Transhuman, all too Transhuman

Two books published in the Colin Wilson Studies series are very contemporary – yet the contents are four decades old.
As a reader of Wilson since the last century, reading a ‘new’ book by him is an unusual experience now. Despite knowing that his uncollected or unpublished work is a rich seam, it’s an odd feeling to know that this is all posthumous; that there’s not going to be two or more new books a year and that one might be blessed with the inevitable cut ‘n paste review containing all the old annoying cliches. This stuff, published by Paupers’ Press, is made and consumed (mostly) by hardcore readers and collectors.
In a strange sense though, it’s like the spotlight is off Colin Wilson, the person, and firmly on his ideas. (Unless you’re an obituary writer). These two books are full of ideas, despite their brevity.
Colin Wilson Studies # 21 contains two essays from 1974 or thereabouts: Comments on Boredom and Evolutionary Humanism and the New Psychology. Studies # 22 is a previously unpublished Introduction to a book which would have been called Faces of Evil, if it ever appeared. Possibly from the mid to late Seventies, the only trace left of its existence is a cover image, advertising blurb and ISBN number: 0-89104-042-0. It was to have featured 60 full colour illustrations and 30 original paintings in it’s 128 pages.
Edited and introduced by Wilson scholar Vaughan Rapatahana, these essays “make sure you cogitate and they force you to ponder further.” A well known effect for Wilson readers. Another plus is that the topics he writes about here are very relevant – a point not lost on the editor.

Boredom. (Trans)Humanism. Evil.

