Visionary Fiction: New Views of an Old Religion

I think that Dan Brown, Kathleen McGowan, and Kate Mosse all write visionary fiction. They have taken Christianity and given the world a new view of it. They’ve explored something we all thought we knew and made it mysterious, something that needs to be investigated and re-experienced, not just accepted at face value. Many were offended by the books, others curious, but these writers have breathed new life into something we thought was already settled.

I was raised in a small Protestant group, the Moravians, who started off as revolutionaries in the fifteenth century, but who by the mid-twentieth century had settled down to an ordinary, garden-variety church.

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As a child I loved our Advent Star and the Candlelight Lovefeast on Christmas Eve, and the brass band that would wake the neighborhood for Easter Sunrise Service, but by the time I was in college, I was looking elsewhere for spiritual growth. I didn’t feel a lot of “juice” in the church’s teachings or services. No living experience of the divine. My childhood friend who was raised a Baptist in a church just down the street, but who now studies Druid nature spirituality, said her childhood church was as real and nurturing to her as plastic grass in an Easter basket.

I did find a living spirituality through Vedanta. I began to meditate, became a TM teacher, and taught meditation for a long time. Besides Vedanta, I’ve studied and practiced shamanism, Wicca, and Western metaphysics. All these provided me with an experiential connection to the divine (sometimes less, sometimes more) that I hadn’t experienced in my childhood religion.

Until Brown, Mosse, and McGowan reanimated Christianity for me. They pointed me to the mystical side, the Gnostics. They showed me the Divine Feminine in a tradition that had taught me to feel shame about being female. I saw my ancestral tradition in a whole new light.

Dan Brown popularized the bloodline theory in his best-selling The Da Vinci Code, creating a big stir, even moving the mammoth Catholic Church to make a comment about it. Author and tour leader Stephen Mehler (The Land of Osiris) first introduced me to the idea that Christ had been married to Mary Magdalene, that they’d had children, and had moved to the south of France where their ancestors had continued to teach. I wrote about it, too, in Under the Stone Paw, but Brown beat me to the punch. Others had done novels about it before.

That kind of thing happens more than you might imagine. It’s as if our Collective Unconscious urges several artists to tell a certain story. Perhaps the universe thinks it’s time for some things to come to light. Why did thousands of people suddenly notice this idea when they did? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted in 1979 that over the next forty years, the hidden teachings of religions would come to light and mass consciousness would move back through layers of spiritual teachings until the original, pure form would be revealed. Perhaps a less grandiose version of this has occurred, but it’s not 2019 yet. We shall see.

Brown’s novel led many people to reconsider their childhood faith. They studied church history and understood how human power struggles had shaped the simple stories they’d learned in Sunday school. They understood there were several versions of Christian teachings, each with their special gifts. Some embraced a more nuanced, informed faith. Others enjoyed studying Gnostic Christianity. Many saw parallels across the mystic traditions. I loved that my own tradition was as spiritually alive as any other.

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Kathleen McGowan (The Expected One, The Book of Love, and The Poet Prince) takes the bloodline theory and connects it to the Cathar movement. For McGowan the Cathar teachings are the original Christianity, brought to Europe by Mary Magdalene, labeled as heresy by the Catholic Church, and then subjected to persecution. McGowan suggests the inquisition began as an attempt to root out the Cathar teachings. She doesn’t just write fiction. McGowan includes spiritual teachings and even Gnostic prayers. She talks about how to walk a labyrinth in a meditative way. Her books cast a broad net. She sweeps through historical figures and movements, showing us new ways to consider them.

Kate Mosse (Labyrinth and Sepulchre) also writes about the Cathars, focusing less on the bloodline. She takes us into the Cathar towns. We live through the Montségur massacre. Mosse doesn’t do as much outright spiritual teaching as McGowan, but her books offer us new ways to view the past.

Both McGowan and Mosse use the idea of reincarnation in their novels. Certain spiritual tasks have been left unfinished, and those whose job it is to accomplish these tasks take a body again to complete their work. McGowan uses a legend that Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s side with a spear, was cursed with immortality after the act. McGowan allows him to find redemption and thus release, but teaches a strong lesson in forgiveness and compassion through this character.

