This posting concludes the final chapter of the book, The Writing Arts: An Author’s Perspective by Charles A. Taormina. All earlier chapters are posted here at WordPress, in reverse order (see Archive for topics). To start at the beginning, scroll down to the first chapter, “Our Rebirth of Writing.”
“Advancement & Transcendence,” March 30, 2010
“The Writing Life,” March 20, 2010
“Great Themes,” March 5, 2010
“The Novel,” February 15, 2010
“Autobiography,” January 27, 2010
“Nonfiction/Fiction/Drama,” December 30, 2009
“Spirituality,” October 30, 2009
“Experimentalism,” September 20, 2009
“Creativity,” August 15, 2009
“Retrospective of Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn,” July 29, 2009
“Self-Editing For Authors (Part II),” July 10, 2009
“Self-Editing For Authors (Part I),” June 26, 2009
“Acceptance of Individual Authors,” June 6, 2009
“Our Rebirth of Writing,” May 25, 2009
“10 Ways For Writers To Survive The Great Recession,” May 25, 2009
The following thirteenth article, “Advancement & Transcendence,” will be reprinted as a final chapter in my new book, The Writing Arts: An Author’s Perspective. The book is now complete. Two earlier posts originally appeared on “TheAkroCentric” literary blog in 2008. All articles, as writing chapters, are finished here and archived at WordPress.com. The end of this article displays a list of Resources. All my material from these sites again, is Copyright © 2010 by Charles A. Taormina.
ADVANCEMENT & TRANSCENDENCE
Charles A. Taormina
Copyright © 2010 by Charles A. Taormina
This final chapter of The Writing Arts: An Author’s Perspective caps the earlier twelve discussions by confronting ways each author might advance his or her art and an entire process within our written arts which might transcend the usual. That should create more for the individual author’s soul and bring about ways for the culture to move beyond its temporal or usual characteristics. I’ve mentioned the need to be of the culture but outside or beyond it, and want to discuss with some sensitivity what all of this means for new authors. That should help one preview or foresee lengthier extents to one’s career and ways to continue, advance the sense of full artistic expression, and ultimately transcend one’s goals, themes, scope of current endeavors.
One should consider that Hermann Hesse completed his Magnum opus, Magister Ludi, published in 1943 at age 66 (then won Nobel Prize), and had been continuing with poetry and his watercolors for many years (with many physical afflictions). Henry James at age 63-67 took time to redo his earlier works after a full career as an author, penning insightful prefaces to reissued novels and arranging for republishing in a New York Edition of Collected Works (at age 71 he also published his second volume of autobiography, Notes of A Son and Brother); Victor Hugo had his last novel published, Ninety-three, at age 72 and was elected to the French Senate at age 74; Goethe’s novella, Novelle, was published at age 79 and he continued to write poetry and essays about science and literature, plus finished his Faust Part II at age 82 (published posthumously); G.B. Shaw won the Nobel Prize at age 69 after success of his play, Saint Joan, finished a play at age 83, In Good King Charles Golden Days, and wrote plays, took photos, and campaigned politically until his death at age 94; Petrarch oversaw his collection of poems and annotated them, finished his poetry collection, Canzoniere, and other writings at age 70; Richard Wagner conducted the performance of his final opera, Parsifal, in Bayreuth and wrote art criticism at age 69; Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence moved to painting in final years, with Lawrence continuing to write poems, reviews, and essays; Dickens gave dramatic readings in America and England, started his unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, before dying at age 58. Our own Norman Mailer published nonfiction and fiction in his last years (even a tome about writing, The Spooky Art), including in his last year at age 84 a novel, The Castle in the Forest, and a work of theological speculation, On God: An Uncommon Conversation. In other fields, Thomas Jefferson penned his concise autobiography at age 77, wrote extensive letters to John Adams, and designed and later supervised the building construction of the school he had founded, University of Virginia (opened when he was 82). Michelangelo finished his Last Judgment fresco at age 66, was appointed architect of St. Peter’s at 71, and created architecture, poetry, and sculpture until dying at age 89. (Wikipedia) There is a way of not just completing a life or final projects, but of fulfilling the full promise of a life filled with gifts and discipline, long-term blessed creativity, and divine energy.
St. Teresa in last years of life founded 5 convents and died at age 67; Tolstoy wrote his novella, The Death of Ivan Ilych, at age 58, the play, Power of Darkness, at age 60, short novel, The Kreutzer Sonata, at 61, a final novel, Resurrection, at age 71, and continued with personal Christian practices (Tolstoyism) until his death at 82; Solzhenitsyn in his later years, after returning from America to a free Russia, wrote many nonfiction books and edited his 30-volumes of Collected Works, dying at age 89; Frank Lloyd Wright (architect and author of 20 books) completed his designs and long construction work for The Guggenheim Museum (opening only after his death) and the Seth Peterson cottage at age 91; R. Buckminster Fuller (dome expert, author, engineer) spent the last fifteen years of his life lecturing around the world, dying at 87. In a spiritual sense we might consider Dante, who did complete his entire masterpiece, The Divine Comedy; however after his death at age 56, nobody could find the final cantos, the epic poem was considered unfinished. According to Boccaccio, after Dante’s death, Dante’s son had a dream, where his father appeared and pointed to a special area behind a bookcase, in his study. The son awoke, went to that exact location, and discovered the missing passages. Or consider J.S. Bach, who composed in his last years Musical Offering, The Art of Fugue, and a choral prelude dictated from his deathbed; Bach was well-respected as an organist and music or organ expert at the time, but only in later centuries was he acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest composers. Beethoven’s last years included The Ninth Symphony, Missa Solemnis, five string quartets (with Grosse Fuge) and final five piano sonatas, all completed when he was deaf. (Wikipedia)
With the overall advancement should come ways to move beyond one’s current place of writing. In my chapter on “The Novel” I discussed my work with a current project, a new novel, with a working title now of Christus Rex. This had developed from some previous notes for a novel or play about ways of bringing about a renaissance, now with a more spiritual focus. My current notes contain progressions on exact style, ways to bring about a story that will be forceful, and show the character moving through a current renaissance and a spiritual illumination, plus further kinds of thematic details. I’ve considered several approaches, one with a traditional narrative as a Bildungsroman, or novel of development, in the third person, or perhaps one that is more haphazard appearing, with notebook and journal entries, other internal descriptions, letters and emails, which bring about a formal stylistic denouement (clarifying the entire chaotic creative process for the character) by a smoother traditional narration toward the end. The process for the reader, then, would be coming upon all the notes and chaotic earlier papers of a scholar or scientist, moving with the integration of the spiritual fulfillment of the character, to a full plot progression, as the character becomes a prime mover in a modern-day renaissance. It would provide some of the discovery or fractured reading experience that one has coming upon The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. With a more experimental or at least fragmented earlier stylistic approach, it would provide the reader the exact feeling or emotion of a master artist/scientist integrating his life as he proceeds. Those are working notes thus far, but again, it provides me with a way of incorporating decades of my own renaissance research and to produce also an interesting, fictional experience, through a sort of biographical development of a modern-day renaissance master.
Some of this is detailed here, again, to display an example of my seventh novel project and one way I’m choosing to move beyond previous work. Although I’ve done other experimental ventures, this should prove the most ambitious, in having to supply the many incidental parts of the protagonist’s life (maybe intellectual papers, types of art work, poetry perhaps, notebooks, emails, other projects as documentary artifacts). In different words before (Chapter “The Novel”), I suggested that since moving into the new era, The Twenty-first Century, that it seemed now a time for some sort of “colossal masterpiece,” to use a motif often attempted in the Italian Renaissance (Michelangelo’s sculpture of David was called “the colossus” and stands itself as a perfect metaphysical icon of how far humankind had come in the West, by about 1500 AD, as was colossal Leonardo’s unfinished equestrian monument to Sforza’s father). Mine would be heroic in a different, perhaps more internal sense, of attempting to document emotionally as a word artist some exact methodology or humanistic approach for seeding or bringing about a full-scale renaissance today.
One of my inspirations, and an insight I’ve written about before (book-length Autobiography), is that by tracking the travels of Leonardo da Vinci, from Florence (near his birthplace in Vinci) to Milan, to Rome, and finally with his move to Cloux, France under the patronage of King Francis I—one is able to see that wherever Leonardo went, so too followed the renaissance; he was a source, inspiration, and in some sense a “founding spirit,” are my intuitions. That doesn’t mean that many other talented men and women weren’t active, but it does bring about some focus, on one or two initiating individuals or master souls, who so allowed others in his age to breakthrough into the same grand plane for inspiration, insight, and achievement. Again, as mentioned previously in “Creativity,” often it is a small handful of individuals, sometimes a dozen or even three or four, who continually rebuild our cultures, especially during humanity’s golden ages. In ancient Greece we point to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle; at the very beginning of the Italian Renaissance were Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio; during the High Renaissance, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael; and we can see similar patterns of a small group of individuals doing likewise with founding America: Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, plus Adams, Washington, Paine, and a few others. Michelangelo can be seen as the capstone, guaranteeing with his multitude of works (sculpture, painting, poetry, architecture) the fusion of Christianity with the Italian Renaissance. Again, one must consider how few people are involved in truly revolving the complete cycle of an age, not only for that particular epoch, but for every succeeding generation of men and women on earth. With the spiritual, we might consider only Jesus Christ. Again though, it is a very real question, of just what one man or woman can do?
Also, when we think of humanism, and the types of individuals who might have been prominent during the Italian and later European Renaissance, we consider basically what might be called “Titanic” or Immense or “Iconic Individuals”—those of such a forceful personality and strength and inspiration, and who are so constantly active, that it completely supersedes other designations. Often, this is overlooked. We of our own age try to gain some perspective with imaginative or researched glimpses into that time with works like Stone’s The Agony and The Ecstasy (about Michelangelo painting Sistine Chapel with Pope Julius II) or Merejcovski’s Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, or bio pics like The Life of Leonardo da Vinci by Castellani and Great Courses studies of “Genius of Michelangelo,” books like Vasari’s Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, autobiographies by Cellini and Pope Pius II (Piccolomini), and all the wondrous painterly self-portraits—Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein, Titian. Yet, I think, the most telling of active portraits is revealed through the Shakespeare plays. It only takes moments, of watching a professional performance of most any Shakespearean play to understand immediately, that the men and women on the stage are each representing an entirely different, magnified or enlarged, heroic and humanistic personality, a sort of individual of stark insight, will and brilliant characteristics almost vanished these days, especially from the post-modern emasculated, weakened or “modern, civilized citizens” of corporate America and our contemporary world. It’s an entirely different magnitude of individualism.
Will Durant in his The Renaissance (The Story of Civilization: Part V) mentions that, “The Renaissance was not a period of time, but a mode of life and thought . . . .”
So, part of the advancement of my own art process would entail a project, which I would hope, might expand and advance everyone else’s present and future work. That is what is meant by the “colossal masterpiece,” both with ambition, theme, and the necessary execution projected into the future. It’s a way of looking over one’s current background, achievements, and seeing or envisioning what is necessary for one’s own advancement, and by extension, of course, for the culture at large.
I’ve mentioned before, in “Autobiography,” that in this current period of work for me (before the renaissance novel), that I had three other projects to finish first. All three of these have been in partial or ongoing stages of completion, and now, with more full-time creativity available in my own life (I’ve moved my home from Akron, OH to Johnstown, PA), I’ll able to complete those works. The first is now achieved, with this chapter, the finishing of my own “Treatise on Writing” or this completed book, The Writing Arts: An Author’s Perspective. Also near completion in the last few years was my collection of three novellas, Triad (containing the already published Of Rifles And Butterflies, the partially published Collected Letters of Sol O. Sendin, and the in-progress novella, The Casting Out). I still have to complete the last half of the third novella, The Casting Out, and then put that volume together, ready for publishing. Afterwards, my third project will be the completion of my spiritual memoirs, Each Man Has A Journey (this too, has about one third of the writing completed). I’m detailing all this to show the next creative period for me—but too, to mention that while I have these driving specific projects, it gets tedious doing all the final edits and publication of longer works, when I want to push ahead with new creativity (the renaissance novel, for instance).
