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Copyright (C) 1981 by Irving Wolfe

* Editor's Note: This paper was first presented at the Princeton Seminar - The Velikovsky Challenge - In Science and History - held on Sept. 6,1981 and sponsored by KRONOS. Other papers from that seminar will be appearing in the pages of KRONOS as well. - LMG

After discussing its structural analysis, we shall now undertake an interpretation of the soap opera's cosmology. There is one, surprisingly enough, and it plays a very significant role. It is presented poetically and aesthetically, of course, rather than literally, and so needs to be interpreted; but its presence is forceful enough to have elicited comment by analysts. We shall find that it is similar not only to catastrophic theory and the results of our formal analysis, but also to both the latest cosmological thinking and the oldest Oriental myths.

Its metaphysics has been described by one critic as

A celebration of a mystic philosophy whose image is the Flow. / The Flow is an image of the movement of the universe which is sensed as a great current, a river of unbound dimensions in which all things are carried along and swept into juxtapositions by eddying motions of the medium.(31)

Outside forces set the terms: eddying motions of the flow.(32)

Characters in soap operas are not isolated . . . they are proximate, mutually-interested bodies suspended in a protoplasmic community. . . . The soaps carry them along and keep the rhythm of the flow.(33)

If we substitute planet for character, solar system for flow or protoplasmic community, and galaxy for river of unbound dimensions, no astronomer would seriously disagree with the picture of the universe thereby entailed. The quotation is an unintended but nevertheless correct description not only of our solar system and Earth's relation to it, but also of our solar system's relation to the galaxy of which it is a part and by extension the place of our galaxy in galactic clusters and thence in the cosmos. It speaks of an interconnected set of partially-independent entities flowing in a rhythmic movement propelled by external forces and laws. This interdependent, non-autonomous motion is said to be an image of the movement of the universe, in which many similar systems follow the same motion in a medium sensed as a great current. In this universe, man can perceive some of the eddying motions and outside forces which sweep things into juxtapositions and keep the rhythm of the flow but he can never know them all or influence them in any appreciable way. Such a vision of the physical universe and of man's place in it corresponds markedly to emergent holistic physics and Heisenbergian uncertainty concerning man's ability to fathom the real nature of the world. Equally significant, this is also the concept of the world offered by most Eastern metaphysics.(34)

Contrasted against this vision of cosmic continuity, however, is a powerful element of local discontinuity. In the placid soap-opera universe which I have just described, the system of mutually-interested bodies suspended in the calm placenta of the great current is nevertheless subject to much local disorder in the form of rape, murder, assault, mental cruelty, enforced separation, mutilation, drastic change, and various bizarre kinds of death, to name a few. Such frequent and widespread upheaval clashes with conventional celestial dynamics, which either pictures the universe as stable and very gradualist, or insists that large-scale disorder occurs far away in space or far back in time, neither situation posing any danger to Earth. The pattern corresponds strikingly to Velikovskian theory, however, in which catastrophism and uniformitarianism co-exist as alternating modes of physical existence.

The same duality applies to the reactions of people in such a cosmos. Despite "the Flow", the eternal rhythm, the base of unending survival which provides a sense of comfort over the long run, the addicted soap-opera viewer, in the words of one critic, feels from moment to moment that the cosmos is

out of control: We are in love [in a stable situation] today, but who [or what] will come into our lives tomorrow?(35)

As a result, despite the soap-opera universe's ongoing constancy, there is also evoked in the steady viewer

Free floating anxiety, constant uncertainty of everything but the powerlessness of the body, of the intent.(36)

The catastrophist would suggest that this is just how the survivors of a Velikovskian catastrophe would have felt about the world, and how we, the descendants of those survivors, would continue to feel about the world at a racially-subconscious level if such knowledge were genetically inheritable. Support for such an interpretation may exist in the following description of the soap-opera universe, which seems to unwittingly put the matter in overt cosmic and catastrophic terms.

Since the flow is continuous in time but unsteady in space, those who feel themselves in it live in constant anxiety.(37)

Neither the most up-to-date cosmologist nor Velikovsky himself could have said it better. In all three systems, uncertainty cohabits with order.