Humanism, as it’s understood – or should that be marketed? – today is a different beast to the Humanism that Wilson writes about here. ‘Humanism’, with it’s corporate logo, London bus adverts, celebrity atheists and it’s general sense of bourgeois self-satisfaction is not really the Humanism that Wilson is writing about. That sort of Commercial Evangelical Humanism has more in common with the creature comforts of der letzte Mensch, Nietzsche’s ‘last man”, the opposite of the bed of nails that is (will be?) Das Übermensch. Wilson’s Evolutionary Humanism has more in common with Julian Huxley’s original concept as discussed in Beyond the Outsider. Huxley, in fact described himself as a “Transhumanist” – a point we’ll need to return to. So even though he can write that “My religion is evolutionary humanism” (1) he is not advocating a simple replacement of Theology with Darwinism, as that would be too philosophically crude. Rather, he is attempting to describe, with as much phenomenological precision as possible, the access code to a “new world of super-reality and anti-futility.” (2) H G Wells’ metaphor of early amphibians struggling to stand or breathe on land is referenced, but Wilson suggests that the need to flop back into the cool waters of “repetitive little preoccupations and animal responses” is best described in the opening scenes of Goethe’s Faust, in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (3) and in Dostoyevsky’s figure of Stavrogin. These three are expositions of what Wilson calls “the values problem”, the problem of life fatigue and life failure. Our instinctive values or rather, subconscious intentionalities, have been built up over millions of years, and they need to be analysed for deep, deep prejudices in the light of everyday consciousness. Because our habit of selective consciousness is so ingrained – originally for our survival – it continuously replaces any sense of wider meaning with a sense of immediate purpose, with the ability to concentrate on getting things done, but generating unpleasant side effects of neurosis and social friction.
Wilson sees the imagination as part of perception. Imagination moulds the perceptions of the physical world, although “it has a tough sub-structure of reality to deal with. However, it colours and shapes and tints and excludes, and the resulting perception is not in any sense a perception of ‘things as they are’. It is carefully edited.” (4) This is the instinctive value mentioned earlier; in fact it is actually a “devaluing mechanism.’ Things can be perfect in life, and we take them for granted – in fact we are normally bored (this is discussed more fully in the Comments on Boredom essay). What is happening, says Wilson, is that we instinctively put aside the pleasure and move on to the next thing. “This means that, from the feeling point of view, consciousness is kept blank – that is, open and receptive. But if there happen to be no ‘in-coming’ feelings, the result is boredom.” (5) The chief value (ironically) of the devaluing mechanism is pain and inconvenience – we can get over minor physical pain or setbacks by devaluing them and moving into something else. Wilson calls this the ‘St. Neots Margin’, a kind of equator of the human mind that is affected by pain, but indifferent to pleasure. We take happiness for granted, but only start to ask questions when we suffer misfortune.
Now Wilson introduces an important concept. As our consciousness is editing our environment, certain things are left on the cutting room floor. The full beam of our intentionality is focussing on a limited number of things, whilst others are noticed, but in a less immediate way. They are out-takes, like the extras on a Directors’ Cut DVD that we will probably never watch. They are there, they are important, but taken for granted – like, Wilson remarks, a pair of guests who are so familiar to the butler that he doesn’t need to ask for their invitation card. They are accepted – but rather than call this process ‘acceptance’, Wilson describes this mechanical observation as ‘acceptation’. For convenience, acceptation “is the actual medium for the dilution of consciousness.” (6) it is, he says, like ash which prevents the consciousness from overheating. The inferno of total consciousness would generate too much heat for us at this moment, so we use our powers of abstraction and imagination to bring back enough for a camp fire. We supplement our awareness with memory and imagination.
The imagination should not be confused with daydreaming. “It is related to ordinary perception as as mathematics is related to science; it is concerned with the basic laws of the reality that perception can only grasp piecemeal.” (7) Perception is intentional, it is selective – and it is prejudiced. A strongly developed imagination can easily be used to remind ourselves of how our selective consciousness has become what it is, and why.
Wilson is keen to remind us that we are marking time with our present consciousness. We cannot go any further with these old habits, the door of the prison is opening, but far too slowly, and while we’re in this state, “we need war as a necessary outlet.” (8) Bearing in mind that these words were written forty years ago, little has changed. The problem is still staring us in the face, and people seem keen to avoid addressing it. Perhaps because, as Wilson says, we treat consciousness as a basic unit, rather than showing (or rather knowing) how it is built. Wilson once remarked that the problem of philosophy is so simple that no philosopher has ever stated it. He is on to something there.
Wilson’s Evolutionary Humanism is unlike today’s Humanism. Like Huxley’s Transhumanism, like Maslow’s self-actualising Metahuman, it is Nietzsche rather than Darwin who is the focus. So it is interesting to see the editor compare Wilson to Ray Brassier in The Faces of Evil. For although Brassier is a supporter of Transhumanism, he insists, somewhat theatrically, that we must choose Darwin over Husserl lest we “plunge headlong into intellectual disaster and the ruin of philosophy.” Brassier was once linked to the Speculative Realists, who claim originality for their use of H. P. Lovecraft in philosophical – specifically phenomenological – disciplines. They are still shamefully unaware of Wilson’s historical record here. Brassier, like Thomas Ligotti, like Houellebecq and S. T. Joshi, seem to admire Lovecraft for his fundamentalist nihilism. This is perhaps a little too convenient; Lovecraft’s nihilism is really his least interesting feature. It is a mask, the opposite of his real drive. (8) So although Wilson sounds like Brassier – or rather, vice versa – when he writes of Evil as “a vital force so tremendous that the slightest glimpse of it reveals our human values to be childish and trivial”, he is probably speaking Nietzscheian, or perhaps Blakeian (the antediluvians who are our energies etc.) rather than materialist nihilism. Lovecraft made the phenomenological mistake of describing his Things as “evil”, when they are in fact fascinating. Wilson offers Arthur Machen’s description of a similar experience, but minus any dread. (9) Perhaps Machen was a greater phenomenologist than his literary offspring…
So in these essays, forty years old, Colin Wilson is pretty much discussing today’s cultural impasse. Or maybe it’s just that not much has changed? The points he makes on these topics are certainly worth everyone’s attention.