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Sometimes they tell very different stories about it. For instance, McGowan sees the Chartres Cathedral as a monument to Cathar teachings and Mary Magdalene in particular. Not only was Mary Magdalene an important priestess in her novels, Mary the Mother is as well, and she makes a strong case that the Cathars and others had a female image of God equal to God the Father. In Mosse’s novel, Chartres has been built by a group of dark magicians dedicated to keeping the teachings of Mary Magdalene’s sect hidden. In her novel, the labyrinth is not correctly drawn, emanating a negative energy. You can decide for yourself. That’s what a living spirituality is all about.

A few years back, I discovered an esoteric, mystical tradition within my own bland Protestant church, much to my surprise, involving poet and painter William Blake even. I wrote a novel about it because I was so delighted to find my own ancestors taught equality between the genders, practiced mysticism, and even sacred sexuality. That story is The Star Family.

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Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. For news and updates, please visit her site

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About Saleena Karim

Saleena is a writer and publisher, best known for authoring the political biography "Secular Jinnah & Pakistan". As well as being the co-brainchild of the Visionary Fiction Alliance, she is the author of the award-winning visionary fiction novel "Systems", which is also part of the curricular reading material and the Marghdeen Learning Center, Karachi.
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19 Responses to Visionary Fiction: New Views of an Old Religion

  1. Reblogged this on Mysteristas and commented:
    Here's my blog at Visionary Fiction Alliance.

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  2. drstephenw says:

    Theresa, this is a lovely overview of your books, your work, and the VF genre in relation to Christianity in its many forms. I think it's important that you're considering a broad scope of what Visionary Fiction is. As we develop the notion of this genre, there is an issue of whether an author's central intention is the visionary theme, or whether that's secondary. James Redfield seems to write with the theme in mind first, and literary considerations second, whereas Dan Brown definitely intends to make best-seller thrillers first, but with great spiritual information embedded in them. Who's to say whether CS Lewis' primary intention with the Narnia Chronicles was to promote Christianity symbolically, or to write a good children's series. My point is we should embrace it all at this point. Later, we can make up sub-genres, right?

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  3. Thoughtful point, Stephen. Certain Dan Brown's intent is different from Kathleen McGowan's. The Inklings certainly wished to write against the grain of modernism and materialism, but is that intention upper most? I agree. Let's be a "big tent" genre.

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  4. What a smorgasbord of subject matter and VF authors you've gathered into one post, Theresa. Have read some of each, including your Under the Stone Paw, that some years ago now. I may be prejudiced as I write similar material, but I am partial to VF novels that deconstruct the falsehoods in religions and then reconstruct, on more genuine evidence , those same religions. Gnosticism, especially as presented in Princeton professor Elaine Pagels' many non-fiction works, forms the foundation for a mystical Christianity that actually works and is likely much closer to the teachings of Jesus than most current editions.

    Will repost your blog to ourTerra Umbra group, out of Montsegur in Cathar Country in France. Kathleen McGowan has been active there, as well as her late husband and author, Phillip Coppens. I rejoice to see that the large soul group centered on genuine Gnosticism (Inner Knowledge) is one again gathering and making its presence known on the planet. None too soon.

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    • Thanks, Vic. It's so kind of you to repost to the Terra Umbra group. I'll have to check that group out. Thanks for reading Under the Stone Paw. I hope you enjoyed it. I'm working on my third Anne and Michael adventure, back to Egypt. (I can't escape that living with an Egyptologist/Khemitologist.)

      Yes, the soul groups have incarnated and feeling "the oldest thirst" (Rumi) to do our work and bring enlightenment. It looks wild out there now, but I think the conflicts are surfacing to be resolved.

      “Hope” is the thing with feathers –
      That perches in the soul –
      And sings the tune without the words –
      And never stops – at all – (Dickinson)

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      • Some of the best non-fiction work I've found about soul groups (as well as reincarnation and the Cathars) are Arthur Guirdham's "We are One Another" and "Reincarnation and the Cathars." Since Inquisition trial records were kept in minute detail, a startling amount of the material Dr. Guirdham recovered in sessions and conversations with his clients could be verified from these preserved historical records. And the cosmic rationale for soul groups also comes through in his work.

