“Once upon a time there was a king called Gradlon, a name meaning ‘full of divine grace’, and he ruled the region of Cornouaille in today’s Brittany, in France. One day – many centuries ago – he planned a military expedition to the kingdom of Lochlann, now Scandinavia, with the aim of conquering new territories.”
Thus, an old Celtic legend begins which symbolically narrates the destruction of Atlantis, and invites us to a timely reflection in the 21st century.
There must be a reason why no civilization can proceed after its system of ethics disintegrates. The ancient idea that the fate of a nation depends on its level of ethics and morality is taught by the Jewish Torah, and can be found in the tradition of nearly every nation. The origins of the Celts seem to have some elements in common with Judaism, and an eternal wisdom is present in both cultures.
What lessons, then, can we draw today from the “legendary” destruction of Atlantis as told by the Celtic legend?
What are the internal causes of the difficulties faced by our own civilization, in the East as in the West, and how can we avoid major disasters?
“Gradlon prepared three warships and traveled north in command of his fleet. Arriving at Lochlann, the ships were anchored. The king and his men could see a magnificent castle on the top of a mountain. ‘We must conquer that castle’, said the king to his warriors, and he gave the order to attack. One after another, all attempts to take the castle failed. Winter came, and the soldiers murmured. The army casualties were heavy. Would it not be wise to return to their homeland?”
The legend was studied in Brasília in the 1990s, during a course in divine wisdom taught by French Theosophist Yves Marcel. The story is an example of the oral transmission of wisdom that has been taking place since the remotest antiquity. There are numerous versions of the Gradlon legend. Most of them have been distorted and adapted to Christian dogmas, but their essence remains.
Among the Celts there were three castes: druids, warriors and manual workers. The main caste was formed by druids, sages and magicians whose mission was to preserve eternal knowledge. In an assembly, Yves Marcel said, the king could only speak after receiving the druid’s permission. In the caste of the Druids there were, besides the druids themselves, the bards and the ovates. The ovates were scholars. Their duty was to study the theory while the bards or poets had the mission of putting eternal wisdom in the form of verses. The metric of these poems had a rhyme and other rules with a complex structure which made it impossible to lose a single word from the text. Memorization was most effective. Thus, a number of legends went through the centuries and the teaching regarding the destruction of Atlantis came to us, as in the case of the present legend.
“In the face of the murmurs and questions of the warriors, the king made a clear and noble decision. He told his men they were right. ‘Go back to Brittany, this is my order’, he said. ‘As for me, I will stay and attack the castle alone. There are things only a king can do, and which a king must do on his own’.”
The warriors boarded the three ships and began their journey back, leaving their king in the land of Lochlann. 
One night, the legend goes, Gradlon was walking along the beach. As he wondered how he could enter the castle, he felt a quiet presence behind him. He turned, and there stood, a few feet away, seemingly defenseless, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“Who are you?”, asked Gradlon.
“My name is Melgven (a word that means ‘great whiteness’)”, she replied. “Your attacks against my castle were useless. I would have gladly given it to you if you had asked for it in the right way.”
“Why do you say that?”, the king asked. And she said:
“Because I love you. I’d like to marry you, but if you wish to be the husband of a goddess, you’ll have to promise you’ll never contradict me nor question my decisions.” 
On a collective level, Gradlon symbolizes the human beings of the Atlantean civilization. Melgven is the wisdom he seeks to conquer, and which cannot be obtained by force or by clumsy methods, but only in the “right way”, that is, through inner syntony.
Gradlon made the promise and married Melgven. Religious vows and spiritual pledges are present in all civilizations and cultures. The King decided to serve Wisdom – his wife -, and never to question her decisions. Indeed, the mystical marriage of the pilgrim with universal consciousness is a constant topic in esoteric traditions.
“After a few months of profound happiness, Melgven became pregnant”, says the legend. Melgven’s pregnancy symbolizes a more intense contact with material life.
“If we had a ship, we could go to the kingdom of Cornouaille, where my subjects await me”, Gradlon said.
“We have something better than ships”, Melgven replied. “We have my magic horse, Morvark. With it we can navigate above the waves. Indeed, the time has come for you to return to your kingdom. Let’s ride on Morvark’s back. I’ll give you Morvark as a farewell gift, for I can only accompany you part of the way.”
Gradlon did not like the idea of having to live without his wife, but he had promised obedience and could do nothing. The two swiftly galloped over the waves until they saw Gradlon’s fleet, which was lost in a fog, navigating in circles.
