Visionary Fiction as Thought Experiment – William Fietzer

We’re familiar with hypothetical, “What If?” conjectures. What if I have to declare bankruptcy? What if North Korea attacks the United States (or vice versa)? And what if the President is impeached—what happens then?

All of these speculations, some personal, some apocalyptic, suggest a story will follow—an answer, explanation, or procedure that addresses the initial set-up in some way that results in a narrative of some kind. Science, too, has its “What If?” speculations. Albert Einstein’s famous thought experiments about the nature of light led to his general and special theories of relativity which upended previous conceptions of the physical universe.

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Visionary fiction also has its “What If?” speculations. Some are narrow in scope, such as “What if I could reach my full potential as a human being?” or “What if I could see into the future?” Others have more cosmic implications, like “What if I could access higher planes of spiritual existence?” and “What if I gained the power to manipulate good and evil?”

All of these questions open themselves to “What happens next?” consequences. Unlike Science, however, visionary fiction has been dismissed as unrealistic, trivial, or simply unimportant because it (supposedly) doesn’t deal with lives as they are led in the physical, sense-oriented universe with which we’re familiar. Though magical realists such as Jorge Luis Borges and Salmon Rushdie are cut some slack in this regard, many writers who explore the realms of the mystical and the occult find their works ridiculed and/or shunted to the distant back shelves of speculative and fantasy fiction sections in book stores and web sites.

Brain neuron activityBut recent developments in cosmology, neuroscience, and quantum physics question such judgments. Dark matter and dark energy, entities known only by their non-interaction with the physical, sensate sphere, are now thought to comprise 95 per cent of the cosmological universe. Neuroscience has yet to understand the workings of the mind or determine whether the basis of personality, the psyche, dies with the death of the brain or persists in some different form of existence. And the anomalies of quantum physics at the macro and microscopic ends of the universal continuum of existence continue to confound and perplex the theories of most theoretical physicists.

Most but not all. A few scientists, like theoretical physicist David Bohm and mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, recognized explanations for such phenomena may lie outside the boundaries of the materialistic and deterministic thinking. Bohm with his concepts of Thought and holonomic brain theory and Penrose with his theories about the quantum mind or consciousness opened the door towards new ways of regarding the operation of our mental faculties. Anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff and roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro substantiated Bohm and Penrose’s ideas with substantive and practical theories of their own that linked human consciousness to the spiritual.

Much as George Lucas’ borrowings from Joseph Campbell form the philosophical basis of the Star Wars series, Ishiguro’s approach to robotics advances a point of view toward consciousness that differs from the Western dualistic paradigm. Instead of the Hegelian either/or approach, Ishiguro utilizes a continuum-based concept of mind wherein all objects in the universe possess some degree of consciousness. The result of this perspective has been his creation of an artificial, android robot alarming in its almost human-like presence and reactivity to exterior stimulation.

RoboticsAlmost but not quite. What robotics’ humanoid approximations do indicate, however, is that Western science has come full circle. Where for centuries much of Western scientific thought was dedicated to refuting the teachings of ancient idealistic philosophers as Plotinus, Heraclitus, and the Hindu and Gnostic religions, it has come to support their concept of the soul, qi, prana, elan vital, orgone or what-have-you as the basis of reality.

Such pantheistic approaches to existence underscore the importance of visionary fiction as a necessary and vital means of exploring the “What If?” implications of living within a conscious universe. Any of our fictional thought experiments has the potential to unlock the secrets of the universe hitherto hidden from us due to our rational, compartmentalized, and statistical preoccupation with the physical.

As an alternative, we must apply an integrated approach that restores the emotional, the holistic, and the intuitive to their proper places in understanding and operating within the sphere of conscious reality. Moreover, if our narratives are to be true to this new perception of the universe, they need to express a sense of respect and awe, a reverence if you will, for the force that flows within and without us and makes us one with the rest of existence.

Mission: Soul Rescue CoverThat reverence is what my latest thought experiment, Mission: Soul Rescue, attempts to accomplish. The first in a series of novels entitled, Escape from the Immortals, MSR explores that infinitely small yet vast region between science and religion, soul and mind, the physical and the ineffable and find their overlaps. The book’s protagonist, Dr. Victor Furst, is both psychologist and shaman. Like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, he serves as an instrument to explore, understand, and manipulate, the inner workings of the soul as the basis of universal reality. In one of his first cases back in the States, he encounters a woman diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. But once he recognizes his ex-wife, Evelyn, he suspects her symptoms result not from the invasion of a virus, bacteria, or physical manifestation, but something more intentional and far more sinister.

But why? Who or what would do this? That is the mystery Furst must resolve. To do so, he will need all his psychological expertise to penetrate the defenses of Evelyn’s unconscious mind. To recover her soul, he will need all his skills as a shaman. And to restore it to health, he will need to mend all the fences he broke when he abandoned his daughter and Evelyn for his shamanic studies in the Amazon.

PsychomanteumInspiration for this story originated out of questions associated with my wife’s studies for her masters degree in nursing. Specializing in a holistic approach to health care, she extolled to me the powers of ancient, non-Western forms of treatment such as reiki, meditation, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative medicine. In the course of our discussions about efficacy of such therapies to positively facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms, I wondered about the harm the negative application of such powers could have on the individual. Admitting she didn’t know, my research revealed that few practitioners claimed understanding or familiarity with the negative side of the forces they used in treating their patients.

