Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The New Atlantis

(Crossposted at NudeCritics)

An article in the latest New York Review of Books, a review of a book on the creation of the Royal Society of London, one of history's premiere scientific bodies, had a passage that made me sit up and whinny. Under discussion is Francis Bacon:
After [Bacon's] death in 1626, his most imaginative work was published, a story with the title New Atlantis, describing a utopian society living on an island in the South Pacific and directed by an organization called the Foundation. The Foundation is a group of philosophers dedicated to scientific research and human improvement:
The End of our Foundation is the knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible.
Permit me a brief chortle....

Does any of that sound, oh, you know... familiar?

Perhaps now all those characters with names of Enlightenment philosophes (Locke, Rousseau, Hume, etc.) make some more sense, eh? Or at least, the character-names point us in the direction of Bacon's New Atlantis...

Now, Bacon predates the Enlightenment by a good hundred years, but he's certainly a precursor. I certainly haven't read New Atlantis (its Wikipedia entry makes it look like a mighty rough slog -- as is the entry itself), but the parallels between it and Lost are far too clear. It's impossible the show's creators are unaware of what they're doing (taken from Wikipedia -- please don't blame me for the wooden prose):
  • "There are two instances in The New Atlantis that include miracles. In both instances the miracles are simply illusions and events that could be explained by science with information not known to the people experiencing the miracles."

  • [The miraculous arrival of Christianity to the island] "brings into question the legitimacy of the miracle and the Christian faith on the island. In a closer inspection of the event it appears as though the miracle is simply the product of the government and science."

  • "Later in the story when you learn of the technology in Bensalem it becomes clear the potential is there for the government to concoct the miracle."

  • "Bacon is making a significant statement in this miracle. By providing a scene that appears to be a miracle, but is not, he establishes the superiority of science to religion. In that, miracles do not exist, but rather are events that cannot be explained using the technology at the given time (in this instance, the technology released to the masses).... Bensalem is a society where science dominates the presence of religion; however, no matter how strong science is it needs and relies on religion in order to retain a functional society."

  • "After realizing the greatness of the island the captain exclaims 'it is a kind of miracle hath brought us hither: and it must be little less that shall bring us hence.'... As discovered later in the story the House of Salomon possesses control over the weather and is responsible for this supposedly divine path taken by the sailors. In both instances an act that appears as a divine miracle is in truth the work of science."
I think my point is made: As I've been suspecting all along, Lost is (among a great deal of other things) an allegory on the struggle between Reason and Faith. As we've seen over and over and over, episode plots hinge on one character's -- frequently a character named for an Enlightenment philosopher -- insistence on one extreme or the other. The most overt example is the conflict between John Locke and Jack at the close of Season Two, but the dealings between Locke and Eko and between Locke and Hume, have also been obviously concerned with these themes as well.

Compare the Hanso Foundation -- the mysterious enterprise that funds the activities of the Dharma Initiative -- with Francis Bacon's Foundation: Both ostentatiously beneficent in their self-presentation, and both up to the task of the "knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things." Both using science to mystify, and Mystery to further science...

It couldn't be clearer to me.


Anonymous said...

Yeah! I can now sleep the sleep of an enlightened babe. The New Atlantis does seem to pull it all together.

Thanks Neddie.

Melissa McEwan said...

Highly serendipitous! Mr. Shakes and I were literally just discussing the possibility that the Lost island was Atlantis this very morning.

New Atlantis--even better!

Anonymous said...

Did Bacon have Babes on the island like Lost does?

Neddie said...

OMFG: Last week, when Sawyer looks in on Kate as she's dressing in her tent?


Just about as gratuitous a panty-and-bra shot as you're gonna get outside actual pron, the camera panning like a filthy old man up Kate's thong and nudie bra...

It's why God invented TiVo...

Bobby Lightfoot said...

This is perhaps th' ideal time to bring up Voltaire's lost tome *Le Junctione Du Cotes Petits".

Neddie said...

Le Junctione Du Cotes Petits

Izzat French for "turkey pitties"?

Swear, if that girl ever gets a pair of bolt-ons I'll feckin' disown her.

Anonymous said...

Damn you Neddie - "nudecritics" is brilliant. Why didn't I think of that? Naked criticism. Bare analysis. Wow. I'd be counting my filthy lucre now....

Dennis said...

Here is a news release about Atlantis.

Press Release

Atlantis Was a Real Place, the Americas

The kingdom of Atlantis included North, South, and Central America. It was divided into ten countries or kingdoms and each country had its own King. One of the kingdoms was also called Atlantis. The King of Atlantis was the ruler over the other nine Kingdoms. The first ruler of the Kingdom was called Atlas. This is how Atlantis got its name.

The royal city of the kingdom was located within the country of Atlantis. Within the royal city there was a royal palace. Originally, three different moats surrounded the royal palace. Plato referred to the moat formation as three zones of water and two zones of land.

As time went by they covered over the moats and cut three canals through the peninsula on which the royal palace was located. The construction of the canals divided the peninsula and formed two triangular shaped islands. The island that held the royal palace was called Atlantis. That is why Atlantis is referred to as a continent, and city, and an island.

Read the short version of Plato’s story at www.atlantiskingdom.com to learn more about Atlantis and the Americas. Then read Plato’s Timaeus and Critias to get the complete story.

I have matched the terrain features that Plato wrote about with present terrain features found in the Tampa Bay area. Research shows that Plato described Harbour Island as the small island of Atlantis. You will find that Plato recorded and published the story just as it was told. He even recorded the discussions leading up to the story. You will also notice several obvious mistakes made in translating the story from Egyptian to Greek and from Greek to English. The biggest mistake occurred when travelers came upon a shoal of mud and thought it was left over from the sunken island. They were wrong. The continent of Atlantis did not sink.

You are invited to review the facts to see for yourself that the Americas, from South America to Alaska were once the kingdom of Atlantis, a single nation. The land formation is still laid out the same as it was over 11,000 years ago. It is best viewed from the air. See image.

Source: Dennis Brooks

End of Press Release

Now is it possible that Atlantis was real? Did this place actually exist at one time? I think this press release Atlantis Was a Real Place, the Americas is an interesting read. It makes the mind wonder, and if a place like Atlantis actually existed at one time.

Now I don’t think I can ever remember hearing it was a nation or a continent. I just always heard the island thing. So that’s interesting thinking of all the land today, and that Atlantis is still here. Possibly the main part being in Tampa Bay, Forida? I know I don’t hear a lot on tv, about anybody searching for the Lost City of Atlantis. It’s not like the way they were searching for the Titantic. Which now the Titantic has been found, and according to the author of this press release, Atlantis is now found. Well, it actually was never lost, if Tampa Bay is indeed the area of what was once known as Atlantis. It’s a well writen article, and it does leave the mind to wonder.

Do you believe that Atlantis is still here? Do you believe that a place existed at one time, but is now under the ocean somewhere? Or do you somewhat agree with the author of this press release, and think the continents were all aligned much tighter, perhaps? It does make sense on how the name was giving to Atlantis. It’s an interesting read anyways.