Not only does the soap-opera vision, but also its structure, correspond to modern cosmological discovery. If we wish to describe the soap opera accurately, it is not enough to discern its parts without describing the relationship between them, and this relationship is kinetic, not static. The soap opera consists of a world of perpetual movement, in which different cycles are at different stages of their typical rhythms at any given moment. The whole is the fluid or matrix in which all the cycles progress. It is the constant substructure for the recurrent, open-ended cycles, as many believe the universe forms a single substructure, a unique frame of reference, for the local systems of moving, evolving, interrelated galactic clusters. At least, that is how it appears to this fundamental observer. Each soap opera cycle, like each galaxy or galactic cluster, has its own internal energy which directs all its local movements, urges and enclosed activity, but every cycle is only part of a larger whole.

As with the universe, the soap-opera whole contains all of the parts but is larger than just the sum of its parts. In both realms, the whole is an interconnected, mutually-affecting, always-evolving totality in which the local concentrations of matter and activity working through their cycles in time and space are but specks on the canvas. Such a perspective drastically affects one's attitude about the universe. Seen from the midst of a soap-opera crisis or a violent supernova, the world seems fragmented and chaotic. Seen from a sufficient distance, however, both the physical universe and the soap-opera cosmos are holistic and isotropic. The cosmological principle can be applied equally to the universe and to this genre of popular culture - a short run perception of local disorder gives way to a long-run perception of universal isotropy.

I must add that, when I compare the cosmos to the world of the soap-opera in this way, I am not simply drawing an analogy between a scientific world and an imaginative one. I have used cosmological terms to describe the soap-opera world because I believe its structure is intuitively modeled on the cosmos, which it reflects. As I've tried to suggest, the post-Einsteinian conception of the universe appears to inform the structures, megastructures and even metastructures of the soap-opera. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that the soap opera has anticipated recent cosmological discovery. Its world view has long been shared by religion, great art, and Eastern thought, but mainstream science possessed an entirely different attitude when it was strictly Newtonian and uniformitarian and did not allow for large-scale disorder whatsoever. Only since Hubble and supernovas and quasars and the Big Bang has modern cosmology begun to move toward the world view of religion, myth, and popular narrative, as Robert Jastrow has admitted in his book God and the Astronomers.(38) The point he makes, with which I heartily agree, is that religion and myth - and I would add the soap-opera too, of course - seem to have been telling us all along, in their kinds of language, what modern science is just coming to perceive in numerical terms.

If the foregoing analysis of the soap-opera's cosmology is correct, then its true collective meaning for man may be discerned when we combine the two apparently-contrasting elements of its world view into a unified picture. On the one hand, the universe is pictured as a great current. . . in which all things are carried along. This implies constancy and regularity, aim and superhuman control. On the other, there are occasional violent local irregularities, constituting the bulk of the soap-opera's narrative action, which creates anxiety in man. The soap-opera's ultimate vision would seem to be a reconciliation of these two insights - although disasters do occur, the world will continue, as will human perception of this continuity. Herein may lie the source of the otherwise puzzling pleasure which the soap opera provides. Its world view may be a grim but positive truth subconsciously understood by its audience. It accepts catastrophe, but affirms continuity as the larger picture against which the catastrophes are but segments. It proclaims that disaster has no permanent sting.

Such thoughts imply that the soap opera is anything but the mindless escapist diversion it is often considered to be. It should perhaps be seen instead as a coded statement of the deepest truths about collective human existence which our globe has been able to perceive, truths which encompass and reconcile good and evil, pain and pleasure, destruction and survival, reality and illusion. That may be why our culture produces it - we need a contemporary mythic form which will permit us to keep reminding ourselves that catastrophes can happen, but which sugar-coats this reminder with the solace that we can survive. Both of these critical functions are absent from the disasterless uniforrnitarian world view of mainstream science, and that is why the soap opera may have become so popular precisely at the apogee of the age of science - it may be a vehicle for expressing certain racial wisdom which cannot be expressed more directly.

Perhaps we can now venture a formal catastrophist explanation of what the soap opera does for man its creator. I have said that traditional literary narrative, what we call "great art", acts as a safety valve for collective human fear of world destruction by presenting a placid uniformitarian surface which is undercut by a catastrophic substructure. The presence of the two in combination in great art, one assuaging our conscious needs while the other placates our subconscious fears, permits literary narrative to perform a very necessary collective cleansing and healing function for all of traumatized post-catastrophic mankind. This is how great art placates our left brain ancestral anxieties - it reconciles the fearful and the hopeful. I feel that popular culture performs the same medicinal function for Western man, but in a different, surprisingly religious manner. Perhaps it appeals to the non-linear, more comprehensive "right-brain" part of us.

