What is higher consciousness? And what does it have to do with writing? Beyond perfect grammar and mellifluous sentences, beyond careful plotting and well-drawn characters, what is it that makes a writer endure through the ages? In my mind it has something to do with this writer having achieved a level of consciousness and understanding far beyond the scope of most humans. Here is one blog post I ran across recently that brings up some interesting points on the subject:
In her post Jen Grisanti writes movingly about how two individuals, Buckminster Fuller and author DeAnne Hamptom, achieved states of “transcendence,” allowing them to forego the demands of ego and arrive at a “deeper place of being.” This article made me think of the novel Les Miserables. Victor Hugo, it would seem, is one writer who achieved a profound degree of spiritual awareness. In fact, Les Miserables, is in many ways a meditation on the very experience of spiritual awakening. There is one passage in particular that I feel gives a real sense of what such a shift in consciousness must be like. It follows the scene where Jean Valjean, being held by police for having stolen silverware from a bishop, is stunned by the bishop’s response. The bishop not only denies the theft, he freely offers more “loot” to the ex-convict. “”Ah! here you are!” [the bishop exclaims], looking at Jean Valjean. “I am glad to see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs. Why did you not carry them away with your forks and spoons?”
The following scene begins in this way:
“Jean Valjean left the town as though he were fleeing from it. He set out at a very hasty pace through the fields, taking whatever roads and paths presented themselves to him, without perceiving that he was incessantly retracing his steps. He wandered thus the whole morning, without having eaten anything and without feeling hungry. He was the prey of a throng of novel sensations. He was conscious of a sort of rage; he did not know against whom it was directed. He could not have told whether he was touched or humiliated. There came over him at moments a strange emotion which he resisted and to which he opposed the hardness acquired during the last twenty years of his life. This state of mind fatigued him. He perceived with dismay that the sort of frightful calm which the injustice of his misfortune had conferred upon him was giving way within him. He asked himself what would replace this. At times he would have actually preferred to be in prison with the gendarmes, and that things should not have happened in this way; it would have agitated him less. Although the season was tolerably far advanced, there were still a few late flowers in the hedge-rows here and there, whose odor as he passed through them in his march recalled to him memories of his childhood. These memories were almost intolerable to him, it was so long since they had recurred to him [Chapter XIII: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/135/135-h/135-h.htm#link2HCH0020 ].”
The scene goes on to build upon this small awakening and, piece by piece, emotion by emotion, offers, I believe, one of the most mesmerizing accounts ever written of a man achieving enlightenment. And though this awakening occurs to a fictional character, it could not have been written without the author himself having reached a higher level of consciousness. Moreover, as Jen Grisanti notes in her blog, writers that are able to put into story their own transcending moments inspire us all “to connect to what they write.” It is this connection on the deepest spiritual level, I believe, that enables these writers to live on and on.