Visionary Fiction as Thought Experiment – William Fietzer

We’re familiar with hypothetical, “What If?” conjectures. What if I have to declare bankruptcy? What if North Korea attacks the United States (or vice versa)? And what if the President is impeached—what happens then?

All of these speculations, some personal, some apocalyptic, suggest a story will follow—an answer, explanation, or procedure that addresses the initial set-up in some way that results in a narrative of some kind. Science, too, has its “What If?” speculations. Albert Einstein’s famous thought experiments about the nature of light led to his general and special theories of relativity which upended previous conceptions of the physical universe.

Visionary fiction also has its “What If?” speculations. Some are narrow in scope, such as “What if I could reach my full potential as a human being?” or “What if I could see into the future?” Others have more cosmic implications, like “What if I could access higher planes of spiritual existence?” and “What if I gained the power to manipulate good and evil?”

All of these questions open themselves to “What happens next?” consequences. Unlike Science, however, visionary fiction has been dismissed as unrealistic, trivial, or simply unimportant because it (supposedly) doesn’t deal with lives as they are led in the physical, sense-oriented universe with which we’re familiar. Though magical realists such as Jorge Luis Borges and Salmon Rushdie are cut some slack in this regard, many writers who explore the realms of the mystical and the occult find their works ridiculed and/or shunted to the distant back shelves of speculative and fantasy fiction sections in book stores and web sites.

Brain neuron activityBut recent developments in … Continue reading

The Visionary Benefit in Fiction: From C.S. Lewis to Me

I would like to honor one of my favorite writers, Mr. Clive Staples Lewis, briefly showing how his intuitive genius made him a famous exemplar through works closely related to the “visionary fiction” genre. C.S. Lewis is the author of the well-known Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as a less known but most inspiring to me, Screwtape Letters, among many other works.

In his Narnia novel, C.S. Lewis uses his main characters to parallel the central players within Christian theology. For example, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe represents the non-fictional concepts (in Lewis’ mind) of Jesus Christ, Satan, and the Supernatural aspect of the real world, respectively—making the plot of his story “universal in its worldview and scope.” One need not be a Christian to find edification in this work of Lewis’ because Jesus Christ can be universally interpreted as the moral hero generally, Satan can be seen as forces of moral challenge, and in regards to the supernatural aspect of the universe, no additional translation is needed for a fan of the visionary fiction genre.

The work of Lewis which most inspires my own experiment with visionary fiction, however, is his Screwtape Letters. In this book he uses the instrument of letters to convey in dramatic, engaging and most entertaining form, elements of Christian spirituality. Set as letters written between Screwtape, the experienced devil, and Wormwood, his nephew apprentice, he manages to exquisitely draw out and paint a most colorful and at times hilarious picture of the spiritual person’s struggles, temptations, and moments. Communications between an experienced devil and his apprentice via letters was a most creative “metaphysical plot device” on his part.

Because I was so inspired … Continue reading

Soul Writing with Janet Conner

What makes writers happy, besides working on their craft, of course, is connecting with other writers to delve into the unknown and explore one another’s minds for fresh ideas.

Add to that a team of experts and inspirational speakers and you kick up the happiness factor a notch or two.

You can imagine my reaction when in 2011, I read about Plug in for Writers, a twenty-week, eleven class tele-series inspired and led by Janet Conner, author of Writing Down Your Soul.

Janet, a nonfiction writer I had “friended” on Facebook, posted a notice about her Plug-In series on my news feed. I followed the link to her website and saw that her course was due to start in February.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to participate? I thought and then moved on to other things. Little did I know that I would end up taking the course (thanks to a scholarship from Janet) and thereby step into the “Intersection, where new and powerful spiritual practices merge with craft.”

Janet Conner

After taking Janet’s course, I sensed a deep connection between what Janet called “soul writing” and visionary fiction, though pinpointing exactly how they connected wasn’t easy to clarify or put into words.

The best way to accomplish this, I decided, was to ask Janet to join me at the VFA, where I would ask her about ways for writers to activate their inner wisdom and recognize the miraculous power of words, as she so beautifully puts it in Writing Down Your Soul and in her Plug In for Writers Course.

I am … Continue reading

The Story Wars – Christopher Sly

“The word that can be spoken is not the true word.” – Lao Tzu

In my version of the People’s Story we were all born into a guessing game in which reality is continuously poking us with the question – “What should you do?” Through both our actions and our inactions, we are continuously responding, and those responses have consequences. We can choose to believe anything we wish, but we cannot escape the consequences of our choices.