Morvark climbed aboard with the couple and the magical fog disappeared. The journey back to Cornouaille, the kingdom of Gradlon, was resumed. Melgven soon gave birth to their child. A charming girl was born, and was given the name of Dahud (a word that means “good magic”). Then, to Gradlon’s despair, Melgven died. Her beautiful body had to be thrown into the ocean.
The sea at this point may represent the universal consciousness, or that which a civilization forgets as it becomes materialistic. Along the path of increasing contact with the external world, a society throws its knowledge of eternal wisdom into the sea of oblivion. Only the children of wisdom remain alive, and these are not always loyal, because they live in the atmosphere of the material world with all its illusions.
Gradlon could not recover from the loss of his wife. He started drinking. When ministers came to ask for his opinion on matters of State, he would answer:
“Do as you think best.”
Dahud grew, and her beauty was like that of her mother. However, the girl was profoundly selfish. She systematically disobeyed the teachings of Kaurintin, the spiritual authority of Cornouaille. Knowing that she was a demigod and had magical powers, Dahud misused her gifts and talents. Usually drunk and suffering from depression, her father accepted everything Dahud did because he felt she was as beautiful as his wife had been. 
One day, Dahud asked King Gradlon to build a special city for her, in which the high priest Kaurintin would have no power or influence. The city was built on a gigantic embankment, protected from the waters of the sea by a complex set of dikes. A system of floodgates was open and closed so that ships could enter and leave the port of the city.
The new metropolis became the largest city in the world. Its name was Ker-Is, which means “low city”. With her magical powers, Dahud created a legion of monstrous animals that were able to perform all manual tasks. Now the people of the kingdom, already concentrated in the city of Is, could dedicate themselves to doing nothing, to leisure, to futility, to drinking and to having sex without love. It was the utopia of human animality.
Each night, Dahud organized a dancing party for the upper economic and political class of the city. Everyone was fascinated by Dahud’s physical beauty. There was no citizen who was not willing to do anything to spend a night with her.
At the end of the ball, after the last dance, she quietly invited a gentleman to go to her bedroom. The two lovers then had an exuberant night of pleasure. Shortly before dawn, Dahud had the man murdered so that no one could be a witness to her actions.
The inhabitants of the city of Is were so corrupted already that they did not seek to investigate what happened to the disappearing citizens. They wished to avoid risks. They sought short-term pleasure and were not interested in such things as self-knowledge, self-control, truth, or sincerity, although some of them used these beautiful words often and with elegance.
Once an unknown man with a physically luminous presence appeared at the ball in Dahud’s castle. No one knew where he came from. Dahud was curious, and invited him to spend the rest of the night with her. He kindly refused, but she replied:
“It’s an order.”
“I don’t take orders from mortals”, he said.
That morning, no one was assassinated. The next night the same stranger appeared again at the ball. Invited to go to Dahud’s bedroom, he refused, and Dahud “felt for the first time that she loved him”.
On the third night, the legend goes, there was a terrible wind. The gates that protected the country from the waters were closed with a special key, which was held by King Gradlon himself.
In this story Dahud symbolizes the degenerate Magic, the misuse of the power of thought, and the human potentialities put at the service of selfishness. Every citizen who symbolically had “a night of love with her” – that is, who sought Magic for egocentric purposes – died spiritually the next morning. A messenger of the gods rejected the trap and changed the whole situation. At that moment, Karma was ripe and the entire island approached its end.
The lesson does not apply exclusively to the Atlantean context, and it is valid in today’s civilization. Our humanity, too, will have to put an end to the growth of selfishness, or else selfishness may put an end to it.
A master of wisdom announced in the 19th century that when our humanity reaches its zenith of physical intellectuality, and once it develops its highest material civilization, being unable to go any higher in its own cycle, its progress towards absolute evil will be arrested (just as its predecessors, among them the Atlanteans) by a cataclysmic change of adequate proportions. In this way, materialistic civilization will be destroyed. 
The karmic mystery of 21st century consists in the secret equation of the price to pay for the inevitable replacement of selfish ignorance with the wisdom of impersonal justice.
“Dahud”, says the legend, “asked the stranger why he did not wish to love her.”
“Because you don’t love me”, he replied.
“And how can I prove my love?”, asked Dahud.
“You can show your love by giving me the secret key to the floodgates that protect the city”, said the stranger.
Dahud went to her father. He was drunk as usual, having lost his vigilance and attention. Dahud reached into his pockets and grabbed the key to the floodgates, delivering it to the luminous gentleman.
