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 influentialthan we realize?

Across the globe many societies still believe in an Otherworld of spirits, gods anddaimons, which the West has banished to the unconscious mind and now onlyvisits in dreams. Yet this visionary tradition continues to subvert the rationaluniverse, erupting out of the shadows in times of intense religious andphilosophical transition.

In his dazzling history of the imagination, Patrick Harpur links together fields asfar apart as Greek philosophy and depth psychology, Renaissance magic and tribalritual, Romantic poetry and the ecstasy of the shaman, to trace how myths havebeen used to make sense of the world. He uncovers that tradition whichalchemists 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 animaginative insight: a simple way of seeing that re-enchants our existence andrestores us to our own true selves.

“A sublime read.”
- The Guardian

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

“An intellectual treat and a thrill for one’s fantasy, this book is aglow with the powerto 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 ifHarpur is right then it lies in the line of vision between the two.... In his casualbrilliance he evokes the boldness of the stallion in the book of Job, who hears thecrying of the captains, and is not afraid....”
- The Independent on Sunday

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

Currently out of print

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