Lost Knowledge of the Imagination

Gary Lachman


Quick Look

  • Argues that imagination has been sidelined in favour of science, and that the balance needs to be redressed
  • Discusses the work of Owen Barfield, Henry Corbin, Kathleen Raine and others
  • Proposes that imagination is a key way that we can engage with the reality of our fast-changing world

Explores the world of human imagination, and shows how, far from it being about 'make believe', imagination is an essential way that we engage with reality.

Floris Books
Philosophy of Human Life
168 pages
Publication date:
19 Oct 2017


The ability to imagine is at the heart of what makes us human. Through our imagination we experience more fully the world both around us and within us. Imagination plays a key role in creativity and innovation.

Until the seventeenth century, the human imagination was celebrated. Since then, with the emergence of science as the dominant worldview, imagination has been marginalised -- depicted as a way of escaping reality, rather than knowing it more profoundly -- and its significance to our humanity has been downplayed.

Yet as we move further into the strange new dimensions of the twenty-first century, the need to regain this lost knowledge seems more necessary than ever before.

This insightful and inspiring book argues that, for the sake of our future in the world, we must reclaim the ability to imagine and redress the balance of influence between imagination and science.

Through the work of Owen Barfield, Goethe, Henry Corbin, Kathleen Raine, and others, and ranging from the teachings of ancient mystics to the latest developments in neuroscience, The Lost Knowledge of the Imagination draws us back to a philosophy and tradition that restores imagination to its rightful place, essential to our knowing reality to the full, and to our very humanity itself.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Chapter One: A Different Kind of Knowing 9
Chapter Two: A Look Inside the World 32
Chapter Three: The Knower and the Known 54
Chapter Four: The Way Within 80
Chapter Five: The Learning of the Imagination 103
Chapter Six: The Responsible Imagination 126
Notes 141
Further Reading 156
Index 159


'Very important'
-- Philip Pullman

'One of the leading students of the western esoteric tradition, Lachman has published critical studies of Swedenborg, Madame Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, Rudolf Steiner, P.D. Ouspensky and Jung -- and he has done so without being raptly worshipful or casually dismissive.'
-- Michael Dirda Washington Post

'Lachman...manages to make basic concepts in esoteric philosophy and history lively as well as readable.'
-- Kirkus Review

'Lachman creates a history of ideas that fascinates and excites'
-- New York Journal of Books

' Lost Knowledge of the Imagination rejoins the parted Red Sea of modern intellect, demonstrating how rationalism and esotericism are not divided forces but necessary complements and parts of a whole in the human wish for understanding. Let's be done, once and for all, with the shallow and misdirected notion that reason and mysticism are at odds. Lachman demonstrates their harmony.'
-- Mitch Horowitz, PEN Award-winning author of Occult America and One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life

'[A] compact, erudite and thoughtful book.'
-- David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer (Scientific and Medical Network journal)

'An excellent book -- scholarly but eminently readable by anyone seeking appreciation of the spiritual.'
-- Howard Jones, Alister Hardy Society

'Gary Lachman has done an impressive amount of research. His thesis is very carefully laid out and his conclusions are sensible and attractive.'
-- Magonia Review of Books

'I thought this was an excellent book -- scholarly but eminently readable for anyone seeking appreciation of the spiritual.'
-- De Numine, The Journal and Newsletter of the Alister Hardy Trust

'Gary Lachman is one of my favorite authors alive. Scholarly in his approaches to esoteric topics and historical figures, Lachman has blessed us with a deep crop of books... Thankfully, Lachman is here to emphasize the importance and power of the imagination, and the inner and outer worlds of the mind -- 4.5/5 stars'
-- Rusties


Gary Lachman is the author of several books about the links between consciousness, culture, and the western esoteric tradition, including Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work; Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings; The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus, Carektakers of the Cosmos, and A Secret History of Consciousness. He is a regular contributor to newspaper columns and radio programmes. A founder member of the rock group Blondie, in 2006 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He lives in London.

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