The Visionary Benefit in Fiction: From C.S. Lewis to Me

I would like to honor one of my favorite writers, Mr. Clive Staples Lewis, briefly showing how his intuitive genius made him a famous exemplar through works closely related to the “visionary fiction” genre. C.S. Lewis is the author of the well-known Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as a less known but most inspiring to me, Screwtape Letters, among many other works.

In his Narnia novel, C.S. Lewis uses his main characters to parallel the central players within Christian theology. For example, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe represents the non-fictional concepts (in Lewis’ mind) of Jesus Christ, Satan, and the Supernatural aspect of the real world, respectively—making the plot of his story “universal in its worldview and scope.” One need not be a Christian to find edification in this work of Lewis’ because Jesus Christ can be universally interpreted as the moral hero generally, Satan can be seen as forces of moral challenge, and in regards to the supernatural aspect of the universe, no additional translation is needed for a fan of the visionary fiction genre.

The work of Lewis which most inspires my own experiment with visionary fiction, however, is his Screwtape Letters. In this book he uses the instrument of letters to convey in dramatic, engaging and most entertaining form, elements of Christian spirituality. Set as letters written between Screwtape, the experienced devil, and Wormwood, his nephew apprentice, he manages to exquisitely draw out and paint a most colorful and at times hilarious picture of the spiritual person’s struggles, temptations, and moments. Communications between an experienced devil and his apprentice via letters was a most creative “metaphysical plot device” on his part.

Because I was so inspired and entertained by C.S. Lewis’ genius in using the style of letters to convey what might otherwise be experienced as dry, even abstruse, conceptual truths by his readers, I have decided to imitate his letters approach in my Transcendence Letters.

My series is about a human agent’s communique to the representative of a big-brother, alien species who has been assisting human technological progress in the interest of sparking our own species spiritual transcendence. “Growth in consciousness” is indeed my central theme as the protagonist’s evolving awareness is used as an instrument to convey the “universal worldview” theme of my work—that of human spiritual transcendence. Written in the form of letters, in imitation of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the protagonist expresses, via the use of “visions” and “psychic reception” (directly from the alien species), his myriad concerns regarding his role as the agent and agency of his (human) species’ transcendence.

In example, during the First Letter of my Transcendence Letters Series I recount to my imaginary, alien mentor, Ka-tulong, how in the context of my present “awakening,” which now manifests more concretely in the form of letters, I can better understand the source of my inspiration during my less clear, adolescent awakenings, which resulted in a poem I wrote about the dangers of human technological progress outstripping human spirituality. By juxtaposing letters to poems, I accomplish the task, through the use of the letters instrument, of conveying maturity of consciousness. Likewise, in my second letter, I recount how also during my adolescent years I received a profound vision of finding deepest fulfillment in the encounter of bearded elders dressed all in white, descending on a disk of light before me in the desert as I arduously searched for the community of my belonging. Here again, through the use of the more personalized letters instrument of writing, I am able to add human color and biographical drama to what might otherwise be overly esoteric themes of awakening consciousness.

Lewis was a Christian apologetic writer who realized the power of fiction, of myth, in conveying what he believed as real-life truths. His works are closely related to the visionary fiction genre because he “embraced” spiritual wisdom from “ancient sources” (the Christian tradition) and made it “relevant to our modern life” through his use of fictional instruments of allegory. While Christian spirituality is rather mainstream today and therefore not purely “esoteric,” this should not, from an honest, intellectual perspective, exclude it from serving as a subject of our genre because visionary fiction, in its essence, can use any inspirational source. Indeed, even in the context of my extraterrestrial theme in my Transcendence Letters, I still find opportunity to mix and interweave Christian religious elements in my plot, such as my use of the Creator and Satan as real characters in my new worldview:

“The Creator created our respective species as brethren set apart on so many planetary islands… And while Lucifer the first born has rejected this created order in his envious refusal to acquiesce to our Creator’s glory, tempting the many prodigal species and having now his agents among your own species and mine and throughout the cosmos; yet you and I are on the side of goodness and gratitude to our benevolent Source.”

These and other passages in my Transcendence Letters Series clearly demonstrate how the Visionary Fiction genre possesses great creative potential to draw from various and myriad sources, to create altogether new universes, worldviews, inspirations. Indeed, in my Third Letter I intend to delve into the Tao Te Ching, incorporating insights from that most ancient Chinese spiritual text and source of perhaps one of the most esoteric religions on our globe, Taoism. Maybe I might even manage to found what might in time become a sub-set of Visionary Fiction: spiritual science-fiction!?

As C.S. Lewis wrote in the context of a society that still found the imagery of devils and demons realistic, I am similarly using the imagery of extraterrestrials in the context of a pseudo-scientific, contemporaneous worldview. Both he and I clearly tell the story of “limitless human potential where transformation and evolution are entirely possible.” I believe there is a great future in this newly coined genre!

Roger Farinha was born in Guyana, a south American country, which borders Brazil and Venezuela in 1971. He  immigrated to New York City with his family in 1981. From the rain forest to the concrete jungle, he found that he was a bit of a nerd and geek, taking to book-learning and evolving from a deep interest in science, to English literature, to philosophy and theology. Today, he’s still responding to his inner delusions of grandeur, the idea from his earliest years that he’s destined for greatness. When reality fails, write. So here he is, a most unorthodox writer and still secret nurturer of an unstoppable confidence that he shall some day, and perhaps sooner than later, rule the world!


11 thoughts on “The Visionary Benefit in Fiction: From C.S. Lewis to Me

  1. Jodine Turner says:

    Hello Roger! Thank you for your article. I appreciate how your extraordinary awakening experiences inform and flesh out your novels, using the device similar to C.S. Lewis – the letter. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, with The Chronicles of Narnia being amongst my favorite novels.

    As far as your suggestion for a sub-set of Visionary Fiction: spiritual science-fiction, I would have to say that the definition of VF includes all manner of genres, meaning VF is a tone and an underlying theme. Thus, VF is inclusive of other genres such as spiritual, science fiction, historical fantasy, etc. So, really no sub-categories needed!

    • Eleni Papanou says:

      True. Many philosophies and faiths relate on a deeper level. Visionary Fiction has the potential to bring people together with the basic truths that we all share, irrespective of faith and belief.

  2. Robin says:

    Wonderful post, Roger. I’m working with similar ideas in my new novel, struggling keep technology to a minimum while exploring the landscape of the mind.

  3. Drew Fisher says:

    Great article, Roger–great writing! I, too, am fascinated by the “exchange of letters” form of transmitting a story. I look forward to checking out both Screwtape Letters and your own novel(s?).

  4. William Fietzer says:

    Excellent introduction to C.S. Lewis, a writer with whom I’m not that familiar. However, your summary of his work inspires me to read him.
    I’m also quite taken with your interpretation of transcendence and how the Christian world view can be incorporated into our daily lives through reaching for the ineffable.
    Fine job!

    • New American Spring says:

      Thank you. I might have some more good news to share with my writing friends in the form of an interest on the part of the Unitarian Universalist magazine’s editor Kenny Wiley in a two-part article I’m composing for the magazine. The articles are titled “Another Spiritual Matrix: Part I–Up the Rabbit Hole” and “Another Spiritual Matrix: Part II–Consequentialism and The Good Life.” I think these titles are teaser enough, lol. Wish me luck!

  5. margaretduarte says:

    I enjoyed reading about your experience with, and contribution to, visionary fiction, closely related to your deep interest in science, philosophy and theology. ‘When reality fails, write.” Love it. Welcome to the VFA.


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