In an account of the sinking of Atlantis, taken from a secret commentary and given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, a kind of robot is mentioned (S.D. vol. 2, pp. 427-428). It is there called a “speaking animal” or “speaking beast.” In a footnote Blavatsky reports that, according to the accounts, these were artificially-made beasts, mechanical animals that were informed by elementals.
In another footnote Blavatsky reports that, according to Brahmachari Bawa, extensive Sanskrit treatises on such subjects once existed but are now lost. There is an existing Pali text, Loka-paññatti, “Description of the World,” that is largely based on lost Sanskrit texts.1 It refers to such a robot, in the words bhūta-vāhana-yanta (Sanskrit, bhūta-vāhana-yantra), literally, “elemental vehicle machine.” The word bhūta means both an “element,” as in the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether), and a “spirit,” as in nature spirits. Hence, it is what is called in Theosophical and related writings an elemental. The phrase means a machine that is the vehicle of an elemental. These elemental-driven machines in the account given in the Loka-paññatti are used to protect the relics of the Buddha.
According to the Loka-paññatti, the secret of the construction of these elemental-driven robots is kept in the place “roma” (roma-visaya). Modern scholars have assumed that this refers to Rome.2 However, romaka-pura (“town of the romakas”) is said in Sanskrit astronomical texts to be the home of the ancient astronomer Asura Maya, and T. Subba Row wrote that: “In the opinion of the Brahmans he was an ‘Atlantean’ and one of the greatest astronomers and occultists of the lost Atlantis” (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 5, p. 236). Blavatsky wrote that the name romaka-pura “is an allusion to the land and cradle of the ‘Sweat-born’ of the Third Race” (S.D. 2.67), being suggestive of the humanity “born from the pores of their parents” (S.D. 2.68). She explains that roma-kūpas means “hair-pores” in Sanskrit. She goes on to say that “these are references to the later Second and the Earlier Third Root Races.” Even though these races are actually pre-Atlantean, the name romaka-pura was apparently adopted to refer to Atlantis, “since it was part and parcel of the last continent of Atlantis” (S.D. 2.50).
Here is the story of the doom of Atlantis from The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, pp. 426-428:
“For here is a fragment of the earlier story from the Commentary: —
. . . “And the ‘great King of the dazzling Face,’ the chief of all the Yellow-faced, was sad, seeing the sins of the Black-faced.
“He sent his air-vehicles (Viman) to all his brother-chiefs (chiefs of other nations and tribes) with pious men within, saying: ‘Prepare. Arise ye men of the good law, and cross the land while (yet) dry.’
‘The Lords of the storm are approaching. Their chariots are nearing the land. One night and two days only shall the Lords of the Dark Face (the Sorcerers) live on this patient land. She is doomed, and they have to descend with her. The nether Lords of the Fires (the Gnomes and fire Elementals) are preparing their magic Agneyastra (fire-weapons worked by magic). But the Lords of the Dark Eye (“Evil Eye”) are stronger than they (the Elementals) and they are the slaves of the mighty ones. They are versed in Ashtar (Vidya, the highest magical knowledge).* Come and use yours (i.e., your magic powers, in order to counteract those of the Sorcerers). Let every lord of the Dazzling Face (an adept of the White Magic) cause the Viman of every lord of the Dark Face to come into his hands (or possession), lest any (of the Sorcerers) should by its means escape from the waters, avoid the rod of the Four, (Karmic deities) and save his wicked’ (followers, or people).
‘May every yellow face send sleep from himself (mesmerize?) to every black face. May even they (the Sorcerers) avoid pain and suffering. May every man true to the Solar Gods bind (paralyze) every man under the lunar gods, lest he should suffer or escape his destiny.
‘And may every yellow face offer of his life-water (blood) to the speaking animal of a black face, lest he awaken his master.†
‘The hour has struck, the black night is ready, etc., etc.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
‘Let their destiny be accomplished. We are the servants of the great Four.‡ May the Kings of light return.’”
“The great King fell upon his dazzling Face and wept. . . .
“When the Kings assembled the waters had already moved. . . .
“(But) the nations had now crossed the dry lands. They were beyond the water mark. Their Kings reached them in their Vimans, and led them on to the lands of Fire and Metal (East and North).”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Still, in another passage, it is said: —
“ . . . . Stars (meteors) showered on the lands of the black Faces; but they slept.
“The speaking beasts (the magic watchers) kept quiet.
“The nether lords waited for orders, but they came not, for their masters slept.
“The waters arose, and covered the valleys from one end of the Earth to the other. High lands remained, the bottom of the Earth (the lands of the antipodes) remained dry. There dwelt those who escaped; the men of the yellow-faces and of the straight eye (the frank and sincere people).
“When the Lords of the Dark Faces awoke and bethought themselves of their Vimans in order to escape from the rising waters, they found them gone.”
Then a passage shows some of the more powerful magicians of the “Dark Face” — who awoke earlier than the others — pursuing those who had “spoilt them” and who were in the rear-guard, for — “the nations that were led away, were as thick as the stars of the milky way,” says a more modern Commentary, written in Sanskrit only.
“Like as a dragon-snake uncoils slowly its body, so the Sons of men, led on by the Sons of Wisdom, opened their folds, and spreading out, expanded like a running stream of sweet waters. . . . . . many of the faint-hearted among them perished on their way. But most were saved.”
Yet the pursuers, “whose heads and chests soared high above the water,” chased them “for three lunar terms” until finally reached by the rising waves, they perished to the last man, the soil sinking under their feet and the earth engulfing those who had desecrated her.”
Footnotes to The Secret Doctrine passage:
* Wrote the late Brahmachari Bawa, a Yogi of great renown and holiness: “Extensive works on Ashtar Vidya and such other sciences were at different times compiled in the languages of the times. But the Sanskrit originals were lost at the time of the partial deluge of our country.” . . . (See Theosophist of June, 1880, “Some Things the Aryans Knew.”) For Agneyastra, see Wilson’s Specimens of the Hindu Theatre, I., p. 297.
† Some wonderful, artificially-made beast, similar in some way to Frankenstein’s creation, which spoke and warned his master of every approaching danger. The master was a “black magician,” the mechanical animal was informed by a djin, an Elemental, according to the accounts. The blood of a pure man alone could destroy him. Vide Part II., xxvii., “Seven in Astronomy, Science, and Magic.”
‡ The four Karmic gods, called the Four Maharajahs in the Stanzas.
Notes to this post:
1. La Lokapaññatti et les idées cosmologiques du bouddhisme ancien, by Eugène Denis, 2 volumes,1977. For the story of the robots, see the Pali text, pp. 157-159, and the French translation, pp. 141-143.
2. Besides the references to Rome made by the editor and translator of La Lokapaññatti, Eugène Denis, see also, for example, John S. Strong, The Legend and Cult of Upagupta, 1992, pp. 186-187, and Relics of the Buddha, 2004, pp. 133-134.