James Churchward

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By Tyler Grubb

black and white image of James Churchward [1]
image of James Churchward

James Churchward (February 27, 1851 - January 4, 1936) is an author born in England. The main focus of his writing is on the lost continent of Mu. Throughout his writing career, Churchward wrote 21 books all focusing on lost continents and Mu. His books range from an overarching explanation of Mu to a detailed description of the ancient Mu civilization. James Churchward’s major contribution to pseudoarchaeology is his theory and belief in a lost civilization called Mu. He spent years traveling the world, researching the lost continent, and translating texts from ancient civilizations, as he believed he had the ability to translate ancient languages. These translations, along with the translations of others, led to many of his ideas about Mu. While Churchward wrote many extensive works on the continent, there is no scholarly or factual evidence that supports his theories. [2]

What is Mu

Origin of Mu

The notion of the lost continent of Mu originated in Augustus Le Plongeon’s (1825-1908) writing. Augustus Le Plongeon traveled through Yucatan and studied the ancient Maya civilization, leading him to theorize about the history of the ancient Mayan civilization. Le Plongeon took the name Mu from French writer and priest Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg. [3] Bourbourg wrote about the relationship between the ancient Maya, Le Plongeon’s field of study, and Atlantis, and while translating an ancient Mayan codex, discovered the continent Mu. Although he believed he correctly translated the Mayan codex, it was later discovered to be a part of the Troiano Codex. The Troiano Codex has since been decoded and actually translates to information on astrology. While Bourbourg was a respected man during his time, many of his colleagues questioned him when he released writing on the translations and his theories about the Maya and Atlantis. [4]

Augustus Le Plongeon's Mu

Le Plongeon claimed that through his translations of Mayan writings, he discovered that the Maya were older than the ancient civilizations of Greece and Egypt. He explained this theory by creating an ancient continent by the name of Mu where individuals from this lost continent, that was submerged by a major catastrophe, were refugees that spread across the world and created civilizations like Egypt, Greece, India, Burma, and Easter Island. He believed that this lost civilization was not only the origin of the founders of these civilizations but also that the ancient civilization of Mu was the source of ancient megalithic architecture. He claimed that because there were similar symbols seen in all ancient civilizations they all originated in one place, the lost civilization Mu. While there are many similarities between Augustus Le Plongeon’s theories about Mu, James Churchward's theories are more widely known and perceived as the true version of Mu. [5]

James Churchward's Mu

handwritten map of Mu and the hyperdiffusion from Mu [6]
James Chruchward's map of Mu
James Churchward's idea of Mu is a large landmass in the Pacific Ocean that existed 12,000 years ago. The continent extended from Mangia to Hawaii and reached from Easter Island and the Marianas. Churchward traveled throughout the Pacific and its surrounding landmasses seeking to discover information about the original human civilization Mu. Many of Churchward’s ideas originated from Bourbourg’s mistranslation of the codex and Plangeon’s writings. Alongside Bourbourg’s translations, Churchward conducted some of his own translations of clay tablets he received from an Indian priest. His translations backed the information that Bourbourg had gained from the original translations. </ref name=Churchward1933>
James Churchward’s idea of Mu was that of a perfect human civilization that spread throughout the world, after a major catastrophe that destroyed the landmass, creating what people know to be ancient civilizations like Egypt and Maya. It was after the catastrophe that the few remaining survivors of the civilization spread throughout the world to create these new civilizations, and the only remaining direct descendants of the Mu people are Pacific Islanders. Churchward’s writings had detailed descriptions of the creation of the Mu landmass and the culture of the people of Mu. From his translations, he learned that Mu was formed from underground volcanic gasses that had expanded and created the landmass. [7]

Other Ancient Continents

There are many different theories about lost continents like Atlantis and Lemuria. These theories are all of the different lost continents that are believed to be superior to many civilizations and the origin of many advancements. There are many news articles every year of new evidence suggesting that a lost continent has been found. Often these are found in obscure places around the world, and the articles originated from the country where the lost city has been found. This suggests that discoveries are not legitimate or trustworthy. While James Churchward only largely believed and supported the lost continent of Mu, in many of his maps he places other lost continents, specifically Atlantis, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Information about other theories of different lost continents shows major similarities between them and Churchward’s theory of Mu. [8]


