Mindfulness 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 … Continue reading
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, … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
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. … Continue reading
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 … Continue reading
Editor’s Note: Karen Rider’s insightful article was originally published in January, 2013 on our VFA blog site. We thought the discussion it catalyzed was worth having it reposted. We invite you to enjoy and comment!
Setting the Literary Stage for Visionary & Metaphysical Fiction
Rapid-fire change is ongoing in the publishing industry—and it’s not just in the way books are produced, marketed and distributed. Perhaps like no other period in literary history, writers are experimenting with voice, style and format. Such literary exploration arises from both a writer’s creative urge and in response to market trends. This has led to the emergence of new genres and a shift in the way books are marketed and categorized. On physical and digital bookstore shelves, we find books grouped as “alternate historical fiction”, “slipstream” and “paranormal romance.” These categories may arise from official sources (e.g., the Library of Congress), publishers and sometimes from authors and readers. Rarely is there agreement and many books can be placed in more than one category. For example, novelist Alice Hoffman’s book The Story Sisters has Library of Congress designations as Fiction/Psychological fiction/Loss/Mothers & Daughters. The same book has been described as a literary magical realism (for which Hoffman is most widely known) and mystical fiction. (It even popped up under fantasy on my Goodreads profile—and this book is definitely not Fantasy.) M.J. Rose’s series of novels dealing with the quest for tools that can reveal past life memories (The Reincarnationist, The Book of Lost Fragrances) are categorized as suspense right on the cover. On Amazon, these books were once listed under both … Continue reading
In Part I, we began exploring the turning of the Wheel of Fortune. We moved past the idea of chaos, chance, and fate and introduced the idea of perfection. The Wheel of Fortune and the World imply continuous turning: the unending flow of time. A journey does not solely cover distance, but also time.
Consider, for a moment, the notion that both time and space are illusions. In this view, we live in a virtual reality akin to The Matrix. If we don’t ever go anywhere, why take the journey at all?
The Wheel of Fortune is not typically depicted as an actual wheel. It spins in place. In this next interpretation, we compare it to another device, which turns without going anywhere. As a movie reel rolls, its film unravels.
In Scribe to the Pantheon of Rome, my protagonist learns that the purpose of life is to create and the purpose of life is to experience. We live in a shared fabrication called reality. It is made up. We not only experience our own creations, but also those that came before us. In other words, our ancestors rolled up film, which we now experience. Part of our purpose is to unravel the pieces that no longer serve us while simultaneously rolling up new versions that please us. As with a reel-to-reel projector, one reel of film unravels, feeds through the projector (our experience of now), and then a second reel rolls film up, which is … Continue reading
Visionary Fiction writers take us on a Hero’s Journey. Not only are the heroes and journeys archetypal, but so are the many characters and situations encountered along the way.
Another version of the Hero’s Journey is the Fool’s Journey, which specifically refers to the Major Arcana of the Tarot, but also the variations as I see it: the signs and houses in Astrology, basic Numerology, and the full Tarot comprising all five suits. I explore the Fool’s Journey in my work: my blog writing, my book writing, and within my classes and intuitive readings. As I like to say, “The Journey of the Fool is always from where you are to where you want to be.” The Fool is not a fool, but rather an astute teacher by example. This archetype is dear to my heart and is why I named my business A Fool’s Inclination.
In writing my first novel, Journey to the Temple of Ra, I embarked the Fool’s Journey literally and literarily. In fact, an earlier version was entitled A Fool’s Journey. I wrote the tale as 78 mini-chapters named after the 78 cards in the Tarot. Each mini-chapter depicts a character or situation, which matches one or more interpretations of the corresponding card. Through this endeavor, my protagonist unveiled his life purpose…and I learned each card intimately.
In my second book, Scribe to the Pantheon of Rome, the sequel to the above, my hero walks his purpose despite unexpected … Continue reading
Visionary Fiction gives us a stairway upon which we can climb and express what we know deep within. When we look at great works of art, it is as if they are reflections of higher worlds, higher dimensions. Artists paint upon a canvas, writers write upon a page, but at the top of the stairway we paint in Light upon the universe and we write in words of Light upon the universe. As we look up we see the vision, we reach into our souls and we can connect to that place, that reality.
Francis Bacon (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, author and concealed poet, said, “All rising to great place is by a winding stair.” Today we say, “What was that guy talkin’ about?” But Francis was a very great visionary, and he understood how we evolve.
We can think of good vs. evil in terms of an upward spiral or a downward spiral, a good choice or a bad choice, the truth or a deception. There is only one power source in the universe and it allows downward spirals and wrong choices because it honors free will in the hopes that we will learn to always fight to spiral up and propel the Light and defend the Light and love the Light. Energy returns to its source and its source is perfection, and we have to reach up to return to our source and come home.
But why fight to spiral up? Is it worth it? What will we find at the top of that stairway? Will we … Continue reading
It’s a long way from Pennsylvania to Mount Everest. I’m still on the road (a bit closer – now living in New Zealand) but don’t know if I’ll ever get there. It’s not unlike the journey from being born to understanding, or at least making peace with, the meaning of life.
I’m an American man married to a Kiwi woman, retired from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 2013. My first novel was published a few months ago. It’s called Everest Rising, and the plot is relatively straightforward – the Earth is pregnant.
The idea came from a few different places. I am always searching for the new storyline– a tale that hasn’t been told and an engaging core around which to build a compelling narrative. I want my characters to grapple with both the commonness of existence and the wonder sneaking in around the edges. This wonder serves as a catalyst for transforming the human experience; a transformation revealed through the senses, understood by the mind, and confirmed by the heart.
The ‘pregnant Earth’ construct allowed space for various themes to intermingle and for passionate conflicts to play out. There’s conflict concerning the Earth: a living, possibly sentient entity about to safeguard its existence against humankind’s wayward stewardship. There’s conflict among the characters, many of them scientists who must decide how to deal with an unprecedented, physics-defying chain of events. At its center, the story is about acceptance. Accepting how little we know, and in that unknowing choosing how to use our energies and where to direct our focus. Where can one find answers – or some version of a … Continue reading