The Metanormal in Fantasy Literature

Fantasy literature, cartoons, movies, and science fiction offer a rich imagery of human transformation.

By PT Staff, published on May 1, 1992 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Fantasy literature, cartoons, movies, and science fiction offer a rich imagery of human transformation. In these images one finds hyperdimensional consciousness and luminous bodies, superordinary vitality and movement, mystical ecstasies and unitive awareness. Furthermore, many of the transformations that such fiction depicts are accomplished through metahuman agencies: in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star when he surrenders to the Force. And the subjects of such transmutation struggle through initiatory rites like shamans and mystics in real life. Luke Skywalker suffers under Yoda's guidance to become a vehicle of the Force. Kubrick's astronaut dies by stages to his old self as his mind and body mutate. Popular visionary art today resonates with the picture of metanormality presented in this book:

o Metanormal perception in Ben Kenobe's sense of "disturbance in the Force" when Princess Leia's planet is destroyed by the Death Star, Ray's ability to see Shoeless Joe Jackson, though others without second sight cannot, in the movie Field of Dreams, and Jimmy Stewart's vision of the world's goodness in It's a Wonderful Life.

o Metanormal kinesthesis in the protagonist of Paddy Chayevsky's book (and movie) Altered States, who relives evolution through profound contact with his own cells.

o Metanormal communication abilities in Ben Kenobe's telepathic contacts with Luke Skywalker, and the telepathic powers of Jommy Cross, the "mutation after man," in A. E. Van Vogt's novel Slan.

o Metanormal vitality in the luminous aliens of the movie Cocoon, who sustain themselves on Earth (for a while) without their customary sustenance; and the tireless energy of the superhero in Van Vogt's Slan.

o Metanormal movement in: the levitation produced by E.T. as his young companions fly on bicycles with him; the protagonist's ability to travel out of body in Jack London's Star Traveler and Van Vogt's Supermind, Ben Kenobe's postmortem materialization in ordinary space-time; and the walk by James Earl Jones into the land of departed baseball players in Field of Dreams.

Metanormal influence upon the environment in: E.T.'s healing touch; Luke Skywalker's power to move imperial storm troopers from a distance; Yoda's ability to lift Luke's spacecraft without touching it; and Ray's creation of magical space by building a baseball diamond in Field of Dreams.

o Metanormal delight in the ecstasies imparted to her admirer by the beautiful alien of Cocoon (after which the young man exclaims, "If this is foreplay, I'm a dead man!"); and the marriage of the mutated su. perwoman in Van Vogt's Supermind to Point Omega.

o Metanormal cognition in the intuitive mind of homo intelligens, the successor of homo sapiens, in Lester del Rey's Kindness; the widely shared visions of a numinous spacecraft during the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Ray's vision in Field of Dreams that a baseball diamond will attract something great and marvelous.

o Extraordinary volition in Luke Skywalker's power to destroy the Death Star by surrender to the Force, instead of reliance on his X-Wing's computer.

o Metanormal identity in the astronaut of 2001 as he dies to his ordinary mind and body so that he can incarnate the immense intelligence that beckons to the human race.

o Extraordinary love in the numinous embrace of the woman protagonist by the mysterious underwater presence in the movie the Abyss, Michael Valentine Smith's sacrifice of his body for his fellows in Robert Heinrein's Stranger in a Strange Land, and Ben Kenobe's death at the hands of Darth Vader for the sake of the freedom fighters.

o Metanormal embodiment in: the shape-changing protagonist of Jack Williamson's Darker Than You Think, and the luminous aliens in Cocoon, who pass through physical barriers, levitate, live without food, and radiate ecstasy to each other and the humans they touch.

In a manner analogous to Jules Verne's anticipation of atomic power in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, certain cartoons, movies, and fantasy literature might express intuitions of capacities mat are available to us. If, as Marshall McLuhan suggested, artists are a culture's "distant early warning system," the images just noted might prefigure luminous knowings and powers that can be realized by the human race.