Metaphysical fiction is a growing, but little-known, genre of stories that explore, or are based on, some form of philosophy or system of thought. Such fiction includes some aspect of the inner, incorporeal, supernatural, spiritual, archetypal or transcendent aspects of human experience and may emphasise an individual’s movement towards self-actualisation. Readers may gain insight into, or be stimulated to reflect on, such things as the nature of existence, the mind, the soul, the psyche, psychology, the spiritual journey and so on.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is an excellent example of the genre. A modern example is The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Another excellent, but less well-known example is On the Soul of a Vampire by Krisi Keley.
Here are a couple of other definitions.
‘Metaphysical fiction transcends the here & now into a deeper universal spiritual truth, and is characterized by an intangible mysticism that embeds itself in the written word.’ @jordyj6
” Modern metaphysical/visionary literature often crosses genres and enters into the little celebrated field of magic realism. In this genre, the supernatural is part of tangible reality; spirit and nature are interwoven, inseparable, and unquestioned, and the extraordinary is made ordinary. Metaphysical literature tells tales of the inner life . . . Its task is to give voice to soul and its yearning to transcend the suffering of everyday reality.” Niamh Clune.
How is it different to ordinary novels about supernatural characters and events? In order to make the distinction clear, we have to understand the meaning of the word metaphysical.
Definition of metaphysical
- concerned with abstract thought or subjects, as existence, causality, or truth.
- concerned with first principles and ultimate grounds, as being, time, or substance.
A common understanding of the term metaphysics is that it refers to a kind of speculative physics. Where physics is a study of the nature of reality at its most subtle level, metaphysics is speculation on, or ideas about, the nature of reality.
Therefore it is the philosophy or thought-provoking nature of metaphysical fiction that sets it apart from ordinary magical realism and supernatural fantasy.
- A story about reincarnation is not metaphysical fiction unless it presents and provokes thought into the philosophy behind reincarnation.
- In the same way, a story about a ghost is not metaphysical fiction unless it explores the nature of life after death in relation to a comprehensive vision of reality.
- A story about a soul that has no philosophical basis or component is not metaphysical fiction, whereas a story about a vampire that explores the nature of the soul is.
How does Metaphysical fiction differ from other related genres?
Visionary fiction. Sometimes the terms are used synonymously but my understanding is that visionary fiction is more obviously ‘spiritual’ in nature, and that an individual’s movement towards self-actualisation is a primary theme. In metaphysical fiction, though the philosophy underlies the story, the story takes precedence over expression of the philosophy; in visionary fiction the expression of the philosophy is more important than the story. Also in metaphysical fiction there is a supernatural or incorporeal element which may not be there in Visionary fiction. Here are a couple of definitions.
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. http://visionaryfictionalliance.wordpress.com/what-is-visionary-fiction/
Visionary fiction is fiction in which the expansion of the human mind drives the plot. http://www.visionaryfiction.org
Magical realism. Doesn’t necessarily have the philosophical aspect.
Mystical realism and mystical fantasy deal with themes and plots regarding the nature of the divine.
Spiritual fiction eg Christian fiction, deals more directly with moral and religious themes, or expression of religious values, activities and dogma.
Do you agree with my definition of Metaphysical fiction? What does the term mean to you?
A list of quality independently published metaphysical fiction can be found on the Awesome Indies site.
My reviews of metaphysical fiction can be found on my Ripples in Water blog.