Whereas "great" narrative has almost always been constrained to present an ordered and predictable universe as a framework for its local events - no matter how disordered and unpredictable those local events may be - while having to disclose only beneath the surface that the framework is not always stable, popular art can present universal disorder without restraint, subterfuge or disguise. No subconsciously-perceived substructure echoing what actually happened is necessary to be played off against the illusory uniformitarian surface for man to derive comfort from the experience. The soap opera is free to present order and disorder directly, at the same level of audience awareness. The gap between the fictional events in soap opera and the real celestial events they represent is therefore one of degree, not kind.

The soap's individual terrors are direct symbols of collective terrors of the past. Our racial response to the soap is therefore less complicated than our collective reaction to great art, but the result is the same. In both cases, our experience of the genre confirms our racial awareness that the world is a blend of temporary disorder but eternal order. This is comforting and allows us to get on with practical matters. Like religion and myth as Velikovsky interprets them, and great classical art as I interpret it, the soap opera portrays things as they are, not as human rationality would have them be. Maybe great art is more devious because it placates the reason, whereas soap opera is more direct because it seeks our emotional assent. In any case, to the extent that conventional science is untrue in its description of the world, the soap opera may be true. Its vision of the universe, incorporating stability and instability in one coherent world view, may be a myth we can believe in our deepest hearts because the picture of the cosmos it presents echoes the knowledge buried in our racial collective unconscious.

The mechanism whereby the soap opera communicates this vision is of course the plot, and more specifically the role of the evildoer, in whom the principle of chaos is incarnated. The relationships between the evildoer and the "good" characters, and the larger connection between these relationships and the overall context, define the symbolic universe of the genre. It is a kinetic system in which chaos flourishes eternally, but is suspended in a matrix of larger regularity.

Analyzing Dallas this way, for example (for Dallas is an overt soap opera), makes it clear that J.R.'s role is central. He must continue to plot his nefarious strategies continuously, for he represents eternal instability, the continuous presence of uncertainty and disorder beneath the surface of our apparently-ordered world. It is a presence, I might add, known not only by the collective subconscious, but by the elementary-particle physicist and economist and mathematician and historian as well. That is why J. R. is granted a continously limited success and is never actually punished. He cannot ever be allowed to wholly triumph, but neither must he ever be wholly suppressed. He must plot and be foiled continuously, with new plots growing as old ones die, for he is our acknowledgment to ourselves that danger is recurrent but survival is predominant. The world may be governed by Jock, and the powerless Lucies and Vals and Garies do get rewarded, but J. R. is always there churning up new evil to be suffered and overcome. What is most essential in such a structure, therefore, is the relationship between plotter and plottees. It appears that the aim is to have this relationship continue forever, with both sides always surviving. No one must win, but the game must go on, for the story must never end. Downs and ups may occur, but the base persists, which suggests that the prime purpose of a show like Dallas seems to be to have each one of the plotter-plottee relationships go through its full cycle but give way to more and more cycles forever.

A useful comparison can then be made between Dallas and certain long-running classical movie cartoons. I do not wish to explore the matter at any length here, reserving it instead for a book in progress whose working title is Catastrophism and Culture, but a brief summary of the similarities between a certain kind of "live" T.V. show and a certain genre of animated cartoon seems necessary. I am thinking specifically of the very popular Tom and Jerry cartoons of not long ago, in which Tom the cat continually seeks to capture and eat Jerry the mouse, always without success. Dallas is a "live" adult version of Tom and Jerry. In both, there is a continual plotter, Tom and J.R. There are continual plottees - Jerry the mouse and the members of the Ewing family. There is a framework of order and authority - the human masters of Tom and Jerry's household and Jock Ewing, and a similar narrative structure. Both shows are never-ending, open-ended and cyclical. Their characteristic rhythm is the recurrence of a cycle wherein the devious plotter - J.R. is so much like Tom the cat, it's startling - mounts an attack, sets it in motion, is on the verge of succeeding, and then is consistently foiled, only to begin devising another plot. There is no masculine, conclusive ending in either case, no point at which evil is punished, good is rewarded, order is re-established once and for all and all loose ends are tied up. Instead, there is only the conclusion of a cycle of attack and failure which carries in itself the seed of the next cycle, ad infinitum. The point of the Tom and Jerry cartoon, just like the T.V. show Dallas, and wholly unlike the classical play or novel or symphony or epic or myth, is that it should never end. Each conclusion of a cycle is a temporary lull rather than a final stasis, a moment when energy is regathered for the following burst.

