Nothing can be omitted 

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Collected Essays on Philosophers by Colin Wilson. Ed. Colin Stanley, Into. by John Shand (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2016)

Colin Wilson’s Lulu: an unfinished novel [Colin Wilson Studies # 27] Intro. by Vaughan Rapatahana. (Paupers’ Press 2016)

The Writing of Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho Including Charles Russell’s The Other Side of Town [Colin Wilson Studies # 26] Ed. Colin Stanley. (Paupers’ Press 2016)

“Man is a slave to the delusion that he is a passive creature, a creature of circumstance; this is because he makes the mistake of identifying himself with his limited everyday consciousness, and is unaware of the immense forces that lie just beyond the threshold of consciousness.” (Collected Essays on Philosophers, p. 110)
FullSizeRenderThese three titles are both welcome additions to the Wilson canon and food for thought for newbies. For the latter, Collected Essays on Philosophers would be a good place to start. Drawn from various sources and from a fairly wide timescale, some of the essays will be familiar to old hands. Important thoughts on Spinoza, Nietzsche, Whitehead, Husserl, Sartre, Camus, Derrida and Foucault have previously appeared in Below the Iceberg, Anti Sartre, Existentially Speaking and The Bicameral Critic – but those books are now out of print rarities. For the hardcore there’s previously uncollected portraits of (mostly) logical positivists such as A.J. Ayer, C.D. Broad, Cassirer, Popper, Strawson, Warnock and Wittgenstein, some of which were originally written in the late Sixties. There’s a worthy introduction to Wilson’s philosophical position from John Shand, who is a rare specimen of open mindedness from the closed shop of academia.

Shand writes that “if Colin Wilson’s philosophy might be said to start with Husserl, it should be noted that it culminates in Nietzsche, the only philosopher in Colin Wilson’s view who managed to find a way of overcoming total nihilism”. Out of the two essays on Nietzsche presented here, Dual Value Response (1972) is an excellent illustration of what Wilson calls ‘the paradox of freedom’. All philosophers “who are worth anything”, writes Wilson, are trying to capture one or more of the objective meanings that surround us like apples in an orchard. Wilson compares philosophers to the peasant in Tolstoy’s short story How Much Land Does a Man Need (1886) which is worth reading to grasp his point. “Knowledge is in essence the schematisation of chaos” says Heidegger. Most philosophers are like Pakhom – Tolstoy’s greedy peasant – plodding and eventually breathless and exhausted. This disappointing lack of direction can be seen from quite a few of the philosophers Wilson discusses in this book. But worse than that, writes Wilson, “the “thing” remains unsaid.” But what is this “thing”?

This thing is a fierce, vast, far away, passionless, non-human force. It sounds like a concept from H. P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith, but it’s actually that arch rationalist and anti-Nietzschean Bertrand Russell quoted from a letter which will be familiar to Wilson readers. (Curiously, Spinoza’s definition of God, also quoted in the Collected Essays, is similarly Lovecraftian: “[Some] unthinkable gigantic creature, like nature itself, breathing quietly in its sleep, unconsciously producing all the activity we see around us as a mere by-product of it’s tremendous breathing…”) This ‘thing’ isn’t data collecting, it isn’t just scientific knowing. It’s not enough just to ‘know’ life, “but to get to grips with it”, a point which will become apparent when reading Wilson’s meditations on Brentano and Husserl.

This is why Nietzsche still matters so much. Wilson remarks that there is something oddly real about Nietzsche, rather like the reality which Marcel knew when he tasted the cake and remembered his childhood in Combray – the opposite of Heidegger’s ‘forgetfulness of existence’. This is not scientific knowing, hence Nietzsche’s rather caustic criticisms regarding it’s pretensions to objectivity and ‘truth’ (which are now more relevant than ever). So although it’s amusing to see Wilson compare Nietzsche’s hammer philosophy to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, he only does so to demonstrate her sense of satire – against “Kantian moral tone and Rousseauistic gush” – which comes from her sense of reality, the same sense of reality which made Nietzsche formulate his razor sharp maxims against all strains of wishful thinking. (Like, for instance; “[you] start to mistrust very clever people when they get embarrassed.” (Beyond Good and Evil, maxim 88). Which is actually a good description of Wilson’s status obsessed critics.)