Atlantis is the most well known lost continent. Many people have heard of the theory of Atlantis, however many people do believe it is a real city and not just a theory. The idea of Atlantis started with Plato who talked about a lost civilization that was the perfect society. Although it is believed by scholars that Plato was talking about a theoretical society, many have taken his writings on this and used them as evidence for a truly lost continent. Ignatius Donnelly popularized the idea of Atlantis as a true civilization. He used similarities between cultures and societies to prove a common ancestor, which he claimed was from Atlantis. There are many different theories on exactly where Atlantis is or how it disappears, but all the different theories are extremely similar and have advanced civilizations. [9]


Lemuria, also known as the Land of Lemurs, was originated by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Blavatsky was a part of the Theosophical Society which believes that in order to understand the universe all religions must be combined to achieve the answer. The society also believes in seven root races, the third root-race is the race that lived on Lemuria. It was then William Scott-Elliot that states Atlantis and Lemuria were two separate continents. Lemuria is believed to sit between Madagascar and India, and to have been inhabited by large lemur-like creatures that were more intelligent and peaceful than humans. [8]

Similarities Between All Ancient Continents


Hyperdiffusion is the idea that all major cultural innovations and societies derived from one major superior ancient civilization. Usually, if an individual believes in hyperdiffusion, they do not acknowledge that two civilizations could evolve independently of each other and have similar aspects of culture. This idea extremely prevalent in all lost civilization theories. It is usually believed that the lost civilization contacted or diverged into other civilization passing on information, allowing the civilization to develop. Often this evidence is seen in large structures that are slightly similar between continents, or from traditions that are similar between distant populations. Hyperdiffusion is not a legitimate archaeological theory and is not supported by modern-day archaeologists. [10]

Hyperdiffusion in James Churchward's Writings

Hyperdiffusion is the basis of Churchward’s Mu. He claimed that Mu diffused into all ancient civilizations that he believed to be perfect: ancient Maya, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece. These civilizations also gained all of their technology and structures from Mu. Churchward suggests that all similarities between ancient societies and cultures originate from Mu. This mentality towards the development of ancient societies is seen throughout all of his works, especially ‘’The Lost Continent of Mu’’ his first book and most popular book about Mu. Within this book, he explains in detail how people of Mu traveled to other civilizations to survive a major catastrophe and tried to teach ancient civilizations what they knew. However, Churchward claims that the civilizations were of lesser quality than those from Mu, so although they had information from Mu, none were as successful and as superior as Mu. [3]


Ethnocentrism is the belief that all other countries or peoples are lesser to one civilization or group. Often in lost civilization theories, it is believed that the lost civilization is superior to all people, and their descendants are currently the most perfect and superior societies and cultures. This idea is seen in many modern nationalist movements. From colonization to Nazism, groups have placed their culture and their way as superior to others. [11] This is an extremely harmful mentality that is seen throughout pseudoarchaeological ideas. When this is seen in lost continental theories, there is often a descendant population of a lost continent that is viewed as superior to all others. This is then used to back modern ethnocentric movements and can cause real harm.

Ethnocentrism in James Churchward's Writings

This idea is seen deeply in James Churchward’s writings about Mu. Churchward’s main idea of Mu was that it was the perfect human civilization. His theory was that civilization had many races, but the race that was white was the most attractive and intelligent, dominating over the rest of the races. In “The Lost Continent of Mu’’ Churchward writes “the dominant race is the land of Mu was a white race, exceedingly handsome… Besides this white race, there were other races, people with yellow, brown or black skins. They, however, did not dominate.” Churchward believed that these white, dominant individuals than spread around the world and founded all civilizations that people of today view to be exceedingly intelligent: ancient Egypt, ancient Maya, and ancient Greece. The other lesser races were claimed to have been eradicated while the continent fell to the seafloor. This notion that one race was extremely superior to all others is a deeply ethnocentric idea. [7]

