Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Examination – Part 3

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.

Saleena Karim

planet-6-1442966-mParwez 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 with a mixture of excitement, elation and relief. For the first time in my life, I was being shown an alternative view of my faith – and most unexpectedly, of reality as well. (Website)

Eleni Papanou

buddha-1440808-1-mMy kundalini awakening caused a great deal of confusion  as I didn’t understand what it meant or why it happened. No matter what I’d read or heard about the subject, I didn’t believe any of the explanations.  I gave up on religion about this time, but the reason behind my exit is for another blog post.  Suffice it to say, I was an empty hard drive, ready  to receive new data.  If the truth were out there, I wanted to download it on my own, or I wouldn’t believe in anything!  I read a plethora of religious and philosophical texts during this phase of my life, especially books that challenged my worldview. I wanted to expand my knowledge about how and why people believe the things that they do. I surmised that reading every viewpoint on religion would eventually reveal some profound truth. What I discovered was not one ideology had absolute answers. I had willingly  made myself a  prisoner of my beliefs because of conditionings that were passed down to me by well-intentioned parents.

I continued to read books that challenged me. While reading the classic,  What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada  by Walpola Rahula, I was stricken by the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. Tired of all the rituals and promises of enlightenment, he threw away all his beliefs, sat under the Bodhi tree, and figured it all out for himself.  My excitement over reading about his spiritual quest came upon my examining how my inner-life was similar to his. I tried to follow a path that was laid out for me by my upbringing, tortured myself in the process, and then finally had enough of the programming and erased it.  If the truth were out there, I’d find it. The truth I came to was similar to the Buddha’s, and I did learn it on my own—before ever reading about him. I will expand upon this more in the next installment. But what I will say now is that the truth really is Universal!   (Website)

Vic Smith

dahlia-829705-mSince this exercise made me think about it (self-reflection is good!), I discovered that I gauge my reaction (immediate gut feel as compared to later intellectual analysis) to a novel by the way it lingers after I close the book, either while reading it or after completion. The more the story’s aspects spill over into my thoughts, imagination, dreams, or journalling, especially in illogical ways or at unanticipated times, the higher I gauge its impact. I’ve found this phase to be more uncomfortable than not, akin to a particularly grisly murder scene that keeps repeating like a too-spicy meal. It’s bothersome, thus prompting me to interact in some way, if only to swat it away.

Since my own visionary fiction sphere of specialization is reincarnation, specifically the exploration of a prior life’s impact on the present, I have to credit The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975) by Max Erlich (VF, certainly, by today’s standard) as the hardest gut punch I’ve ever taken from a novel. Prior to reading it, I had only a peripheral interest in prior lives. But that damned book haunted me during the reading and for years afterwards until I hunkered down and wrote my own reincarnation novel. Nevertheless, until I sat down to do this exercise, I’d forgotten about Peter Proud and its impact on my belief system, writing career, and whole life.  Fortunately, it had not forgotten me. Not sure I still had a copy, I went through my bookshelves just now and there it was: a battered little paperback with pages now brown and brittle with age. It was an emotional reunion. That’s some lingering reaction. (Website)

Stephen Weinstock

puzzle-1438810-m

I have experienced a sensation on reading a passage that pulls on my psyche, which may lie somewhere between Recognition and Examination.  It is a physiological reaction that feels like I’ve entered an altered state.  I become aware of a larger reality, and sense how the passage is related to that reality.  As it is intensely physical, it is a moment of Recognition, but as it leads me to a larger thought, it enters Examination.

I often have these sensations reading spiritual material, or passages that border on fiction, such as the Don Juan books of Carlos Castaneda.  In A Yacqui Way of Knowledge, Don Juan talks about the four enemies in dealing with life: fear, clarity, power, and old age.  Having recognized a larger truth in this discussion, I examined in my mind its relation to the Hindu stages of life, student, warrior, judge, and brahmin.  Later, Don Juan reveals eight circles of consciousness, pointing out that everyday reality is lodged in only the first circle.  As a youth, I recall receiving that altered sense of a higher reality on reading this passage, but in examining the statement I could only think: “Whoa!”

I don’t often have this sensation while reading fiction.  Is it because my mind assumes it is fiction and not real?  I doubt it, since so much fiction connects us to a sense of reality.  I might be transported in my imagination to a fantastic new world, such as in the Dune series, but I retain an inner and physical distance from it.  I may recognize a tremendously innovative or imaginative concept, such as the notion of a karass in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, a group of people whose fates are intertwined, but it is always an intellectual recognition and examination of the concept, not a physical, vivid one.

This realization puzzles me.  I may be forgetting a fictional reading experience where I entered an altered state.  Or you may have this experience readily with fiction, the way I have it by merely glancing at an inspirational quote from Buddha or Deepak Chopra.  As an aspiring writer of Visionary Fiction, my conundrum has me re-examining my work.  That’s Examination.

Next in the series…

In Part 4 we will discuss the juxtaposition stage where the reader develops insight after processing what was read.

This is part 3 of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series. In part one, we discussed recognition, 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.