(1) Colin Wilson, Comments on Boredom and Evolutionary Humanism and the New Psychology: two unpublished essays Paupers’ Press, 2013, p. 35
(2) ibid. p. 36
(3) Specifically the section entitled On the Tree on the Mountain (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p.29)
(4) Colin Wilson, Comments on Boredom and Evolutionary Humanism and the New Psychology: two unpublished essays Paupers’ Press, 2013, p. 42
(5) ibid. p. 43
(6) ibid. p. 44
(7) ibid. p. 45
(8) Kenneth Grant The Ninth Arch, p xxix Starfire 2002
(9) see Wilson’s introduction to The Necronomicon (Neville Spearman, 1978)

On Death by Vaughan Rapatahana

On Death

It is time to take far more seriously our universal lack of emphasis on the event of death, which seems – of course – a direct reversal of asking why life occurs in the first place, but which is not a corollary at all, for life is a given. Being is undeniable. So when, for example, Albert Camus cried:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.

He was well wrong. We are already extant and will die anyway, regardless of his ‘freedom of choice.’

I am inclined rather to concur with a writer like Ray Brassier, who tells us that in fact that it is precisely because there is death and ultimate extinction, that there is any life at all, thus any philosophy at all: “that it is only because life is conditioned by its own extinction that there is thought at all” as he scribes in his seminal tome Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (2007.) Philosophy is more truly a partner to non-Being. The truly serious philosophical problem transmutes to dealing with Death.

So, why do we all eventually, some far too soon, depart the scene? Why is there the deterioration of age and the often sad slink into Nothingness as opposed to Being, given that biologists will explain this as the inevitable degeneration of cells, and evolutionists will proclaim the need for death so as to encourage the next batches of life and as to maintain some living space for such?

My question is, however, a meta-question, seeking to override physiological descriptions of this bodily degeneration and asking ‘Why is there Death, with a capital D?’ Why do we not look at others and see that in every living moment and with absolute clarity that one day they will no longer Be, and then not recoil in shock, in dread? Why are we also so damnably reluctant to self-acknowledge that our own death is inevitable? On a related or micro level, to even talk about it – our own death – down at the local? To draw up specific death plans for our beloved to refer to when we do drop? We are necessarily contingent, to paraphrase Quentin Meillassoux, but don’t seem to existentially internalize this..

People die. At times their passing (to what? to where?) is recorded or mourned – and indeed, in the cases of ‘celebrities’ lengthy, often obsequious, obituaries are penned – but there is no serious questioning as to ‘Why is this person dead?’ The living all too often seize upon the occasion of death more to festoon themselves in pity, to self-gratify, as opposed to fully cognize the finality involved and declare an honest empathy for another’s departure once and for all. Sometimes a media medium also leaps onto a bizarre way of dying as a news item worthy of soliciting a wider gratuitous readership. More, certain other agencies actually profit from the proliferation of death: funeral directors, firearm sellers aka ‘merchants of death’, some bloodthirsty egotistical generals and politicians. They don’t want death to die out at all.

Worse still, if mass death occurs – particularly if it took place in non-Western countries – it is soon forgotten and quickly papered over by Western media sources, if it even covered at all in the first place. Yet the departure of some long-forgotten Hollywood ‘star’ still rates a mention in TIME magazine. 1000 Filipinos wiped out in Mindanao scarcely rates a mention in its white pages.

Death has become as undervalued as Life and is all so easily accomplished via – for example – a reckless handgun or for a helmet-less motorbike rider; through a mass-stoning or an immolation; in the midst of a suicide bombing (itself an aberration whereby one death leads to many deaths, supposedly to avenge still more deaths) or a state-sponsored execution, whereby another death somehow atones for earlier instances of same. All somewhat nutty behaviour.

We have become as desensitized to Death – witness the number of ‘kills’ racked up in any typical video game extravaganza – as we have to the preciousness of Life. Death is merely ‘accepted’ in passing and we quite literally quickly pass on to the next topic.

All rather odd. We should be fighting this death business as it is a manifest cop-out to be living for a certain amount of time, to accomplish a range of sometimes splendid activities, to love, to hate, to emote, to form strong bonds with loved ones and friends, and then to depart for good. This is the ‘true’ absurd, really. We should be placing far more serious attention on living, living longer, living better, fighting this death machinery. We are returning a gift to the store before it is fully appreciated. Here is where Colin Wilson, for example, clearly pointed out where ‘traditional’ Existentialism – a la Camus as one example – ‘failed’: it assumed suicide was somehow a freedom from death.

