Characters of Worlds or...?

by Lone Wolf

Regarding that idea about the “characters of the worlds” or planetary archetypes – I think you may have got something here. I wonder if all these imaginary worlds – possible, probable and even impossible, – actually exist in some manner? What if we don't create them with our imagination, but some of their features or aspects simply emerge from the collective unconscious (whatever this is), then they possess our minds and makes us project them upon the planets we call and consider “real”? Because what is “real” actually? If we can see that these “literary planets” and other imaginary worlds indeed have definite “characters” or archetypes, which manifest themselves beyond the limits of any individual's mind and imagination, without any conceivable outside influence from other persons, they will have an objective existence and so will be “real” too in a way... Maybe the problem is just in our narrow understanding of “reality”, based on the current cultural paradigm with its binary logic and linear causality: we think of something as either “real” or “unreal”, and if we have two or more similar things or phenomena, we tend to think that one causes the other to imitate it or moulds it in some manner after its image and semblance, etc. But this may cover only a tiny section of the total reality, while leaving the most of it unrecognized and unexplored, thus shifting all its experience to the subconscious levels. Maybe we should redefine “reality” as Charles Fort suggested once, as a wide, even potentially infinite spectrum of shades, layers or states of existence between the absolute being and the absolute non-being (which ultimately could turn out to be the same thing). Thus the Oriental Neo-Platonic mystics once believed that between the ideal (or the world of the pure ideas) and the real (or the material world) exists the vast dimension of the “imaginal” (not “imaginary”!), where take place phenomena like prophetic visions, mystic journeys, mythic events, etc., and which they called with the Arabic term 'ālam al-miṯhāl or “world of the images” (Frank Herbert in his “Dune” interprets it to mean the totality of all possible futures or developments of history in the vision of the prophet and this may be not very far from the truth!). This is the true source of all myths, fairy-tales, mystic visions, shamanic “astral journeys” in other worlds etc., and also indirectly of the poetic inspiration and literary imagination in most broad sense. And what are the science fiction and fantasy stories if not the myths and fairy-tales of our modern times? It's only that in our narrow-mindedness we don't have conscious access to the other levels of experience like the different kinds of trance and similar states of consciousness and so they manifest themselves only on the subconscious level, emerging as products of imagination, dreams, literary works, etc., and sometimes also in the visions of mediums and clairvoyants who claim to have visited other worlds or contacted their inhabitants, like for instance the Swedish theologist Immanuel Swedenborg in the XVIII century, the Swiss medium Hélène Smith in the 1890s (who not only had visions of going to Mars, but even received messages in a Martian language, written in a Martian alphabet!), the theosophist Charles W. Leadbeater a century ago, who describes the life on Mars and Mercury, etc. (although I have to admit that their versions of the other planets' inhabitants and their cultures are often quite unoriginal, even boring as compared to those from the literary works of the great storytellers like Edgar R. Burroughs, Otis A. Kline, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, etc.).

And there is also another thing: when I compare the old maps of Mars with the canals, made by the astronomers from the XIX to the early XX century, with our contemporary maps based on the data from the space probes, I cannot believe that this could be the same planet! Those were not dreamers or visionaries, but professional scientists and excellent observers like Giovanni Schiaparelli, Percival Lowell, Camille Flammarion and others – how could they have been so far from the reality? And how they could have seen independently more or less the same network of canals upon the face of the planet Mars, if that was all only an optical illusion, a kind of hallucination or just figments of someone's imagination? I've never came across any satisfying explanation of this phenomenon. It's like that thing with the “planetary characters” in the imaginative fiction – it has to have some sort of objective existence! It is as if the vision of the Old “Mars of the canals” like some external entity has possessed the minds of all those men and made them project its image upon the planet in our dimension of “reality”.

Which all leads to the intriguing thought that all those imaginary worlds of the Old Solar System not only exist objectively in some sort of potential dimension, a cosmic collective subconscious, multiverse of possible worlds or whatever-you-call-it (which may ultimately be just different names for one and the same thing), but they even could be visited in some medium-like trance state in the manner that shamans still can go to the upper and the lower worlds of the traditional mythologies (and not only “go” there alone, but take with them the whole tribal community during a specific ceremony, make them see and meet there their totemic “spiritual animals”, ancestral spirits or other mythical figures). Why, the way the literary protagonists like John Carter and Ulysses Paxton go to Barsoom in their doppelganger bodies is not essentially different from a shamanic “astral journey”! What if it is possible to visit Barsoom or another version of Mars (a different section or aspect of the same planetary entity) through some sort of shamanic trance? If we only knew how to induce it, it could be the beginning of a new scientific discipline – “psychonautics”, –which will expand the limits of our understanding of reality. Well, I don't mean that we'll be actually able to meet literary characters like John Carter or Dejah Thoris (although, on a second thought, why not?), but to visit the world in which their stories are set as upon a kind of a cultural horizon or background – something like the American Old West, against the background of which so many plots of the Western genre have been created with all their fictional characters – why could not the Old Solar System be something similar and no less real?

A fascinating idea! It could even become a base for a story or a fan fiction ;)

{Comment from Zendexor: This is a hugely profound and - in my opinion - wise essay. "Lone Wolf", whoever you are, you are very much on my wavelength! I don't know if you have read the "Vintage Worlds" anthologies, but if not, I refer you to the first couple of tales in Volume 1, where you will find some replies to the questions you rightly raise. The first tale in "Vintage Worlds 1", J M Greer's "Out of the Chattering Planet", suggests a stunning reason for the apparent agreement between various pre-space-age telescopic observations of Mars. The second tale, my own "Uranian Thule", explores the theme of "reality engineering". Finally, my introductions to Volumes 1 and 2 address the issue you have raised concerning the ontological status of shared "fictional" imaginings of the planets. All of which, I expect you'll agree, makes a good background to your further concept of the "psychonauts"!}

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May 02, 2022
"Vintage Worlds" anthology
by: Lone Wolf

Thank you for the suggestion, Zendexor!
I'll check it (hopefully it will be available as an e-book). I haven't read it so far, and actually up until several months ago, when I came across this website, I didn't even know that there are people, who still write such kind of stories, and moreover - people, who are still interested enough to read them (if somebody still reads books in this insane century!). Before I was just browsing the old pulp magazines online in search for something to read - it was my "secret vice", a kind of escapism, that helps me to get my mind for a while out of the profound depression I suffer. I've even thought of writing my own stories as if I was living in that era, some 80 - 90 years ago, when they could be appreciated, but I don't have much time and when I have, I usually feel so exhausted and depressed, that I just content myself with reading (plus - I doubt they could be any good, since I don't feel myself capable of developing original plots and characters, being interesting mainly in background settings and world-building, which I enjoyed doing as my favourite game during my youth).
But here I found many suggestions for reading, even from authors I've never heard of before. Many thanks for that! :)

{Reply from Zendexor:} It's a good thing you found this website! Regarding your comments about writing: I myself suffered from severe writer's block for most of my life and it was only in my late fifties that it loosened up and I began to find writing a pleasure. So I know what you mean about difficulties in dreaming up plots etc. I have a couple of suggestions to make. Well, three actually, all based on genuine experience. First, record your dreams as much as you can, as occasionally you may get a free plot that way. (My story "The Slavanns Must Play" on this site is an example.) Second, using a kind of mental ju-jitsu, turn the strength of your exhaustion and depression against itself, making it into a useful theme. (I did this myself in a way, with my socio-political depression and despair.) Third, and again from my own experience - just wait; people change, and acquire new powers as time goes on. Meantime, have a good read of OSS sf!}

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