The Strength to Dream, reissued

Out of print for decades, The Strength to Dream (1962) was the fourth volume of Wilson’s ‘Outsider Cycle’ which is now reissued by Aristeia Press. They have previously reprinted Religion and the RebelThe Age of Defeat and Introduction to the New Existentialism in matching softcovers. The remaining installments, Origins of the Sexual Impulse and Beyond the Outsider, will follow (The Outsider itself has remained in print since 1956 of course). 

The Strength to Dream is described by its author as “an attempt at a classification of unrealities, with a view to defining the concept of reality”. Essentially a study of the imagination as presented by various writers of fiction, Wilson’s book was rather ahead of its time, anticipating the intellectual interest in fantasy, horror and sci-fi that exploded later in the decade. Wilson’s book marks the first time that H. P. Lovecraft shared a space with the ideas of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and Wilson would soon exploit this unlikely juxtaposition with some Mythos novels of his own, paving the way for scholarly investigations of pulp fiction. While the latter is common enough now, it comes as quite a surprise to remind ourselves that Wilson was doing this shortly after the founding of the satirical magazine Private Eye and in the same year that ‘Love Me Do’ entered the charts (fittingly, Wilson here remarks that the Sartre of Nausea should have “given closer attention […] to the blues in general” to counter his defeatist attitude; a dozen pages later Stockhausen is aptly described as ‘far out’). 

Wilson had of course already anticipated the forthcoming sixties obsession with consciousness expansion by writing about the largely unknown Hermann Hesse and the obscure thaumaturge G. I. Gurdjieff in his first book, The Outsider. Further along the ‘Cycle’, The Strength to Dream investigates many cult names who would later become iconic in their respective genres: Lovecraft, M. R. James, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Brian Aldiss. By the seventies, horror and science fiction would be a booming business for paperback publishers such as Panther (who also brought out many Wilson titles). This century, Lovecraft and Dick are finally published by the prestigious Library of America. 

The “classification of unrealities” in Wilson’s study also includes a thorough analysis of the writings of Lawrence (D.H. and T. E.) Beckett, Sartre, Strindberg, Wells, Huxley, Faulkner, Andreyev, Robbe-Grillet, Saurraute, Wilde, Yeats and Tolkien, amongst many others. As per usual with Wilson, it’s a brilliantly accessible guide to cult literature if nothing else. But also – as per usual for Wilson – it is a philosophical treatise, made explicit by his shoehorning of Husserl’s ‘phenomenological’ method into the text. The ‘intentional’ nature of consciousness which Husserl had attempted to pin down with rigorous logic in the first few decades of the twentieth century was described by Wilson as the ‘form imposing element’ in 1961 but it becomes the ‘form imposing faculty’ in The Strength to Dream and as the Outsider series progresses, the ‘phenomenological faculty’. Wilson thought this “a rather clumsy phrase” and by 1967 he was speaking of ‘Faculty X’ – a state of extreme clarity which is represented by one of the most famous moments in Modernist literature; Proust’s memory of lost time in Swann’s Way (significantly, Proust himself connects this experience of mental freshness to a “dormant faculty” in the second volume of his novel). The faculty had already appeared in nascent form in Wilson’s debut (“a sort of pictorial memory of other times and other places” he writes in the Nijinsky section) and in the sequel (similar words in the chapter on Jakob Böhme), but it could be argued that it is in this particular book on the literary imagination where it first crystalises as a solid concept. Therefore it is notable that Husserl himself discussed a “parallelism” between perception and imagination in his first major work on phenomenology (1900), a correspondence which obviously attracted Wilson. “The whole point of phenomenology is that there is no sharp dividing line between perception and imagination” he wrote in 1966 when he was summing up his ‘Cycle’. “The dividing line only applies when we think of perception as passive and imagination as active. As soon as we realise that perception is active [i.e. intentional], the old dichotomy vanishes”. A good indicator of how far Husserl was misunderstood and what an existentialist thinker like Wilson was working against at this time is a comment from Sartre in his huge ‘essay on phenomenological ontology’ (1943). Sartre states near the conclusion that perception “has nothing in common with imagination”. For Sartre, however, imagination is only the ability to “assemble images by means of sensations” which (he claims) originated with the “association theory of psychology” – that is to say, the ‘psychologism’ that Husserl had already demolished forty-three years before in his Logical Investigations. Sartre’s analysis becomes even more risible with the knowledge that Husserl had painstakingly demonstrated that sensations are not intentions in the fifth investigation of the same work. In a verbose letter from March 1930 Lovecraft matches value with association and freedom with sensation – while claiming that he is unprejudiced with regards to these “consciousness-impacts”. It comes as no surprise then that the famous opening statement from The Call of Cthulhu is anti-phenomenological in nature, stating as it does that the most most merciful thing in the world is inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. Wilson writes off this attempt at philosophising as “the usual romantic pessimism” at the start of The Strength to Dream

