The most powerful way to effect change in this world is to address the one that underpins it
– The Mundus Imaginalis
A ship is setting sail from England in September 2017.
It’s a very old, very particular kind of ship.
It’s the magnificent, creaky timbered, curly roped, burgundy sail kind. You’ve seen bigger ships surely, and certainly more streamlined, but this one is hard to get over. It’s the kind that straightens your back and brings a tear to your eye as you shyly lift your gaze to its regal shape. This is the kind of ship that shouldn't exist anymore.
Standing on the dock in the dusking light, you can hear singing carried over the waves, and excited laughter. Figures are calling to you from the deck, beckoning to you, calling to you in your old names. These are the names no one should know, the ancient names, how can this possibly be happening?
The evening moon is emerging from behind clouds. But let us lean forward, the captain is lifting her lantern.“To all scholar-explorers and heretical investigators … there is something pressing to say, something urgent. This is an invitation.
We are setting sail to un-map the world.
Join us. Join us for this maiden voyage … the world’s first postgraduate programme in Myth and Ecology – The Mundus Imaginalis.
In a time when every square inch of the globe seems to be neutered, quartered and googled, we intrepids are journeying out to glimpse the Otherworld that is secreted most wonderfully in this one - to peer into the steaming foliage and bright feathered world that still exists underneath the grid - whilst we still can. The hour is late.
This is an Otherworld that wriggles in your fist like the archaic trout of the smoky Thames and disappears (carrying all of Shakespeare in its scales) when we attempt to tell it what-it-is. This right-by-our-side Otherworld causes ink to slide off the page and evaporate when we produce the T-square too avidly.
We set sail to do nothing less ambitious than to court the mysteries: the small and gentle ones, the elaborate and complex gnashing teethed ones, the ones you glimpsed at the edge of your garden when you were little. We set sail to un-map our presumption that we know what the earth is.
When we un-map the world, we start the un-colonising of our own imagination and we move from personal fantasy to an imagination that is bigger than ourselves. We understand that psyches don’t only dwell within, we dwell amidst them, and their imagination help create our reality every day. When we un-map the world it starts to talk back to us, we begin to trail not trap. We start to witness not just thinking about the earth, but thoughts from the earth.
Our travels through the waters of time and place will bring us to people and traditions where the weaving of the human and non-human are at their most permeable, their most acute and most sophisticated. In the end, we will trade our tired maps for the best compass of all, the one that really matters - a truth north - what the Troubadours called ‘the educated heart’. It is time, as the poets say; ‘to think in ways we’ve never thought before’. It is time to trade comfort for shelter.
Make no mistake, study awaits. An un-gridded world reveals not just knowledge but
wisdom, an un-mapped world will reveal not chaos but cosmos. With that wisdom, with that cosmos, comes tangible learning and focused application. Be prepared. This will be the most exacting journey. Take not one single step towards the gangplank without knowing that we take no passengers.
So, here we stand on the dock. It is night, but the scholar-explorers are preparing to raise anchor. The captain leans forward with her lantern one more time, peers towards us and asks:
“Shall we go?”
Aboard the ship
This is a residential and immersive postgraduate programme that takes imagination seriously. It is delivered by Schumacher College, awaiting validation by Lampeter, the University of Wales (TSD) and led by mythologist Dr Martin Shaw and anthropologist Dr Carla Stang. Carla brings her knowledge of different cultures, her fieldwork and phenomenological study, Martin brings mythology and two decades of work as a wilderness rites-of-passage guide. As they rove through mythology, anthropology, philosophy and poetics, they will also invite guest teachers on a module by module basis.
This is a year-long programme where you will walk in and out of other centuries. It will be a deep and exacting study of image, cosmology, storytelling, myth and lived experience that reaches out to an earth that is profoundly more than human. From Amazonia to Siberia, from the Hermetic, Troubadour, Sufi and Romantic faiths and traditions, we are journeying out to study cultures that celebrate a world ensouled, alive and radiating intelligence.
The main counterweights of the year will be a progression through western mythologies (many hidden or barely remembered), and the lived philosophy of the Mehinaku people of Amazonia. There will be the study of many other lifeworlds, together with which we will learn how people in different times places have and do respond to an earthy consciousness of extraordinary wonder, regarding such as both magical and utterly ordinary. Such experiential study is how we will begin to tune our ear.
Cloistered In the medieval courtyard of the beautiful Dartington estate and upon the wild moors of Devon, England, is the chance to apprentice to subtle and often secret knowledge, the reason being that we are living in a time when many of these secrets need to become public, need to be practiced and need to be lived. In doing so we encounter the wonder of ordinary reality and that far from being a rarefied state available to only a few, we will find that a dynamic relationship to what the neo-platonists called the ‘Anima Mundi’- is our natural state.
What are our aims and objectives? To be struck by lightning, to find our work, to roll up to our own lives. The standard will be high with scholarship and the experiential in either hand, with little distinction between them.