An Invitation to an Academic Adventure
15- THE ATLANTIS INITIATIVES:
A MANUAL FOR WORLD REVOLUTION
Epilog: INVITATION TO AN ACADEMIC ADVENTURE
Or Should we Call it a Heroic Quest?
Christopher Vogler has described the primal scene of all heroic quest as follows:
Trouble shadows the Home Tribe. You hear its call in the grumbling of our stomachs and the cries of our hungry children. The land for miles around is tapped out and barren, and clearly someone must go out beyond the familiar territory. That unknown land is strange and fills us with fear but pressure mounts to do something, to take some risks, so that life can continue.
This is from Vogler's book 1The Writer's Journey (1992) which tells us about heroic adventure as the response to a strange prompting to go out and explore distant perilous lands and oceans, expecting only the unexpected, unsupported by the reassuring routines of your community. This primal impulse arises mysteriously, it seems, when the condition of your society and your own desire to prove yourself beyond the simple demands of your communal life no longer satisfy you. For Vogler, this impulse is still with us today, and is a source of human energy and commitment vital to the health and even the survival of our own society.
Quest Adventures v. The Adventure of Battle
And this type of impulse towards heroic quest is quite distinct from simply responding to the tocsin and general muster when an enemy tribe threatens your village. The battle heroism you'd need to fight in a war against a tribal enemy would doubtless demand a similar degree of courage, but would be of a very different quality from the heroism demanded by a summons to a quest. As you checked over your weapons and armor, you'd have the comfort of knowing that the whole community was joining or at least supporting you, and however fearsome your enemy, you'd be fighting opponents not too dissimilar to yourself, who'd be using relatively predictable weapons and tactics. And most decisive of all, you would be acutely aware that you didn't have much voice in the matter. Live Free or Die is not always a real choice.
Today, of course, the energies that drive battle heroes are largely surrogated into sports teams, contending as natives or mercenaries for the city of their choice. But no one is likely to confuse a character like Willie Mays or Don Bradman with the other type of hero, the modern equivalent of the quest hero, a Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to climb Everest.
But a summons to a quest would be a very different experience. Here, once again, is Vogler's eloquent description of such an event, in its primal form.
A figure emerges from the campfire smoke, an elder of the Home Tribe, pointing to you. Yes, you have been chosen as a Seeker and called to begin a new quest. You'll venture your life so that the greater life of the Home Tribe may go on.
Things haven't changed all that much since back then. A certain number of individuals have to be called away from the comforts of the campfire, of tribal or national way of life, to search out whatever new insight is required for the continued well-being of our society, maybe our very survival. The familiar traditions and ways of life of your society have run out of answers. And the rest of us will have the satisfaction of hearing about the achievements of your quest, which will perhaps be finally listed among the great exemplary deeds of the quest heroes of our civilizations, what they contributed to our survival and our advancement.
Is the Epic Quest so Obsolete?
In fact, if you take a look at the great epics of western civilization you'll see that almost everyone of them, until quite recently, opens, in one form or another, with just this situation. So four thousand years ago, Gilgamesh feels this urge to leave Uruk and face down the fearful Humbaba, terror of the wilderness. Or Odysseus, naively believing he's just going to enjoy a triumphant cruise home after his mighty exploits in the taking of Troy, finds himself making, against all expectations, a quest voyage, an Odyssey indeed of exploration of strange and fearful outlands that resonates down our cultural histories perhaps more powerfully than any before or since.
And so on with the call of the heroic quest to Aeneas emulating the Odyssean voyage to find an abiding home for his displaced city, to Beowulf to extirpate the marsh-steppers, to Siegfried as apprentice dragon-slayer, or to Sir Gawain setting off to meet the ominous joviality of the Green Knight. We might continue with chivalric heroes from the Celtic Pwyll to Spenser's Artegal, and the Puritan hero Bunyan's Pilgrim. And if we look at the lives of the prophets, saints, and messiahs, how often to we find the saint's spiritual achievements have to be preceded by an incursion into the wilderness where the spiritual hero has to challenge the manifestations of his potential weaknesses and failings.
