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Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson

Overview
Colin Henry Wilson is a prolific English
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 writer who first came to prominence as a philosopher and novelist. Wilson has since written widely on true crime
True crime
True crime is a non-fiction literary and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people.The crimes most commonly include murder, but true crime works have also touched on other legal cases. Depending on the writer, true crime can adhere strictly to...

, mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 and other topics. He prefers calling his philosophy new existentialism or phenomenological existentialism.

Born and raised in Leicester
Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

, England, Wilson left school at 16. He worked in factories and at various occupations, and read in his spare time.
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Quotations

No matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Charles Fort|Fort's principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.

Mysteries (1978)

The Americans have always been more open to my ideas. In fact, I could earn a living in America just by lecturing. One of my brightest audiences, incidentally, were the prisoners in a Philadelphia gaol - brighter than my students at university.

Interview with Paul Newman in Abraxas Unbound 7

The self-surmounter can never put up with the man who has ceased to be dissatisfied with himself.

p. 139

But Zarathustra made it clear in which direction the answer lay; it is towards the artist-psychologist, the intuitional thinker. There are very few such men in the world's literature; the great artists are not thinkers, the great thinkers are seldom artists.

p. 158
Encyclopedia
Colin Henry Wilson is a prolific English
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 writer who first came to prominence as a philosopher and novelist. Wilson has since written widely on true crime
True crime
True crime is a non-fiction literary and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people.The crimes most commonly include murder, but true crime works have also touched on other legal cases. Depending on the writer, true crime can adhere strictly to...

, mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 and other topics. He prefers calling his philosophy new existentialism or phenomenological existentialism.

Early biography


Born and raised in Leicester
Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

, England, Wilson left school at 16. He worked in factories and at various occupations, and read in his spare time. Gollancz
Victor Gollancz Ltd
Victor Gollancz Ltd was a major British book publishing house of the twentieth century. It was founded in 1927 by Victor Gollancz and specialised in the publication of high quality literature, nonfiction and popular fiction, including science fiction. Upon Gollancz's death in 1967, ownership...

 published the then 24-year-old Wilson's The Outsider
The Outsider (Colin Wilson)
The Outsider is a non-fiction book by Colin Wilson first published in 1956.Through the works and lives of various artists - including H. G. Wells , Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Harley Granville-Barker , Hermann Hesse, T. E...

 in 1956; the work examines the role of the social "outsider" in seminal works of various key literary and cultural figures. These include Albert Camus
Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.Camus was awarded the 1957...

, Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature...

, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

, Vaslav Nijinsky
Vaslav Nijinsky
Vaslav Nijinsky was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent, cited as the greatest male dancer of the 20th century. He grew to be celebrated for his virtuosity and for the depth and intensity of his characterizations...

 and Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh , and used Brabant dialect in his writing; it is therefore likely that he himself pronounced his name with a Brabant accent: , with a voiced V and palatalized G and gh. In France, where much of his work was produced, it is...

; Wilson discusses his perception of social alienation
Social alienation
The term social alienation has many discipline-specific uses; Roberts notes how even within the social sciences, it “is used to refer both to a personal psychological state and to a type of social relationship”...

 in their work. The book became a best-seller and helped popularize existentialism
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

 in Britain.

The inside cover's blurb reads:


The Outsider is the seminal work on alienation, creativity and the modern mind-set. First published over thirty years ago, it made its youthful author England's most controversial intellectual.


Wilson became associated with the "Angry Young Men
Angry young men
The "angry young men" were a group of mostly working and middle class British playwrights and novelists who became prominent in the 1950s. The group's leading members included John Osborne and Kingsley Amis.The phrase was originally coined by the Royal Court Theatre's press officer to promote John...

" of British literature. He contributed to Declaration, an anthology of manifestos by writers associated with the movement, and wrote a popular paperback sampler, Protest: The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men. Some viewed Wilson and his friends Bill Hopkins
Bill Hopkins (novelist)
Bill Hopkins was an English novelist and journalist, and has been grouped with the Angry Young Men. His father was Ted Hopkins, a popular stage performer; his mother Violet Brodrick....

 and Stuart Holroyd
Stuart Holroyd
Stuart Holroyd is a British writer.He first came to prominence for the philosophical and critical works produced during his close association with the writers Colin Wilson and Bill Hopkins, but has since written prolifically on parapsychology, contacts with extraterrestrial life, sexual love and...

 as a sub-group of the "Angries", more concerned with "religious values" than with liberal or socialist politics. Critics on the left swiftly labeled them as fascist
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

; commentator Kenneth Allsop called them "the law givers".

Life and works after The Outsider


After the initial success of Wilson's first work, critics universally panned Religion and the Rebel (1957). Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 magazine published a review, headlined "Scrambled Egghead", that pilloried the book.

