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Stapledon, Olaf

Category: Writer

Olaf Stapledon is classified as a ‘science fiction’ writer if you look at some web-sites on him, but he is far far more than that. Together with his philosophy lectureship at the University of Liverpool (which now houses the Olaf Stapledon archive), Stapledon lectured in English Literature, Industrial History and psychology.

He wrote many non-fiction books on political and ethical subjects, in which he advocated the growth of "spiritual values", which he defined as those values expressive of a yearning for ‘greater awareness of the self in a larger context’ .  His books include  Last and First Men (a ‘projected history of humanity’ – so prophecy) and Star Maker (a journey around the Universe – an out of body experience) both of which were highly acclaimed.

His work directly influenced Arthur C Clarke, Brian Aldisss, Stanislaw Lem, C S Lewis and  John Maynard Smith and indirectly influenced countless others, contributing so many ideas to the world of science-fiction that they are too numerous to list. He believed in the Higher spirit, recognised the existence of the ‘Implemented’ part of the spiritual world [the copies of the package ] He called this the ‘supermind’ (composed of many individual consciousnesses) a recurring theme in his work.

His fiction often represents the strivings of a hero figure that is beaten down by an indifferent universe and its inhabitants which, through no fault of their own, fail to comprehend these lofty yearnings. He understood the myth of the hero and I think he may have been one too.  Reading Star Maker is eerie beyond belief.  I think Olaf Stapledon had one or more very very profound out of body experiences, and wrote about them through stories and myths.  This quote may say it all “Stapledon was hostile to religious institutions, but not to religious yearnings”.  Except it should say he was extremely spiritual.

His books are filled with protagonists who are tormented by the conflict between their "higher" and "lower" impulses – so the Subconscious against the Conscious and the Higher spirit.

References

  • Star Maker (1937) ­Brian Aldiss called this 1937 SF classic "the most wonderful novel I have ever read", and its attracted admiring remarks by Jorge Luis Borges, Arthur C Clarke, Doris Lessing, and Virginia Woolf
  • Odd John
  • Sirius

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