Hortishland Book Review
Living in Your Knowing
Written By: Taylor Parker
Ms. Lloyd felt she could give in other ways, more than just with funds, and began to explore her own creativity. In the mid-1990s she started working on a novel directed at young adults demonstrating the interconnectedness of our actions. Set as fantasy as well as a parable, Hortishland is the story of a mythical and bountiful place filled with people living simple lives.
The inspiration to write a fictional story and work with an editor to get it published derived from Ms. Lloyd’s “knowing.” She felt that if all of humanity could tap into the inner voice that we all have we would be guided toward good work and self-actualization. Because of this deep-felt belief she did not stop at writing the book but felt compelled to purchase copies for local Kershaw County high school English classes and offer to speak to the students about this philosophy.
Summary of Plot
In this allegory, a fantasy people are described. Guided by elders, Fates, and rules brought to them mysteriously the people of Hortishland struggle to ethically build their community in an environmentally sound way. When some folks act improperly a deep and unifying secret is serendipitously discovered: that the consequences of the Hortishes’ actions not only affect themselves but also impact another world that only be faintly communicated with. This world is called Earth.
The book starts with a character whose “name is Phtef (pronounced Tef)” who is thirty-seven years old and feels that he’s “been on a search most of [his] life, and for reasons [he] doesn’t understand.” One day Phtef is visited by an old man with a long grey beard who tells him that the make-believe land he day-dreamed about is actually a real place only accessible by “magically, listening to your heart.” This old man, named Larso, tells Phtef that there are many Hortishlands situated between “states and countries all over the planet.” Only Outsiders (those living on Earth and not within a Hortishland) who are spiritually ready to accept the gifts that Hortishes have to teach can enter the in-between-boundaries mystical lands. Outsiders enter Hortishland through the “invisible and nearly impenetrable membrane” through dreams and day-dreams but the lessons coming from special Hortish ambassadors arrive via intuition for most people.
The story abruptly moves from Phtef’s perspective to the narrative of the people of Hortishland. Describing the lives of the Hortishes, the story follows one particular young couple in their challenges and successes in building a farm, a family, and a community. The majority of the text is set both as a bildungsroman of this couple, Cassa and Gerran, and an allegory exploring the morality of their decisions. Natural disasters, community revolt and subsequent politics, new magic-based technologies competing with old agrarian technologies, and mystical messages from the Outside via Fate-like women create the central problems of the text’s protagonists.
The denouement occurs when enlightenment and epiphany come to Gerran and Cassa as well as the rest of Hortishland. The Hortishes realize that the moral quality of their actions relates directly and imperceptibly to the actions of the Outsiders. This realization gives a teleological and utilitarian motivation for the Hortishes to act appropriately.
According to the mysterious “Prophecy of Illan” to act appropriately means to act in concert with the Seven Principles. The Prophecy is divulged through one of the Fate-like women, Philia. There are seven principles of the Prophecy and they are:
- Anything that is revered or treasured more than the Light that is within, guiding and showing the way, will lead to disaster. Those who do not recognize that the Light must be paramount for life to have meaning will not know joy or peace.
- What may look like a wonderful gift may turn out to be a very painful lesson. That which appears to be repugnant may be unexpected, great gift. Learning is one of the purposes of Being.
- Trust in the universe, in the One in All, is the foundation for all the principles; living in Trust brings life into fruition.
- Compassion is the greatest form and the true name of Love. It is unconditional. It asks for nothing and give all.
- Every being is alone and yet is also part of every other being, as well as one with the Light and the Universe that know all and is in everyone and everything.
- Self-understanding is the foundation of all relationships that are viable, satisfying, and successful, because only by knowing oneself is it possible to know others.
- The good, the true, and the beautiful are three in one. If these are made the choice of enough individuals in any community they will bring joy and peace to all in that community.
With this knowledge, the people of Hortishland commit to living a better, more connected, and moral existence, for themselves but also for the responsibility to the Outsiders.
The narrative concludes with another visit to Phtef. He reveals that the story we just encountered is the story told to him by Larso. Phtef concludes his discussion with Larso with his own realization that becomes the main allegorical lesson of the text: “It’s hard for me to remember how time is. Every yesterday is in today, and every today is in every tomorrow….My world is starving for what you’ve [Larso] learned and what you have to offer. My blessing goes with you and all the Hortishans from all over the world who are among us now. They will help those who think they have no choices to know that at any moment they are free to say yes or no, to anything, and that they will be given the courage to do so if they want it.”
