I’ve gotten awfully deep in the weeds the past few months as I’ve tried to pin down the exact mechanisms underlying the cycle of visions. But I’m coming back round to where I started last fall — with Robert Heinlein and the chaos vision — and the end finally appears to be in sight.
This extended side-quest began when I realized there had been two very different approaches to the chaos vision in 1940′s SF. For writers like Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov who were still attached to scientific materialism, chaos might appear as either a tolerable anomaly or an apocalyptic threat to order and sanity. But for someone like Henry Kuttner or Fredric Brown, the wacky workings of the subconscious mind were an essential means of navigating the fluidity and uncertainty of a holistic universe.
That surprised me, because I’d previously thought of the visions as unitary paradigms that might evolve over time but but were self-consistent at any given moment. Now I needed to figure out how a single vision could present two such very different faces simultaneously — and I found my answer in the associations that each vision forms with those immediately senior and junior to it.
I’d been aware of those associations for a long time, but I’d regarded them as merely alliances of convenience, like the current affiliation between the internet-based holists of Anonymous and the radical horizontalists of Occupy Wall Street. I hadn’t believed these alliances could affect the visions in any deep and permanent way — but I found myself forced to conclude that they did.
That conclusion, in turn, brought forth answers to questions that had baffled me for years: What keeps the cycle of visions in motion? Why does every vision eventually wear out and lose its original transcendence? And what enables mature visions to enter into socially powerful partnerships even though their native transcendence has been exhausted?