The daytime soap operas are much like this, except that their focus is distributed. Several cycles usually go on simultaneously, in different stages of completion, with the general soap-opera world - let us say Pine Valley of All My Children - as the matrix in which the individual cycles complete themselves. The object of such a narrative structure, in Dallas or daytime soap opera or Tom and Jerry, is not to reach a classical moment of retributive finality, but to go on forever, which is what we had determined earlier, in our formal analysis. In the soap opera, with human characters involved who cannot be continuously resurrected like Tom each time he is devastatingly foiled by Jerry, the combination of many cycles in progress in different stages simultaneously prevents any one plot thread from becoming the sole focus of the show, and instead keeps the overall momentum of the general action going forward so that it never stops, giving us the feeling that the cycle of cycles is endless. This confirms the point established earlier that the indefinitely open-ended story structure constitutes a wholly different genre from the "classical" narrative. It has its own characteristic rhythms and flavor and essence.

The Aristotelian narrative is end-programmed, and all its parts serve that end. It is a decisive structure with inevitability and purpose, and it moves to a thorough conclusion in which no loose ends dangle and nothing is left unfinished. It is repeatable, of course, but repeatable as a whole, as a closed system. The soap opera, on the other hand, is a mesh of staggered cycles intended to continue endlessly. It contains no point at which all is concluded. It never comes to a complete close. Parts of it may, but the whole does not, for, at any given moment, there are numerous loose threads and suspended actions and unfinished matters. It is not so much repeatable as continuous. We may say that, in an Aristotelian narrative, the end justifies the means, whereas, in soap opera, there is no end. Clearly, the function of such a structure is to proclaim continuity - cycles may finish, certain characters may disappear or be destroyed, but Pine Valley will go on forever. To a Velikovskyite, the reason why man must create such a narrative form is rather clear.

As a coda to this brief digression on cartoons, let us look at the highly popular Roadrunner television series. There, the catastrophic master model seems to have been virtually inverted. The attacking force is a weak Coyote, and the attackee is not helpless in the face of its wrath, but an infinitely-superior Roadrunner endowed with prodigious speed, knowledge, and cleverness which render him impervious to all the Coyote's plots and boringly successful at evading danger. It hardly needs pointing out that, if Velikovsky is correct, our ancestors would have greatly liked to have been endowed with such powers when actual catastrophes occurred. The structure of this cartoon series is like a dream sequence after a terrifying experience. It can be interpreted as a safe re-living of horrible trauma, for it is the Coyote who is figuratively destroyed on each occasion, not the Roadrunner, as if the planets suffered when they attacked man and not vice versa;(39) and yet the Coyote rebounds effortlessly from each apparently-total annihilation to undertake his next plot and be defeated again. This makes the Roadrunner megacycle endless.

The catastrophist would explain this sequence by saying that, because we have repressed ancestral memories of the Velikovskian catastrophes deep in our collective subconscious, catastrophes wherein we suffered tremendously at the hands of aroused planetary forces, this inversion in cartoon form, repeated unceasingly, is subconsciously comforting. It renders the harmful harmless, like children's tales of The Friendly Giant. Many have said that the origin of religion lies precisely in such a desire to transform the occasionally-angry heavens from destroyers into protectors of mankind;(40) and as a final point we should note that the Superman myth, which has become so popular in film at the moment, does the very same thing. Instead of an exploding planet sending superhuman destruction to Earth, it gives us an exploding Krypton which sends a superhuman saviour to Earth, the Man of Steel with cometary powers who protects Good from Evil. The meaning of Superman is quite clear - his power assures earthly survival. He achieves precisely the opposite of what the exploding planets are said by Velikovsky to have achieved during the actual catastrophes, especially the Saturnian and Jovian ones. But that is enough for now on related genres. I have chosen to present one or two comparisons at this point to suggest that the soap opera is not alone in displaying the catastrophic substructures I have just elucidated. I think all of man's imaginative creations, from the most elitist to the most popular, share the same impulse.

