Visionary Fiction: Under the Influence

Reading

Nostradamus: mural in his hometown, Salon-de-Provence, France

Nostradamus: mural in his hometown, Salon-de-Provence, France

I don’t recall learning to read. Nor do I remember ever not reading. With two parents who read and wrote as regularly as they breathed, it was natural to follow suit. I grew up on an isolated farm without a radio or TV, so books were it for information and entertainment. But I was a lively kid, which induced me to act out what I was reading, often bribing or coercing my younger brothers to participate in my skits as the supporting cast.

Two formative factors emerge here: the reading habit, of course, and the sense of direct involvement with what is read. I didn’t read just Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I knew Tom and Huck personally; I talked to them about their adventures, and they let me in on things they never told Mark Twain. Reading fired my imagination, then prompted me to visualize scenes that embroidered what I had read, and finally led me to verbalize, if only to myself, those spontaneous mental dramas.

Challenging

Fast forward to a college class in Shakespeare. I became so enthralled with Calvin Hoffman’s The Murder of the Man who was Shakespeare (1955), an alternative Shakespearean authorship theory, that I spent the semester on a paper that I imagined would topple established scholarship by proving that Christopher Marlowe was the actual bard of Avon. I obviously did not succeed—I don’t even remember my argument—but this experience taught me discernment in studying what the anointed experts wrote. My fascination with challenging mysteries, something I seemed born with,  morphed into an intellectual rebelliousness. “Question authority” became my mantra, and authoritarian history became its first target.

Destiny, that dreadful beast, had me born and raised in an uber-religious environment. The college mentioned above was a Catholic seminary into which my parents and a slick sales pitch convinced me to enroll. But my undergrad years, the late ‘60’s, were a period of chafing against the 2000-year-old traditions of the Roman Church. Vatican II, de Chardin, and the protesting Berrigan brothers were all the rage. Dire warnings from the conservative clergy against such innovations only roused my curiosity.  I devoured all the anti-establishment literature I could get hold of and realigned to the liberal viewpoint. Convinced that my prior religious education was barely half the truth, I again applied the “question authority” mantra (effectively ending my seminary career), and authoritarian religion became my second target.

Experimenting

Draining away the doctrinaire bathwater from the intellectual and religious tubs did not permit me to return comfortably to materialism, although, goodness knows, I tried that route. After disinterring so many “truths” to find them less true than touted and ruling out naked nihilism, I needed to find a better way, so I began to walk the “road less traveled.”

During that critical transition period from serene cloisters to raucous New York City streets, serendipity graciously handed me books by several alternative authors on psychology and spirituality: the mystic Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, Marshall McLuhan (I was headed to Fordham where he chaired the Communication Arts Department), Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and, a bit later, Colin Wilson (especially The Outsider) and George Leonard (The Ultimate Athlete). I knew I had to write, but such writers helped me discover what I wanted to write about. I gathered that human communication was both the problem and the solution and envisioned my writing as a catalyst for transforming it from the former to the latter—a daunting task that I saw as requiring a quantum leap in human awareness and ability.

While I was trying my hand at various modes of writing (poetry, short stories, stage drama, film scripts) and life disciplines (parapsychology, counseling, spiritual practices, getting married, raising kids, getting divorced, etc.), in the back of my mind an intricate novel was spinning itself into an expression of the deepest influences and insights of the life I was living and the work I was doing.  Over the period of decades The Anathemas, a  Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution evolved.

Synchronicity

Murals on a fragment of the old Berlin Wall 2011

Murals on a fragment of the old Berlin Wall 2011

When I reluctantly accepted that the book was as good as it was going to get, there came that onerous task of publishing it. Since I had blended elements of traditional history, alternative history, orthodox religion, New Age spirituality, the paranormal (dreams, extrasensory perception), and the metaphysical (reincarnation), spicing the concoction with mystery and suspense techniques—something for everyone—I was quite proud that it defied categorization Thus, I was thrown for a loop when the first question out of the first interviewing agent’s mouth was: “What’s its genre?”