But now if we ask ourselves about the universality of such stories, are we content to suppose that they were told and retold to each generation simply to pass the time away over campfire, chieftain's hall, or at a great civic or religious festival.
Imaginative Participation €“ And its Consequences
Rather the unquestioned primary purpose was for the audience to join imaginatively in the reiterated telling of the tales, and participate in the benefits accrued by the hero in the course of his journey. Indeed, among early peoples, the tribal legends would be supplemented and enhanced by bush initiation for adolescents, and individual vision quests for mature youths. Later religions would offer vigils, pilgrimages, spiritual retreats, with increased structure and doctrine as numbers grew larger and the consequent culture more structured.
But the urge to explore the more imaginative aspects of the unknown was trailing off by the eighteenth century where the wonders transmuted into the scientific voyages of a Captain Cook, and the typic hero of the Enlightenment, Samuel Johnson's Rasselas, has to ignominiously burrow his way out of his paradisal valley to find himself in the real world of eighteenth century culture in its most barrenly rational form.
Conrad's Heart of Darkness testifies to the pushing back of both geographical and psychic boundaries that characterized both the outer and the inner explorations of the later nineteenth century. The hero Marlow's ventures into the darkest Congo jungles revealed that the darkness we find there exists not only out there in the wilderness but no less lurking within ourselves as complacent apostles of civilized values. Marlow's message could hardly have been more prophetic, since less than fifty years separated the human heads on the stockade poles of the Inner Station and the blatant, public Nazi massacres of Jews and no doubt others in the distant Ukraine (when in comparison the genocidal atrocities nearer home in the Fatherland itself masqueraded under almost genteel bureaucratic procedures).
The message brought back by Nightspore from the planet Tormance, the setting of the quest epic, Voyage to Arcturus (1920) provides what some might consider a striking and not entirely unappealing metaphysical justification for the new twentieth century heroic brutalism. Out of the welter of Tormance's conflicting ideologies, it finally emerges that our world has fallen under the enchantment of a false god, Crystalman, who deludes us into believing in ultimate values of human compassion, love, and beauty. Our hero, Maskull, is finally persuaded by the authentic god, Krag, that the universe, ultimate reality, is harsh, cold, and cruel, and that the only true way to live is with a remorseless disregard for others and a ruthless determination to seek out high adventure and personal enlightenment whatever its cost to gentler or more humane emotions or even one's personal existence, and however grim the final revelations concerning ultimate reality.
Colin Wilson considered Arcturus the novel of the century, but it has only been rescued from a strangely undeserved obscurity since the Second War. (Fortunately, there seems to have been no German translation before 1986, so the Nazis never got the chance to exploit it for their own dark purposes.)
Arcturus constitutes a significant innovation in the quest epic. The action takes in a cosmos strikingly more alien than Conrad's Congo and puts forth a metaphysic more radical than anything you could derive from any visionary quest since Gilgamesh. Most of all, there seems to be an almost cosmic seriousness of intent underlying the writing of Arcturus, that makes it difficult to take it as mere entertainment, fantasy in he limiting sense. So it's all the more surprising that the aesthetically roaring twenties, that could cope pretty effortlessly with Eliot, Pound, Joyce, Woolf, Dadaism, Surrealism were so totally indifferent to Lindsay.
In fact it was almost twenty years before Arcturus found the readers it merited, when a reclusive friend drew it to the attention of C S Lewis, (already established as a major authority on vision and allegory) thus sparking, it seems, Lewis' own career as a writer of fantasy faction. Lewis succeeded eventually in finding a copy of this forgotten work, and passed on his enthusiasm to JRR Tolkien, who, as he reported, devoured it avidly. But such a brilliantly imagined vision of a universe owing ultimate allegiance to an intolerably ruthless cosmic power was bound the provoke the massive responses it did from Lewis and Tolkien.
