ON REALISM, MYTHIC FANTASY AND SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT IN SPIRITUS MUNDI
By Robert Sheppard
Author, Spiritus Mundi, Novel
Thanks to everyone for your interest and support in listening in to the BlogTalkRadio Interviews on my novel Spiritus Mundi on August 1 and December 7:
I received many responses, especially from friends on LinkedIn raising many interesting points for discussion. I will try to respond to a few of the challenging ones. Several comments raised the question of the twofold form of the novel being divided into dual parts: Book One, Spiritus Mundi The Novel, with its rather realistic global social-panoramic style, and Book Two, Spiritus Mundi, The Romance, with its style and subject matter dilating from the WWIII doomsday and nuclear terrorist scenario into the forms of fantasy, time-travel science-fiction and spiritual-adventurist quest. One example was the following Comment on LinkedIn:
Hi Robert, I did manage to catch all of the interview with Bob Rose, despite some of the technical difficulties with the phone connection. I’m not quite sure that you got a very fair hearing. Rose as an interviewer seemed to expound his own views and interject somewhat irrelevant examples as several points. I would have liked to have heard more for example, about the deus ex machina–engine of book 2–the council of immortals. It seems a bit incongruous to me at least to have on the one hand political intrigues, complicated global politics–and on the other a dimensional shift into an otherworldly realm. … It seems –to me at least–to suggest that mankind is not capable of solving its own problems without some sort of ‘divine intervention’ –and if that were true, then would a United Nations Parliament even be necessary? But then, you probably solve that problem in the book(s)–and perhaps Dr. Rose didn’t afford you the opportunity to adequately lay out the entire scenario and scope of the book. In any event, I enjoyed listening to it. And I look forward to hearing from you in the future….
These comments raise the interesting and very legitimate issues of: 1) Whether the novel should diverge from personal and geo-political realism into the realms of myth and fantasy, sometimes associated with the school of “Magical Realism;” 2) Whether the second book of Spiritus Mundi is flawed in its plotline and ending in involving the dimension of myth—in the present instance a Quest undertaken first to Middle Earth and the efforts of the Order of the Illuminati in quasi-monastic Castalia there to resolve the crisis by intellectual means in the Grand Retort, and then onwards into the spiritual-adventurist Quest to transit the cosmic Wormhole to retrieve the Silmaril Crystal from the “Council of the Immortals” located at the Black Hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, and the associated question of whether such an appeal or invocation of a “non-realist cum spiritual fantasy” dimension in the plotline might be found an unsatisfying, illegitimate or incongruous “deus ex machina”—–an arbitrary or false resolution of the plot by artificial or mechanical means, either extrinsic to the conditions of action postulated either in the world depicted or in the true world in which we live, and consequently illegitimate as evading any responsibility for real and effective action in that real world, be such action revolutionary or reformist; and 3) What is the role of Literature and the literary work in the age of Globalization, the McLuhanesque Global Village turbocharged by the Internet, the e-Book and the iPad alongside the emergence of a new “global consciousness and culture” characterized by an emerging World Literature forming in the stead of traditional national literatures? Let us then address these issues, which are highly relevant for guiding the praxis of all serious contemporary writers working in the world in which we find ourselves today, and in shaping our judgment of the ultimate value of their works to our lives.
The critical objection to poetic myth in literature has been a continuing and long-standing one, beginning in our Western tradition with the famous banishment of the poets by Socrates in Plato’s Republic from the ideal state for their seductive untruthfulness, as in Homer’s tales of cyclopses and descents into the underworld, held as dangerously leading youth from the path of reason. More recently, a similar objection was raised in more modern times with the rise of Naturalism, championed by Emile Zola in his seminal work, The Experimental Novel (Le Roman expérimentale):
“In our scientific age it is a very delicate thing to be a prophet, as we no longer believe in the truths of revelation, and in order to foresee the unknown we must begin by studying the known…..In short, everything is summed up by this great fact: the experimental method in letters, as in the sciences, is the way to explain the natural phenomena, both individual and social, of which metaphysics until now, has given only irrational and supernatural explanations.”
Another powerful tradition of Realism is that of Marxism and revolutionary realism, emphasizing the role of literature and the arts in mobilizing the masses towards revolutionary change by scientifically understanding the real nature of the causes and effects that determine our social conditions, being primarily focused on economics and social class conflict. In this tradition, diversion of the themes of literature from accurate social realism in such bourgeois directions as Romanticism, Modernism, Surrealism, Aestheticism, Fantasy, Deconstruction and Magical Realism, all emphasizing the hopeless isolation of the individual consciousness in an absurd and oppressive world beyond human control, suffer the fatal flaw of encouraging escape from, social irresponsibility towards, and ignorance of the true economic and social class realities which determine people’s lives and which should thus be condemned as lacking revolutionary will, scientific revolutionary consciousness and active revolutionary potential to bring about meaningful change in the real world of our real lives. Thus George Lukaks, in his Realism in the Balance, argued that such literary tendencies were evidence that capitalism was stretched to its limits:
“Economic reality as a totality is itself subject to historical change … the decisive role of the bourgeoisie in history is to develop the world market, thanks to which the economy of the whole world becomes an objectively unified totality. … As a result of the objective structure of the economic system, the surface of capitalism appears to ‘disintegrate’ into a series of elements all driven towards independence. Obviously this must be reflected in the consciousness of the men who live in this society, and hence too in the consciousness of poets and thinkers………………….If literature is a particular form by means of which objective reality is reflected, then it becomes of crucial importance for it to grasp that reality as it truly is, and not merely to confine itself to reproducing whatever manifests itself immediately and on the surface.”
That is to say, the focus on individual isolation and apparent social disintegration in these artistic movements is correlated directly with the wholesale integration of capitalist system. This forms one of Lukács’ primary arguments against the revolutionary potential of Modernism and arguably Post-Modernism, namely, that these movements portray individual life as disconnected and beyond human control at a time in which globalized capitalism ensures that people’s lives are actually more intertwined and socially determined than ever.
