New evidence suggests that James Churchward, who claimed to have seen evidence of the lost civilization of Mu, was indeed shown a secret library. German tour operator Thomas Ritter says he has been able to enter it, but are his claims too good to be true?
Churchward was a patented inventor, engineer—and a man who claimed that he had found evidence of a lost civilization: Mu. Said to have been the Pacific equivalent of Atlantis, Mu was, Churchward believed, the original colonizer of the later Atlantic empire.
The first modern researcher to write about Mu was Augustus LePlongeon, best known in archaeological circles as the first to make a photographic record of the ruins of Chichen Itza. In his books Sacred Mysteries Among the Mayans and Quiches (1886) and Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx (1896), LePlongeon claimed his decipherment of the so-called “Troano Codex” showed that the Maya were the ancestors of the Ancient Egyptians. The Mayans had originated, he said, from a lost civilization, Mu, which was on par with Atlantis and which had been destroyed by a volcanic eruption. He added that Queen Moo—clearly linked with Mu—had traveled from the lost continent to Egypt, where she had gone down into the history books under her new name of Isis. Unfortunately, when the Mayan language was deciphered several decades later, it turned out that LePlongeon’s interpretation was completely erroneous, sometimes even using letters that were, in fact, no such thing. Jack Churchward, a descendent of James Churchward, states that LePlongeon relied on the translation of Brasseur de Bourbourg. Jack Churchward received an email from one of de Bourbourg’s descendants who stated that the translation was done by channeling a spirit. That may explain why LePlongeon erred so much in his interpretation.
LePlongeon, however, did put the lost civilization of Mu on the map, but it was left to Theosophist Helena Blavatsky to popularize it, claiming it was the mystical birthplace of occult traditions. The man, though, who may fairly claim to have brought Mu from theory and speculation to purported history was James Churchward, a friend of LePlongeon’s, who said he had been shown physical evidence for Mu’s existence in a secret library in India.
Born in Britain, Churchward eventually settled in the United States. But it was during earlier years, while living in Sri Lanka where he owned a tea plantation with his wife, that he traveled to India. During this journey, he later claimed, he discovered a lost epoch of mankind’s history. In India, he had befriended a priest who taught him to read an ancient dead language. Allegedly, only the priest and two others in the entire world were able to read it. The language was written down on numerous tablets, which the priest allowed Churchward to see and read. Churchward intimates in his books that he tricked the priest into showing him the tablets as well as teaching him the meaning of the language. As he did so, Churchward claimed, he realized that the tablets he saw were not the complete library. Nevertheless, by consulting other sources and people, he was able to piece together a coherent picture of the lost civilization of Mu. Years later he would claim that he received further corroborating material in the form of tablets found by archaeologist William Niven in Mexico.
The earlier events happened in the late nineteenth century, even though Churchward did not go public with his Mu material until 1924. That he had remained silent for such a long time about such a momentous discovery was seen by many skeptics as just too good to be true. It is known, however, that Churchward’s interest in ancient civilizations was of very long standing. In the 1890s, he had personally discussed the subject of Mu with LePlongeon and his wife Alice. Moreover, Jack Churchward points out that a previously unseen publication from his ancestor is “Copies of Stone Tablets Found By William Niven at Santiago Ahuizoctla Near Mexico City.” It is established that the two exchanged letters in 1927.
Churchward’s discovery became famous when a major news story appeared on November 10, 1924, in the “New York American” newspaper. In it, the central framework of Churchward’s claims about Mu was put forward. The civilization was labeled “Empire of the Sun.” Mu, claimed Churchward, was once a civilization of 64 million inhabitants known as the Naacals, the priestly brotherhood, keepers of the sacred wisdom, who lived 50,000 years ago. All known ancient civilizations—India, Egypt and the Mayas —were but the decayed remnants of its many colonies.
In 1926, at the age of 75, Churchward published The Lost Continent of Mu: Motherland of Man. Mu, he said, extended from north of Hawaii to the Fijis and Easter Island. Most geologists, however, find it difficult to imagine dry land in that locale, as the area is intersected by the so-called Andesite Line, making it geologically unlikely there could have been a landmass here. Since Churchward never produced any concrete evidence for his visit to the Naacal Library, many treat his claims with considerable suspicion.