The world of western culture has evidently undergone some thing of a tectonic shift since the 20s. By the 1960s Lewis and Tolkien had become the prime instigators of a popular renewal of myth-fiction, particularly the heroic quest -the call to leave your civilized comforts, to journey out into uncharted territories, to confront its demons and learn wisdom from its sages. When Lewis' and Tolkien's earlier works emerged they were regarded by more conventionally minded colleagues as indulgent aberrations from their proper academic and scholarly activities. (There seemed to be somewhat greater toleration for dons who adopted the acceptably rationalistic form of the detective stories in their spare time creativity.)
Tolkien's The Hobbit could be written off as pardonable nursery tale for his young son, but no such excuse could be offered for the massive three volumes of The Lord of the Rings, too obviously directed towards adults who had not yet outgrown what John Dryden called the fairy way of writing.ii This unprecedented challenge to accepted notions of what academic life was meant to be about, provoked tepid reviews of Tolkien's work, no doubt reflecting a barely concealed professional indignation. This inter-academic dissonance turned out to be symptomatic of the coming paradigm shift in the imaginative terrains of our culture.
Certainly few of us were prepared for the ever-growing enthusiasm for quest literature that these works sparked, culminating in the global success of The Lord of the Rings film in 2006. But this was only the peak achievement of what you might call the Lewis-Tolkien revival of ancient quest literature. Popular bookstores now boast whole sections of fantasy books, typically better stocked than any section labeled Literature or Classics. And this is just the more public face of a whole world of quest fantasy pervading comic books, board games, and the subsequent computer games.
But simple imaginative participation in the in the deeds of the heroes soon became inadequate to quench this mysterious thirst for a revived era of the heroic ethos. Like so many successful (and not so successful) initiatives of our time, the earliest fruitful attempt to get beyond the limitations of phase one participation in the heroic life arose in Berkeley in1966 when a medievalist graduate student, Diana Paxson, launched what became The Society for Creative Anachronism. Join this society and you did more than just study or discuss the feudal system, you actually joined a re-creation of the feudal system itself, and might achieve any rank from seneschal to King or Queen. This unlikely enterprise started out simply as a celebration of Diana€˜s graduation, a garden party featuring medieval dressup and appropriate anachronistic medieval activities. But this party turned out so successfully that the participants decided to form a group which would promote similar periodic re-enactments of the jousting, feasting and arts of medieval and Renaissance society.
By 2008 the Society boasted 32000 members in 19 Kingdoms spread over North America, with outlying Kingdoms in Europe and Australasia, South Africa and elsewhere. The SCA was also extremely influential in stimulating Historical Re-enactment and Live Action Role Playing (LARP) groups. Wikipedia has listed over one hundred spread widely over first-world countries.
The SCA doubtless also inspired the classic success of the role playing board game Dungeons and Dragons and its derivatives and spinoffs, and particularly the fascinating Computer Role Playing Games (CRPG), where in some cases your moral choices may influence the outcome of the quest.
In essence, these role playing games showed how it was possible for groups to get together and form their own reality as a kind of symbolic counterbalance to what its members discerned as the materialistic distortions of our prevailing cultural era.
The players of these Choose your Role games committed themselves to vast computer adventures that might run them up to $100 and take 20-30 hours of serious play, even for the skilled player. For their complexities called for experience skills and persistence on a level with chess or poker. Web downloads provide hints, clues, and Walkthroughs backed up by journals and even books devoted to the games. Imaginative identification with the roles of the game, (particularly those deliberately set up with deficient Moral Alignment), became so intense that certain religious groups started giving vociferous warnings against these seemingly soul-imperiling practices.iii On the other hand, the challenges of such games as Wild Divine demanded and encouraged the development of higher mental and spiritual qualities in the role player.