Now several thinkers have attempted to adumbrate prescriptions as to gaining more life, going further into life. Colin Wilson, again, comes to mind as a prime example – with his Introduction to the New Existentialism (1966) as just one earlier manifestation of his credo. However, Wilson only goes so far and ignores completely bodily death, indeed bodily presence per se. Indeed his whole thrust is purely a ‘mental’ one (I had pointed out in my own work, for example Wilson as Mystic, 2001 and more comprehensively in my earlier thesis, that Wilson writes as someone who tends to diminish, even detest body functions, as shown in his early novels in particular.) More, he also of course totally ignores death (and disease and destruction in a wider social realm) to the absurd degree – especially early in his career – that he frequently proclaimed his own self-belief that he would live, if not forever, at least to age to run well over any human ‘norm’. Brassier – again – would claim that humanity has many ‘conceits’ such as this, that require dismantling.

Sadly, Wilson never had a completely holistic approach to flogging death into submission, although all credit to him for stressing the impellation to far more life, to plunge more fully into the lifestream. However sheer mental strength or willpower is not simply going to defeat death, thus boost longevity.

Yes, there are also some historical approaches to this death business. A plenitude of ‘traditional’ religions such as Christianity and Islam have endeavoured – not particularly convincingly for this writer – to generate myths about Heaven (and Hell for that matter) and souls as a sop to the living, as a quasi-rationale for being here in the first place. But they don’t actually convince anyone with a modicum of sense that there is a need for death in the first place. They all too often grate as fairy tales told by school kids. These tales do not rate as serious rationalizations as to why we should die and indeed give the lie to what actually does eventuate when we die – we rot away. Simple as that.

Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammad are long gone, R.I.P. They are not coming back. They are dead. Ironically, however, some of the living are also making capital from them – priests, pontiffs and prelates. As well as imans and insurrectionists.

Then there are the parapsychological parrots who prate the ‘existence’ of near-death and return-from-death and reincarnation experiences as ‘evidence’ that in fact bodily death is not the be all and end all of existence. Leaving aside the huge miasmatic glob concerning bodies as opposed to something non-physical and nominated as ‘minds’ – itself a contentious and increasingly unlikely divide – there remains still no defining and cogent evidence that such ‘death’ experiences prove anything whatsoever and that – in fact – the sheer amorphousness of such ‘experiences’ serve to completely cloud the issue as to their veracity. There hasn’t ever been a 50% – let alone a 100% verifiable case –of a returned ‘departee’ and/or an extant ‘eternalee’, given – once again – the emphatic words of Colin Wilson in his account of afterlife.

It is a major – no, I would go further and state that it is the prime concern that we all should face far more front-on – that in 2013 we still have no final consensus as to any proven post-biological-death existence in any field whatsoever. Quite the opposite, in fact, as science and neuro-physiology in particular narrow the gaps in our knowledge, toward a completely physiological construction of the human frame. Both body and mind decease as one. Do you know anyone who has actually been resurrected, other than via electric shock therapy or strenuous heart massage? Do you know the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus? Enough said.

All of which leads us back to the beginning of this essay: why is there Death as opposed to Life and why aren’t we far more mystified, concerned, in alarm, confused, aware than we most evidently are? We all require an immediate epiphany as to our impending demise at any given moment, whereby questions of ‘personal identity’ as to who/what actually dies are superseded immediately as irrelevant. Why aren’t we in awe that we all will die, that some of us will die in an alarmingly surprising and unpredictable way, and more wondrously, that we waste so much of our time actually encouraging our respective and unnecessary demise through idiotic dietary habits and smoking, through stupendously stupid testosterone-fuelled warfare, through a belligerent turning a blind eye to the millions starving to death and dying of curable diseases and to the thousands being blown up by the landmines left behind after another failed ‘liberating mission’? We – or at least many of us – also steadfastly destroy our environment so as to hasten our own contingent obliteration. We seem to encourage our own demise! We go out of our ways to actually increase the chances of death, yet are inevitably very wary of our own individual extinguishment. Obliteration will happen to us all anyway – so why hasten it?