Eleni Papanou is an award-winning author and perpetual student of life.  Visit her website for news and updates

0
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Examination – Part 3

  1. esdragon2 says:

    'The truth is universal.' That says it all for me. So does discovering it for oneself.

    0

  2. One point that strikes me in all of the above is that recognition comes with a physiological reaction or strong sensation. This confirms that in the "in-between" we are working with body-mind-spirit connection, not body-mind-spirit separation as seems often to be emphasized in spiritual traditions. The blending of matter and spirit to acquire balance appears to be a major challenge as we move into higher states of consciousness. In my opinion, the decision to accept slow and steady progress rather than yield to the urge to fly off to one extreme or the other is a non-dramatic but crucial stretch of the Hero's Quest. (Like many people, my thoughts today are on the unexpected exit of the genius of Robin Williams from the physical plane–peace be to him–and the raw mysteries of life/death it opens to view.)

    It is comforting to know that Nature offers us palpable pointers via the body senses to assist us in what can be a tricky journey. I'd like to see this phenomenon discussed more among VF writers and inserted consciously into our works so that sensitive persons can learn to interpret such subtle signals to their benefit.

    0

  3. Admin - Eleni says:

    Vic:

    That is an excellent observation about the physiological reaction to recognition. The feeling is similar to remembering the whereabouts of a missing item. I also think this would be a fascinating topic to explore further.

    Af for Robin Williams, he has been on my mind as well since I heard the news. He was a sensitive soul that hid behind his humor. Love and light, Robin.

    0

  4. I read with near envy how Saleena, Eleni, and Vic have connected and reacted deeply (in life-altering ways) to fiction they have encountered. I, on the other hand, connect and react more like Stephen: "I might be transported in my imagination to a fantastic new world, such as in the Dune series, but I retain an inner and physical distance from it." Not that I don't enjoy – and learn from – fiction. But for me fiction wields its influence in a more unconscious way. Again, as with Stephen, I feel a greater connection ("aha" moments) when reading nonfiction. In my case by such authors as Matthew Fox, Roger Walsh, Christina Baldwin, Michael Talbot, and Marianne Williamson, to name just a few. These authors have inspired me to write fiction in order to examine and clarify my own life journey, a breaking away from what Eleni describes as: being "prisoner of my beliefs because of conditioning passed down by well-intentioned parents."

    0

    • libredux says:

      Margaret, I have to say that my particular answers in Eleni's posts haven't included fiction that had affected me – only the non-fiction of Parwez. But that said, I certainly do connect to fiction in the ways you have described succinctly here. It is a distinctly conscious experience, and more so *after* I began writing Systems. Like yourself, I too wrote my fiction "in order to examine and clarify my own life journey".

      0

      • Admin - Eleni says:

        Same here. The book I mentioned was also non-fiction. I write fiction to construct my thoughts and see how they apply to my life journey. Seems to be the modus operandi of VF writers!

        0

      • Of course, Saleena, what was I thinking? You and Eleni both mentioned non-fiction sources to which you had strong reactions and which led to self-examination. Maybe we have more in common than I thought.

        0

  5. esdragon2 says:

    Ahmen to those thoughts around the life and death of Robin Williams. Blessings of Peace and Light be unto him.

    But if I may set that aside for a moment, and offer a comment. It seems to me that, re what Eleni says about being prisoner of belief systems passed down by parents, the three world religions which share ‘The Book’; Christianity, Judaism and Islam, are larger reflections of those parents. When we ‘take the teaching of The Book. be it Old Testament, New or the Quran, we are swallowing unthinkingly tenets or dogmas which may be complete distortions of what was intended. Less so perhaps for the New Testament; the first 4 books were mainly recorded from the memories of people who had lived closer to Jesus, yet Mohamed was virtually channelling Allah and apparently changed his mind a few times about what he actually heard. (Even confessing once that he’d made some of it up!)

    This is what Salman Rushdie was saying in his (muddled and somewhat irritating) book; Satanic Verses. And look where that got him! A life threat fattwah from the mullahs. I met him when he came to Bath to do a ‘signing’ soon after the publication and he was escorted into the hall by 6 Home Office police who surrounded him nervously, on the look-out for assassins.

    0

    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Yes, it is the culture that seems to dictate what many parents pass down to their children. What is extraordinary is the lack of questioning due to faith. I made it my mission in life to never have faith in an ideology, any ideology. Life got a lot less complicated since then, and it made me understand the true nature of freedom…to be freed from the chains of dogma.

      0

  6. Stephen says, "I don’t often have this sensation while reading fiction. Is it because my mind assumes it is fiction and not real?" One of Kathleen McGowan's readers read my last blog where I mentioned her books, and the reader said, "Except it's not really fiction." I wonder how often other writers of visionary fiction might say that.

    0

    • Admin - Eleni says:

      I'm similar to Stephen in that way. As a writer, the challenge is making myself believe in the fantasy worlds I create. I keep working on them until I'm convinced, and it's not an easy task! However, I think what always brings me back in is the aspect that it's not really fiction. The truth often emerges from the theme.