Sartre mentions in his essay that Heidegger’s philosophy uses “positive terms which hide the implicit negations” and it could be said that Wilson turns this on its head, using negative examples to illuminate an optimistic truth. His previous book had been an A-Z of criminal cases and Wilson admitted that this was complied partly as a dig at Sartre’s rather reductionist attitude. Sartre also writes in his essay that we can “catch a glimpse of the paradox of freedom” but only via objects, obstacles and other exterior ‘situations’. Wilson would later define Faculty X as ‘the paradox of freedom’ and he insisted that we can glimpse it with enough effort, without the need for such props and situations. Therefore the analysis of negative examples of freedom, like the sociological and existential study of murder, or the rigorous questioning of imaginative creativity should be encouraged in order to throw these problems into relief. 

A philosophical sounding quote – “people are no more than things to me. Inanimate. Cyphers. I am a pragmatist” – could have easily been said by a Beckett character, but it was actually written in a confessional letter by Klaus Gossmann, ‘the Midday Murderer’. [1] Like the index of self defeating social tragedies catalogued in his crime book, The Strength to Dream analyses another angle of this rather unhealthy attitude towards life. Ploughing through the bleak imaginative landscapes of Sartre’s fiction, and those of Beckett and Andreyev (a favourite of Lovecraft – both held the same philosophy) is a sure way of determining the strength or weakness of individual imaginations. For Wilson the imagination is not daydreaming but a way of grasping reality, analogous to Husserl’s intentional consciousness. “The faculty for ‘grasping’ a picture or a page of prose might be called the attention” writes Wilson. “But attention is a simple matter, depending on an act of will (as when a schoolteacher calls ‘Pay attention, please). This ordinary attention is often inadequate to grasp the meaning of a picture or a piece of music; it is not ‘open’ enough to allow a full and wide impact of strangeness. The instantaneous act of grasping that transcends the pedestrian ‘attention’ is the imagination. It is more active than attention; it is a kind of exploring of the object, as well as a withdrawal from it to see better”. Husserl had covered this ground in the fifth Logical Investigation, when he said that we ‘live’ inside the perceptive act when we ‘take in’ a work of fiction. Later he questions the usual meaning of the word ‘imagination’, remarking that ordinary awareness (i.e. that we are ‘merely reading’) is “inoperative” in the novel reading or aesthetic experience. It is worth noting that this latter section, like Sartre’s thoughts on imagination from Being and Nothingness, are both analyses of the quality of perceptive acts. 