Rather than a peasant picking up apples, Nietzsche is more like a swallow swooping up and down for insights. Wilson thinks this could be partly due to his invalidism. To Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche is flawed because of his “contradictions”, but this is somewhat naive (if not disingenuous, considering Russell’s lecherous hypocrisy towards women). No, because Nietzsche was subject to what Wilson calls ‘dual value response’ – an abrupt change of focus from neutral/negative to positive – which is familiar to everyone but particularly common to poets, and can be seen in Nietzsche’s “perspectivism”. Nietzsche’s “revaluation [or transvaluation] of all values” is important as it is essentially an attitude towards life, a life affirming attitude. As Wilson notes, “under-energised thought will actually falsify the objects of perception.”

Two examples of ‘dual value response’ will be familiar – in 1866 Nietzsche wrote a letter to Carl Von Gersdorff describing how he had taken shelter on Leusch hill during a violent thunderstorm, and in 1870, walking alone on the Strasbourg Road during the Franco-Prussian war, Nietzsche had withdrawn himself at a wall as his old cavalry regiment passed by. Both of these times he was exhausted and depressed, during the first he was possibly physically nauseated – yet they clearly and directly influenced his life affirming philosophy of “Pure Will, without the confusions of intellect – how happy, how free.” As Wilson says both “are clear examples of sudden and total change of focus, from a state of fatigue and self-pity into a state of exaltation.” This change of focus is a ‘dual value response’. A reductionist would dismiss this from-negative-to-positive state as just ‘a feeling’, but for Wilson it is “a perception of value, and can be analysed in phenomenological terms.” Our responding mechanism can change focus – seemingly in an arbitrary fashion. Tasks we have dreaded become enjoyable. Holidays we have craved can be anticlimactic. But once we begin to analyse the mechanisms they can be controlled and will eventually be programmed at will. Because we possess “a sort of combination a microscope and a telescope” with our responses to situations we can shift focus from the small to the large, the trivial to the important, from the detail to the big picture, from the near to the far. However, layers of habit – human, all too human habit – arising from survival instincts generated from millennia of evolution have ensured that we mostly focus on near and trivial details, inducing a sense of emotional claustrophobia. But if this dual value response is dependent on a metaphorical microscope and telescope, and we use these to shift focus from neutral (or negative) to positive – like shifting gears – we can begin to realise what happens in this curious situation. Nietzsche made the common assumption that it was the stimulus itself which shifted the gear, but Wilson maintains that this is not the case.

Wilson wonders what would have happened if Nietzsche had lived long enough to have read Husserl’s Ideas. “If Nietzsche had known about separating the intention from it’s object – the noema from the noetic act – he would have ignored the stimulus itself […] and concentrated on the way that an act of will had “boosted” his perception. So we might have been spared a great deal of misleading stuff about Cesar Borgia…” This “misleading stuff” is the cause of all the insinuations towards Nietzsche’s “irrationalism” and even “fascism”. (Although after reading Wilson’s essay the Frankfurt School Marxist, Dr. Marcuse, it’s difficult not to smirk when recalling Nietzsche’s amusement at the discrepancy between “hopelessly bitter” strains of socialism and “the childish lamblike happiness of their hopes and desires.”)

Wilson’s ultimate aim was to merge these near and far insights simultaneously to generate a powerful sense of awareness. Wilson thought that the term for this awareness – the phenomenological faculty – was somewhat off putting, so with his tongue slightly in his cheek he instead labelled it ‘Faculty X’. This is the near and the far together, like the micro-macrocosmic harmony of mystical tradition but operating in the daylight of everyday experience.

