Antarctica in Myth, Fantasy & Reality




Antarctica promises to be big news in 2017. The alternative media is already simmering with reports of some titanic discovery, in a continent that may not be so frozen and empty as was thought. Some say that the discovery is so momentous that the Powers That Be will only reveal it in snippets, lest it upset the plans for their world order. Others predict that it will uncover the truth about human origins and prehistory, causing the downfall of fundamentalist religions. A magnetic anomaly may indicate a sunken meteorite of unimaginable size, the cause of some primeval catastrophe. There is talk of “caverns measureless to man,” hot springs, and even rivers flowing beneath the ice, to say nothing of their denizens, human or otherwise. Pyramids seem to be poking through the snow cover, hastily dismissed by geologists as natural formations. The past year’s tourists have included the US Secretary of State, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the second man to have walked on the moon. Something seems to be going on.

If there is such a discovery, it will take most people by surprise, because they have no historical background or mental framework in which to accommodate it. What follows may help to provide that, as an anchor to the swirling rumours, unsourced claims, and strong emotions that characterise today’s media. This essay is now part of that background, for it was written a quarter-century ago, before the age of the Internet.1 Its material was gathered out of wide reading in the realms of esoteric and rejected knowledge. Yet how accurately these myths, scares, and prophecies anticipate those of today! Evidently we are dealing with a complex of memes, or egregores, that have gained momentum through the sheer numbers of people now exposed to them. We will see whether the current surge of interest heralds their imminent descent into manifestation, or just adds another chapter to a long tale.

– Joscelyn Godwin

At the Bottom of the World

Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), in his book about the subterranean world, compares the earth to a human body. It drinks in the oceans at the North Pole, digests them in its interior, extracts the minerals, and expels the remains at the South Pole.2 This undignified image of Antarctica is not merely northern chauvinism, for the earth itself presents a marked contrast between its two polar regions. In the north, cities such as Oslo, Helsinki, Tallinn, and Leningrad cluster around the sixtieth parallel, to say nothing of Reykjavik at 64ºN. To their north extend vast tracts of useful land, supporting agriculture and abundant forest life. Coal and other minerals are mined on Norway’s Svalbard Islands (Spitsbergen), which reach beyond the 80th parallel. In the rosy days before the Nazis coopted the myth of Thule, the Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962) claimed that “there is no northern boundary beyond which productive enterprise cannot go until North meets North on the opposite shore of the Arctic Ocean as East has met West on the Pacific”3 – and he should know, having spent five months marooned on an ice-floe. Nowadays ice-breakers open the Northwest Passage every spring for a busy sea traffic; airplanes crisscross the Pole, and nuclear submarines pass beneath the thin ice of the Arctic Ocean, even breaking through at the North Pole itself, as the USS Skate did in March 1959.

In the South, things are quite different. As Charles Fort (1874-1932) phrased it, “History, like South America and Africa, tapers southward. […] Preponderantly peninsulas are southward droops.”4 Cape Horn, the last landfall of Chile, has drooped away by 56ºS, and by the sixtieth parallel one is nearing the uninhabited South Orkney Islands, the first straggling harbingers of the Antarctic Peninsular. There are beautiful things about Antarctica, still miraculously free from mining and territorial claims; one can enjoy real and imaginary pictures of its unspoilt scenery and largely untroubled wildlife. But the unattractive things about this continent, as big as the United States and Europe combined, are such that none but scientists want to live there. It is hard to reach, being surrounded on all sides by seas of notorious roughness. It is much colder than the Arctic, thanks to the absence of warming currents like the Gulf Stream; the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, which makes the Antarctic summer a week shorter than that of the north; and the perpetual rolling down of chilled air from the icecap that covers the continent to a depth of up to three miles. Finally, apart from the creatures on its fringes supported by the krill – whales, seals, penguins, gulls, mites, etc. – virtually the only life of its interior is the alien one of clouds and frozen water.

At least, that is the view in educated and scientific circles. But the kind of people who write about Commander Richard E. Byrd’s (1888-1957) flight beyond the pole into the hollow earth are also quick to ascribe to him the sighting of lushly vegetated lands, preferably with a mammoth blundering through the undergrowth. The German Antarctic expedition to Queen Maud Land in 1938-39 made some surprising discoveries, including “a group of low-lying hills sprinkled with many lakes and completely free of ice and snow,” resembling the barren hot springs region of Iceland.5 Claiming this Norwegian sector with swastika flags, the Germans renamed it Neuschwabenland (New Swabia).

