What Is Women’s Visionary Fiction?  Part I – Guest Post By Mary Mackey

Women’s Visionary Fiction is not a new type of Visionary Fiction. It has been around for decades if not centuries. In fact, for all of recorded history (and thousands of years before writing existed) women have been associated with visions, mystical experiences, spiritual powers, magic, the ability to bring new life into the world, heal the sick, and speak to the dead.

When women authors finally cracked the Paper Ceiling of Publishing in the early 1970’s, they began to draw on their visionary heritage as they struggled for cultural recognition and spiritual identity.

The best of Women’s Visionary Fiction is not preachy or didactic. Mystical, flowing, beautifully crafted, it draws on folk traditions and esoteric sources as it creates new worlds, explores the after-life, and evokes other states of consciousness and other realities. Yet many of the early examples, fine they are, still remain unknown except to a small audience of readers.

Cover of Waterlilly by Ella Deloria

For example, in 1940, Native American author Ella Deloria wrote Waterlilly, a visionary novel that takes as its subject Lakota (Sioux) culture before the Lakota had contact with Europeans. This fascinating recreation of Lakota rituals, culture, and spiritual life, was not published until 1988, nearly twenty years after Deloria’s death.

In the past half century, women have written visionary fiction about witches, midwives, herbal healers, priestesses, goddesses, fairies, oracles, and angels. In fact, sometimes the authors themselves have been witches, midwives, herbal healers, and priestesses. Take for example Starhawk, San Francisco’s most famous witch. Her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing (Bantam, 1993), is a post-apocalyptic vision … Continue reading

The Visionary Fiction Revolution – And How Words Can Change the World Part 2 Guest post by Rory Mackay

(Read Part 1 of Rory Mackey’s The Visionary Fiction Revolution here)

We tell stories for a reason 

Mythology, which is storytelling at its most essential level, was not purposeless. It played an important role in shaping and sustaining society and, according to Campbell, had four primary functions. The first was to open the eyes of the individual and awaken a sense of awe, humility and wonder about the very nature of existence; to become aware of an interplay of tangible physical and elusive metaphysical realms.

The second function was cosmological; using stories and metaphor to help people understand the universe around them, making sense of time, space and biology. On a sociological level, mythology was also used as a means of forming and maintaining social connections. Having a shared narrative enabled tribes to stick together, supporting the social order and maintaining customs, beliefs and social norms.

On a more personal level, the tribe’s stories provided signposts for navigating life, sometimes reflected in ritual and rites of passage. The individual was not left to muddle through life without guidance. The epic tales of mythology were used as metaphors for dealing with the challenges and conflicts we face along life’s journey. These stories, properly understood, contained great wisdom and guidance.

Mythological tales were reflections of the human psyche and the conflicts and desires that drive it. The catastrophic battles between heroes and demons, the sacrifices, betrayals, jealously and love were reflections of the forces powering the human mind and heart. Furthermore, as stated before, Campbell believed that they could all be reduced to the same basic pattern, the same essential story: a story of trial, transcendence, rebirth and redemption. It was always a story of overcoming great adversity and conflict and finding that most cherished of all things, the true goal … Continue reading

The Visionary Fiction Revolution – And How Words Can Change the World, Part 1 – Guest post by Rory Mackay

It’s estimated that nearly 130 million books have been published in modern history. 28 million books are currently in print in English alone. When contemplating writing a book, I can’t help but reflect on these staggering statistics, as indeed I think all authors should. Does the world really need another book to add to those 130 million others? In what way is writing a book going to benefit the world and enhance the lives of its readers? Is there a reason for telling a new story – a need, and a purpose for doing so? If not, then why invest the substantial time and effort in writing a book? If it’s just to make money, then there are certainly easier and less labor intensive ways of doing so – particularly with the market as saturated as it is, with more books published than any time in history and an apparently downward trend in readership.

A changing landscape

The publishing industry is in the threshold of a transformation comparable to the advent of the Gutenberg print press over 500 years ago. The way we read is changing substantially, and the way writers release work is also changing. The advent of digital publishing has resulted in an explosion in the number of books being published. I’ve heard it said that we are experiencing an overproduction of books. The scarcer a commodity the more valuable it is, and indeed vice versa. There are more books to choose from than ever before, and to compete in this wild new literary world, authors and publishers must keep prices rock bottom and increase their output to compensate.

Our 21st century civilization is guilty of the crime of excess, if nothing else. In the current information age, we have more information than we’ll ever know what to do … Continue reading

The Scabbard and the Sword Part II – guest post by Marian A. Lee  

Part II: The Purer Archetype and the Warrior King

The second part of this blog explores the warrior king as the Jungian purer archetype with regard to the Qabalistic understanding of the scabbard and sword and its political application.

