I write Visionary Fiction. It’s my passion. I published an article defining it in Writers Journal, May 2009, hoping to promote the relatively unknown genre. In November, 2011, I posted a link to my article on the Goodreads page for the Visionary Fiction Group.
From that Goodreads post emerged a small network of author colleagues who also write Visionary Fiction – Saleena Karim, Shannan Sinclair, and I started a web ring in order to discuss the genre. Our initial conversations on Goodreads attracted nine other VF authors. We decided to formalize our connection and develop a blog with the purpose of increasing the awareness of the genre. Hence, the birth of the Visionary Fiction Alliance and blog!
As we launch our magnificent new, next level website, the admin team thought it would be a good time to remember this article. So, here is the originally published article. Fellow VFA Founding Member Eleni Papanou said it is ‘the article that started it all’. I suppose that is true! I couldn’t be more happy about that.
Visionary Fiction – the New Kid on the Block
I learned about Visionary Fiction first hand. I was in my thirties when the magical town of Glastonbury England, where The Mists of Avalon was set, beckoned me. I answered the call to adventure, and moved to that ancient Isle of Avalon for nine months. Glastonbury had more in mind for me than adventure.
While living there, I would take a daily walk to the nearby Chalice Well. The well is an ancient holy spring, a pilgrimage site set amidst a garden of colorful English flowers, hawthorn shrubs, Rowan trees, and meandering paths. As I’d sit beside the bubbling springs, my mind would still its chatter, and my body would heave a sigh of relief. Early one morning in late spring, while in that relaxed state, an unbidden vision flashed in my mind’s eye. Vague images of robed women, seemingly from times long past, filled my thoughts. Over the course of the next hour, I watched them plant their gardens, and bake their bread. Saw how they’d treat the sick or injured who came to them for help. I heard them sing and chant. And, to my surprise and shock, I also saw them fall, defenseless, at the hands of raiding marauders. I heard their screams, felt their pain and terror rent my heart.
Once the images faded, I sat beside the well until the sun set behind the rounded hills. Unable to move or make sense of what I’d seen, I was gripped by the sadness the images evoked. If it weren’t for my budding friendship with Anna, the owner of a local bookstore, who knows what I would have done with this experience. Maybe I’d have written about it in my private journal, keeping my vision to myself, and never fashioned a story from it. But Anna and her eccentric grandmother changed that.
After my incident at the well, Anna told me about her Irish born grandmother, Millie. She recounted her last visit with Millie, years ago, the cold and damp winter she turned thirteen – only months before her grandmother died. From her vivid descriptions, I could imagine Anna as a young teenager, almost felt as if I’d been on that visit with her.
Millie had lived in a small village in western Ireland, and owned an old stone cottage with a cozy inglenook. Anna spent many hours beside that hearth, wrapped snugly in a warm wool shawl, watching the flames lick the edges of the sweet smelling peat. Her grandmother would sit on the bench beside her, her craggy face illuminated, her gnarled hands wrapped around a mug of steaming black tea, often with “just a spot” of whiskey added. Anna would snuggle into the protective shoulder of her grandmother, never really minding the cold, because that was the winter her grandmother taught her how to “travel.”
Millie was a natural story teller, what her ancestors might have called a Bard. She regaled Anna with tales that sprang to life in the tiny, fire lit living room. Tales of the mighty heroes of ancient Ireland, the power of the land, and the Tuatha de Danaan, the early Gods and Goddesses of Ireland. Most of her stories had to do with the Celtic Imram.
The Celtic Imram
The Imram was the mythical heroes’ quest, the adventurous travels taken by ship to reach the farthest islands in the western oceans, in search of treasures, healing, or immortality. But Imrams were no ordinary expedition to explore the promises of those distant shores. They were the extraordinary voyage of the soul. The islands the travelers visited were portals to the Otherworld, that numinous place of magic, mysticism, and paradise.
Whereas their outer expeditions brought them to the edge of the known physical world, where they had to fight in order to survive, their inner voyage brought them to another sort of edge – one where they had the opportunity to evolve heightened levels of awareness. New spiritual realizations were gained and changes in consciousness occurred.
Through the tales of Anna’s grandmother, I came to see that my experience in Glastonbury was my Imram. And those startling images I’d seen as I sat quietly beside the Chalice Well were my initiation into major shifts in awareness. Several years later, those provocative images eventually married my creative Muse, and birthed the novels that became my Goddess of the Stars and the Sea Visionary Fiction trilogy.
Visionary Fiction is like the legendary Celtic Imram
Visionary Fiction is like the legendary Celtic Imram. The drama and tension of the characters’ adventures is one layer of the tale. All of the usual elements of suspense, conflict, even romance and mystery, are interwoven in the plot. The other layer, deeper and more archetypal, is that mystical inner journey of spiritual awakening. In Visionary Fiction, esoteric wisdom is embedded in story so that the reader can actually experience it, instead of merely learning about it.