So for Wilson, it is necessary to avoid regarding the stimuli itself as the generator of sharper perceptions. This insight is well described in Husserl and Evolution (originally from Existentially Speaking) as well as in the material on Sartre, Camus and Derrida. For those not familiar with the output of these thinkers, Wilson’s précis are exhilarating and honest. Sartre and Derrida both claimed to be more “phenomenological” than Husserl but even the success of their (once) fashionable celebrity careers cannot disguise the fact that neither truly held Husserl’s “radical attitude of autonomous responsibility”. Phenomenology, it should always be remembered, is an active method rather than just another philosophical theory, and no amount of linguistic critique can change the fact that this method works. This is why Wilson was so keen on Fitche and his assertion that the human subject can only know itself in action. So, rather than a pair of brutal vivisectionists dissecting Husserl’s ‘idealism’, Sartre and (particularly) Derrida were essentially Nietzsche’s “very clever people” who get embarrassed too easily. No the wonder the original title for the Derrida essay was Not To Be Taken Too Seriously.

The piece on A. N. Whitehead, with the “self contradictory” title Whitehead as Existentialist is a good retort to criticisms that Wilson was once a serious philosopher who ended up writing all kinds of irrelevant stuff on the supernatural, on crime and on the lost continent of Atlantis (c.f. virtually every cut ‘n paste obituary). In his Adventures of Ideas (p. 290) Whitehead states that “in order to discover some of the major categories under which we can classify the infinitely various components of experience, we must appeal to evidence relating to every variety of occasion.” There then follows a quote which will be familiar to Wilson readers – “Nothing can be omitted…” Whitehead goes on to note every type of experience relevant to philosophy, which I will now turn into a checklist –

EXPERIENCE –

Drunk/sober

Sleeping/waking

Drowsy/wide-awake

Self-conscious/self-forgetful

Intellectual/physical

Religious/sceptical

Anxious/care-free

Anticipatory/retrospective

Happy/grieving

Dominated by emotion/under self-restraint

In the light/in the dark

Normal/abnormal.

So Whitehead has more in common with Kierkegaard and the existentialists in that everyday experiences are the stuff of phenomenology, not just philosophical abstractions. It is interesting that he should regard experiences “abnormal” and “dominated by emotion” as worthy of study, as Wilson would study these, and many other ‘irrational’ types of experience in his occult and crime books. In his Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs (1964), speaking of the remarkable folklore surrounding ‘the mad monk’, Wilson notes that our minds are “continuously selecting, filtering, interpreting, colouring – and sometimes distorting and misinforming.” He goes on to say that “the question of illusion or reality is not as straightforward as it sounds. We are all doing something similar during every moment of our waking lives. (The only perceptions we might call “pure” are the sounds that filter through to us on the edge of sleep, or the things we see when the mind becomes a blank.)” Because it is difficult to catch the mind at work doing these distortions – although certain optical illusions can help – Wilson suggests that the “distorting power can be much better studied through the psychology of sex or religion, since the minds strongest forces are here in question.”

IMG_0170The “strongest forces” of the mind are fictionalised in Lulu, a novel which Wilson never finished (despite it’s twenty five year gestation and it’s eventual commission by the BBC) and is now presented in fragmentary form with appendices. It is a shame that this novel was never completed as it was intended to be something of an epic. Like his Metamorphosis of the Vampire, what remains of Lulu is something of a whispered rumour amongst hard core Wilson readers. When I asked Colin about it in 2007 he was certain he’d never finish it unless he found a millionaire patron. But fragmentary or not, and thanks to the efforts of Wilson scholar Vaughan Rapatahana and Wilson bibliographer Colin Stanley, it now appears in print – and unlike Metamorphosis of the Vampire, it’s in English…