King_arthur__KarrMost of us know King Arthur as the courageous “once and future king” destined to unite Great Britain and establish the peaceful kingdom of Camelot by creating the Knights of the Round Table. However by examining his shallow understanding of the scabbard and sword, it is clear that he personifies the Jungian archetype of the Purer, and that this more than anything else shapes his destiny. The Purer is the quintessential “innocent” eternal male-child who acts in the world without thoughtful consideration often possessed of an early realization of deeper spiritual truths which are treated in a casual manner without mature judgment and value. Since Arthur chooses the importance of the sword over the scabbard, he acts like the quintessential Purer, unable to relate to the world with mature self-regulation. The Purer has an overly-developed fantasy life; layers of illusion cover the reality of his situation which is perhaps why he is unable to at first realize Morgan’s trickery in switching Excalibur and its scabbard for those of unequal value. According to Kime, the sword serves the psychological function as the “…main means of communication with the material world”. The end result is the misappropriation of the use of the sword.

The sacred task which Arthur must accomplish is to learn how to use the sword and more importantly when to use it. Discrimination comes with maturity, which the Purer … Continue reading

The Scabbard and the Sword Part I – guest post by Marian A. Lee

Part I: The Sacred Warrior King

The first part of this blog discusses Arthur, the sacred warrior king, as the archetypal hero of British legend and his relationship within the Celtic mythological narrative.

More than any other works of fiction, except for fairy tales and mythological narratives, Visionary Fiction makes use of spiritual and psychological archetypes, as well as material symbolism to work on the subconscious in an attempt to bring realization of spiritual truths to the level of consciousness. For my generation (60+) of spiritual travelers it is tempting to think, “Ah, I have it now,” and then tell younger generations what they need to know of this special wisdom in order to “get it”. I would rather approach the wisdom of the scabbard and sword with an attitude of, “I’ve got a piece of the puzzle that I want to share”. Then it’s up to future generations to expand and develop it further to fit their needs and times.

Very little of this world has the staying power of mythology. This is due to its archetypal nature, which is found, as Jung points out, in the collective unconscious of humanity, and is therefore salient to all cultures. Archetypes are primal, such as the great mother/father, warrior, hero, fool, and purer (the eternal male child). Primal archetypes are reinvented and cast in different cultural stories throughout the ages. In western mythology, none is arguably more powerful and … Continue reading

The Lesser Known Novels of Dion Fortune, Part 3 – by Theresa Crater

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Theresa Crater’s review of Dion Fortune’s Visionary Fiction novels.

Qabalah

The Mystical Qabalah gives the theory, but the novels give the practice . . .

[T]hose who study The Mystical Qabalah with the help of the novels

get the keys of the Temple put into their hands.”

~ from Moon Magic, by Dion Fortune

I was browsing in the Theosophical bookstore tucked in a small street off Broadway in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood, just a block away from an apartment I inhabited in my twenties. Feeling nostalgic, I remembered the times I’d dropped into this very same bookstore years ago, on my way back and forth to work or to taste the free samples on the counter at Dilettante Chocolates, dashing in dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt amongst the more elegant diners. On this visit, over in the corner, I found the Dion Fortune section. I held up the two novels and her short story collection I knew already and showed them to my companion, recommending them to him. Reshelving them, I discovered, much to my delight, more novels! I never knew Fortune had written more fiction, but there they were: The Demon Lover, The Winged Bull, and The Goat Foot God. With delicious anticipation, I pulled them from the shelf, took them to the counter, and handed over my credit card. What a wonderful find.

demon lover Continue reading

Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer, Part 2 – by Theresa Crater

(You can read Part 1 of Theresa Crater’s series on Visionary Fiction author Dion Fortune here.)

“He thought less of death than most people think of emigration; in fact, he seemed to regard it in exactly that light.”

 

TavernerIn The Secrets of Dr. Taverner, Dion Fortune’s short story collection featuring the magical adept and psychiatrist by the same name, we met many interesting characters in the throes of mental crisis that have a spiritual cause, or the families of seekers who want to throw their relative who is not behaving according to social norms into an asylum so they can take control of their money. It makes for delightful reading. I can attest to that. I was going to thumb through the book to refresh my memory because I am quite busy these days with my own writing and teaching, but from the first story, I couldn’t stop reading.

Fortune explains in her preface that the character of Dr. Taverner is based on the real-life Dr. Moriarty, with whom she studied analysis and most likely magic. She says, “To ‘Dr. Taverner’ I owe the greatest debt of my life; without ‘Dr. Taverner’ there would have been no ‘Dion Fortune,’ and to him I offer the tribute of these pages.”