Wilson begins The Strength to Dream by dismissing the realist interpretation of imagination. Both the socialist and the capitalist, he says, see it as a useful gadget, an accessory to the aims of either the state or to business, but this ‘one size fits all’ description of the imagination is hardly applicable to Poe or Dostoyevsky. About to be executed, Dostoyevsky saw life “without disguise” as Wilson phrases it here. From then on he was determined to imaginatively capture this reality in his fiction, even if it meant forever contrasting it against squalor. Nineteenth century romantics used imagination as a “kind of psychological balancing pole” to navigate a world that horrified them (Lovecraft is one of the last and best examples of this compensative mindset). Yet it was his discovery of Lovecraft in the late fifties that altered Wilson to another interpretation of imagination, one that is closely bound to values. Lovecraft states his “basic life value” in the above letter: “nothing has any intrinsic value”. So it is hardly surprising then that Lovecraft died aged only forty-six. Dostoyevsky’s purpose, writes Wilson, is an attempt to “communicate to his readers the inexpressible value of life” by contrasting this undisguised “invisible strength of the powerhouse” against misery and futility. 

“It is my contention” writes Wilson “that these value judgements are the mainspring of the imagination; they are, in fact, so closely connected with it as to be almost synonymous with imagination”. For instance, we can ask ourselves: ‘what life would be like inside Lovecraft’s Mythos?’ A state of miserable slavery underneath some tentacled cyclopean entities? This is hardly the imaginative power found in Dostoyevsky or in Blake’s prophetic books. It is significant then, that Wilson’s own satirical barb at Lovecraft, The Mind Parasites, was drawn from a phenomenological insight [2] into what Blake called ‘the Spectre’ – the rational power that negates, like Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust (the sober mystic Rudolf Steiner thought Mephistopheles the perfect symbol for the current age of materialism, neurosis and life-failure, although Steiner named this anti-zeitgeist ‘Ahriman’). The Blake scholar S. Foster Damon, a friend of Wilson’s, described the Spectre as “a machine which has lost its controls and is running wild” – a representation of the human condition that would have satisfied Gurdjieff as well as Steiner. In the second book of Ideas Husserl describes the “lower level” world of sensations and associations – that is, the philosophy of Sartre, Greene, Beckett and Lovecraft – as “the world of the mechanical, the world of lifeless conformity to laws”. This is the mental world of the cafe proprietor which was brilliantly satirised – ironically enough – in Sartre’s Nausea, a portrait of someone who is wholly dependent on outer objects and situations for meaning. This lifeless attitude flows through the literary and cultural criticism of Roland Barthes, a contemporary of Sartre: “…just as I is nothing other than the instance saying I: language knows a ‘subject’, not a ‘person’, and this subject, empty outside of the very enunciation which defines it…” [3] Despite being written in 1967, Barthes’ value-judgement on the self sounds exactly like the Sartre of Being and Nothingness circa 1943. 

The problem with this anti-intentional attitude – which was unfortunately given a huge boost in the mid-Sixties via the philosophical lit-crit of Barthes’ semiology and Derrida’s deconstruction – is discussed by Wilson in The Strength to Dream, another reason for the book to be branded ‘ahead of its time’. He remarks that philosophers declaim their “temperamental reactions to life as if they were the result of a most careful weighing up of the whole universe”. Likewise, the novelist “sits in his armchair and writes about his vision of the world as if he is delivering the gospel”. This is the result of the fallacy of passive perception which was built into modern philosophy by Descartes, a flaw that Husserl exploded with his notion of the intentionality of consciousness, Wilson’s ‘faculty’. Wilson quotes the speech of a self indulgent nobleman in the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom: Sade’s Durcet says that it is “the weakness of our faculties [that] leads us to these abominations”. Wilson once dubbed de Sade ‘the patron saint of serial killers’, and a few years on from The Strength to Dream he wrote that real purpose of the study of murder is “to teach the human imagination to create crisis situations without the physical need to act them out” [4]. In his book on the psychologist Maslow (1972) Wilson points out that consciousness without crisis tends to become negative. This does not mean that we need to seek out physical crisis situations – although thinkers as diverse as Ernest Hemingway, Aleister Crowley, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Sartre and Gurdjieff all thought that we should – rather, we need to carefully analyse what actually happens in these situations. Wilson’s first book The Outsider collects many examples of these situations and amongst the most illuminating are two experiences reported by Nietzsche. These episodes, familiar to any Wilson reader, are examined again at the beginning of the sixth chapter of The Strength to Dream, the chapter which starts with the de Sade quote about the weakness of his libertines’ faculties. 