Wilson’s fiction would often make use of Brecht’s Alienation Effect. With Lulu however, this technique didn’t quite work. Wilson commented that Brecht’s “device works beautifully for short periods” and we should remember that most of his “parodic” novels are fairly short. So he remarks that Lulu “defeated me technically.” Perhaps because of this, he had problems maintaining first person narrative (which he abandoned) and more importantly, because “the novel is designed to describe action, not inner states”, he had problems communicating the central character’s state of mystical consciousness. A young man with a photographic memory – he can recall any page of text from Gray’s Anatomy – Theo Pelham is the son of a self made fashion designer. Although I eventually warmed to Theo – or what’s left of him in these fragments – my first impressions of him were of an obviously gifted, but rather socially awkward individual. At first, when reading his conversational reactions, he seemed to be closer to the autistic spectrum than the seventh degree of consciousness, but as the narrative progresses, we start to see a strong development. Set in the late Sixties, Theo mingles with Angry Brigade student revolutionary types, the underclass and Montague Summers style defrocked vicars. There are some great set pieces – the suicide in Lulu’s dingy lodgings being a particularly striking one. So although the novel itself is an unfinished fragment, and remains a tantalising glimpse of what could have been, the appendices help remind us of Wilson’s intentions – he is concerned “with the conflict between two points of view” of materialism and ‘mysticism’ as well as being a “parallel study in Lulu’s natural ‘sex magic'”. Should it have been finished, Lulu could have ended up like a gigantic hybrid of Ritual in the Dark, The Killer and The God of the Labyrinth.

IMG_0171Adrift in Soho (1961) was also an unfinished novel – or rather a novel without a strict conclusion. Despite is slim size and haphazard construction it is still a hugely enjoyable read. (It has since been made into a film). Wilson kept his distance from scenes which would develop into “the Swinging Sixties”, saying (mostly) no to drugs “to induce higher states of consciousness, preferring more intellectually based methods” (as the introduction to The Writing of Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho points out). Because of this, Adrift in Soho isn’t so much of a period piece considering it documents the beatnik lifestyle. This recent addition to Paupers’ Press Colin Wilson Studies series – it’s volume 26 (Lulu is # 27) – contains the full text of Charles Russell’s The Other Side of Town. Russell, otherwise known as Belchier, was a thespian acquaintance of Wilson’s who wanted to find a publisher. Wilson thought Russell’s manuscript fascinating but probably unpublishable, so he basically rewrote it, adding elements of thinly disguised autobiography.

For scholars, inclusion of Russell’s manuscript is invaluable. There’s also a relevant section from Campion’s out of print Wilson biography and a section of unpublished notes from Wilson himself, plus a piece of first person reportage from The Sunday Dispatch at the start of 1961. My Night With the Beatniks is fairly self explanatory – “I always take a sleeping bag to London – you never know when you might need it.” Invited back to an enormous and noisy L shaped room, where a long haired beatnik strummed a guitar and another read from a bulky manuscript which “seemed to be a kind of poetry without metres”, Wilson “learned how a beat community was run.” Never sleeping until 4am or rising before midday, the eight male/four female community occupied an entire floor and survived by theft. Books were stolen (then sold to pay the rent) from Charing Cross Road, and self service stores were raided to make fairly disgusting sounding concoctions – “bacon, apples, raisins, cheese, tins of sardines and tins of soup” were all chucked into a communal cooking pot. This was washed down with cheap Spanish wine while Charlie Parker records played in the background. “No one had his own room – you slept anywhere you felt inclined.” A picture emerges of the drop out/squat culture that would last until perhaps the mid 1980’s. “You call everybody “man.”” Wilson sees this as a leftover from not only of Kerouac’s generation but of his own (unwanted) involvement with the Angry Young Men of the mid fifties. He sums up – “I am told that most beatniks end by taking a regular job and getting married.” Considering what happened to Charles Russell, who was something of a devotee of this bohemian anti-lifestyle, I see his logic. Writing to Wilson regarding his apparently idyllic life in the Mediterranean, a perfect hippie dream (it’s 1968) of lying in the sun, of beach-combing and weed, he ended up committing suicide in a German prison cell after bed been arrested trying to smuggle drugs worth £1500. Russell was 43 years old and of no fixed address.

