I have referred to the contempt with which the Atlanteans were prone to regard the vegetable kingdom. Animals, including man, shared their scorn. The idea may have been that with their advantages they ought to have done much better for themselves. Minerals, however, were regarded as helpless; and hence the extraordinary attention paid to them. Beneath the 'houses' the rock had been tunneled out into grottos, some in odd fantastic forms, but most in immense polyhedra or combinations of curves. Each 'house' had some twenty of such gardens. Three reagents were used in the cultivation; the "seed of metals," "the seed of Light," and the seed of "___," an untranslatable idea approximating to our mystic's interpretation of 'Alpha and Omega.' The two former produced simple effects, the first formed jewels, self-luminious, which yet grew like flowers, the second similar effects with metals; while the third brought any mineral to flower in the most extravagant combinations of colour and form. All such conditions as texture, hardness, elasticity, and physical attributes in general, were considered worthy of the profoundest attention.
As an instance of these, I may describe particular gardens. One would have a roof of softly-glowing sapphires, foxglove, bluebell or gentian, and between these champak stars of ruby. The walls would be covered with tendrils of vine within whose depths lurked tiny blossoms of amethyst. The floor would be of malachite, but alive, growing as a coral does, softer than any earthly moss and more elastic to the tread. On every darker leaf might glow dew-drops of self-strung diamond formed from the carbon dioxide of the air by the action of the "seed of Light." Another grotto would be a monochrome of blue, various copper salts being 'planted' everywhere, and growing in incrustations and festoons of every shade of blue from the faintest tinge of cerulean azure to the depth of ultra marine and indigo. The floor would be mingled, translucent blue and green and grey, in whose abyss would be seen shapes of anemones, perhaps of such hues as iron oxide, silver chromate, and cupramonium cyanurate. All this floor would in all respects resemble water but for its greater solidity, and floating on it would be giant lilies, great green leaves of emerald with cups of pearl not less than twelve feet in diameter, with corollae of pure gold, so fine that they glimmered green, with pistils of platinum on whose tops trembled great pigeon-blooded rubies. Another might be wholly of metal, a mere bower of jasmine, with its floor of violets. The law of growth of these creatures of wisdom was not that of plants or animals, or even of crystals; it was that of the Earth. Constantly growing as the planet approached the Sun, they as steadily shrank as she departed to aphelion. This was not growth and decay, but the rise and fall of an eternal bosom. It is probable, too, that this is one of the reasons why Atlas neglected the higher kingdoms; they had learned to grow, but on wrong lines, and it was too late to endeavour to correct the error.
These gardens were the principal places of working. It was hardly possible to pass from one place to another without coming upon one of them, so cunningly were they distributed; and in every garden would be found, joyful and noble, parties of workers intent on their beloved task. The passer-by would gladly join one of such parties, engage in the work for so long as he wished, and then proceed upon his private business. In these same gardens too, were salvers and goblets always filled with Zro, and after toil, refreshment fitted the workers to return to labour.
Now of these workings in the gardens strange tales are told. It is said that the inhabitants falling to repose were visited in sleep by incubi and succubi (whatever the nature of these may be, and I by no means concur in the opinion of Sinistrari), and that they welcomed such with eagerness. Nay, darker legends tell of infamous commerce and intercourse with demons foul and malicious, and pretend that the power of Atlas was devilish, and that the catastrophe was the judgement of God. These mediaeval fables of the debased and perverted phallicism miscalled Christianity are unworthy even to be refuted, founded as they are on hypotheses contrary to common sense. Nor would they who knew themselves masters of the Earth have deigned to degrade themselves, and moreover to vitiate their whole work by commerce with inferiors. If there be any truth whatever in these stories, it will then be more easily supposable that the Atlanteans aspiring to journey sunwards to Venus, might invoke the beings of that planet, should it be possible for them to travel to us. And that this is impossible, who can assert? On the theory of the magicians, power increases as the Sun is approached, the inhabitants of Earth being more highly infused with the magical force of Our Star than those of Mars, and they again more than those of great Jupiter, gloomy and disastrous Saturn and Uranus, or Neptune lost in star-dreams. Again, the powers of each particular planet may, nay, must be wholly diverse. So fundamental a condition of existence as the value of G being vastly various, must not the inhabitants differ equally in body and in mind? What lives on the minute and airless Moon can be no inhabitant of what may hide beneath the flaming envelope of the Sun, with its fountains of hydrogen flaming an hundred thousand miles into the aether. And surely so wild an ambition as that of Atlas would not have been held by beings so wise and powerful for so many centuries had they not either a sure memory of coming from Mars, or some earnest of their eventual departure to Venus. Man does not persist in the chimerical for more than a few generations. Alchemy achieved results so startling and so beneficial to humanity at large — one need only mention the discovery of zinc, antimony, hydrogen, opium, gas itself — that the original ideals were changed for others more limited and more practical — or at least more immediately realisable.