The nursing home depicted, where all manner of magical events occur, was a real place. I’m sure out there in the magical world there are people who could tell us stories about this man and the place. Sometimes one has to suffer a certain amount of smugness to extract such stories (not always), but it’s always well worth it. Fortune … Continue reading

Fiction’s Battle for Acceptance in Islam, as Metaphor for Visionary Fiction: Part Two

Part Two

You can view Part One of this intriguing exploration by guest author Stephen Weinstock here.

In Part One, I outlined the parallels between Arabic fiction’s uphill battle for acceptance in the first centuries of Islam. I believe the criticism and slow acceptance of Visionary Fiction goes back to the same kind of interdiction against fiction that occurred at the start of Islam. To state a truth that is spiritual, religious, or transcendent in non-fiction is relatively acceptable, but when you attempt to express that truth using fictional characters, imaginative worlds, and intricate story lines, you risk cheapening or corrupting the statement. I worry about this impurity in my series 1001: The Reincarnation Chronicles, because I use humor, the banality of suburban life, and the characters’ foibles to make past life experiences more palatable. But does lightening the message water it down?

Inversely, infusing an accepted genre like science fiction, fantasy, or romance with a strong spiritual statement has been frowned upon for corrupting the intrinsic experience of those forms. Yet this was key to greater acceptance of both Arabic and Visionary fiction. The fantastical or ribald elements of the stories in Kalila wa Dimna or the maqamat derived from the popular culture of street storytellers. The Thousand and One Nights also had its origins in popular bedtime or ‘Night tales’ from ancient India and Persia, and it came out of the oral transmission of the marketplace as much as the literary manuscripts of the court. On top of this popular culture foundation, the court added an Islamic layer, where Scheherazade tells her stories to redeem the King’s monstrous behavior, to use stories as ethical and religious examples. Still, to this day, some Arabic scholars repudiate the Nights as literature because of its popular … Continue reading

Fiction’s Battle for Acceptance in Islam, as Metaphor for Visionary Fiction

Part One

In researching Book Three of my series 1001: The Reincarnation Chronicles, I read a great deal about the history of Arabic Literature. I am no Arabic scholar, but I had to learn about medieval Persian and Arabic culture. My characters, in their past lives in 10th century Baghdad, collaborate on a special version of The Thousand and One Nights, which is multi-cultural, subversive, and highly symbolic. I became enthralled by the development of fiction in the early Islamic world, and how difficult it was for a story collection like the Nights to gain acceptance.

When I learned about the gradual acceptance of Visionary Fiction in literary culture, I thought there were some interesting parallels with Arabic fiction. The phrase uphill battle comes to mind. But also, Visionary and Arabic Fiction each have strong ties to spirituality and religion, which both promote and hinder their acceptance. But let’s travel back in time to see more detailed parallels.

Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs and Bedouins had a rich literary tradition, weighted toward poetry, recitation, and storytelling in the desert night. One way to think about Muhammad’s receiving and delivery of the Qur’an is in continuity with this tradition of oral transmission through recitation. Only later were The Prophet’s words written down. Of course The Qur’an was visionary: sacred and divine Truth.

The early Islamic community outlawed fiction for many reasons. First, fiction was considered lies, in stark contrast to the truth of the Qur’an. Second, there were reports of Muhammad’s wise utterances, known as hadiths, by his followers. But there were many who would sermonize or pontificate without authenticity, and these utterances were considered fictional lies. Third, to legitimize spoken or written words as being authentically derived from The Prophet, and thus from Allah, every speaker and … Continue reading

Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Application – Part 5

This is the final installment of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series.  In part 1, we discussed recognition, when a reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading. In part 2, visionary fiction authors expressed their feelings of recognition while they were writing their stories. In part 3, various authors discussed how they reacted to issues in books they read. Part 4 dealt with juxtaposition, e.g, insight gleaned from the text.  Today we will discuss self-application, how readers adapt the insight they developed from the  books they have read into their lives.

world_unity_trs_me

Saleena Karim

From childhood, as soon as I learned to read, I wanted to write. My life-long desire was “to be an author”. As a young adult, that desire had changed slightly to “write a story with meaning”. For me it was practically a given that story should contribute something positive to humanity. The only problem had always been to identify what that “something” should be in my own fledgling novel. I had started writing it in my early twenties (now published as Systems). It had characters and a skeleton of a plot. It involved a quest, but details were lacking. In the end, my ongoing study of the Quran via Parwez’s work (and also some non-fiction work I was doing elsewhere, Secular Jinnah) finally gave me that special “something”. Parwez had essentially argued from the Quran that creating an “ideal” society is not only possible, but is imperative in unlocking human potential. It became a simple matter of integrating … Continue reading