      0

    • Pondering a thread surfacing in several comments here: the difference between fiction and non-fiction. I perceive that we create a clear-cut line: non-fiction is true and fiction is make-believe. But is that a valid assumption? Both are the result of creativity and imagination. No matter how many footnotes, the non-fiction writer "makes up" many elements of his story. And the good fiction writer has to work with some layer of fact so others can relate to his story.

      Take the sacred books mentioned here: fact or fiction? That the details of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem are undoubtedly fiction, or certainly not provable as fact, does not invalidate the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (even if there never was an historical sermon or mount). Both non-fiction and fiction writers make up or imagine (create an image of) the scene, plot and even characters for their stories, but it is the existence of a perennial or universal truth behind that story that makes it or breaks it,

      It is quite likely (have not done any research on this) that we have the same physiological reaction, or aha response, to truth in both fiction and non-fiction. I too get them more frequently in non-fiction authors like Matthew Fox and Marianne Williamson, as Margaret mentioned, because in such writers the quanta of truth presented is more condensed; but I think I hold on to aha moments from fiction longer, as in Peter Proud above, because fiction has the additional impact of experience, even if it is vicarious in a novel.

      Yes, another Pandora's box the yields much for future discussion. Gotta love it.

      0

  7. drstephenw says:

    Thanks all for your thoughtful comments.

    0

  8. libredux says:

    "I was an empty hard drive, ready to receive new data. "

    Love that line, Eleni.

    It's great to learn a bit more about the spiritual journeys of other VF writers including yourself as the background to their VF. Vic, what you say there about the "linger" factor is interesting, especially as you describe it as uncomfortable. Thinking about it, I too am affected by the "linger" factor, but it's not necessarily disconcerting, even though I tend to describe it as "haunting" as you did with 'The Reincarnation of Peter Proud'. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    0

  9. I resonate with how it is that our bodies offer us clues to recognition, as you've defined it, and Vic reiterated in his comment. My body certainly does offer up clues. Something on a physical level gets triggered and felt in me, and it is often accompanied by a rising emotion, felt in my chest, and then there's tears. That's my sign of that I've hit upon a truth for me.

    When I read something that moves me, I experience a sense of deeper and expanded meaning existentially. Then my imagination is catalyzed, and all sorts of new possibilities, or even deepened deja-vu experiences of familiarity, rise up. Trippy. And I love it. That's why I read, searching for that one gem of a book that comes every so often. And that's also why I write.

    Thank you for your article, Eleni, And all these wonderful comments folks have made are inspiring to me.

    0

  10. Admin - Eleni says:

    Jodine, you verbalized the feeling perfectly! I was just talking to my friend about this a few minutes ago, when I told her about an inspiring idea I had. These aha moments are recognitions that manifest physically. Tripp indeed!

    0

  11. esdragon2 says:

    I resonate very much with Vic’s Ponderings above, but I do have one quibble. What if I were to tell you that Yeshua/Jesus WAS born in Bethlehem, and that I have it from ‘the horse’s mouth’?

    I know that you, Vic, believe in reincarnation, (or you have suggested that you do,) well! the Zoroastrian astrologer Balthasar disclosed in a book I read recently, (Balthasar the Magus,) that in one of his incarnations he and the two other astrologers, Gaspar and Melchior, led by a star which all of them had noticed separately, behaving strangely. It was extremely bright, and seemed not one, but two stars; Venus and Jupiter in conjunction, and seeming to stand still. Led by the voice on Zarathustra their god, they were told to journey beyond the boundaries of their territory and into Roman Palestine where Herod was the mad and despotic ruler, and from now on the star would guide them.

    It led them as far as the village of Bethlehem where they met the innkeeper who gave them news of Yeshua’s birth the night before. They were warned by Zarathustra to tell the family to flee, but before the 3 astrologers had managed to flee themselves, Herod’s soldiers caught them and hauled them before him. The whole story can be read, as told by Ascended Master Kuthumi, who had been Balthasar in one of his incarnations.

    This, I believe to be fact, but others may call it fiction. You takes your pick! But it’s quite a story.

    0

  12. esdragon2 says:

    Interestingly there is another amazing book; 'The Gospel according to Jesus Christ', by Jose Saramago. The author, a communist, is in his 80s and living quietly on the island of Lanzarote rather than in his native Spain, (where I gather he's not too welcome.) He claims his book is fiction, yet, for me it is packed with those aha moments. I would recommend this book highly, fact or fiction. I believe it is highly Visionary, in the sense that he allowed himself to be open to a spirituality – a 'source' which undoubtably inspired him to inspire his readers.

    I love one chapter where Jesus is alone, in a boat of the sea of Galilee, (I think) He spies a strange figure in the water who ask to be rescued. The figure turns out to be God, and they have this incredible conversation where Jesus argues with him and wonders if he's really the Devil.

    (My own book; 'This Strange & Precious Thing' is also set on the island of Lanzarote.)

    0

  13. I think that's one of the ideas of visionary fiction – at least as I write it, anyway. It's not just an entertaining story, there's some wisdom in there, something to help each reader on their path. The best visonary fiction has a transformative effect of the reader.

    0

  14. Pingback: Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Examination – Part 4 | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  15. Pingback: Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Application – Part 5 | Visionary Fiction Alliance

Leave a Reply