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 Introduction to "The Illustrated Atlas of Nowhere" a  dissertation on positive and negative Utopias, eventually to be published in print.




Sir Thomas More





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George Orwell





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Aldous Huxley












“Indeed all the divine order really came into being through what the heart thought and the tongue commanded”

(Ptah, the old God of Memphis).

This is not just a book about utopias, although it includes the most important among them, neither it is a book about speculations on what truth may lay behind myths such as Atlantis or the Fortunate Islands, this is a book about the power of imagination.

The word is the material emanation of thought, and thought Is the result of imagination: this is a book about the ways in which imagination becomes reality by virtue of the word.

Thoughts expressed in words, accompanied by the necessary will, may create worlds, they may give body and matter to worlds otherwise immaterial. They bring into being non existing lands, or dreams made out of paper.

Words may indeed turn dreams into reality. But if the thoughts and dreams of enlightened people are capable of bringing paradise close to earth, the thoughts and dreams of foolish or evil men, have actually brough hell to earth. Many times they have brought death and shame upon the dreamer and tragedy among the innocents.

These dreamed worlds, which physically may not exist, may become real, by the sheer power of the word and of the will behind it.

Indeed it is true that before the word there was nothing, nothing to speak of. At the two extreme ends of ‘creation’ we find, on the one hand the ‘will’ and the ‘word’ of a god,as expressed in myth or revealed religion, on the other the will and the word of a man -often humble and obscure- who, by speaking to his kin and kind or by filling the pages of a notebook, creates worlds, places, or political systems, which, in time, may become reality, the paradises or hells for entire populations.

Between these two creators -a mighty god and a humble man- stand whole classes of prophets, gurus, churchmen, social planners, scientists, philosophers, politicians, enlightened or evil leaders. They may all create, solely with their will and their word, reality as we perceive it. They - an almighty god or a humble man- have created our world out of NOTHING.

Religions have described not only the physical shape of our earth and of our universe, they have described paradises and hells, lands of plenty for the afterlife of the hungry and lands of torment for the afterlife of the greedy.

All of these ‘nothings’ and ‘nowheres’ had a fundamental effect in shaping the progress of humanity. However, not all words uttered by gods , prophets or rulers - before history, or in historical times- have attained the effect they were inteded to attain. At the same time we find cases in which the words pronounced or written by humbler people, and never expected to have an effect, did achieve surprisiing results. The effects of the word are unpredictable.

The earth and the universe, as described in religious books, as illustrated by astronomers or philosophers, or as recounted by myth, were for thousands of years believed to be absolute and tangible realities, anyone who dared to object might be severely punished. Galileo died in prison only because he dared put forward the polite suggestion that perhaps it is the earth that revolves around the sun, and not the other way round, as it was generally believed.

Gradually simpler or ‘primitive’ worlds have vanished, as mern like Galileo and Newton made empirical enquiry and thought progressed. These ‘primitive’ worlds did vanish, but only to be replaced by other conceptions and ideas, perhaps more sophisticated, perhaps equally removed from reality, but always held as objective truths.

Plato’s Republic, though written with great conviction to a clear purpose, achieved unforeseen results; it brought about mockery and criticism in Plato’s own times -by Aristophanes- but created hell on earth in our own times, by giving rise to totalitarian states. Thomas More’s Utopia- based on Plato's Atlantis- influenced political thought for centuries. If it brought about the mockery of a Rabelais, it also caused Karl Marx’s thoughts to materialize bringing hell on earth. George Orwell’s word lately came to warn the world about the dangers of widely acclaimed earthly paradises, and contributed to the restoration of some common sense, after much of the world seemed to have lost it.

Plato’s Atlantis and Diodorus’s Islands of the Sun, were mocked by Lucian, a near contemporary,but were believed by many others, hundreds of years after.

Indeed there are still people to this day, who are searching for Atlantis off Land’s End or in the jungles of Bolivia. Man’s refusal to take in his stride the awful reality of hardship, disease and death, makes him a good listener and a keen believer in tales of happy lands somewhere, in Heaven or earth, in the past or in the future, in some planet, the afterlife. In the world of NOWHERE there are plenty of earthly and heavenly paradises.

Finally, this also a book about warnings, concerning dangerous dreams. Since man is capable of turning dreams and nightmares into reality, then man's dreams must somehow be kept in check by common sense. Common sense is the result of a process of learning from experience, experience is tradition.

Tradition, by its very nature, is the enemy of innovation, this means that the right balance must be struck between innovation and tradition, in order that dreams may not become nightmares and nightmares reality. This is a book about dreams and nightmares.

Giovanni Caselli 1999