When written well, Visionary Fiction does not proselytize, evangelize, coerce, or feel dogmatic. Often relegated to the genre of Fantasy, Inspiration, or Spirituality, it contains elements of all three. But the story line is generally more concerned with the protagonist’s internal experiences where non-logical methods – such as visions, dreams, psychic phenomena, past life remembrances, or forays into uncharted planes of existence – are the unique catalysts for radical shifts in perception. Characters explore alternative dimensions, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. They break from our everyday conditioned reality to glimpse a more enlightened doorway into unconventional perspectives.
It is a recent genre, and despite the fact there are not many Visionary Fiction novels out there, there is a rapidly growing interest in it. Take the world of priestesses and the sacred ancient sites of Glastonbury from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. Morgaine, the main character, is a priestess of the “Old Ways”, the ancient Goddess religions. The legend of King Arthur and the quest for the elusive Holy Grail – that divine receptacle of Love, Soul, and womb of the Sacred Feminine – is told through her unique perspective. Her personal and spiritual growth is an archetypal metaphor for our modern culture where there is a re-emerging interest in the Divine Feminine. This theme touched a collective yearning, something archetypally familiar, for millions of readers, and the novel became a Visionary Fiction classic.
Early Visionary Fiction Classics
James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy, while not a great literary work, clearly filled a need that reached main stream readership, selling over 20 million copies. It is a metaphysical adventure tale, a modern day thriller where governmental and church authorities pursue the hero as he undertakes an expedition to Peru in search of an ancient manuscript purported to hold nine spiritual insights. These insights serve to illuminate spiritual understanding as well as engaging the reader in a good tale. Mystical encounters and spiritual awakenings provide the raw material for the alchemy of the characters and reader alike.
Dan Millman’s The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a Visionary Fiction best seller based on a true story, which also became a major motion picture. The main character, a college student and Olympic Gold hopeful in gymnastics, meets up with an enigmatic spiritual mentor, a contemporary Merlin disguised as a car mechanic. This teacher’s brand of mysticism and magic guide the hero to shatter his pre-conceived beliefs about strength, might, and victory. The world of the supernatural and the uncharted powers of the mind become fertile ground for the hero’s metamorphosis. His story becomes the quest that offers the potential of spiritual breakthroughs for the reader via the transformations he achieves.
“Visionary Fiction speaks the language of the soul”
My own visionary fiction trilogy is told through the eyes of the Goddess of the Stars and the Sea, and the priestesses of Her lineage. This ancient Goddess helps humanity during their cycles of spiritual evolution, those collective leaps in consciousness that occur throughout critical junctures in human history. Her priestesses confront personal and spiritual trials before they can don the mantle of their destiny and assist humankind through these cycles.
In the first novel of the trilogy, The Awakening: Rebirth of Atlantis, the priestess Geodran must protect the culture’s spiritual traditions from the degeneration of the once illuminated society, and go on to seed the world with Atlantean wisdom after the continent’s cataclysmic demise. In The Keys to Remember, the priestess Rhianna must preserve the lineage of the sacred feminine for posterity during a time when the feminine was savagely suppressed.
In the final novel, Carry on the Flame, the modern-day priestess Sharay must persevere through deceitful accusations that she’s criminally insane, in order to find her power and make the spiritual leap that has been prophesied – the brilliant light of embodied Divine Love.
In all three novels of the trilogy, the heroines face obstacles in the mundane world, where the full potential of metaphysical human abilities are not often acknowledged and certainly not commonplace. The characters must also journey through the portal where the mundane world ends and the enchanted Otherworld begins. There they must address the unique challenges this unseen world presents. The metaphysical tools and methods the characters use to meet these challenges are imbued in the story, woven into the fictional thread. The invitation for readers is to apply them in their own lives.
Visionary Fiction author Monty Joynes, who wrote, among other books, Conversations with God: the Making of the Movie, says Visionary Fiction is a medium for metaphysical experience. I would add that it is a direct link to Spirit, a sort of Mystery School initiation for the reader. Whereas fiction uses story to touch the soul, Visionary Fiction speaks the language of the soul. It offers a vision of humanity as we dream it could be. At a time where our world is going through so much tumultuous change, we need more Visionary Fiction.
As with any good writing, Visionary Fiction requires you to be a word smith. You paint a verbal picture that offers a glimpse of the spaces in between the words. The spaces in between the plot, in between the drama. It is between the words that the metaphysical gem sits, and where inspiration dances. The spaces act as the passageway and portal to the visionary mystical experience for the reader. Therein they are admitted into a Universal Mystery School. The characters are merely the limina, Latin for threshold, into new views of reality. The Imram, the story, is the passport there.