Sunday, April 12, 2009


In The Secret History of the World, Mark Booth essentially blames organized religion for covering up the truth about mankind’s origins. He refers to the age of the Roman Empire as The Age of Disenchantment, and argues that the violent (animalistic) culture of that time and place threatened to forever cut off mankind from the spirit world. Enter Jesus Christ, a savior produced by the imagination of God in collaboration with the imagination of man. Booth explains: “The life of Jesus as it has come down to us might look like a patchwork of events in the lives of those who came before him: born to a Virgin, like Krishna: born on December 25, like Mithras; heralded by a star in the east, like Horus; walking on water and feeding the five thousand from a small basket, like Buddha; performing healing miracles, like Pythagoras; raising from the dead, like Elisha; executed on a tree, like Adonis; ascending to heaven, like Hercules, Enoch and Elijah… It is hard to find any act or saying ascribed to the Jesus of the Gospels that had not been foreshadowed in some way. Anyone minded to think corrosively will decide to see this as evidence that his life was a fiction. But in the secret history this is a universal movement of convergence as the whole cosmos strained to give birth to the new Sun god.”

Christ’s mission, he says, was to plant a seed for the future. That seed was a “sense of the importance of the individual, of the sanctity of individual life, the transcendental power of one’s individual freely chosen love for another.” Through Christ, people were able to see – for the first time – their own personal histories and futures in relation to the past and future of the larger world. Admittedly, it’s a bold statement: Christ taught the individual to see himself (or herself) in context. This produced unhealthy effects as well as healthy ones. Take, for example, the character of Astrid in The House Between. Her upbringing in the Christian Church has made her feel isolated, guilty, and often self-loathing… to the point that she fantasizes about self-annihilation.

Why does she feel this way? Maybe it’s because she instinctively knows that her own, personal nature is at odds with the traditional teachings of the organized Church. Over the course of the series we learn that Astrid is a psychic medium. Perhaps she was born that way, or perhaps her father Ethan did something to her that made her that way. It’s sometimes said that mediums gain their powers through a trauma in their childhood that causes a tear in the membrane between the physical and spirit worlds. Whatever the cause, Astrid is unable to understand and accept her apparently supernatural powers. She represses them, and in the process causes death and destruction (particularly in the episode RUINED). It is only in the third season that she finally escapes this cycle (with a little genetic-reshuffling help from Arlo) and overcomes her religion-based fears.

It’s worth noting here that the character of Theresa, who represents Eastern religion, is often just as self-centered and self-defeating as Astrid. She has a sometimes-instinctive, sometimes-intellectual understanding of the inter-connectedness of all living things, but she lacks emotional depth, from which springs human love. In the third season, she finally evolves through her love for Arlo.

According to the secret history, the Church isn’t the only system that can hold people back. Reductive science also prevents mankind’s evolution by killing off our sense of wonder. Booth explains: “Modern science tries to enforce a narrow, reductive view of our consciousness. It tries to convince us of the unreality of elements, even quite persistent elements in experience, that it cannot explain. These include the shadowy power of prayer, premonitions, the feeling of being stared at, the evidence for mind-reading, out-of-body experiences, meaningful coincidences and other things swept under the carpet by modern science. And much, much more importantly, science in this reductive mood denies the universal experience that life has a meaning. Some scientists even deny that the question of whether or not life has a meaning is worth asking.”

Bill Clark’s frequent bull headedness (often coming in response to Theresa’s new age mysticism) illustrates this idea perfectly. He is ultra-rational to the point that he becomes self-defeating. Significantly, we the viewers are bound to Bill as our stereotypical sci-fi “hero” because series creator John Muir, a professed atheist, is bound to him as the only fixed point in the story. The character of Bill grounds us in consensus “reality” – an admittedly important function in a series full of lofty, confusing ideas. Throughout the second season, Bill refuses to accept “unscientific” ideas about the possibilities of alternative consciousness. In combination with Astrid’s shortcomings, this leads to disaster in RUINED. In the third season, Bill finally evolves to become a true hero. In ADDICTED, the close-minded scientist exists (or, rather, subsists) within a closed loop. On the surface, the individual has everything he wants, but Bill knows that his life lacks a larger meaning and context. In this episode, he finally realizes that he must go beyond scientific observation – must embrace hope and wonder – in order to live a good life.

Mark Booth continues to trace the history of the world to the Renaissance and the Romantic Revolution, a period in which imagination – through a process like alchemy – can recreate reality. The root impulse of the Renaissance, the author explains, was a sexual one: “Let us be clear about the outrageous thing we are saying here – that the whole of human conscious was transformed and moved to another level of evolution just because a few people performed the sexual act in a new way.” Nearly all art that has come since tells us that all magic is a power of mind over matter.

This philosophy is embodied by Arlo, an imaginative character who has the innate ability to utilize the smart house technology as it was meant to be utilized: he can manifest physical objects simply by picturing them. Of course, it is only gradually – over the course of the series – that Arlo learns to control this power, which is equally capable of creation and destruction. The volatility of his character in the first season is slowly brought under control by the influence of Theresa, with whom he falls in love. Arlo and Theresa’s tantric union in the third season (in the episode SCARED) is a prime example of imagination producing material results and, in RESOLVED, all of the denizens realize that Theresa’s unborn child is their “hope for the future.” This act of creation has produced an evolutionary step forward for mankind: a human/Lar hybrid, the sci-fi equivalent of the Greco-Roman demigods, children of one mortal parent (Theresa) and one immortal one (Cronus).

Artists are created the same way – through union with disembodied spirits. They do not create; they “channel” and co-create. Art results from a mysterious combination of individual psyche and cosmos, and functions as a kind of mediator between the two for others. Gothic literature, for example, suggests complicity between psyche and cosmos in a fearful way. Science fiction usually suggests complicity between psyche and cosmos in a more hopeful, accepting way.

Booth illustrates the function of art and storytelling as follows: “On one level novels are all about egotism. A novel always involves seeing the world from other people’s points of view. Reading a novel, therefore, lessens egotism… the failings of characters in novels are often to do with egotism, either in terms of self-interest or, more usually, more particularly, the failure to empathize.” This has been true of The House Between since day one. It has always been a story about different people learning to understand and accept each other, and to live and work together. It has also been a story about the ability of art to reconcile religion and science, and trigger a new form of human consciousness.

This brings us up to the present in our “secret history of the world.” Now comes the big question that any good science fiction series must ask: What does the future have in store for us?

(more to come)

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