In 1966, the year that saw the birth of the Society for Creative Anachronism (and, for that matter, as will appear later, the campus-wide tutorial program at Berkeley which initiated what leads to the Atlantis Initiatives) there appeared what turned out to be one of the most influential books of the century, Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan. So this UCLA anthropology graduate student goes on a field trip to study the use of psychedelic herbs among the Yaqui Indians of northern Mexico, and, with every natural (or at least cultural) misgiving, finds himself irresistibly drawn into a total participation in the Yaqui shamanism he had come to study simply, as he thought, for the purpose of gathering material for his MA thesis.
Carlos' (or should we better say, Don Juan's) impact on the imaginative life of our culture was sustained and broadened in the eleven books he wrote over the next thirty years. The outlandish shamanic adventures initiated by his Yaqui teachers were rendered strangely credible by what seemed his earnest determination to reveal every detail of these extraordinary experiences to the undeniably fascinated world of his increasing readership.
Carlos' own attempt to set himself up as a Californian Don Juan in his Tensegrity Institute, which instructed its initiates in his shamanic lore, and especially in the magical passes of older Mexican shamanism, drew relatively few adherents, considering the popularity of his books. But more generally his revelations of this submerged, elusive world of ancient wizardry greatly extended our conceptions of the boundaries of experience available to twentieth century man, of what is possible on our common reality plane. Carlos' experiences thus corroborated the Findhorn experience of the devas, and prepared the way for somewhat more credible and accessible academic participation in shamanic experience by Michael Harner and Alberto Villoldo. He was thus widely influential in validating the sporadic efforts to transcend the limitations of our lives in this age of complacent materialism.
Similarly, Diana Paxson and her friends have not been content with simply re-creating the Middle Ages for fun, pleasure, and temporary relief from the predominantly materialist ethos of our everyday lives. Deepening their participation in the older, pre-materialist, consciousness, their creation of The Covenant of the Goddess society has enabled women and men of today to make a serious life commitment to a restored form of ancient, pre-Christian religion, with a coherent ethos, ritual, and structure, lighter but not necessarily less effective than the major, arguably over-developed institutionalized religions of today.
Here, we note, Diana Paxon's heroic quest has been turned towards a more inward, less geographical, area of exploration, but the principle of reshaping and perhaps enhancing contemporary cultural realities remains the same.
For if the essence of the heroic quest is to leave the familiar, face the challenges of the unknown territories to bring back insights of value to share with one's community, then that territory can be explored without leaving the comfort of one's living room or study. This is brought out explicitly and with particular clarity in Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey (1992) a book that has already provided us with an epigraphic starting point for this entire enterprise we are pursuing. It's a book that had a considerable effect on the Hollywood film world, as well as on many other creative people. Following Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1948), itself a comprehensive application of Jungian insights to the heroic journey, Vogler showed how an extraordinary number of Hollywood movies owed so much of their success to their structuring on the lines of the traditional stages of the heroic quest. Vogler not only demonstrates how many successful films have been, and could be, structured along these lines but, even more important for our purposes, shows us how the script writers themselves have to undergo something of the heroic quest experience if they hope to create a successful work.
This is an essential starting point for what we are proposing for the adventure of the Atlantis Initiatives. The implementation of Atlantis is the as yet unmet heroic challenge whose issue, like all serious heroic challenges, is unknown at the time of this writing and most likely as you read this. So we offer you the normal alternative of just following along with our adventures to see how we do and, we hope, learn something from our adventures and misadventures. Or, Atlantis is unusual in this that it offers you right now the strong option of active participation in this quest, a true role, very possibly a key role in one of the most ambitious and far-reaching (and seemingly improbable) projects since Paul of Tarsus set out for Damascus or Mohammed (pbuh) set out for Medina. In other words, we're planning a slight jolt forward for human evolution.
So, make yourself comfortable on the bleachers, or, if you're tempted, join us down on the field. There's plenty of room on the team.
Well, you say, what would it actually involve, joining this team?
First you would get yourself a working knowledge of the Initiatives, good enough so that you could explain the plan to someone else. And of course, at the same time, note what you think is most strong and interesting, what is weak or just doesn't grock with you personally, and then, question whatever you think should be questioned. We innovate all the time, Atlantis has to be a continuing dialog.
