Esme Ellis started out life as a visual artist. At age 11, she earned scholarships to the junior art department of the Sheffield College of Art and the senior art college at 14. At 17, sculpture and ceramics became her preferred focus of study. She won another scholarship to The Royal College of Art in London. She spent a year in Rome working on her studies and visiting many museums and galleries.
After having moved to Bath in 1975, she headed spiritual and meditation awareness meetings in her home. She also expressed herself with painting and writing. Her journey to becoming a writer was an organic process and almost reads like a visionary fiction story:
“After virtually forty years of training and practising the art of sculpture, my life took a surprising new course. It is said that a Shaman must endure some physical calamity – a fall from a high rock face, breaking every bone in their body – be taken apart and reassembled again – before discovering their true power. The same could be said of a writer. From the most earthy, hands-on, three dimensional form of creative expression, sculpture, I was led through a devastating illness … Continue reading →
What is the Hero’s Journey, and why do so many visionary writers like George Lucas use it to craft their stories? To answer that question, we need to understand where the Hero’s Journey comes from.
Joseph Campbell recognized that myths around the world follow a similar template. He referred to this as monomyth. The hero’s path consists of 17 stages.
As it would be too lengthy to explain all the stages in one post, let’s read how Campbell explains the journey in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
The hero returns from the journey transformed from the rigorous challenges he faced along the way. George Lucas used the Hero’s Journey as a template when writing “Star Wars.” If you would like to learn more about the mythology behind the movie, watch George Lucas’s interview with Bill Moyers.
The Hero’s Journey structure has qualities that can make a story visionary. In the Apotheosis stage, the hero faces death and slays the enemy. The ordeal leads to an expansion of consciousness. Sound familiar? … Continue reading →
Visionary fiction’s theme is the evolution of human consciousness. But what does that mean? What is consciousness? Psychologist, William James, coined the phrase stream of consciousness. He identified consciousness as something that is shaped by experience and how the experience is processed in our minds. So it’s our life experience that defines who we are, and we play out that definition in reality. If we have many dark experiences, then it might lead us to passing similar experiences on to others. Why are some people able to overcome darkness?
The great sages of history paved the way to free us from our dark nature. Socrates taught us the limitations of knowledge by asking us to question our assumptions. The Buddha taught us that our attachments lead to suffering. Attachment to possessions, to people, to social status, and destructive personal and outer beliefs can overcome our sense of self, and we instead become products of culture. In other words, without taking the time to reflect upon our experience, we’re instead shaped and molded by culture. When that happens, we lose a sense of who we truly are. We go through life performing a role that we believe we’re expected to play.
The Jungian term of enlightenment is moving beyond the archetypal roles that we’ve perpetuated since the dawn of civilization. Once we can look from the outside in, we become what Jung described as modern man. He explained that modern humans (noun adjusted for modern usage) are lonely because they have detached from their historically assigned roles. They also may be viewed as crazy as a result of their unwillingness to continue being fellow … Continue reading →
One major facet of writing visionary fiction is that the author spiritually grows during the writing process. There are periods where I have to put my work aside, either when I’m in spiritual stagnation or not feeling worthy enough to write because of a personal challenge that I have yet to overcome. Only after I sort through whatever issue is troubling me can I proceed. Each book’s conclusion connects me to the lessons learned by the characters, whose interior growth mirrors my own. What I find most revealing is that my characters ascend to a higher level than me; however, they take me one step further on my own path. They inspire me to become a better person.
I posed the question to some of my fellow authors of how they handle spiritual stagnation during the writing process and got some insightful responses.
Bob Fahey, author of Entertaining Naked People says “understanding the situation can only help so much. I know from long experience that these last for a few days while something marinates within me and then suddenly bursts free in unbelievable spouts of inspiration. And yet I still go through funks. I am just this morning coming out of a three day one. I call these being human. I can’t seem to connect with my guides in meditation; can’t feel healing energies flowing through me for those at a distance; have no ideas for whatever books I may be writing at the time. I am merely human for a while and I don’t like that. But I also realize the masters have better things … Continue reading →
This week, the Visionary Fiction Alliance is focusing on author, Jacklyn A. Lo and her debut novel, Redemption. She was inspired to write the story because of the “magic of it.” To set the mood, we begin with Jacklyn’s path to writing the book. Read how she beautifully explains what drives her to create visionary fiction.
In her own words:
Raised in an atheistic environment, I was one of many who fell asleep at the first page of the Bible. I never had a hope to understand this Holy book until I experienced something in my life, which I have come to call my Spiritual Choice.
My Spiritual Choice…
Years ago I realized that the corporate luxury train, in which I was comfortably riding, was taking me in a direction that I did not want to go. Getting off of this train at my own risk and expense was very hard, but I jumped off. But nothing completely disappears, and in my case, the tangibles (prestige, security, wealth and social status) were replaced by an intangible: the ability to see a Spiritual Choice.
The realization first came to me from movies. The spiritual choices of Dracula, Scarface, and the story of Abraham and Jesus became transparent to me. This revelation led me to a fascinating conclusion: a spiritual choice is a shortcut to “upgrade” a human’s consciousness. My enlightening journey continued. I began to see things that I had never seen before. And I added a new word to my personal vocabulary—vision. I realized that vision is a direct product of Consciousness, and that Consciousness is a subject … Continue reading →
This is the final installment of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series. In part 1, we discussed recognition, when a reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading. In part 2, visionary fiction authors expressed their feelings of recognition while they were writing their stories. In part 3, various authors discussed how they reacted to issues in books they read. Part 4 dealt with juxtaposition, e.g, insight gleaned from the text. Today we will discuss self-application, how readers adapt the insight they developed from the books they have read into their lives.
From childhood, as soon as I learned to read, I wanted to write. My life-long desire was “to be an author”. As a young adult, that desire had changed slightly to “write a story with meaning”. For me it was practically a given that story should contribute something positive to humanity. The only problem had always been to identify what that “something” should be in my own fledgling novel. I had started writing it in my early twenties (now published as Systems). It had characters and a skeleton of a plot. It involved a quest, but details were lacking. In the end, my ongoing study of the Quran via Parwez’s work (and also some non-fiction work I was doing elsewhere, Secular Jinnah) finally gave me that special “something”. Parwez had essentially argued from the Quran that creating an “ideal” society is not only possible, but is imperative in unlocking human potential. It became a simple matter of integrating these ideas … Continue reading →
This is part 4 of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series inspired by an article on bibliotherapy by Debbie McCullis in the February, 2014 issue of the Journal of Poetry Therapy. In part 1, we discussed recognition, which is when a reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading. In part 2, visionary fiction authors expressed their feelings of recognition while they were writing their stories. In part 3, various authors discussed how they reacted to issues in books they read. Today we will discuss juxtaposition, which is when a reader develops insight from the books they have read.
Inspirational books remain with us long after we read them. Sometimes the text speaks to our souls, extracting truths that have been hidden from our awarenesses. When recognition first strikes, we get a sense of familiarity, as if what we’ve read is something we’ve already known. Some of us might experience elation, others dread, especially if what is pulled out from us is something that challenges our world views. For those of us courageous enough to continue examining the truth that was drawn out of us, we develop insights—at times powerful enough to change our world views and even the course of our lives. I asked some of my author friends about insights they gleaned from books they’ve read. Following are their responses.
Although I had read a few works of Parwez in English, I learned much more from translating him over a number of years. It was challenging work, since I am not fluent in Urdu and so I always had to co-translate with my father, but this also afforded me the opportunity … Continue reading →
This is part 3 of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series, which was inspired after I learned about bibliotherapy in my psychology classes. It led me to discover an article by Debbie McCullis in the February, 2014 issue of the Journal of Poetry Therapy. McGullis listed a four step process used in bibliotherapy, which strongly resonated with me as the process sounds similar to why I write visionary fiction. In part one, we discussed the first step, recognition, which is the moment when a reader gets a sense of familiarity while reading. In part two, we examined recognition through the lens of a writer’s perspective. In this week’s installment, we will discuss what happens after recognition strikes. We want to understand why we had such a strong reaction to the text we had just read, which brings us into the second step, examination.
Parwez wrote much of his work in Urdu but his exposition translation of the Quran was available in English. What struck me from day one was how this exposition seemed so much more scientific, and culturally neutral, than commentaries I had read in other translations – which to me was conducive to a book containing a universal message. It, along with his other writings, also brought into sharp focus this emphasis on Islam as not religion. He wrote on controversial topics firmly but with refreshing honesty, constantly asking his readers to check with the Quran for themselves to verify his claims. While gradually accessing his work and studying the Quran for myself, I reacted to this bombardment of new information … Continue reading →
This is part two of the Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction Series. In part one, we discussed recognition from the reader’s perspective. In this week’s installment, we’ll focus on it from the author’s perspective.
Authors have their moments of recognition during the writing process. This phase is important to many of them. I asked some of my author friends to discuss their own experience with the recognition while writing their books. Following are their responses.
Margaret Duarte Sometimes recognition for the author comes in unique ways as expressed from the point of view of Marjorie Veil Sunwalker, the protagonist in the Enter the Between Series.
“Margaret Duarte, the writer of this novel, believes she has created me. She believes she has made up the events and details of my journey. What she doesn’t realize is that I have been with her for a long, long time. She was only an instrument, my interpreter.”
When it finally hit me that I needed to write my own fiction in order to open up to, expand, and maybe even someday complete my spiritual journey, I knew my work would be different from any fiction I’d read up to that time. I didn’t have the genre vocabulary I have now and had definitely never heard of the term “visionary fiction,” but I knew it would include a plot and characters beyond the experience of the five senses and would help me delve into the questions/mysteries that had nagged me since I left childhood behind. “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” “What can … Continue reading →
Some authors find their focus in their childhood. It’s something they know they’re born to do. Not me. I was a late bloomer—a seed stuck beneath a thick layer of earth. Something kept the water supply from reaching me. For many years, I pondered if there was something wrong with the way my brain functioned. Turns out my brain functions well—albeit a little more hyper than the average brain. I was a stubborn little seed. A seed that refused to take in the sustenance that I needed to grow. I thought I had the strength to pierce through the earth on my own.
While it’s true that inner-growth can only happen from within, outside opinions and advice that counter deeply held beliefs are sometimes needed in order to progress. Objectivity filters the information that comes in and is required in order to grow and blossom. Objectivity is the water. Without it, it’s easy to get stuck in the earth and remain there, even for a lifetime. My spiritual growth would’ve languished had I not read and listened to all viewpoints, including those that elicited anger and fear.
The Therapy of Reading
I started my graduate study in psychology and during my research, I came across bibliotherapy, which uses the reader’s connection to a character and/or plot to draw out psychological issues. The goals of this type of therapy range from “insight to behavioral changes using imaginative literature as mentioned by Debbie McCullis in the Journal of Poetry Therapy (February 20, 2014). She notes the process in four steps:
Recognition: the reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading
Examination: The reader reacts to the issues in the book
Juxtaposition: Reader develops insight
Self-application: Reader assimilates the insights learned from the book into his or her life