Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Recognition – Part 1

Photo by Gabriella Fabbri

Some authors find their focus in their childhood. It’s something they know they’re born to do. Not me. I was a late bloomer—a seed stuck beneath a thick layer of earth. Something kept the water supply from reaching me. For many years, I pondered if there was something wrong with the way my brain functioned. Turns out my brain functions well—albeit a little more hyper than the average brain. I was a stubborn little seed. A seed that refused to take in the sustenance that I needed to grow. I thought I had the strength to pierce through the earth on my own.

While it’s true that inner-growth can only happen from within, outside opinions and advice that counter deeply held beliefs are sometimes needed in order to progress. Objectivity filters the information that comes in and is required in order to grow and blossom. Objectivity is the water. Without it, it’s easy to get stuck in the earth and remain there, even for a lifetime. My spiritual growth would’ve languished had I not read and listened to all viewpoints, including those that elicited anger and fear.

The Therapy of Reading 

I started my graduate study in psychology and during my research, I came across bibliotherapy, which uses the reader’s connection to a character and/or plot to draw out psychological issues. The goals of this type of therapy range from “insight to behavioral changes using imaginative literature as mentioned by Debbie McCullis in the Journal of Poetry Therapy (February 20, 2014). She notes the  process in four steps:

  1. Recognition: the reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading
  2. Examination: The reader reacts to the issues in the book
  3. Juxtaposition: Reader develops insight
  4. Self-application: Reader assimilates the insights learned from the book into his or her life

Helping people is one of the reasons I write. As a visionary author, I aim for readers to experience the four stages and heal during the process of reading my books.

Many visionary fiction authors also go through the four stages when writing their stories.  For this first installment, the focus will be on the recognition phase. I asked some of my visionary fiction friends to discuss when recognition first struck. Their answers follow, along with my own.

Margaret Duarte

First and foremost, when I found Kenneth Meadows’s books Earth Medicine and The Medicine Way in the metaphysical section of the bookstore, I saw for the first time examples of paths to self-discovery outside of formal religion. I discovered that I could use them to supplement the faith of my upbringing and apply them in my own way, and at my own pace, to find my spiritual path. Kenneth Meadows opened my eyes to non-dogmatic teachings that brought together “the hereditary knowledge of Native Americans, the Taoist teaching of the East, and the shamanic wisdom of the ancient Caucasian people of Britain, northern Europe, and Scandinavia.” As a result, his work formed the structure of the four novels in my Enter the Between series.  (Website)

Saleena Karim

The writer who got to me first was GA Parwez. I was fifteen or so when I first heard of him, and in the middle of a spiritual crisis of sorts and an identity crisis as well. I was going off organised religion, though not the idea of a Creator. The thing that lit up the recognition light for me was Parwez’s claim that the Quran and indeed Revelation as a whole was not meant to create a new religion, but was meant to be a “challenge to religion”, as per the title of one of his books. This was a life-changing discovery for me, and is the point at which I began the journey to becoming the person I am now. (Website)

Sandy Nathan

Recognition rings true to me. I get a jolt – ahah! – from some visionary writing. If I wasn’t hooked by the book before, I certainly will be after having that experience. If I’ve had that jolt of recognition, I will attend to the rest of the book and react to its issues automatically. That will result in insight and assimilation, again, automatically. Or more accurately, as the products of the workings of my unconscious mind. I’ll feel differently after reading the book before, though I may not be able to say exactly how. (Website)

Eleni Papanou

Ayn Rand was a visionary influence for me as I have written about in a previous post and also in my spiritual objectivism series. I read Anthem in my late teens, where the path to objectivity was first paved. Recognition didn’t strike until I read Atlas Shrugged. Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus Trilogy was my validation. Their use of humor made my first steps out of the land of dogma and ritual, humorous. Many more truths surfaced with that book, particularly my understanding of cognitive dissonance, which kept me from obtaining mental and spiritual liberation. I still find it amusing that secular thought deepened my spirituality. In honor of the late authors, I have to add an eternal “thanks,” followed by an, “All hail Discordia!” Sorry, I couldn’t resist this shout, but that one phrase is both comical and illuminating.  I use it whenever I find myself taking life and all the drama that comes with it too seriously.  (Website)

Jodine Turner

I got that sense of familiarity and feeling of “I’m not alone” when I began formally studying psychology in college. My text books gave examples and explained things so that on a psychological reality at least, I felt relieved and understood ‘why’ I thought and felt and did some of the things I did in life.

