Is there a difference between visionary, spiritual and metaphysical fiction?
Ever since I appeared as a co-host on Meet the Author (link at end of post), in an episode discussing author Pat Sheehy’s spiritual and metaphysical novels, I’ve received a few emails posing the above, and related, questions: Is it a new genre? What well known authors write this type of fiction? Is there any relationship to science fiction or fantasy?
I offer a definition of Metaphysical Fiction in this blog post. I also address the origins of these “new age” genres in a blog post on Magical Realism, what it is and who is writing it.
Visionary Fiction: A deeper definition
Aligned with my view that there are subtle but important differences between visionary, spiritual and metaphysical fiction, a new alliance of authors has emerged: The Visionary Fiction Alliance. According to the Alliance:
Visionary Fiction draws us into a character’s struggles and their journey may lead us to our own awakening.
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 the future 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.
In the VFA definition, visionary fiction may use metaphysical elements as plot devices. In my view, a metaphysical novel or story makes the metaphysical element the focus of the story, rather than merely a plot device.
For example, in M.J. Roses Reincarnationist series of suspense novels, reincarnation and access to past life memories (both metaphysical subjects) are driving forces in the story: If you could possess tools that would give you access to past life memory and the ability to alter something in the past, to what lengths would you go to possess those tools? The aim in Rose’s novels is not so much for the reader to experience the wisdom within themselves, but to be taken on a wild ride into the “what if” that deals with a subject that science has no way to objectively measure but which many who subscribe to esoteric spiritual traditions fully embrace. The focus of Rose’s books is not to follow a character’s journeys to evolved consciousness (as is found in James Redman’s Celestine Prophecy). (Some of her characters do grow and change–become a bit more enlightened, if you will–but that is a result of the quest to protect something of value to them personally; it is not arrived at through the experience of the spiritual wisdom or metaphysical tool. And, those that don’t grow in some way during the course of the story are hell-bent on using the metaphysical tool for sinister purposes).
Can we be scared into enlightenment?
Screenwriter and producer M. Night Shyamalan brings horror movies to the screen, right? Partially, his films (some of which began as short stories written by him or other writers) fall into the ether. Sure, he scares the pants off many a viewer, but all of his films have a message: The Sixth Sense wove into the plot metaphysical questions about the afterlife and how souls “hang on.” In the critically lackluster (but still a good flick) Devil, Shyamalan scares into thinking about what it means to forgive and how failure to forgive is a poison that seeps into human consciousness, driving unconscious motivations and bad behavior to which every character is linked in a horrific chain of events. For me, Shyamalan writes Spiritual Horror. Sure, he wants to scare us. He also wants to make us think in ways that most horror films do not.
I’m sure the literarians among us may want to debate this topic (see below). The rest of us, just want to enjoy writing / reading a darn good story. And if it enlightens us, or otherwise makes us think about ‘big questions’, that’s cool, too.
Share Your Thoughts about Theme Bending Genres
- What do you think about the these “new age” genres in fiction?
- Where is the line between them? Or isn’t there one?
Read the visionary short story The Parade.