Other non-fiction writing



Wilson has written non-fiction books on metaphysical
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 and occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

 themes. In 1971, he published The Occult: A History
The Occult: A History
The Occult: A History is a 1971 book by English writer, Colin Wilson.Topics covered include Aleister Crowley, G. I. Gurdjieff, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Kabbalah, primitive magic, Franz Anton Mesmer, Gregor Rasputin, Daniel Dunglas Home, Paracelsus, P. D...

 featuring interpretations
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

 on Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

, George Gurdjieff, Helena Blavatsky, Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, primitive magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

, Franz Mesmer
Franz Mesmer
Franz Anton Mesmer , sometimes, albeit incorrectly, referred to as Friedrich Anton Mesmer, was a German physician with an interest in astronomy, who theorised that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called magnétisme animal ...

, Grigori Rasputin
Grigori Rasputin
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian Orthodox Christian and mystic who is perceived as having influenced the latter days of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son Alexei...

, Daniel Dunglas Home
Daniel Dunglas Home
Daniel Dunglas Home was a Scottish physical medium with the reported ability to levitate to a variety of heights, speak with the dead, and to produce rapping and knocks in houses at will. His biographer Peter Lamont opines that he was one of the most famous men of his era...

, and Paracelsus
Paracelsus
Paracelsus was a German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist....

 (among others). He also wrote a markedly unsympathetic biography of Crowley, Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast, and has written biographies on other spiritual and psychological visionaries
Visionary
Defined broadly, a visionary, is one who can envision the future. For some groups this can involve the supernatural or drugs.The visionary state is achieved via meditation, drugs, lucid dreams, daydreams, or art. One example is Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century artist/visionary and Catholic saint...

, including Gurdjieff, Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

, Wilhelm Reich
Wilhelm Reich
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known as one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry...

, Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. He gained initial recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher...

, and P. D. Ouspensky
P. D. Ouspensky
Peter D. Ouspensky , , a Russian esotericist known for his expositions of the early work of the Greek-Armenian teacher of esoteric doctrine George Gurdjieff, whom he met in Moscow in 1915.He was associated with the ideas and practices originating with...

.

Originally, Wilson focused on the cultivation of what he called "Faculty X", which he saw as leading to an increased sense of meaning
Meaning (existential)
In existentialism, meaning is understood as the worth of life. Meaning in existentialism is unlike typical conceptions of "the meaning of life", because it is descriptive. Due to the method of existentialism, prescriptive or declarative statements about meaning are unjustified. Meaning is only...

, and on abilities such as telepathy
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

 and the awareness of other energies
Energy (psychological)
Mental or psychic energy or activity is the concept of a principle of activity powering the operation of the mind or psyche. Many modern psychologists or neuroscientists would equate it with increased metabolism in neurons of the brain....

. In his later work he suggests the possibility of life after death
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

 and the existence of spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

s, which he personally analyzes as an active member of the Ghost Club.

He has also written non-fiction books on crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

, ranging from encyclopedias to studies of serial killing. He has an ongoing interest in the life and times of Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper
"Jack the Ripper" is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter, written by someone claiming to be the murderer, that was disseminated in the...

 and in sex crime in general.

Fiction


Wilson explored his ideas on human potential and consciousness in fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

, mostly detective fiction
Detective fiction
Detective fiction is a sub-genre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator , either professional or amateur, investigates a crime, often murder.-In ancient literature:...

 or science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

, including several Cthulhu Mythos
Cthulhu Mythos
The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared fictional universe, based on the work of American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft.The term was first coined by August Derleth, a contemporary correspondent of Lovecraft, who used the name of the creature Cthulhu - a central figure in Lovecraft literature and the focus...

 pieces.

Like his non-fiction work, much of Wilson's fictional output from Ritual in the Dark (1960) onwards has concerned itself with the psychology of murder — especially that of serial killing. However, he has also written science fiction of a philosophical bent, including the Spider-World series.

In The Strength to Dream (1961) Wilson attacked H. P. Lovecraft
H. P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft --often credited as H.P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction....

 as "sick" and as "a bad writer" who had "rejected reality" — but he grudgingly praised Lovecraft's story "The Shadow Out of Time" as capable science-fiction. August Derleth
August Derleth
August William Derleth was an American writer and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the writings of H. P...

, incensed by Wilson's treatment of Lovecraft in The Strength to Dream, then dared Wilson to write what became The Mind Parasites
The Mind Parasites
The Mind Parasites is a science fiction horror novel by author Colin Wilson. It was published by Arkham House in 1967 in an edition of 3,045 copies. It was Wilson's first and only book published by Arkham House.The book is based on H.P...

 — to expound his philosophical ideas in the guise of fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

. In the preface to The Mind Parasites, Wilson concedes that Lovecraft "Far more than Hemingway or Faulkner, or even Kafka, is a symbol of the outsider-artist in the 20th century." and indulges in a mental experiment: "what would have happened if Lovecraft had possessed a private income--enough, say, to allow him to spend his winters in Italy and his summers in Greece or Switzerland?" answering that in his opinion "He would undoubtedly have produced less, but what he did produce would have been highly polished, without the pulp magazine cliches that disfigure so much of his work. And he would have given free rein to his love of curious and remote erudition, so that his work would have been, in some respect, closer to that of Anatole France or the contemporary Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges"
Wilson also discusses Lovecraft in Order of Assassins (1972) and in the prefatory note to The Philosopher's Stone (1969). His short novel The Return of the Lloigor (1969/1974) also has roots in the Cthulhu Mythos
Cthulhu Mythos
The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared fictional universe, based on the work of American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft.The term was first coined by August Derleth, a contemporary correspondent of Lovecraft, who used the name of the creature Cthulhu - a central figure in Lovecraft literature and the focus...