According to the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano (1917-2009), the Germans also found there a way of communication with the Hollow Earth and its secret cities, where the First Hyperboreans had taken refuge from the disaster that reversed the Poles.6 There a secret base was prepared during the war years, and thither Adolf Hitler escaped in a vimana (flying saucer plane) to direct the “esoteric war” to this day. Serrano states this as fact in his philosophical testament, and supplies a diagram that blends the physical with the mythological: partly a cutaway diagram of the inner earth, it is also an explanation of the subtle currents at the two poles and their complementarity (see image to the left).7

But Serrano was only repeating a favorite theme of neo-Nazi and sensational literature. In his well-documented study The Hitler Survival Myth (1981), Donald McKale identifies the earliest source of the myth of Hitler’s escape to the southern hemisphere as the unexpected surrender of a German submarine in early July 1945 at Mar del Plata, Argentina. Several Buenos Aires newspapers, in defiance of Argentine Navy statements, said that rubber boats had been seen landing from it, and other submarines spotted in the area. One paper, Critica, carried on 17 July 1945 the report that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun had landed from a U-530 in Antarctica, and mentioned the 1938-39 expedition, as a result of which a “new Berchtesgaden” was “likely to have been built.” This report received wide distribution through quotation in Le Monde and the New York Times on 18 July; on the 16th, the Chicago Times had carried a sensational article on the Hitlers having slipped off to Argentina.8

The myth of an Antarctic refuge, armed with flying saucers, reached its apotheosis in W. A. Harbinson’s thriller Genesis (1980). This develops the Jules-Vernian theme of a “Master of the World” who, thanks to the Nazi régime, has become a technocratic power before which even Washington and Moscow must quail. Harbinson supplements his fiction with an excellent list of factual sources about Nazi saucer-planes and Antarctic explorations.9 Another version of the myth appears in Opération Orth (1989), a strange and surely ironic work by Jean Robin, one of the foremost authorities on the Traditionalist René Guénon and no lover of the “Counter-initiation” of which he holds Hitler to have been a primary, if unconscious, agent.

Jean Robin writes, supposedly on the evidence of a friend who had been there, of a subterranean complex of high technology entered near Valparaiso by a vimana which could pass through solid rock. There was found the new Asgard or Agartha, the headquarters of the Black Order, where 350,000 initiates await “Him Who Shall Come.”10 A mysterious green flame suspended in a niche of stone and called the Cheskin serves to recharge their energies and focus their cult.11

Is Adolf Hitler “He Who Shall Come,” as Miguel Serrano believed him to be? No: in Robin’s book Hitler died in this subterranean retreat in 1953, and his body is enshrined and visible in a hexagonal casket – side by side with that of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the war, and was “kidnapped” by the Soviets in Budapest.12 This dual presence, Robin’s friend was given to understand, poses no problem to the many Jews who belong to the Black Order: they blame their fellows for their “refusal to collaborate” with the evolutionary process.13

       Opération Orth poses every manner of problem, however, to the reader, who can only wonder what prompted Jean Robin to present the images of Hitler and Wallenberg reconciled, and the casual dismissal of the Holocaust by the Jews of his Black Order. In the context of Guénonian attitudes, which are nothing if not respectful of the Jewish people and their tradition, there is nothing to be said, unless it be that Robin actually accepts his friend’s account, and is warning us of the Counter-initiation’s final obscenity.

Those who believe in the Nazi Antarctic bases, with or without Hitler alive or dead, will find it significant that Richard Byrd went there in 1946-47, and again in 1956, on expeditions massively supported by the United States Navy. But here is the most extraordinary thing: according to the official maps of his many flights, shown here,14 Byrd’s expeditions left Queen Maud Land absolutely unvisited. The conspiratorial literature has no difficulty in explaining this: Byrd was scared away by the protective power demonstrated by the secret center, and after losing four planes, kept his distance.15

Poe, Verne, Lovecraft

Writers of fictions about Antarctica seem anxious for their work to be mistaken for fact. This was a common affectation in nineteenth-century fiction, and often used by the first great imaginative writer on Antarctica, Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849). The South Pole appears in the short story MS. Found in a Bottle (1833), which employs the common literary device of a ship blown off course to discover new worlds. Poe’s narrator, of course, goes one better: his own ship wrecked, he is hurled onto the rigging of a grotesquely antique, oversized galleon, manned by the living dead, which heads straight for the Pole. Scribbling frantically in the face of certain doom, he writes of his descent into a gigantic whirlpool:

