Visionary Fiction: Rediscovering Ancient Paths to Truth – Reprint – Hal Zina Bennett

Editor’s note (Margaret Duarte):

There has been a recent buzz around the genre of Visionary Fiction, mainly due to the efforts of Visionary Fiction Alliance.

However, a person new to the scene claims to have coined the term and has inserted restrictive content into the definition that goes against all Visionary Fiction Alliance stands for:

Visionary Fiction’s spirituality is all-inclusive with an appeal that, according to the Visionary Fiction Alliance, “is universal in its worldview and scope.” Since it lacks this universal ingredient, spiritually-oriented fiction that highlights a single issue, (recovery, women’s’ rights, political reform), is not generally considered Visionary Fiction.

One can’t copyright a style or a genre, but to be clear, the genre of Visionary Fiction has been around since the time of Carl Jung and was established as a book category twenty years ago at a trade show in Denver.

I asked author and writing coach Hal Zina Bennett for permission to post an article he wrote in 2002 titled Visionary Fiction: Rediscovering Ancient Paths to Truth.

He kindly agreed and below is the article in its entirety.


Visionary Fiction:
Rediscovering Ancient Paths to Truth

By Hal Zina Bennett

At the International New Age Trade Show in Denver several years ago, a panel of publishers, sales representatives, and booksellers agreed that it was time to establish a new book category called “visionary fiction.” The reason for this was that novels appropriate to this category tended to get shelved in places where their intended readers couldn’t find them. For instance, The Celestine Prophecy might be put in the metaphysical section, but, since it is after all a novel, it might also be shelved in the literature or fantasy fiction aisles, where its intended readers were less likely to browse.

Spiritual fiction is a unique form. It’s often allegorical, aimed at revealing a spiritual insight. Like the shamans’ stories in ancient times, good visionary fiction takes us deep into the realm of mystery beyond the boundaries of our five sense. Here we discover truths that exist outside time and outside the finite boundaries of our singular lives. Here we encounter universal wisdom that lets us see beyond our own conflicts and passions, raising our hope that we might transcend Our limited perceptions, if only momentarily, and find comfort in greater truths.

The best characters in these new novels serve as mediators between the physical world we’re most familiar with and the less familiar world of dreamtime—what C. G. Jung called the “collective consciousness.” These characters and lessons teach us to focus our attention on wisdom that lies outside the perceptions of our five senses or analytical minds. This allows us access to concepts that we might otherwise find just too elusive to wrap our minds around. For a short time, spiritual fiction lets us look through our inner eyes and listen with our inner ears.

As an author as well as a reader of spiritual fiction, I am reminded of how important it is for us to explore and get to know the invisible reality. Love, fear, self-esteem, our sense of awe with the life force, the emotional bonds we experience with our families—all these are invisible but inseparable from everyday life. The mystery of life itself, the mystery of love, of the purpose of the cycles of life, death and rebirth—these and more challenge us. But the magic of the well-executed spiritual story helps us move beyond consensual reality and touch more enduring truths.

Like a shaman’s stories of the spirit world, where the spirits of animals, trees, sky, or the stars teach us how to live, visionary fiction introduces us to a reality beyond physical reality. They often carry us deep into a consciousness once thought to be the exclusive domain of seers, visionaries, oracles, and psychics. The magic of this genre is the magic of human consciousness itself, our ability to see beneath the surface and create new visions of what our lives can be.

Contemporary society has lost touch with the deeper purpose of storytelling. The ancient teachers spun tales that allowed us to experience larger truths beyond the projections of our time-bound egos.

The best visionary fiction reaches out, urging us to pursue the mysteries of life more deeply—to bask in them. At their best, these novelists teach us how to be visionaries, reawakening an enterprise that has been the cornerstone of religions and spiritual practices the world over. Visionary fiction at its best helps us transcend the limits of our egos and experience truths beyond them. These books and their authors can help us restore forgotten relationships with the spiritual realm that we have all but lost in the busy-ness of contemporary life.

Humanity cannot truly move forward unless our collective dream is based on spiritual truths. Borrowing from the ancient teachers, this new genre offers us opportunities for contributing to a global community of visionaries who hold a dream that has been restlessly waiting to be realized since life first emerged from the cosmic mists.


About the author

Hal Zina Bennett is the author of more than thirty books on personal and spiritual development, including Write from the Heart: Unleashing the Power of Your Creativity.

He teaches seminars on writing, creativity, and shamanism through the United States.

For more information, see


7 thoughts on “Visionary Fiction: Rediscovering Ancient Paths to Truth – Reprint – Hal Zina Bennett

  1. Jodine Turner says:

    I agree, VF is not exclusive in its goal to transform consciousness. There may be many worthy causes and peoples to represent in our turbulent world today, as the new person claiming to have coined the term espouses, but exclusively (emphasis on exclusivity) in representing certain groups or fighting for causes is not VF. These things may be the result of an expanded consciousness – activism for a heartfelt cause or group – but VF is universal in its scope and goal, as the VFA definition states. Thank you, Hal Zena Bennett for your ground-breaking words about VF that support what we at the VFA strive for – “Here we discover truths that exist outside time and outside the finite boundaries of our singular lives. Here we encounter universal wisdom that lets us see beyond our own conflicts and passions, raising our hope that we might transcend Our limited perceptions, if only momentarily, and find comfort in greater truths.”

    • Saleena Karim says:

      Hal – thanks for letting us reprint your excellent article.

      Jodine – exactly. VF is about the human condition so it cannot be made exclusive to a certain section of society.

  2. Victor Smith says:

    Let’s not be too coy here. Merely googling “Visionary Fiction” brings up as the first two items: 1) the Wikipedia entry for “Visionary Fiction,” which has been on the Wiki for many years and includes the footnoted statement: “By the year 2000 it had recognition as a distinct genre.” 2) An article entitled, What is ‘Visionary Fiction’?: An Interview with Walidah Imarisha, from March 2016, where the interviewee states: “Visionary fiction is a term I developed to help talk about fantastical writing that helps us imagine new just worlds. Visionary fiction encompasses science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, alternative timelines, and more. It is fantastical literature that helps us to understand existing power dynamics, and helps us imagine paths to creating more just futures.”

    I do not bring up this stark contradiction to start a controversy between conflicting sources for the term but to clarify its true provenance (for one, Carl Jung defined and used it in 1929, which the Wiki article mentions) and its generally accepted definition including its official categorization by BISAC, also in the Wiki article. When an author, especially in academic or publication circles, claims to have coined a term to mean a specific thing, the reading public assumes that they have performed due diligence and checked that the term has not been defined and used differently elsewher. The Comments are closed on the Imarisha article or I would have posted an objection there. I suggest we send a comment such as this to the staff of EAP magazine, which published this evidently without fact checking, or make a note in the Wiki article to the effect that this “claim” to the term exists and it likely out of line.

  3. Robin Gregory says:

    Hal, I so agree: “Contemporary society has lost touch with the deeper purpose of storytelling.” When the focus of storytelling is to titillate the senses, to give you thrills and chills, to make you want to binge for the sake of escape, when it is produced for making sales or celebrities, it becomes a drug. Visionary fiction is crucial because it champions the exact opposite–awakening out of the collective stupor.


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