Against this realist-rationalist-scientific tradition have been such cultural critics as Friedrich Nietzsche, invoking the Dionysian power of myth, music and dream in his Birth of Tragedy (Die Geburt der Tragȍdie aus dem Geist der Musik):
“The chances are that almost every one of us, upon close examination, will have to admit that he is able to approach the once-living reality of myth only by means of intellectual constructs. Yet every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural, healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myth can unify a culture…………………………………Here we have our present age, the result of Socratism bent on the extermination of myth. Man today, stripped of myth, stands famished amoung all his pasts and must dig frantically for roots, be it amoung the most remote antiquities. What does our great historical hunger signify, our clutching about us of countless other cultures, our consuming desire for knowledge, if not the loss of myth, of a mythic home, the mythic womb?”
From another perspective, that of “art for art’s sake,” Oscar Wilde also crusaded against social realism and social-political moralism, championing instead in his “The Decay of Lying” his anti-Platonic ideal of the liar-poet-genius:
“Art, breaking from the prison-house of realism, will run to greet him, and will kiss his false, beautiful lips, knowing that he alone is in possession of the great secret of all her manifestations, the secret that truth is entirely and absolutely a matter of style, while life—-poor, probable, uninteresting human life—tired of repeating herself for the benefit of Mr. Herbert Spencer, scientific historians, and the compilers of statistics in general, will follow meekly after him, and try to reproduce, in her own and untutored way, some of the marvels of which he talks…………………Art finds her perfection within and not outside of, herself. She is not to be judged by any external standard of resemblance……the aim is simply to charm, to delight, to give pleasure…….She is a veil, rather than a mirror.”
In our American tradition similar issues were raised by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his distinction between the Novel and the Romance, calling for a greater degree of imaginative license and leeway in departing from the restraints of strict Realism in the latter:
When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt entitled to assume, had he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience. The former—-while as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart—-has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer’s own choosing or creation. If he think fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights, and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture. He will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the privileges so stated, and especially to mingle the Marvellous, rather as a slight, delicate and evanescent flavor, than as any portion of the dish actually offered to the public. He can hardly be said, however, to have committed any literary crime, even if he disregard this caution. In the present work the author has proposed to himself—but with such success, fortunately, it is not for him to judge—to keep undeviatingly within his immunities. The point of view in which this tale comes under the Romantic definition lies in the attempt to connect a bygone time with the very present that is flitting away from us.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Preface to The House of the Seven Gables
Spiritus Mundi, though comprising one integrated work, in the tradition of Hawthorne is divided into two books, Book One, Spiritus Mundi the Novel, and Book Two, Spiritus Mundi the Romance, with the former following by and large the tradition of social realism in providing a global panorama of the modern world, and the latter verging into the Dimension of the Mythic, the Marvellous and the “Romance,” thus straddling the two traditions. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey might similarly be seen as emphasizing realism in the former and the mythic and fantastic dimensions in the latter, as might Goethe’s division of Faust into Parts I & II. In more modern terms some might term Hawthorne’s “Romance” (Focusing on the Marvellous and not to be confused with mere romantic love fiction) correlatable with the Postmodern category of “Magical Realism.” Yet this term enfolds within itself an intrinsic contradiction—how shall the “Magic” coexist with and be balanced by the element of “Realism” without denaturing and undermining each the other?
Henry James also grappled with this question, and articulated his concept of “The Balloon of Experience” to analogize the relationship between the mimetic representation of reality and greater flights of the freer imagination beyond the realm of daily experience.
In his preface to The American, for instance, Henry James had contrasted his realistic fiction with the “romances” written by Hawthorne and others:
“The balloon of experience is in fact of course tied to the earth, and under that necessity we swing, thanks to a rope of remarkable length, in the more or less commodious car of the imagination; but it is by the rope we know where we are. . . . The art of the romancer is, “for the fun of it,” insidiously to cut the cable. . . . (FW 1064)”
Thus for James human experience and the imagination are represented by the figure of a man walking the earth with a balloon tethered on a long string or rope. The realm of “reality” consists of the gravity-bound solid earth upon which he walks, while the rebelliously bouyant balloon, filled with the helium of the imagination is ever striving to break free and fly to and beyond the narrow bounds of the fixed firmament. The human condition and the condition of the author and artist is that of the holder of the string, which can be lengthened or shortened as circumstance may dictate. Although here Hawthorne and James are conventionally cast as theoretical antagonists, Romantic/Marvelist versus Realist, a closer inspection of the thought of the two reveals a much greater commonality of view, with the difference being not one of mutually exclusive polar opposites but of a graduated continuum. For James fiction necessarily included the imaginative and fictive element of the balloon but is best closely tethered to the rocky soil of concrete human experience. For Hawthorne, he observes the same necessary limitation, yet prefers on occasion to give his balloon a much longer rope of divergence from ordinary experience. For James, failure threatens when the pure “Romancer,” “just for fun” cuts the string and lets it fly away free, which to him necessarily will cause the reader to become disoriented and then withdraw any weight of reality or human consequence from the fable, aborting the willing suspension of disbelief and debasing the experience to mere infantile and insubstantial fantasy devoid of human reality. Spiritus Mundi follows James in Book One but rather Hawthorne in Book Two, yet in maintaining a delicate balance by a gradual lengthening of the tether, seeks to retain the “rope” unsevered, such that the characters and the action remain real, and of real life, rather than dissolve and burst in an uncreditable lightness of fantastic non-being. While appearing to let the balloon cast free in episodes such as those of Middle Earth and the Galactic Council of the Immortals, Spiritus Mundi retains even then an invisible tether unsevered, such that the balloon can again return to earth and act as a banner in its call to real human action and reserve for its characters real human experience, those characters retaining the gravitas of human reality rather than inflating and insubstantializing into the thin air of fantasy, just as Odysseus remains human in weight and wholeness despite having fought with Cyclopses and journeyed to the Underworld of Hades, and as Faust in Goethe’s Part I and Part II remains human in depth and weight despite having compacted with Mephistopheles and cavorted with Helen in Arcadia and Walpurgis mount witches.