I had to search for a label appropriate to my opus. This being the early 2000’s, I came across Michael Gurian’s website, visionaryfiction.org, which stated: “Visionary fiction is fiction in which the expansion of the human mind drives the plot.” He then prefaced a list of recommended ingredients with: “In visionary fiction, the following sorts of things not only happen, but drive the plot and its characters (i.e., without these experiences, there would be no plot or character).” The Anathemas, I observed with glee, had enough of his list’s suggested elements to be a Visionary Fiction fruitcake: mystical experiences, visions, clusters of eerie coincidence, and past life realization, to name a few.

Appropriately, what began, literally, as a recurring image in my early twenties (see The Parapet page on my website for that story) developed over decades into a facet of the Visionary Fiction genre, currently emerging as the predominant literary form for expressing the dramatic evolutionary leap that the human race is now taking.  I am awed and humbled to have been chosen for a role, however small, in this vital transformation, for which Intelligence appears to have been preparing from the beginning of time.


The Anathemas, A Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution by Victor E. Smith

The Anathemas

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victor E. Smith (Vic) is a writer specializing in Visionary Fiction, a semi-retired computer trainer to the publishing industry (15 years as a consultant to The Wall Street Journal), and a spiritual/paranormal researcher currently residing in Tucson, Arizona. He is a member of the Editorial Team of the Visionary Fiction Alliance and author of The Anathemas, a Novel about Reincarnation and Restitution. His website and blog can be found at victoresmith.com.

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About Victor Smith

Victor E. Smith, a lifelong generalist with a diverse resume, sees himself as a scribe of the realm “in-between.” Writing largely visionary and historical fiction, he seeks to observe, absorb, and express those close encounters between the spiritual and material universes that form the unique adventure called human life. Vic is the author of The Anathemas: A Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution (2010) and Channel of the Grail (May 2016). He is a core team member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance. For further information, visit his website, victoresmith.com.
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9 Responses to Visionary Fiction: Under the Influence

  1. Admin - Eleni says:

    It was great to read this about you as I connected to your particular upbringing. I was brought up Greek Orthodox. After my kundalini awakening, I built up the strength to question my religion. I was alway a rebel, but never with that.

    "Draining away the doctrinaire bathwater from the intellectual and religious tubs did not permit me to return comfortably to materialism, although, goodness knows, I tried that route."

    Same here. I studied many topics that would be considered blasphemous, including satanism. I emerged an atheist from that period of my life. Nevertheless, in the end, I viewed the materialist viewpoint as another form of dogma. A debate between a religionist and materialist would probably go on infinitely!

    "I gathered that human communication was both the problem and the solution and envisioned my writing as a catalyst for transforming it from the former to the latter—a daunting task that I saw as requiring a quantum leap in human awareness and ability."

    Interesting point, and it is quite a leap!

    "I knew Tom and Huck personally;I talked to them about their adventures, and they let me in on things they never told Mark Twain."

    I had to end with this one as I loved it. Perhaps you can write a book and share with us what they told you.

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    • vicsmith0123 says:

      Thanks, Eleni. All good stuff to chew on. But just on your last. Will have to jump start the long-range memory to get a whole book out of my mind as a ten-year-old, but one the Twain-novel inspired stunts was to build a raft, on the sly of course, and, using Tom and Huck's voyage down the Mississippi a the model, I planned to float our posse down the nearby Delaware River to Philly about 50 miles away. We were in the last stages of preparation when my father caught us with knapsacks filled with bread, canned goods, ropes and rusty tools. Talk about some 'splainin' to be done! I believe he whipped us all soundly and sent us to bed.