Oh, horror upon horror! – the ice opens suddenly to the right, and to the left, and we are whirling dizzily, in immense concentric circles, round and round the borders of a gigantic amphitheatre, the summit of whose walls is lost in the darkness and the distance. But little time will be left to me to ponder upon my destiny! The circles rapidly grow small – we are plunging madly within the grasp of the whirlpool – and amidst a roaring, and bellowing, and thundering of ocean and of tempest, the ship is quivering – oh God! and – going down!16

Poe, who tried to be accurate in his facts, later felt obliged to add a note to the end of this tale, saying that it was only many years afterwards that, “I became acquainted with the maps of Mercator, in which the ocean is represented as rushing, by four mouths, into the (northern) Polar Gulf, to be absorbed into the bowels of the earth; the Pole itself being represented by a black rock, towering to a prodigious height.”17 Poe would make good his error in A Descent into the Maelstrom, which is set in the North. But his polar masterpiece, and the longest piece of fiction he ever wrote, was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838).

At the time of Poe’s writing, Antarctica had been touched on but not yet “discovered” in any real sense. Captain James Cook, in 1775, had reported after his circumnavigation of Antarctica, that “no continent was to be found in this ocean but must lie so far south as to be wholly inaccessible on account of ice.”18 Subsequent explorations by the British and Russians were inconclusive, and mostly limited to the islands and peninsular. In 1825, John R. Reynolds of Ohio began vigorous agitations in favor of an American Antarctic expedition, twice addressing the U.S. Congress. (One notes circumstantially that John Cleves Symmes’ petition to explore the hole at the North Pole had been made to the General Assembly of Ohio, in 1824.) Public opinion eventually came to his aid, and in 1836 an Exploring Expedition was authorized. After all manner of controversies and delays, the expedition set sail in August 1838 under Charles Wilkes. Poe’s Narrative thus appeared in serial form in the full light of public interest and excitement about the Antarctic.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is too well-known a literary work to delay us long. Suffice it to recall that the narrator discovers, beyond the ice-floes, a warm land inhabited by disagreeable black-toothed savages who bring about the deaths of all but himself and the half-breed Dirk Peters. The natives of this black land have a superstitious horror of anything white, which draws from them the cry Tekeli-li! Although they now live in the most primitive of shelters, Pym discovers a system of underground passages that seem to have been made in significant shapes, and also records what may be archaic script from the wall of one of the chambers. After the usual privations and hair-raising adventures, the two men escape and enter a calm polar sea that becomes ever warmer and whiter in hue, while flocks of gigantic white birds pass overhead crying Tekeli-li! At last they find themselves driven towards a silent cataract of white vapor.

And now we rushed into the embraces of the cataract, where a chasm threw itself open to receive us. But there arose in our pathway a shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men. And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of snow.19

Thus the Narrative ends; a Postscript apologizes for the loss of the “few remaining chapters” upon Pym’s recent death.

There is little doubt that Symmes’ theory of the hollow earth furnished Poe with the unacknowledged basis for his story. The Antarctic hole would have to be far smaller than the 6,000-mile diameter Symmes gave to it – about 500 miles would fit Pym’s bearings. But Poe could well be describing the unknowing traversal of its rim and the entry into an inner world which, like Symmzonia, is entirely white.

One person who could not bear to leave Pym’s narrative unfinished was Jules Verne (1828-1905). In his Le Sphinx des Glaces (The Sphinx of the Icy Regions, 1897), he reintroduces Dirk Peters on a voyage to Antarctica whose secret object is the rescue of Arthur Gordon Pym – not returned and dead as Poe’s informant had it, but abandoned and perhaps still alive in that mysterious polar land.

Verne’s story takes his characters on open sea to the same black land, now devoid of its inhabitants who have perished in an earthquake. Still seeking Pym, they proceed northwards on the other side of the Pole until they find the curtain of mist which lifts to reveal the Sphinx of the title, presumably identical to the giant white figure of Poe’s conclusion. It is a mountain shaped naturally into a crouching sphinx – but a magnetic mountain, so powerful as to suck every piece of iron out of a ship. There they find Pym’s last and tragic resting-place, pinioned to the rock by his own musket. Dirk Peters dies of a broken heart at thus finding his “poor Pym”; the others just manage to clear the ice-barrier before winter freezes it, and so they come home.

