What is Visionary Fiction?

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Visionary fiction is a fiction genre with New Age or mind, body, spirit themes and perspectives, including consciousness expansion, spirituality, and mysticism. It is sometimes classed as a subtype of speculative fiction. Examples include the novels The Celestine Prophecy, The Alchemist, and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Although similar themes and content occur in the literature of numerous cultures in many ages, the term "visionary fiction" was suggested by Renee Weber, professor of philosophy at Rutgers University and used by John Algeo in a 1982 article describing recent examples and earlier precursors. By the year 2000 it had recognition as a distinct genre.

As a literary term, the word visionary is defined thus: "Visionary writing has the qualities of prophecy—perhaps it is apocalyptic in imagery, or it may be predictive in its insights, or it may contain a core of moral truth. Many of the Romantic poets (especially William Blake) have been labeled visionary. Note that in its literary sense, visionary writing need not be religious in nature, though it frequently is."

 Visionary fiction pioneer, Hal Zina Bennett describes the genre thus: "Visionary fiction often deals with the stuff that happens at the edge between inner and outer, glimpsing those moments when the ‘thin veil,’ the boundary between inner and outer worlds, dissolves or is at least briefly drawn away. Every moment of our lives there's some of that interchange between inner and outer, of course. Our ‘visionary fiction’ focuses on that phenomenon itself. Stories written in this genre draw our attention to how our visions inform us and impact our lives....The ‘vision’ part of visionary fiction is the vehicle that carries us to the filmy veil separating our ability to know from what we can’t know." Visionary fiction, he concludes, "generally acknowledges something bigger, limitless, actually, beyond what Aldous Huxley called the ‘phenomenological’ world." 

The Visionary Fiction Alliance defines the term thus: "Visionary fiction embraces spiritual and esoteric wisdom, often from ancient sources, and makes it relevant for our modern life. These gems of wisdom are brought forth in story form and in a way that readers can experience the wisdom from within themselves. It emphasizes and envisions humanity’s transition into evolved consciousness. While there is a strong theme, it in no way proselytizes or preaches. Visionary is a tone as well as a genre. The ‘visionary’ element can technically be present in any genre and set in any time." 

 The primary characteristic of visionary fiction, according to the Visionary Fiction Alliance: "Growth of consciousness is the central theme of the story and drives the protagonist, and/or other important characters." In The Altered State of Visionary Fiction,  Monty Joynes writes: "For me, the visionary fiction genre includes novels that deal with shifts in awareness that result in metaphysical understanding by the central characters. The plot of the novel is generally more concerned with internal experiences than with external." Michael Gurian also makes it preeminent: "Visionary fiction is fiction in which the expansion of the human mind drives the plot." All commentators on the basic nature of visionary fiction seem to agree that growth in consciousness is the hallmark of visionary fiction. In any credible story, the characters must change, but in visionary fiction this change is from the inside out rather than from outside in. Growth in consciousness dictates that visionary fiction be optimistic. With realism, birth inevitably results in death. In visionary fiction, death tends to rebirth at a higher level.  

Visionary fiction author Jodine Turner writes: "Visionary fiction is like the legendary Celtic Immram (the mythical heroes’ quest). 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." And author Margaret Duarte seconds this notion: "What separates visionary fiction from other speculative fiction is intention. Besides telling a good story, visionary fiction enlightens and encourages readers to expand their awareness of greater possibilities." Visionary Fiction renders the reading experience interactive. Readers have progressed beyond where they can just be told (the authority paradigm); instead, the visionary model gives them the bare essentials and invites them to try it (the Gnostic or experiential model). The best visionary fiction is multi-layered to suit readers at different awareness levels.


"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside , dreams; who looks inside, awakens."

- Carl Jung

"In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors."

- William Blake

Visionary Fiction Alliance