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  2. Hi Vic. You sound like the protagonist of my novels, challenging mysteries and questioning authority. It's nice to know you grew up on a farm and were raised in an uber-religious environment. Ditto. My father and three of my seven brothers attended Catholic seminaries, and like you, didn't last. But they received great educations, which from the sound of it, you did, too. I love the description of The Anathemas as a "Visionary Fiction fruitcake!" It never hurts to have a good sense of humor in this writing business. I'm currently reading "Called Out of Darkness; a spiritual confession, by Anne Rice, in which she – also raised Catholic – shares a lifetime of questioning, her spiritual transformation, and her continuing interior journey. Hey, maybe she's turning into a visionary fiction writer, though it sounds like visionary nonfiction might be closer to the mark. Thanks for sharing the steps that brought you here to VFA.

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    • Vic Smith says:

      Thanks for your reply, Margaret. Did not know that Anne Rice had converted from writing about Lestat to Christ. A fascinating switch that I will have to check out further although I'm no big Anne Rice fan. Reminds me a bit of C.S. Lewis's personal story. Have always wondered whether such conversions are more "reversions" but Spirit does move in ways that baffle me, as it should be. Will be interested in your impressions after finishing the AR book.

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  3. esdragon2 says:

    Years ago I taught art in a Catholic boy's school for two years, and found I was not very good at keeping discipline. Prior to my interview I was invited into the home of the Head of Art. I guess he wanted to look me over and give his approval on my suitableness, but during our chat he 'confessed' that he was gay. In those days it was called homosexual, and I was told he lived with his partner. I was honoured to be trusted with this information, as he was hiding from the Jesuits, his employers. However, he managed to keep the boys in order in class by lecturing them on their 'wickedness', and regularly calling down hell-fire upon them. Or if they did get out of hand, he thrashed them with a cane even though that was illegal, even then, in British schools. Homosexuality was still illegal, too. Any religion that requires the threat of burning in Hell – Islam included – to keep people in check, is, to my mind, well beyond the pale. But no wonder I had problems keeping discipline there when I refused to compete with such fear-inducing sanctions.

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    • Vic Smith says:

      I feel fortunate that all the hell-talk never really bit with me, not for their lack of trying. The concept was perhaps too far out of my reality range to induce me to behave out of fear; I smelt the control mechanism, not the brimstone. Same also with some distant Heaven where clouds, harps, angels and perpetual tranquility had little appeal for a growing boy. Having since come to embrace the Eternal Present I can see how it can be either Heaven or Hell depending on one's state of mind.

      I think it would be great if we could create schools for our kids where the joy of learning was so persuasive that discipline was a non-factor. Now there's a visionary idea worth dreaming about.

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      • esdragon2 says:

        Vic, just a quick reply to your interesting early experience. I was NOT brought up as Catholic, (hence my consternation at that school,) but as a working-class, non-conformist Methodist, whose greatest sin for them was The Demon DRINK!

        Age 14, I was asked to 'sign the pledge' which I refused, saying I couldn't be expected to sign a commitment at such an early age, as I might want to try alcohol when grown up. Can't say the angels with harps thing attracted me either. I was, even then, on a path to perdition, i.e. set on becoming a shocking, free-thinking artist. Maybe I sensed the Eternal Now somewhere on that path opening out before me.

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  4. I can so relate to this – "When I reluctantly accepted that the book was as good as it was going to get,"

    I find I can be trapped into perfection re-writes. It seems there is always something that can be made better. but I suppose that is the beauty of our fragile, creations – we mold them until we feel they express our initial intent…and hope!
    I also loved how you developed an intimate relationship with Tom and Huck, with them telling you things they never told Mark Twain – the mark of a truly creative mind!

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    • Vic Smith says:

      Hi Jodine–
      Good phrase: "trapped into perfection re-writes." Particularly applicable IMO to Visionary Fiction where often we write about things for which there is not yet a proper vocabulary or a counter-vocabulary (the overworked words God and Love, for example) and about which there a societal skepticism or worse exists. I find myself drifting to a more condensed poetic language, which puts readers off as it requires they follow some intricate thoughts and track some rather complex devices. Navigating this complex aspect of VF might prove to be quite an interesting discussion.

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