(Parenthetically, Spiritus Mundi also contains a “short story” a children’ fable written in Eva’s Blog by the character Eva Strong, a writer of children’s books entitled “A Rope of Remarkable Length” which plays with James’ concept of the “Balloon of Experience.”)
We may thus say that mimesis and perhaps science, holds up the ideal of a “perfect mirror” to reflect the real world accurately as an aid to its understanding. Yet such an ideal can never be complete as to the human world, which is situated in time and time-space, and involves the necessary complication of acting upon that world in time, utilizing an understanding derived from past experience in aid of human action in the present, undertaken with a view and intention of changing the existing present in the direction of an imagined and desired future. This is the essence of Human Action.
Thus the imagined perfect Mirror of Mimesis finds its limits not only in its barbershop inability to take in the “back of our head” without manipulation, but also in its inability, despite every multiplication of the mise-en-abime, to take in the causation of the invisible, the infinite, the subatomic infinitesimal, the warping of time-space bending the light between its surface and our eye, or the impact of the infinitude of potential realms and energies beyond the scope of our limited immediate experience.
Furthermore, fiction may lose its human weight and consequence not only from a hyperinflation of the “Magical” side of Magical Realism to the loss of any emotional or human reality in the characters and the action, but also from the opposite extreme of excessive factuality unleavened by higher emotion, as in the case of the poorer Naturalists whose works devolve into laundry lists and the boredom of a heap of uninspired news clipping facts.
Nonetheless human action requires not only a tentatively accurate picture of the real world and its processes and laws as they exist, but also an imaginative picture of a possible future to be strived for. Thus, ironically perhaps, the notion of Zola, of an “Experimental Novel,” which in his view might better explain the existing world, might best be dilated and applied to include the mythic and hypothetical dimensions, in which the moral, social and psychological possibilities of our real world, and possible future permutations of its constituent elements rooted in our past and present, might be explored, examined and valued beyond the limits of the perhaps accidental present state of affairs in the “real world,” for the purpose of evaluating their potential desirability as a blueprint or goal for human action.
Archimedes famously stated, upon discovering the principle of the lever, that he might move the world given a place to stand and a fulcrum on which to apply it. In our literature we may say that the mythic dimension, the subjunctive world of the “as if,” supplies such a locus. The imaginative dimension, the dreamed of, is the essential human tool which provides “Mythic Leverage” with which human action may, for better or worse, reshape the world. Even empirical science is dependent on the wild imaginings of “The Hypothesis” prior to the stern testing of experiment and proof. Thus, even for the “scientific socialist” whose ideal is scientific understanding of the social laws of our global society and its transformation, Spiritus Mundi, though far from perfect in any sense, need not apologize for its inclusion of the mythic dimension, as it provides the necessary “mythic leverage,” “human hypothesis,” blueprint, and motivation for mobilizing global human energies in the real world in a desirable direction. For every possible future there must be living seeds planted in our present world and in our common dreams as well as new concepts in our ideas. These then, are the aims of Spiritus Mundi in its aspirations; whether it is successful or no in its aspirations only its readers and posterity may be the legitimate judge.
Thus, Spiritus Mundi aligns itself also with the Nietzschean position of the necessity of appeal to emotion, collective dream, imagination and myth reflected in the position of the Birth of Tragedy wherewith to move the reading community to a deeper experience, evoke spiritual renewal through a return to the vital and primordial roots of life, and impel them through shared dream towards possible action in the real world through revitalization of the life force and the creative force. Thus it embraces the realm of the Mythic rather than following the viewpoint of Plato’s Republic in appealing to dry Socratic reason and excluding the realm of the mythic imagination as “lies.” It thus seeks to furnish a signpost pointing the way towards a return to our lost “mythic home” and a seminal revitalization and renewal of the primordial powers of the “mythic womb.” At times it embraces the Brechtian technique of “Verfremdungseffekt,” or making strange, to impel the community to social action, rather than resting in the inertia of Wilde’s art for art’s sake passive contemplation of the aesthetic or of Aristotle’s passivity of catharsis as in the Poetics.
Should literature then strive primarily for and limit its field of action to an accurate mimesis, a description of the world as it is, or should it extend its ken and realm of action to describing not only the “is” of the given world but also the imaginative “might be” and “as if” of a hypothetical world of the imagination, and any possible moral “ought” which may thereby arise through literary experience and social judgment?
God, it may be said, whether he exists or does not, lies within us even in the power of our minds to conceive and imagine his possibility. He is present in our collective consciousness and unconsciousness even if science cannot confirm his presence in the externally observable objective universe. In the Greek phrase which is the motto of the fictional character Günter Gross in the novel, “Entheogens liberata,—God (or his spiritual power) is within us,” (and sets us free.) God’s spirituality, with or without a scientifically verifiable God exists and may work itself into actual existence through Human Action, also comprising the action of the mind in and through Literature, even through the unbelieving social action of the Marxist and materialist revolutionary.
All of life, and all Human Action are premised upon and require some species of faith, if not the faith of the religious believer, then minimally the faith in the coherence of the natural scientific order or even in the power of life itself to endure, cohere, reproduce itself and evolve in time and space-time. Science itself is an act of faith that the structures and order of the universe are discoverable and understandable and will persist and continue to cohere. Every night’s sleep and dream is premised on the animal faith that a world, of whatever nature it consists, and indeed our very selves, will be there to awaken into in the morning, and that such a morning will come. The faith within our lives may be mere “animal faith” in the power of material life, rooted in our biological bodies, or it may be a faith extending further into realms either within or beyond our human comprehension.
Literature itself is an act of faith, for both the believing and the unbelieving. It is a faith that words uttered can find comprehension in beings who experience them within a shared dimension and community of existence, not only amoung its readers and partakers of the present but also amoungst the evolving generations and unborn minds to come. As such it, alongside all of the imaginative arts, is both an affirmation of life and a defiance of death. As such it encompasses is the common faith of all faiths.