When I was a young pre-teenager, I remember reading a paperback my mother passed to me when she was finished reading it. I don’t remember the title but it took place in early Medieval England. I had never heard about the life style described in the book, and while that was new to me, it felt oddly compelling and familiar. Perhaps a flash of reincarnation recognition?

On a spiritual vein, my first big ’wow’ was with “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Here the sense of familiarity and coming home was pronounced. I not only found out I was not alone (so many others responded to the novel similarly, it touched an archetypal pulse), but I also felt special…in that I felt the first stirrings of my purpose in life begin to awaken. (Website)

A Final Question for Readers

Can you recall a book where you entered the recognition phase? How did you feel when it happened? Please feel free to share your response with us.

In part 2, the conversation about recognition continues from the writer’s perspective.


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

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22 Responses to Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Recognition – Part 1

  1. esdragon2 says:

    Experiencing a sense of Familiarity whilst reading a book? Still not sure. But whatever it was that first awakened my spirituality was so far back I can't remember. What I do remember however, was back in my childhood, I suddenly knew I no-longe believed in God. This threw me into a deep depression, and turning it over in my head one sleepless night, I realised that, altho' I no-longer believed in 'Him', I DID believe that it was Love which was at the centre of the Universe and my heart. I crept downstairs and took down the family Bible, and tremblingly prayed for an answer. Then I opened it — and at the very top of the page, a Headline; it said God Is Love!

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  2. Admin - Eleni says:

    What a beautiful place to end up in. I can relate to what you're saying. Reading books about religion, and such as the ones I mentioned in the post, actually led me to not believe in God. Lots of emotions came with that detachment, but then I eventually viewed my non-belief in God as a belief. I'm not sure if that came after or before my kundalini awakening. I'm assuming after because it would make logical sense—but then I wasn't always logical back in the day! Regardless, I've come to see that I can only understand that which I experience…and even that is subjective to my interpretation. Hence, it's all about the experience, as was told to me from within. Whatever force communicates with us, be it a god or an immense being we live inside, experience is how I connect to "Sheim." There is no pronoun that adequately fits, and I had to make up my own!

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  3. I love your entire intro, Eleni, but especially: "Objectivity is the water. Without it, it’s easy to get stuck in the earth and remain there, even for a lifetime. My spiritual growth would’ve languished had I not read and listened to all viewpoints, including those that elicited anger and fear."

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  5. libredux says:

    Hi Eleni, This is a great article and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Thanks also for introducing bibliotherapy here, which was something I'd never heard of before. I very much like the fact that you have taken this form of therapy to explore the inner/spiritual drive behind the writers of VF.

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  6. Interesting theme emerging here with recognition seeming to focus towards emerging from dogma (authority) to a personally experienced spirituality (gnosis). Quite the telling common denominator.

    Reminds me of a key line in my novel The Anathemas: “The moment a man buries the God of his ancestors, the God preached to him but not experienced by him, is life-changing. Blessed are the fortunate few who can stride away from the gravesite of their ancestral divinity resurrected into their own complete humanity.”

    The author I credit as igniting the trend of thought that later birthed that line was a Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who presented the radical–for a priest philosopher–idea that the entire universe was evolving toward maximum consciousness. I was in a traditional Catholic seminary at the time and remember feeling uninspired by the endorsed philosophers (Aristotle, Aquinas) and stimulated only by the frowned-upon rebels led by Plato. We were only grudgingly granted permission to read de Chardin and watched for the tendency to take him too seriously (his work had been censured by the Church but not completely banned). To cut to chase, his thinking helped induce me to leave the seminary and take my chances in the big bad material world. Funny I should end up with a bunch of Visionary Fiction writers!

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    • esdragon2 says:

      How very interesting, Victor. The Phenomenon of Man by P. Teilhard de Chardin, has stood in my bookcase since I first bought and read it in 1959. No Catholic, I, but after my early loss of faith, and the incredible affirmation of the God of Love which popped up from the family bible, (Bible means book, after all) I have been on a personal journey where books played a vital role. Modern Man in Search of a Soul, by C.G. Jung; Christmas Humphrey's exploration of Buddhism, are prime examples.

