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Welcome to an fictional worlds node of the Pandeism index!!


I give you this premise: Suppose all of fiction were, in actuality, simply an alternate reality? A report of the actual goings-on in another Universe? -- And, indeed, even one which the author could willingly create and alter by setting forth in the writing of it?

I have written quite a few nodes now on Pandeism as it relates to this fictional world or that -- generally from the premise that Pandeism would or would not be a plausible theological model to explain such things as the mystical "Force" of Star Wars, the multiplicity of humanoid aliens in Star Trek, and the magical operation of Harry Potter's world. But what we have here is not a proposal as to whether Pandeism would account for phenomena in the worlds envisioned in the fiction of science fiction visionary Robert A. Heinlein (it is unquestionably clearly established as a viable explanation of the goings-on, for example, in Stranger in a Strange Land, where it is explicitly contended that we are all aspects of a greater Creator, able to do miraculous things.... if we will only relax and accept this). This discussion is, rather, a rumination on Heinlein's own unserious theory of the degree to which "fiction" itself might be considered "real."

Heinlein's unserious Eschatological Pantheistic Multiple- Ego Solipsism

A lexical contribution of Heinlein's was his coining of the phrase, Pantheistic Multiple-Ego solipsism. This phrase has little to do with either Pantheism or solipsism, but it indeed has something to do with Pandeism. In his last book, the 1987 novel, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Heinlein sets forward the suggestion that alternative Universes are created simply by imagining them; that is, all the ‘Universes’ described in fiction are real, and are made real by the very act of describing them in fiction. He writes, surely tongue in cheek, of a party, where people from multiple Universes -- fictional to one another -- gather in yet another ‘reality,’ describing:
the biggest party ever held anywhere, bigger than the Field of the Cloth of Gold: the First Centennial Convention of the Interuniversal Society for Eschatological Pantheistic Multiple- Ego Solipsism, with guests from dozens of universes. It was a wonderful party and the few people killed in the games went straight to Valhalla — -I saw them go.
And so Heinlein does go. In generating his “notion of ‘the world as myth,’ the idea that we create what is usually called reality” — he suggests that authors who write sweeping and seductive accounts of other worlds in actuality create those worlds, which then become as real as our own. Heinlein himself wrote in that same account that “Much as I love Hilda, much as I love Jubal and respect his analytical genius, World-as-Myth doesn’t explain anything.” But Heinlein, who had taken a closer approach to the pandeistic model of a Creator (or Deus) than many before, may have understood a necessary and fundamental truth as to the experience of the Deus. For, indeed, it was one of Heinlein’s favourite and most recurring characters, the wise and ancient Lazarus Long (whose voice was often Heinlein's own, who in Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love” held to the aphorism that in creating our Universe, “God split himself into a myriad parts that he might have friends.” Lazarus continues, “This may not be true, but it sounds good — and is no sillier than any other theology.”

And indeed, Pandeism proposes that our Creator, the Deus shares in the physical experience of our Universe as a whole, including the sensations of pain and pleasure (and within that all the sensations of friendship) of all living things, and the observations of real and happening events through the eyes of those which are able to observe. But the Deus shares in the thoughts of all beings which are able to think as well, and the human experience offers a world of examples of thoughts which do not comport with reality in the least. There are two important paths by which such thoughts are manifest, delusion and fiction.

A trip through the lens of realized unreality

Consider through this lens the immensely popular world of Star Trek -- not, by the way, from the question of how Pandeism would manifest this world, but from how the popularity of this fictional collection of works impacts our real world. Star Trek is woven to some degree into our thoughts and memories and the things we think we know. This multimedia phenomenon began as a television series which ran for three years, and was cancelled. But, beloved as it was to its core audience, it modernly occupies a world all its own, having spawned several additional television series, more than a dozen theatrical films (it has been calculated that the film and television media alone add up to over 550 hours of material, so that one might spend a month watching Star Trek for 18 hours every day, and still not see it all), scores of novelisations, comic books, role playing games, video games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, conventions, all unsurprisingly topped with fan-fiction which takes the original concept in directions utterly unforeseen (and often unapproved) by its creator. All of the ‘experience’ of Star Trek is in actuality the experience of hundreds of millions of human beings who experience this media -- from those who envision it and tangibly create it, to those who consume it, ingest it, incorporate it into their very being.