Democracy itself, an extension of the dialogue and “Great Conversation” which constitutes Literature, is also a similar act of faith. It hypothesizes that out of a reasoned, even impassioned dialogue and dialectic of all of the disjointed interests, social classes, sexes, values, perceptions and misperceptions that collectively compose society, such debate, dialogue and common investigation can and will discover, not a Hobbesian “bellum omnes contra omnis” a war of extermination and chaos of all against all, but rather discoverable and communicatable common interests, dreams, values and enterprises which might form a working consensus and foundation for social order, moral legitimacy and mutual acceptance and cooperation. The specific direction of social and political engagement which is the focus of the novel Spiritus Mundi is the founding of an advisory United Nations Parliamentary Assembly as a first embryonic organ of Global Democracy within a revitalized United Nations, building upon the successful model of the EU international European Parliament. This constitutes a similarly grounded act of faith that by putting the elected representatives of all of the peoples of the world together face-to-face in our Age of Globalization, the result will not be a terminal “Clash of Civilizations” ending in internecine conflict and apocalyptic war, but rather the discovery of the roots and shoots of an emerging common global consciousness, mutual understanding, comprehension, communication, common interests and values, common dreams, the uncovering of our common humanity in the evolution of a workable consensus for sustainable global governance. All of this is not an act of faith whose success may in any way be taken for granted, as the many failed states, failed democracies and millennia of wars across the world readily attest, but it is an act of faith justified against all risk by its far greater potential and promise as a working hypothesis for the planet’s future. Needless to say this worthy hypothesis remains as yet to be proven, but the experiment lies readily and perhaps unavoidably at hand before us.
Should the modern Author then apologize for such a faith of his calling, or renounce it, be it reducible only to the “animal faith” of the materialist world unconfirmable in the dissolving laser-light of the scientific skeptic or deconstructionist? Such renunciation would amount to a renunciation of our humanity and of the wholeness of ourselves and our world, indeed a renunciation of life itself. Literature is part of and one with life, with God or without it, as each may decide to believe and to live. A fortiori, in our modern globalized world in which we and our literature must live, it necessarily now has been forced to become a World Literature rather than a merely national or polynational regional literature, sharing and taking into the balance multiple conceptions of God, faith or spiritual power, be they monotheistic, polytheistic, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, pantheistic, scientistic, humanist, existential or whatsoeverother, along with multiple human traditions, perspectives and conceptions of man, if it is to avoid the fate of the Tower of Babel and bring forth a sustainable Global Consciousness and World Culture, the needed preconditions for our continued and sustainable existence on earth and avoidance of mutual self-destruction.
But does such faith command abnegation of affirmative human action and renunciation of engagement in favor of a passive supplication of deliverance by powers that may lie beyond as suggested in the commentator’s original question? Life has always demanded otherwise. “God helps those who help themselves” is a necessary corollary to the axiom that God or God’s spiritual power or the humanist equivilant of that power lies within us, and calls upon us individually and collectively to mobilize our whole beings, energies, communities and personalities not only in service to the mere struggle for survival, but in aspiration to our further and fuller human evolution.
Thus while the plotline of Spiritus Mundi does reach outward to invoke powers beyond the mundane human and social world as we daily perceive it, it makes clear that deliverance, if any, comes not from any extrinsic “deus ex machina,” —–some god descending from the heavens unrelated to our own actions, but from the full mobilization of the spiritual forces within the individual and the collective human community of heart and mind which, undertaking a quest beyond their own powers, borrows and channels those greater powers to enhance humanity’s capacity to work out its own fate and evolution through its own fully mobilized efforts, strengthened in part by those greater powers always at work in its aid, especially in times of grave crisis. The protagonists and readers of Spiritus Mundi are thus not called on to rely on passive prayer or supplication of heaven or esoteric powers but are rather summoned to active agency and action through enhanced mobilization of their own powers. Such enhancing “greater powers” may be alternatively conceived of as some force inherent in the universe that we may call upon in our aid, or as intrinsic powers of our “Greater Self Within,” our shared and universal Collective Unconscious, that may aid in our own self-transcendence, wholeness and unification, and in our further evolution from within.
In an age of Globalization and the rise of an Internet, iPad and e-Book turbocharged World Literature transcending national borders, languages and literatures with the speed of light, it is the role of World Literature to seek common roots and commonalities across cultures and traditions. One powerful means employed in Spiritus Mundi as well as global literature generally is the use of Universal Archetypes common to all cultures in literary practice. Thus the novel invokes characters and themes that have universal appeal such as the archetypes of The Quest (the Silmaril Crystal), the Wise Man or Sage (the Magister Ludi), the Descent into the Underworld (Middle Earth and Castalia/Popul Vuh Descent in Teatro Magico, Mexico City), the Dante-like Ascent to Heaven (Journey through the Wormhole to the Black Hole in the Center of the Milky Way Galaxy and Council of Immortals), the Test or Trial, the Hero With a Thousand Faces (Band of Argonauts in Quest of the Silmaril Crystal), the Shadow (Terrorist Infiltration of Idealist Campaign), the Villain (Caesarion Khannis 23rd Century War Criminal/Milady the Dark Lady), the Underdog (Sartorius and Idealists), even the archetype of Spiritus Mundi itself (the Spirit of the World/Great Soul/Great Memory), etc. Such archetypes, perhaps rooted in our common DNA, can be seen in the tradition of C.G. Jung to underlie all cultures and traditions and thus constitute a powerful source for global appeal in the energizing of global unification and the development of a “global consciousness” of all peoples as “Citizens of the World.” They function also in deepening a renewed and revitalized “global collective unconsciousness” as a taproot for the growth of that Global Culture which must form the foundation both of a World Literature and of the emerging Global Democracy expressed in new institutions such as the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
This appeal to universal cross-cultural archetypes may also be linked to some degree of divergence from a strict adherence to social realism, addressing the dimensions of the Mythic and the Surreal in delving into the roots of human commonality in the collective unconscious of mankind. It also invokes the potential that our emerging global consciousness may attain renewed vitality, psychic wholeness and cultural creativity in furtherance of Nietzsche’s call for a renewal of the “mythic home” and “mythic womb” of modern culture.