If our catastrophic reading of the soap opera is correct, then its primary social function may be to put us in touch in an ultimately comforting way with those irrational truths about our universe and thus ourselves which the rationalist temper of our modem age urges us to ignore. Because it is similar to but not the same as the real events of the past we are consciously afraid to recall, it can achieve this aim successfully. Indeed, the closer to the truth it comes without actually being true, the better it can perform its masking, releasing, tranquilizing role. This may explain its consistent appeal to all ages and levels of society. Moreover, its appeal may be increasing today in inverse proportion as the orient points of our existence waver. As international unrest and dissension and war and civil war and indiscriminate violence and monetary instability and political duplicity and private immorality and hedonism and an absence of shared belief proliferate, we become less and less assured of national and international stability, and thus of local and private stability, and thus of stability itself. As a result, our buried ancestral catastrophic fears concerning past cosmic instability are aroused more actively than otherwise and threaten to come to the surface of our consciousness. We therefore need the psychological relief provided by the safe and comforting displacement of the soap opera, which substitutes for our actual fears, and, by creating an ultimately safe context for them, keeps them dormant. They are prevented from rising to consciousness, and our everyday lives are therefore not threatened. The soap opera is a collective survival tactic. We can only live with our racial past if we keep it safely at bay, and the soap opera is one of the ways Western culture has developed to do this.

In sum, then, a catastrophic analysis sees the soap opera as the product of recurrent memorial pressure upon our subconscious collective knowledge of the world's troubled physical past. We cannot ever allow this knowledge to surface into consciousness, or daily life would become unbearable, and one of the methods we have developed to dampen this fear before it can rise is to create surrogate worlds like the soap-opera universe in which violent instability on all fronts can be safely faced in disguise in a comforting context of overall stability. The soap opera is thus a continuous collective response to collective need. In medical analogy, it is both a symptom of our ancient fear and yet also its palliative. It is a collective aspirin produced by the psyche of mankind to suppress the pain of catastrophic memories. Like the aspirin, it cannot actually remove the cause of the pain from our minds, but it does lessen its effect.

That the soaps are successful in providing reassurance, and that the reassurance they provide is needed by the public it serves, is amply testified to by the letters the shows receive to the effect that the soap opera is "something to hold on to, to depend on", "one of the few constants in our lives".(41) The same sort of observation is made by Marshall McLuhan concerning certain long-running comic strips.

For many millions on this continent Jiggs and Dagwood are fixed points of geniality, beacons of orientation, amid flux and stress. They represent a new kind of entertainment, a sort of magically recurrent daily ritual which now exerts on the spontaneous popular feelings a rhythmic reassurance that does substitute service, as it were, for the old popular experience of the recurrence of the seasons.(42)

This statement has many Velikovskian echoes. The comic strip is described as having a quasi-religious function whose purpose is comfort regarding the natural order. It is a fixed point and beacon in the stressful darkness, a magical daily ritual which provides rhythmic reassurance as a substitute for the popular experience of the recurrence of the seasons. Worlds In Collision tells us that one of the most overwhelming effects of the catastrophes it reconstructs was a period of gloom and darkness accompanied by a temporary failure of the seasons to recur in an expected order; and when the Sun was once again visible as a fixed point and beacon, and a seasonal cycle once more became evident, man organized religious ritual to provide reassurance that the rhythmic motion of the seasons would not cease or alter again.(43) The soap opera appears to have the same function. It is a secular ritual of comfort.

Here, then, is where our catastrophic reading of soap opera has led us. If we accept it, we must conclude that all enduring popular narrative, of which the soap opera forms but a part, is not frivolous. It does not exist merely for amusement's sake and never has. It answers a deep unconscious communal need, and that is why it exercises a perennial sway over the public imagination. The necessity to experience catastrophic patterns of action in creative art will be met from one source or another. The more that "good" literature draws away from this dynamic plot matrix, lessening its appeal to a broad range of audience by becoming art for its own sake rather than for the folk's sake, the more will such "popular" story worlds as the soap opera proliferate to fill the void, as has indeed occurred in the last half century. Non-elitist narrative is a living collective organism responsive to the needs of the society it serves, and Prof. Fiedler is quite correct when he proposes that we pay serious and respectful attention to it.

We should not be misled by the general scorn of the soap opera shown by the intellectual community, for academic disparagement of the genre may be less an aesthetic repugnance than a subconscious response based on collective fear. A certain kind of specialist can only function happily in a context of observable and expressible regularity based on immutable "laws" and values which he says is a legitimate description of life. According to our catastrophist interpretation, on the other hand, the soap opera tells us that life is rather more complex and less regular than mainstream academic simplification. That may be its subterranean message to our subterranean collective mind, and here may lie the deep source of much intellectual antagonism to it. The kind of person who reduces everything to numerical data for statistical analysis, so that he may say something definite and intelligent in his field, would resist the soap opera's subliminal message because he would be rendered nervous and defensive by a world view of local chaos and only general order. Such a view is not compatible with his wishes or needs, and so he would be subconsciously driven to attack the soap opera as illusion. According to our catastrophic interpretation, however, we know deep inside that strict regularity is not the way of the world, but is itself an illusion, and so we turn intuitively to those forms of human expression which can deal with multiplicity, chaos and continuity instead. That is where such cultural artifacts as the soap opera, the cartoon, the mystery, police and cowboy stories and the Gothic romance come in. According to our catastrophist interpretation, these popular art forms subconsciously fill in the parts of the picture left out by terrified mainstream simplification.

This function of narrative art - and I hope I have at least raised the possibility by now that soap opera is subconscious collective narrative art - seems to be understood by a small number of specialists not only in the humanities, but in the hardest of hard sciences as well. In physics, the simple Newtonian outlook has given way to a view which intrinsically includes paradox, simultaneously-true contradictions, apparently incompatible facts, an undiscoverable and therefore unknowable causality and the correspondence-complementarity duality. Equally, it is becoming clear to those who perceive the essential complexity of the universe that traditional logical discourse cannot describe it, and that Western man must turn to non-discursive discourse as a more suitable language for expressing this multiple and ambiguous perception of the world. As someone recently observed, the function of art is "to remind us of harmonies beyond the grasp of systematic analysis . . . [by] uniting manifold aspects of human knowledge". The man who wrote that was not a creative artist nor an aesthetic theorist, but the physicist Niels Bohr, and it has been used by the literary critic Norman Rabkin to enunciate a theory of literature as metaphysical truth.(44) He argues that we know intuitively that life consists of paradox and duality and unresolvable ambiguity and dialectic and unanswerable questions, which is just what the physicist finds who examines sub-atomic particles, and that poetry is the only language capable of expressing this perception. Our recognition of this statement in poetry does not cause unease in us, he says, but gives us joy and pleasure because our "gut" view of the world is affirmed. Poetry is therefore supralogical wisdom, Rabkin says, creating

worlds which . . . make sense in ways that consistently elude our power to articulate them rationally and yet seem to represent the truth better than rational articulation.(45)

Maud Bodkin, in her ground breaking book Archetypal Patterns in Poetry, made much the same observation forty years earlier, without knowing its parallel in modern physics. Speaking of patterns of action found in all great literature, she said they embodied

a kind of truth that cannot be expressed in verifiable factual terms but is sustained and communicated through our heritage of poetry.(46)

She acknowledges her debt to Cornford, Frazer, and Weston, so the notion that literature is important truth has a respectable pedigree in this century, and in fact goes back at least to Plato.

In such art, Rabkin insists, a mixture of

radically opposed and equally total commitments to the meaning of life coexist in a single harmonious vision(47)

and we respond with pleasure to such art because

we recognize that we are seeing the world through the artist's vision as our deepest experience tells us always the world really is.(48)

This does not mean art provides one coherent answer, any more than science does, but it is the best we can achieve.

In it, as in nothing else, we are enabled to reexperience . . . the unresolvable complexity of life as life presents itself to the fullest human consciousness.(49)

Looked at in this way, Rabkin says, creative expression is empirical truth.

Great art is not a turning away from life's problems, but a facing up to what the real problems are.(50)

I agree, but with several reservations. First, when Rabkin and Bodkin speak of poetry, both refer to the works of giants such as Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Chaucer. But I think the same dicta can be applied to collective subconscious folk art like the soap opera. Ultimately, it says what Shakespeare says, but in its own way. Second, Rabkin seems to restrict poetry's insights primarily to the realm of ethical and metaphysical problems, but I think his views can be applied to the physical universe as well, for duality, correspondence and complementarity in art are but mirrors of the physical world. Lastly, he seems to suggest that the perception of paradox and ambiguity is almost exclusively the province of the great poets. I do not think this is quite true in the West, for painting and dance and opera can do this quite as well, and it is certainly not true for the East, where religion and myth and folklore are openly understood to embody contradictory yet factual knowledge. Rabkin is too exclusive, for poetry has not cornered the market on symbolic or indirect expression of paradox, and the thoughts it expresses may be more complex than those he enunciates. He is correct, however, and importantly so, in saying that knowledge is the content of art, that non-discursive discourse can present complicated non-linear insights about the world.