Wilson insists that while the two passages “express only an aspect of Nietzsche’s philosophy” it cannot be understood without this central drive – what Nietzsche himself described in a letter as “pure will, without the confusion of intellect”. Like Blake’s maxim that energy is eternal delight, this is a confirmation that intentional consciousness must be driven by a willed momentum. Husserl says as much in (again) the fifth Logical Investigation that “the greatest energy will be displayed by the act-character which comprehends and subsumes all partial acts in its unity”. In his notebooks Nietzsche rejected mechanical Darwinism in favour of a “tremendous shaping, form creating force working from within” – what Husserl later meant by intentionality, or Wilson’s ‘form imposing faculty’. The study of imagination in action can ascertain how strong or weak an intentional grip any given author (or character) has on reality or within a situation. Sartre’s cafe proprietor Monsieur Fasquelle and Beckett’s Molloy have feeble intentional processes, as they are mostly manipulated by external objects or events. The third part of Beckett’s Molloy trilogy shares its title with an early Lovecraft tale, The Unnamable (1925). In Lovecraft’s story a rationalist character remarks that “even the most morbid perversion of nature need not be unnameable or scientifically indescribable”, a statement that a phenomenologist like Wilson would certainly agree with. Lovecraft’s narrator admires his friend’s “clearness and persistence”, a trait of his typically “analytical mood” but this tranquillity is obliterated by the typical horrors that follow. Later they dimly recall being attacked by a mass of slime (“the ultimate abomination”), a property which Sartre analyses near the end of his long ‘refutation’ of Husserl. Sartre writes that the slimy is “the best image of our own destructive power […] a retorted annihilation […] It is flaccid […] the slimy is docile”. This is hardly Nietzsche’s form creating force or Husserl’s sinewy intentionality. Writing of our “tendency to confuse sense-contents with perceived or imagined objects” Husserl describes the background of perception (i.e. Wilson’s ‘far’ behind the ‘near’) as “surrounded only by an obscure, wholly chaotic mass, a fringe, a penumbra, or however one may wish to name the unnameable”. But this ‘far’, he continues, is not actually separated from the ‘near’ but is “inwrought” with it – an observation that clearly anticipates Wilson’s Faculty X or phenomenological faculty. In literature Wilson found examples of this faculty at work in Proust and in L. H. Myers’ aptly named but rather forgotten The Near and the Far (1929). He also points to a scene from Huysmans’ À rebours (chapter XI) describing a “clumsy change in locality” as a good example of this near-far dichotomy which is often a concern of phenomenological philosophy. [5]

Further in his Investigation Husserl uses the word ‘genetic’ which would become an important factor in his later, time based phenomenology. Past experiences, he writes, “render selective notice [i.e. intentionality] possible […] the emphasis of attention involves […] generally a change in content (an ‘elaboration in fancy’)”. As Wilson wrote in his new existentialist study of Husserl in 1966, if anything is an illusion, it is the content of our present mode of consciousness, our contingent feeling that we are trapped in a world of the near and trivial. If anything demonstrates this to be an untruth, it was the historical rise of the novel and the imaginative revolution that followed, Husserl’s ‘elaboration in fancy’. 

This is implicit in Proust’s ‘dormant faculty’ and his investigations into memory and his past, or negatively in de Sade’s weak faculty which like Lovecraft’s, breeds abominations. As Wilson insists throughout The Strength to Dream, the imagination is more powerful than we think. “Can we doubt” he writes “that one of Zola’s greatest moments was the hour that he conceived his Rougon-Macquart cycle?” This activity of planning a large work – Balzac’s La Comédie humaine, Proust’s Temps Perdu or Newtons Principia – is “a preparation for a long journey away from the physical activity of the present, and therefore a kind of practice for inhabiting a new field of consciousness”. So simply remarking that ‘all perception is intentional’ misses the active nature of Husserl’s insight (which itself moved from static to genetic phenomenology). In his study of Maslow Wilson describes this active consciousness as ‘preparedness’; earlier he had described it as “anticipatory labour” – rather like an insurance policy which covers events which may never occur, or a farmer building barns for harvests that may or may not happen. [6] 

