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:
- Recognition: the reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading
- Examination: The reader reacts to the issues in the book
- Juxtaposition: Reader develops insight
- 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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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