Philosophical Considerations of the Taylor Thomas Trilogy: Notes from the Author

The Taylor Thomas Trilogy began as a result of a transformative dream that I had when I was in my twenties. At the time, I had just retired from bodybuilding and the health and fitness industry, and was searching for a new field or interest in which to devote my life. My dream was nowhere near anything like the astral projected, remote viewing dream that Taylor Thomas had in The Temple of Light. But like Taylor's dream, I did have a vision of a great door with a huge mountain towering behind it.

At first, I thought it was the door to a school, or some place that people went for learning and growth. Because the dream was so powerful, and seemed so real, I thought it was a message of sorts; a type of guiding vision. Hence, I became intensely interested in education. Basically, I wanted to create the school that I thought I caught a glimpse of in my dream.

So one day, while wondering where this door – or school – and mountain were, or would be, I decided to spin a globe, point my finger, close my eyes, and ask some 'higher power' to direct me. Then, just like in the chapter, "Prophetic Learning Systems," in The Temple of Light when Taylor does the same, my finger also landed, and pointed directly at Mount Shasta in northern California. Unlike Taylor, however, whom a Pleiadian alien named Zanadar immediately visits, I remained alone in my breezy apartment with a view in Manhattan Beach.

A few days later, while walking by a bookstore in downtown Manhattan Beach, I noticed a book of Mount Shasta prominently displayed in the window. I thought, "What is a book about Mount Shasta doing in a bookstore here?!" Naturally, I had to buy it. And once I read all about the modern myths told about the mountain, I knew I had to visit. You see, I became particularly interested in learning more about the survivors of the lost continent of Lemuria. According to various interesting sources, these Lemurians were purportedly living deep under the mountain in the great city of Telos. I wouldn't call myself a "believer" of these tales, but what I do believe is that this modern myth has offered a wonderful opportunity for me to do some interesting dream work... and perhaps write some engaging fiction.

When I first visited the mountain, I was also working on a master's degree in Marriage, Family Therapy. While acquiring my degree, I learned about a dream analysis technique developed by Carl Jung. He called it amplification. In this methodology the dreamer takes an image from a dream and amplifies it by embedding it in a larger cultural story or myth. Since the door and the mountain motifs are certainly common archetypes, and because I have an inquisitive mind, I decided to work with the image, use it, and try to make sense of it. So... I started to write The Temple of Light. And when I did, it felt as though I was taking the image and making it as significant as I believed it was when I originally had it. This trilogy, then, is a direct result of attempting to acknowledge, honor and make sense of my dream.

Los Angeles Times commentary by John Gust

This commentary appeared in the Los Angeles Times on November 6, 2004. I think of it as a dystopian, fantasy/sci-fi version of a not-too-distant future the No Child Left Behind Act is almost certain to create. Read the article here.

While working on the story that amplified the dream, the many circumstances in my life were also causing me to do a lot of thinking. Working as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I questioned our public school system's goals and foundational philosophy. And like many of my peers, I was troubled with the horrible things we were doing to our environment, pessimistic about our ability to stop our bad habits, and terrified about what I believe we were eventually going to do to ourselves. The opinion-editorial provided here offers a description of the direction I believe our dominant narrative is taking us.

Yes, I actually do believe that we have the potential to do exactly what I have proposed in the satiric opinion-editorial provided here. And if we do find our way there, it will be because of a concretized and canonized narrative that is dominating the direction of our lives. This narrative has emerged from a combination of modernist, scientific materialist, and traditionalist worldviews, ideologies or memes. For far too long, we have been guided by, and living according to, an outdated and outmoded narrative that has become resistant to change.

To prevent this bleak scenario – and worse – from happening (wait till you read the ending of The Temple of Light), we must bust up the concrete in which our dominant narrative has been written. We need to aim our cannons and blow those stone tablets to dust! We need to break up our narrative, redirect the plot, thread a fresh theme, and craft a crisp cast of characters.

We must stop the bots!

But we won't do it by just thinking differently about this present day world. To really change course, we will need to go back in time to dig deep into our narrative. We must return to the beginning and commence a comprehensive revision of our entire story!

Sound grandiose? Impossible to achieve?

Not really. To get started, all we have to do is write an alternative history story, or two, or three... or more. In the trilogy, I attempt to do exactly what Jane Yolen recommends in her book Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood:

"take a book that starts in the real world and thrust a young reader back into the heart and mind of someone his or her own age forty or one hundred or a thousand years ago. Let that protagonist ask the questions our young people all want to ask: how can you believe the world is flat when it isn't? How can you trust that the people helping you over the mountains will not enslave you? How can you believe these Nazis when they say you are only being resettled? Because I, the protagonist (and therefore I, the child reader), am from the future and I know better."

"The answers they get from the folk in the story will astound them, shake them into new awarenesses, really let them remember and be part of history."