In a typically didactic digression, Jules Verne’s narrator tries to account for this magnetic mountain:

The Trade-winds bring a constant succession of clouds or mists in which immense quantities of electricity not completely exhausted by storms, are stored. Hence there exists a formidable accumulation of electric fluid at the poles, and it flows towards the land in a permanent stream. […] it would suffice that a block of iron should be subjected to [these currents’] action for it to be changed into a magnet of power proportioned to the intensity of the current, to the number of turns of the electric helix, and to the square root of the diameter of the block of magnetized iron.20

The turns of the coil of this giant electro-magnet are supplied, he supposes, by the windings of a metallic lode in the ground, connected with the base of the block. So the south polar vortex in this case is not a watery but an electrical one.

Now we turn to the inheritor of Poe’s literary mantle, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937). This writer of fantastic literature sketched in a handful of stories a whole mythological complex dealing – as any complete mythology must – with the origins of the human race. After Lovecraft’s death it was elaborated by other writers, especially August Derleth, into what the latter called the “Chthulhu Mythos,” after the monstrosity let loose upon the world in Lovecraft’s The Call of Chthulhu (1926). So far this resembles the continuation of Poe’s tale by Jules Verne. But in Lovecraft’s case there is more: the mythology which he himself regarded as no more than dream-inspired fiction was accepted as factual by the aficionados of the Shaver Mystery on the one hand, and, on the other, by certain highly educated practitioners of the “Magick” of the Left Hand Path, led by the prestigious mage of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), Kenneth Grant.

One of Lovecraft’s longest and by general consent finest tales, At the Mountains of Madness (written 1931, published 1936), is set in Antarctica, whither the narrator has gone on an expedition sponsored by the fictitious Miskatonic University. As Peter Cannon points out,21 Lovecraft had been fascinated by the Antarctic since boyhood; he was surely inspired by the recent expedition of Richard Byrd, who in 1929 was the first to fly over the South Pole; and he pays explicit tribute in the story to Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

       At the Mountains of Madness tells of the discovery of the star-headed, barrel-bodied, five-winged Old Ones,22 who came to earth before there was any life upon it, and when the continents had not yet drifted apart (Lovecraft was an early follower of Wegener’s theory). They created life on earth and built on the Antarctic “Plateau of Leng” a gigantic city of obsidian, which the explorers discover by airplane. Landing there at the risk of their lives, the narrator and one companion explore the city and learn from elaborate bas-reliefs of the incredible history of the Old Ones and the planet for which they have cared; of the other races that have evolved or arrived from elsewhere, usually to the detriment of the Old Ones’ utopian civilization. Lovecraft evokes sympathy for these primordial beings, gentle scientists and historians by nature, and for the pathetic end of the ones awoken by the explorers from their age-long sleep, only to be eaten by their own creations, the ghastly Shoggoths.

Lovecraft’s mythopoeic methods were the antithesis of those of a Tolkien, who supported his mythology with carefully worked-out philological and geographical documents. This is why August Derleth took it upon himself to improve the Chthulhu Mythos through his own fictional contributions, filling out gaps and giving it a tighter organization. A case of Lovecraft’s casual accretion is the “Plateau of Leng.”23 In The Hound (1922), just after the first mention in any of Lovecraft’s works of the grimoire Necronomicon, comes an allusion to “the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng, in Central Asia.”24 A few years later, in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1927), the Plateau of Leng is a dream-place where the protagonist confronts a high priest masked in yellow silk. Finally, in At the Mountains of Madness, the explorers find an endless plateau and identify it as the true Plateau of Leng. “Mythologists,” explains the narrator, “have placed Leng in Central Asia; but the racial memory of man – or of his predecessors – is long.

A hidden center in Central Asia inevitably recalls Agarttha, first described by Saint-Yves d’Alveydre (1842-1909),25 publicized by Ferdinand Ossendowski in Beasts, Men and Gods (1922), and confirmed by René Guénon in Le Roi du Monde in the same year (1927) as Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest. In the Traditionalist version of prehistory, the supreme spiritual center of the globe moved there from its previous Arctic location in “Hyperborea.” A separate study would have to be made of Arctic archetypes in modern fantasy-literature and the games derived from it. For a start, two of Lovecraft’s friends set their fantasy-novels in the uttermost North: Robert E. Howard, with his series on Conan the Barbarian, and Clark Ashton Smith, with his Commorian legends also set in frozen Hyperborea.

