The Philosophers’ Secret Fire

A History of the Imagination

Patrick Harpur

This wide-ranging study lacks the focused bite of Harpur’s brilliant Neoplatonic take on Forteana, Daimonic Reality, but of course his aim here is quite different. That book’s framing of anomalous phenomena by the concept of the anima mundi, or World Soul, is broadened and deepened here into a roving, mercurial survey of soul-perspectives through history. From primitive shamanism to medieval art, from European folklore to modern scientific cosmology, Harpur conducts a parade of colourful and astutely selected examples that illustrate his endeavour to reveal a liminal vision that precedes the division between the “metaphorical” and the “literal”. There are many erudite, complex books elaborating the nature of metaphor and the insidiousness of literalism, but this is one of the most accessible and entertaining. A labyrinthine, good-humoured education in Hermetic consciousness.