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.
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.
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 HalZinaBennett.com