 - its central character works on the real book the Voynich Manuscript
Voynich manuscript
The Voynich manuscript, described as "the world's most mysterious manuscript", is a work which dates to the early 15th century, possibly from northern Italy. It is named after the book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912....

 but discovers it to be a mediaeval Arabic version of the Necronomicon
Necronomicon
The Necronomicon is a fictional grimoire appearing in the stories by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story "The Hound", written in 1922, though its purported author, the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted a year earlier in...

 - as does his 2002 novel The Tomb of the Old Ones.

Adaptions


Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper is an American film director and screenwriter, best known for his work in the horror film genre. His works include the cult classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre , along with its first sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ; the three-time Emmy-nominated Stephen King film adaptation...

 directed the film Lifeforce
Lifeforce (film)
Lifeforce is a 1985 science fiction film directed by Tobe Hooper from a screenplay by Dan O'Bannon and Don Jakoby, from the novel The Space Vampires, published in 1976, by Colin Wilson.-Plot:...

, based on Wilson's novel The Space Vampires
The Space Vampires
The Space Vampires is a British science fiction horror novel written by author Colin Wilson, and first published in England and the United States by Random House in 1976. This is Wilson's fifty-first book...

. After its release, Colin Wilson recalled that author John Fowles
John Fowles
John Robert Fowles was an English novelist and essayist. In 2008, The Times newspaper named Fowles among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".-Birth and family:...

 regarded the film adaptation of Fowles' own novel The Magus as the worst film adaptation of a novel ever. Wilson told Fowles there was now a worse one, the film adaption of Lifeforce.

Further reading

  • Bendau, Clifford P. Colin Wilson: The Outsider and Beyond (1979), San Bernardino: Borgo Press ISBN 0-89370-229-3
  • Campion, Sidney R. The Sound Barrier: a study of the ideas of Colin Wilson (2011), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-81-0
  • Dalgleish, Tim The Guerilla Philosopher: Colin Wilson and Existentialism (1993), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-47-0
  • Dosser, Howard F. Colin Wilson: the bicameral critic: selected shorter writings (1985), Salem: Salem House ISBN 0-88162-047-5
  • Dossor, Howard F. Colin Wilson: the man and his mind (1990) Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element Books ISBN 1-85230-176-7
  • Dossor, Howard F. The Philosophy of Colin Wilson: three perspectives (1996), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-58-6
  • Greenwell, Tom Chepstow Road: a literary comedy in two acts (2002) Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-78-0
  • Lachman, Gary Two essays on Colin Wilson (1994), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-52-7
  • Moorhouse, John & Newman, Paul Colin Wilson, two essays (1988), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-11-X
  • Newman, Paul Murder as an Antidote for Boredom: the novels of Laura Del Rivo, Colin Wilson and Bill Hopkins (1996), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-57-8
  • Robertson, Vaughan Wilson as Mystic(2001), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-74-8
  • Salwak, Dale (ed) Interviews with Britain's Angry Young Men (1984) San Bernardino: Borgo Press ISBN 0-89370-259-5
  • Shand, John & Lachman, Gary Colin Wilson as Philosopher (1996), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-59-4
  • Smalldon, Jeffrey Human Nature Stained: Colin Wilson and the existential study of modern murder (1991) Nottingham: Paupers'Press ISBN 0-946650-28-4
  • Spurgeon, Brad Colin Wilson: philosopher of optimism, (2006), Manchester: Michael Butterworth ISBN 0-9552672-0-X
  • Stanley, Colin (ed) Around the Outsider: essays presented to Colin Wilson on the occasion of his 80th birthday, (2011), Winchester: O-Books ISBN 978-1-84694-668-4
  • Stanley, Colin (ed) Colin Wilson, a celebration: essays and recollections (1988), London: Cecil Woolf ISBN 0-900821-91-4
  • Stanley, Colin The Colin Wilson Bibliography 1956-2010 (2011) Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-64-0
  • Stanley, Colin Colin Wilson's 'Outsider Cycle': a guide for students (2009). Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-96-9
  • Stanley, Colin The Nature of Freedom' and other essays (1990), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-17-9
  • Tredell, Nicolas The Novels of Colin Wilson (1982) London: Vision Press ISBN 0-85478-035-1
  • Trowell, Michael Colin Wilson, the positive approach (1990), Nottingham: Paupers' Press ISBN 0-946650-25-X
  • Weigel, John A Colin Wilson (1975) Boston: Twayne Publishers ISBN 0-8057-1575-4

External links