In a present when society seems to be unraveling at its seams, we need to take stock of how we got here. And more importantly, where we must go developmentally. I believe it was the famous philosopher and cultural critic George Santayana who said; “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” It seems like high time we continued our search for a more perfect society. For me, a renewed quest to uncover the buried secrets of Keftiu (the name for ancient Crete), would be a great start.
I think if Santayana were alive today he’d refine that axiom to show there are some things worth repeating. The Keftiu (Minoan as popularized by Sir Arthur Evans), which was rumored to be a real Utopia, could be the exception. Maybe we got something right once, and it was washed away by the gods?
For readers not well versed on the Keftiu, they were the first great European civilization. Based on the island of Crete, these seafaring people managed to secure a prized position in the Bronze Age, and a peace that lasted over a thousand years. They built magnificent cities and temples, traded into the known world, and with its dark corners. And their refined society flourished in a similar way to that of the ancient Egyptians. Some say they were the world’s first thalassocracy, or naval empire. And just like the mythological Atlantis, they were virtually swept from the pages of history by an unprecedented cataclysm. Some claim, the biggest catastrophe in human history.
We are only now beginning to understand who they really were. But it seems that ancient philosophers knew them pretty well. The Cretan City of Plato was a model proposed for a society where “not even actions or thoughts are private,” where women and children share equal rights and authority, and where all property is communal. The city he envisioned was probably Knossos, at the center of Keftiu. In the later works of the philosopher, this actual place elevated society above aristocracy and the other “five regimes” of political thought espoused in “The Republic.”
In the work “A Historical Interpretation of the Laws,” by the remarkable Plato scholar Glenn R. Morrow, the famous author suggests a real Cretan city as the Utopia philosophers have wrestled with throughout the history of civilization. So, with ideal societies in mind, we’re reminded of Homer’s Odyssey, where the poet spoke of the land of the Keftiu in this way:
“There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water, and therein are many men, past counting, and ninety cities. They have not all the same speech, but their tongues are mixed. There dwell Achaeans, there great-hearted native Cretans, there Cydonians, and Dorians of waving plumes, and goodly Pelasgians. Among their cities is the great city Cnosus, where Minos reigned when nine years old, he that held converse with great Zeus, and was father of my father, great-hearted Deucalion.”
Plato’s Utopia reflects in the theories of modern archeologists who seek answers to perennial questions. For the real experts, only a better knowledge of these Keftiuans can tell us the true history of our species. And if Utopia could ever exist, perhaps the Keftiu polis give us a model. I spoke with one of the world’s leading experts last summer.
Dr. Jan Driessen is the Director of the Sissi Archeological Project, Director of the Belgian School at Athens, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Neopalatial Crete. I visited Driessen on the Kefala hill where he discovered a new Minoan (Keftiu) palatial site, and asked the question; “How many cities like Sissi are still undiscovered on Crete?” The archeologist’s quick answer came like a bolt. “A hundred, perhaps more,” Driessen replied.
He is not alone in either his ideas on still buried Keftiu towns and palaces, but in his ideas of a quasi-Utopian society on ancient Crete. I asked another of the world’s most influential experts on the subject, Dr. Diamantis Panagiotopoulos, who’s Director of the Institute of Classical Archeology at the University of Heidelberg, if he agrees with Driessen’s numbers. He says he agrees on there being 100 similar sites, not necessarily palaces, but towns or cities.
Returning to my original thesis, the secrets of Keftiu might reveal their society as a model and a potential template for our future, the inquiry is intriguing even if our scientist friends have not the wherewithal to finalize the evidence. Much like George Santayana and his view that Metaphysical naturalism is what runs the universe, archeologists and researchers from other realms must view evidence from natural sciences.
The supernatural, has never, and may never, be something we can weigh. But, the evidence of Keftiu religion, animism if you will, reminds me of agnosticism. So, if these Keftiu did somehow reach beyond the ordinary phenomena of their experience? Well, this is an inquiry for another day. What is fascinating now, is the possibility these archeologists might finally uncover the secrets of Keftiu, and give us the final clues that could light the right path for humanity. I know, I am into fantasy now. But we are learning, little by little, about how the universe wants us to proceed. Wasn’t it the great Carl Sagan who put it so succinctly when he said: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be?” Isn’t this a philosophy akin to animism?
What if these Keftiu were not religious fanatics, pagans acting out some misguided and archaic cognitive mumbo jumbo? I wonder what the world would think if Driessen, Panagiotopoulos, and the others working here on Crete unearthed a key to buried knowledge of how these people managed centuries of peace and prosperity in the midst of a barbaric world that surrounded them. Utopia? Maybe the hard evidence lies buried in the center of one of a hundred cities or temples on this vacation island? We must back with clear vision, use some forethought, and retrace our steps to the crossroads that led us to the current impass. At least, this is my theory.