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Planet Waves: October 2008 

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The other night while I was exploring the astrology of the Large Hadron Collider—a particle smasher that scientists will use to study the formation of the universe—I joked that the lead scientist, Professor Peter Higgs, was a holdover from Atlantis. It went well with the story of a multibillion-dollar machine supposedly designed to have some kind of spiritual outcome and a chart that looked a little like a runaway train.

I am careful what I joke about; there’s this odd spell that follows me around, under which my jokes come true. Looking at his face peering out from beneath his dashing green hardhat, I started to recognize him. You know that odd feeling of having met someone before, but it wasn’t any time in the past few thousand years?
Higgs is the namesake of the “God particle,” which this $8 billion machine was designed to discover. Science is the fairly recent development in human consciousness that supposedly replaced religious dogma and superstition. In its latest major chapter, science has gone on a hunt for a subatomic particle that gives birth to all other basic subatomic particles, a kind of portal to another dimension. If anything, it’s the Goddess particle. Meanwhile, these scientists think that this device they’ve created 500 feet under the ground is so powerful that it could, under the right circumstances, create mini black holes.

I kept looking at Professor Higgs, who is described as humble and unassuming, and wondering who he really is. I wondered what he must feel like, having the God particle named after him. This is what put the feeling into the pit of my stomach: He’s back, in the form of a British physicist, one of the people I think of as the Engineers. One of my reincarnation theories is that people come back with similar jobs or roles, perhaps more or less harmless, sometimes trying to grow up get it right this time, and others undecided or firmly committed to making matters worse.

Atlantis and Reincarnation
You’ve probably never read anything in which I discuss reincarnation at length, or with a particular dogma; such thought is too often used as a weapon, and I think astrology holds a relatively small part of the key to understanding specific past lives. There are, however, a lot of people I see in the public sphere, sometimes on TV and sometimes in places such as a Senate committee, where I get the feeling that we’re meeting again.
Atlantis, a favorite reincarnation destination, is the stand-in for a nearly perfect, powerful civilization with real potential that lost its grip as a result of some tragic flaw. Introduced to Western thought by Plato, it may or may not be historically real; he seemed to mean it as a metaphor, though he gives some exact measurements of structures that were there. I think of it as half real, half metaphor for everything else.

There are plenty of real ones: Babylon, Troy, Pompeii, and others feed the mythology into our DNA. On some level we know that our own civilization may be on the short list of those about to fall, which may be why it is so easy for so many to care so little.

From among the mythical lost civilizations, we have made up lots of stories; and we may have inherited memories, traumas, and some technology. We are also presumed to inherit hubris, a flaw in our awareness wherein we think we’re big and bad and get ourselves into some big and bad trouble. Inherent in the Atlantis concept is a question: “Are we next?” There is more than a touch of catastrophobia around this theme.
There seem to be two sides to the Atlantis issue. One is spiritual, regarding our relationship to God or the cosmos. The other is technological, regarding our relationship to Big Science and ordinary technology. The two issues are, at times, closely bonded; for us, they both address the question of existence or, more often, the threat of nonexistence.

Either God will create the Rapture, or one of our Big Science machines will run out of control. If we worship technology and turn it into God, we’ll surely have problems. Or we may intentionally use technology as a means of either discovering God (the Large Hadron Collider) or thinking we are God (the nuclear bomb, which Americans and only Americans have used on civilians).

Atlantis, the Asteroid
When you take these themes and wrap them in the issue of whether any of this is going to be our downfall, that is the essence of Atlantis. It has an asteroid, number 1198, so the way you would write that is (1198) Atlantis. My keywords for this point are the use and abuse of technology, but this can be on any scale you like, and the results of that use are included. (1198) Atlantis also hints at our anxiety around the fall of our own civilization.

Speaking of...

  • The Atlantis New Moon
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    The latest installment of Eric Francis Coppolino's Planet Waves Weekly.
    • Jul 1, 2013
  • Here at the Edge of the World
  • Here at the Edge of the World

    Why the myth of the lost continent of Atlantis is important today.
    • Apr 1, 2011
  • Dancing on the Ceiling
  • Dancing on the Ceiling

    Noémie Lafrance’s Rapture, a site-specific choreographic work atop Bard’s Fisher Center, will be performed September 25-28 and October 2-5.
    • Aug 26, 2008
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  • Consider what Atlantis, Tolkien, and the apocalypse might have in common.

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