Lewis Spence

(James) Lewis (Thomas Chalmbers) Spence was a Scottish scholar of the occult, and attached special interest on the Atlantis theme, born in Forfarshire, Scotland, on November 25, 1874, and educated at Edinburgh University before following a journalistic career. In 1899 he married Helen Bruce.

From 1899 to 1906 he was sub-editor of the leading newspaper The Scotsman, editor of The Edinburgh Magazine from 1904 to 1905, sub-editor of The British Weekly from 1906 to 1909. Around that time he began to seriously study mythology and folklore, with special reference to Mexico and Central America. He published important works on the subjects including his own study The Popul Vuh, the sacred book of the ancient Quiche Indians of Maya (1908) and A Dictionary of Mythology (1910).

His published books on mythology, folklore, and the occult numbers more than 40 works, and included his Encyclopedia of Occultism (1920), which was reissued by University Books in 1960, that is the first comprehensive work of its kind. (see Source: 81,)

He also contributed articles to the Hibber Journal, Glasgow Herald and Times. Being an ardent Scottish Nationalist, he contested North Midlothian in 1929. He also found time to write romantic poetry.

Spence was a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and Vice-President of the Scottish Anthropological and Folklore Society. He received a D. Lit., and in 1951 was awarded a Royal pension for services in literature.

Perhaps he is best recognized for his books on Atlantis that included: The Problem of Atlantis (1924; reissued by Causeway as Atlantis Discovered in 1974), Atlantis in America (1925), The History of Atlantis (1926; reissued by University Books in 1968), Will Europe Follow Atlantis? (1942), and The Occult Sciences in Atlantis (1943) He also edited the journal Atlantis Quarterly in 1932.

Other books by Spence on occult themes included: The Magic and Mysteries of Mexico (1932), The Problem of Lemuria (1932), The Occult Causes of the Present War (1940), The Magic Arts in Celtic Britain (1945), The Fairy Tradition in Britain (1951), and Scottish Ghosts and Goblins (1952).

Spence died on March 3, 1955. A.G.H.


Shepard, Leslie A., ed.. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 3rd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1991, 1571-1572.