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TAGS: Dreams and visions; Philosophy; Science
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Abstract:
Book-length essay on the consistency of science and religion, treated as a work of fiction about the journey of the main character Will, who is accompanied by the mysterious Jeddin and other strange beings; includes many selections from the Writings.

Out of Plato's Cave:
A Dream Journey of Science, Philosophy, and Spirit, Featuring Crashes of Memoir, Dashes of Song and Rhyme, Florid Stagings of Drama, Wise Birds, Hungry Beasts, and a Garnish of Rebellious Footnotery

by Dana Paxson

2017
About: This book’s beginnings rooted themselves in a celebration: the bicentenary of the birth in 1817 in Tehrán, Persia, of Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí, titled Bahá’u’lláh, and the bicentenary of the birth in 1819 in Shiráz, Persia, of Siyyid ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi, titled The Báb. These two dates, observed in the Bahá’í calendar as adjacent days, mark what Bahá’ís – followers of Bahá’u’lláh – often term the Twin Holy Festivals or Twin Holy Birthdays, resonating with the celebration in every religion of the birth into this world of its unique Manifestation from God: Mawlid for Muslims, Christmas for Christians, Vesak for Buddhists, Janmashtami for Hindus, and many more.

The Báb is the Founder and Author of the Babí Faith and the Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’u’lláh is the Founder and Author of the Bahá’í Faith. The present book concentrates on just one single principle among the many teachings poured forth in the copious Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb: the consistency of science and religion.

The first stage of the book was a brief essay on science and religion that got longer and deeper with every rewrite. In studying the theme, it became clear to me that in these past two hundred years we have witnessed the explosion of human knowledge as science has awakened us to realities we had never before known.

The result was a lengthy and rather academic discourse in book form. The work passed through many different realms of science and cognition, but finding readers willing to toil through the whole thing, footnotes and all, seemed unlikely.

Rewrite after rewrite followed. The motivating bicentenary observances came and went. I removed much material, but immediately added new material. By now the book had grown to great size, over 170,000 words. The removed portions became standalone pieces on their own. In a series of rewrites, I changed the whole presentation into a lively story narrative including many characters and memoir-like passages flashing views of the protagonist’s personal life. The whole work is now an entertainment, a dream-narrative.

Through nested dreams and nightmares, the main thread is the journey of Will, the main character himself, accompanied and carried by the mysterious Jeddin and other stranger beings. In stages come the unraveling of meanings from the avatars of science and spirit Will encounters. Throughout, birds bringing wisdom to Will as he flies, falls, and wanders from one meeting to the next. Bits of verse and song bloom here and there along the way. Sometimes characters pop up with entertainments of their own.

Sources, patterns, and inspirations for this work range through Lewis Carroll’s Alice, Attar’s Conference of the Birds, William Langland’s Piers Plowman, Guy Murchie’s Seven Mysteries of Life, George Gamow’s Mr. Tompkins, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, The Thousand and One Nights, and innumerable scientific and religious sources. The Bibliography is long.

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