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 pervasive than … Continue reading →
Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Theresa Crater’s review of Dion Fortune’s Visionary Fiction novels.
“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.
(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.”
In 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 also claims … Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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.
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 these ideas … Continue reading →
This is part 4 of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series inspired by an article on bibliotherapy by Debbie McCullis in the February, 2014 issue of the Journal of Poetry Therapy. In part 1, we discussed recognition, which is 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. Today we will discuss juxtaposition, which is when a reader develops insight from the books they have read.
Inspirational books remain with us long after we read them. Sometimes the text speaks to our souls, extracting truths that have been hidden from our awarenesses. When recognition first strikes, we get a sense of familiarity, as if what we’ve read is something we’ve already known. Some of us might experience elation, others dread, especially if what is pulled out from us is something that challenges our world views. For those of us courageous enough to continue examining the truth that was drawn out of us, we develop insights—at times powerful enough to change our world views and even the course of our lives. I asked some of my author friends about insights they gleaned from books they’ve read. Following are their responses.
Although I had read a few works of Parwez in English, I learned much more from translating him over a number of years. It was challenging work, since I am not fluent in Urdu and so I always had to co-translate with my father, but this also afforded me the opportunity … Continue reading →
This is part 3 of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series, which was inspired after I learned about bibliotherapy in my psychology classes. It led me to discover an article by Debbie McCullis in the February, 2014 issue of the Journal of Poetry Therapy. McGullis listed a four step process used in bibliotherapy, which strongly resonated with me as the process sounds similar to why I write visionary fiction. In part one, we discussed the first step, recognition, which is the moment when a reader gets a sense of familiarity while reading. In part two, we examined recognition through the lens of a writer’s perspective. In this week’s installment, we will discuss what happens after recognition strikes. We want to understand why we had such a strong reaction to the text we had just read, which brings us into the second step, examination.
Parwez wrote much of his work in Urdu but his exposition translation of the Quran was available in English. What struck me from day one was how this exposition seemed so much more scientific, and culturally neutral, than commentaries I had read in other translations – which to me was conducive to a book containing a universal message. It, along with his other writings, also brought into sharp focus this emphasis on Islam as not religion. He wrote on controversial topics firmly but with refreshing honesty, constantly asking his readers to check with the Quran for themselves to verify his claims. While gradually accessing his work and studying the Quran for myself, I reacted to this bombardment of new information … Continue reading →
This is part two of the Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction Series. In part one, we discussed recognition from the reader’s perspective. In this week’s installment, we’ll focus on it from the author’s perspective.
Authors have their moments of recognition during the writing process. This phase is important to many of them. I asked some of my author friends to discuss their own experience with the recognition while writing their books. Following are their responses.
Margaret Duarte Sometimes recognition for the author comes in unique ways as expressed from the point of view of Marjorie Veil Sunwalker, the protagonist in the Enter the Between Series.
“Margaret Duarte, the writer of this novel, believes she has created me. She believes she has made up the events and details of my journey. What she doesn’t realize is that I have been with her for a long, long time. She was only an instrument, my interpreter.”
When it finally hit me that I needed to write my own fiction in order to open up to, expand, and maybe even someday complete my spiritual journey, I knew my work would be different from any fiction I’d read up to that time. I didn’t have the genre vocabulary I have now and had definitely never heard of the term “visionary fiction,” but I knew it would include a plot and characters beyond the experience of the five senses and would help me delve into the questions/mysteries that had nagged me since I left childhood behind. “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” “What can I … Continue reading →
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