Popular Media's Effect

There are endless different theories about lost civilizations and lost continents, which leads to endless amounts of new evidence being discovered yearly by people trying to prove the existence of these civilizations. Often when new evidence for a lost continent is uncovered it is quickly debunked by scholarly archaeologists or a scholar in another scholarly field. The intent of these discoveries are often to prove the greatness of a nation or of a population, or they are to boost the popularity of the discoverer. Rarely is the intent behind the discovery purely scholarly in nature, or originated by a trusted scholarly individual that is backed by their colleagues.
The film and television industry is a large proponent of the belief in lost civilizations. There are countless amounts of movies and shows about Atlantis alone. Not only are there shows and films openly fictional, but there are also many that are intended to have the audience believe them or question the history they are told about lost civilizations and where parts of culture have originated. While there is a large industry of shows about lost continents, there are practically none that are about debunking these theories with the intention of limiting the number of people that believe these false theories.

Debunking James Churchward's Mu

It is widely understood by scholarly geologists and archaeologists that the lost civilization of Mu did not exist. Churchward’s theory of a major catastrophe sinking the landmass can not be proven by geological evidence. Sciences know that there is no possible way for a landmass the proposed size of Mu could sink into the seafloor. It is also understood by archaeologists that the Americas, Africa, and Europe all evolved and developed separately and without contact from one another. Although some people believe that there are similar structures between continents, they are understood by scholarly audiences to have been created for different purposes and through different methods. [8]
Not only is there no physical evidence for Mu, but most of the major evidence that Churchward uses have since been found incorrect. The original discovery of Mu in Bourbourg’s translations of the codex has since been discovered as entirely incorrect and was actually a part of a larger three-piece codex that has since been translated and has no evidence of Mu. Churchward’s own translations of a tablet he was told was from Mu, was actually a tablet from the ancient people of Tibet. The extensive lack of legitimate evidence or scholarly backing suggests that Churchward’s theory of Mu and all of his subsequent writings were, in fact, unfactual and based on falsehoods that were blindly followed by him and multiple other lost continent theorists. [4]
  1. Churchward, James 1987 The Lost Continent of Mu
  2. Churchward, James 1933 ‘’The Sacred Symbols of Mu’’ J.B. Hare. https://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/ssm/index.htm, accessed December 5, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bitto, Robert 2018 ‘’The Lost Continent of Mu & the Mexican Mother Civilization’’ Mexico Unexplained. http://mexicounexplained.com/lost-continent-mu-mexican-mother-civilization/, accessed December 5, 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Curtius, Guintus 2017 ‘’Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg: An Eraly Pioneer In Mesoamerican Studies’’ Quintus Curtius Fortress Of The Mind. https://qcurtius.com/2017/09/29/charles-etienne-brasseur-de-bourbourg-an-early-pioneer-in-mesoamerican-studies/, accessed December 5, 2019.
  5. Geller 2016 “Mu” Mytology.net. https://mythology.net/others/concepts/mu/, accessed December 5, 2019.
  6. Churchward, James 1930 The Lost Continent of Mu
  7. 7.0 7.1 Colavito, Jason 2016 ‘’The Weird Case of Atlantis-Mu in the Madrid Codex’’ Jason Colavito. http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/the-weird-case-of-atlantis-mu-in-the-madrid-codex, accessed December 5, 2019.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Haughton, Brian ‘’The Lost Lands of Mu and Lemuria: Was Ausralia Once Part of sunken Continent?’’ New Dawn Magazine https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/the-lost-lands-of-mu-and-lemuria-was-australia-once-part-of-a-sunken-continent, accessed December 5, 2019.
  9. Drye, Willie ‘’Atlantis’’ National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/archaeology/atlantis/, accessed December 5, 2019.
  10. 2016 ‘’Hyperdiffusionism’’ The Argumentative Archaeologist. https://www.andytheargumentativearchaeologist.com/hyperdiffusionism.html, accessed December 5, 2019.
  11. Goodman, James 2010 ‘’Nationalism as a Social Movement’’ International Studies Association and Oxford University Press. https://oxfordre.com/internationalstudies/internationalstudies/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.001.0001/acrefore-9780190846626-e-267, accessed December 5, 2019.