We have achieved civilisation by replacing real experience with symbols (words) and “then by learning to replace whole groups of symbols and the relations between them by formulae” writes Wilson in The Strength to Dream. “The ‘modern neurosis’ would seem to be due to a tendency to lose contact with the reality underneath the formula” (this intentional ‘formularising’ is indispensable, however). Therefore the intuitive faculty of imagination could also be called “a grip on reality”, but much of the imaginative fiction that is analysed in Wilson’s book fails this intentional test. Lovecraft’s adolescent idea that life is a hideous thing, Andreyev’s description of an embrace as “monstrous and formless, turbid and clinging”, Sartre’s “flabby, many-tentacled evasions” in reference to the novels of Nathalie Sarraute, and her own description of how “the nearest nothing makes her tremble, this Hypersensitive, lined with quivering little silken tentacles” – all are stuck the fallacy of passive perception, a legacy of Descartes’ idea that we merely look outward and receive ‘facts’, minus any selectivity or intention (note Andreyev’s use of “formless” rather than form-producing). Wilson’s book deals with “the eccentricities and imprecisions” of various imaginations and he notes that the word imprecision “implies a goal that has been missed” – in fact the book begins with a half-remembered parody of Sartre’s Nausea but set on a football pitch (“Why does that man keep blowing on a whistle?”). According to its ‘normal’ definition, each imaginative act has a different goal because it is merely a subjective fantasy, but this is countered by the phenomenological definition, which understands it as an act of intention. 

These phenomenological ideas begin to become fully formed in The Strength to Dream. “It is impossible to exercise the imagination and not be involved in this [evolutionary] current” writes Wilson. It would be fair to say that Wilson took the function of imagination as seriously as William Blake did – notably, Blake alluded to the same ‘faculty’ circa 1788 with reference to the imagination of poets (Wilson said that Faculty X is strong in good poets). A century later Rudolf Steiner began his career with a brilliant little book on the ‘philosophy of freedom’, brimming with acute phenomenological insights into consciousness (Steiner attended lectures by Husserl’s teacher Franz Brentano). Fifteen years later he made an intriguing assertion to an audience, cryptically speaking of a ‘cosmic law’ that dictates that “every capacity humanity acquires must have its beginning in one individuality. Faculties that are to become common to a large number of people must first appear in one person”. Summing up the argument for the creative use of the imagination yet again in The Misfits (1988), Wilson came to the same conclusion as Steiner (“if one single human being could learn to achieve Faculty X at will, this ability would soon spread to every member of the species”). Like Nietzsche and Gurdjieff, Wilson rejected crude behaviourism and mechanical evolution, favouring a phenomenological process – a careful reading of the ‘Analysis of Man’ chapter in Beyond the Outsider will make this ‘evolutionary intentionality’ clear. These ideas begin to form in The Strength to Dream

After the first modern novel appeared in 1740, imaginative literature exploded in Europe, transforming scores of its inhabitants from readers of village sermons into would-be revolutionary romantics. But by the end of the nineteenth century this powerful imaginative current had soured into a resigned pessimism – Wilson remarks in The Strength to Dream that if Schopenhauer or Andreyev had been honest about their philosophy of life, they would have committed suicide (both enjoyed comfortable living, of course). Wilson remarks that professionally pessimistic thinking is a cover for ineptitude; like the pile of dead bodies at the end of an Elizabethan drama, “it produces an impression of conclusiveness”. 