What I also will do, in the meantime, and this not to delay or defuse my strength or momentum, rather actually to accelerate things, is complete some small individual projects that I’ve been picking at for the last few years. These will not take as much time, and in the quicker completion, will allow some increase in momentum, to allow myself a degree of refreshment (from editing and revision work and book designing efforts). This will show my inner self, that many of these smaller projects are being completed and that all the sparks from the unconscious are important. The first will be the continuation of my poetry project. Already I’ve published one chapbook of my earliest poems, Rain Folio (1998), and have nearly completed a second chapbook of poems, Cunning, Time, and Prayer, and want to put together a third small chapbook, probably titled, Miscellany & Later Poems. I need to revise the second chapbook, then go about through my many notebooks and papers and collect together and revise a couple dozen poems already composed, plus add to them a few poems already published individually, then publish the last two chapbooks. Once that is done, I’ll have three small chapbooks completed, after which I want to compose new poems, plus take the best from the chapbooks, and put that together into a formal book of verse, with a working title, Poems of Consequence.
My next small project, is less career oriented or even art oriented. I have been collecting small food recipes of my own creation over the years, and want to put those together into a brief booklet, for friends and family. All of the dishes are original creations, so that will be fun, again for close friends and family (also since many dishes are “one-pot” meals, perhaps that will interest other authors).
A third project is organizing my photos together for book publication and also for some sort of museum exhibition. Part of this is the finishing of previously taken photos (with religious motifs) set for an earlier planned book, Camera Obscura, and then for another book coming up with newer photographs. Besides the curator functions with this, I want to become more involved with photography and do art-style photographs, more classical portraiture, and types of experimental photography. Classical or traditional portraiture, again, is a prime topic of renaissance art, so that fits nicely.
Another ongoing project mentioned in Chapter on “Autobiography” is the recording of sets of notebooks, transcribing them into book form, The Intermediate Years. These sorts of projects can keep one going through dry times (the rote typing or arranging of previous notebooks) as well as provide one with certain types of writerly chores, perhaps at the end of the day, if that’s a time of exhaustion or dissipation, or during very busy days, when one can only type an hour or two perhaps, with no sustained creativity. Should one reach the delegation stage, of having a crew or small staff working with you, this is one of the many projects which a secretary might be able to accomplish, as you, the author, move on with high-priority tasks and artistic goals.
Notebooks and photography, as well as ongoing studies with acrylic painting and architectural drawings and development, provide me with an excellent graphic outlet, to balance all my verbal work and allow rest functions from writing and publishing duties. Even the reading of biographies and autobiographical letters of great artists serve as inspiration, a different mode of perception, and an excellent change from usual writing processes. Plus, it’s fun to commiserate with all the past trials and torments others have suffered, living through the creative or artistic life. (Artist and poet e.e. cummings used to paint in the afternoons and write poetry in the evenings.)
Others will have their own projects. I wanted to show how I go about it, so another writer or artist can build the same sort of momentum, to carry on with the advancement in his or her particular center for the arts. Once moving through some of these projects there will be a great inner sense of achievement and refreshment, allowing me to return to ongoing book revision projects that I’ve planned (novel Legacy; third novel “In-Progress”; book of plays, Tauromenium; longer play, Freedom One), and several screenplays (revision of completed film script adaptation of sixth novel, The Entropy Wars; fourth novel screenplay in-progress, Gratuity; second novel planned screenplay, Endgames), plus three additional screenplays I’ve sketched out. With that, of course, will come the seventh novel, creating and finishing Christus Rex.
Other projects may also intrude, with a large marketing plan that I have currently, whereby with a graphic designer I’m establishing a writer’s web site, plus will do more social networking and additional blog work to spread professional word of my works, as well as regional book marketing here in Pennsylvania, which may take the form of local book readings, lectures or seminars, and a probable building of some sort of Pennsylvania Writing Community, either going to other groups or starting my own, perhaps somehow continuing an informal salon tradition to magnify people’s creativity. Also, as I’ve done much playwright activity in Pennsylvania, in theatre acting, drama writing, playwright readings, understudy as director, and have had my shorter scripts performed on stage in Pittsburgh, I will connect up with those groups as well. Hopefully, these activities will augment other creative approaches and allow time for continued creativity to get all of my aforementioned projects completed in a professional manner. (Sometimes, there’s a sense of serendipity, as in contacting a literary book publisher in Akron, Rager Media. It led to an invitation to contribute to a local literary blog, from which this book project grew, though The Writing Arts had been planned for many years).
For the new writer or artist the message is direct: look over your work now, to see how to continue it, how wide and high and deep your current process might go, and ways to advance past challenges, should you recognize areas where growth is necessary. Keeping out in front of one a continual set of plans is one secret to regular and consistent productivity; often, one project dovetails or begets another. Even the tedious marketing or networking projects allow one to expand and pull into one’s field of vision or awareness other people, places, challenges, turmoil and joys, which of course for the active author all provide wonderful material for other works. In my own case, too, I’ve seriously had to consider my current chronological age and the unknown now of how long exactly my activity will continue this year or next—but this is a place in my life, where I need to finish and complete established writing projects first, before considering actual publication of many of my works (which I want to publish, and because of lack of opportunities have been forced to do on my own). So, it seems best first to complete the work, and then opt for the publishing or a self-publication process (except for this blog, where each chapter is posted as completed, or in the case of other books, perhaps a faster eBook publication might be arranged).
Already as of last spring, one full year ago, I had completed for publication a revision of my first book of short stories, Early Tales; the book is still awaiting actual publication. My delay comes from the extensive time it has taken in the past with digital self-publishing projects (three complete eBooks) and two paperback books that actually took up years of otherwise useful time, when I might have completed new work. Besides the designing of covers, the interiors, the actual publication at POD sites, there was further marketing with review copies and notices for the press and public, finally re-contacting agents and mainstream publishers to see if those first published “prototypes” might be picked up by mainstream publishers. It was a lengthy and labor-intensive process, necessary and informative, yet one that I’ll hold off on at the moment, so that at this point in my personal life, I might complete more pressing and new creative projects (first this blog book, the book of novellas, finally my spiritual memoirs). Each author, again, will have to examine his or her output and goals and place in life, to see what exact manner of advancement fits.
Another practical way to keep going or advancing, if only writing novels, is to try other projects: try a play, a screenplay, memoirs, not one short story but a book of short stories—or again, move to other forms of creative expression with photography, painting, architecture, singing or songwriting, composition, dance, acting, or other arts. Sometimes just a review of one of these arts, or meeting with a practitioner of another art, is enough, to get one going again. The creative mind thrives on stimulation. So, when difficult times are upon one or dry moments, move forward always; bring into oneself the other arts, and soon one’s way will open up. Often, this will provide other insights into one’s writing, for character creation (what that new character might be interested in) and different ways of perceiving or approaching the fictional form of one’s project. Much can be achieved with variety.
A prime way of moving through one’s creative life, as mentioned in “Creativity,” is learning or initiating ways to harvest one’s inspiration (at beginnings of projects) and further, with busy regular lives (if continuing with day jobs), how to continually work in a mental fashion at one’s projects, during otherwise cluttered life periods. At the risk of sounding superficial (considering the moral effort), I’ll mention again, the extraordinary mental preparation and achievement that Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn accomplished, via his own resources. During years of political imprisonment, often as a forced laborer working as a bricklayer, he would create original verses and other poetry all done mentally. He had no immediate way either to stop working or to record extensive notes or verbal productions—his only available method, was to do it cerebrally. The creating part is inspirational; the “recording” part, all done with extensive memory training, is astonishing. Solzhenitsyn would memorize his poetry, and review each line of each poem on a regular basis; at one point he had memorized over seven thousand new verses and had to set aside, by his own account, one entire day at the end of each month, to go through and mentally review all his remembered verses. Once released (though still exiled internally within the former USSR), he went about recording his poetry by hand and publishing his verse. Our instance here provides the fortitude and imagination and perseverance, of course; there’s also the example that we might need to learn new mental abilities, to expand our methods and achieve our own set of works.
Another case in point, is opposite somewhat from my advice in “The Novel” for an apprentice author, especially the novelist, to slow down one’s reading perception, to understand fully how a master artist has accomplished his or her writing achievement. (One can copy out certain paragraphs or sections by hand or by typing them on a computer, to examine with care and thoroughness the techniques put into practice.) The other step, however, is to speed up one’s processing; there are tomes out there for authors, such as Fast Fiction by Roberta Allen, and there are those who work journalism jobs, where the nature of daily routine forces them to write “a stream of readable prose” (mentioned by Zola, Zola, A Life, by Frederick Brown). Both prompts can be done, that is, work them as exercises to speed up one’s composition process, at least for practice spurts, or maybe small projects. Writing theoretical essays, after extensive study of the arts and the processes, clarifies one’s own art, educates one as to present or current possibilities, then establishes the path to follow into the future—often done by others like Zola and Henry James and maybe Dostoyevsky (critical articles) or with G.B. Shaw’s early theatre and music criticism, or the hundred volumes of arts writing by Richard Wagner, including his composing in 1850, the ambitious essay “Artwork of the Future” (Prose Works, Vol. 1).
One author mentioned frequently, concerning short short fiction and almost prose poetry is Italo Calvino, especially in his Invisible Cities. (“A Bridge Flung Over the Abyss,” Martha Cooley, Writer’s Chronicle, May/Summer, 2008) An earlier inspiration is the master, Jorge Luis Borges (Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges). Returning to the journalism prompt, it can be amazing though, how much volume one can get used to writing, on a regular daily or weekly basis, once some process is practiced and set into place. For me, lengthy prose writing is much like a process of learning to jog or do long-distance running. At the first try it seems nearly impossible, but with practice one’s entire physical and mental apparatus takes on the task, and soon, one is jogging not a few hundred feet or maybe a mile with rest stops, but several miles each day for three times a week! Learning to write long prose narratives, especially for the novel or in-depth nonfiction such as this, requires a similar exercise and practice; soon, where a short short story seemed challenging, suddenly one is writing many thousand-word short stories, or with longer processes, book chapters of 15,000 words (as in this volume). My other advice about speeding up the process, and this pertains to one’s continual need as a beginning or seasoned author to read, read, read, is to take courses in speed reading. For preliminary study of books and authors, and for research and numerous background materials, I suggest the mini-course in PhotoReading at www.LearningStrategies.com (also brief manual PhotoReading by Paul R. Scheele), where visual reading is promoted and practiced enough, so that one can read an entire book in less than an hour or two.
PhotoReading, in essence brings into play the full use of one’s mental abilities or capacities, with the conscious use of the unconscious mind, through a trained and disciplined sort of skimming, dipping into a book for review, going through a good intro with a book, and actually flipping through each page as quickly as possible, in full view of your eyes and mind, so that the unconscious part of the brain, takes in the entire book, visually, within seconds. Then, another review. It’s an amazing process, again, one that I recommend, less for deep reading of special books or art works, more for background materials, perusing many professional magazines (which one should subscribe to and review) and of course things like daily news. I have a special writing project, nonfiction, which I’ve planned for about twenty years, and in addition to regular reading and note taking, I’ve also collected pertinent books and educational tape series. The accumulated books are about twenty-five or so; it is this sort of thing, where one can PhotoRead the collection entirely, and although the set of research volumes normally might take months or years of conventional study, one can now complete the entire set in less than a week. The unconscious holds the PhotoRead material, and provides “subliminal” answers (supported by initial note cards or mind map sheets in the process of PhotoReading), when one is later writing the project—or as in my case, returning to certain key authorities for more in-depth mastery. (It has been mentioned by motivational experts that often only 12-13 books separate the knowledge of a beginner from an expert.)
Again, with PhotoReading and all reading, I believe authors should take in the discussion of my chapter on “Self-Editing (Part I),” about visual reading and writing in general. The amount of low-level reading done today, especially in America, leads I believe to a populace here which largely is functionally illiterate (except for news and tech manuals)—astounding and due I believe to the emphasis on phonics. Again, few sophisticated adults today subvocalize anything at all when they read; otherwise the rate of reading would be slowed to the rate of normal speech patterns, which for those of us speaking American English, are quite slow. Visual reading, however, (even outside the special accelerated technique of PhotoReading) is the real boon, and allows one both to read and write at a pace more closely resembling the fast processing of one’s regular mental processes.
