Philip Franses is a teacher of complexity in the Holistic Science Faculty of Schumacher College. Born in 1958 in England, Philip studied mathematics at New College Oxford from 1976 to 1980. Academia’s dull explanation of the world inspired Philip on a counter-journey into the depths of experience, travelling and a re-sensitisation to quality.
In 2005, after a fifteen-year career designing intelligent software, culminating in a programme now used in The Netherlands by all Dutch courts, Philip had a chance encounter with Satish Kumar and was moved to come to Schumacher as an MSc student. Here he was especially inspired by the work and scientific approaches of Goethean scientist Henri Bortoft, the physicist Basil Hiley and the late Brian Goodwin, professor of biology.
Philip now runs local workshops in Goethean science, offering people a foundation to a “whole way” of seeing the world; and with Basil, Philip began the forum Process and Pilgrimage, inaugurated in 2009 at Birkbeck College. It is therefore with great pleasure that I am publishing his review of C.J. Moore’s new novel, Behind the Mountain. You can read C.J. Moore introduction to the novel in this article – Guest Article: C.J. Moore – Science, Transition and the Storyteller.
Behind the Mountain: A Review
Behind the Mountain follows the journey of two children of King Abba, Fion and Dream. In the first book King Abba, the children have learnt in dramatic fashion that the rational world in which they have been brought up is a mere simulated reality, produced by a machine. At the end of the first book, they manage to escape the simulated world to an unknown fate, with the whole royal family scattered in exile. In this sequel the reality of living outside the fabricated simulation of the city is explored in the real life coming of age adventures of Fion and Dream to come to terms with their tasks and responsibilities.
Behind the Mountain, as the sequel, has its setting is the mountains. The grandeur and wonder of the scenery, but also the danger of its terrain, communicates throughout the book a vulnerability in the characters unsure of their own next steps.
The task of the children as the prince and princess of the realm from which they have been exiled is each in their own way to reconcile the magic of the mythical, spiritual world, with the excessive rationalism that has come to dominate to such an extent, as to have created a fabricated technological reality. Fion and Dream find themselves together having to make their way in a hostile world, unsure who to trust, but finding signs on their way of their eventual passage.
Throughout the book, Fion and Dream have to make their own meaning of the world, newly, out of their experience, one to be contrasted with the rational knowledge of a factual world, they learnt. They commune with tree spirits, they follow magical signs, they learn to trust the wise souls that guide them.
The book is rhythmic in the constant threat of danger the children face, exiled as they are from the society in which they have been brought up, alienated from all the driving forces that are out for their own political ends to either woo or wound the royal children. But this rhythm of danger, constantly involving the children in new adventures as they seek their true life path, has also has a subtle development in it. What begins as an external danger, gradually shifts into an internal struggle as the children face up to what they must overcome within themselves in order to meet their own life-tasks.
An example of this shift is where at the beginning of the book the children find sanctuary in Wildern, a community of exiles who have established a back to nature community, growing their own food, and sharing the tasks of maintaining the land. The community is very realistically drawn, with all shades of character, and reasons for joining the circle, living alongside. But eventually the children realise that their real safety does not lie here. The apparent safety the community represents in its simple values of a return to natural ways of self-supporting from the land, belies the danger of an informer, suggestions of whose presence floats in the air of collective wellbeing.
The children to assume their full responsibilities have to journey out on their own individual adventures to meet with their full fate. The children have to trust to the mountains themselves, the spirits of the trees, the magic of hidden worlds, the lineage of a different human engagement with the world. By journeying beyond their own safety, the mountains give a real protection, in weighing their destinies alongside the self-interest of others intent on derailing them from their own purpose.
Each of the children is given a task they must fulfil, that is connected to a magical object to which they come in possession. They are helped on their way to know themselves in their full responsibility by signs. The magic points them to go deeper into their journeys to better understand their tasks in the world.
The beauty of the book, is in the ambition to unify the rational with the magical, the necessity of the children to learn their role as leaders that can eventually take them back to the society they have left. The real struggle of their own journeys is with their own fears, prejudices and assumptions about the world, and the trust to find their true nature. The book is universal in the challenge we all face, how to live newly.
“In my view,” Peredis said slowly, “Wildern can’t survive, charming and wonderful though it is. People like Margaret want to return to something that’s past, finished, no longer possible in our world. They want to put the clock back and recreate something that’s no longer workable, perhaps for small groups but not for the world at large.” “Where’s the future, then?” Dream wanted to know, as she felt the whole perfect experience of Wildern slipping away from her. “The future is in a new order, a new alliance of all the earth dwellers, a new understanding of what science and reason can achieve when in harmony with life.”
Moore, C J (2014-02-15). Behind the Mountain (The Seven Songs) (Kindle Locations 3151-3157). The Garlick Press. Kindle Edition.
A recommended read.