Perhaps, undiscovered beneath the Cretan palace of Knossos, there still lies the labyrinth created by the legendary Daedalus to house the fearsome Minotaur. The myth is well-known: Theseus, Prince of Athens contrives to join the seven youths (and seven maidens) sent as tribute to King Minos to be sacrificed to the bull-man; Ariadne falls in love with Theseus and helps him to retrace his steps out of the labyrinth once he has slain her monstrous brother by unwinding a skein of flax as he descends into the depths.
There is a powerful metaphor here for the kind of inner-work that we are called upon to undertake in our own hero-journeys through life. It is also precisely what we ask of participants on the Top Management Programme: to acknowledge and own crucial aspects of themselves (both functional and dysfunctional) that have been hidden or repressed. The archetypal image of the monster lurking within our psyche is still active in the modern imagination and turning towards it requires real courage. Yet, as Joseph Campbell says:
We [do not] risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outwards, we shall come to the centre of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
So, I celebrate the heroes and heroines of the Top Management Programme: the participants I have known during the three years I have been a member of the faculty. I salute their willingness to enter the labyrinth in their determination to become the best leaders they can be. I remind them to hoist the white sails when they return home and I look forward to hearing of their future exploits.
And what of the faculty? How should we understand and celebrate our role? The same myth provides a clue, for it is the inventive artist-scientist Daedalus who gives Ariadne the skein of flax needed by the hero to find his way back out into the world; flax that Daedalus … has gathered from the fields of the human imagination. Centuries of husbandry, decades of diligent culling, the work of numerous hearts and hands, have gone into the hackling, sorting and spinning of this tightly twisted yarn.
Let us therefore aspire to be dedicated (like the Daedalus Campbell describes) to the morals not of our time but of our art; to be heroes of the way of thought – singlehearted, courageous, and full of faith that the truth, as we find it, shall make us free.