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Chapter 3 Occult Losses Redemption from the rationalism and intellectualism of science is the fundamental presupposition of living in union with the divine.1 53 OCCULT VANISHINGS From the late 1870s Sclater’s Lemuria embarks on its most enduring journey in the metropole as it is drafted into the proliferating labors of loss of Euro-American occult.2 Consequently, it joins the ranks of other vanished, hidden, or secret lands—the ubiquitous Atlantis, of course, but also places with wondrous names such as Hyperborea, Mu, Pan, or Shamballa—that dot the modern occultscapes of Euro-America. Occultism’s place-making has scarcely been scrutinized by scholars, and yet this is enormously revealing of the labors of loss that distinguish its modernity.3 Thus, my primary goal here is to examine Lemuria’s place in occult labors of loss around disappeared worlds and vanished pasts. In so doing, I also consider why lost, hidden, or secret places are important to modern occultism. The esotericist preoccupation with lost continents has been widely disparaged by both professional and freelance scholars,4 yet they fail or refuse to consider why occultism fetishizes lost places. In focusing on occult labors of loss around Lemuria, therefore, I suggest that instead of dismissing outright esotericist place-making as dangerous flights from reason or utter nonsense, we may instead learn something from them as well of modernity’s preoccupation with loss. Lemuria circulates in occult circles at a time when much of the known world’s geography was radically reconWgured, in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, by the consolidation of Euro-American imperialism, and then, as the twentieth century wears on, by the forces of global capitalism. These, as we well know, have virtually left no part of the known world untouched . Modern occultism undoubtedly beneWts from empire, especially its explorations of the Orient, and its wondrous discoveries of ancient wisdom far older than Judeo-Christianity. All the same, the so-called occult revival of the later nineteenth century was also a reaction to empire’s materialist excesses, its scientization of the globe, and its participation in the disenchantment of our world. As traditional esoteric favorites like Egypt, India, and even Tibet come under metropolitan influence, ever new sites—submerged, subterranean , extraterrestrial, astral—are conjured up for occult colonization. These are transformed from terrae incognitae into esoteric place-worlds that are drawn into the cosmic drama of the human spirit. The imperative to Wnd spaces and places in and around our earth that are available for occult colonization in the age of imperial and global capital is one important context for the fascination with lost continents in esoteric circles over the past century. Just as important, with the rise and consolidation of the various paleosciences , our earth ceased to be “shaped by the benevolent hand of God . . . populated by the plants, animals and men that He created.”5 These sciences excluded as unscientiWc, and hence illegitimate, “almost all that had previously made [it] rich in cosmological meaning.” They were instead replaced by “an astonishing drama of vanished worlds,” but emptied of human presence and agency, disembedded from the sacred history of man.6 “Man, convinced at Wrst, in his naive innocence, that the world was made for him, has now been told by the time voyagers that, at a period not very remote, geologically speaking, the human form is no longer to be found.”7 In Paolo Rossi’s account of the long revolution in European thought that preceded the disciplining of these paleo-sciences in the nineteenth century, “the difference lies not only between living at the center or at the margins of the universe, but also between living in a present relatively close to the origins (and having at hand, what is more, a text that narrates the entire history of the world), or living instead in a present behind which stretches the ‘dark abyss’ . . . of an almost inWnite time.”8 In contrast, and for many centuries prior to this revolution, “the history of man was conceived as coextensive with the history of the earth. An earth not populated by men seemed meaningless , like a reality that was somehow ‘incomplete.’”9 Occult labors of loss around place-worlds like Lemuria seek to complete the history of Earth rendered incomplete, unmanned, and a-theized by the physical sciences. As one occultist put it, the paleontological history of mankind might well begin “with the fossils embedded in the diluvial deposits of the Quaternary period.” But a...


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