Lemuria is doomed to always be the scrawny kid brother of lost continents. Atlantis has appeared in culture for millenniums, from Plato’s Republic to a 1970s television program starring Patrick Duffy. It shares its name with a Bahaman resort and a Donovan song. Lemuria, meanwhile, is mostly found only in reddit threads and on obscure skeptic blogs.
But Lemuria, while fictitious, was born from a plausible scientific theory. Nineteenth Century Zoologist Philip Sclater proposed the existence of a now-sunken land bridge in the Indian Ocean that might account for apparent inconsistencies in human and animal migrations and in ecosystems. He was especially perplexed as to why lemur fossils were found in Madagascar and India but not in mainland Africa or the Middle East. Eventually, plate tectonics solved the puzzle of lemur fossils, as Madagascar and India had split and drifted apart.
That’s the way science works. Ideas are tested and researchers go where the evidence leads. Pseudoscience on the other hand meanders down a myriad of alternate paths, all while being loose with the facts or dismissing them altogether.
For example, Lemuria has been adopted by Tamil nationalists, who speak of a great landmass that once connected Madagascar, India, and Australia. In this tale, bigger means better and the lost continent is portrayed as home of an advanced culture with mighty warriors, tireless inventors, and exemplary artists. The upshot of claiming that all this took place on a sunken landmass is that no one is going to go descend to the ocean floor and seek contrary evidence.
Another nationalist connection associates Lemuria with Kumari Kandam, a fictional landmass in Tamil literature. While Kumari Kandem was originally presented as make-believe, it is embraced by Tamil nationalists in the same way that Ken Ham will cite ancient drawings of dragons as proof the fire breathing creatures were real. Trying to transform fictional writings and drawings into fact is a common ploy in pseudo-archeology, Zermantism, ancient alien hunting, and among those out to validate religious writings, such as the Book of Mormon.
Lemuria is tied to still another Indian myth, which teaches that the islands between Sri Lanka and India are the remains of a bridge built for the Hindu deity Rama.
While Tamil nationalists appropriated the idea of a sunken Indian Ocean continent in the early 20th Century, they were beaten to it by the forerunners of today’s New Age movement. Most of the blame goes to Helena Vlavatsky, who in the 1880s proposed that humans had evolved from seven humanoid species who lived on various lost lands. To make it more interesting, our ancient ancestors were described as mentally-challenged, seven-foot tall, egg-laying hermaphrodites. Sounds like a Sleestak. Vlavatsky further labeled them as spiritually aware, not bothering to define this term nor offering evidence for any of this.
While there likely were no such egg-laying giants on a lost continent, Vlavatsky herself gave birth to the Lemuria cottage industry. It has since added many branches. In one version, the truth of Lemuria is being repressed by the Catholic Church. In another, the lost continent somehow explains Easter Island. It is telling that Lemuria is not said to be aligned with Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, or any other South Pacific locale except Easter Island – the one with a mysterious, mystical bent. Without the Moai, the location would be little known and would not be a focus of New Age spiritualists.
Still another version has Lemuria being a confirmation of Edgar Cayce predictions. If none of those excite you, it is also associated with alien travelers or is envisioned as a peace-loving utopia. While these differing shades of Lemurian thought mostly attempt to promote to positive ideas, a darker version warns that the geological calamity that befell the continent and could happen again, sending us to a watery mass grave.
There are even a few who say Lemurians are still with us. Ramtha is described as a Lemurian warrior whose spirit is channeled by J.Z. Knight. Another tale has flesh-and-blood Lemurians living under Mount Shasta, Calif.
Which of these Lemuria variants are embraced is determined by the interests of the believers, not by the amount of evidence produced. I have no bias for or against any of them. They are all equally worthless.