In a perhaps common “postmodern” trope, Spirtus Mundi at one level preserves a dimension of “undecidabiity” or of the “Heisenbergian Uncertainty Principle” in that the entire events of the Grand Katabasis, the “Descent into the Underworld” of Middle Earth and Castalia, as well as the Grand Anabasis, or ascent to Heaven in the footsteps of Dante’s Paradiso via the “Wormhole” to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and the appeal to the “Council of the Immortals” are dismissed by the participants’ CIA debriefers as a “collective folie” or collective delusion of captives under the immense psychological pressures and vulnerabilities from their captivity. Thus as in the case of the “Life of Pi” at one level the reader is left to judge. Nevertheless, the force of the experience is real and changes history, whether it is conventionally true or operative as a “Supreme Fiction” of our times, and either way equally constitutes an effective reality of human action.
Similarly, the additional modern trope of popular culture and film, in Spiritus Mundi , that of “Time Travel” in the tradition of H.G. Wells and of “The Terminator, “whereby the Magister Ludi Abor Linkin pursues the 23rd Century War Criminal Caesarion Khannis back to our time to prevent his Terminator-like abortion in timespace of the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, whether literally true or imagined, reinforces the overarching reality of the interdependence and commonwealth of interest of the extended generations of humanity in space-time. Those generations past, present and future, work hand in hand in shaping our history and the evolving world in which we must live in all ages, and in evolving that Universal Civilization which is the common heritage of mankind across all centuries.
But regardless of such ambiguities, at least in its intent and aspirations, Spiritus Mundi does not leave us in the passivity and paralysis of undecidability or contentment with bourgeois withdrawal which is the failing and bane of much of Postmodern fiction, nor leave us as passive supplicants to an imagined heaven, but rather in service to a greater end, calls us beyond our skeptic myopias and passivity to engage a greater active engagement with life itself and the ultimate reality beyond such solipsistic horizons, evoking a higher “Realism of Greater Life” and “Literature of Engagement,” embodying a Call to Action in fullest engagement with and participation in the further evolution of such life—individual, social, political and spiritual—on our planet and in our time.
In conclusion, why then include the dimension of the Mythic, the Great Dream, the very elements of a Fantasy which might be called into doubt by the pure rationalist skeptic? Further, if Spiritus Mundi be judged as a work of Political and Social Engagement, having as one of its primary goals a Call to Action to save our planet through the evolution of some system of Global Governance rooted in principles of Democracy, extending the very concept of Democracy to the global arena, why indeed write a work of fiction at all? Would it not be more effective in the eyes of a perhaps “puritan” rationalist or social reformer to simply write a tract outlining the advantages and disadvantages of such a step, present its argument and allow the public to decide the case on the merits, unclouded by artistic obfuscations? Is it folly for a work to attempt to serve “two masters,” one of rational persuasion and the other of artistic delight? Is the genre of the “political novel” fatally flawed as a perversion of art?
In answering these questions it were well to look to our artistic heritage and tradition as well as our shared human condition. Perhaps no dictum of our Western tradition of literary criticism, shared by others, is more deep rooted and venerated than that of Horace, in the Ars Poetica, or Art of Poetry setting forth the two principal goals of a work of literature, poetry or art as to “instruct and delight:”
“The aim of the poet is to inform and delight, or to combine together, in what he says, both pleasure and applicability to life.”
Thus from the earliest time the great poets and artists have recognized the necessity of “serving two masters.” Horace in this way diverges from the “art for art’s sake” credo of Oscar Wilde, which would make pure delight and “style” the one key criterion, yet avoids the other extreme of turning literature into pure propaganda or pure rational analysis. Art must straddle both horses. Art must both create beauty and move the heart with delight, but also must not leave the partaker merely besotted with pleasure, but in addition leave him or her strengthened through some greater wisdom, insight or power in “applicability to life.”
Why two masters instead of one? Because ever the human creature situated in the human condition is guided swervingly and inconsistently by both heart and head, by reason and emotion, by the rational and the irrational, the Apollinian and the Dionysian, Yin and Yang, and we may expect such contradiction to persist at least for some time into our foreseeable future before, if ever, this condition alters. Such being the case both art and reasoned discourse will ever be constrained to address both the heart and the head together, rather than one alone. This is a perhaps happy constraint, as it forces art to address, foster and support the greater wholeness and holistic integrity of both the individual personality and of the social community and its culture.
Spiritus Mundi, thus, in obedience to the invocation of Horace seeks to reach the head of our Global Village via its heart, and its heart not excluding its head. And the appeal to the heart, when linked with a call to action and social engagement as a species of “applicability to life,” a fortiori, to overcome a not inconsiderable inertia requires mobilization of far stronger emotional energies than were the goal to produce only a passive delight. Thus the work need not apologize overmuch for its divergence from a more puritan rationalist standard of social realism through the inclusion of the Archetypes, the elements of the “Marvellous,” and lengthening its “rope of remarkable length” tethered to buoyant fantasy to reach those “levers of the heart” which may enable a deeper and wholer persuasion and move humankind onwards even to action.
Moreover, though taking exception with Wilde’s overall position that art should eschew instruction and “applicability to life” altogether, inhabiting its chaste artistic tower of “l’art pour l’art” beyond the more tawdry concerns of social engagement and didactic moralism, it would be well to give enough weight to his principles to affirm that if such elements create of themselves beauty and delight, it were no poor thing to allow such beauty and delight so serve as their own end and self-justification, granting beauty its own truth.