Story is how we model the stimulus/response/consequences experience of our existence. Our story controls our understanding of the stimulus, which controls our response, which affects the consequences of our response. No one is born with good judgment. Our judgment evolves as our story evolves.

When I was six years old my brother told me that there was no Santa Claus. In one moment, I moved from inside of a story where Santa Claus was absolutely true, out into a story where it was all a vast conspiracy of lies designed to control my behavior. In the flash of epiphany, I caught the pattern. My story controlled my perceptions, which controlled my actions, which controlled my consequences. In that same flash of epiphany, I caught the geometry of motion, from inside of smaller false story, out into a larger truer story. It was the “Santa Claus Shift” that launched me on my life journey outward through story space to investigate the story of how story evolves. I just completed a “solution memoir” about this journey, The Game of Guessing Right, that describes my … Continue reading

Awakening from Spirit Possession Part II – Woody Carter

This is the concluding part of this mini-series on how Woody Carter’s possession experience inspired his novel, Narada’s Children: A Visionary Tale of Two Cities. For the first part, click here.

I sat in Nana’s chair overwhelmed by what I had experienced and being released from spirit possession, until I had an epiphany: What’s to stop this thing from re-entering my body like returning to wear, again, a comfortable pair of leather gloves? And why was I not aware of this thing inside me? How did I become its victim? It then occurred to me that I had to strengthen my inner life to ward-off any possible recurrence of spirit possession. I had to learn how to meditate. Little did I know at the time that embracing such a practice would also transform my life.

Narada's Children coverMy work as a writer continues to be informed by this life-altering experience. This event was certainly seminal in writing my first novel, Narada’s Children: A Visionary Tale of Two Cities. Perhaps, I could have approached the development of the work as a memoir, but who would have taken such a biographical narrative, seriously? Narada’s Children seemed to write itself. And as the writing progressed, I was often reminded of a fleeting yet recurring revelation that my bout with spirit possession was my Guru’s (a spiritual master whom I’ve never met, and who passed away when I was only eight years old) doing. This traumatic occurrence was my teacher’s way of returning me to a spiritual path that I had embraced long ago in a past life . . . in … Continue reading

Awakening from Spirit Possession Part I – Woody Carter

Child meditatingMindfulness meditation is all the rage, now. It’s promoted in public schools nationwide, and in colleges and universities. In a Huffington Post blog, Candy Gunter Brown, PhD, argues that public education has gotten around the U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting religion in public institutions by replacing the terms “meditation” and “Buddhism” with words like “neuroscience” and “scientific research.” In fact, she continues “western culture has secularized this centuries-old religions practice.”

It should be said however that Buddhism, while it may be viewed as a religion – defined as a community of core convictions or beliefs, it is not a God-centered one. Buddha’s teachings did not address the question of whether there is a deity or not, since he viewed the question as unanswerable. God, from his point of view, is unknowable. So there is no evidence that Buddha answered this question as to the existence of God. Buddhism, therefore, is more accurately described as an ancient human development system passed down from the Buddha who lived and taught between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, over some 2,500 years ago.

The problem, however, of whether there is a God or not gets quickly turned on its head and needs to be revisited when one experiences possession by a malevolent spirit. How can one describe it? It’s like suddenly waking up to learn that you’ve been in a bad car accident, or discovering to your horror and dismay, that one of your legs has been amputated without your knowledge and without your consent. Your sense of self and reality is abruptly altered forever, even before physical pain sets in. And … Continue reading

A New American Vision: Rethinking Our Past and Future Mythologies, Part 2 – Guest Post by Marian A. Lee

Vision is not mere fantasy devoid of pragmatic realism but an expression of our core values linked to universal experiences.  For a nation that used to pride itself on a universal concept of E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one), we have politically divided and compartmentalized ourselves in the “Pluribus,” but have precious little “Unum” to show the world as the American political process continues to grind away defined by fractured relations and contentious posturing.  Our “better angels” have obviously not alighted on this planet to guide our actions to date.