In the Taylor Thomas Trilogy for young adults, my goal is to take the past and make it a living and continuous process for the reader. To do this, Taylor's avenue of inquiry will lead to a deconstruction of the dominant narrative at its deepest level. In The Temple of Light, she manages to mangle the montage of the modernists and materialists. And with her trip to the Fertile Crescent in The Rock of Jerusalem, she tweaks the tale of the traditionalists. Then, once the dominant narrative has been deconstructed, in The Parthenon, Taylor's questioning begins a process that transforms the narratives we live by, making our stories more fluid, more receptive to rigorous revision. She frees us from the constant in-the-box reinterpretations of our old, static story, and adds her voice to the writing of a new narrative.

"Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth."

— Rumi

The Taylor Thomas Trilogy is this author's attempt to provide a narrative that offers an imaginative vision of a new worldview, ideology or meme. In the trilogy, I endeavor to provide an alternative to scientific materialism by introducing the reader to a model of consciousness known as panpsychism. This philosophical term comes from the Greek pan, meaning all, and psyche, meaning soul or mind. Sometimes this model of consciousness is also referred to as panexperientialism or radical naturalism. Whatever it's called, panpsychism is vastly different from scientific materialism.

Scientific materialists claim that matter is nonexperiential, devoid of intrinsic experience, consciousness, subjectivity, feeling, intentionality, and all intrinsic purpose, value, and meaning. Scientific materialists believe that mind or consciousness (sentience, feeling, subjectivity) is an emergent evolutionary by-product or epiphenomenon produced by the intrinsically inert and insentient "dead" matter in the brain. In this view, since all the matter of your brain is dead to begin with, the scientific materialists are free to do whatever they want with it. Thus, the reason why transhumanists and scientific materialists desire to augment, and even upload their brains. They don't want to be more human. They want to be posthuman. They believe that "chips are destiny" and more than anything want to cross the human-machine divide and live forever. But what the scientific materialists haven't been able to explain is exactly how this sentience and subjectivity can emerge from the wholly insentient and objective dead matter of the brain.

To the panpsychist, no matter how complex pure objective matter becomes, it is inconceivable that it could ever give rise to subjectivity or interiority. How can dead matter produce minds that think and reflect? How can dead matter produce your experience of being you?

What a panpsychist postulates, is that when our scientists finally get around to figuring out exactly how our human consciousness emerges, what they'll find is that the matter they thought was dead, was really aware and sentient to begin with.

According to panpsychism, the basic ingredients of the world – whether atoms or quanta – are essentially experiential events, or moments of experience, perhaps even... seconds of sentience. Matter-energy, then, is the form reality takes in response to the in-forming activity of psyche or consciousness. And this in-forming is intrinsic to matter; it is matter's own interiority, its own self-shaping dynamic. This means that the mind and our consciousness arises from matter that is not dead, nor limited to a particular time or place, like the scientific materialists claim it to be.

So if matter has consciousness, one can't help but wonder if something like a rock does, too. The answer would be, "No, not the rock. But its parts do. The rock is just a bunch of parts sticking together."

Consciousness is a funny thing. It's not easy to define, partly because we use it to convey a variety of meanings. We might say that an awake person has consciousness, whereas someone who is asleep does not. Or, someone could be awake, but so absorbed in his or her thoughts that they have little consciousness of the world around them. We can also speak of having a political, social, or ecological consciousness. And we may say that human beings have consciousness, while other creatures do not, meaning that humans think and are self-aware. Consciousness is generally thought of as the mind's capacity to reflect upon itself, the ability of a subject to be made the object of its own awareness.

Those adhering to panpsychism have a slightly altered way of looking at consciousness. First, they consider the faculty of consciousness. This is the capacity for inner experience, whatever the nature or degree. The faculty of consciousness can be likened to the light coming from a film projector. The projector shines light onto a screen. The light, not the image is the consciousness. Panpsychists, believe that even matter possesses this faculty, or light of consciousness, no matter how dim. Next, the panpsychists talk about the various forms of consciousness. The forms of consciousness are the images on the screen. These are the perceptions, sensations, dreams, memories, thoughts, and feelings that we experience. There are many different forms of consciousness. Humans have one form of consciousness, animals another, plants, and even matter, yet another.

Thinking about consciousness in this way, you begin to see evidence of it all around you. It's in the blades of grass turning to catch the rays of the traveling sun. It's in the hummingbird spending an entire day guarding a treasured food supply. When you become aware of the various forms of consciousness around you, it forces you to think about how you interact with the world. You start to wonder about how you should be treating things. Then you remember that all of those things are really... events, or experiences. And that's when it really gets interesting.

In the Taylor Thomas Trilogy, this model of consciousness and worldview is best exemplified in the everyday lives of the Lemurians living in the subterranean kingdom, Telos. The Lemurians treat their environment with great care: First, because they have to survive while hiding deep within the bowels of a volcanic mountain. Second, because they live in a narrative where consciousness is considered to be a faculty of light inherent in all. As a result, the Lemurians pay more attention to the subjective quality of their experiences, rather than the objective quantity of their brain's bit count!

So... don't get bit. Watch out for the bots!

If your interest is piqued, and you'd like to learn more... you'll definitely want to read a few chapters from the first book of the trilogy: The Temple of Light.