The final extrapolation was how exactly might we authors be able to write an entire book in two hours? Before one laughs too heartily, consider first the other perceptive style for most authors, the visual. If we move into a more visual mode, then perhaps we might produce the outline or first vision of a new novel, at least in several hours. This might entail less of writing then, and more of note taking and an entirely different form of brainstorming, where we plot out visually our entire story or novel first—we would take a hint from the usual manner of some screenwriters, that is work with scribbling note cards, plot outlines, and finally some scene-by-scene visual storyboard to complete a book layout. Some of the problem with this, however, especially for more seasoned authors, who often compose with only minimal outlines, is that often the storytelling process will by its own creative momentum, evolve the continuing story and especially the final ending, thus making sure of a more “organic” or natural plotting or flow to the story (as author becomes seasoned with working or acting out the new character dynamics). For me, as I mentioned, when I write, too, I will either see or watch in my mind the complete novelistic tale as an imagined movie (scribbling or typing the first draft as fast as humanly possible), or sometimes, when moving through a plodding compositional style, will feel myself writing freely, similar to those authors who claim they are “only taking down dictation.”
Before we decry how idiosyncratic and temperamental are the Muses, let it be known that other authors have confronted this exact dilemma and its creative challenge head on. One only needs to study Jack Kerouac’s background and writing practices to see, that right after his lengthy rewrites and revision (in a conventional authorial way) of his first published novel, The Town and The City, he set about something quite different. He claims that while becoming involved with a group of poets and authors (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, William S. Burroughs, Greg Curso, and later Ferlinghetti), for whom he afterwards coined the term, “The Beats,” he converged with the improvisational jazz musicians of the time (Charley “Bird” Parker, Coltrane, Miles Davis) till Kerouac came up with what he said mimicked the solo improvisational techniques of performing jazzmen, his “spontaneous prose.” This is a case of Kerouac again, as mentioned before, merging with the Zeitgeist or spirit of his times (“Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind,” The Portable Jack Kerouac), so that he wanted his art work to do the same or express part of the same effect, the freedom and creativity and honest personality of on-the-spot, soulful expression. Kerouac then set about to write in sustained bursts of temporary or week-long blasts of creativity (often fueled by amphetamines or other drugs and alcohol) where he created for instance his novel, On The Road, in a nearly continuous three-week writing stint (later claimed to be only with the help of coffee). His product was written on the now legendary “scroll,” a continuous 120-foot long roll of paper, with segments actually spliced together. (Kerouac’s original title, The Beat Generation, was nixed by his editor at Viking Press.) He claimed that he only did minimal revisions to the text.
Further, Kerouac continued his writing of later short novels in a similar fashion, often boasting of finishing a new book in a week or so. (The Portable Jack Kerouac) The other side to this, less of a writer unwilling to go through traditional process, is an author, who by his own admission (and he was correct) created a new style of writing and a new manner of creating works, and with all that an art movement, that he himself also labeled, The Beat Generation. It was Kerouac, too, in his article “Are Writer’s Made or Born?” (Legends of Literature), who qualified his success with the incisive comment “. . . anybody can write, but not everybody invents new forms of writing.” It was one thing to be talented or create some work, and it was quite another to start or originate new forms of art (his examples of creativity were Whitman, Melville, Proust, Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway). This doesn’t mean that we should follow in those footsteps (even if we were able to, constitutionally); it does, however, show us one artist’s successful mastery of the artistic hurdle, of producing more work, with least effort, and more importantly for grander results. (Some of the side effects, with the ever-pressured attempts to produce such short-term intensity did lead to substance abuse, and in Kerouac’s case, actually his death at age 47, resulting from severe alcoholism.)
Obviously, with the time factor in conventional terms, if one has little time during life periods forced upon one with a regular day job, then one needs to use such mental creativity options, especially where one has a few moments, over a long lunch, while shopping or doing errands, to think through a project mentally, to arrange a solution to some tough writing problem on a current project and then to harvest those insights and mental work constructively, so that nothing is lost, no time is wasted. My favorite harvesting techniques follow those of Leonardo’s, with the constant carrying of a hand-held notebook when traveling, running errands, or on a day job, where I can jot notes, extend lists of projects, work through certain difficult areas and note all that. (Leonardo transcribed small booklets onto longer, more organized pages, which we today know as his “Notebooks.”) When driving or on long trips, one might also try a tape recorder or any such function with our many electronic gadgets, which allow one digitally to record our thoughts, in passim, for later notation. Sheila Bender mentions an interesting aside, if a recorder is unavailable and one has no access to a notebook, try calling oneself and leave a recorded message (“Marry Your Life To Your Writing,” Writer’s Digest, Feb. 2010). Kristl Franklin mentioned she carried note cards with her everywhere, to jot random ideas (“Writing On The Fly,” Writer’s Digest, Feb. 2010). Cards have often been used by filmmakers, especially scriptwriting, and too, popularized by Nabokov and Italo Calvino—Calvino worked for years with Tarot Cards, which is unfortunate with all the occult influence. My only problem with the voice-recorded method of harvesting, is that I’m a visual person, as per perception and mental perspective, so that trying to follow up on tape recorded messages, sometimes all jumbled together, can be frustrating. Also, then, one is left with having to re-transcribe original notes somewhere, so the recordings are not lost, or are highlighted for attention to long-term productions. (It’s difficult to index sound recordings, compared with visual scribbles.)
Another way of advancing one’s work, again mentioned throughout these chapters, is to continue a regular and consistent writing routine. There are those who wait for inspiration and those who wait for perfect times of solitude to author some important project, and while that may work, the most industrious creators never depend upon chance and go about some regular and consistent methodology. (“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Edison) Writing each day, with some forced word count, is an easy way; working on a regular weekly basis, maybe every other day, or even some special set of days is best (at one point in last years, I arranged a 4-day week schedule at my day job, all 40 hours completed in 4 working days, allowing me full-time writing on Fridays and Saturdays). During full-time periods, which seem the most obvious or apparent as to productivity, one still needs some form of consistent discipline or plan. One needs to write. Some talk about needing “seat time,” simply sitting down at one’s writing table or computer desk or with a laptop in a favorite chair and writing. For many years, again, I kept the artistic motto on my desk, “Nulla dies sine linea” (Not A Day Without A Line, used by authors Trollope, Zola, Goethe) as a prompt and reminder. Getting at the work is the only thing that allows one some regular production and is the only way to achieve, especially, larger patterns of success with multiple long books, either fiction or nonfiction, or in the case of many longer works or interrelated novels, as in Balzac’s “La Comedie humaine.” Goethe wrote, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Julia Cameron in Finding Water (third companion to The Artists Way) mentioned that it’s best to simply sit down and write, her phrase of “lay down some track” (perhaps an image from the music industry) and her technique of Free Writing (suggested also by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down The Bones) that one can later return to, often is wonderful and effective advice for starting and moving through a creative project. A regular routine of writing allows for the harvesting of insights, and also, provides the regular reliance upon one’s complete inner self. This should not be overlooked. In “Creativity” I’ve mentioned the recorded instances of creative individuals who solved some major work challenge, by paying attention to their dreams. Mendeleev woke and recalled the entire view on a wall of his periodical table of elements. Elias Howe, one of the patent holders for improvements to early sewing machines had trouble inventing the first functioning needle, because he couldn’t figure out the placement of the thread. He woke from a dream, remembering a large group of cannibals in Africa chasing him. At the top of each warrior’s spear was a hole—when he awoke he placed the hole in the needle near the end, where threading now actually occurs. (www.WorldDreamBank.org) In my own case I woke from a dream, after several years of vague plans to complete a restaurant novel, with a dowager in mind saying, “Yes, love.” I realized that scene contained the first words of my novel, Gratuity, and set about penning and completing the entire novel over several months.
In younger years, in my mid-twenties, because of a continual interest in psychology and studying Jungian material in some detail, I kept for a time a brief Dream Journal, and would record dreams as often as possible. I kept a small notebook by my bedside, recorded dreams if I awoke at night, or in the morning, and looked over the records later. It was then that I discovered, that if I slept an average of seven hours, that I would have about four vivid dreams (of about 90-minutes duration), and also, that the more I suddenly paid attention to my inner self, the more my inner self responded in quite articulate ways. Later, upon studying books of dream symbolism (and this can be used as detail in one’s fiction, of course), I realized that it doesn’t matter necessarily which set of symbols one might accept as “truly valid” (for instance in the dichotomy of symbols suggested by Jung vs. Freud); what matters is accepting some set of symbols as authentic for oneself. Suddenly, you’ll discover that your inner mind has learned a new picture language, and your next dreams will use those and other symbols, to respond and communicate clearly with your conscious mind, if you are attentive, and more importantly, if you truly are interested.
Perhaps, more to the point is the integration of all of one’s mind and mental capacities. Learning to work with one’s unconscious is significant. It’s frequent that people will get stuck in the middle of a scene or maybe with some laborious calculation or needed insight (for book or invention or domestic challenge) and later, perhaps in the shower, or when driving the car, or even when walking, suddenly everything will pop up into one’s conscious mind solved or apparent in a lucid, clear fashion. One can use the same technique at night, often going over some challenge in one’s writing, maybe taking a few notes or reading some background material, all with the view of simply “sleeping on it.” Usually by morning, one’s inner self will have the complete answer. Even if you can’t act upon the answer, as in going to a regular day job, at least record the solution in your notebook. Plan to use your entire mind, and soon, you’ll see all of your facilities advancing and accelerating, so that if practiced regularly for a period of time, eventually you’ll be working upon an entirely different mental plateau than you ever thought possible.
In my chapter on “Creativity” I mentioned my lengthy study of creativity in general, from my own personal projects and life, and studying the process in others. Several tomes are important for people with such interest, and to augment your own current writing and creative projects, as well as to advance from current levels where you are. Many speak today of “going with the flow” or “entering the flow” as a creative experience, and deeper study has revealed there is an actual brain wave function, with alpha rhythms, that seems to augment or suggest a certain inner pattern for creative activity. Once understood, a creative person can prepare oneself for such an experience by entering into the mood or best receptive mindset for creativity. Often focusing on some creative moment or super creative period in one’s past will trigger the same again for oneself, as in Colin Wilson’s Super Consciousness; and there’s Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Csikszentmihalyi, which describes the classic process, similar to athletes training themselves “to enter the zone.” Many inner prompts are available for authors, the easiest of which might be with music. (See “Get Creative in 2010,” Writer’s Digest, Feb. 2010.)
In the past with music, I did this during my creative year in Montana, often for regular work and editing or more low-level writing duties (re-keying of manuscripts) I kept a popular music station on the radio. For inspired moments and creative writing, my favorite music is classical, and to be more exact, it’s the dynamism of Beethoven, and to be more specific, my favorite prompt is listening to Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas (performed by Alfred Brendel). These, by the way, are considered among the world’s greatest masterpieces for piano and the sheer joy of listening to them wholeheartedly is impossible to express. Also, it’s a way of staying in touch with the dynamism, inspiration, and romanticism of Beethoven, without having his crashing symphonies in the background, to interrupt one’s creativity with bravado or complete tears. I’m sure each author will have his or her own favorites. The key is to match one set of music prompts to the same inauguration of one’s highest creative flow, so that simply by putting on the same music, one’s inner and outer self “moves into the zone.” (I cannot more heartily suggest classical music for this, if one is unfamiliar. My own proclivities are for Beethoven and Mozart, almost exclusively; but other choices include light Bach and Handel and for me recordings like “Best of The Renaissance,” Italian Lute, Monteverdi, Desprez, Palestrina, and diverse renaissance music. All of that surrounds oneself with a complete and creative aural environment, one with the classical of enough sonic sophistication actually to increase one’s mental output, and some say mental capacities. There is with the renaissance enough of the spiritual, ballads and human choral singing or basic lute melodies, to provide one with a harmonic foundation for Christian Humanism.)