Writing about Herbert Marcuse in the Collected Essays, Wilson notes that “real thinking crystallises from a cloud of intuitions, a forward moving excitement, which tends to make up its own terms as it goes along.” Marcuse would have doubtless found Charles Russell’s “Rousseauistic gush” perfectly rational, but his rigorous, emotionally driven dialectics leave no room for this cloud of intuitions, what Wilson calls “imponderables” (in literary terms, think Proust tasting the cake, Faust hearing the Easter bells etc). Real thinking uses everyday language as it’s basic instrument – like Wilson’s own clarified style – and “it has the advantage of allowing new considerations to slip into the argument without upsetting the whole scheme.” For Wilson, flexibility of thought is paramount. Reading these three books remind me how flexible Wilson’s thought was, and how exciting, unique and practical his insights continue to be. He developed a radical, workable method of creative perception, free from dogma and suffocating system building, free from the Messiah complexes which crippled too many of the mystics and philosophers he has discussed (see the Devils’s Party and Below the Iceberg). As John Shand writes in his introduction to the essays on philosophers, Wilson lived his outsider thesis, he didn’t, like David Hume, leave his philosophy behind in the seminar room. “If one really understood the outsider problem, had it as a lived part of one’s way of going on, something that permeated everything one might think and do, and think of doing, one then carried the problem into every aspect of one’s life whatever that life might consist of.”

2018 CW Conference…and last year’s 

The second International Colin Wilson Conference will be held on Friday July the 6th, 2018 at Nottingham University. Full details here but hurry! Half of the allocated places have already been taken. Those not able to attend last year’s’ successful conference can read all the relevant papers in a beautifully produced hardcover published by Cambridge Scholars. Not only does this volume sit neatly on the shelf with their Colin Wilson – Collected Essays on Philosphers it is also available for a strictly limited time at a reduced price if purchased from their website. This volume contains the transcripts of the papers presented at that inaugural one-day conference on July 1, 2016. Experts, scholars and fans, from around the globe, gathered to hear and present papers on a variety of Wilson-related topics ranging from Existentialism to the Occult; from H.P. Lovecraft to Jack the Ripper; and from Science Fiction to Transcendental Evolution.

Religion and the Rebel reprint from Aristeia Press

The second volume of Wilson’s ‘Outsider Cycle’, Religion and the Rebel, will be reprinted by Aristeia Press after several decades of unavailability. Unnecessarily dismissed during it’s original publication some six decades ago, it remains something of a hidden gem in the Wilson canon – I vividly recall finding a first Gollancz edition in the late Eighties and was completely dazzled by it. You can get it here

Lulu – An Unfinished Novel 

Published today from Paupers’ Press: ‘Colin Wilson’s ‘Lulu’: an unfinished novel’. In 1983 Colin Wilson wrote “For twenty-five years now I have been writing a novel called Lulu, and I must have started it a hundred times.”Wilson scholar Vaughan Rapatahana writes, in his Introduction: “From his first conceiving the idea in 1956 until about 1980-81, as evidenced not only from the part-manuscripts that we have been able to source, but more particularly from his many comments on the book over these years, Wilson was intermittently preoccupied with this novel.”

The project was never completed despite being commissioned for serialisation by BBC2 in 1976. This book contains the 176 pages of what has survived plus some of Wilson’s notes and journal entries on the novel, providing a tantalising prologue to what might have been.

Available from Amazon UK or contact Paupers’ Press 

The Outsider – digitisation @ Notts Uni. 

News from Wilson’s bibliographer Colin Stanley: “The Dept of Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham has digitised the original manuscript of ‘The Outsider’. It is available for researchers to view in their reading room. A prior appointment is necessary and, if you have not visited the Dept before, some ID will be needed in order to register with them as a reader.” 

Beyond the Robot by Gary Lachman 

A fine taster for Gary Lachman’s forthcoming Wilson biography is in yerstday’s Washington Post here. “People flourish best, says Wilson, when confronted by obstacles and challenges. Life’s setbacks shock us out of our mental laziness and allow us, through disciplined effort, to reshape and strengthen our inner selves. An active will is the key to psychological health”. Beyond the Robot is available from both Amazon UK and Amazon. com and it comes with a very encouraging recomendation from none other than Philip Pullman – “Colin Wilson came to a sudden and unparalleled celebrity with his first book, The Outsider, in 1956, and after that was strenuously ignored by every respectable critic. So much for respectability. Gary Lachman has written an intellectual biography of a writer who might be called the only optimistic existentialist, and done him justice. Wilson was always far better and more interesting than fashionable opinion claimed, and in Lachman he has found a biographer who can respond to the whole range of his work with sympathy and understanding, in a style which, like Wilson’s own, is always immensely readable. I enjoyed Beyond the Robot very much”.