Second, participate in any way you find interesting among the suggestions we'll give you or, even better, contribute what you think up for yourself. The opportunities will range from pointing out typos, editing documents for clarity and coherence, maybe corresponding and meeting with CEOs of universities and corporations, Secretaries and Ministers of Education, or just assuming responsibility for the whole Atlantis Revolution, or should we call it Renaissance, since, after all, our greatest battle cry is Forward to the Fifteenth Century - for good reasons you will shortly be hearing about.
Next, how do we find the monsters we're going to slay or (preferably) tame on this heroic quest, and how exactly do we deal with them:
THEN, WHERE BE THE MONSTERS?
Let's start by looking for times and places where monsters were last taken seriously, that is, no doubt, the Dark Ages. From the eighth century epic of Beowulf we get a glimpse of the menace of monsters as they were perceived at that time. At night the terrifying man-monster Grendel could break into the great hall of the king Hrothgar, and slay as many of the warriors as he felt like. If you should assay to seek out his lair by day, it was only a few miles out of town, but in a lake so palpably direful that a hunted deer would rather be devoured by the hounds on the shore than plunge into those dread waters.
But a mere ten centuries later, thanks to the courage of generations of heroes, increasingly assisted by physical deforestation and improvements in geographical and zoological knowledge, the monsters had vanished from moor and fell so that even the most speculative maps no longer warned Here be Monsters in the white spaces depicting the unknown lands of the remoter areas.
Nonetheless, the primal heroic urge to seek out monsters wilderness, and today we can at least enjoy such adventures by imaginatively participating in Frodo's adventures in The Lord of the Rings, and experience a more intensive participation by joining the Peace Corps or Medicins sans Frontieres. For young people particularly, these are the surviving equivalent of the essential tribal maturity rites that sent off the adolescents out into the bush to encounter the spirits of the wild. For reasons we shall be discussing, our modern educational systems have found few adequate equivalents to these opportunities to achieve social and psychic maturity. Happily, young and old can still join up for Outward Bound adventures in almost thirty countries and can enjoy, or at least endure, challenging wilderness experiences capable of taking them closer to the heart of the ancient experiences of the wild, as ritualized by tribal peoples, than anything else that has been available at least since the age of chivalry.
Nearer home there are some marvelous equivalents to the more spectacular exotic wilderness adventures, of which I would just mention the Kairos and similar prison ministries who face and overcome the monsters inhabiting the souls of our prison populations. David Wilkinson's The Cross and the Switchblade could well be listed as a modern epic of heroes battling the grim entities ravaging the souls of young people we have permitted to grow up in the slum conditions unthinkable in more advanced societies than our own. In healing others, however, we may find healing ourselves.
But heroic as these specific crusades against criminality may be, western society in this era is faced with a wide complex of social and economic problems that challenge >heroic' intervention on a much larger scale. And that is what Atlantis Interventions is ready to provide. A typical list of problems facing our society today would include (starting with the most fundamental)
Are you trying to tell me I hear you protest, that all these incredible messed up situations have a single identifiable root cause? And that the root problem has a single solution that can be provided by your Atlantis Initiatives! Sounds, well, I'm looking for a polite word . . .
Absolutely that's what I'm going to tell you. Consider the situation when Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and their friends were trying to work out the best way of coping with the incredible mess that had resulted from the ideas of one of those disastrous Georges on how to run America. They went back to first principles. And finally it all worked out the way they hoped. But of course the application of those principles took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. In fact it's a battle, always mental and too often physical, that's still going on even after a couple of centuries and more.
Well, Atlantis too goes back to first principles. And after a little more reading I hope you are going to agree with me that these major problems of this era arise from the fact that we have not yet applied the founding principles of this civilization with the necessary dedication and consistency.
So let me try out this fundamental principle on you:
Human institutions only succeed insofar as they function and communicate through human, personal, contact. Their breakdowns, or partial failures, and palpable limitations result from failures in human contact.
