I very much enjoyed your post, Victor. And as Curtis noted, one could easily compose a twelve-page essay in response. I’ll keep my remarks confined to a few loosely related thoughts which flitted through my own consciousness as I read your blog post.
First off, this question of “writing to raise consciousness”—quibbling definitions aside, I take your meaning—and, in the main, applaud the intent—whilst wincing from such a baldly stated, motivating aesthetic principle of overt didacticism and moral uplift. Though John Gardner has remarked “true art is by its nature moral” (italics his in On Moral Fiction; Basic Books, Inc.; 1978) Vladimir Nabokov tells us that there are “. . . three points of view from which a writer can be considered: He may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three . . . but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.”
Regarding your observation that “authors often write to get readers to think about a particular issue” I can only exclaim, indeed! I oftentimes write to think more deeply about a particular issue or to explore a theme; I think all serious writers are more interested in theme than plot. (Excepting hacks, eh? I confess to a firmly held prejudice here: I think writers of lesser talent, ability and ambition are all-consumed by plot; whereas writers of greater stature–that is to say writers of deeper thought, broader emotion and depth of feeling–are spurred to action, epiphany and insight by an exploration of theme.)
Now please understand that I do respect your approach to the craft; I honor and salute the thoughtful deliberateness and intentionality with which you interweave spiritual values into your work. (No ironic quote marks around that phrase; no tiresome inquiry into the epistemological and ontological qualities you mean to evoke by such usage. I’m willing to roll with phrases like “planetary consciousness” in this instance.) It strikes me that you are consciously writing in a long and noble moral tradition, one that hearkens back to the Axial Age. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_Age )
My own encounters with writers such as Viktor Frankl, Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell, Thich Nhat Hanh and Albert Einstein have inculcated in me a fierce unapologetic humanism which rejects any and all ideological verities which seek to elevate autocratic thinking and institutions over the individual. As regards writers of fiction who have left a similarly profound mark I would point to such exemplars of excellence as Hemingway, Steinbeck, John Irving, Pat Conroy, Toni Morrison, et. al. (Far too many to enumerate here. I believe all writers with something to say eschew dogma and cant in favor of that “great honesty and probity of a priest of God” that Hemingway fingered as the requisite criteria of character and vitalism that informs and animates all lasting literary work.)
And yet . . . and yet . . . Is there not an element of pretension and narcissism in baldly stating to the reader that one hopes to “raise their consciousness” by one’s own writing? Is this not, perhaps, too “on-the-nose”, pseudo-Victorian (“This book lacks the essential moral uplift required of all great literature.”) and/or off-the-mark entirely as regards fiction? Is it not true that most people love being entertained and resent being educated? Returning to Nabokov’s observation that “it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer” (Salmon Rushdie, Umberto Ecco, Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Italo Calvino, et. al.) are we in danger of rending the fairy-like enchantment of the fictional dream by an all-too-obvious, overt hand orchestrating character and theme? On the other hand, does it smack of rank cowardice, evasion and duplicity to deny that one has any such intent or responsibility when we all know the profound and lasting impact well-written moral fiction (let’s embrace John Gardner’s unflinching and unapologetic term) can have on consciousness and behavior?
Questions, questions . . .
I am so very glad you raised them, Victor.
PS. I hope my respect to your approach to the craft is apparent in the words above. Your blog post is a rich one that could serve as a springboard for many future discussions; the tangential issues alone could keep us occupied for years.