Other prompts, which put me in the flow, are visual, with study of paintings, photos, architecture, or on occasion some actual book or novel by an author that I admire. Usually, again with my visual acuity, it is the graphics which often will refresh me, and I feel, perhaps, inspire or nurture the other side of my mind, the right side, after a long bout with analytical work or verbal creativity (left side). I feel there is a need to almost tune the mind and keep all parts functioning to some peak level of not only performance, but also levels of inner awareness, so that the writing is fully nourished by all parts of one’s brain and the input of Divine Inspiration. As I have studied much about Leonardo, one might also consider the popular tome, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb, for a sense of applying the tenets of a world-class genius to expanding one’s creative life. (Published after my own research and alerting a New York agent to the marketing of renaissance themes, via my audio tape, “Renaissance: An Introduction” [Printed now in Quintessence].) Gelb mentions the tenets in his Leonardo book: Curiosità (Curiosity), Dimonstrazione (Demonstration), Sensazione (Refinement of Senses), Sfumato (Smoky borders or ambiguity), Arte/Scienza (Art & Science), Corpoalita (Grace), and Connessione (Interconnectedness).
My own studies and writing (Quintessence) illuminates Leonardo’s admonition with saper vederi, “knowing how to see.” This sounds perhaps obtuse or even mystical, but with this portion alone, especially in the practice of painting, any amateur or brief sampling or practice of sketching, especially with the application of colors (even if with crayons or colored markers to begin with) will astonish one with the sudden ability to look through the wall of general impressions; suddenly with a “green tree” it is impossible to catalogue all the tones of light and shade and green and brown and ochre and cadmium yellow and on and on. This comes from one small instance of training oneself in higher levels of observation, again with one example of painting or sketching. This went further with Leonardo, in his inner or imaginative skills, where he sketched many versions of birds in flight for his study on flying for man; he was able to capture with ink sketches slight or subtle wing motions of birds flying high in the air, all from acute powers of observation and drafting. What might a writer be able to do, with even a small bit of such training?
There is also the simple advice, which can work wonders, of making sure there is enough stimulation in your own artist’s life, to jog your mind and activate your imagination and your creative wellsprings. This is different for every artist, and can be as simple as the advice of science fiction author, Ray Bradbury: “If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful.” (“Secrets of Bestselling Authors,” Writer’s Digest, January 2010) With that might come the palliative, to make sure some of that stimulation is from sources you don’t normally choose: if you like sports, watch some soap operas; if you are intellectual, get among some construction guys; if you are a man, read the women and vice versa; all so that some balance might proceed, not only with analytical perceptions, but also in your inspiration sources and of course, for staying in touch with “all reality,” or the wide range of human beings in God’s varied universe. Don’t forget physical stimulation with regular exercise, especially the more sedentary one may become, during creative projects.
Again is the discussion about eidetic imagination (see my “Creativity”) whereby certain creative people like Tesla and Blake are able to see their creations vividly in their mind’s eye, and actually study their imaginary work in almost 3-D fashion or as if one’s project (invention or illustration) were outside of one’s mental space and could be rotated or moved. Tesla was said to be so adept with this that he often built in his mind a prototype model of some new invention, then he would run the imaginary thing and watch how it functioned. If he needed to alter some part or add something, he did that, again in his imagination; then he perfected the invention mentally. Only after that would he proceed to a draftsman and model builder, to set about actually to do blueprints and patent models for his works. (Tesla invented and patented the AC generation system of electricity used everywhere on Earth.) Eidetic imagination, again, is the conceptual prototype for modern software with a 3-D CAD capability (Computer-Aided Design), to the point today of being able to create virtual working prototype machines, from drawings (Inventor by Autodesk is one such program). Such software technology has been the working standard for architects, designers, and engineers for a decade or so. For writing artists, I mention my own case, where I believe this same mental ability can be developed. A pertinent example is with my own case of writing plays. After some practice and study (live performances in several theatres), it became possible to visualize each scene of a new play on a stage within my mind. The stage glowed, appeared in tiny, almost 3-dimensional fashion, so that as I was creating a new play, I might change props, add a character, alter stage directions, etc. until I had the play functioning in a realistic and producible manner (one might call it even, “a workshop of the mind”). My proof of success was after some long trials; I did watch some of my shorter works produced live in a Pittsburgh theatre and witnessed the effects to be exactly as I had imagined them, better in fact, because of the live performances before an audience. Again, all of this is about the innate talents of the human mind—not about expensive and perhaps unnecessary software for the uninitiated.
There are interesting tomes about creativity: Aha!; Greatness, Who Makes History and Why; Sparks of Genius; MegaCreativity; The Creators; and The Einstein Factor (see Resources at end). Sometimes, in a slow or dull period in one’s life, just the brief review of one of these excellent volumes, is enough to jumpstart the creative process. Don’t forget libraries and museums!
Although much of this is covered elsewhere, the reiteration here is to move from these momentary times of inspiration and a book or two which might inspire one, to ways of truly advancing one’s level of awareness and productivity. These other concepts might provide leverage for inspiration. (It was Archimedes, the ancient Greek engineer in Syracuse, Sicily, who said, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the Earth.”) Again, for the person new to all this, first one needs a bit of study, and second, the practice of certain techniques in one’s life, and finding of course, things that work or are most effective for one’s own way of perception, what one understands, and more importantly, patterns or actual behavior for creativity. Because this discussion is so central to the creative author and our knowledge of humankind in essential moments or periods of creativity, I want to consider the inspiration function, too, in greater detail.
First, one might consider the more general ability to envision in some complete form, but as one visionary experience, one’s long-term work. This perhaps is less general than we might suppose, there aren’t so many documented cases of it. At some point, for instance, after writing many novels, Balzac visualized his entire oeuvre, and many volumes still to be completed, within a complete vision, or book cycle he called “The Human Comedy.” (There is some resonance with Dante’s masterpiece epic poem, The Divine Comedy.) Next, we have Emile Zola in the France after Balzac, as a quite young author with only a few books published, actually visualizing something similar for his own writing career, with a ten-volume cycle of novels that he later labeled, in realist fashion, “The Rougon-Mcquart” series. This was so concrete for Zola, not solely some vague inspiration, that Zola drew up written plans for his novel cycle and presented it to his publisher, Albert Lacroix, who agreed to work with Zola (for a small monthly salary) to print the books as he completed them. Zola did complete the entire cycle; however, it resulted in twenty volumes, not ten, and he went on to continue writing others, outside of the family cycle he earlier had envisioned. One might also mention, that Zola’s style, a revolutionary almost documentary realism, sometimes plotless and sociological and sensational about seemingly mundane subjects of society, was a new invention. Like Kerouac’s style, Zola a century earlier, created his own and developed what would be called, “Naturalism.”
With the envisioning, so too, did Dante hint “at the end of the ‘Vita Nuova,’ that the vision of the ‘Comedy’ came to him as a revelation . . .” (J.A. Symonds, The Study of Dante, cited by Bucke in Cosmic Consciousness). Other writers, and in this case a poet, Robert Frost, admitted later in life, that his last twenty years mostly were spent revising and publishing poems and material that he had written in his younger years. Obviously, there was a creative period of great intensity, in which he recorded and ripened and matured his talents; he continued with those creative writings in a professional manner, to publish his earlier material in later years. That’s important to consider for younger authors, especially during highly creative times, when much is started, perhaps haphazardly yet sincerely; remember, later notes can be used and notebooks followed to complete every one of those inspired works.
This, too, has been the case with much of my own creativity; though I did spend considerable time writing and completing my books in younger days (eleven created, revised and completed in one year, my “Van Gogh Year” in 1985). I am able to return to an unfinished work after several decades (third novel) and keep at the revision or in some cases the authoring of a tome, actually in this production (with notes and inspiration) for years, or including also the start of my seventh or renaissance novel. As mentioned before, I’ve had the sensation or inner vision of seeing the entire Collected Works of Charles A. Taormina printed in a long length of hardcover books (30-40), stacked upright upon a shelf in the sky (seen through my inner vision). At times I feel, as if I could pull down an unpublished work from the celestial master library, start on the volume in the here and now, and complete a “new” book. Sometimes, of course, with training and practice on longer works, as one is involved with the actual narrative process and during the high creativity and fun of the first draft, one feels as if one is only “taking dictation,” or transcribing perhaps a story one sees as an original film in one’s mind.
Second, I believe there is a psychology to all of this. My own studies include the work of Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow and other humanist psychologists of the human potential movement (beginning with William James, Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, Eric Berne) and Viktor Frankel, plus the follow-up work by contemporary British author, Colin Wilson (see both his New Pathways in Psychology: Maslow & the Post-Freudian Revolution and Super Consciousness; note that I have corresponded with Colin Wilson several times). There is much discussion of what Maslow described as “peak experiences.” These are moments of wonder, rapture or bliss while often involved with a creative activity, or sometimes, even interruptive moments, epiphanies or brief times of total clarity and joy that individuals have experienced. Maslow recorded and labeled such moments; Wilson attempted some further delineation of such moments, intentionality (James and Husserl), and suggested such moments could be willed; and for myself (in separate independent work), I wrote about the necessity of engaging our minds more often in such mental practices. Wilson recently in Super Consciousness put forward a way of staying within such mental tuning or appropriate state (Wilson calls it “power consciousness”), by recalling a past moment of peak experience, centering on such detail (time of concentrated attention during a winter drive, an instance when his lost young daughter was found to be safe), and more importantly, self-consciously remembering moments, all the time. This is closer to our human potential as pure consciousness, than is some sort of existential despair (fashionable in the twentieth century as sorrow and alienation, later as cynicism and apathy).
These peak experiences, for those new to such terminology or experiential data, are important for continuing creativity, as delineated previously (“Creativity”), and are a way to understand the inner psychology of great artists, especially those who work obsessively at their art on a constant basis, at the exclusion seemingly of everything else (Van Gogh and Michelangelo serve as examples). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs demonstrates how a high achiever will put aside all the “lower needs” (Physiological, Safety, Love—food, security, sex, family) to excel at the “higher needs” (Esteem and Self-Actualization—achievement, creativity, [full integration of personality or self]), allowing one a glimpse into the case of “starving artists.” Again, though, we must turn the psychology around, not simply to describe or recognize the patterns within our reality, but to put these deep understandings, theoretical insights, and astonishing mental capabilities into effect within our regular or usual personal psychology (as well as for our characters’ delineation, of course, if we are fiction writers, biographers, or playwrights).
With the psychology, however, is a deeper insight, or one perhaps more comprehensive, and that concerns the nature of human consciousness. I’ve written here and in other chapters, briefly about my own interest in psychology, the study of it, as a good workman with being a fiction writer and its necessity for understanding the subjects or characters we are writing about—but the real nature of consciousness needs discussed. My own background includes a general study and interest in the works primarily of Carl Jung and humanists such as Maslow, yet there is a further development an artist needs to consider and this proves a distinct part of our discussion about “Advancement & Transcendence.” For many years (from before 1978) I researched these aspects of human mental characteristics and awareness, all to be put together soon into a learned volume. I call the new discipline, “Metamorphic Psychology.” I have a working title of the same name and it has been mentioned, along with my renaissance studies, during a speech about the topic in Washington, DC, with the World Future Society (1993). I had also passed out copyrighted copies of my preliminary work at the same conference, as well as promotions for my intellectual newsletter at the time, Virtù; yet rather than receiving further backing or support—I later discovered my paper rewritten with another scholar’s name upon it (one well connected with a university), with no credit whatsoever. My actual labels and wording had been changed, enough for someone copying my theses and the results of my preliminary studies to commit plagiarism. (Theft of my original work has happened so often that I understand why Leonardo wrote all of his notebooks in a reverse or “mirror writing,” to keep them secret.)
To be brief, readers, especially serious authors and artists, should consider the 1901 nonfiction tome, Cosmic Consciousness, by Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke. Dr. Bucke subtitles his book, “A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind,” and does a considerable job in putting across his thesis, of there being three levels of human awareness: simple animal awareness, self-consciousness in humans, and a third occasional, but unique awareness, which he labels, “Cosmic Consciousness.” Many might consider this sensational New Age fare; yet all is documented throughout history, with astonishing cases of adult “illumination” as Bucke calls the temporary episodes, which bring on the onset of Cosmic Consciousness. I’m taking the example further, in that I believe such cases of illumination and Divine Awareness can be studied, digested by aspirants, and brought about more frequently for serious artists. Some of the “Super Consciousness” of Colin Wilson’s relates in an offhand way to this but still is mostly centered on the brief, ecstatic awarenesses or mood elevations which Maslow suggested as becoming more common and which Maslow called, “peak experiences.” For Bucke and myself something else is going on. It is part of a larger pattern of peak threshold growth in human beings, and all that needs a deeper study of consciousness and its implications. I believe it constitutes a distinct psychological movement: Metamorphic Psychology. That will all be developed in my book.
