Carl Jung and Visionary Fiction (Part 2)

To read or review “Carl Jung and Visionary Fiction, Part 1, click HERE.

“Universal in Worldview and Scope”

Indra's Web

Indra’s Web

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.

Lake Champlain NY 2012 (Photo by V.Smith)

Lake Champlain NY 2012
(Photo by V.Smith)

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.


The Anathemas, A Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution by Victor E. Smith

The Anathemas

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.

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About Victor Smith

Victor E. Smith, a lifelong generalist with a diverse resume, sees himself as a scribe of the realm “in-between.” Writing largely visionary and historical fiction, he seeks to observe, absorb, and express those close encounters between the spiritual and material universes that form the unique adventure called human life. Vic is the author of The Anathemas: A Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution (2010) and Channel of the Grail (May 2016). He is a core team member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance. For further information, visit his website, victoresmith.com.
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15 Responses to Carl Jung and Visionary Fiction (Part 2)

  1. esdragon2 says:

    I'm still slowly taking this in –somewhat overwhelmed by what you've managed to reveal of C G Jung as a visionary. I love your quote of his phrase; 'reason-mongers,' of those who lack the ability to comprehend the visionary faculty.

    On Reincarnation, which you mention, Victor, as author of your novel about that subject, and your regret that at the end oh his life he didn't have enough time to explore that more thoroughly, may I venture a further comment: my belief is, (and it's more than a 'belief',) that Jung is very much still with us. His explorations are continuing even now, not as a reincarnated human, although that is possible, but as a — how to say?– Spiritual Presence who has ascended to a state where his expanded wisdom is available to inspire and enlighten us now.

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    • Vic Smith says:

      Yes, "Reason-mongers" is right on. I've met some of them, Wonder what word Jung used in German that the translator got "reason-monger" from.

      And I'll credit the still-present Jung for leading me to his VF essay; I admit it was a happy accident. A treasure trove of insight even after reading it several times. I think it provides us with a strong jumping-off point for the effort to give VF its rightful place in the literary pantheon.

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  2. Paula Cappa says:

    Excellent post. Really gives me a lot to think about. Beautifully written. Thank you, Victor.

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  3. I love this "…fantastic worldviews presented in great visionary works and their relationship to the personality, even sanity, of the writer."
    Some may question our sanity as VF writers. We dare to talk about, and write about, things unseen, things hidden. And are we not a bit insane to latch onto a genre that is not (yet) popular with publishers?!

    and this …"Jung does not explain how to get around this barrier, that stubborn human resistance to change," I think fiction is a wonderful medium to do just that. As VF authors, we entertain, we speak to not only emotions, but soul, and our stories enter a reader's consciousness through the back door. As our definition on our site says, we help the reader to experience for themselves the transformations that the main character undergoes.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      "And are we not a bit insane to latch onto a genre that is not (yet) popular with publishers?!"

      I sometimes ponder that one! The back door that you mention also works for us as writers. Every book I've written taught me new lessons…but not before freaking me out first!

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    • Vic Smith says:

      Thanks, Jodine. Jung has so much good stuff in his essay. Was hard to choose what to lift. How about this for a VF meditation: "Whenever the creative force predominates, human life is ruled and molded by the unconscious as against the active will, and the conscious ego is swept along on a subterranean current, being nothing more than a helpless observer of events. The work in process becomes the poet's fate and determines his psychic development. It is not Goethe who creates Faust but Faust who creates Goethe."

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  4. esdragon2 says:

    Wow !!! What more can one say! —- except, when I was young, living in London, right next to a free lending Library, I made my way through everyone of Jung's works, (even the driest! ) which were available on the shelves. What (higher) force then guided me, I wonder? Whatever it was its influence in-formed me and changed my life.

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  5. Jung's description of Visionary Fiction, if taken as the final word (which I don't believe you're proposing here, Vic), would mean that I'm not a "true" Visionary Fiction writer, but straddling the fence between Visionary and Psychological fiction. Regardless, I'm still insane enough, as Jodine puts it, "to latch onto a genre that is not (yet) popular with publishers," and most closely defines my work. I, along with "the pioneer who brought the spiritual element back into the mental health field," attempt to bridge the mental and the spiritual. The psychiatrist in my novels, for example, practices transpersonal/contemplative psychology, which is a life-saver for my protagonist in her spiritual journey in a contemporary world.

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  6. Vic Smith says:

    No, Margaret, we don't need any more dogmas or dogmatists. I don't believe Jung draws a hard line between the two types. Like most of us, he advocates synthesis or balance between the material/spiritual, psychological/visionary. In his day he was "correcting" his mentor Freud whom Jung felt ignored or rationalized the spiritual element out of treatment. I have not yet read your book (on the list though) but from its description on Goodreads it certainly has visionary elements; that it even addresses the Indigo phenomenon (not mainstream for sure) and considers how to incorporate those kids into "normal" society is visionary indeed.

    I believe, as we continue the discussion of VF, that we'll find numerous gradations in the overall recipe, which is not surprising in a quantum universe where uncertainty is perhaps the only certainty.

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    • "I believe, as we continue the discussion of VF, that we'll find numerous gradations in the overall recipe, which is not surprising in a quantum universe where uncertainty is perhaps the only certainty." I appreciated this statement so much, I had to retype it. Thanks, Vic, for another thought-provoking post.

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  7. My goal here then is to clarify the uselessness of metaphysics, and then transition from empiricism
    (as a counter to moral rationalism), and move more directly into skepticism.
    Burn three pieces of charcoal in a metal container, and place three medium size garlic cloves on top of
    them. When we humans put things into perspective we will soon realize that science is no different
    from metaphysics and spirituality.

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