COPYRIGHT ROBERT SHEPPARD 2013 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
FOR FURTHER INTRODUCTION TO SPIRITUS MUNDI, NOVEL BY ROBERT SHEPPARD, See:
Introducing Spiritus Mundi, a Novel by Robert Sheppard
Author’s E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Related Links and Websites: Spiritus Mundi, Novel by Robert Sheppard
For Introduction and Overview of the Novel: https://spiritusmundinovel.wordpress.com/
For Updates on the Upcoming Movie Version of the Novel, Spiritus Mundi & Casting of Actors and Actresses for Leading Roles See: https://robertalexandersheppard.wordpress.com/
For Author’s Blog: https://robertalexandersheppard.wordpress.com//
To Read About the Occupy Wall Street Movement in Spiritus Mundi: http://occupywallstreetnovel.wordpress.com/
To Read a Sample Chapter from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundisamplechapters.wordpress.com/
To Read Fantasy, Myth and Magical Realism Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundifantasymythandmagicalrealism.wordpress.com/
To Read Sexual Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: The Varieties of Sexual Experience: https://spiritusmundivarietiesofsexualexperience.wordpress.com/
To Read Spy, Espionage and Counter-terrorism Thriller Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: http://spiritusmundispyespionagecounterterrorism.wordpress.com/
To Read Geopolitical and World War Three Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundigeopoliticalworldwar3.wordpress.com/
To Read Spiritual and Religious Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundionspiritualityandreligion.wordpress.com/
To Read about the Global Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly in Spiritus Mundi : https://spiritusmundiunitednationsparliamentaryassembly.wordpress.com/
To Read Poetry from Spiritus Mundi ：https://spiritusmundipoetry.wordpress.com/
For Discussions on World Literature and Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi: http://worldliteratureandliterarycriticism.wordpress.com/
For Discussions of World History and World Civilization in Spiritus Mundi: https://worldhistoryandcivilizationspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
To Read the Blog of Eva Strong from Spiritus Mundi: https://evasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
To Read the Blog of Andreas Sarkozy from Spiritus Mundi: http://andreasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
To Read the Blog of Yoriko Oe from Spiritus Mundi: http://yorikosblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
To Read the Blog of Robert Sartorius from Spiritus Mundi: http://sartoriusblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
ON SPIRITUS MUNDI
“Read Robert Sheppard’s sprawling, supple novel, Spiritus Mundi, an epic story of global intrigue and sexual and spiritual revelation. Compelling characters, wisdom, insight, and beautiful depictions of locations all over the world will power you through the book. You’ll exit wishing the story lines would go on and on.” May 13, 2012
Robert McDowell, Editor, Writer, Marketer, Editorial Cra, The Nature of Words
“Robert Sheppard’s novel, “Spiritus Mundi,” has everything.”Spiritus Mundi ” is Latin, meaning “spirit” or “soul of the world.” According to the Norton Anthology of English Literature, the phrase refers to “the spirit or soul of the universe” with which all individual souls are connected through the “Great Memory.” This amazing novel is all inclusive and unceasingly riveting. If you are interested in politics, philosophy, human relationships, sex, intrigue, betrayal, poetry and even philosophy — buy and read “Spiritus Mundi “!”November 18, 2012
Raymond P. Keen, School Psychologist, Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS)
“Robert Sheppard’s new novel “Spiritus Mundi” is a new twist on a well-loved genre. Robert leaves no stone unturned in this compelling page turner you’ll experience mystery, suspense, thrills, and excitement. Robert touches on sexuality and spirituality in such a way that the reader is compelled to ask them “what would you do if faced with these trials?” Robert is a master at taking the reader out of their own lives and into the world he created. If you’re looking for a “can’t put down” read pick up Spiritus Mundi!” May 20, 2012
Nicole Breanne, Content Coordinator, Ranker.com
“Longing for a thrilling experience of the sexual and spiritual world? Expecting a thorough summoning of your inner heart? Aspiring to find an extraordinary voice to enlighten your understanding heart? Then you can’t miss this extraordinary novel, Spiritus Mundi by Robert Sheppard. The author will spirit you into an exciting world filled with fantasy, myth, conflicts and wisdom from a fresh perspective. Don’t hesitate, just turn to the 1st page and start out enjoying this marvellous journey.”November 17, 2012
Alina Mu Liu, Official Interpreter, Editor & Translator, HM Courts & Tribunal Service, London UK & the United Nations
“Robert Sheppard’s Spiritus Mundi is a literary novel for those with an extensive vocabulary, and who believe how you tell a story is as important as what occurs in it. It is as current as today’s headlines.
