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Spence, (James) Lewis (Thomas Chalmers) (1874-1955)

Spence, (James) Lewis (Thomas Chalmers) (1874-1955)

Scottish journalist and scholar of the occult who took a particular interest in the Atlantis theme. Born November 25, 1874, in Forfarshire, Scotland, he was educated privately and at Edinburgh University before following a journalistic career. He was copy editor of the newspaper The Scotsman, (1899-1906), editor of The Edinburgh Magazine (1904-05), and copy editor of The British Weekly (1906-09). About this time he took to serious study of mythology and folklore, with special reference to Mexico and Central America. He published some important books on the subject, including his own study of The Popul Vuh, the sacred book of the ancient Quiché Indians of Maya (1908) and A Dictionary of Mythology (1910).

He also published more than 40 other works dealing with mythology, folklore, and the occult, including the Encyclopaedia of Occultism (1920) the first comprehensive work of its kind and ultimately one of the primary sources of this Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology.

He contributed articles to the Hibbert Journal, the Glasgow Herald, and The Times. An ardent Scottish nationalist, he contested North Midlothian as a candidate in 1929. He also found time to write romantic poetry. He was a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and was vice president of the Scottish Anthropological and Folklore Society. In 1951 he was awarded a royal pension for services to literature.

He is best known, perhaps, for his books exploring the Atlantis myth. He also edited the journal Atlantis Quarterly in 1932. His Magic Arts in Celtic Britain (1945) was used extensively in the early years of the modern neo-pagan witchcraft revival. He died March 3, 1955.


Spence, Lewis. Atlantis in America. London: E. Benn, 1925. Reprint, Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1972.

. British Fairy Origins. London: Watts, 1946.

. The Fairy Tradition in Britain. London; New York: Rider, 1948.

. The History of Atlantis. 1926. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1968.

. The Magic and Mysteries of Mexico. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1930.

. The Occult Causes of the Present War. N.p., 1940.

. The Occult Sciences in Atlantis. London: Rider, 1943. Reprint, New York: S. Weiser, 1970.

. The Problem of Atlantis. 1924. Reprinted as Atlantis Discovered. New York: Causeway Books, 1974.

. The Problem of Lemuria. London: Rider, 1932.

. Scottish Ghosts and Goblins. N.p., 1952.

. Second Sight: Its History and Origins. London; New York: Rider, 1951.

. Will Europe Follow Atlantis? N.p., 1942.

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