So was Churchward a liar, or someone with genuine experiences? To understand the man better, it is important to note that some aspects of the Mu legend are original to Churchward. Some aren’t. It was LePlongeon who had first written about the “Nacaal,” in 1896, where he identifies them as Maya adepts and missionaries, with the word Naacal meaning “the exalted.” But LePlongeon identified their homeland as Central America, not Mu in the Pacific Ocean, a notion which was specific to Churchward.
What about connections with Madame Blavatsky’s account? Both Churchward and she claimed that, in India, they had been exposed to “lost knowledge.” In the case of Blavatsky, the source was said to be the “Book of Dzyan,” said to be written in Atlantis and presented to her by the Indian Mahatmas.
Indeed, though it could be argued that Churchward merely copied from the likes of Blavatsky and LePlongeon to create his own stories of Mu, it could also be said that his story is totally new and that it confirms Blavatsky’s assertions. It can also be argued that Churchward spent several decades cementing his case before going public and writing his series of books on the subject. Churchward lived in India in the 1880s, before moving to the United States in 1889. It was during this period that he allegedly made contact with the Indian adepts—allowing for a period of roughly a decade, more than sufficient time—where he could have learned and studied the language. Churchward said he studied for more than two years the “Naga-Maya” language, purported to be mankind’s original tongue.
After having read the Naacal documents, he continued his quest for further information. In Burma, he visited an ancient Buddhist temple in search of the missing records, carrying letters of introduction from the Indian high priests with whom he had studied.
But what is lacking from his account is any verifiable information. His story truly hinges on whether or not he met and befriended the Indian priest who, in turn, introduced him to the numerous rare tablets. As a consequence, the story of Churchward has remained for years strictly a legend, even as his books were widely published. Nothing new emerged that might change the status quo. Recently, though, the German independent researcher, author and travel agency manager Thomas Ritter has made quite a stir by claiming to have personally entered a “secret library” underneath Sri Ekambaranatha Temple in Kanchipuram, India, in which he has found corroborating evidence of the lost civilization of Mu.
Ritter claims that on July 23, 2010, he was contacted by one Pachayappa who invited him to enter the underground complex—and even allowed him to photograph some of its contents! Ritter relates, “at chamber no. 4 the priest only allowed me to take pictures from two tablets, not from all the books there. The two tablets he showed me are a little bit damaged. But you can see clearly the inscriptions.”
The two tablets, ostensibly, were from the so-called Naacal tablets, which James Churchward claimed to have seen many decades before. When Ritter published the material, there was immediately a torrent of disbelief, not helped by the realization that what Ritter apparently showed was a tablet unearthed in Byblos (Lebanon), discovered by French archaeologist Maurice Dunand. Despite the small amount of writing on the tablets, they have, so far, not been deciphered, though the script has been identified as Proto-Byblian and therefore not related to India. Indeed, the tablet presented by Ritter can be found in the Beirut Museum (Cat. 16598) and not a secret library in India.
Ritter claims, though, that in July 2010, he was not welcomed by the usual young priest Narjan, whom he knew well, but, instead, an elder man, Pachayappa, who, unlike Narjan, did not speak English. Pachayappa took him down into the underground structures of the temple complex. Ritter relates: “Before an iron-bound door he stopped and pointed with some gesture to the bottom: ‘Rishi place!’” Then he opened the door, behind which the Nacaal library was located.
Whether Ritter is lying or not, he has, at least, specifically identified a specific spot as the location of the library: the Sri Ekambaranatha Temple in Kanchipuramin the state of Tamil (India). The gate of the temple complex measures more than 60 meters tall, making it the largest temple tower in Southern India, and is made from granite, decorated with the images of gods, goddesses, and heroes. The complex is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the five major Shiva temples, each representing a natural element. The Sri Ekambaranatha Temple represents the element earth. It’s history dates back to at least AD 600, though it could be older and is notorious for its “hallway with a thousand pillars,” as the temple’s inner walls are decorated with an array of 1,008 Shiva lingams, a symbol of the male energy.
Ritter has drawn attention to the subterranean system of this complex, where he claims there are 10 chambers. In nine of these chambers are stored the tablets. Each room measured 25 meters long and 15 meters wide, with the ceiling so low he could touch it. Pachayappa claimed that the inscriptions detailed the Rishi Puranas, the lives of the culture bringers of Ancient India. Inside were black granite tables, and there were tens of thousands of stone tablets. Ritter notes that “both sides of such postcard-sized stone tablets engraved with tiny lines were narrow characters covered in an unfamiliar script. Other plates showed fine geometric patterns on running, technical drawings, maps and astronomical images.” When he asked what they contained, he was told it was the legacy of the Seven Sages.
