Epic Poetry and Quantum Physics
I believe the only way to reach the imagination of the entire culture is through the cultural richness and plenitude of the humanities, speaking broadly, which includes all of the religious and wisdom traditions. Story, myth, and drama reach the deepest into the psyche, as Jung, Campbell, and others understood, as they had learned from the greatest works of art and myth that were in fact at the core of their own studies. Having read the astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s The Way of the Explorer and various other things, such as Frithjof Capra’s The Turning Point and George B. Leonard’s The Transformation, long ago, I respected their attempt and approach. There are many voices who have and are grappling with these things, from various angles.
Science cannot really heal alone the divide that it, too, suffered as a result of the upheavals of the seventeenth century and modernity, though quantum physics has led some to reconsider and foresee a transition of the worldview as a result of it. On the other hand, I acknowledge that literature and the humanities cannot heal the wound of civilization alone either. I’ve come to realize that it can only be done together… an act in itself that would at last demonstrate the divide has been crossed, dramatizing it, as it were, for all to understand.
Science fiction can produce a good read for some but I don’t believe it can bear the weight of the entire civilization, in a form that commands cultural respect commensurate with the theme in question.
Resolution can only come about for the entire social sphere through literature and culture, at the most sensitive levels, bearing a sense of history, of the past, as well as a sense of the new scientific worldview implicit in quantum physics. Believing all that, I chose the epic form because of its universality, its presence in some form in most major cultures, and its ability to carry the burden of epochal reassessment and transformation, which it has repeatedly demonstrated in the past.
By dramatizing those antinomies, like life itself, beheld in a mirror, as it were, I believe we can imaginatively choose change, in consciousness, change consciousness, leading to and helping to make more possible adjustments in reality, which we all so dearly need around the world.
We human beings, our thinking so narrow and restrictive, as soon as we “organize,” in the supposed best interest of others, whether “religious” or “secular,” every “box” failing sooner or later… often with much woe before we realize it. To my mind, the whole modern assortment of cardboard boxes, whether traditional institutional “religion” or the Enlightenment myth and its offspring, are crumbling all around us, unable to hold together and do justice to the contents of the psyche, protect and guide us from our own worst passions and assumptions, crippling fragmentation our daily bread and dilemma.
It’s not an easy task to confront all that and suggest a modest reassessment, not Utopian hubris, but it seems that every sign continues to demonstrate how urgent it is that we human beings achieve it. What but universality offers hope in the face of all the movements clamoring for exclusivism, in one form for or another? What have we lived into around the globe if not the rich and fertile pluralism of universality?
I feel the rich heritage that we carry with us, though, has become open to everyone around the globe, so that instead of only one exclusive tradition, if you will, we human beings have been becoming for a long time now increasingly heirs of all the past forms of transcendence. Far from their being swept aside, what is universal in them has become increasingly clarified so that it can be seen and appreciated as universal… an infinite Unity and Oneness, the global heritage of humanity.
I think of Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, when he extols basically the life force versus ideas about life… as in the totalitarians forcing their ideas on the whole society, to the destruction of a civilized form of life. The West has gone about it in different ways, but, to an extent, arguably, achieved something like it in its own way–both materialistic at the core.
Early in life I had also read Ram Das’ Be Here Now, in my early twenties, along with some books by Alan Watts, Carlos Castaneda, Krishnamurti, Arnold Toynbee, Sufi poets, and so on. Having actually read even earlier in high school The World Bible, one of the early popular collections of the Upanishads, Buddhist, and other major scriptures, I was open to, shall we say, every current on Earth. Still am.
But living in Japan and traveling throughout China, and so on, sobered me up, in a lot of ways, study and life making clear that the East too has passed into the crucible of modernity, where we all have been mixed and poured together… human at best.
I have a long and complicated religious lineage, or journey, one probably easy to misread. I hope to write someday more about it in prose, a Confessions, if you will, though my epic, I’d like to think, is the best account. One of my essays may be my next best attempt to suggest it, in literary terms,
Tolstoy and the Last Station of Modernity
What religion-become-doctrine does is disperse the mystery from lived life. I attended once an interfaith meeting in which two Christian ministers spent much of the time rehashing consubstantiation versus transubstantiation in front of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and others, as to which interpretation was essentially the “true” Christian one. I’ve never been able to see any Christianity in either, and I’m someone who actually studied those doctrines, at various times, out of historical and literary interest. Much of the culture is frozen in all those antiquated categories of “religion,” and then much of the rest of it is locked into fighting against those outdated conceptions, skewing its own thinking, while our crises loom ever larger.
The language of poetry is the only tongue that can evoke and probe the matters of the soul… short of prayer. So there must be a way, to… reach…