Lovecraft’s ancient civilization in Antarctica is placed so far back in time that those who wish can actually reconcile it with geology. I follow here the scientific account of the Polar medalist Margaret Bradshaw,26 who writes that Antarctica, as part of the supercontinent of Gondwana, was probably in equatorial latitudes during the Cambrian Period (about 500 million years ago). By the beginning of the Permian Period (300 my), Gondwana was polar, the South Pole migrating in the course of twenty million years from the region that would later become Africa/South America, across Antarctica, to Australia. In the Triassic Period (240-190 my), Antarctica was richly forested and inhabited by reptiles. After that came the period of violent volcanic activity that eventually led to the breakup of Gondwana and the beginning of the continents’ progress to their present situations. In the course of the Tertiary Period (65-1.5 my), the major mountain chains were built on the continent, and the present ice-sheet was formed. The continent has been thoroughly glaciated for about twenty million years, so any later habitation is out of the question.

While this is the large-scale story, there may have been variations within shorter spans of Antarctic history. Charles Hapgood (1904-1982), in his Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings (1979), reproduces the findings of geologists of impeccable credentials that show, in his words, that “during the last million years or so there have been at least three periods of temperate climate in Antarctica when the shores of the Ross Sea must have been free of ice.”27 In particular, there was a longish warm period that ended about 4,000 BCE. Hapgood’s book is subtitled Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age, and presents a wide variety of ancient maps that show uncannily accurate knowledge not only of lands undiscovered until the modern age, such as the Antarctic coast, but also of lands invisible at any age of human existence, namely the shores of the Ross Sea. Alas, history has no room in its limited imagination for theories such as Hapgood’s, however persuasively argued and well-documented, because they would require too thorough a revision of the status quo. It is one thing for analyses of Antarctic sea-floor cores to be published in the Journal of Geology; it is quite another to ask prehistorians to imagine a civilization 6,000 years ago which was capable of mapping the whole globe. Like the cardinals who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, lest they should see what he saw and suffer the same delusions, most prehistorians simply do not read books with subtitles such as Hapgood’s.

Polarity of North and South

The mythology surrounding the North Pole has tended to be positive: it is always the Arctic that is imagined as the location of the endless springtime and the cradle of noble races. The Antarctic, on the other hand, is negative: it evokes tales of gloom and destruction, and is populated by primordial horrors, or else by their recent representative, the Nazis. If the Arctic Ocean is still imaginable as open to the world within, from which the Aurora Borealis streams in all its wonder and beauty, any hole at the South Pole is firmly shut with a lid of ice three miles thick. In short, the North is the positive and the South the negative pole of the earth.

In the accounts of this from “illumined” sources, there seems either to be confusion of the physical with the non-physical – magnetism and electricity with the soul, for instance – or else there is evidence of some occult unity which modern science, ignorant of the ways of souls, cannot fathom. For example, in 1845 an uneducated girl gave in mesmeric trance a number of answers to questions of cosmology and occultism that have a bearing on our subject. Her answers were recorded by Zadkiel (Richard Morrison) in his Almanac, and reprinted in Peter Davidson’s Occult Magazine.28 One of them states:

The magnetism of the Earth is another modification of electricity, and also circulates through the system. It passes off from the Earth at the North Pole, producing the Aurora Borealis, circulates through the other planets, and returns to the Earth in a purified state…

Another evokes the situation in which the earth’s axis lies parallel to the ecliptic, which would give each hemisphere six months of light and heat, and six of cold and darkness:

[Question] Will you look at the Earth and say whether the pole be turned away from its course – the same as it was 10,000 years ago – or be less turned away?

[Answer] Yes, it is less turned away. The Sun once went over the Pole of the Earth, but that was a long time ago – that was before Adam – there were other kinds of men on the Earth then.

In Ghostland, an occult novel of 1876, the anonymous author writes of the great spirit Metron, tutelary angel of this planet. (Possibly he means Metatron, who in Kabbalah is the spirit of the Primum Mobile.) Metron governs the “electric life evolved from the galvanic action of metallic lodes threading their way like a gigantic nervous system through every globe; vast reservoirs of polar force generated in the Arctic North and Antarctic South.”29 These regions, we are told, “form the brain and feet of the living Earth,”30 but Metron’s station is in the “brain regions of the polar North.”31

