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Mythic Passages - the magazine of imagination

Virtual Reality
Originally written for Inferential Focus by Jerry Wennstrom
© 2007, reprinted with permission

Man hooked up to virtual reality machineThere is always the impulse to fear collective new expressions coming into the mainstream when they challenge our established ways of perceiving the world. This ongoing fear will invariably create anomalies in its own image. However, they are only anomalies, and any resonant soul worth its salt fearlessly celebrates the dance of any inspired new reality. Perhaps salt is an appropriate word here. In alchemical texts it is stated that salt is of divine nature. So too, I believe, is our current interest in virtual exploration, development and experience.

Like any energizing new experience, this evolving edge of excitement can and will hook its share of addictive personalities. In my book, the concern that people are becoming addicted to virtual reality, and that it is becoming an excuse to avoid reality, is not of major concern. We bring to our engagements who we are — good and bad. Our Internet involvement should certainly be done more consciously, and there is, no doubt, a need to set boundaries, especially where young people are concerned. However, virtual reality may not be some evil entity stripping us of our humanity; it may just be addictive behavior we are talking about. If so, it is important to note that the addictive impulse will always gravitate to one virtual refuge or another. Drugs save lives and alleviate useless suffering — AND— there is drug addiction. Human sexuality is a healthy expression of love and propagates the species — AND — there are sex addicts. The discipline of conscious eating and dieting are both pleasurable and healthy — AND — there is food addiction, bulimia, and anorexia. Perhaps the ill health we perceive, manifesting (especially in the west) as extreme indulgence on the Internet and elsewhere, should not be blamed on any particular fixation but on a culture so lost in distraction and out of touch with nature that reality has been reduced to the next titillating distraction.

There is also the shallower element of fad to consider in the enormous interest being directed towards virtual experience. Fads are unavoidable; so let the surface ripple have its' day in the sun. Like the telephone and the TV, the interest and excitement stirring around the Internet and virtual reality will eventually be absorbed and incorporated into our culture and become just another form of communication and entertainment. The cure to excess, in any form, is a personal one. It is to go deep and get in touch with the substance and inspiration behind emerging forms.

Perhaps many people engaged, interacting, and enlivened by virtual experience are doing this. Virtual reality must resonate something true about us or it would not keep us engaged the way it does. Think about the entire generation of baby boomers addicted to and fixated on non-interactive TV! What advertising has proven is that the most effective interactive element to emerge out of years of sitting in front of a TV is the unconscious impulse to consume things we don't necessarily need or even want!

Carl Gustav Jung sitting in a chair, reading by the lakeThere is also concern that, for many people, virtual reality has become indistinguishable from reality. We need ask ourselves only one question to make this distinction — what, essentially, is reality? Simply put, reality reflects patterns of the divine and if it does not, then the expression we stand before is illusion and not reality. This, from psychologist C. G Jung:

... my work has proved empirically that the pattern of God exists in every man and that this pattern in the individual has at its disposal the greatest transforming energies of which life is capable.

Reality is completely validated by this innate, divine patterning and there is no enduring counterfeit, however impressive or convincing the counterfeit may be. Eventually, illusions are revealed by their inability to withstand the test of time. Illusion's downfall is the impossibly exhaustive necessity of maintaining an image of divine pattern. Propelled by fear of its demise, illusion contracts incrementally until it implodes. Reality, on the other hand, is upheld, enlivened, and renewed at the place where illusion comes undone. Where illusion has to be constantly maintained, reality is maintained in the alchemy of surrender. Reality can exist in a vacuum; it can withstand the fog and emptiness of ennui. Illusion dies its slow death in the vacuum where the power to control the impersonation diminishes.

Lao TzuAnother important element of reality is its radically free potential to manifest through any and all forms of expression. In other words, the delivery system channeling reality is not limited or hindered by any particular person, place or form — virtual or otherwise. Lao Tsu says, "The Tao (un-manifest reality) denies nothing to no one." So basically, anything goes, so long as it goes with its innate divine pattern intact and reverently tended. This leaves reality in a vast and potentially overwhelming landscape of possibility. Yet, we can distinguish reality from illusion, in any encounter, whenever we experience a resonant soul connection. Unfortunately, we often realize this soul connection (or its absence) in retrospect.

All things real embody the metaphoric DNA of original creation, so there is an immediate soul-response to the commons of essential reality. The clarity to see and discriminate are essential if we are to consciously participate in the response. Reality is so fundamentally connected to the stuff of the universe that it dynamically expands with the unalterable force of the Big Bang. Reality increases in this evolving gravity, propelled by the paradox of a recognizable mystery. Reality (virtual or not) is that which we know in our bones — if we are paying attention.

The night sings a litany
into which all

Startled shadows
against the
pulsing darkness,
A web of
white and
purple patterns
bleeding into one another,
the night
and ends

in the magic of


To order Mud's (Steven Weitzman) book of poetry, Landscape of the Misty Eye
or email- EvaandSteven@cs.com

©2007 Pomegranate Seed Productions, used by permission.

Jerry WennstormAt the age of 29, artist Jerry Wennstrom destroyed all of his work, gave away all of his possessions, and set about living a deliberately simple and profoundly spiritual life. He practiced celibacy for 15 years until choosing to marry his life partner, singer Marilyn Strong. He is the author of The Inspired Heart: An Artist's Journey of Transformation. He has published over 50 essays and interviews, and his life's work has been the subject of Holy Personal by Laura Chester. In 2001, Parabola produced a documentary film called In the Hands of Alchemy: The Art and Life of Jerry Wennstrom. Sentient Publications is distributing a new 3-feature DVD, which includes In the Hands of Alchemy, the new film Studio Dialogue, and The Life and Works of Jerry Wennstrom (1979).

To read more of Jerry Wennstrom
and view his paintings and sculpture please visit his website

Watch an exerpt of the video, Hands of Alchemy on YouTube

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