Let's look at an example or two of this principle in action, because this is important. The first and worst Madness of King George was to think that it was possible for him to govern the American colonies across a storm-tossed Atlantic which might take a fast ship six weeks to traverse. Personal contact minimal. Institutional breakdown maximal. And if you look at the deliberations of the founding fathers over the next few years you can see that, in their wisdom, all their discussions centered on one central issue, how can you form a workable central government of these far flung thirteen colonies and achieve the most effective human contact between the government and the governed?
Result, the American Constitution, standing remarkably intact until today, apart from those Amendments necessary to recognize and embody those Founding Principles ever more effectively. And that is what Atlantis Initiatives stands for now, the intensifying of that human contact, which is the key to the success not only of good government but also to any tolerable human lifestyle. Human Contact, as we shall be demonstrating, is the essential lubricant to any institutional machinery. Neglect it and expect heat, smoke, and friction!
Need another example? In a remarkably insignificant corner of the mighty Roman Empire a somewhat offbeat Rabbi of, it would seem, exceptional charisma founds a religious movement of reasonable orthodoxy but with a particular emphasis, you might say, on human relationships. He does not find it easy to get on with the establishment of his day and is ignominiously executed as a troublemaker. He was associated with miracles, not unusual for holy men during that period, and even the more exceptional miracle, as was asserted by his followers, of his own resurrection from the dead.
Surely the whole affair would not have rated much more than a half-column filler if Rome had evolved a national newspaper at that time. And yet, after a mere three centuries this Jesus movement had become such a powerful political and religious group in the Roman Empire that the Emperor Constantine really had little choice but to take it over for his own purposes if he was to hold the Empire together in some kind of viable unity. And whatever supernatural forces may or may not have been involved, the key sociological element was that the Christian communities, inspired by the examples of their founders, made more effective use of human contact than any of their seemingly more promising competitors.
Unfortunately, once Christianity had been taken over by the establishment, they immediately started to apply the accepted establishment methods of dealing with those they disagreed with. So, disregarding the example and teachings of their Founder, they started up a vigorous persecution of those they regarded as heretics, as well as Jews, and eventually the old guard pagans. And the human contact seems to have dropped out of the now official state church except for the occasional outbreak of real brotherhood, as among the early Franciscans.
And so Pilate and the Sanhedrin do seem to have conquered in the end, simply by taking over the Jesus movement and turning it into something as ruthlessly institutional as any of them could have desired.
Looking at the matter from this point of view, Atlantis Initiatives can be regarded as simply attempting to play its part in the perpetual challenge to re-invigorate the ideals underlying the American Constitution, not forgetting their sources in the spiritual and ethical developments evident enough in those brief non-institutional phases of the great world religions and philosophies .
Atlantis will attempt to participate in the constant struggle to reverse the betrayal of true human intimacy endemic when big institutions take over and drastically curtail (so unnecessarily) the potential humanity of their structures. The implied rationale seems to be that one must unsentimentally enforce administrative and economic authority to gain the necessary institutional efficiency. This is one of the fundamental errors of our materialistic era, and is always deleterious if not disastrous in its effects. As what follows will in some part illustrate.
OK, I hear you say. I'm beginning to understand that you are putting forward a reshaping of our institutions to make them both more humane in their operations a,nd even at the same time, more efficient. Obviously a worthy goal, if attainable. But I'm still not quite clear how characters like Beowulf and Frodo come into all this.
Well the link becomes clearer once you grasp the principle of interiority, or interiorization, to coin a necessary term. What that means is the monsters that our ancestors combated in those mysterious ancient outlands have been reduced to legends and chimaeras by our advances in geography and zoology. Both these sciences being among the spinoffs of the rationalization that seems to develop once humanity builds itself large cities sufficiently distanced from those ominous outlands to permit some calm thinking.
But the forces that had manifested themselves in the monsters of the primal wilderness were never conclusively defeated by the Beowulfs or the Odysseuses of the ancient legends.