Both sides of the political spectrum confuse the “map with the territory” a concept first proposed by philosopher Alfred Korzybski and expanded upon by anthropologist Gregory Bateson.  In essence, people confuse their own personal maps of the world with the territory the map represents by the conviction that their view is the one and only “truth”.  As a result, we engage in never ending arguments over whose version of the truth is the correct view of reality.  When gazing through a universal lens, multiple realities exist which necessitates a collaborative response for effective governing so that each reality is honored at a given level of consciousness, while moving toward wholeness and understanding. Creating a national vision where multiple realities from diverse perspectives are organized into a coherent unified force to solve our complex domestic and global problems has clearly been lacking in the current political climate.

Furthermore, the capacity of our … Continue reading

A New American Vision: Rethinking Our Past and Future Mythologies, Part 1 – Guest Post by Marian A. Lee

Black Elk, a Native American visionary and Lakota Sioux medicine man chronicled by John Neihardt in Black Elk Speaks, believed a coherent vision to be central to a people’s well-being.  Black Elk’s prophetic message was clear—“Without vision, the people perish.”  A vision encompasses not only the values and goals a people strive to honor but creates a mythology of who we are, what we stand for and how our vision fits into the cosmic order. Out of this mythology comes its symbolism of meaning that functions in maintaining the moral integrity and stability of the community as a whole, while also assisting individual members through the stages of life. Vision permeates what Jung calls the self, “…the organizing principle of the personality,” through the archetypal symbolism we embody tied to the collective unconscious. According to Jung, the self is the archetype of order, organization and most importantly, unification, which harmonizes all other archetypes and their manifestation.  The visionary connected self carries us through crises that occur during the course of our individual lives and the history of a people.

Joseph Campbell, a professor and lecturer on comparative mythology and author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, found that danger exists when the social order requirements and interpretations of social institutions (religious, political and cultural) “…press on people mythological structures that no longer match their human experience.” Campbell maintained that the symbols or metaphors which express societal mythology must possess a “spiritual aura” signifying a living spiritual core of awakening.  If mythological symbols are “…reduced to the concrete goals of a particular political system of socialization,” they lack the “connotative meaning of … Continue reading

Why the Genre of the Old Testament is Visionary Fiction – guest post by Stefan Emunds

This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. – Ha’aretz Magazine, October 1999.

Old Testament stories are spiritual allegories, Visionary Fiction that is. These allegories recount the struggles of men and women who met God face to face. Visionary Fiction has the same goal. It is a literary form that illustrates the process of growth in human consciousness and contains an all-inclusive spiritual component (Wikipedia).

Why do we read the Hebrew Testament like a history and law book? Because we take its stories at face value. Moreover, our minds are wired differently than those who wrote the Torah. In his essay The Philosophy of the Hebrew Language, Jeff Benner, an expert in ancient Hebrew, draws attention to an unrecognized issue: Throughout the world, past and present, there are two major divisions of thought or philosophy; Western and Eastern. Eastern philosophy has its roots in the ancient past and was the predominant form of philosophy throughout the ancient world. The beginning of Western philosophy arose in the ancient Greek culture from such philosophers as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. As the Greek culture spread, so did Western philosophy, to the point that it has become the predominant philosophy throughout the world. The Hebrews … Continue reading

Obligatory Scenes in Visionary Fiction – guest post by Stefan Emunds

What are genres? Genres are conventions that manage reader expectations. Choosing the right genre for your story – before writing it – is a crucial decision. When you think of genre, think RIO – Reader Interest Optimization.

Genre expectations have grown over a long time, hundreds of years. Each genre has its unique conventions and obligatory scenes. An action story needs to have fights or it isn’t action. A love story needs to have a kiss and a love confession scene or it isn’t a love story. Stories need to comply to the conventions of its genre or it won’t work.

While common genres are already carved in stone, Visionary Fiction has remained somewhat fluid. The first thing that comes to mind is that Visionary Fiction has an additional storyline beside the A-story and B-story, the plot and character development. This is the spiritual storyline, the S-story. Though interwoven with the B-story, illustrated by the Hero’s Journey, the S-story can and should stand on its own. “But other stories have a morale too,” you may want to object. True, but one can sum up a common story’s morale in one sentence, while an S-story claims a major part of the work and contains a few visionary or spiritual morals.

Balancing the A, B, and S-storyline is exactly that – a balancing act. How much should an author assign to each? Paolo Coelho’s books seem to have a 80/20 ratio, 80% A and B-story, and 20% S-story. The book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is the opposite – 20/80, whereby the A- and B-story serve as catalysts for the … Continue reading