CHAPTER 12 The Vampire Novel
After my first year experimenting with Active Imagination, I made a conscious decision to put the third volume of The Mysteries, the trilogy I was writing, on hold. I wanted a fresh project where I could start with new characters, a new narrator and a completely new storyline, so I could generate it using Active Imagination. I envisioned this project to be a young adult novel, something in what publishers have come to call the “New Adult” genre, which is for late-teens, early-twenties readers. It was to be a vampire novel.
Why a vampire novel? I didn’t examine my motives at the time, but I recently picked up the newly published, Lament of the Dead, a book of several conversations between the late James Hillman, who passed away in 2011, and Sonu Shamdasani concerning Jung’s The Red Book. It spoke to me so loudly and on many levels, only one of which is that James Hillman is no longer with us. When I opened this book and read the first few lines, it took my breath away:
James Hillman: I was reading about this practice that the ancient Egyptians had of opening the mouth of the dead. It was a ritual and I think we don’t do that with our hands. But opening the Red Book seems to be opening the mouth of the dead.
Sonu Shamdasani: It takes blood. That’s what it takes. The work is Jung’s ‘Book of the Dead.’ His descent into the underworld, in which there’s an attempt to find the way of relating to the dead. He comes to the realization that unless we come to terms with the dead we simply cannot live, and that our life is dependent on finding answers to their unanswered questions.
So it was for me with opening Lament of the Dead, for James Hillman spoke to me practically from the grave. His and Shamdasani’s words rippled through my perception of my own vampire novel as I read them, not only because Hillman is no longer with us and we are still trying to come to terms with him and the loss of him, but also because I’m getting along in years myself, and my vampire book also reflected more emphasis on the questions of mortality and immortality. That, and since it was to be generated using Jung’s Active Imagination, which is of course a process of descending into the underworld, my vampire novel was definitely a book of the dead also, or the undead.
And then I realized that it was much more than even that. I first ran onto Hillman’s work at the suggestion of Renate Wood some twenty-five years ago. I was struggling with Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus (another story of descent into the underworld), and she recommended that I take a look at a little volume titled Oedipus Variations written by both Hillman and Kerenyi. I was blown away by the depth of Hillman’s understanding of Sophocles. Dr. Wood was my mentor, and the gifts she gave me so unassumingly continue to speak to me today. One of them led me to this book. I could still hear her speaking from the grave, and the way she came to me was as a background voice, someone looking over my shoulder and whispering between-the-lines secrets as I read the words of Hillman and Shamdasani.
I was much more primed for my vampire novel than I knew. It was to be quite short. Something I could complete in a couple of months. Shouldn’t be too difficult for a seasoned novelist and non-fiction author, I reasoned.
Don’t I wish.
Two years into the project, it was still going strong. The problem was that the technique worked much better than I anticipated, and the story was more interesting and sophisticated. I was impressed by the complexity of its spiritual and intellectual underpinning. Granted, I was also writing this book, Story Alchemy, in parallel while also contributing to several blogs, but still, the story was surprisingly engrossing as was the Active Imagination techniques I was developing. I was gaining so much insight into the creative process that I couldn’t resist letting the vehicle I was using for insight grow beyond its original scope.
I tried what I believed to be an original approach to creating the narrator. I stretched the concept to its limit by envisioning her as a “real” person currently living in Romania, the setting for my story. Since she’s the one who was to give all the words to me, I gave her a pen name and a life, all of which I developed through Active Imagination. Actually, I didn’t give her anything. She just stepped forward and told me about herself. To write the novel, I crossed over into the Imaginarium and visited her in Romania. You can visit her too. She has a blog where she tells about her “life” and keeps her readers up to date on her writing projects. Just search on “Lumi Laura.”
Her novel also has a website where she presents previews of chapters and associated short stories concerning her characters. It’s titled Carpathian Vampire, …when you’ve never known love…. Her protagonist is a young woman (Alexandra Eidyn) of eighteen, who reluctantly becomes a vampire, but she also has family, friends, enemies, and at times it’s difficult to tell which is which. In working with all this, I first cleared my psychic space, walked through the Iris of Time into the Imaginarium, gathered these psychic entities about me, and then typed the words that came to me through Lumi.
As I mentioned earlier, I got the idea for a vampire novel at about the same time I had the dragon dream. Perhaps the dream was the initial shove into vampire territory. Anyway, I used Active Imagination from the beginning to develop even the idea and the outline (plot pentagon). Ninety percent of all the material came from Active Imagination.