        I sometimes wonder why such critical material that could affect the worldview of all never makes it into the mainstream media. Maybe some day.

        Liked the Emily Dickinson touch.

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  5. "It’s as if our Collective Unconscious urges several artists to tell a certain story. Perhaps the universe thinks it’s time for some things to come to light. Why did thousands of people suddenly notice this idea when they did?"

    I've been wondering about this myself, Theresa. Which brings up the question: Why so many people interested in Visionary Fiction/Art now?

    "…these writers have breathed new life into something we thought was already settled."

    The opening of minds. And hearts. It's about time!

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  6. Brandy says:

    I am so happy you included Kathleen in this blog. Her books put me in a state of "Yes, this FEELS right" state. Love to read and I will be happy to try this one out. Thank you!

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  7. Yes, Margaret. That is the question. I read this late last night and the phrase that come to mind was that the Dawn of the Age of Enlightenment, or The Awakening, or The Age of Aquarius (you pick what resonates with you) seems as overdue as a woman who is 10 months pregnant. I think, though, that this turn in the times, this opening of minds and hearts, is happening now, has been happening for a while.

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    • We can also credit the information explosion created by the Internet. So much of our subject matter in the paranormal realm is like sex: everybody has been doing it for just about forever, but nobody is talking about it, so it remains secret. Only 40 or so years ago, no one "knew" anything about near-death-experiences, It took a few courageous souls, like Dr. Moody, to open that subject for discussion, bringing relief to many people who privately wondered if they were crazy because they had experienced such strange things when they were supposed to be "dead" and adding substantially to our collective knowledge as to the true nature of the soul.

      Not that the Internet didn't become available "just in time."

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      • That's so true. I laughed at your analogy because we've been watching Showtime's "Masters of Sex," which is a drama about the Masters and Johnson research. It's quite eye opening to see how much things have changed. They were brave. Now others are being brave about spirituality. Social media, the internet, teaching online are all transforming the world. Sounds like the Age of Aquarius to me.

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  8. Pingback: Visionary Fiction : New Views of an Old Religion ~ Theresa Crater @ Visionary Fiction Alliance | | Pauline Battell | Star Seed | Lightarian Rays Master-Practitioner | Spiritual Channeller |

  9. Collective archetypal awakening is something I think that fueled the interest in Kathleen McGowan's as well as Dan Brown's novels. A similar phenomena happened with the "Mists of Avalon" in the 1980's – a book that transformed my life both internally and externally. The collective spirit is a potent well of material to tap into when we write, and when we find the pulse of something that wants to be awakened – voila, readers can't get enough.
    ~Jodine Turner

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  10. libredux says:

    Theresa, thanks for sharing the background to your writing. Interesting that you speak of a "new view" or re-exploration of Christianity. I have said before that the legends in religious scriptures might be viewed as extremely early precedents to the VF of today (irrespective of whether one believes these legends are true or not). The fact that towards the end you also mention reincarnation as a device also implicitly echoes my feeling that VF might be resurrecting the original function of "story", that is, to explore our inner humanity and use it to transform our external lives.

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    • Thank you. I love the idea of "resurrecting the original function of 'story.'" I hope we transform ourselves and the world inside and out.

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      • I too endorse "resurrecting the original function of 'story'." See it as grist for a post of its own. When we go back to the earliest available literature (especially Greek drama and poetry), "story" was the means to consolidate and hand down the deepest truths of the culture, often metaphor-izing actual events into potent instructions for posterity in history, religion, philosophy, and psychology. Where would the race be without the Homeric poems, the Bhagavad Gita, the Old Testament? Also Works in Jung and the archetypes, what Jodine calls above "the collective spirit." These are huge ideas with huge implications for human transformation. GIves me a full-body energy surges just touching on it.

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  11. libredux says:

    Actually Vic, I confess the function of story part was borrowed from the very first post I ever wrote for what would later become the VFA – which at the time was a webring with just three members! I guest posted at Jodine's blog. 🙂

    And yes, Vic and Theresa, I feel the same way about the implications for human and world transformation, in and out.

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