This page offers a more detailed introduction to Ultima and its role in my life and the lives of many.What is Ultima?
Ultima is a computer role-playing game series whose original run spanned 20 years, nine (and a half) major episodes, and several spin-off games. It has earned a loyal fan base of millions, many of whom still maintain websites about the original series even though the last episode was released in 2000. The most famous and popular Ultima aficionados can be found in the Ultima Dragons.
I first played Ultima at a very tender and difficult time in my life. I was entering into puberty, and the frustrations and anxiety of childhood were deepening into some serious existential quandries. Ultima provided an escape from all of my worries. The bad news is that this only served to encourage my already pathological tendency toward escapism. The good news, however, is that it contained a core of inspiration and meaning that was enough to lead me back out into the world.
My first step in this direction was the Wayfarers. The Wayfarers was a small but dedicated movement of people who saw deep insight in the Eight Virtues that had entered into the game series in Ultima IV. We chose to draw this philosophy and spiritual path out of the realm of fiction and pursue the Virtues in "real life." We were mostly an online association, but at one point five of us met together offline, and several of us have kept sporadic contact with one another ever since. At a time when I was almost totally isolated from the outside world by my own anxiety and depression, the Wayfarers brought me a circle of new friends and the hope that my visions of a world worth living in were possible.
I no longer pursue the Virtues as a primary spiritual path, but their mark on my life can still be found in my actions and in my heart. My passion for taking action in the world to pursue justice, freedom, democracy, ecological integrity, and the like was fostered very early on by the notion that these were all Virtuous endeavours. I am currently studying a form of spiritual healing whose psychological components place an emphasis on balancing Reason, Emotion, and Will, leading me to believe that my time spent admiring the Principles of Truth, Love, and Courage was time well spent and not just a coincidence.
Ultima also brings back fond memories of my time spent with my father, brother, and sister. All of us to varying degrees were immersed in the Ultima saga - my brother who introduced it to us, my father who bought the games (and computers!) and played it with us, and my sister who joined in the adventure later on as she became old enough to appreciate the experience. My father has since passed on, so anything that reminds me of Ultima reminds me of him and some of our best quality time together. For this, I am eternally grateful.
Some day, I would like to have a conversation with Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima series. He's spoken publicly on several occassion about why he chose to incorporate the Virtues into Ultima - namely because he felt that if he was going to have input into hundreds of hours of the lives of millions of people, he could do something more productive with that time than have them slay evil wizards!
As soon as I laid eyes upon Ultima, I knew that it was *more* than the other games. At first it was just the superior gameplay that got me involved in the series, but I quickly discovered the Virtues and their deep meaning. For a long time they were a guiding light to me - a source of spiritual inspiration as all of my notions of religion and spirituality and meaning in general were crashing down all around me.
Some people find it odd for someone to draw such spiritual significance from a mere computer game, but this is the first (and perhaps only) role-playing game that I've ever encountered that centers around a well thought out spiritual philosophy. The bards of old used majestic myths and legends to encode and disseminate spiritual teachings - is it so absurd to imagine the bards of today using interactive computer mythology to do the same?
This philosophy will never again hold quite the same sway for me that it did back in the day, back when I was lost and seeking to find myself in the Way of the Avatar. As I matured and healed, I slowly began to discover my own path of earth spirituality that is rooted in my lived experience and understanding of the nature of being. But the mark of this philosophy on my life is still clear in my heart and in my actions, especially now as I develop my own spiritual tradition focused around the Way of the Warrior Healer.
My current studies in healing have helped me to understand some of the incredible fan following and inspiration that have been generated by Ultima and the Way of the Avatar. The heart of this appeal, in my opinion, lies in the universal human values that are identified by the philosophy's three Principles: Truth, Love, and Courage.
Richard Garriott first settled on these three Principles due to his love for the movie "The Wizard of Oz." The Scarecrow pursues Truth; the Tin Man pursues Love; the Cowardly Lion pursues Courage. From combination of these Principles, he derived the Eight Virtues of Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality, and Humility.
But the underpinnings of these Principles predate Garriott, the Wizard of Oz, and perhaps all of our philosophies and traditions. My current studies in spiritual healing have lead me to believe that these Principles are one interpretation of the triad of Reason, Emotion, and Will.
Reason, Emotion, and Will are three of the most fundamental components of human consciousness. In "Hands of Light," spiritual healer and former NASA scientist Barbara Brennan describes how these three modifers play a powerful role in human energy consciousness. Each of us has a major modifier and a minor modifier, indicating which principle is most or least strongly manifested in our consciousness. Different chakras (energy centers) are associated with different modifiers. Strong and healthy intentionality translates into a healthy balance of the modifiers, which in turn translates into health of the chakras, which in turn translates into health of the individual.
By creating a set of Virtues that balanced Truth, Love, and Courage, the philosophy of Ultima tapped into the ancient archetypal wisdom of human consciousness. A practice that seeks to embody the Virtues is likely to lead to more harmony among Reason, Emotion, and Will, thus creating a clearer intention in life and a resulting clearer manifestation of one's spiritual and earthly path. I get the impression that Garriott wasn't aware of these modifiers at the time of Ultima IV - making the relevance of the Principles and Virtues even more remarkable.
Does this mean that the philosophy of Ultima is the one true path in life? Hardly! That's about as amusing and dangerous as supposing that Religion X or Philosophy Z is the one and only path because it contains a deep insight into human consciousness. However, my current analysis of the philosophy based on my recent studies of Reason, Emotion, and Will offers incredible hindsight into my own experience with the Virtues and the role that they've played in my life. It also offers futher validation to any past and current spiritual seekers who saw a deeper meaning in a philosophy that was originally designed for a game.