As you can imagine, it’s not a pure process. One of the things about the Unconscious is that you don’t find a lot of specifics there. I have had names come to me through Active Imagination, but that isn’t generally the way specifics surface. I think that, with more practice, I could uncover more detailed information, but it’s a little like seeing images. It takes practice within psychic space. I believe the same is true with facial features. We don’t see them by default but have to make a specific effort.
To find a location for the events of Lumi Laura’s story, I went on the Internet. Sinaia appeared to be an interesting place. Queen Marie had lived there. Sinaia, the monk who founded it, Queen Marie and the man with whom she had an affair, Alex Eidyn as Queen Marie’s great great granddaughter, the vampire mythology — all one neat package. It seemed to be all connected in psychic space and had been from the beginning.
And this raises an interesting question. When we think we are working alone, are these psychic entities still there in the background making decisions for us? Are we deluding ourselves thinking we have any autonomy? I believe the answer is that they are always there and always influencing us. Lumi seemed to be influencing me from the very beginning, even before she came to me in psychic space. When I found the little mountain town of Sinaia and thought it an excellent place to set my vampire story, was Lumi Laura working in the background by manipulating my sensibilities to resonate with it? I think so. Otherwise, Sinaia wouldn’t have been so serendipitously connected with the rest of the story. It all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.
I also looked for Romanian names that she could use for herself and her characters. Through a combination of my research and her inspiration, we gradually came to an understanding. I then started Active Imagination sessions about the actual story. Lumi realized that her protagonist, who went by Alex, had no intention of become a vampire even though she wasn’t very satisfied with her own life. When she was turned, that immediately put her in conflict with the person who turned her, a conflict that was to span the length of the novel. Alex also had to come to terms with herself as a vampire, and this is an internal conflict that also is resolved at the end, or at least comes to some sort of truce. I used the Iris of Time and the Imaginarium to sort through the structure of the multitude of conflicts involved.
Since one of her antagonists is the first vampire, Lumi felt that she needed to present more about the history of the race of vampires. She brought forward a mythology that goes back over three-thousand years and beyond to the Garden of Eden, having it would seem consulted the Divine World of the sphere. It’s all quite ingenious — the way she interwove mythology, religion and her own take on how it all happened. Originally, she intended the vampire mythology to be short stories that would only be published separately, but they were so unusual and well formed that I encouraged her to open the novel with two of them. This essentially stretched the setup to three chapters instead of one. It all seems so theatrical. What a great way to open a movie, should it ever be picked up for the big screen.
Since I was researching methods for Story Alchemy while writing Carpathian Vampire, not all the methods I developed were available while I was writing the initial chapters, and it would have been impossible to redo the entire novel with what I knew at the end. I also had no intention of starting a new novel specifically to try out these methods. I will use them to write the third volume of my trilogy, The Mysteries: The Twice-Born.
But I couldn’t publish Carpathian Vampire without using the memory palace techniques, so I went back through the vampire novel by way of the Iris of Time, met up with Lumi Laura using Active Imagination, and took another look at some scenes, realizing I had to ensure they were memorable both for the reader and me. I returned to the Rhetorica Ad Herennium for methods.
Another thing I realized was that I had two major plotlines running simultaneously, and neither could be considered a subplot. To structure this unusual situation, I generated two superimposed plot pentagons. One represented my protagonist’s conflict in the real word and the other her conflict with entities from the Divine World. Some plot points from different pentagons occurred in separate chapters, but other plot points from different pentagons occurred in the same chapter. This wasn’t something Lumi and I planned. It just turned out that way. I generated a memory palace for each.
Figure 12-1 Parallel Plot Pentagons
Real World — Divine World
This emphasizes the point that you can disassemble the dodecahedron for use in any way that delineates story structure. Nothing is pure in this business, and you should adapt the plotting aids to fit the story you are telling. Stories are inherently so complex that you have to be creative in your use of the Philosopher’s Stone. It will always provide insight into story arc whether it’s a scene in a play, chapter in a novel, or an episode of a television series. All the events of the story-unit you are investigating will then have cause-and-effect relationships and philosophical depth.
