A recurring dream of the drowning of Atlantis was the secret engine of some of J.R.R. Tolkien's greatest work. As he described this work in a letter:
Tolkien came to suspect that the dream of the downfall of Atlantis may have been ancestral memory, passed down through the generations, especially after his son Michael shared similar dreams with him before they had ever discussed the dreams of the father. Tolkien spoke of his "Atlantis-haunting."
In many unfinished drafts and sketches, as well as in his most famous works, Tolkien attempted to describe the fate of Atlantis before and after the fall. He gave it many names, settling on Númenor for the civilization at its height, and Atalantê - directly evoking "Atlantis" - for the drowned world. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien transfers his dream to Faramir, dreaming of the fall of Númenor . The short fourth book of The Silmarillion, titled Akallabêth (The Downfallen in Adunaic , one of Tolkien's invented languages) we are given Elendil's account of the destruction of Númenor.
For me, the simplest and earliest of Tolkien's many versions of this theme is the most stirring and provocative, hinting at a workable geography of a deeper reality that may be directly relevant to our condition today. This is a two-page sketch for "The Fall of Numenor", published by Tolkien's son Christopher at the start of The Lost World and Other Writings, volume 5 in The History of Middle-Earth. In the story outline Tolkien describes how, when the gods decided to punish the Numenorians/Atlanteans for their crimes, they "globed the earth".
The Gods therefore sundered Valinor from the earth, and an awful rift appeared down which the water poured and the armament of Atalantê was drowned. They globed the whole earth so that however far a man sailed he could never again reach the West, but came back to his starting-point.
This was the creation of what Tolkien came to call the World Made Round. Before the bending of the world, a traveler could sail West in a straight line towards the realm of the gods (though few humans were welcome to go all the way). Now, in our "bended" (or bent) world if we travel West and keep on going for long enough, we merely come back to where we started.
On a higher level of reality, however, above the clouds of our consensual hallucinations, the Line of the Gods still runs straight. Unless you are an elf, or at least an elf-friend, however, you have little chance of finding the straight path. Tolkien's dream of Atlantis not only spurred him to become a world-maker, a master shaman of the imagination; it made him a world-rememberer, offering a vision of the sources of our human condition and a possible path (through travel in dream and in time) of transcending our bent condition. Makes you think twice about the possible merits of being a flat-earther.
Of related interest: A Robert Moss vision of Atlantis
Graphic: "The Fall of Numenor" by Darrell Sweet