Jaime Martinez-Tolentino, Writer” November 19, 2012
“Robert Sheppard’s exciting new novel, Spiritus Mundi, is an unforgettable read and epic journey of high adventure and self-discovery across the scarred landscape of the modern world and into the mysteries beyond. Its compelling saga reveals the sexual and spiritual lives of struggling global protesters and idealists overcoming despair, nuclear terrorism, espionage and a threatened World War III to bring the world together from the brink of destruction with a revolutionary United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and spiritual rebirth. This modern epic is a must read and compelling vision of the future for all Citizens of the Modern World and a beacon of hope pointing us all towards a better world struggling against all odds to be born.” May 19, 2012
Lara Biyuts, Reviewer and Blogger at Goodreads.com and Revue Blanche
“Robert Sheppard’s “Spiritus Mundi ” is a book of major importance and depth. A must read for any thinking, compassionate human being living in these perilous times. I highly recommend this powerful testament of the current course of our so-called life on his planet. April 25, 2012
Doug Draime Writer, Freelance
“This new novel ‘Spiritus Mundi ‘ brings together history, politics, future society, and blends with a plausible World War Three scenario. I have read it and find it over the top fascinating. I am very glad to see Robert share his creativity with the world through this work of fiction, and know it will be a huge hit.” April 28, 2012
Jim Rogers, Owner and Director, AXL
“Robert Sheppard is an exceptional thinker! His work should be read and made the subject of critical study.”May 26, 2012
Georgia Banks-Martin, Editor, New Mirage Journal
“This novel rocks the reader with its supple strength. You want to say “No, No,” and you end up saying, “Maybe.” Political science fiction at its highest, most memorable level.”November 17, 2012
Carl Macki, Owner, Carl Macki Social Media
“Robert Sheppard’s Novel Spiritus Mundi confronts politics and philosophies of the world. He’s examined multiple layers of personality in his characters; male, female, Chinese, Arab, English, and American melding them into a story of possible outcomes. How else can I convey the intelligent presentation of fiction woven with sensitivity to our world’s governments, religious influences and sectarian principles? We must not forget the influence of a largely secular world. Robert tirelessly checked, rechecked and triple checked his resources in order to bring a fiction of occurrence, and psychological impact as set forth in his novel Spiritus Mundi.”November 18, 2012
Glenda Fralin, Author, Organization NWG
“Robert was one of my best guests. His novel is as wide ranging as are his interests and expertise. He can explain his various ideas with great clarity and he does this with compassion. Novel is worthwhile reading.”November 18, 2012
Dr. Robert Rose, Radio Show Host, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icdrrose
I write to introduce to your attention my double novel Spiritus Mundi , consisting of Spiritus Mundi , the Novel—Book I, and Spiritus Mundi , the Romance—Book II. Book I’s espionage-terror-political-religious thriller-action criss-crosses the globe from Beijing to London to Washington, Mexico City and Jerusalem presenting a vast panorama of the contemporary international world, including compelling action, deep and realistic characters and surreal adventures, while Book II dilates the setting and scope into a fantasy (though still rooted in the real) adventure where the protagonists embark on a quest to the realms of Middle Earth and its Crystal Bead Game and through a wormhole to the Council of the Immortals in the Amphitheater in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy in search of the crucial Silmaril Crystal, and to plead for the continuance of the human race in the face of threatened extinction from a nuclear World War III, all followed by a triple-somersault thriller ending in which a common garden-variety terrorist attack is first uncovered by MI6 and the CIA as the opening gambit a Greatpower Game of States threatening World War III and then, incredibly, as the nexus of a Time Travel conspiracy involving an attempt by fascist forces of the 23rd Century to alter a benign World History by a time-travelling raid on their past and our present to provoke that World War III, foiled by the heroic efforts of the democratic 23rd Century world government, the Senate of the United States of Earth, to hunt down the fascist interlopers before their history is irrevocably altered for evil.
When activist Robert Sartorius, leading a global campaign to create a European Parliament-style world-wide United Nations Parliamentary Assembly presses the proposal in New York on his old friend the UN Secretary-General and is rebuffed due to the hostile pressure of the conservative American administration, his Committee resolves to fight back by launching a celebrity-driven Bono-Geldof-Band Aid/Live 8-style “People Power” media campaign and telethon spearheaded by rock superstars Isis and Osiris and former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to mobilize global public support and pressure in alliance with the Occupy Wall Street Movements worldwide. The Blogs of Sartorius, activist Eva Strong and Committee Chairman Andreas Sarkozy reveal the campaign’s working struggle, their tangled love affairs, a loss of faith, attempted suicide, reconciliation of father and son after divorce, and recovery of personal love and faith.
Things fall apart as the idealists’ global crusade is infiltrated by a cell of jihadist terrorists using it as a cover, then counter-infiltrated by CIA agent Jack McKinsey and British MI6 agent Etienne Dearlove. A cat-and-mouse game of espionage and intrigue ensues pitting them against the Chinese MSS espionage network allied with the Iranian Quds Force crossing Beijing, London, Moscow, Washington and Jerusalem unleashing an uncontrollable series of events which sees the American Olympic Track and Field Team bombed on an airplane in London, uncovers a secret conspiracy of China, Russia and Iran to jointly seize the oil reserves of the Middle-East, and witnesses Presidents Clinton and Carter taken hostage with Sartorius, McKinsey, Eva and other activists at a Jerusalem telethon rally cut short by the explosion of a concealed atomic device in a loaned Chinese Terracotta Warrior, then flown by capturing terrorists to Qom, Iran as “human shields” to deter a retaliatory nuclear attack.
In Book II, Spiritus Mundi , the Romance they encounter Iran’s Supreme Leader in Qom as the world teeters on the brink of nuclear confrontation and World War III, while mysterious events unfold leading Sartorius and McKinsey from their captivity in the underground nuclear facilities of Qom into a hidden neo-mythic dimension that takes them to a vast ocean and land at the center of the world, Middle Earth, Inner Shambhala, and to involvement in a mysterious Castalian “Crystal Bead Game” linked to the destiny of the human race on earth. They then embark on a quest for the Silmaril, or Missing Seed Crystal to the central island of Omphalos in the Great Central Sea in the middle of the globe, aided by Goethe, the Chinese Monkey King, Captain Nemo, the African God-Hero Ogun, and a Sufi mystic they traverse a ‘wormhole’ at the center of the earth guarded by ‘The Mothers’ and the fallen angel tribe of the Grigori (Genesis 6:1-4) which leads the way to critical meeting of the “Council of the Immortals” at the Black Hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy to determine the final fate of the human species. The heroes battle and overcome the treacherous opposition of Mephisto and his satanic subaltern Mundus through their Underworld and Otherworld adventures and successfully plead the cause of the continuation of the human species before the Immortals, returning with the critical Silmaril Crystal, resolving the Crystal Bead Game and thereby inspiring through the Archangel Gabriel a dream in the mind of Iran’s Supreme Leader which brings a new Revelation causing him to release the hostages and an end the crisis. China and Russia stand down from aiding Iran in seizing the Mid-East oil reserves, but in a treacherous blow the Chinese instead utilize their forward-positioned armies to attack their former ally Russia and seize Siberia with its large oil and gas reserves instead. President Barret Osama, America’s newly-elected first black President then invites Russia, Japan and South Korea to join NATO and together they succeed in expelling the Chinese from Siberia and usher in a new Eurasian and global balance of power and a New World Order.
