The Philosophers' Secret Fire

A History of the Imagination

Patrick Harpur

Is there any place for the ancient myths of our ancestors in modern times? Could their shadowy presence in our common imagination be more influential than we realize?

Across the globe many societies still believe in an Otherworld of spirits, gods and daimons, which the West has banished to the unconscious mind and now only visits in dreams. Yet this visionary tradition continues to subvert the rational universe, erupting out of the shadows in times of intense religious and philosophical transition.

In his dazzling history of the imagination, Patrick Harpur links together fields as far apart as Greek philosophy and depth psychology, Renaissance magic and tribal ritual, Romantic poetry and the ecstasy of the shaman, to trace how myths have been used to make sense of the world. He uncovers that tradition which alchemists imagined as a Golden Chain of initiates, who passed their mysterious ‘secret fire’ down through the ages.

As this inspiring book shows, the secret of this perennial wisdom is of an imaginative insight: a simple way of seeing that re-enchants our existence and restores us to our own true selves.

“A sublime read.”
- The Guardian

“Hats off to Harpur. Thank heaven there are people like him to rejuvenate our vanishing sense of wonder.”
- Daily Mail

“An intellectual treat and a thrill for one’s fantasy, this book is aglow with the power to re-enchant our world.”
- Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB, co-founder of

“Once we believed that truth was 'out there', now we hold that it's 'in here', but if Harpur is right then it lies in the line of vision between the two.... In his casual brilliance he evokes the boldness of the stallion in the book of Job, who hears the crying of the captains, and is not afraid....”
- The Independent on Sunday

ISBN: 978-0-9802865-2-6
Paperback, 384 pages

Price: $4.95 (was $34.95)

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