With characteristic wit, Nietzsche called Romanticism “that malicious fairy”. But Wilson maintained that the early Romantics like Blake had glimpsed an evolutionary purpose, a kind of proto-phenomenology. Steiner, a devotee of Goethe and a biographer of Nietzsche, made another useful comment concerning ‘universal laws’ in the above lecture. “If you merely consider the world as it presents itself to the senses, which is the modern [i.e. 1909] scientific approach, you observe past laws which are still continuing. You are really only observing the corpse of a past world”. As Husserl said, sensations are not intentions, and the sensationalistic fiction of Lovecraft, for instance, is a front for his anti-intentional philosophy. Steiner goes on to say that we need to “find the things that are outside those laws […] a second world with different laws” (my italics). This ‘world’, he says, is already present inside reality “but it points to the future” – rather like the evolutionary intentionality hinted at in The Strength to Dream and developed in further Outsider volumes. Wilson’s philosophical treatment of literature – ‘existential literary criticism’ – examines what the author was trying to say via analysis of their attitudes towards the dynamism of life, and therefore it is in opposition to Barthes’ sterile ‘semiological’ dissection of corpses. From The Outsider on, Wilson analysed the lives of writers and thinkers to see how they reacted to life, to find out what values they held as part of an active rather than entropic process. (Outside the main body of the text, The Strength to Dream also contains three essays of existential literary criticism as appendices, one each on Aldous Huxley, Nikos Kanantzakis and Friedrich Dürrenmatt).  

The core values of Wilson’s new existentialist philosophy were developed through the ‘Outsider Cycle’ and The Strength to Dream essentially marks the beginning of his mature thought, a turning away from the occasional youthful idealisms of the very earliest volumes and into a more precise analysis, thanks to his discovery of Husserl. The problem of our time, says Wilson, is to “destroy the idea of man as a ‘static observer’ both in philosophy and art”. This static observer is not Husserl’s “disinterested spectator” or Gurdjieff’s “man-without-quotation-marks” – i.e. a transcendental, self-aware subject – but a passive recording mechanism stuck in Husserl’s natural or naive attitude. The narrative voices of Lovecraft, Beckett and Sartre, for instance, all bring in this emotional distortion without questioning it. [7] Near the end of The Strength to Dream Wilson remarks that he has spoken of ‘reality’ in inverted commas throughout the book to indicate ‘everyday reality’, what Robert Musil saw as the prevailing ‘pseudoreality’ in The Man Without Qualities (1930). Everyday consciousness, said Wilson in Introduction to the New Existentialism, is a liar, what Gurdjieff called the ‘pseudo-I’, a fake self (or selves). Far from being false, the imaginative revolution has helped clear away perceptually distortions about our self-image and has been an invaluable aid to human evolution, despite the side effects (as seen in the annals of modern criminology). The imaginative rebellion against ‘reality’ generated a new faculty of perception, what Wilson here labels “an evolutionary drive”. This is an unseen or hidden drive (“of which the writers may be completely unaware”) which Wilson calls the faculty of affirmation – later Faculty X. Dostoyevsky saw it without disguise as he was about to be executed, and he could recreate the reality of this crisis situation using his powerful imaginative faculty, his strong dreaming. Through imaginative power he has ‘bracketed’ the world and become aware of himself as a ‘transcendental ego’, to use Husserl’s terminology. 

“Existentialism has been defined as the attempt to apply the mathematical intellect to the raw stuff of living experience” writes Wilson in The Strength to Dream. “It might also be an attempt to create a new science – a science of living”. Existential criticism therefore judges imaginative works as successes or failures according to this science of life; “to judge them by standards of meaning as well as impact”. So literature that is crudely sensationalistic, like Lovecraft’s, should be carefully scrutinised against Husserl’s stern philosophical reasoning that sensations are not intentions. Husserl and Lovecraft are often analysed together nowadays, but only in the opposite direction to which Wilson was pointing in 1962. The mentality of Sartre’s cafe proprietor whose head empties with his establishment is emblematic of twenty-first century thought, but Wilson’s new existentialism remains a strong and workable refutation of this passive ideology, for anybody who wants it. 