What the heroic legends gave us were inspired, brilliantly memorable, tales of the hero's journey. The inspiration potentially affected the hearers in a number of ways. Most obviously, the hero's intelligence, courage, persistence, self sacrifice, and generosity in the face of the severe challenges of the outworld would certainly affect, even transform one's life as a citizen and an individual. And the hero's faults and mistakes could be as exemplary in a negative sense. It was not only the Athenians who needed warning of the disastrous effects of overweening arrogance and hubris.
But beyond this, there were those in every age who have been inspired to embark on the hero's journey themselves in some shape or form. Then the question arises, since the monsters seem to have faded away from the outlands, apart from a few vestigial rumors of curiosities like a Bigfoot or a Yeti, where are they lurking nowadays?
Well, there has been a gradual process of internalization of these dangerous excrescences, which have now been flushed out of their twilight worlds, and no longer hover menacingly between natural and supernatural modes of existence. But they are now located more of less exclusively within ourselves and some of us have evidently been pretty well taken over by the darkness. However you define them, these repulsive energies are as active in the world today as ever, from Auschwitz to Darfur.
So how can the heroes of today combat these internalized monsters? Clumsily applied aggressive military or police power may score some quick results but threaten to be worse than useless as a way of getting at the real causes of the brutal energies that produce such crimes. Howso? One good reason is that our military and police institutions, however effective in dealing with certain types of problems such as a Pearl Harbor type of attack, cannot deal with people as individuals, only in the mass, only for dealing with similar institutions.
Asking the army to fight terrorism is like ordering the Red Sox to climb Mount Everest. They'd surely be very willing but would need some pretty drastic readjustment in their training and tactics. What we are running into once more is that distinction we started out with between war and quest heroes. The Zulu battle impi is a very different formation from the Amerind heroic vision quest, or for that matter The Fellowship of the Ring. Certainly they both need courage and team work, but quest heroism is going to need a higher degree of discernment and even more intense commitment, when it's a matter of going alone or in a small group which has to meet unpredictable conditions.
But, I hear you say, what has all this to do with these educational reforms I understand you Atlantis people are so keen on?
Very simply this. We want to enhance our education system so that we are no longer training students simply to take their place in the ranks of the modern equivalent of some marvelous institutional war machine like the Macedonian Phalanx. We want to give them the opportunities to develop the resourcefulness and resilience of Ulysses, and the dialectical irrepressibility of a Socrates.
And the Atlantis Initiatives will thus prepare them for the real task ahead. Atlantis is in the business of preparing heroes. And the monsters they will be tackling will be the inter-tribal, inter-religious suspicions and hatreds which will be faced and alleviated on a fundamental, unspectacular, long term basis. With a few heroes to get things started, the energy we generate will leap over and transcend national boundaries and ancient enmities.
Of course we have to begin at home, with ourselves and our own monsters of ignorance and complacency. And we start by radically reshaping our own educational systems so that basic respect for human values is given priority over the administrative convenience of carrying on just like last year. Essentially, what we need to do with our school system is to give every student the chance to become a quest hero, an Odysseus, an Aeneas, a Francis of Assisi, a David Wilkerson, a Francis Crick, a Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, people who extend our notions of what is possible for a denizen of this strange planet.
If I've managed to keep you reading along with me this far, you may wonder if I'm just perpetrating one of those old vaguely pious educational aspirations that no one has the techniques or the power to implement. Well, please note that the Atlantis Initiatives base their programs on well-proven techniques, evolving from the medieval informatores system of New College, Oxford, through five or so centuries of development at that university and Cambridge, and then adapted for North American conditions since the initiation of a tutorial program at Berkeley in the 1960s.
As for the power, that's going to be up to you and me and all who have read all this.
So enjoy the best that both sides of the Atlantic can offer in the way of mature education, welcome the Atlantis Initiatives. Or, as an unreconstructed medievalist like myself might put it, Forward to the Fifteenth Century!