Born in Windsor, Patrick Harpur began writing professionally in 1983, aged 33. Previously, he had travelled for a year in Africa before going to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, to read English. Subsequently he did much of the reading and research that he would eventually use in his books, and wrote poetry, stories and plays by way of practice, while supporting himself with part-time jobs, such as teaching, market research, gardening, computer personnel etc. Between 1978 and 83, he was a researcher and then an editor with a book-packaging company.
Since the mid-eighties Harpur has fashioned an impressive catalogue of books and has become known for dealing with such topics as Forteana, Folklore, Daimonic Reality, and various portents of the Western Mystery traditions —Alchemy, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and Depth Psychology. His first book was a ‘theological thriller’ entitled The Serpent’s Circle (UK Macmillan, 1985; Coronet, 1986, and US St Martin’s Press, 1985; Warner, 1986). This was followed by a novel about an autistic child, The Rapture (Macmillan, 1986; Coronet, 1986). Mercurius; or, the Marriage of Heaven and Earth, a partly fictional account of the Great Work of alchemy, was published by Macmillan in 1990. It was hailed as “the most explicit account of the alchemical art ever published” by the Literary Review and described as “an authentic spellbinder” by The Guardian. The Fortean Times was equally praising:
“Each of its 479 mystical pages needs to be closely read, for the dramatic turns in this extraordinary alchemical novel are so well hidden that one dare not skip a single sentence for fear of missing an essential key to the developing mystery. It is rare to find an author who can expound with such authority on a subject whose very existence is known only to a few initiates. He goes far beyond Jung… This book is uniquely useful. There is no rival to it.”
Harpur’s first attempt at non-fiction was Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld (UK Viking, 1995;Penguin, 1996 and US Penguin, 1995, 96; re-issued by Idyll Arbor, 2003), which attempted to make sense of visions and apparitions by recourse to Platonic philosophy, Jungian psychology and the Romantic notion of imagination. The book was described as “a taxonomy of spirits” by the Don Wood Files – and one that “offers a uniquely holistic and metaphysical perspective concerning otherworldly events” according to the Midwest Book Review. A more extensive commentary is offered by The Guardian:
“In common with writers as diverse as Carl Gustav Jung, Jacques Vallee, Graham Hancock and Michael Talbot, Harpur demonstrates to us that ghosts, apparitions, UFOs and alien abductions, encounters with faeries and elves, bigfoot and lake monsters, stigmata, Marian apparitions, even phantom hitchhikers and `men in black’ are objectively real as part of `the otherworld’ but can never be understood through the prism of what he terms `scientism’: the modern western intellectual convention of scientific reductionism which must always seek “a rational explanation, Mulder”. These phenomena Harpur names `daimons’. Both physically real and unreal at the same time, they are manifestations of the `world soul’ or `collective unconscious’, leaving physical traces sufficient to profoundly affect percipients but to never quite convince the hard-nosed skeptic that they exist.”
The Philosophers’ Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination (UK Penguin, 2002 and US Ivan R. Dee, 2003) outlined an esoteric Western way of seeing the world, which has been largely forgotten. Donna Seaman from Booklist offered this appraisal: “A learned and holistic thinker, Harpur excavates the “root metaphors” in everything from shamans’ dreams to Plato’s concept of the soul of the world, the Kabbalah, Greek myths, Jungian psychology, and the theories of evolution and particle physics.” In 2010, Rider published the rather ambitiously titled A Complete Guide to the Soul, which appeared a year later in the US as The Secret Tradition of the Soul (Evolver Editions). In these works Harpur traces the evolution of the Western imagination from early shamanic traditions to modern science and the shadow world of gods and daimons beyond each. With inspiring commentary he dares to link such diverse fields such as Greek philosophy, Renaissance magic, tribal ritual, shamanic ecstasy, Romantic poetry and depth psychology in order to examine new discoveries about the world. As in all his works, Harpur explores the hidden tradition, one which places the human imagination at the centre of the universe in an attempt to re-discover what was once lost. The Squeeze Press has recently re-issued both Mercurius and The Secret Fire.
At the same time as he was writing these wonderful works, Patrick Harpur was commissioned by BBC television to write an adaptation of The Rapture; as well as writing various pieces for such publications as The Guardian, Country Living, Fortean Times, Gnosis, Resurgence and the Independent on Sunday. He lectures both in the UK and the US and has taught post-graduate students at Schumacher College (Dartington). He lives in West Dorset. We at Skylight Press are enthralled by his unique work and honoured to publish his exceptional new novel, The Savoy Truffle. For more information about Patrick Harpur see his website.