One group of therapists who did claim familiarity with these negative forces were the shamans, non-traditional, ethnic practitioners around the world who reached altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with benevolent and malevolent spirits in healing the maladies of their patients. Their abilities combined with my own interests in the mind, death, and spirituality provided the stimuli for my latest novel. The questions these factors inspired shaped the structure of its narrative. And the thought experiments which explored the interactions between conscious reality and our collective unconscious place it solidly within the purview of visionary fiction.


William FietzerAbout William Fietzer

A former English instructor and academic librarian at the University of Minnesota, William is a grandfather and avid if erratic golfer residing in south Minneapolis with his wife and black Norwegian forest cat, Selene. His two previous novels, Penal Fires and Metadata Murders, explore the shadowy intersection of American culture, crime, and technology. Mission: Soul Rescue adds the paranormal and cosmic unconscious to the mix.

Visit William’s website: http://williamfietzer.com
See the video trailer to his VF novel: Mission: Soul Rescue

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17 Responses to Visionary Fiction as Thought Experiment – William Fietzer

  1. Drew Fisher says:

    Wow! Awesome article, William! As a professional bodyworker of 24 years who employs several forms of “energy work” in my daily practice, and as a recent author of my own work of visionary fiction, I am very excited and intrigued to read your book series. Plus, living in SW Wisconsin, we get up to MSP fairly often. I’d love to sit down and chat with you someday!

    Sincerely,

    Drew Fisher

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  2. Thanks, Drew. My wife and I live in Minneapolis now, so we’ll have to schedule a meeting some time when we’re both in Madison. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Maybe during an author visit?

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    • Drew Fisher says:

      I’m sorry: I meant to say that my wife and I get up to Minneapolis fairly often (we fly out of MSP whenever we go anywhere or to pick up our daughters.)
      Bought your book this morning. Reading it now. Nice start!

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  3. Great article. We had a Maine Coon/Norwegian Forest Cat mix. He was the love of my life.

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  4. Yeah, they’re sweet cats. And good mousers, too!

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  5. William,
    Soul rescue, as you call it, is such a perfect visionary topic to explore in fiction! It brings up so many questions for a reader to ponder to help them expand their consciousness, many of which you describe in your article. Well done!

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  6. William, your discussion of Ishiguro’s concept of mind and the idea that the entire universe possesses some degree of consciousness reminds me of something written by the Indian philosopher Iqbal a century ago: ‘every atom of Divine energy, however low in the scale of existence, is an ego. But there are degrees in the expression of egohood. Throughout the entire gamut of being runs the gradually rising note of egohood until it reaches its perfection in man’

    Thanks for your thought-provoking article.

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    • Thank you for responding. I”ve come across Iqbal”s name in my reading but not investigated his writings. From your descripton, his statement about every atom having a soul resembles Penrose’x notion about consciousness occurring at the quantum level. I’ll have to check out Iqbal and see if there are more parallels. Thanks, again.

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  7. Victor Smith says:

    You got me, William. I’m not supposed to buy any more books until I get at least halfway through the pile I have; but after reading your blog and seeing it at so reasonable a price on Amazon Kindle, I could not resist.

    So many very deep and forward-looking comments, I won’t try to pick them out. The incisive posts from VF writers, produced so regularly by this site, make me fairly itch to have a VF conference of some form, so we can get some of this talent together. “Energy healing” is a fertile subject in itself. Some of the great spiritual heroes, fictional or not, like Apollonius of Tyana, Simon Magus and Jesus Christ, used healing to elevate consciousness. But I better not get started–all three of these named gentlemen make at least cameo appearances in my forthcoming novel.

    Thanks for the valuable contribution, William.

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  8. Robin says:

    Beautiful post, William! I especially love the way you put this: “… apply an integrated approach that restores the emotional, the holistic, and the intuitive to their proper places.” Thank you.

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  9. Christopher Sly says:

    I think of myself as a staunch member of the reality based community. I have spent most of my life exposing and escaping the control of delusions. I will not knowingly serve a lie. I have been digesting your post. I wanted to to oppose some of your spiritual propositions. But the unexpected happened.

    I have a model in which I draw a circle around the truth, and from inside the circle, outside is hellish uncertainty. From outside, it appears differently. I draw a circle around selfishness, and from inside of the circle, outside is enslavement. From outside, it appears differently. You motivated me to draw a circle around Reality, where I stand, and suddenly I am confused. Thank you for that.

    My mother was a nurse with the most loving heart of anyone I have ever known.

    Heal on…

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  10. Thanks for your comments. Yes, I think a conference would benefit a lot of people including us writers. And on behalf of my wife I appreciate your remarks about nurses who have much to teach us–right on! 😉

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  11. reanolanmartin says:

    Great storyline, William! Well thought out. Best of luck with your book.

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  12. Thank you. Most comments have been positive–so far. ,😉

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  13. Right on, William. The following quote taken from your post, gives me hope that what I can so far only write–and accept–as (visionary) fiction, may someday become a reality: “Inspiration for this story originated out of questions associated with my wife’s studies for her masters degree in nursing. Specializing in a holistic approach to health care, she extolled to me the powers of ancient, non-Western forms of treatment such as reiki, meditation, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative medicine. In the course of our discussions about efficacy of such therapies to positively facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms, I wondered about the harm the negative application of such powers could have on the individual. Admitting she didn’t know, my research revealed that few practitioners claimed understanding or familiarity with the negative side of the forces they used in treating their patients.” As far as the rest of your post goes, I concur with the comments preceding mine.

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  14. Thanks, Margaret. I appreciate your thoughts and agree with your hopes for our writing.

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