The divine messenger said to Dahud:
“Now you’ve proved you have some love for me. Go to the top of the highest tower in town. From there you’ll behold something you’ve never seen before.”
The stranger opened the floodgates that protected the city from the sea water, and the long-forgotten Karma of past actions flooded the entire region. Almost everyone started to drown. Three of the exceptions were, Gradlon, who at the last moment had regained his senses and was riding on his magic horse; Kaurintin, the altruistic magician, who rode his own flying horse, and Dahud, isolated at the highest point of the tower of Is.
The population of the “Lower City” was dying in panic, along with the monstrous animals in charge of the manual labor. Riding Morvark, the gift from his wife Melgven, King Gradlon could see the whole catastrophe. In the distance, the distressed voice of Dahud sounded:
“Help me, Daddy!”
Kaurintin the magician rode beside the king and gave him an order:
“Let her die, Sir.”
But Gradlon could not stand seeing his daughter – the corrupt knowledge separated from ethics – disappear into the waters without even an attempt to save her. He approached the tower where Dahud was shouting and said:
“Jump on the rump of my horse.”
Dahud jumped and something strange occurred. Under the weight of her selfishness, the flying horse began to sink. With an undisputed authority in his voice, Kaurintin shouted to the king:
“In the name of heaven, Gradlon, if you want to survive, get rid of the demon sitting behind you!”
Yet Kaurintin knew his words would be useless. Gradlon would not dare throw his daughter into the water. Using his sacred staff, the magician struck Dahud a definite blow, and made her plunge beneath the waves. Morvark recovered and galloped up again. The two men continued their journey to dry land.
“Years later”, says the tradition, “there appeared in the rocky waters of the Celtic region a dazzling mermaid whose songs are as sad as they are beautiful.” Thus, ends the legend of Ker-Is.
The Celtic narrative reflects on the level of popular tradition the trajectory of all karmic evolutions begun under divine inspiration that, with the passage of time, undergo degeneration.
The three female figures in the story – Melgven, Dahud and finally the mermaid – symbolize a divine femininity; a perverted femininity; and a femininity that gets purified by sublimation. The unknown gentleman of bright presence, which changes the course of history, symbolizes the wise male figure. The fools systematically murdered by Dahud represent the rotten masculinity of a decaying society. Gradlon, married to Melgven, lived the enduring, responsible love which generates life.
As in the remote experience preserved in the folklore of the Celts, today’s society suffers from a crisis and decay that result from two factors. One is the lack of conscious contact with our divine origins. The other is the inability to see the sacred future of human evolution.
Melgven, the white light of limitless wisdom, died while giving birth to Dahud, the civilization of selfishness. However, the higher ethics of human souls and the perception of brotherhood as natural law are still present today, just as Kaurintin was present in Ker-Is.
In our century as in every age, ethics is the magic horse that allows us to move above the karmic waves of spiritual ignorance. It is up to each one to build or obtain his Morvark, the vehicle of moral strength, and help the awakening of other souls.
Whenever the waters of collective renewal arrive, the legitimate Karmic authority acts in the right timing to preserve that which is essential. Gradlon symbolizes the modern citizen, bewildered by the death of his divine wife – wisdom – and steeped in the decay of the materialistic world. He can regain his senses at the decisive moment.
 Having moral courage means one does the right thing regardless of receiving support or not. In an initiatory experience, the would-be initiate must be alone while facing the unknown.
 Initiation is an inner rebirth. The pilgrim who wants to be born to a new level of consciousness does retain his ultimate independence, yet he cannot make demands of the initiator.
 Magic horses symbolize airplanes. The legend of Gradlon and other legends of Atlantis tell the story of the fourth root-race of mankind – or “fourth humanity” – according to the theosophical nomenclature. Writing about the fourth root-race in “The Secret Doctrine”, Helena Blavatsky says that there were flying machines (“air-vehicles”) in those days. See “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, 1888, Theosophy Co., volume II, pp. 426 and 427.
 During the moral decline of a civilization, the initially involuntary errors (Gradlon’s psychological paralysis due to sadness) pave the way to deliberate wrongdoing and the intentional mistakes symbolized by Dahud’s behavior. Therefore, one must fight and avoid involuntary errors, whose source is in the subconscious.
 See the lower half of page 156 and the first lines of page 157, Letter XXIII-B, in “The Mahatma Letters”. The book is available in PDF at our associated websites. You can click for instance here to see it. The quotation comes from item 5 in the Letter.