But what is the excitement here, truly? Again, beyond the brief peak experiences or euphoria, Bucke goes on to document tremendous or overwhelming periods (sometimes months) of spiritual illumination in certain adult’s lives, whom he believes went through such a bout of Cosmic Consciousness. He has chapters about Jesus and St. Paul, chapters also about Dante, Francis Bacon (Bucke shares with me also, the belief that Bacon authored the Shakespeare plays), William Blake, later individuals such as Balzac, Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, perhaps Spinoza, Emerson, Thoreau. In each case, the individuals at about the mid-thirties years of age are hearty in health, have proceeded through extensive “training periods” in perspective fields or planes of achievements, and move then through a cosmic period or some experience where they witness bright light, understand the entire world being united and universal (“catholic” for Jesus); there is a wide acceptance and depth of understanding of all humanity, a sudden and overwhelming intellectual knowledge with accumulation or integration of known wisdom, high ethics or morality, and after a period often of chaotic daily existence, the individual remains on an elevated level of awareness (yet not so intense) and goes about, virtually altering history with the products of his endeavors. Bucke cites the illumination period for Jesus after His baptism with St. John along the Jordan, from which He journeys into the desert for 40 days. My delineation is more complete, for it incorporates the scene of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ (when he appears with Eliza and Moses, in front of his central apostles) Luke 9:27-36, as well as appearances among the disciples after the resurrection (plus Pentecost’s tongues of fire from The Holy Spirit, Acts 2).
Lest these seem like far-fetched imaginings or to be kind, fanciful insights into lives of great achievers, Bucke characterizes many passages, especially of diverse writers’ works that show references to such periods and such insights, and with one in particular detail, that of the French novelist, Honoré de Balzac. Bucke shows Balzac writing of such periods of illumination in his novels (Louis Lambert, Seraphita), for which Balzac called the practitioners or participants “specialists” or involved with “specialism” (from species, sight, seeing all). Another good example is with acquaintances of Bucke’s, people he interviewed such as Edward Carpenter, who went through similar experiences, plus Bucke’s own personal visit with Walt Whitman (an inspirational case study for Bucke, with references to Leaves of Grass becoming a mystical guide for readers). The clincher for Bucke, or the precipitating event for him, however, was that he too, went through a minor level of such illumination. I want to mention here, also, that so have I.
In my own research, I went on to note periods in great writers’ lives, often in older days it was mentioned only briefly in biographies as “the author had mental or spiritual problems” or a reference to what the populace would think of today in jargon similar to “a nervous breakdown”—yet once examined, one sees that the particular author was of the same age of these instances of Cosmic Consciousness, about mid-thirties, has a long background of dedicated writing or research or university studies (without much actual accomplishment), then a period of mental aberrations, often with the author hiding out almost (trying to integrate the experience, figure out what’s happened, and to move on?) or being secluded somewhere, after which, the author proceeds to move into his or her field of endeavor, as if with a completely different level of mental ability, dedication, perhaps clairvoyant and determined industry. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is a case in point, from my own research.
With my own instance, I went through a similar experience (though I had already studied Bucke and had achieved quite a bit of writing with three novels, a sheaf of short stories and poetry, published journalism, establishment of community newspaper and a literary journal, and other accomplishments). Cosmic Consciousness altered my entire worldview. Suddenly, you look around with an astounding transparency and almost hallucinatory lucidity at or through our entire reality, and you sense everything almost like some “advanced extraterrestrial come to Earth” and wonder what is everyone really doing here, or actually not doing, and how can people put up with the outdated, nearly medieval illusions? Idealism! Everything’s unified, joyful—God’s world.
There was chaos in my personal life, to be sure, but the suddenness of “the knowledge,” the complete and total integration of intellectual and much spiritual understanding, the total or transparent insights into those around me, my environment at the time (Virginia) and too, what I later put together for further projects was and remains astonishing, and again, a part of the varieties of God’s divine presence within our worlds, and what each of us might actually and verifiably attain—with a fuller or more complete consciousness. From that period, for instance, with my other work, I went through months of note taking and insights into scientific cosmology, a preliminary study of entropy (especially of cultures and ways to slow such decay), invention conception and notes for production (dozens of sketches), insights into human healing (first chapters written of the psychology book here under discussion, yet also I planned for a “healing machine” based in part on concepts of “organic forms” developed from Goethe’s botanical studies and further back with Plato), intense recognition of renaissance themes and material from world civilization and about current history, other scientific endeavors (flight and human life science), study of solar civilizations and solar processes, poetry, mystical drawings, idealistic reforms, and numerous plans for other creative writing, mostly prose. After that, I completed the publishing of my literary magazine, The Blue Ridge Review, in later years the writing of my fourth novel, Gratuity, and then moved to Montana for almost a year of complete creativity and writing, what I’ve labeled as my “Van Gogh Year.” Again, in Montana in 11 months of that year, I completed 11 books (some were extensive revisions of previous material), one of which was Shared Lives, a book of short stories (35,000 words) written in five days, and felt there the authentic sense of “having completed my apprenticeship.”
A few years afterward, in Uniontown, PA, I worked extensively on continuing the cosmology studies (with large blotter pads filled page after page with concise ideas and mathematical notations) for advanced solar studies; I completed a nonfiction commercial book, The Photo-Entrepreneur; I researched and circulated my early article about AIDS, “The Solution to AIDS” (collected in Quintessence); wrote my novel, Legacy; started 4 chapters for my autobiography; participated in and studied acting and directing in community theater, including being a playwright-in-residence; attended a second World Future Society Conference in Washington, DC (presented paper, “Metamorphic Psychology” 1993); researched, wrote and edited my global intellectual newsletter, Virtù, and promoted my other publications with regional publishing in Pennsylvania and free-lance photography; and I even studied a local UFO phenomena in Uniontown and took notes from residents who witnessed same. There was a brief article about my insights published in the local Uniontown newspaper, Herald-Tribune.
Often, in my surroundings and without me eliciting it self-consciously, I’ve been told how “encyclopedic” are my interests and knowledge, or how “insightful” or “universal” is my awareness (in younger days)—all of that only verifies the aftereffect of these experiences of consciousness and the living upon this other plane of existence. If one has ever wondered, upon reading some author’s books, how on Earth can someone anywhere or anytime have this much command or magnitude of insights into human existence, it is Metamorphic Psychology that provides the impetus. Genius (as in inherited or organic IQ) is nothing, ambition is nothing, advanced learning (we’re out of the league of conventional education here) or usual methods of popular creativity count for little. All of these, of course, are factors in achievement; but none of it can compare with an individual who operates within the higher consciousness delineated here and continues to work upon that same plane of existence for years or decades.
To stem the discussion for materialists about IQ, for instance, and at one point to express the magnitude of awareness levels I’m speaking about, I wrote (collected in Glossary for Quintessence: Five Essays From Today’s Renaissance) how this new level brings about the magnitude of an IQ in the range of 4 digits. The way to understand that is if current IQ is registered for instance, as an example in high school of having an awareness level of those in twelfth grade while one is actually in the tenth grade, then one’s IQ score is that much higher (actual level divided by current grade or age). [Ratio of mental age to chronological age (Stern).] Consider simply then, individuals who “live or think in advance of their current age or years” by some great leap. This sounds fanciful or absurd at first, but it was the modern renaissance engineer, R. Buckminster Fuller (after perhaps a similar period of seclusion, silence, and introspective self-study), who said he had taught himself to work approximately 50 years ahead of his age, on a regular basis.
If we move to more traditional studies, for instance of Leonardo (some have suggested that Leonardo da Vinci possessed the highest intellect in recorded history, though others assign that by analysis of verbal ability to Goethe), one can see that Leonardo was working at least 300-500 years ahead of his fellow countrymen (except perhaps Michelangelo), with abilities best described by Walter Pater, as nearly “clairvoyant.” If then, we applied the popular values of determining IQ, and if we were considering the work of today’s renaissance individuals who work ahead (with studies of history and humanity’s possible historical future) in the course of 500 years and further, over the next several thousand years, then we might speak truly of IQ’s as high as 2000. As I mentioned in my writing, this is a variable IQ ability, often used only for special creative projects or personal or national emergencies, yet it is achievable (and is expandable in extent by “extrasensory abilities”). Proceeding beyond that range is impossible; such levels project the consciousness completely outside an individual’s physical frame, resulting in physical extinction, or body death. My own emotional sensation with all this, which often is suggested in Biblical accounts of God’s visions and prophecy and “great deeds” and of course, miracles (with faith always), best comes from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
The difference here I want to make, however, is how such an increase in consciousness is available to many individuals; it’s not something one or two special people take part in, or part of an “elitist” conception of humanity or something only pertaining to aberrations in creative men and women. It’s a reality; it’s happening more often these days and recorded these days; and too, as a product of such a process, it is one not just mentioned or flagrantly flaunted about, but is itself the object of study, classification, and full rendition in a further discourse, for the benefit of all of humanity and future history.
After delineating all this, where does that leave us? It provides us with a totally different, new and comprehensive foundation of the human mind, a way of moving beyond our current capabilities for master achievement, a way of advancing our societies, and a new working model for the true potential of human beings. My Metamorphic Psychology adds also that this is a consciousness that by definition interacts with the usual environment, it changes life. It defines and demonstrates how all that is a practical and working framework for an author or any creative individual to build a fully functioning and always advancing inner and outer life and to guarantee one’s being able to function and work upon a completely new and accelerated plateau or level of human attainment, to continue at one’s art. There’s a religious discussion of not only deepening our art with eternal and universal themes; it also puts us in touch directly with Christianity and God’s will. (See chapter, “Spirituality”) This is the great doorway, in the sense of mystical and God Union and transcendence, the doorway of complete initiation if you will, but one that all authors must see as being out there, when all else seems to fall a apart. Often in our lives God will allow our total environments to be demolished, so that we might grow, learn from difficulties, or be able to solve for others and provide some new model of achievement and realistic functioning within his Divine Realm. Put more bluntly, and in specific contradistinction to my detail and brutal lists of many authors who have committed suicide (“The Writing Life”), if only each of those tortured souls might have recognized more: the bottoming out of his or her life and emotions as a challenge, as a next step, as a way of moving beyond all that simplistic and materialistic thinking, being caught within the despair of a fragile human being, instead of the true capability of God’s divine potential for every human being.
There is a choice, it’s now an existential demand, a command of life, for each of us to grow and become more. The world is different now and we must learn to function more fully and completely within that new world. I’ve described this briefly before as Renaissance Consciousness; yet there are other modes with that, which all lead to more than single or isolated individual talents of great verve and achievement, and open the doorway again, for many others to follow and create a more sophisticated, caring world (one for me delineated completely by Jesus Christ, and ancient phrases about The Kingdom of God).
After psychology, what needs done? Into the twenty-first century, we might discuss several more concerns for the conscientious author. We can consider the type and depth of character (again consider the titanic portraits of those from five hundred years ago, from history and as portrayed in Shakespeare, or the opposite even, in an ironic anti-hero Don Quixote, still of bigger-than-life dimensions, iconic actually or archetypal personalities). There are fresh themes as discussed at length in “Great Themes,” and new ones that will appear as we each move through life today. One of the many themes undoubtedly will be longevity and with that ever-increasing fact (miracle), we each must confront personal stories of caring for our parents, and ourselves, as we age beyond “cared-for-by-others” situations in our derived or governmental family. There are multi-cultural themes coming to the forefront in the last decade (rise of Latino authors in US, influx of Indian and Pakistani authors, and a newly articulated awareness with many Chinese or East Asian minorities—a case in point, the metafictional strokes of David Henry Hwang in his play, Yellow Face, as well as others. American Theatre Magazine, April 2008). Such themes, however, of the integration of diverse ethnic strains into America have been part and parcel of North American culture and storytelling here, at least since Native Americans complained around their campfires of the first invasions by Vikings in Newfoundland, supposedly around 1000 AD.