In the first three chambers, the tablets are made from black granite; in the next three, from gold. Each golden tablet was 14 by 10 centimeters, about two to three milimeters thick, and were bound like a book. In the final three rooms, he found silver and bronze tablets that were hard to read, so Ritter used a handkerchief to polish the tablet, restoring it to its original state. Ritter claims he was only allowed to photograph two tablets. All of these chambers have inscriptions, describing the lives and deeds of the rishis, and who has produced photographs of these inscriptions.
The tenth room was located at the end of the corridor. In the middle of the room rose a column of about 1.50 meters high from a solid black material; and according to Pachayappa, the material was not stone. Behind the lingam were statues of the Seven Rishis, placed in a semicircle, made from a shimmering metal, which Ritter thought could be gold or silver plate. One of them he was able to identify as Aghasthiya, who is always depicted as a dwarf.
Throughout the rooms, Ritter also saw rolls of metal foils, one of which Pachayappa opened. Ritter claimed they were easy to unroll and that the material was very thin, reminding him of titanium, as it did not tear or wrinkle. The characters inscribed on it were equally etched, rather than engraved, and Ritter says he realized that he had seen one of these rolls before—in Churchward’s book.
At the back of this room was another door, but Pachayappa indicated that he would not open this for Ritter. He did learn that the door led to a large underground system of tunnels, some of which are said to connect to towns several tens of miles away. Ritter states that non-Hindus and foreigners normally find the library closed to them and that even access to the central part of the temple is forbidden. But it is Ritter’s conviction that it was here that Churchward was shown the Naacal tablets and that he, more than a century later, stepped into Churchward’s footsteps. Jack Churchward has studied the material of his ancestor in detail and remains skeptical of Ritter’s claims. Ritter claims that some of the scrolls he found were the same Churchward found. Jack Churchward, however, adds: “If James was there, then the tablets would have been wrapped and put away in what James referred to as ‘chatties’ and therefore not visible. James said as much in his books. Ritter does not say anything other than he saw a symbol, he doesn’t know that the tablets James saw were unfired clay or that the tablets would have been packed away. Just my two cents.”
Ritter is definitely no stranger to the arena of sensational claims. He once asserted that in a crop circle in England he had been approached by a mysterious stranger who handed him a crystal. For some time Ritter argued that this was the long-lost and much sought after thirteenth crystal skull. Ritter presented it at lectures, wrote articles, and even offered paid sessions with the skull. Subsequently, he dropped his claim that it was the notorious thirteenth skull. The discovery had, apparently, been based on a prophecy of dubious origin.
Understandably, Jack Churchward has queried Ritter for more evidence for his “Naacal” discovery, including photographs, to back up his latest extraordinary claims. In March 2011 Churchward managed to speak to him by phone, following which Ritter sent him a small set of photographs. Unfortunately, the picture of the so-called Naacal Tablets were quickly identified as being artifacts from Byblos (Lebanon) currently held by the Beirut Museum (item 16598). A small brass plaque, allegedly presented to Ritter by the priests, was identified as a Tablet of Union used in sixteenth-century England and later by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. When Churchward pointed out that he had learned the true origins of the photos and that they were not from India, Ritter merely commented that there was “maybe a coincidence” between the civilizations. He told Churchward he would provide more evidence during the summer of 2011, but nothing was ever forthcoming. My own two attempts to contact Ritter likewise received no reply.
Swiss researcher Armin Risi appoached frequent temple visitor Annett Friedrich to see if her contacts could corroborate any details of Ritter’s story. Risi was told that Ritter has several elements plainly wrong and that his story is clearly fiction. Risi adds that in a 2006 book Ritter had published another hoax story about the Sri Ekambaranatha Temple. He described how a priest led him into a secret part of the temple “which has never been shown to another white man before.” In this “secret part” of the Sri Ekambaranatha Temple, Ritter tells of having seen a gallery of more than 70 statues of former high priests: “Their slender but strong physical structure appeared to be almost reptilian, and I got the impression that these were amphibic beings who could live in the sea and on land at the same time.” Risi believes that Ritter is trying to exploit the gullibility of people in the West, as the notion of reptilian overlords has become quite the popular theme for many so-called alternative researchers.
For more information on Jack Churchward, visit jack.churchward.com and www.my-mu.com.