First International Colin Wilson ConferenceUniversity of NottinghamFriday July 1st 2016 

A Herculean attempt to digitise CW’s astonishing cassette archive, more welcome Wilsonian scholarship and a preview of Gary Lachman’s forthcoming biographical study, all within browsing distance of the massive Colin Wilson Collection in Nottingham. By Colin Stanley

When the Colin Wilson Collection was opened at the University of Nottingham in the summer of 2011, it was agreed among those present that there should be a Conference to discuss his work. 2016 was mooted as an appropriate date because it coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of his first (and still most famous) book The Outsider, which, incidentally, has never been out of print since publication day in 1956 and now been translated into over 30 languages.

Unfortunately, in the meantime, Colin Wilson (who was too ill to attend the opening) died on December 5th 2013. Since then I have been assisting his widow, Joy, to sort his papers and manuscripts in preparation for their transfer to the archive. Much of this has been achieved and the University now not only holds copies of all his printed work but also a significant amount of his manuscripts, letters, journals and assorted papers.

As it happens 2016 is turning out to be an exceptional year for Colin Wilson and studies of his work. In January, Paupers’ Press published Nicolas Tredell’s Novels to Some Purpose: the fiction of Colin Wilson. In May, Cambridge Scholars published Colin Wilson’s Collected Essays on Philosophers. This was followed by Nigel Bray’s Bargaining With the Devil: the Work of Colin Wilson in a Cultural Context in June and my booklet on the Writing of Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho. In September my book An Evolutionary Leap: Colin Wilson on Psychology is to be released by Karnac Books and Gary Lachman’s major biographical study Beyond the Robot: the life and work of Colin Wilson, by Tarcher/Penguin; the latter coinciding with a new edition of The Outsider with an Introduction by Lachman.

It was appropriate that all of the above-named presented papers at the First International Colin Wilson Conference on Friday July 1st. This was held at the King’s Meadow campus of the University of Nottingham where the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections (and therefore Colin Wilson’s archive) is housed. Among the special guests were Joy Wilson, her daughter Sally, sons Damon and Rowan and granddaughter Rosa, all of whom were taken by the Manuscripts staff, behind the scenes on a tour of the archive store before the Conference got underway. Curiously, King’s Meadow was previously the home of ITV’s Central Studios and it was there, on a cold night in March 1995, that I, and my wife Gail, met Colin Wilson himself in the lobby. He had invited us to be in the audience at a live programme of psychic phenomena, hosted by David Frost, entitled ‘Beyond Belief’. Colin was one of the experts employed to explain the mysteries which unfolded during the course of the programme. In a wonderful example of synchronicity the programme was broadcast from the very auditorium which now holds his archive. [As of writing, the programme is on YouTube here]. 

The first paper was presented by Simon Brighton, a writer and musician who collaborated with Colin Wilson on a CD of music and spoken word entitled A Giant which celebrated the work of T. C. Lethbridge. He had also contributed an essay on The Philosopher’s Stone to Around the Outsider, a symposium, published by 0-Books in 2011, to celebrate Colin Wilson’s 80th birthday. For some years Simon has been working on a project to digitalise Colin’s journal which he had recorded onto hundreds of cassette tapes over the years. The delegates were treated to many audio extracts from these journals during the paper.

Professor Stephen R. L. Clark, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Liverpool, who had written an essay on The Mind Parasites for Around the Outsider, presented the next paper on a writer about whom Colin Wilson had much to say over the years: H. P. Lovecraft. His enlightening paper contained many quotes from Lovecraft and also touched upon Colin Wilson’s ambivalent attitude to the author’s work.