Other themes I’ve mentioned enter and continue upon the meta-theme plane, those being Renaissance and Renaissance Consciousness, and the ongoing fight for independent liberty and freedom, anywhere that might take place, whether in the offices directing Amnesty International across the globe, the prison system in America, or some other grand and consistent heroic moral and artistic effort as was that of Russian novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Too, I feel, with the interplay globally, especially with Terrorism and all the horror of Islamic Guerilla Warfare, we must consider not those as themes themselves (war seems always evident among Humankind) but the clash of major religions around the world and the interplay and resolution of those metaphysical battles, with the daily resolutions of faith manifested by God. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religious systems. Again, much of this was treated in my chapter “Spirituality.” I believe such meta-themes will continue to play out and transform our art discussions and the art itself (as it has every century). Probably, thrown into this mixture also, are the inevitable (unless we experience some apocalyptic and total destruction of civilizations by nature, technology or the effects of technocracy, or with Global Warming) technological advances in medicine, arts, business, science, space exploration and the alteration in obvious and subtle ways of each of our daily lives. These might sound like themes bordering on purely science fiction, and some do; except those new art works that avoid these themes will be avoiding some of the larger questions faced by humanity and its burst into technological sophistication, technocracy, and technological horrors (updated atom bombs, new “smart” weaponry, biological terrorism, environmental entropy, things yet to be imagined). Many of the new techniques, inventions, and more so systems of inventions (leaps of our technological imaginations) will also by their very processes confront directly more humanistic and especially religious concerns, with control of life processes, decisions of birth and death, genetic engineering, and subtle but ever more despotic technological control of populations by governments and their “amoral” engineers and scientists. Lastly, will be the unknown, or the new themes which will appear, prove with intensity their more than momentary importance, and provide us with greater challenges (and by the same token more developed story reaches).
Another offshoot yet essential discussion here, beyond the themes for our literary artists, is the need for style investigations and a probable move into other more dominant and realistic styles for what our technology and our psychology and our religion are proving for us each and every day. I believe that the arts will move into a dominant style where my work already has headed in my last lengthy novel, The Entropy Wars. This was a spiritual warfare novel, with a pronounced Christian theme, but one which suddenly made use of miracles and the supernatural within an everyday reality or realism. Though more genre-specific a novel (adventure or war novel), the style was that of what I would label “Supernaturalism” or Realistic Supernaturalism or Christian Supernaturalism. It allows for plain realistic description of usual events with sudden appearances and manifestations of God’s world (The Kingdom of God) breaking through into our everyday recognition of the world (saints appear, people heal by prayer, warfare is negated by prayer machines, revelations are apparent, discoveries or unmasking of spiritual entities within our reality become evident)—all of this seemingly new to our world of understanding in modern times, especially to fiction. This proceeds away from even nineteenth century Christian manifestations (usual materialistic mindset of the last two hundred or so years since the European Enlightenment) within realistic literary productions of Dickens in England and Tolstoy or Dostoevsky in Russia, or Victor Hugo and Mauriac in France, Hawthorne or Emerson and more moderns such as G.K. Chesterton or here with Walker Percy and Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor—that is, projections of Christian motifs and commitment, only within a purely materialistic mindset that seems to say, “faith is total, yet reality is reality” (Dickens avoids that with an enlightened Spiritualism, benevolent ghosts and supernatural or visionary travels, as in A Christmas Carol). Christian authors with more attention to the supernatural include two contemporary Canadians: Michael D. O’Brien and Frank E. Peretti.
What I’m talking about is a new understanding of reality by recognizing that God works through this dimension, often, and that miracles take place, visions become fact, and many spiritual entities appear here in full dimensional realities (both demonic and heavenly encounters). As advanced or perhaps “far-fetched” as this might sound to the ordinary author, one need look no further than the four Gospels of the New Testament, for the exact same style, now over some two millennia old—very plain, humble, matter-of-fact or poetical, yet very supernatural, always. (This too, is away from the escapist or cute entertainments of those pursing “magical realism” and “fantasy fabulism” in that such spiritual discussion proceeds from a foundation in religion of epiphanies, theophanies, Christophanies, even as evidenced in very ancient, pre-Christian times with myths of many cultures. [The Greeks in St. Paul’s time believed he or his associates might be theophanies or the appearances of their god Mercury or Apollo or Athena, because there had been those actual appearances of the gods on a regular basis in their culture. The problem with paganism or magic is not that it is false or nonfactual, but that it is blasphemous; there are ways to control reality through what is now called occult processes.] So, our new religious understanding or commitment must come to a new way of expressing reality in our literature, that again being some form of what I call Supernaturalism.
(This too, I believe, is a correction of the stilted worldview of the last renaissance, which feared much that seemed medieval, especially with conventional faith, and proceeded into a romanticized or idealized naturalism, found in the greatest works of the High Renaissance [Leonardo’s Last Supper, Virgin of the Rocks, St. Jerome, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, his statuary with the titans David and Moses and the sublimity of his Pieta and architecture]. They ran from the spiritual to discover the physical; we must not do the opposite, rather we must seek a balance. We should recall, however, that the serious study of Plato in Renaissance Italy brought with it “dynamic idealism,” Greek metaphysics which included Divine Authority, invisible forms, oracles, contemplative brotherhoods or mystery schools, philosophical beauty, and metempsychosis. The Phaedra and Timaeus.)
I believe that men and women can create magnificent literature today and will continue to do so into the future. I also understand that it is within this generation that something extraordinary must be accomplished with writing, to “hold” as a place-saving event the new achievements of our own renaissance. What follows those events in the near future, however, will only darken and move to the dull—until others again, maybe 10 generations hence, wake up once more.
I believe that written expression has developed directly from God’s motivation and divine processes to move humankind, to motivate ourselves, to send us infinite instructions on the sublime. I believe in His grace. The book, in whatever form, oral or recorded upon scrolls, printed and bound with paper, delivered electronically or instantly by light or consciousness, will reign supreme, forever, as a transmission miracle of our human awareness over time, culture, language.
I believe, too, that the productivity and intent of each artist, especially of the literary artist, depends upon a foundation of knowledge and practice and inspiration that can only succeed with daily, yearly, constant struggle and perseverance. Intellect and emotion must harness the will. All must serve the Soul. And we, as we produce, must follow God, through Jesus Christ.
I believe, further, in the artistic process, in the continuation of extraordinary achievement and the ways that each new art work instructs first the producer, second the surrounding culture, and third, succeeding generations of men and women worldwide. There can only be faith and works, as an addition perhaps to St. Benedict’s ora et labora (“pray & work”), and with that a life further clarified and distinguished and made more complete on a personal, humane, and higher humanistic and Divine plateau.
Without a credo (our corporate culture likes to talk in terms of “mission statements”), we must try to understand what we are facing here, within our own country, our own national boundaries and how that effects the young and old, and still we must continue. For me since my early days there was difficulty facing even some intense reading within our own boundaries. I’m thinking of Henry James’s comment, “Art blooms only where the soil is deepest.” (Art of Fiction)
Perhaps it is best to be honest about our culture. American fiction shows no density, no breadth, no poetry, no ideas; I’ve always found it (especially in younger years) superficial or too regional, often like the daily life here. Steinbeck and Faulkner tried to make up for it with poetry, Hemingway with simplicity and exotic locales, Fitzgerald with topical subjects and glamour of upper class success, Mark Twain with childish (and this not child-like or innocent) or Midwestern or pioneer humor; they remind one of the critic Leslie Fiedler saying that all the early American great novels belong “on the children’s shelf.” (Great Courses, “Classic Novels,” Arnold Weinstein) When younger, to find fiction of interest or soulful concern I had to search the Europeans or go to specialties like subculture intensities with Kerouac, Henry Miller, Kesey, Thomas Wolfe or perhaps older mainstream with Hawthorne, Henry James or late Melville (and short works). Size or the need to correlate with our country’s massive territory or varied ethnic types is no excuse (contrary to the argument by Wright Morris). Russia was about twice our size and full of minorities (European and Asian) and it produced Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn; but perhaps there is not the same Slavic obsession in America with history, soul, psychological processes or for global culture, the interrelation of modern revolution upon our populace, or intense Christianity.
Today, in American letters, it’s death by academic security, by apathy of pop and foreign corporate market forces, and finally by the public’s giving up the demand for serious fiction, which once again engages the world as if the grasp or glamour of gadgets, Internet, TV and adolescent norms and sensationalist drama can ever fill the vacancy or despair within our modern citizens.
The academics, of course, fight in tenure battles, or secure with the victory of acceptance grow self-satisfied and can only wonder at our needing values, especially if you’re guaranteed $100K or more per year (average US full professor’s salary in 2008, www.insidehighered.com) with little actual classroom work, grad students to conduct free research for professors (usually without receiving published credit), and publication requirements for CVs or university Curriculum Vitae, demanding that you publish your latest field thesis and research (usually nonfiction). That leads to critical theory stuck on post-modern cynicism, secularism, fragmentation, literary deconstruction (no creativity, no interest in spirit or religion, no interest in biography, no physical needs, and too much time on one’s hands), or deconstructivism in architecture. It brings about an aesthetic in general that caters to decoration, verbal games, and pompous eschatological arguments, thusly concentrating on foreign authors like Nabokov (whose English was a second language and whose connections for quick success were too facile) and many moderns, all products now of MFA programs, with one book or so and thirty years of easy tenure. Such books have clogged the publishing system (blocking opportunities for real authors) and show by us never hearing again from academic writers, the true vacuity of such efforts.
The problem with this academic narrowness today is that it’s driving away serous American authors, while lowering (devaluing) true intellectual and spiritual standards of deep fiction (literature). It made supposedly literary fiction a thing now of academic or collegiate study (not enjoyment), while otherwise guaranteeing with the scale of academic power or critical authority the confinement of the presses, the end of popular or serious general readers, and the upswing of a fine arts industry that purports to be earnest with its many offerings of periodicals (magazines like Writer’s Chronicle, Columbia Review, and university in-house organs) while all the time it is only proffering trivial yet continuous output, not quite intellectual entertainment (because it is sincere) but so skirting the issues of press confinement, the need in America to address regular and stark social questions, and the constant plumbing of intellectual, spiritual (religious) and psychological or social depths (which always have been the actual province of serious or grand world literature, at least novels and plays) that it brings about a yawn to all those not commercially or academically involved, and a loss of readership or study to those who are, and finally to more independent or ambitious fiction artists like myself a turning away entirely from even the possibility of other results from our shallow halls of academic lore. It’s institutionalized dilettantism.
Again, the solution is dire, because most of those now pursuing in supposedly a resolute or professional fashion some semblance of literary writing are a part of the problem. They cannot address these issues because it would be an attack upon themselves and their very means of livelihood, but worse an admission of the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of much of American institutional and corporate life—just as has fallen in dramatic fashion the auto industry in America in 2009, because the products were frankly incompetent, poorly constructed or designed for anyone in our time, and uninspired for the necessities of contemporary urban driving (gas mileage, sustainability, true comfort, interior and exterior aesthetic beauty, twenty-first century functionality).
The issue finally cannot be addressed then by those media and university or corporate institutions, because the actual task, the setting and framework of the new fiction must not accept the institutions or their membership, or coddle them and reward them. Rather, it must at its core confront them with an almost revolutionary verve of depth, questioning and constant confrontation, a different lifestyle, a question of American dullness over a long-term consideration, a real confrontation of the overwhelming and constant vulgarity, crime, and middle-class complacency here, and with all that finally, a taking on not of some outdated and demonically deceptive Marxism, but the acceptance from down under, as it were, of the very same constant battle here of good vs. evil, only as it shows up in complacency, apathy, vulgarity and the militaristic aggression by the middle classes obsessed with convenience, comfort, and security—basically a loss of the soul, and eventually the loss of the very idea that one’s soul should be of any interest whatsoever, except of course for a brief intent in church on Sunday.