Now, there are without question some small number of people who have real difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, and who consequently conduct their existence with the conviction that Star Trek is a portrayal of real events. But the vast majority of participants in this (or any other) genre know at a fundamental level that what we see on the screen is a troupe of actors reciting lines on a carefully constructed set, and that what we read is an author’s fanciful musings. Nonetheless, the participants in this “real” world commit ourselves to spending some time suspending our partaking of reality, ignoring the fundamental truths of our lives and instead committing our thoughts, our imaginations, to the temporary illusion that what we see on the screen is real, that what we read in the novel is a true account.

In the realm of fiction, there exists the phenomenon known as the ‘willing suspension of disbelief,’ a phrase first used by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817, in his Biographia Literaria, wherein he writes of certain of his poems, though touching upon the supernatural, which are nonetheless designed “so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”

The experience of writing fiction may even have this effect upon its author. E.M. Forster has insisted of characters in fiction that they:
…arrive when evoked, but full of the spirit of mutiny. For they have these numerous parallels with people like ourselves, they try to live their own lives and are consequently often engaged in treason against the main scheme of the book. They ‘run away,’ they ‘get out of hand,’ they are creations inside a creation and often inharmonious towards it; if they are given complete freedom they kick the book to pieces, and if they are kept too sternly in check, they revenge themselves by dying, and destroy it by intestinal decay.
Luigi Pirandello, in his play, “Six Characters in Search of An Author,” has the character called ‘the Father’ declare:
Authors, as a whole, hide the labours of their creations. When the characters are really alive before their author, the latter does nothing but follow them in their action, in their words, in the situations which they suggest to him; and he has to will them the way they will themselves — for there’s trouble if he doesn’t. When a character is born, he acquires at once such an independence, even of his own author, that he can be imagined by everybody even in many other situations where the author never dreamed of placing him; and so he acquires for himself a meaning which the author never thought of giving him.
And William Gass once made the observation,
from any given body of fictional text, nothing necessarily follows, and anything plausibly may . . . . Authors are gods — a little tinny sometimes but omnipotent no matter what, and plausible on top of that, if they can manage it.
Recall the concept of how conatus compels divine ketosis through a radical kenosis. It has a separate connotation relevant to this area. For in literature and the fine arts, kenosis describes the affect, the feeling, which the reader of lyric or of poetry forms experiences. In emptying of the ego-personality of the reader into the immediate sensory manipulation of poetics, this form of kenosis inflicts upon the reader an experience of timelessness. The comparable affect created by drama is called catharsis, and that created by literature is kairosis.

And, more to that, we add to what we see, and especially to what we read. We imagine the fictional characters in circumstances and situations outside of anything which we have seen or read, wondering how they might react to certain situations, projecting our understanding of them into new stories which exist nowhere but our fleeting thoughts. When we read, our mind provides the visualisations, the voices, even some of the emotion of those characters — things which go beyond the written word, and are in most instances unique to each reader.

In apprehension how like a god

In Pandeism, the Deus, the Creator-which-has-become-all-things, shares in these experiences in the same way in which it shares in all experiences of mundane reality. Verily, the shared experience of a million, or ten million, or a hundred million people around the world having watched a particular movie, having all had the opportunity to react internally to the lives of the often-fictional people thrown up on the screen, surely occupies a more profound place than the true life of any single average individual. So, without ever even having an objective experience of the reality of any of these worlds created in fiction, the Deus shares in the collective subjective experience of all who partake in the fiction. Moreover, here we have discussed fiction which is presented and accepted as fiction. But the Deus has the same experience of sharing in our collective subjective experience of religion, and of the tales of the Buddha, of Moses, of Jesus, of Arjuna, of Mohammed, as felt by practitioners of those faiths.

And verily, so diverse and astounding are the worlds imagined in the minds of men, worlds of magic and miracles and mythic creatures, worlds of odd rules and amazing technology, one might well wonder whether our inevitable invention and experiencing of such worlds was itself a desire expressed in the plan of a Creator. Was our infinite array of fiction a motivation to a Creator setting forth a Universe such as this -- a Universe even capable of generating.... our very own Metro City Chronicles?

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