For the vampire story, I was particularly interested in using images and actions that would add humor. For this, I looked to irony. Irony is the source of practically all humor. (See Novelsmithing, Chapter 5.) So Lumi and I went back through the novel and transformed each scene, when we thought it necessary, into something more memorable. I then tested it on myself by asking how well each scene stuck in my memory. I made sure that I could go through the story from memory, scene by scene. Since Carpathian Vampire has fifty-two chapters, my memory palace consisted of both halves of the dodecahedron, plus some modifications.
The main thing I learned from using Active Imagination to write Carpathian Vampire is to trust and believe in the process. Even though you will give your novel a broad outline using the plot pentagon, all sorts of subplots will cluster about it and shoulder their way into your story. Sometimes the story will take off in directions that you hadn’t intended in the beginning. Trust these and work with them. Having an overall concept for the story should gradually drag these diversions back into the main stream of your story. How far to let them drag it off the beaten path? Well, that’s your call. It’s not an exact process. As a matter of fact it’s really messy, and that’s the way it should be.
I can’t imagine writing a novel using my old methods. Lumi and I may write a second volume of Carpathian Vampire in the not too distant future. But I’m also interested in getting back to writing the third volume of The Mysteries, The Twice-Born. Plus, I have other stories starting to bubble up from my Collective Unconscious. Having the Philosopher’s Stone seems to unleash the elements of story from within my imagination, and some of them are really off the wall. It’s as if the characters know that I now have the skill to bring their stories to life and can’t wait to get them told. Perhaps some sort of resonance occurs with these untold stories and the presence of the Philosopher’s Stone that resides also in the Collective Unconscious as well as Consciousness by virtue of the Transcendent Function. This of course is because they exist in a state of perpetual conflict, and that’s an unstable state, and they wish to have their conflicts resolved. Remember that old adage about letting sleeping dogs lie? We’ll, if you’ve read this book, you woke them up, and now you’ve got to deal with them. The good news is that you now have the tools.
For those interested, I’ve provided one of my active imagination sessions in raw form as Addendum II. I’ve included the process of entering the Iris of Time, greeting my narrator, Lumi Laura, and taking dictation from her. This session occurred on August 1, 2011. We accomplished quite a lot that night. Again, I’ve not edited it, so you can see it in the rough. I’d prepped myself thoroughly beforehand so that I knew exactly where I was in the story relative to my plot points and what I wanted to get out of it. Still yet, the conversation flowed as if I were streaming a Netflix movie. The narrative, of course, comes in the voice of my author/narrator, Lumi Laura. It’s one of my better Active Imagination sessions, with me typing on a Bluetooth keyboard in total darkness. It was one continuous session with no break. In the novel, this particular event occurs in Chapter 21: Encounter with Father Zosimos.
The greater portion of this book, Story Alchemy, also came from Active Imagination. It was given to me, and I wrote it in a matter of only three months, plus of course a few more months for editing. It is a subject that has plagued me for the better part of forty years. Even more than writing stories, I have wanted to understand the art of storytelling. One thing I know with absolute certainty: I understand only a fraction of all the wisdom contained in the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s as if the process exposed itself through me and not necessarily because it is meant for my use. Perhaps it is meant for you, my readers, and I am but a messenger. If it is meant for you, you will recognize it and be able to wield it. If not, you’ll shrug your shoulders and talk off, perhaps even have a good chuckle at all the shenanigans I suggest just to get some words on the page. For those who recognize its worth and are willing to spend the time it takes to learn the process, it could be the missing link that has held you back from expressing what is in your soul.
I have compared what we have discovered here in Story Alchemy to that of the technology of the ancient Krell in the classic sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet. Although the Krell became technologically advanced almost beyond imagining, they destroyed themselves because they had forgotten something that was a part of their psychological makeup from the beginning of their millions of years of evolution: the base nature that comes from the Id — their own greed, lust and hatred. Their Ids took over their ability to spontaneously project anything their minds could conceive into the real world. Storytelling is such a technology. The Krell turned on each other. Their entire civilization vanished in a single day.
Forbidden Planet was a work of art and not something taken from actual events in the real world. Adam Adler conceived the story; Cyril Hume wrote the screenplay. However, Adler confessed that he had adapted Shakespeare’s play The Tempest for the storyline, although one could well imagine that even The Tempest had its origin in Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus. It seems to be one of those stories that resurfaces under another guise in a different time but always to serve as a reminder that human beings are forever flawed, and the sin of arrogance is always punished.