When a true vision of America upended and revolted by its excesses and internal despair is understood and comprehended intellectually, felt viscerally and to the depths of one’s soul, only then will the artist (and with him or her) the serious reading public for today and tomorrow be able to confront the needs and provide the scathing art so necessary for these times in America. Literature transmits the soul of the culture, and if there’s no soul (or the recognition and expression of that), then for a time at least, there will be no literature.
Another issue which needs addressed is the mechanization of perception, especially in the technological West, the actual capability for the advance in technology to truly empower (or reach) the same depths of human sensibility, to approach the human condition as in times before, or the ability for serious men and women to even reflect upon their condition. Some of this was raised quite effectively and presciently in 1923 by Albert Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization, where he notes how society is moving too quickly upon the surface of its culture, to understand or even remember to understand the deeper necessities of world culture and humanity’s soul.
The fear, of course, with the notion of an ever-expanding horizontal line of sensually attuned technology for storytelling (film clips, links, web sites, maps, info dumps, photos, pop music, adolescent gizmo glamour, gaming gimmicks) is that there’s no vertical access to experience at all; and vertical is quite useful imagery for the conceptual diversion here, as it is a direct process from heaven to earth, God to humanity, humankind to its deeper inner self, upper mind to lower mind, more total involvement of hand or brain with total body, or healthy incorporation of spiritual with corporal expression in a mature person. Again, is the need externally in society to interact with the elite and the downtrodden, with the power controllers (“Financial Aristocracy”) of usual government with its citizens, and with the very structure of cultural life itself, that is, between the stranglehold of money and power among the professionally credentialed at the top and those more natural or inspired creative persons at the bottom (or perhaps on the outside of convenience culture).
These issues should not suggest a hankering after younger authors or those with new immigrant status, or an influx of all the superficiality of the bankrupt culture here (vulgarity, violence, sex, lack of education or lack of historical breadth, lack of morals or ethics). It should suggest a direct confrontation of all that with veracity, real depth of character and spiritual introspection, and of course the energy and persistence of a mature art commitment to produce fiction and other art (especially with a Christian foundation) which in the end can transmute, heal, and transcend all of the decency functions or falls from grace of a superficial and highly decadent America. Obesity, indeed!
A process of confrontation begets its own solution (God will provide).
Clutter of externals (sports, action, crime, accidents, disasters, consumer goods, health issues, financial news) should be managed—solitude is significant for depth analysis, introspection, and taking stock properly or allowing the outward flow and rush of technocracy to stop, to feel what’s individual and come to some comprehension of the true action necessary for life integration and world living or interaction or acceptance (affirmation and true accommodation with meaning and the persistence of meaning, veracity of soul and God with one’s life and culture). Love, this is the problem; love in its widest course is a total encounter with the world to reaffirm it and enhance it in its greater reaches (God’s splendor), and with a fullness that modern men and women might accept more readily and completely than has been understood before—now that the physical encounter with life has been subdued. It’s not simply a matter then of recalling more momentum but memento vitae–vital memory of life or moment, or lively momentum; “remember, that we must live profoundly,” with depth, formulating and integrating our psychological needs with just manifestation in our external organizations, so that the inner man and woman here might thrive, in all of God’s true and lasting intensity. This is no mirage, illusion against time or game for ridicule or jest; it is a set predetermined era for total existence.
Lucid living (not dreaming) is another term for more profound living from top to bottom, inside out, within without, total veracity with the true spiritual demand of other formation and control of the deeper or darker resonances of humankind, so that one may expand and confront successfully all the requirements or challenges of each day and humanity’s wider, ever ready quest of intensity with Universe.
Only art can withdraw the finer or deeper reaches of man for his individual and class or societal intake and digestion, as an overwhelming creature bent too much on destruction and control, versus idiosyncratic coming to terms with himself and the center of a modern sophisticated world or universe. It’s a growth or challenge or warfare of spiritual extremes for a time, fits and starts, zigzags and reversals, yet all moving progressively inexplicably on to solve the task of greater resolution and care, alone in the greater or more colossal grandeur as might be understood by an eternal all caring or loving God.
The other side of our spiritual discussion is to consider our culture’s focused commercial emphasis. We need to address in America, with the censorship and breakdown of absurdity of current publishing, opening up publishing and distribution via government intervention or some new model or alternative, one to take advantage of the last twenty years of techno-innovations and yet an alternative also. This is not so contradictory to current democracies as one might think; look only to France, which regularly supports its own newspaper industry (even those set up as dissenting voices), without which or under current American profit models in France, journalism never would have survived.
Let us be candid about the possibility for modern authors. Today with the publishing markets in America, John Steinbeck would’ve become a social worker, William Faulkner a successful postmaster, and Ernest Hemingway a career army officer. There’s no place today in our nation for that older sort of individualistic, heroic, and singular author of exceptional literature.
It is interesting that although the nineteenth century is considered the heyday of the novel, and that France was an especially serious nation for the art of the novel (as well as all arts), that publication figures for a “bestseller” in Paris in the 1860s were considered good if they were in the range of 5,000 books (Zola, A Life, by Frederick Brown). Such figures today, even considering a few thousand copies of a first novel in the United States—and with the size of the United States, as compared perhaps less than with “all of France,” and more with what might be considered a success solely in one capital, that is Paris—are drastically different from the hundreds of thousands desired by commercial publishers in contemporary United States. In one recent promotional instance, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code had an initial printing of 218,000; the company, Random House, gave away free over 9,450 promotional copies or ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) alone, to reviewers and media influencers, to “prime the pump,” and this for a demonic, Jesus-bashing, soon-to-be bestseller. Brown’s next thriller, Lost Symbol (about the anti-Catholic Free Masons), had an initial print run of 6.5 million copies, the largest first printing in the history of Random House. (www.Guardian.co.uk.)
In an earlier America some literary books did achieve wider sales, as for seasoned celebrity authors like Hemingway, with his novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940), which sold 491,000 copies by 1941 (805,400 by 1975). (80 Years of Bestsellers, 1895-1975 by Hackett and Burke) Remember, however, that Hemingway’s first book Three Stories and Ten Poems was closer to a pamphlet (58 pgs) and was essentially self-published in Paris in 1923 in an edition of about 300 copies. (Ken Lopez, www.LopezBooks.com) Hemingway’s first novel, In Our Time, also was printed in Paris, only in an edition of 170 copies. (Shane Dayton, www.Helium.com) Steinbeck’s first novel, Cup of Gold, sold only 1500 copies in 1929. Or take a similar case for another literary icon and Nobel Prize Winner, like Faulkner, where his first book, Marble Faun, a collection of verse (51 pgs), in 1924 was printed in an edition of 500 copies (subsidized by a friend). (www.lib.udel.edu) Again, would these authors ever have been given a start today, even by small or university presses? (Today so much depends upon one’s “platform,” celebrity status or the tenure track of young teachers, who soon become tenured professors, not great authors.)
Lest we think confronting the for-profit model is modern, even considering the smaller figures as given, we need only look at a similar commercialization of art, and the criticism voiced by Richard Wagner. Not only does the publication model need redone here, but also the distribution model of how our books are placed in libraries, schools, bookstores and at other book ordering sites (just as does the Indie Film model currently need help with distribution channels). Maybe we need a National Literature Department in the government, besides an institutionalized funding arm, like the NEA (which mostly assists academics). That might do something more accelerated these days than even attempted by FDR during the Great Depression with the Works Project Administration (WPA) and the Federal Writers Programs (FWP). FWP’s humble projects to document America for Americans did create “a sort of cultural revolution in America,” according to Fortune Magazine, www.livinghistoryfarm.org. (Writers helped by the FWP included John Cheever, Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Louis L’Amour, Studs Terkel, Conrad Aiken, Zora Neale Hurston. Soul of A People by David A. Taylor) Or consider France with its Ministry of Culture & Communication, a development from the Renaissance commitment for state-supported arts for national prestige (Wikipedia); still, we should reflect on dangers of what might evolve into Orwell’s Ministry of Truth from 1984 (based somewhat on England’s wartime Ministry of Information), that is, a committee to squelch dissent, as was the USSR’s Ministry of Culture.
Maybe if there were a National Press Program here, each school could receive one book in a new or current author’s series? Also, there would be something to export, not only with an actual book or book production technique, but the exporting of “a renaissance in fine new books” by substantial American authors, which also, would bring in more authors and artists from abroad, to see and share what is suddenly happening here. We could seed a National Arts Movement! The key to this isn’t so much a government solution to the arts, as some ongoing country-wide focus upon the importance of a substantial national culture in America, and one we might be proud of, instead of the pop bestsellers or academic tomes fostered so pathetically each year upon our diminishing reading public.
Perhaps it is time to reconsider those writers who have been successful in the last twenty years in America, and who consistently fail to bring up issues of censorship within our national culture; they should be evaluated astringently as having “worked with the enemy” (their volumes, especially of religious or ethnic minorities, might be considered tokens of non-exploitation). Really, we’re talking about decades of “soft fascism” here and those who have contributed to the national cultural propaganda by being published, so as to keep true voices silent. Consider again my term, degratocrary, rule by the overly credentialed, not the talented. It’s a symptom of the decay of democracy, entropy, the gradual slip into oligarchy or dictatorship, the kinds of foreboding even expressed by the ancients, Plato’s difficulty with tyrants (Dion of Syracuse) and Aristotle’s many warnings.
So, the relinquishing of control to Academia, to the disaster of our national literature, as bastions of interest and study and too, the training of apprentice authors and ways it makes new literature so uniform, does corrupt and completely destroy the playing field of worthy artists. One suggestion would be to make arrangements throughout America’s grant-issuing establishment to have as one of the first considerations a criterion for disqualification: any active employment as a professor, teacher, or instructor in any professional school, training center, community college, college or university. Fat cats should be the last considered for any grant money. Why waste a Guggenheim on someone already pulling down $80-170K, when those individuals often use it for light travel (to make more secure their tenure position) or to buy rental property in their university towns to profit twice from nearby students? Again, all that weakens and delimits America’s possibility for a national culture. No Teacher Lit! Give the grants to the highly talented and the ambitious writers who are needy; expand the culture and transcend the dead ends of the learned by leapfrogging over academic deadwood!
(There’s an additional discussion revealed in Michael Moore’s documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. He cites a 2005 Citigroup internal document that promotes the concept of “Plutonomy,” or our economy powered by and consumed by the wealthy few, in fact the top 1% of our society, which includes a “Managerial Aristocracy.” Those who disagree with me about America’s oligarchy might study further. www.scribd.com/doc/6674234/citigroup-oct-16-2005-plutonomy-report-part-1.)
We should be looking at instead, some manner of starting and increasing a mentoring and patronage program, as with the earlier renaissance, so as to guarantee a substantial future for the next generation. This takes nothing more than a few of the wealthy starting the fashion for national patronage of individual artists, needy writers and artists, not just for institutions, but for actually productive individuals, outsiders, soon-to-be-knowns. If we had even, for instance, some publishing showcase each year on the scale and with the ambition of the Sundance Film Festival (and associated workshops and cable distribution), only for original writing and publishing, that might help. It would also establish the obligation, finally, for anyone with some success currently in publishing to give back to the culture and provide for the future with some sort of breakthrough possibilities for promoting books. As it is now, the top sellers in the book market continue on with very little other effort, as if their success were actually from some super talent versus connections or chance (or demonic backing).
At least the great performers and actors from cinema have on occasion returned to humble circumstances to institute such seeding ventures, as did Robert Redford with the Sundance ventures, Tony Randall with his National Actors Theatre, and Lee Strasberg, in a different way with directing and a training breakthrough for the Actors Studio. We have had authors make attempts, with Norman Mailer helping establish The Village Voice and later taking some active role in PEN (Poets, Playwrights Editors, Essayists, and Novelists), and the posthumous author’s retreat in his name (Norman Mailer Writers Colony, www.NMwcolony.org), or the fine example of novelist Mary Lee Settle, who in 1980 founded a yearly fiction award (PEN/Faulkner Award), after she certainly lived in humble fashion, not with lucrative results from her years of authorship, even including the National Book Award in 1978 for Blood Ties (I helped renew interest in Settle before the award, via contacting critics across the country and publishing my interview with her and excerpt of her novel in my literary magazine, The Blue Ridge Review). Again, my own example has been to raise these issues here with some realistic solutions and suggestions (including chapter “Acceptance of Individual Authors” and originally in my Quintessence, Five Essays From Today’s Renaissance), especially of adding some tax onto genre or bestseller publishing, as a tax per book sold, to fund a national POD program for first novelists or independent literary publishing. Also, as mentioned in “Autobiography” my own plans do include a sort of Writer’s Colony in Taormina and other arrangements suggested at worst, for my family to incorporate in Taormina, Sicily, after my death. Such apprenticeship centers worked for other artists while they were alive, Frank Lloyd Wright, in American architecture being one (center called Taliesan). Some of this is a rebalancing of culture also, just as internationally, decades ago, I put forth the proposition that our global Olympics should include a grand competitive theater competition, as was similar to ancient Greece, so that the body and mind of humanity could become balanced.
