It is but a small part of prehistoric human experience which can be learnt by the methods of ordinary history. Historic evidence throws light on only a few thousand years; and even what archaeology, palæontology, and geology can teach us is very limited. Added to this limitation is the untrustworthiness which attaches to everything based upon external evidence. We need only consider how the presentation of some event, even if comparatively recent, or connected with a nation, is totally transformed on the discovery of new historic evidence. We need but compare the descriptions given by different historians of one and the same thing in order to realise at once how insecure is the ground on which we stand. Everything belonging to the outer world of sense is subject to time, and time destroys what in time arises. Now, external history depends on what has been preserved to us in time; and no one, dependent only on external evidence, can even say whether that which has been preserved is true.
But everything which arises in time has its origin in the Eternal; and although the Eternal is not accessible to sense-perception, the paths that lead to a perception of the Eternal are available to man. He can so develop the forces that slumber within him as to be able to know this Eternal. In the articles on “How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds,” which have appeared under the title The Way of Initiation, 1The Way of Initiation, by Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D., with a foreword by Annie Besant, and some Biographical Notes of the Author by Edouard Schuré. Second edition. Price 3s. 10d. inclusive of postage. and Initiation and its Results, 2Initiation and its Results. A sequel to the above. Second edition. 3s. 10d. post free. Both to be obtained from the Theosophical Publishing Society, London. the method of this training is indicated. In these two books it has been shown that at a certain high stage of knowledge man can even penetrate to the everlasting sources that underlie the passing things of time. (Let the reader here have patience; these matters can only be dealt with by degrees.) If a man in the way described has developed his power to know, then, as regards knowledge of the past, he is no longer restricted entirely to outer evidence. Then he can behold that which in the happening is imperceptible to the senses, that which no time can destroy. He presses on from evanescent history to that which does not pass away. It is true that this history is written in other than the ordinary characters, and in the Gnosis, in Theosophy, is called “The Âkâshic Records.” Only a feeble picture of these records can be given in our language, for it is adapted to the uses of the world of sense, and what we name with it receives at once the character of that world. Thus the narrator might give to the uninitiated, to one who cannot yet from his own experience convince himself of the actuality of a distinct spiritual world, the impression of being a mere visionary, if indeed not something worse.
He who has won for himself the power to observe in the spiritual world, there recognises bygone events in their eternal character. They stand before him, not as dead witnesses of history, but in the fullness of life. In a certain sense, the past events are played out before him. Those who have learnt to read such a living script can look back into a far more distant past than that which external history depicts; and they can also, by direct spiritual perception, describe those matters which history relates in a far more trustworthy manner than is possible by the latter. In order to avoid a possible error, let it here be at once understood that even mental vision is not infallible. Such perception may also be deceived; it may be inaccurate, crooked, topsy-turvy. Even in this domain nobody, however exalted, is necessarily free from error; therefore no one need take exception if communications that spring from such spiritual sources are not always in full accord. But the trustworthiness of such observations is certainly far greater here than in the outer world of sense; and those communications which, bearing on history and prehistoric times, can be given out by the various Initiates, agree in their essence. In all mystic schools there actually exists such history and pre-history, and such absolute agreement has reigned here for thousands of years that it is impossible to compare it with the agreement existing among ordinary historians even for a century. Initiates describe at all times and in all places essentially the same thing.
After these preliminary remarks, several chapters of the Âkâshic Records will be repeated here. At the outset those facts will be described which occurred during the existence of the so-called continent of Atlantis, which lay between America and Europe. This part of the surface of our earth was at one time land. To-day it is this land which forms the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Plato still told of the last remnant of this land — the Island of Poseidonis — lying to the west of Europe and Africa.
In the little book, The Story of Atlantis, by W. Scott-Elliot, 3Published by the Theosophical Publishing Society, London. the reader will learn that the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean was once a continent; that for about 1,000,000 years it was the scene of a civilisation certainly very different from ours of to-day; and that the last remnant of this continent was submerged nearly 10,000 years B.C. Details completing those given in that book, and bearing on this hoary civilisation, will be given here. While the outward events of the life of these our Atlantean forefathers are more conspicuously the subject of description in the above work, something will here be said of the soul-life, and of the inner nature of the conditions under which they lived. The reader must therefore go back in thought to a period lying more than 10,000 years behind us, and to a civilisation which had existed for many thousands of years. What is here related, however, took place not only on the continent submerged by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, but also in the neighbouring regions that now form Asia, Africa, Europe, and America; and what subsequently happened in these regions was evolved out of that earlier civilisation. As to the sources of the information to be given here, I am for the present obliged to be silent. He who knows anything at all about such sources will understand why this must be so; but circumstances may arise which will make it possible to speak on this subject very shortly. How much of the knowledge lying hidden in the womb of the Theosophical movement may gradually be communicated, depends altogether on the attitude of our contemporaries. And now follows the first of the documents which are here to be reproduced.