      Like you, my journey into my own Spirituality has evolved and expanded. Religion and its dogmas and 'man-made rules' – has anyone read Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses? – I can see exactly why the Iranian's Cleric crowned him with a death sentence! Rushdie, speaking in the character of Muhamed, rather scuppered any claim to Koranic authority when he confessed (to himself) he'd been making some of it up! Well! that explains it! Though obviously it doesn't explain the recent up-surge of barbaric violence towards women. Than no-where features in the Koran. (But I digress–)

      Books have certainly been a very important part of my journey, a journey in which my consciousness has undergone transformation after transformation. The word 'Gnost' as I understand it now, means Wise Inner Knowingness, and the understanding that I Exist: I AM.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. I never knew that Plato was considered a rebel. Always thought it was his mentor, Socrates. I just took a look at Pierre Teilhard De Chardin page you linked to, and I find his idea of an Omega Point amazing. What I find particularly fascinating is that people who connect to universal truths can apply them to their own religions, which shows how interconnected they all truly are. It also demonstrates why De Chardin was threatened by church officials! They probably could see how his ideas were a threat to their doctrines. How right they were as you left the seminary after reading his words!

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      • Since Plato frequently wrote in the character Socrates, his teacher, and Plato's writings are the only written record we have of Socrates' thought. I guess I should have written Socrates/Plato. Aristotle then came along and "organized" (left brain) and overshadowed the teachings of Socrates/Plato among later philosopher of renown, notably St. Thomas Aquinas, who became the "approved" voice in the Church. An oversimplification, but fun digging it out of the nether regions of my brain.

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  7. barbaraland1 says:

    Greetings Eleni, and thanks very much for your thought-provoking post.

    My “aha” moment occurred when I was living in Germany in 1985, when a girlfriend mailed me a paperback she’d bought at the Psychic Eye bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. I mention these circumstances because it’s always interesting how things “find” us when it’s the proper time, and that little paperback took a very circuitous route in finding me! The book was called “Messages from Michael”, and similar to the Seth books, it was channeled information from a teaching entity. In this case, the information was provided to a small group of people in the San Francisco Bay area during the ‘70s.

    Although raised a Catholic, I was moving away from organized religion by my early twenties and it was then that I found the Michael material. The information provided a logical framework for how things work on both the physical plane and on planes of higher existence. It spoke about a soul’s journey through many lifetimes and the relationships we have with others along the way. I have no way of knowing if the Michael teaching is actually true, but I know it answered many of my spiritual questions and gave me a sense of comfort and camaraderie with my fellow humans that I’d never experienced before.

    When I wrote my first novel, Chasing Through the Dreamtime, I thought the central theme was going to be about redemption. Different ideas began to emerge, however, as the writing continued. Eventually my protagonist suffered a crisis of faith brought on by the unexplainable events occurring around her and I was able to use the basic tenets of the Michael teaching to give her a new spiritual platform on which to base her beliefs.

    I never imagined myself as an author 30 years ago, and in fact, the need to write only surfaced in my life a few short years ago. Nevertheless, 30 years ago, Spirit presented me with information that would not only enrich my personal life but would also provide me with the essential information I would need to progress my character along her spiritual path in a book I had no idea I would ever write.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Hi Barbara:

      Yes, it is interesting how things find us just when we need them most. But we have to be open to receiving. That’s the trick! Your skeptical attitude toward the Michael teachings is healthy and will continue to help you in your spiritual growth.

      The way you describe your writing process is similar to so many of us VF writers, e.g., movement of author evolving with the story. When I begin, I outline and have an idea of where the story should go, but then my inner guide ends up leading me, showing me a better story than one I could have conjured up myself!

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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  8. Oprah reran her interviews with Maya Angelou this weekend, and she tells Angelou that when she read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she recognized herself in a book for the first time.
    For me, Doris Lessing always spoke to me. I was surprised to see that she had similar experiences as I did. Now I see this as the silliness of youth, but we're all young and we launch our canoe into the stream of public discourse by recognizing something. I always went to Lessing as a touchstone in my life. I was curious to see what her take on things was. She passed away last year and I will miss her.

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  9. Admin - Eleni says:

    Hi Theresa:

    Yes, youth is indeed silly. But we eventually learn from our silliness, don't we? Thanks for sharing your recognition and also for bringing up Maya Angelou's own connection to reading.

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