Archive for April, 2014

The underground stream is always present, always speaking to us across the full range of human experience. However, the mature visions normally drown out its voice. They act as a kind of control valve that causes us to dismiss the magical assumptions of the underground stream as implausible and unfounded.

It’s only when an aging vision starts to falter that the underground stream is able to break through in the specific area covered by that vision. For example, when the reason vision began failing in the 1880s, it provided an opening for unrestrained speculation about the potentials of the human mind.

The successor to reason — the chaos vision — was still very close to its mystical roots then, and its focus on non-rational states of consciousness such as dream, madness, and intoxication was entirely compatible with the raw shamanistic perceptions of spiritualists and occultists.

The idea of psychic abilities, in particular, was considered worthy of serious scientific investigation. When the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London in 1882, it had a range of interests that encompassed everything from thought-transference and mesmerism to spirit mediums and haunted houses. Its mission was “to approach these varied problems without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned enquiry which has enabled science to solve so many problems.”

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I keep finding there’s more to say about the underground stream before I move on with 1940s science fiction.

One thing I’m particularly coming to appreciate is the extent to which the underground stream functions as an altered state of consciousness. It operates out of its own strain of dream logic that has little in common with the formal premises and conclusions of the conventional visions. It seizes hold of the imagination in such a way that works produced under its influence often display a strangely hypnotic quality.

It is also like dream and intoxication in that we may forget its insights when we return to a more rational state of mind, only to recall them instantly once we are back in the dream. This is why there is typically a direct continuity of attitudes and assumptions from one period when the underground stream is prominent to the next.

There were, for example, multiple links between the fantasies and mythic speculations of the 1940s and the birth of the creative imagination vision at the end of the 1960s. Similar affinities tie the most utopian dreams and most radical works of imaginative fiction of the 1980s and early 90s to the present day.

The interplay between the dream states of the underground stream and the intellectual formulations that reach their culmination in every dominant partnership also appears to underlie the recurring four-phase sequence of the cycle of visions.

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