H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) concurs with this polarization of the earth. She writes in The Secret Doctrine (1888) of how when the first Atlanteans were born on Lemuria, they very soon began to divide into those who worshipped “the one unseen Spirit of Nature, the ray of which man feels within himself,” and those who offered “fanatical worship to the Spirits of the Earth, the dark Cosmic anthropomorphic Powers, with whom they made alliance.”32 It was the latter, one understands, who gravitated to the South Pole, called “the pit, cosmically and terrestrially – whence breathe the hot passions blown into hurricanes by the cosmic Elementals, whose abode it is.”33 Elsewhere she explains that the earth’s seven zones correspond to the Seven Principles of man, Mount Meru or the North Pole answering to the Seventh principle, “the region of Atma, of pure soul, and Spirituality.”34 Therefore the South, although Blavatsky does not spell it out, is probably to be taken as corresponding to the physical body, the lowest of the principles.

We meet an interesting reference to Meru in Saint-Yves d‘Alveydre’s Mission de I’lnde:

Everything has been plumbed [by the Agarthians], from the fiery entrails of the Globe to its subterranean streams of gas and water, both fresh and salt, even to the living beings who inhabit these flames, gases, and waters,

Everything has been plumbed across the breadth and depth of the oceans, even the role of magnetic currents which interfere with one another longitudinally from pole to pole, and latitudinally from tropic to tropic. […]

Everything has been revealed, even to the universal harmonies that produce the terrestrial seasons, and the ascending migrations of souls by the North Pole: that unfindable Mount Meru and that undecipherable Alborj of the Vedic and Pahlevi books.35

Movement of souls, it seems, is from South to North, and that is what one would expect if the North is closer to the spiritual world.

Among more recent philosophers whose polar theory is in accord with that of Theosophy, Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961) compares the poles to the active (North) and passive (South), or male and female principles.36 Commenting on ancient symbolism, he depicts the movement from one to another as literally as the circulation of Kircher’s oceans:

Let us note something not generally known: that is, that the North Pole and the South Pole repels, with respect to the masses of these rotating bodies [planets, etc.]. Our North Pole hollows out the earth and it can be said to absorb the continents, whereas the South Pole extrudes earth and it can be said to create the continents. The entire mass of our continents is projected in a spiral motion toward the North Pole.37

This passage, written in 1949, bears study in the context of what is now known of Continental Drift. In the scientists’ reconstruction of Gondwana, Antarctica lies between Africa, India, and South Australia. The other continents have gradually moved away from it to their present positions surrounding the Arctic Ocean. As for the extrusion and absorption of earth, one can at least say that ancient maps of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans record islands and mainland regions that have since disappeared.38

The reversal of the two poles of the earth relative to the celestial poles, already a persistent theme in esoteric prehistory, naturally raises questions about this matter of polarity. Does the negativity of Antarctica derive from its position on earth, or from its orientation in space? Miguel Serrano thought that the reversal of the poles during the cataclysm of Hyperborea had raised Antarctica to the place of honor, and that for the “Last Avatar” to take up residence there in a revived Hyperborea was absolutely appropriate. But being Chilean must give one a certain parti-pris, which in Serrano’s case goes to the logical extreme of making his homeland, the southernmost country on earth, into the refuge for the Kali Yuga and the spiritual center of the New Age.39

Another aspect of reversal occurs in the work of Kenneth Grant (1924-2011), dedicated to the exaltation of the god Set, or Shaitan, or Satan. “Shaitan,” he says in The Magical Revival (1972), “is the God of the South, yet his votaries face North when invoking him.” He explains this by the fact that “on entering Capricorn, the zodiacal house of Shaitan [Saturn], the sun turns northward. Consequently the worshipper identifies himself with the sun – Horus – which is therefore not the object of worship, for he is the god that dies and is reborn on entering the House of Set (Capricornus).” Grant also hints at a physical reversal of poles as he continues: “There was a time when the South had precedence and was the primary station of the Pole Star.”40 Later he says that Set “was Lord of the (South) Pole, first born of the seven sons, or stars, represented by the Northern Constellation of Typhon, the Great Bear. When primitive man moved northward from Equatoria, the Star of Set in the South sank beneath the horizon and was supposed to have ‘fallen’.”41

It is a small step from Antarctica as the house of Satan or of the Führer, alive or dead, to the myth of the lurking Old Ones and Shoggoths of Lovecraft’s fantasy – and from there to the astonishing number of people who take this kind of myth literally. Here is an account of the “arch enemies of mankind” as presented by Robert Ernst Dickhoff in his Agharta:

Agents of Venus are hidden in places on earth and in the earth, only known to themselves, which are at present in suspended animation, awaiting the coming of their rescuers from Venus when they are sure of success. […]

If Kadath is one of the remaining ice-bound cities in Antarctica, of which there were an original seven, including Rainbow City now open for operation, and nature turns the keys of release at a time yet to come, it will reveal of what Rhani Khatani speaks, when she hints that there too will be found rows upon rows of crypts filled with serpents, awaiting this release from the strange gas which keeps them alive in suspended animation. They should be destroyed if found, before they are released by sympathetic humans obeying serpent commands.42

Dickhoff was not making this up. He was merely reproducing and elaborating on the Rainbow City myth, which has its roots in a document known as the Hefferlin Manuscript, circulated privately since the 1940s.43 In a summary of this work by Timothy Green Beckley, we read that William C. and Gladys Hefferlin are now believed to be living in this Antarctic refuge, described as:

an ancient center of culture called “Rainbow City,” which currently is in the hands of reincarnated descendants of the first colonizers from outer space who made tropical Antarctica the “Mother Land of the World” some two and a half million years ago. There also exist six other cities (all connected by vast underground tunnels), completely dormant, while “Rainbow City” is protected on all sides by warm hot springs. However to prevent its being discovered, and exploited by outsiders, ice walls some ten thousand feet high have been built around the city so that it can be reached only by those who know its exact location.44

Rainbow City derives its name from its construction, which, like some monstrous Legoland, is entirely out of colored plastic blocks. It is part of the network of underground cities founded aeons ago by Martians, the first colonizers of our planet. Rani Khatani, mentioned by Dickhoff, is one of the “Ancient Three,” Martians reincarnated in human form. (One notices a correspondence to the triple rulership of Agartha’s Brahmatma, Mahatma, and Mahanga.) The serpent or crocodile-people are later interlopers from the planet Venus, enemies of the Martians and hostile to mankind whom they have periodically forced or tricked into worshipping them.45 It is H. P. Lovecraft who supplies the name of Kadath, and, in At the Mountains of Madness, anticipates the pattern of good colonizers usurped by evil ones; while in The Nameless City (1921) he describes a crypt-passage leading to an inner earth, lined with caskets holding the bodies of an unknown, pseudo-crocodilic race. The entrance to the Nameless City is in “the desert of Araby”; others place it at the North Pole, or under Mount Shasta – but that is another story.46 It little matters, if as the Hefferlins say the whole earth is honeycombed with passages through which trains pass at 2,000 m.p.h.47

The Antarctic continent, fully discovered only in the twentieth century, is the ideal location for the favorite myths of our time: those of extraterrestrial visitations, secret technology, the eternal war of good against evil, and the coming New Age. Even as I write [in 1992], the Antarctic myth is taking on other accretions. What could be more appropriate than the reflection of the fabled hole at the South Pole in the ozone layer, allowing the ingress of evil influences which threaten us with cancer, and the whole region with the demise of its sustaining krill? What more symbolic than the placing of a United States base under a giant geodesic dome at the South Pole, where it can study impotently the rent in the sky, and, if the reports in the tabloids are to be believed, the chasm opening beneath its feet?48 And what exactly prompts the United States to dissent from the community of nations and refuse to sign an agreement to ban Antarctic mining for fifty years?49

Postscript, 2017. As anyone can discover from the Internet, these questions can now be answered. After 30 years, the ozone hole is diminishing. The geodesic dome was taken down in 2009. The ban on mining, now with US support, has held up for 25 years.

„Joscelyn Godwin’s Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival is available from all good bookstores.

