Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Experiencing Reality for non-Humans

(Pictures show Erin Hunter, writer of the 'Warrior' series and some of her books.)

A writer named Erin Hunter has written a marvelous fantasy series entitled 'Warriors'. It deals with reality for felines, if felines were to have sentience akin to that of humans, while keeping all their feline habits and desires. As one who always loved cats of any kind, I have spent much of my life attempting to understand THEIR thoughts and actions, rather than enforcing my own human thoughts and experiences upon them. It is difficult to do, as we always tend to have our own perceptions of other species and we imprint our own desires and responses upon them. To some measure, however, I believe I have succeeded in entering the feline reality from time to time, whether in interactions with my own cats or simply watching their interactions with other cats. Erin Hunter, I believe, understands and depicts feline realities better than most. Her books are fantasies, but the feline experience in our world definitely is part of the underlying reality in her series.

For those who may consider a writer like Erin Hunter to be appropriate for 'children' only, I would retort instantly that all great classics embrace ALL ages. Erin Hunter certainly is appropriate for all children but can be enjoyed fully by any adult who has kept his/her imagination intact as an adult.

This post was not prompted entirely by 'Warriors', however. Again, Second Life must be mentioned here as a world in which humans can experience other realities. In this instance, it is the 'non-human' experience of which I speak.

Yesterday, when I met a friend of mine in Second Life, she had become a faun. She was a rather glorious faun, I must say, but it was her transformation that made me realise that the old mythological concepts of creatures who combined human and animal personae into one actually could be realised in a virtual reality like Second Life.

At the same time, I recognised the fact that our technological advancements and venues such as Second Life have not given us an 'edge' where imagination is concerned. After all, fauns and centaurs were conceived and born in cultures without ANY technological aids. The ancient Greeks and Romans were able not only to conceptualise such creatures but were able to incorporate them into their own realities to some extent as creatures either from a distant past or from their own spiritual landscapes.

In fact, ancient cultures in general had a powerful ability to fuse reality and fantasy. One need only look at the incredible cave paintings of Neolithic artists to be convinced of the sophisticated and potent imaginations of the ancients.

Certainly, virtual realities such as Second Life allow us to experience ancient myth almost effortlessly in a visual way, but without the spiritual component, I have found that avatars who insert themselves into mythological 'skins' are not only empowered if they possess the necessary imagination and spiritual kinship with myth themselves. One can lead a horse to water, as it were, but one cannot make him drink of the magical potion unless the will and potential are there. Or, as Baudelaire wryly remarked in a different context, 'The man with an ox on hashish will have the dreams of an ox.'

Oddly enough, he used the animal reference to denigrate the experience, but a poet who wrote passionately and vividly of the mind of a feline should not have equated an animal's perception and imagination with stupidity!

Male gods in ancient cultures often took on the appearance and nature of a bull and their female counterparts as often were bovine. Isis as Hathor had the head of a cow. The Apis Bull and Dionysius were bulls at certain stages in their lives (and deaths). Animal nature never was perceived as inferior to human nature in ancient mystery religions.

It is not uncommon to come face to face with creatures who are either half-human and half-beast or entirely beast in their physical appearance in Second Life. To me, it promises an extraordinary opportunity to fuse human and animal natures if only one has sufficient imagination and creative potential to do so.

In this manner as in others, a virtual reality could allow a human to have a brief experience of godhood. Certainly, when I lift a castle into the sky or give myself the ears and tail of a cat, I know that I have entered another state of being, however tenuous its hold on me ultimately may be. Is it possible to take this one step further, to actually experience the touch of the Divine? I do not know, but I would like to find out...

No comments: