Cosmic Christ in a Quantum Universe.
This study examines the figure of the second American Adam--the cosmic Christ archetype--in terms of a possible shift in the focus of Western consciousness. As science moves closer to religion and as Newtonian dualism gives way to a more holistic theory (in which observer, observed, and process of observation are all intricately interlinked), the cosmic Christ emerges as a symbol in contemporary American fiction of a potentially unified awareness which could reconnect post-Christian man to God, to the world, and to the self. Such a rebirth of unity would be contingent upon the death of a consciousness reliant upon the rational, linear, masculine, left-brained thinking associated with the old Newtonian paradigm. The resurrected consciousness would consolidate Eastern and Western religion by acknowledging the God within man through the Western symbology of the Christ prototype. It would also balance the intuitional with the rational, the cyclical with the linear, the feminine with the masculine, and the right brain with the left. In other words, the repressed elements of the collective Western psyche would be allowed to come to awareness and be integrated into the mind at large. This integrating process is implicit in the cosmic Christ imagery. The novels which are considered are all concerned with the role of consciousness in the postmodern world and the part that science and religion play in determining the nature of that role. In such varied works as Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, John Updike's Roger's Version, Saul Bellow's Herzog, Joan Didion's A Book of Common Prayer, and William Vollmann's The Ice-Shirt, a cosmic Christ figure invariably appears. The success of this figure, however, is ambiguous and uncertain. At best, the transition of consciousness that is achieved is individual rather than communal. Nevertheless, as chaos theory has demonstrated, small changes can bring about major effects. Consequently, both the science of today and the rapid growth of noninstitutional spirituality has brought a new importance to the individual, who is represented by the cosmic Christ in a quantum universe.
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- Literature: American; Religion: General; Women's Studies; Physics: General; Psychology: General