With its pioneering mixture of pulp and phenomenology The Strength to Dream remains a timely examination of the imagination and it’s strange powers. It is a crucial part of Wilson’s ‘existential jigsaw puzzle’. 

[1] Wilson, Colin, A Casebook of Murder, Leslie Frewin, 1969, p. 247. Lovecraft is mentioned in this book (p. 193). He is also discussed more thoroughly in the sequel, Order of Assassins: the Psychology of Murder (1972).

[2] ‘The Power Of the Spectre’ in Introduction to the New Existentialism, Hutchinson, p. 161. In Blake’s Vala, or the Four Zoas (1791) the Spectre describes himself: “I am thus a ravening devouring lust continuously craving and devouring”.

[3] Barthes, Roland, ‘The Death of the Author’ republished in Image, Music, Text, Fontana, 1977, p. 145.

[4] Wilson, A Casebook of Murder, ibid, p. 226

[5] For instance, in the relevant sections on parts and wholes in Husserl’s Logical Investigations discussed here – first vol., RKP, 1970, pp. 416 – 417, and in the first book of Ideas (Kluwer, 1982, p. 55). Also analysed as per the “existential spatiality” in Heidegger’s Being and Time, (Blackwell, 2004, p. 171), and the “far and the near, the great and the small” in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (RKP, 1967, p. 266). In the Logical Investigations Vol. II (ibid. p. 756), Husserl dismisses “empty” signitive intentions – the life-blood of Barthes’ literary criticism and Derrida’s deconstruction – against filled imaginative intentions. Fulfillment depends on “greater or lesser completeness, liveliness and reality” – Blake’s “energy” or pulling the bowstring of perception fully taut, as Wilson would have it. 

[6] Wilson, Colin, Beyond the Outsider, Carroll and Graf, 1991, p. 177. In this primer on ‘evolutionary phenomenology’ Wilson compares the phenomenologist’s descriptive abilities to a farmer who can precisely explain how he would cultivate a tract of rough land. On page 148 he looks back at The Strength to Dream and maintains that “the phenomenological analysis of imagination” proves that it is not merely compensatory but a form of intentionality that involves the use of A. N. Whitehead’s three modes of experience – immediacy (the near), meaning (the far) and conceptual analysis (the ability to grasp ‘wholes’ through intellect “which, through the use of symbols, has a greater storage capacity”).

[7] Husserl on the disinterested spectator: cf The Crisis of European Sciences, Northwestern Uni. Press, 1970, p. 157; p. 239. Gurdjieff’s ‘man-without-quotation-marks’ in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, RKP, 1950, p. 1191

Colin Wilson documentary crowdfunding page is live

A crowdfunding page for a projected Colin Wilson documentary entitled Dreaming To Some Purpose: The Life and Times of Colin Wilson is now live and seeking donations. The award winning filmmakers are “extremely passionate about our campaign to realize this authorized biography of the life and work of the internationally acclaimed writer and philosopher because seven years after his death, the need for a Wilson documentary is increasingly apparent. We are seeking support from Wilsonians the world over to contribute what you can to help fund this project. The plan is to make a comprehensive, two-part history of Wilson’s life, from his early days as a disaffected teenager to the success of The Outsider and Wilson’s unexpected celebrity, to his later career as a leading philosopher of consciousness and his last days as a grand old man of English letters. Wilson’s family, people who knew him, and people deeply influenced by his work, will contribute onscreen interviews to tell the story of the original Outsider”. 

This is a vital project which needs your support – for as the filmmakers go on to say, despite Wilson’s huge body of work (now housed at the University of Nottingham) and his continued cult status, “it seemed that there was a reluctance by the media to acknowledge his unique contribution to the literature of the 20th century”. This project will address that imbalance by treating Wilson’s philosophical ideas seriously and “ensure that Colin’s unique contribution to the world of literature will finally be recognised”. 

Please donate at this page