Preface to 'The Hero Forge'
Once there was a young man who had committed himself to become an initiate of the mysteries, just like his father and his father before him. On the day celebrating his birth, he would walk towards the horizon and then climb the mountain that threatened to pierce the heavens, as was the custom of his tribe.
At the mouth of a cave, just shy of the summit, the shaman of his people would blindfold him and lead him into the cave to perform the ancient rite known as The Hand of Truth. Still blindfolded, he would be challenged to name the subject of a sculpture that was carved out of the rock face. His fingers could explore only for the duration of a single held breath and then he would be asked to name what it was that the sculpture depicted, and why it stood guarding the gateway, for legend told that the womb of the cave offered access to a new world for those who solved the riddle.
As he turned 13 the young man first undertook the journey. His nimble fingers touched a snarling snout, the lines of a flowing mane and an angry scar - surely the sculpture was of a battle- hardened lion? “The lion tells me that I must have courage if I am to face the challenges ahead” the child announced. For his pains the shaman struck him, cast him from the cave and challenged him to return a year from the day.
At 14 he ascended the mountain again but by this time the sculpture had been replaced. Now he felt the scaled coils of a powerful serpent shedding its skin. “It is a snake casting off its old life for I too must be open to new learning on the road ahead”. So certain was the boy this time that he reached up to pull his blindfold off but once again he felt the stinging blows of failure and was sent on his way.
As he climbed the mountain for a third time he had lost all expectation of victory and looked instead to learn as much as he could from the test. As before he was blindfolded, led into the cave and he reached out to touch the cold stone. This time he felt the hooves, matted coat and lithe torso of a roughly sheared mountain goat. “Just like this mountain goat I must be balanced and hardy if I am to prosper”. As he began the weary climb back home he could hear the laughter of the shaman ringing in his ears.
Finally, as he turned 16, the young man set out on his quest for the final time. Once in the cave he extended just a single finger which he ran from left to right across the length of the sculpture in a sweeping gesture. In a calm and confident voice, he named the beast of stone. “It is a chimera’” he announced; “The Lion has no scar, the snake is not shedding its skin and the goat has not been poorly sheared; a crack runs the length of the creature which is composed of all these parts. To pass through the cave I must recognize the interconnectedness of things, the pattern that unifies all”.
For a long time, there was nothing but silence. Then the boy felt a gentle hand upon his shoulder, guiding him deeper into the cave. He felt himself descending through a twisting, turning tunnel and then he heard the sound of birdsong, a waterfall and a community of voices welcoming him. A new journey was about to begin.
Thank you for picking up this book and for committing the time and energy to at least begin the journey it offers. I have written ‘The Hero Forge’ as a way of bringing together many of the strands of knowledge that have informed my path over the last five decades - to discover the chimera hidden in the cave. This is a guide full of practical exercises and disciplines which you can apply to your life in order to awaken the ‘heroic imagination’ and grow into your own power as a sovereign human being.
Never before in the history of the world has the need for heroes been more certain and I salute you for having the vision and courage to take up the challenge. The path is by no means an easy one but for those of us who hear the call, we must do what we can, with what we have, for as long as we can. To be a hero is to stand against the storm with your middle finger raised defiantly to the God of Chaos. There will be times when you will question whether you have made the right choice: you have! What follows will help you endure the hardships, resist the temptation to drink from the river of mediocrity and be there when it matters most so that you might reach out and make the difference.
Andy Fisher (Norwich, UK July 2016)