Arriving in the Future: The Utopia of Here and Now in the Work of Modern-Day Mystics From Eric Fromm to Eckhart Tolle
journal contributionposted on 22.05.2017 by Thomas Reuter
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The great appeal of modern utopian and dystopian literature seems to be that it provides authors and readers with the liberty to engage in imaginative, playful reflection on the flow of time, and on where this flow might be taking us all. But appearances can be deceptive, we are told. Psycho- analysts rightly warn that authors' utopian imaginings most likely include projections of their own unique personal fears, hopes and other expectations upon the blank canvas of an unknown future. Social scientists and historians will tell us there is more to this determinism than individual projection. They rightly argue that people are always intricately interconnected, and that their personal outlook thus reflects the shared "social imaginary" of the culture, society and historical period in which they find themselves em- bedded. Therein lies the relevance of utopian writing for both the study of different cultures and historical epochs as well as their cultural and historical limitations. Together, psychological and social determinisms suggest that utopian literature is an interesting specimen for analysis, from which we may learn more about our specific psychological, cultural and historical conditioning but which fails to deliver us to a place beyond such conditioning. Indeed, such a perspective sheds doubt on our very capacity to fashion a future of our own design. I beg to differ. I argue that utopian writing contains an intrinsic element of creative insight which provides momentary glimpses of a future that is not anticipated but ours to create, and even more importantly (though perhaps also more rarely), a capacity for visionary experience that altogether escapes the limitations of psycho-social conditioning and the horizon of intellectual scrutiny. In order to illustrate this, I will be examining a special branch of utopianism which directly addresses the problem of conditioning and psycho-social determinism.