After a short coffee break, Nigel Bray took the floor to deliver a lecture based on a section of his newly published book (mentioned above). His paper, intriguingly entitled ‘Colin Wilson and ‘Dread of Being’’, included an analysis of the author’s important ideas on depression, boredom, and how we can overcome them.

The final paper in the morning session was delivered by Lindsay Siviter, who, as a trained historian, has worked in various museums around the UK including Scotland Yard’s famous Black Museum. As an expert on Jack the Ripper she took the delegates on an entertaining chronological guide to Colin Wilson the ‘Ripperologist’ (a term he, apparently, coined).

Before lunch a specially prepared trailer for the forthcoming film of Colin Wilson’s novel Adrift in Soho, directed by Pablo Behrens for Burning Films, was shown.

During the lunch break delegates were invited to view a display of interesting items from the archive which included early versions of Colin Wilson’s first novel Ritual in the Dark , the actual handwritten manuscript of The Outsider, various signed first editions and other treasures.

The afternoon session was kicked-off by Nicolas Tredell whose contribution to Around the Outsider was an essay on Ritual in the Dark. His fascination with this under-rated novel was reflected in his paper ‘A Ritual for Outsiders: philosophy and narrative in The Outsider and Ritual in the Dark’.

David Moore who runs the blog ‘Ritual in the Dark: essays and reflections on the work of Colin Wilson’ presented the next paper which he entitled ‘The Light Barrier: Existentialism and the occult in Colin Wilson’s science fiction’. In this paper he argued, very convincingly, that The Mind Parasites and The Philosopher’s Stone formed the link between Colin Wilson’s new existentialism and his writings on the occult.

Gary Lachman gave the penultimate paper. His many books on the occult, mysticism and psychology have made him well-known throughout the English-speaking world and he contributed the essay on Poetry & Mysticism to Around the Outsider. He chose to talk about Colin Wilson’s ‘Faculty X’: the sense of the reality of other places and other times. His paper drew much discussion among those gathered.

Finally, George C. Poulos, an independent researcher from Australia, whose main interest is in transcendent states of consciousness and who provided the essay on Beyond the Occult for Around the Outsider, delivered the last paper. He chose, not surprisingly, to speak on Colin Wilson’s transcendental theory of evolution in an attempt to provide a link between recent scientific research and Colin Wilson’s ideas.

The proceedings concluded, many of the delegates retired to my house near Trent Bridge to continue the debate fuelled by some good wine. It was here that the guest of honour, Joy Wilson, was presented with a framed artist’s caricature of her late husband. The following day there was a meal for the speakers and special guests at a local restaurant.

Photographs of the event are posted on the Colin Wilson RIP Facebook page. The video recording of some of the papers will follow at a later date as will the published proceedings.

Details of the holdings of the Colin Wilson Collection and Archive can be found here. (A little more information on the CW conference is at their blog page here.)

CW in a cultural context – new book 

A very interesting new study on Wilson is available to buy here. Bargaining with the Devil: The Work of Colin Wilson in a Cultural Context by Nigel Bray is published by CreateSpace. “This book is not a systematic or chronological study of his life and work, but an attempt to place him in a cultural context, and so provide grounds for a re-evaluation of his achievement.” At 484 pages, it’s a bargain for the kindle version. My Bray will be one of the speakers at the forthcoming First International Colin Wilson Conference

Collected Essays on Philosophers 

Available from the 1st of May, this collection of rare essays on philosophers is expertly introduced by John Shand and edited by pioneering Wilson scholar/bibliographer Colin Stanley. It’s 253 pages feature dissections of seventeen philosophers. Besides the usual suspects (Nietzsche, Husserl, Camus, Sartre, Whitehead, Wittgenstein, Derrida) there are also studies of Cassirer, Ayer, Popper, Russell, Marcuse, Broad, Strawson, Warnock and Spinoza. In his essay on the latter Wilson writes that philosophers “are never so entertaining – or so instructive – as when they are beating one another over the head.” Alongside the likes of Eagle and Earwig or Below the Iceberg, this looks like one of Wilson’s best collections of short pieces. 

Colin Wilson – Collected Essays on Philosophers, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. More information and a free extract is available here