To read or review “Carl Jung and Visionary Fiction, Part 1, click HERE.
“Universal in Worldview and Scope”
The VFA characterizes Visionary Fiction as “universal in worldview and scope.” The Jungian visionary novel “is not concerned with the individual even when it is written about an individual,” Keyes says. “Exploring the individual experience is a feature of Jung’s psychological literature. Visionary literature concerns itself with human existence in its entirety.”
Jung’s essay goes into considerable and worthwhile discussion on the sources of the vast and fantastic worldviews presented in great visionary works and their relationship to the personality, even sanity, of the writer. In response to reductionists who would attribute the intuitive beauty and truth of The Divine Comedy to Dante’s fevered imagination, he says: “In works of art of this nature—and we must never confuse them with the artist as a person—we cannot doubt that the vision is a genuine, primordial experience, regardless of what reason-mongers may say. The vision is not something derived or secondary, and it is not a symptom of something else. It is a true symbolic expression—that is, the expression of something existent in its own right, but imperfectly known.
I daresay that every VF writer, like the deep meditator or the seer, has entered that “zone” where she has seen things undoubtedly true. Somehow we leave our narrow selves and experience a much vaster Universe, to come back “trailing clouds of glory” to quote Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality, even though the experience can only be imperfectly translated into words. How many of us have reread extraordinary bits in our own works and exclaimed, “Where did that insight come from?”
Why Visionary Fiction is not “Popular”
Popular fiction, like polite conversation, simply cuts the uncomfortable or so sensationalizes it that it has nothing to do with present company. The visionary writer, like the parent of an inexorable teenager, cannot afford such politeness; but he must, again like the parent, find a way to deliver the message or suffer untoward consequences; discipline and popularity are rarely bedmates. To explain the popular aversion to Visionary Fiction, Jung says:
In dealing with the psychological mode of artistic creation, we never need ask ourselves what the material consists of or what it means. But this question forces itself upon us as soon as we come to the visionary mode of creation. We are astonished, taken aback, confused, put on our guard, even disgusted—and we demand commentaries and explanations. We are reminded in nothing of everyday, human life, but rather of dreams, night-time fears and the dark recesses of the mind, that we sometimes sense with misgiving. The reading public for the most part repudiates this kind of writing—unless indeed it is coarsely sensational—and even the literary critic seems embarrassed by it.
Hard words that might explain those many rejection slips from agents and publishers who deal only in best sellers. But VF writers should take heart: gone are the days when your books would be burned and perhaps you with them. In his piece Jung does not explain how to get around this barrier, that stubborn human resistance to change, but his clear statement of the situation provides traction for the writer attempting to deal with popular rejection.
Jung’s essay, a cornucopia of wise commentary, bears reading in full. Some VF elements developed since his time are not included, of course. For instance, only towards the very end of his life (1961) did Jung briefly consider reincarnation as a potential source for his famous archetypes, a fact I, who use past lives extensively in my VF novels, regret he did not have the years to explore. Nor was Jung a VF novelist per se; but his insights, as the pioneer who brought the spiritual element back into the mental health field, are priceless to the author seeking a deeper understanding of Visionary Fiction’s psychological and philosophical infrastructure.
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.