Monday, October 24, 2011

The Exegesis: The Path of Tension

A new member at the Secret Sun FB group recently asked what all of the excitement was about. He scanned the page but couldn't get a lock on it. I told him the following:
The Secret Sun is kind of like the Internet Island of Misfit Toys. It's for all the people who can't pretend they haven't peeked under the reality curtain once or twice. It's for people who don't fit into all of the thought-replacement modalities out there.
Indeed, a lot of people on the group have said they felt like they didn't fit in anywhere until they read this blog or joined the group. I have a feeling there are a lot of people lurking out there who feel the way I and the others do, but who stay in the shadows. Maybe there are a lot of people in other circles or other groups who feel out of place there. People who are part of the "Excluded Middle," the free thinkers who don't subscribe to the false dichotomies prescribed by lazy editors and television producers.

When I was a kid the hippie subculture had created an interesting space for people who loved sci-fi and comics but were also interested in extreme possibilities and the frontiers of consciousness. Mainstream fandom tends to a sour, skeptical pose these days, which is mostly a reaction to the religious reich's poisoning of American society over the past 30 years. Rebuilding that space is very much a top priority for me with The Secret Sun.

The best and most resonant sci-fi is also the most mystical-- and that includes Star Trek, Roddenberry's insincere protestations aside. As we've seen nearly all of the top sci-fi franchises are up to their Spock-ears in ancient astronaut theory, entheogenology and other, similar thought crimes. None of this has anything to do with religion as the term is understood, since it functions to displace religion and replace it with something more intimate and subversive. More useful, as well.

The other issue I want to address is how our stories are going to evolve away from an increasingly limiting and compromised mass media, and move towards targeted media. The economics of movie-making are leaving less and less room for stories that challenge the audience or question the assumptions of mainstream society.

What that will do by necessity is move away from the hyper-literalism and computer graphics and move towards modes in which the audience needs to do more of the work: books, comics, maybe even radio theater. I see this as a major net positive (and already we're seeing a major backlash against 3D filmmaking). There's no reason to believe that VR would be any different, even if the amount of labor involved in true virtual reality was remotely cost-effective.

Right now people are very much "in the world" as it were, as the economical struggles are taking up a lot of attention. That's not a bad thing. But these kind of struggles have always necessitated a fictional response, and that's something that is still to come. I hope people will realize the power of imaginative fiction to writ these issues large and help to better define them. What we're seeing now may well signal a shift in consciousness, another event that also tends to inspire great speculative fiction.

As it did with Philip K. Dick, who was very much tapped into the counterculture of the 60s and much more so the 70s. Dick's work speaks to the grim, defeated mindset of the post-Aquarian malaise, and offered new worlds for the counterculture to explore. Read this...

There is SF because the human brain craves sensory and intellectual stimulation before anything else, and the eccentric view provides unlimited stimulation, the eccentric view and the invented world. It is written because the human mind naturally creates, and in creating the world of an SF story the ultimate in human imagination is brought into use; thus SF is an ultimate product of and for the human mind. The function of SF psychologically is to cut the reader loose from the actual world that he inhabits; it deconstructs time, space, reality.
Those who read it probably have difficulty adjusting to their world, for whatever reason; they may be ahead of it in terms of their perceptions and concepts or they may simply be neurotic, or they may have an abundance of imagination. Basically, they enjoy abstract thought. Also, they have a sense of the magic of science: science viewed not as utilitarian but as explorative. -- Philip K. Dick
Walter Russell Mead has also thrown down the gauntlet and challenged sci-fi writers to plug into what is going on in the world in their storytelling. Great sci-fi isn't only about identity politics or tribalist fantasies.

"Taken as a whole, the field of science fiction today is where most of the most interesting thought about human society can be found. At a time when many academics have become almost willfully obscure, political science is increasingly dominated by arcane and uninspiring theories and in which a fog of political correctness makes some forms of (badly needed) debate and exploration off limits, science fiction has stepped forward to fill the gap.
The biggest single task facing the United States today is the unleashing of our social imagination. We are locked into twentieth century institutions and twentieth century habits of mind. -- Walter Russell Mead
A lot of what I've done on this blog is show how when these kinds of stories are informed by a worldview that transcends reductionist materialism, they tend to bleed outside of the fantasy realm and plug into the world in remarkable ways, most often through the mechanics of Synchronicity. Here is a potent example that some of you might have read about:
Saul-Paul Sirag, Vice-President of Jack Sarfatti's Physics/Consciousness Research Group, has his own weird tales to tell. Once, while involved in the Uri Geller investigation, Sirag took LSD to see if in that altered consciousness he could perceive the alleged extraterrestrial behind Geller. What Sirag saw was the head of a hawk, which astonished him, since Geller had never described the entity as a hawk.
Six months later, this image appeared on the January 1974 cover of Sirag's favorite sci-fi magazine, Analog, illustrating a story called "The Horus Errand" (Synchronicity #1). A year later, Dr. Andrija Puharich, not knowing of Sirag's experience, claimed that Geller's extraterrestrial ally had often appeared to him as a hawk, which he nicknamed "Horus" (Synchronicity #2).
Later, Sirag discovered that the face on the Analog cover was that of Ray Stanford, a Texas psychic, who also claimed mysterious experiences with Geller and a hawk (Synchronicity #3). Oddest of all, Kelly Freas, the artist who had drawn the cover, had never met Stanford and was not using his face consciously.-- Excerpted from Tekgnostics, original story recounted in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger
Finally, here's the Master Mage himself explaining the true power of work that plugs into the deep streams of consciousness and becomes its own kind of magic:
"I feel that artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art & writing are merely forms of entertainment...they're not seen as transformative forces that can change a human being, that can change a society.
They are seen as simple 'entertainment', things with which we can fill 20 minutes, half an hour, while we are waiting to die. It is NOT the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience want; if the audience knew what they needed, they wouldn't be the audience, they would be artists. It is the job of the artists to give the audience what they need." -- ALAN MOORE
All of this is not just for the benefit of aspiring creators out there. It's also for the readers, for the audience. An informed and engaged audience is every bit as important as the artist is. This is a two-way street, and the goal is to raise our own consciousness and then work to do so with others.

It's not as easy as those who subscribe to the various theistic and atheistic religious modalities. It's a middle path- a path of tension, a path of negotiation. It's not for the weak of heart or the weak of soul. But it's a vital part of a truly evolved culture and has been lost. We fail to regain it at our own peril.