Constructive suggestions for the writing arts in America:
- New prize, “American Masterpiece Award,” for yearly contest in America, best novel or fiction work, real literature.
- National program where works by Americans are printed and given or sold to mass audience through a sort of national book club system, including museums, libraries, and schools.
- National grants for established authors to take on one apprentice or learner for a one-year period of internship (grant to both writers, to help support interaction).
- Regular government supervision of all existing mainstream publishing companies with divulged figures (and reasons) for amount or lack of amount of new authors taken aboard each year, multinational corporations functioning within our boundaries (which now include most of our mainstream publishing houses) should be forced to comply. Other side to this, is a quarterly checking of American authors, to guarantee that their books are exported to other nations on a regular basis, with generous PR, so that American Literature remains connected with and interactive with Global Literature. Some sort of world-wide “Intellectual Olympics” would prove interesting. Perhaps, companies not complying with new statures could be fined, and those fines used to promote such world-class intellectual or global literary events.
- Taxing of any cultural proceeds which are ultra-popular and lend to the superficiality of culture (vampire films, comic books, pornography, gossip or popular celebrity magazines, most of TV, pop music, concerts for the vulgar) to be filtered back through system to support any serious literary author or other artist (a sort of continual boost to National Endowment for the Arts). This essentially would siphon off or skim a bit of money from the amount thrown away or drained so vigorously by pop culture, to ensure some depth to American National Culture, the continuation or beginning of a true High Culture, a stabilizing of current entropy.
- Establishment of “No Income Tax in America for Authors,” as has been spearheaded in the past by Ireland (1969 Irish Tax Act for direct royalties, “Artists’ Exemption Scheme,” www.ireland-writers.com/exemption.htm). A defense of this would be as program is inaugurated more authors would swarm to America to write or take advantage of tax relief, and with increase in intellectual creativity new “hot spots” or creativity centers or “places cool for the arts” would bloom, wherever there is influx of such writers or gathering of them. Eventually this would lead on its own, to small or minor reinvigoration of certain towns or cities, even outside of traditional centers such as New York City and San Francisco.
- Underwriting of poetry readings, prose readings, reading book clubs, drama presentations, national literary fairs on a regular basis, and regional festivals each year (to bring about a sense of refreshment and fun).
- Yearly contest for best recommendations for invigoration of our national culture through literature and the arts (all results from contest would be published and distributed to populace each year). Cumulative records kept and reviewed for feasibility each decade.
- Bring back the “Medici Gardens” from fifteenth century Florence as a cultural pattern, with ways to organize in each city, ways to promote, and ways for any corporate, university or private sponsor to support. Have a pattern or model set up with complete instructions, forms, background necessary and ways to implement in each city or town. There could be a national Internet version too, as an interactive online workshop.
- Recognize and promote art movements as they happen in America, with media recognition, books and documentaries and music, support and patronage, and some sort of national trajectory of how that might fit into the chronological and national spiritual fabric of American society.
Visionary experience. During an intense spiritual episode some thirty years ago (including De Civitate Dei), I walked along an interior corridor, inside a complex where I was staying, only something else was happening. I was in the present, physically, yet part of an alternative reality, a different time setting, whereby I was seeking, proceeding into the future, humankind’s future, almost as if I were walking, stalking, through this corridor of time. I imagined it then as a horizontal corridor of the Great Pyramid of Giza (Khufu), which I always had felt was for Ancient Egyptian initiation and visionary experience. There was a way, almost as Masonic ritual, of acting out symbolic motions in our current reality, which might project a spiritual image or trajectory. I traipsed into the future, feeling as I walked that I was actually entering future realms, not of years, but farther, of many centuries into the future, and what I eventually confronted frightened me. I met another person there, in the visionary corridor, only the person, friendly and sociable, was something different—an androgynous being who was shaped almost in a pear-fashion or trapezoidal, with a short height, lack of stocky or traditional athletic build (our usual large head, strong neck, wide shoulders, narrow waist, long thin arms and legs) we would consider today for men, and instead had more of a pyramidal-shaped body, with smaller head, narrow shoulders, wider waist and short wide legs. My thoughts upon confronting the being encompassed one sensation: “Martian.”
I felt that I was visiting a future, endgame or endnote to humanity here, an Earth progressing into total destruction, as might have happened if Mars had ever once been inhabited. The vision again was terrifying, because what I was facing, in Earth’s far future of many centuries, perhaps two thousand or more years, was the end of humanity as we know it; what I confronted was a transgender form of some creature who had been altered through centuries of genetic engineering and scientific tampering into a totally decrepit or corrupted form, one also proceeding to evolve right out of existence, a form of human extinction. (That correlated also with a key for my studies of physics, which I felt proved that our exact form, the “five-pointed” man, fit precisely into the energy-geometry of Earth’s environment. A differently proportioned form would be unable to sustain existence.) I continued with my pacing over many hours along this corridor, a sequence again, of walking a visionary timeline and moving into humanity’s future, in a mystical way, and then traipsing back, too, until reaching the present again—only now, with a vision, and a stark reality of the possible extinction for men and women as we know them. That vision (goal of Vision Quest) now stayed with me, as a relay runner returning from another time, carrying a spiritual baton. (Quintessence: Five Essays From Today’s Renaissance)
I had in those days been studying renaissance imagery (including Michelangelo’s David) and was transfixed by Leonardo’s iconic drawing of the Vitruvian Man (Human Proportion) and what that might truly mean (“proportion,” as a man in motion), more as a sort of cruciform symbol, and now as a further sign, prescient warning, a symbol of supreme importance, to our own locking in of our true personhood or humanity yesterday and today, and something to compare with the future image, almost as a being deformed, in actuality again, humankind destroyed. This is a visionary sequence which I’ve recorded in my book of spiritual memoirs, Each Man Has A Journey. I am relaying it here to bring across a deeper sense of transcendence and what that heavily laden word or concept might mean for humanity. It is this vision, also, which transports me back though all the renaissance discussion to a significant appreciation for humanism, and that suddenly applied against a concept of some other future creature even (Homo corruptus, “corrupt man” or limited humanoid?), that we right now need to ponder, understand, and do something about, today. This applies to older studies of traditional humanism, but more than a reverence for the past or for Ancient Rome and Greece or the classics, there is suddenly here a unique threshold of humanism, which I believe is Christian Humanism, that is, man made in God’s image (not some futuristic version engineered for us by a scientific elite or some future oligarchy or tyrant).
Holding the form of mankind, Humankind, men and women, today in our physical form (with advanced mental and spiritual and psychological developments, which I define as part of my Metamorphic Psychology) is a gigantic necessity and one which involves each one of us; but too, it involves those with ambitions in the arts and sciences, and those writers new to the task, who today upon such reading must themselves enter into the fray (either by agreeing or disagreeing). We must consider this spiritual baton, and be ready, as other spiritual Olympic runners appear, to carry it forward and win the race for all of us. The future is not predestined or yet totally formed, and thus it depends upon each of our creative actions. (That’s part of my reasons for delivering speeches to The World Future Society, including “Spirit of Transformation” in 1989 and “Metamorphic Psychology” in 1993, at conferences in Washington, DC. Also, as mentioned in “The Writing Life,” such notes substantiate continual studies about advanced medicine.)
Finally then, in this book we have moved through thirteen distinct chapters: “Our Rebirth of Writing,” “Acceptance of Individual Authors,” “Self-Editing for Authors (Part I),” “Self-Editing for Authors (Part II),” “Creativity,” “Experimentalism,” “Spirituality,” “Nonfiction/Fiction/Drama,” “Autobiography,” “The Novel,” “Great Themes,” “The Writing Life,” and “Advancement & Transcendence.”
We have been able, through the course of those many chapters, to express a call to arms for authors, to write and save the culture, to come to some understanding of the history of printing and written expression, some of the demands and challenges in the past and the present, editing and creative expertise, to bring to fruition or into the awareness of today some discussion of the necessity for the art of writing, and a vision of Humankind. We have considered the chapters earlier, literary history, and much of the final discourse for current projects, possible and projected, and ways that each serious artist might raise or elevate his art and his or her own consciousness so as to achieve some serious approximation of the new demands of the twenty-first century for dedicated authors. All the work here however, is meant again, only as an approximation for some course of study, some inducement to practice, some recourse to the many challenges, and inspiration for further achievement.
These are the times that call for the new artist, the new literary writer, the unique and serious novelist, the new art, especially as mentioned in “The Writing Life,” where so many of our talented masters have passed on. Opportunity!
Only you can further the art, only you can proceed, only your next writing and the collection of your future writing, your entire life’s endeavor, can bring about the true result of the aim of this entire volume. I’ve meant to circumscribe and provide insight about universal aims, mostly from a private or perspective as one artist, one writer within the writing arts. The true test will come with each of you, the readers and writers today, who will proceed and surpass all of the work noted over these pages, with dynamic writing of depth and charm and tragedy and comedy, to redefine our arts and sustain our human place in the arts, for a grand world.
- Books: Greatness, Who Makes History and Why by Dean Keith Simonton; Aha! by Jordan Ayan; Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Csikszentmilhalyi; Sparks of Genius, Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein; The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger and Richard Poe; MegaCreativity by Andrei G. Aleinkov; Will Durant’s The Renaissance (The Story of Civilization: Part V); Vasari’s Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects; The Discovers, The Creators, The Seekers, all by Daniel J. Boorstin; The Paris Review Interviews (Vol. 1-4); Cosmic Consciousness by Richard Maurice Bucke; Super Consciousness by Colin Wilson; Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow; Leonardo by Maria Constantino (beautifully printed, brief, large format volume; Vitruvian Man or “Human Figure in a Circle, illustrating Proportion,” pg. 38); The Bible.
- Films: How Art Made The World (PBS series), Documentaries about Frank Lloyd Wright, Leonardo da Vinci, Solzhenitsyn and other authors (available for rent from Netflix, www.Netflix.com).
- Online: Creative Leadership Forum’s “100 Excellent Online Tools To Feed Your Creativity”: www.TheCreativeLeadershipForum.com; Available survey courses in literature, the arts, and renaissance history, The Great Courses with The Teaching Company, www.teach12.com.
- Publishing & Censorship: Publishing, The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter, www.ParaPublishing.com; POD printers: www.LuLu.com, www.Xlibris.com, www.AuthorHouse.com, www.BookstandPublishing.com, www.BookSurge.com; Online digital library, www.ProjectGutenberg.org; Publishing industry, www.Bookwire.com. Censorship, Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky; Censored 2009 by Peter Phillips & Project Censored, www.ProjectCensored.org; Rich Media, Poor Democracy by Robert W. McChesney.
- Religious inspiration: The New Testament; How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.; The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie; Literary Giants, Literary Catholics by Joseph Pearce; The Philosophy of Civilization by Albert Schweitzer; www.CatholicWritersGuild.org; www.CatholicPoetsandWriters.com; www.ACFW.com.
Charles A. Taormina’s most recent novel, Gratuity, and a book of short stories, Shared Lives, are available at www.LuLu.com; and his eBook of short fiction, Moments, is at www.AuthorHouse.com. The Writing Arts: An Author’s Perspective is Taormina’s twenty-first book. He lives in Johnstown, PA, where he is finishing a collection of three novellas, Triad, a fourth volume of short fiction, and his spiritual memoirs, Each Man Has A Journey. His writing has been published overseas and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is listed with Who’s Who In The World. Currently, Taormina is in search of a publisher.