The Id is a concept that comes from Freudian psychology and not from Jung. It is the result of a more pessimistic view of human nature, but one we would do well to keep in mind. I will not allow myself into certain areas of psychic space, or perhaps I should say that I will not permit contact with certain personages there. I sense something I call the Great Evil with whom I will not form even a psychic relationship. You might consider this and question whether everything within you should be brought into the world. All culture is projected from psychic space into the real world, a process that has its analog with ancient Krell technology. Jung thought we should be careful with what we bring out. I believe that is good advice.
The Iris of Time isn’t a one-way conduit. What you bring out with you may not always be what you think. And what you bring doesn’t come in a box and isn’t an inanimate object. One might compare what I have given you to Pandora’s Box. These are intelligent psychic beings with thoughts of their own.
During the two and one half years of practicing Active Imagination to channel Lumi Laura’s Carpathian Vampire, I came across several instances where the material went beyond what I consider my own personal boundaries for the presentation of violence and sex in literature intended for young people ages 16 to 25 but also possibly of interest for all adults. Some of her language in Chapter 3 To Grandmother’s House concerning her protagonist’s physical attributes prior to becoming a vampire seemed too crass. I let this pass. The first of the instances that truly bothered me was in Chapter 9 An Unfortunate Encounter where Ms Laura’s protagonist is attacked by a rapist. Her reaction to the attack and her subsequent actions, her violence and sexual aggressiveness, went far beyond what I would have written by my usual creative methods. Even in other areas of less concern, I didn’t agree with what she’d written. I started to edit it out, but then thought I should at least try to maintain the integrity of the process by honoring her perspective.
My apprehension dramatically escalated in Chapter 29 The Pleasure Dome when her protagonist was initiated in a vampire psychic location called Millennium Road. The problem was that this scene is reprised even more dramatically close to the end of the novel in Chapter 47 Battle of Pivniţă de Vinuri. I had pulled the scene in The Pleasure Dome back to something I thought I could tolerate only to learn that the even more graphic material later on demanded that the earlier material be reinstated. It seems that Ms Laura knew what she was doing all along. I felt that I was being played. I was concerned about my reputation as an author, and it was obvious that she didn’t see me as the ultimate authority on her story. This was when I decided to publish it under her name and not my own. Do I think that absolves me of responsibility for the nature of the material in the novel? Obviously not. But still…
You must realize that yours are not just benign fantasies but real psychic entities from the Collective Unconscious. They animate us and provide content in story form. Once turned loose upon the world, your story is no longer a part of you. The work goes its own way. You lose control, and they can do good or wreak havoc as they please. Psychic beings from your Collective Unconscious are then activated in the psychic world of your readers, and within this new moral context, they may find expression in the real world. This is the reason, as the ancient alchemists realized, for the worthiness issue. [Jung, The Red Book, page 291]
At the end of Forbidden Planet, the human visitors to that ancient world blew up Altair, the home planet of the ancient Krell, thus destroying all the knowledge they had developed. The commander of the starcruiser didn’t believe that beings on planet Earth were ready for such knowledge. They weren’t worthy. I’ve given you a tool that may be as powerful as anything the Krell developed. Be mindful how you use it.
Storytelling is a universal part of human existence. This could lead one to believe that the Philosopher’s Stone might not be just for storytellers. It is the way we resolve conflict, both internal and external. Its use is therapeutic as shown by its relationship to Jung’s Transcendent Function. It is operative all the time helping create the human narrative. We live our life story, creating it along the way. As Joshua Foer says, we are our memories, and our memories beget stories, just as Mnemosyne is the mother of the Muses. We are mythic beings.
Now that you’ve spent some time with the Philosopher’s Stone, you should step back a little and see what you’ve accomplished, or perhaps what you will accomplish through this process. To learn to wield the Philosopher’s Stone, you’ll have to attain a certain level of personal perfection. And this is in psychic space, which we’ve pretty much agreed has a relationship with the Divine World. We’ve not specifically striven for eternal life, but it seems that it’s always an issue when you’re dealing with the Stone. We’ve not really addressed it as being the Elixir of Life, the giver of immortality. But an alchemist would have thought of it in this light. Since we’ve used Jung’s technique for becoming individuated, you’ll perfect your soul to a certain extent. It may not bring you to the point of eternal life here in the real world, but if we listen to the alchemists whose path we’ve been following, you very well may give yourself a better chance of obtaining it in psychic space or, as we sometimes call it, the Afterlife.