inflicting all manner of diseases and torments; (9) curing all kinds of diseases; (10) converting people into beasts and minerals; (11) foretelling the future by palmistry, pyromancy, hydromancy, astrology, etc.; (12) conjuring up all manner of spirits antagonistic to men's moral progress, i. e. Vice Elementals—Vagrarians, Barrowvians, etc.
Taking every care to observe the greatest secrecy, Barrahneil caused a full account of these interviews with Daramara, together with all the instructions the latter had given him, to be transcribed in a book, which he called Brahnapotek—or the Book of Mysteries; and which he kept sealed and guarded in a room in his palace.
During his lifetime no one held communication with Daramara saving himself and his friends, but after his death the secret of black magic leaked out; countless people sought to acquire it, and ultimately the practice of it became universal. But the Atlanteans little knew the danger they were incurring. The spirits they conjured up—though at first subservient, that is to say, mere instruments—at length obtained complete dominion over them—the whole race became steeped in crime and vice of every kind—and so horrible were the enormities perpetrated that, fearful lest Man should be entirely obliterated the benevolent Occult Powers, after a desperate struggle with the malevolent Occult Powers, succeeded, by means of a vast earthquake, in submerging the Continent and hurling it to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, where, what remains of it, now lies. This catastrophe took place in the reign of Aboonirin, twentieth sovereign of the Dynasty of Molonekin—three thousand years after the reign of Barrahneil.
So ran the history of Atlantis, or at least all of it that need be quoted for the elucidation of this story. That Black Magic—the Black Art of the Atlanteans was by no means dead—Hamar felt convinced, and if Maitland could resuscitate it—why could not he? At any rate he might try. He could lose nothing by giving it a trial—at least nothing to speak of—the outlay on chemicals would be a mere song—whereas, on the other hand, what might he not gain! He eagerly perused the tests—the test he must impose upon himself before he could get in touch with the Unknown, and acquire the magic powers—which, according to Thomas Maitland, were copied from the original Brahnapotek, and including a preface, ran as follows: (Preface) "It is essential that the person desirous of being initiated into the Black Art—the Art of communicating with the Unknown (Daramara) in order to acquire certain great powers, should dismiss from his mind all ideas of moral progress, and wholly concentrate on the bettering of his material self—on acquiring riches and fame in the physical sphere. His aspirations must be entirely earthly, and all his affections subordinate to his main desire for wealth and carnal pleasures. Having acquired this preliminary psychological stage, for one clear week he must give himself up entirely to the breaking of all the conventionalities of morality with which society is hedged in. He must practice every kind of deception—lie, cheat and steal, and go out of his way to seek an opportunity to avenge any personal injury; and if his mind is earnestly and wholly concentrated on acquiring knowledge of the Black Art no bodily mishap will befall him. During this time of probation he must will himself to dream, at night, of all the deeds he had it in his mind to do, during the day; when he will know, by his visions, to what extent he is progressing. At the end of the week he must apply the tests to see if he is in a ripe state to proceed.
"No. 1. At midnight, when the moon is full, place a mirror, set in a wooden frame, in a tub of water, so that it will float on the surface with its face uppermost. Put in the water fifteen grains of bicarbonate of potash, and sprinkle it with three drops of blood, not necessarily human. If the reflection of the moon in the mirror then appear crimson, the test is satisfactorily accomplished.
"No. 2. At midnight, when the moon is full, take a black cat, place it where the moonbeams are thickest, sprinkle it with three drops of blood, not necessarily human, and rub its coat with the palm of the hand. Sparks will then be given out, and if those sparks appear crimson the test is satisfactorily done.
"No. 3. Take a human skull—preferably that of some person who has met with an unnatural end, pour on it a single drop of fresh, human blood—place it on a couch, and go to sleep with the back part of the head resting on it. If you are awakened, at the second hour after midnight, by hearing a great commotion close at hand, and the room is then discovered to be full of crimson light, the test is satisfactorily fulfilled.
"No. 4. Take half a score of the berries of enchanter's nightshade, two ounces of hemlock leaves in powder, and one ounce of red sorrel leaves. Heat them in an oven for two hours, pound them together, in a mortar, and at midnight boil them in water. As soon as the contents begin to bubble, remove them from the fire and stand them in a dark place; and if the experiment is to prove satisfactory, three bubbles of luminous green light will rise simultaneously from the water and burst.
"No. 5. In the above preparation after the test described, soak a hazel twig, fashioned in the shape of a fork. On meeting a child hold the fork with the V downwards in front of its face, and if the child exhibits violence and signs of terror, and falls down, the experiment is successful.
"No. 6. Take a couple of handfuls of fine soil from over the spot where some four-footed animal has recently been buried. Put it in a tin vessel, mix with it three ounces of assafœtida and one drachm of quassia chips, to which add a death's-head moth (Acherontia atropos). Heat the vessel over a wood fire for three hours. Then remove it and place it on the hearth, rake out the fire and make the room absolutely dark. Keep watch beside the vessel, and if, at the second hour after midnight, any strange phenomena occur, the test will be known to have been satisfactorily executed.
"(Addendum) If any of these tests fail the candidate must wait for six months before giving them a further trial, and he must occupy the interim by training his thoughts in the manner already prescribed. But if, on the other hand, the tests have been successfully performed, he can proceed with the rites appertaining to the Black Art."
Hamar had read so far when, with a gesture of impatience, he closed the book. "What a fool I am!" he exclaimed, "to waste my time with such stuff!... But Maitland writes in such a devilish convincing way! Jerusalem! Any straw is good enough for the drowning man, and if witchcraft and sorcery with motors dashing by every second and the whole air alive with wireless and telephones, is a bit beyond my comprehension, what then? All I care about is money—and I'll leave no stone unturned to get it. If it were possible for man to get in touch with Daramara—the Unknown—Devil, or whatever else it chooses to call itself—I'll call it an angel if it only gives me money—twenty thousand years ago—why shouldn't it be possible to get in touch with it now? Anyhow as I said before, I'll have a try. As far as the preliminary stage is concerned, I fancy I'm pretty well fixed. My mind is occupied right enough with things of this world—I don't give a cent for anything belonging to another—and if only I had half a dozen souls, I'd sell them right away now, for less than twenty thousand dollars—a damned sight less. As for these tests—foolish isn't the word for them—but it won't cost much just to try them.... Now, according to Thomas Maitland, the ceremony of calling up the Unknown stands a far greater chance of success if there are three human beings present ... but, of course, if there is any truth in this business, I'd rather keep the secret of it to myself. However, if I try alone, the Unknown may not come to me, and then I shall have had all the trouble of going through the tests for nothing!... Ah! now I see! If the other two get more of the profits than I think necessary—I can make use of my newly acquired Occult Power to—to dissolve partnership! Ha! ha! I could—I could trick the Unknown if it comes to that. Trust a Jew to outwit the Devil! I'll just look up Kelson and—Curtis."