Friday, August 13, 2010

The Moral Compass in Writing

"Morality is a hindrance. We limit ourselves because of our perception of social norms, of believing in fair play. The greatest magicians are those who are willing to accept the consequences of their actions. They do not believe in accidents, in randomness. They believe that they are forever at the center of their existence, in control of their fate." The Red Queen, ENCHANTRESS ON THE EDGE (M Cid D'Angelo)

It was Machiavelli who illustrated well the philosophy of unreserved action without troubling oneself over consequences. He argued that the Prince should show no mercy when applying his will; that he should accept everything that he does and desire as so long as the Prince understands and accepts the consequences of his actions.

In this argument, morality is abstract; it is but a quaint invention of human society. Nature is cruel, but not cruel by intention if by design. Social animals and insects rarely thrust their individual needs before the group; their instincts hardwired into their behavior for the good of the hive, pride, what-have-you. These social structures in nature become one unit, acting at the will of what that society deems necessary to survive.

Human beings are individualistic social animals. We perceive ourselves with self-identity, yet, we also desire the survival tactic of being stronger en masse. The self-identity then becomes a random factor in what would be a true communistic society if everyone shared the same ideals and goals. We have those who show a great deal of altruism instead of selfish pursuits; we have humanitarians and murderers.

In Dr. Joshua D. Greene's essay, "Fruit Flies of the Moral Mind", the philosopher proposes several well-known scenarios to illustrate the moral dilemma that human beings can face from day-to-day, offering altruistic or utilitarian choices.

The Crying Baby Dilemma

You have an infant in your arms while with a group of people. There are enemy soldiers nearby looking for your group. If they find you all, they will kill you. Suddenly, the infant begins crying, so you place a hand over its mouth. You then are faced with a moral problem: if you keep holding your hand over the baby's mouth, you will end up suffocating it; if you do not, the infant's cries will alert the soldiers and they will end up killing you all. What do you choose to do? Kill your baby, or face the wrath of the soldiers?

The Switch Dilemma

There is a group of people near a railroad track. At that moment, a train loses control and will jump the track and kill everyone unless the far switch is activated. However, there is no time to hurry over to switch it. The only recourse is to push an unsuspecting fellow into the switch as hard as you can, throwing him into the train's path and killing him. The upside? You save the many people across the track. The downside? The man you push dies. What is the best option? The life of one for the life of others? Or is the choice of murdering the unsuspecting fellow too much for you to take on - at least if the group of people die, it was not at your hand?

In my Artemus Dark novel, Dark Running, one of the hero's adversaries is a cold, calculating fellow who will stop at nothing to gain his objectives. He has no social moral compass, but he does possess the capacity for social efficiency, i.e., he does not kill or hinder anyone just for the sake of causing harm. This moral question is brought up again in my other novels, Darkness Becomes You and Enchantress on the Edge. In both we have "villains" who understand the need for social norms and morals for the group to survive, but, individualistically, they are quick to take the road of self-interest in furthering their own goals.

The moral compass of a character in a story, even beyond the dilemmas of the hero/heroine, creates a vortex of inner strurggle and turmoil. Are we altogether altruistic by nature, or just a society of individuals bounded by our own self-interest? After all, we live our lives subjectively. No one travels our same road. Whether we live for others or live for ourselves, we all reach the final fate.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Noetic Science, Hermetics, and Self-Awareness

Can one dream and wish their life true?

A current, popular science is gaining momentum, illuminated in mainstream popular culture by author Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol. Is it possible for one to realize their life in any scenario they wish, just by focusing one's intention and will upon it? Is it true that, as human beings, we are masters of every facet of our life?

As a student of such diverse philosphies as Hermetics and Taoism, such a "science" is hardly new. However, science is mainstream; its definition is one to illuminate the esoteric and forbidden knowledge in an effort for the entirety of humanity to understand how existence works. It is sold, therefore, en masse. Whether or not this spreading of knowledge pertains or has any connection to the theory of Memetics, it is important for the individual to understand who he is and what place in existence he ... exists. Most world religions, though commonly possessing certain core beliefs in accordance with the ancient Hermetic statement Know Ye Not That Ye Are Gods? also erode belief in self-empowerment and attempt to pursuade their adherents to throw faith in a deity for such a purpose.

However, as Director Cassandra Vieten of the Institute of Noetic Science defines in her Huffington Post article "What is Noetic Science?", self-empowerment is no longer something that belongs in the realm of magic, eastern mysticism, or sorcery. Noetic Science promotes the human achievement of self-actualization; that, we are gods. Human beings possess the mental and spiritual capacity for abstract thought. We create our gods; we have the power to create our own universe. This fundamental ideal follows the biblical question of the conception of Adam and Eve: why had god, after zapping the first couple into existence, cease direct creationism and allowed humans to procreate themselves?

As Director Vieten defines it, Noetic Science is "A multidisciplinary field that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the full range of human experience." This notion is primarly focused upon the intention and will of any individual, or, even groups, to bring about even miraculous results in the physical universe. Collective reasoning, collective thought, collective objectives (human consciousness) are rounded out and brought into realization - no matter how challenging the objective could be.

In my Artemus Dark novels (represented by the Cherry Weiner Literary Agency), the central theme is, of course, magic used as a fundamental human experience and ability. Even though Artemus Dark - sorcerer, paranormal investigator - lives in a world where will and intention is categorized as the use of "magic," the true science of self-empowerment also runs hand-in-hand with physics and modern technology. Human beings have become gods. The mythology behind this pretense is that "the gods had died, shedding their blood upon the universe and granting mortal man powers to control his fate." The entire series focuses mainly upon the magical side of Hermetics, which arguably, provides the esoteric base for Noetic Science.

So, has science itself begun to embrace the ideals of ancient philosophies? As we grow and learn more about our environment, and learn more of our own capabilities as human beings, we begin to realize agnosticism. The ages-old battles between science and religion become less volatile. Even Islam and the Christianity agree that the "Kingdom of God is within you."

Noetic Science now grants us at least one concept: self-empowerment is no longer a mantra for Eastern gurus or salespeople.