Psychological Fiction versus Visionary Fiction
It may come as a shock, or at least a revelation, to Visionary Fiction readers and writers that Carl Jung, the eminent Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology, defined Visionary Fiction and described it in detail in a lecture delivered in 1929, “Psychology and Literature,” included in the volume Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Rather than the narrow sub-genre it is often reduced to, Jung depicts Visionary Fiction as a super-genre that forms one of the two major divisions of artistic production: “I will call the one mode of artistic creation psychological, and the other visionary.”
To differentiate the two: “The psychological work of art always takes it materials from the vast realm of conscious human experience—from the vivid foreground of life, we might say.” What is generally called realism.
The latter [visionary] reverses all the conditions of the former [psychological]. The experience that furnishes the material for artistic expression is no longer familiar. It is a strange something that derives its existence from the hinterlands of man’s mind—that suggests the abyss of time separating us from pre-human ages, or evokes a superhuman world of contrasting light and darkness. It is a primordial experience which surpasses man’s understanding, and to which he is in danger therefore of succumbing. The value and the force of the experience are given by its enormity. It arises from timeless depths; it is foreign and cold. Many-sided, demonic and grotesque. […] The primordial experiences rend from top to bottom the curtain upon which is painted the picture of an ordered world. And allow a glimpse into the unfathomed abyss of what has not yet become. Is it a vision of other worlds, of the obscuration of the spirit, or of the beginning of things before the age of man, or of the unborn generations of the future?
Jung’s Process for Growth in Consciousness: Individuation
In discussing Jung’s essay, Flo Keyes, in her book, The Literature of Hope in the Middle Ages and Today, cites what Jung considered the key process for elevating human consciousness: “The process of a known and an unknown yielding a higher understanding, Jung called individuation, since it represents the unfolding of a particular personality out of a vast field of possibilities.” While the word individuate sometimes connotes more of a narrowing in perspective (separate, isolate), Jung’s individuation points to a more subtle and expansive process where what is known (conscious) merges with what is not immediately known (subconscious, superconscious) to yield a higher level of understanding. What was previously not conscious to the individual becomes so, with a resultant increase in the person’s consciousness.
Keyes further remarks:
Ironically, the psychological mode of artistic creation, as Jung calls it, is not the medium by which this gap is bridged. In these works, the psychological components of the characters and their behavior have already been scrutinized by the author and little room has been left for interpretation by the reader. […] It is preoccupied with exploring why specific characters are the way they are and act the way they act, not the larger issues of why humans act this way and what it means for the world. Most mainstream fiction would fall into this category; these are the stories [according to Jung] of “love, the environment, the family, crime and society.
Novels that remain in the realm of the known may entertain, distract, and even educate, but they do not grab hold of the reader and get him to think about and respond to possibilities that were previously foreign to him. This is the role of Visionary Fiction. “Jung places greater value on what he calls visionary novels,” Keyes writes, “novels in which fundamental human experiences are tapped and shaped and left to the individual to interpret. These visionary works are stories that break the bonds of everyday human experience.” Here we have the interactivity often cited as a key component of the visionary genre.
Click to link to “Carl Jung and Visionary Fiction (Part 2)”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victor E. Smith (Vic) is a writer specializing in Visionary Fiction, a semi-retired computer trainer to the publishing industry (15 years as a consultant to The Wall Street Journal), and a spiritual/paranormal researcher currently residing in Tucson, Arizona. He is a member of the Editorial Team of the Visionary Fiction Alliance and author of The Anathemas, a Novel about Reincarnation and Restitution. His website and blog can be found at victoresmith.com.