Medieval style wood engraving, first published by the French author and astronomer Camille Flammarion in 1888
Wood engraving by an unknown artist, first published by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion in his 1888 book L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire (“The Atmosphere: Popular Meteorology”). The engraving, known as the Flammarion Engraving, but also called Wanderer am Weltenrand (“Wanderer on the worlds edge”), or in French au pèlerin (“on pilgrimage”) refers to a supposedly medieval cosmology. A traveller pokes his head under the firmament and gets a vision of the machinery that moves the stars. See Wikipedia for more

Metaphysics and Esotericism

Most science fiction totally ignores metaphysics and esotericism. Indeed, a lot of (popular scifi) science fiction even ignores science, but that’s another topic.

Metaphysics is also unpopular in philosophy today, because philosophy is now based largely on empiricism (only what can be seen or detected with instruments constitutes valid knowledge, other forms of knowing are unreliable), instrumentalism (and even what these instruments tell you isn’t necessarily how things are), and postmodernism (many definitions, but in this context Kantian scepticism, all we can know is the way we know things, reality itself is unknowable).

Metaphysics  assumes that the real nature of things can be understood, whether through logic, introspection, contemplation, or transcendental insight.

Traditionally metaphysics is divided into ontology (the nature of being, or of things), cosmology (the nature of the universe), theology (the nature of God), and the Mind-Body problem (how can something as intangible and subjective as the mind interact with something as solid and objective as the body).  It also overlaps with esotericism and with mythopoesis.

Esotericism is a somewhat obscure word that refers to previously (due to fear of persecution, or misunderstanding by the profane) hidden teachings about the nature of occult and spiritual realities, techniques of self transformation and higher knowledge (gnosis), and the path to enlightenment.  It can also be defined as that branch of metaphysics based on gnosis, or transpersonal and transcendental insight.  For more on esotericism, see my website Kheper net.

Metaphysics and Science Fiction

I’ve always felt metaphysics and science are complementary, not contradictory.

One science fiction writer who incorporates esotericism and gnosis is Philip K Dick, although even this is more in subtle form, and only explicit in his notes, where Dick tries to separate his genuine gnostic insights from his paranoia.

My essay on The Matrix and Gnosticism, which deals with metaphysics in science fiction, and the failure of mainstream science fiction and scifi to incorporate transcendental metaphysical themes, even if The Matrix is a gnostic, metaphysical movie par excellence.

Following the Hard SF rebootFreehauler Alcione will no longer be set in a magical-mythic cosmology .  It will however still retain esoteric and metaphysical themes, and incorporate metaphysical and gnostic terms into the everyday narrative.  This is something that writers like Tolkien and Philip K Dick were good at.