Nor is this view unsupported by testimony of a sort. "Great and glorious, rays of our father the Sun," says one of the poets of Atlas, "are they within us. Let us call them forth by utterance that is not uttered, by the gesture that is not made, by the working that is above all working, for they are great and glorious, rays of our father the Sun. Then from our bride that waits for us in the nuptial chamber, green in the green West, blue in the blue East, exalted above our father in the even and in the morn, spring forth our heirs and our hosts, to greet us in the darkness. Dim-glimmering are our gardens in the light of the seed of light; they are peopled with shadows; they take form; they are as serpents, they are as trees, they are as the holy Zcrra, they are as all things straight or curved, they are winged, they are wonderful. With us do they work, and that which was but one is seven, and that which was two is become eleven! With us do they work, and give us of the draught miraculous; us do they instruct in magic, and feed us the delicate food. Let us call forth them that are within us, that they that are without may enter in, as it was made manifest by Him that maketh secret." This passage, not devoid of a rude eloquence, makes clear what was held in exoteric circles. For in Atlas the poet was not as in England a holy and exalted being, one set apart for his high calling, throned in the hearts of the people, cherished by kings and nobles, one on whom no wealth and honour are too great to shower, but one of the people themselves, of no greater consequence than any other. Every man was an artist in so far as he was a man; and every man being equally so in nature, whether so in achievement or not mattered nothing, as appreciation was of no moment. Accomplishing Art for the sake of Art, the interest of the creator in his work died with its creation. It may therefore be possible that these words are those of poetic exaggeration, or that there is a concealed meaning in them, or that they are intended to mask and mislead, or that the poet was not himself fully instructed. Indeed it is certain that only the High House had the secrets of Atlas, and that the magicians of the House held the undeniable if sometimes dangerous doctrine that the truth and falsehood of any statement alternated as do day and night according to the status of the hearer of the statement. However, so strong is the tradition concerning the 'Angel of Venus' that it must at least be considered carefully. The theory appears to have been that if the magicians of Venus invited the Atlanteans, means would assuredly follow, just as if a King summons a paralysed man to his presence, he will also send officers to convey him. Now whether the 'Angel of Venus' is really an angel in anything like the modern sense of the word, or merely a title of one of the principal magicians of the planet, it is evident that the High House ardently desired his presence. That this might be manifested by the birth of a child "without the stain of Atla" was clearly an ultimate desideratum, an outward and visible sign of redemption, an obvious guarantee of the reality of the occurrence. It was then a Virgin high priestess who achieved so notable a renown; whether or not this is a mere poetic parable of the abiogenesis — if it is indeed fair so to describe it — of the eleventh stage of Zro is another and an open question. In any case, such is the tradition, and numerous parodies of it are still extant in the stories of the births of Romulus and Remus, Bacchus, Buddha and many other legendary heroes of modern times; we even catch an echo in the myths of such barbarian lands as Syria.
So much and no more concerning the Underground Gardens of Atlas, and of their commerce with the inhabitants of Venus.