Rock Superstar Osiris meanwhile, after undertaking a narcissistic Messianic mission in the wake of the Jerusalem atomic blast is dramatically assassinated on live world-wide television on Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa by a disillusioned follower. His wife and rock-star partner Isis then leads a spiritual movement to reconcile and unite the clashing religions and catalyze a common global spiritual Renaissance through a Global Progressive Spiritual Alliance which seeks to construct an Inter-faith Temple on the ruins of the atomic blast in Jerusalem. In counter-reaction to the cataclysmic events the world finally implements Sartorius’ crusade for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, but not before Sartorius has himself has died, Moses-like of a heart attack while helping to foil a metaconspiracy mediated by Time Travel in which a fascist agent from the 23rd Century who has time-transited back to our time to alter a benign history by causing WWIII and thus preventing the evolution of a democratic world government, the United States of Earth, which follows him through time and nabs him just in the “nick of time” to prevent Armageddon. The book ends with the opening ceremony of the UN Parliamentary Assembly which is attended in Sartorius’ name by his widow Eva Strong, whom Sartorius had fallen in love with and married in the course of the novel, and by their son Euphy, newborn after Sartorius’ death. They are joined in cinematic climax at the ceremony by newly chosen UN Secretary-General Clinton, President Osama and UN Parliamentary Assembly Committee Chairman Andreas Sarkozy who have just received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in creation of the world’s first world parliamentary assembly within the United Nations, bringing together the representative voices of the peoples of the world in face-to-face assembly and dialogue for the first time in world history.
All the Highlights of the novel cannot be contained in such a short Introduction, but a few of them would include:
1. Spiritus Mundi is the first novel in world history to portray the creation of an Assembly on the working model, inter alia, of the European Parliament and the first novel to portray the Occupy Wall Street Movement and related movements worldwide;
2. Spiritus Mundi is a prophetic geo-political WWIII novel of the near future foreseeing a conflict and conspiratorial surprise attack by a resurgent “Axis” of China, Russia and Iran seeking by a decisive blow in jointly seizing the Middle-East oil fields to radically alter the global balance of power vis-a-vis the West in the world and Eurasia. Like Clancy’s The Bear and the Dragon, it foresees the inclusion of Russia in NATO, and goes far beyond in foreseeing the inclusion of South Korea and Japan, following a joint Chinese-Russian occupation of a collapsing North Korea and the Axis strike at the Middle-Eastern oil fields;
3. Spiritus Mundi is an exciting espionage thriller involving the American CIA. British MI6, the Chinese MSS, or Ministry of State Security and the Russian SVR contending in a duel of intrigue and espionage;
4. Spiritus Mundi is a Spellbinding Terrorism/Counterterrorism novel involving a global plot to conceal an atomic bomb in a Chinese Terracotta Warrior to be detonated in Jerusalem;
5. Features the romantic and sexual searching and encounters of dozens of idealist activists, rock-stars, CIA and MI6 agents, public-relations spinmeisters and billionaires with a detour into the bi-sexual and gay scenes of Beijing, New York, California, London and Tokyo:
6. Establishes and grounds the new genre of the Global Novel written in Global English, the international language of the world,
7. Spiritus Mundi is a novel of Spiritual Searching featuring the religious searching of Sufi mystic Mohammad ala Rushdie, as well as the loss of faith, depression, attempted suicide and recovery of faith in life of protagonist Sartorius. Follows bogus religious cult leaders and the Messiah-Complex megalomaniac-narcissistic mission of rock superstar Osiris that leads to his dramatic assassination on worldwide television in Jerusalem, followed by the religious conversion of his wife and rock-star partner Isis;
8. Features the search for love and sexual fulfillment of Eva Strong, a deeply and realistically portrayed divorced single mother involved in the United Nations campaign, who reveals her tortured heart and soul in her Blog throughout several disastrous sexual affairs and ultimately through her final attainment of love and marriage to Sartorius;
9. Features Sartorius’ experience of a bitter divorce, alienation and reconciliation with his son, his loss of faith and attempted suicide, his battle against drugs and alcoholism, his surreal and sexual adventures in Mexico City, and his subsequent redeeming love and marriage to Eva Strong;
10. Contains the in–depth literary conversations of Sartorius and his best friend, Literature Nobel Laureate Günter Gross, as they conduct worldwide interviews and research for at book they are jointly writing on the emergence of the new institution of World Literature, building on Goethe’s original concept of “Weltliteratur” and its foundations and contributions from all the world’s traditions and cultures;
11. Predicts the emergence of the institution and quest of “The Great Global Novel” as a successor to the prior quest after “The Great American Novel” in the newer age of the globalization of literature in Global English and generally;
12. Features the cross-cultural experiences and search for roots, sexual and spiritual fulfillment and authenticity of Asian-American character Jennie Zheng, and Pari Kasiwar of India;
13. For the first time incorporates in the dramatic narrative flow of action the mythic traditions of all the cultures and literatures of the world, including such figures as Goethe, The Chinese Monkey King, the African God-Hero Ogun, surreal adventures in the ‘Theatro Magico’ in Mexico City bringing to life figures from the Mayan-Aztec Popul Vuh, Hanuman from the Indian classic the Ramayana, and many more;
14. Book Two, Spiritus Mundi , the Romance is a fantastic Fantasy, Myth and Magical Realism Rollercoaster Ride: The more mythic Book Two utilizes a Wellsian motif of Time Travel to explore the making of history and its attempted unmaking (a la Terminator) by a hostile raid from the future on the past, our present, and the foiling of the fascist attempt by an alliance of men and women of goodwill and courage from past, present and future generations united in a Commonwealth of Human Destiny; Like Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day and Welles’ Journey to the Center of the Earth it involves a journey to an interior realm of the “Middle Earth;” it also contains a futuristic travel through a wormhole to the center of our Milky Way Galaxy for a meeting with the “Council of the Immortals” where the fate of the human race will be decided;
15. Is a fantastic read on a roller-coaster ride of high adventure and self-exploration!
C Copyright 2013 Robert Sheppard All Rights Reserved