I think that the expression of serious thought has never been limited in any culture to only the so-called "serious" modes of language. Eastern thought presents its vision of the universe, which specifically includes the physical universe - in code, puzzles, tales, dance, song, and ritual - and, when Western man needs to express thoughts beyond rationality but not beyond truth, he does much the same thing. Religion is obviously serious, yet it uses narrative and parable. Folkloric wisdom often uses the joke, the maxim and the tale. Painters are serious, no less than preachers or scientists, but each uses a different language to convey his insights. It is clear, therefore, that all of these modes of expression are equally serious. Some just appear more conventionally serious on the surface, that is all. I think that narrative art in all its forms, both elitist and popular, is a serious form of expression of knowledge, and this includes the soap opera. Like all other forms of literature, it is not simply psychological truth, or cultural or social or economic or aesthetic or generic truth, but also complex physical and metaphysical insights expressed in a mode suited to the nature of its message and the condition of its audience. It is a racial memo whereby our subconscious collective past speaks to our fragmented present.

I shall conclude with a short anecdote which seems to support my interpretation of the soap opera. It is an axiom in analytical psychology that one of the greatest difficulties in overcoming a person's neurosis is not the discovery of what is bothering him, but the way in which this is revealed to the person himself. A neurotic who has evolved compensatory tactics and illusions to help him maintain a sense of stability at least in his own eyes will give them up only with reluctance. Furthermore, he may become rather angry with the person urging him to give them up. In this case, it means that, if I am correct in my description of the soap opera's subconscious collective function, then the revelation of that function to the conscious could provoke a reaction of irrational hostile fear such as Velikovsky himself encountered when he first brought forth his ideas. The cause of such a reaction in this case would be an intense subconscious reluctance to have the soap opera's collective function end, for, if we are collectively traumatized as Velikovsky argues and have shored up creative art as one defense against the ruins, we would resent anyone who threatened to take this defense away by making us consciously aware of it. Our resentment would be caused by the subconscious knowledge that, if the soap opera subliminally calms our unconscious ancestral terrors, the process would not work as well, or perhaps at all, if we were to suddenly find out consciously what is going on. The game would be over, and we would be rather unhappy. As a closing note, therefore, it should be told that, when Prof. Fiedler attended a meeting of chairmen of departments of English shortly after he had first broached his ideas concerning the archetypal dimension of non-elitist narrative, he was violently challenged by many of his fellow department heads, who shouted at him to renounce his heresies or resign, not only as a chairman but as a teacher of English.


31. McAdow, p. 961.
32. Ibid., p. 964.
33. Ibid., p. 962.
34. See, for instance, F. Capra. The Tao of Physics (Fontana/Collins paperback edn., London, 1976); Also G. Zukav, The Dancing Wu-Li Masters (N.Y.,1979).
35. McAdow, p. 961.
36. Ibid.
37. Ibid.
38. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (N.Y., 1978).
39. It is of course understood that the planets involved suffered too, particularly Mars, as Velikovsky makes clear in his books, but this would not have been apparent to people on Earth during the catastrophes, when the racial memories were being most vividly imprinted, to whom the planets would have seemed devastatingly powerful, even the defeated Celestial Serpent.
40. See, for instance, Lewis M. Greenberg and Warner B. Sizemore, "Cosmology and Psychology", KRONOS I:1, pp. 33-50, and William Mullen, "A Reading of the Pyramid Texts", Pensée IVR III, pp. 10-16.
41. Larsen, op. cit., p. 124.
42. Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (London, 1967), p. 69.
43. Worlds In Collision, pp. 120-125 and 294-297.
44. Norman Rabkin, Shakespeare and the Common Understanding (N.Y.,1967), paperback edn.
45. Ibid., p. 13.
46. Maud Bodkin, Archetypal Patterns in Poetry (Oxford U. Press, 1934), paperback edn., 1963, p. vi.
47. Rabkin, p. 14.
48. Ibid, p. 19.
49. Ibid., p. 26.
50. Ibid., p. 20.

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