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  1. First published in Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival, Phanes Press and Thames & Hudson, 1993. Reprinted Adventures Unlimited, 1996; editions in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Greek, and Japanese. This excerpt is changed only by adding some dates and definitions, and clarifying references to other chapters of the book.
  2. Athanasius Kircher, Mundus Subterraneus, Rome, 1678, 169, 171.
  3. Vilhjalmur Stefanssson, The Northward Course of Empire, Macmillan, 1924, 19.
  4. Charles Fort, The Books of Charles Fort, Henry Holt, 1941, 732.
  5. Walter Sullivan, Quest for a Continent, McGraw Hill, 1957, 125-26; Christof Friedrich, Germany’s Antarcttic Claims: Secret Nazi Polar Expeditions, Samisdat, 1979, 60-72 with illustrations.
  6. Miguel Serrano, Adolf Hitler, el último avatãra, La Nueva Edad, 1984, 288.
  7. Serrano, 1984, 396, by permission.
  8. Donald McKale, The Hitler Survival Myth, Stein & Day, 1981, 62-63.
  9. See W. A. Harbinson, Genesis, Dell, 1982, 589-605; also Walter Kafton-Minkel, Subterranean Worlds, Loompanics, 1989, 217-42.
  10. Jean Robin, Opération Orth, ou l’incroyable secret de Rennes-le-Château, Trédaniel, 1989, 231.
  11. Robin 1989, 232.
  12. Robin 1989, 257.
  13. Robin 1989, 261.
  14. Sullivan 1957, 199, 341, by permission.
  15. See Friedrich Mattern, UFOs, Nazi Secret Weapon? Samisdat, 1979, 98; Friedrich 1979, 106, 111, with maps.
  16. Edgar Allen Poe, Poetry and Tales, Library of America, 1984, 199.
  17. Poe 1984, 199.
  18. Lawrence Kirwan, A History of Polar Exploration, Penguin, 1962, 69.
  19. Poe 1984, 1179.
  20. Jules Verne, Works, F. Tyler Daniels, 1911, XIV, 385.
  21. Peter Cannon, H. P. Lovecraft, Twayne, 1989, 101.
  22. See the analyses in S. T. Joshi, ed., H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism, Ohio University Press, 1980, 148-51; Cannon 1989, 102-5; Maurice Lévy, Lovecraft: A Study in the Fantastic, Wayne State University Press, 1988, 69-71.
  23. See Donald R. Burleson, H. P. Lovecraft: A Critical Study, Greenwood Press, 1983, 85.
  24. H. P. Lovecraft, Cry Horror! Avon, 1947, 158.
  25. See Joscelyn Godwin, “Agarttha: Taking the Lid off the Underground Kingdom,” New Dawn 109 (2008): 59-61.
  26. M. A. Bradshaw, “Geological History,” in Trevor Hatherton, ed., Antarctica: The Ross Sea Region, Dept. of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1990, 42-63.
  27. Charles Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Turnstone, 1979, 82.
  28. “Truths from Humble Sources,” The Occult Magazine, I/8 (Sept. 1885): 58.
  29. Ghostland, or Researches into the Mysteries of Occultism, Progressive Thinker, 1897, 262.
  30. Ghostland 1897, 291.
  31. Ghostland 1897, 293.
  32. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Theosophical Publishing Co., 1888, II, 273.
  33. Blavatsky 1888, II, 274.
  34. Blavatsky 1888, II, 403.
  35. Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Mission de l’Inde en Europe; Mission de l’Europe en Asie, Bélisane, 1981, 89-90.
  36. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Symbol and the Symbolic, Autumn Press, 1978, 67.
  37. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, The Temple in Man, Autumn Press, 1977, 85.
  38. See Hapgood 1979, 132.
  39. Serrano 1984, 50.
  40. Kenneth Grant, The Magical Revival, Frederick Muller, 1972, 55.
  41. Grant 1972, 61.
  42. Robert Ernst Dickhoff, Agharta, Bruce Humphries, 1951, 75-76.
  43. See Kafton-Minkel 1989, 154-67; Michael X, Rainbow City and the Inner Earth People, Saucerian Books, 1969, 14-18.
  44. Timothy Green Beckley, The Shaver Mystery and the Inner Earth, Health Research, 1985, 56; see also John Godwin, Occult America, Doubleday, 1972, 177-78.
  45. Dickhoff 1951, 28.
  46. See Kafton-Minkel 1989, 119-32; Joscelyn Godwin, Atlantis and the Cycles of Time, Inner Traditions, 2011, 246-47, 257-58.
  47. Beckley 1985, 62.
  48. See unidentified newspaper report in publisher’s appendix to Beckley 1985.
  49. New York Times, June 23, 1991.


JOSCELYN GODWIN, Professor of Music Emeritus at Colgate University, New York State, has been publishing, editing, and translating esoteric materials since the 1970s. These include works on speculative music (Harmonies of Heaven and Earth, Music, Mysticism and Magic, Harmony of the Spheres, Cosmic Music, The Mystery of the Seven Vowels, Music and the Occult), Renaissance and early modern studies (Robert Fludd, The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance, The Real Rule of Four, Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World, translations of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz), and histories of esoteric movements and themes (The Theosophical Enlightenment, Arktos, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, Atlantis and the Cycles of Time, Upstate Cauldron).

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