Though Plato’s Atlantis may sound like fiction, it has been taken seriously right up until modern times. As per the 4th-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellus, Atlantis was commonly considered to be a historical fact by educated people of the day. For most of the next 1,500 years or so, however, Atlantis kept a low profile. It was name-checked in the title of Francis Bacon’s 1626 work The New Atlantis, a novel about a utopian society, but did not really surface again until the 19th century, when a number of theorists and explorers started to put together evidence from cultures widely separated by geography and history, to adduce the possibility of some sort of root or precursor civilization, which they identified with Plato’s Atlantis.
Atlantis was to get stranger still through the trance-readings of Edgar Cayce (1877–1945), the celebrated ‘sleeping seer’. As a young man Cayce had discovered that, when put into a hypnotic trance, he apparently had the ability to diagnose ailments and prescribe cures. Later he developed the ability to read people’s past lives and to channel historical and spiritual wisdom, in particular from ancient Atlantis. According to Cayce, Atlantis had enjoyed a 40,000-year history, during which Atlantans developed from pure energy thought-forms into humans with the sort of high Neolithic culture described by Plato, but with the added twist of advanced technologies such as energy-crystals, lasers, airships and death-rays. Like Donnelly, Cayce said that historical civilizations such as Egypt and the Mayans were founded by Atlantan refugees or colonists. Cayce also borrowed heavily (though probably unconsciously) from Donnelly in describing the location of Atlantis. Originally it had filled most of the Atlantic between Spain/Africa in the East and the Caribbean in the West, although apparently large tracts of eastern North America had once been part of Atlantis. In particular, Cayce pointed to the Bimini Islands in the Caribbean as being remnants of Atlantis, and claimed that a giant subterranean Hall of Records, a repository of earth-shattering Atlantan wisdom, would be discovered in this area. There was much excitement among Cayce followers when divers discovered a strange rock formation on the seabed near Bimini, now known as the ‘Bimini Road’ because of its resemblance to a Roman road. Many claimed that the Bimini Road was proof of the prior existence of an advanced civilization, which had evidently been submerged beneath the waves just as in the tale of Atlantis. However, most geologists and archaeologists agree that it is simply a curious-looking but natural beach-rock formation.


The History Channel - This Day in History - Lead Story