Hortishland is a mix of several literary genre exploring metaphysical, spiritual, ecological, and philosophical topics. Hortishland is an allegorical myth set in a fantasy world that uses fictional characters exploring a basic plot with fairly non-complex and one-dimensional archetypical characters. With major yet simple challenges, few existential twists, mostly third-person omniscient narrative, and several instances of moral development for the main protagonists, the text can be considered an instructive parable. The character’s decisions and denouement are opportunities for the text to provide life-guiding rules through wiser and metaphysically-influenced ancillary characters, like much of the stories in the Talmud, Bible, or Quran.
Considering the focus of much of the text is spiritual growth and the answers are easily encountered in simple lists or aphorisms, the allegory is intended to be a metaphor for the reader. The Germans call this type of story a bildungsroman, a novel dealing with one person's formative years or spiritual education. Nietzsche used this format in his Thus Spake Zarustrutha, Homer in the Illiad and Odyssey, and Thomas Mann in Magic Mountain. With a combination of these genres and simple narrative structure as found in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, or One Thousand and One Nights, Hortishland mixes the strengths of the spiritual journey with simple and applicable moral righteousness for when the reader confronts ethical dilemmas in their own lives. Much like CS Lewis’s purpose and structure in his Wardrobe series, Lloyd uses the vague yet powerful interaction between a fantasy world and the real earth to instruct her characters and her audience through her characters.
The spiritual and the ecological are inextricably tied together for Ms. Lloyd’s personal philosophy. This philosophy is transparent in Hortishland as well. The text heavily references ecological concerns parallel to interpersonal and social interactions. The EcoCritic Lawrence Buell uses four criteria to determine whether a text is ecocritical:
- the nonhuman environment is presented in a way that suggests human history is implicated in natural history
- human interest is not understood be the only legitimate interest
- human’s accountability to the environment is part of the text’s ethical orientation
- some sense of the environment as a process rather than a constant is at least implicit in the text
If we use Buell’s criteria, Hortishland is an ecocritical text. Human history and the real world of earth along with the Hortishes and their land are bound together. How both Hortishes and humans interact with their world, their accountability, is intrinsic to the Lloyd’s ethic. Lastly, Hortishland as an analog for the Earth is understood to be in constant process and change. The implications of Hortishland being an ecocritical text are that it extends beyond the shallow philosophical or sanctimonious moralizing texts of a religious sermon. In addition to exploring the spiritual needs of humanity as most other like texts do, Hortishland holistically integrates this psychological exploration into the needs of the planet.
The Philosophy of Hortishland
Hortishland resembles an early twentieth century rural and agrarian America. While there is a sub-plot of how Hortish society deals with the deadly natural phenomena of an earthquake, a more dominant theme is how mysterious new technologies are incorporated and how a positive and constructive relationship with the land is maintained with the threats of natural phenomena.
In proposing the Seven Principles and “living in your knowing” Lloyd builds a foundation from which ethical decisions can be elicited. These Principles are reminiscent of the aesthetic philosophy of truth and beauty, Stoic philosophy, Deep Ecology, Eastern abnegation of the self, and primitive systems theories that explore the interdependent relationship of the singular to the whole. Pointedly, Lloyd’s ideas as expressed through Hortishland have nothing to say about utilitarian values, the rational human actor, or other concepts that Western hegemony is based upon. These Principles are also silent on conflict theories of Feminism, Marxist interpretations of wealth, and postcolonial concerns directly but address them obliquely with vague statements like “Compassion is the greatest form and the true name of Love” and “The good, the true, and the beautiful are three in one.”
Hortishland is a book written by an elderly, wealthy, white woman that split her time between her homes in New York and South Carolina during the late 20th Century. Ms. Lloyd had a life-altering epiphany in the middle of her long life and she felt compelled to make the world a better place after this pivotal event. She became determined to share the message of self-empowerment and helping environmental causes for both social psychological reasons as well as basic ecological purposes. In her privileged capacity she realized that philanthropy was her most accessible action and she gave millions of dollars to several causes she believed in. As her personal philosophy matured she felt the need to write Hortishland and share the message with young people in particular.
Hortishland is just one example of Ms. Lloyd’s expression of self. Her philanthropy, the environmental education website she developed, and the land she owned and managed are other examples. It is difficult to examine her book without the context of these other gifts and vice versa. All of these are examples of how she saw the world.