For no one – with the exception of the clinically depressed or the heavily euthanasiac – wishes to die. When that final curtain is being drawn down, we do our utmost to keep it open, given our bodies have not been too enfeebled to even resist.

So, why don’t we have departments of Death Studies in all of our educational institutions right now? International forums and colloquiums? Commissions of enquiry? Prizes for coming up with some actual answers to what should always be the main question: why do we (need to) die? Why is Death such a prime overlooked component of our Lives? Why do we basically ignore it, yet are happy enough to watch the F.A Cup final in its incessant shadow? Death is not retreating, it’s not going away. It’s just outside our windows. It’s on the soccer pitch. It lurks in the grandstands and in the pubs outside after the match.

What are we doing here is not asking a question pertaining to why we are alive. Rather it is this query: why do we die and why aren’t we staring this BIG question in the face?

Do not accept another death without at the very least questioning it, fighting it, killing it. By confronting this dragon we may well slay it once and for all.

Life is a given. Death can be otherwise. Don’t let Death kill you.

Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it. W. Somerset Maugham

Personal Note:

Vaughan Rapatahana’s life has been a swill in death. Death had always been a shadow, losing parents and children far too early and unnecessarily. And he can certainly vouch that Albert Camus’ ‘solution’ didn’t work for him.

Now he wouldn’t wish Death on anyone, anywhere. Life is for seizing forever.

Review: Philosophical (a)Musings

Philosophical (a)Musings: Colin Wilson, Me + the Meaning of Life, by Vaughan Rapatahana. Entropy Press 2012.

We’re all aware of the glib hack work that has passed for criticism of CW’s work since time immemorial – well, around 1957 -that dreary, repetitive template of personal sniping which masks a lazy, anti intellectual non-interest in Colin’s ‘phenomenonological existentialism’ and it’s applications/implications. Thankfully, there are other voices: careful readers familiar with the gist of Wilson’s oeuvre, and willing to debate. Many of these voices could be heard in the recent Around the Outsider anthology, a festschrift celebrating Colin’s 80th birthday. Vaughan Rapatahana was one such voice.
He’s written about CW before – as Vaughan Robertson, he published part of his PhD thesis as the Paupers’ Press booklet “Wilson as Mystic” (Colin Wilson Studies #11). Now, with this large soft-back of 142 pages, he’s collected various thought provoking pieces. Some were only previously available in Paul Newman’s now sadly defunct Abraxas magazine, one is from Philosophy Now, some have appeared online at Colin Wilson World, and some have appeared on this very site. There’s also some rare morsels of Wilsonia that have never appeared before, making it a must buy for hardcore CW fanatics.
I once asked Colin what he thought of Vaughan’s work. “He’s curious”, he said – “sometimes he thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread, and then he decides I’m not” (or words to that effect; I certainly have the recording somewhere, but I can’t locate it). While it’s true that he can be the most cuttingly critical of all the ‘Wilson defenders’, Rapatahana is doing it out of an obsessive interest in Wilson’s texts, despite an occasionally repeating negative tone. He is obviously familiar with everything Wilson has written – no mean feat – and many secondary sources, some of which I’ve never come across (The Sexual World of Colin Wilson, The Journal of Sex, 1977, for instance). So the criticism in this book is, unlike the usual boring press ‘criticisms’, grounded on a thorough knowledge of the Wilson canon.
Writing about Wilson is (as his bibliographer Colin Stanley noted) a surprisingly difficult art. Wilson’s ideas can be complex, yet are always written in accessibly comprehensible language, so attempts at interlocution can sometimes be clumsily counter productive. Yet Wilson does need help with his ‘message’ – his oeuvre is so vast and scattered, with far too many important titles out of print, that discussions are necessary to give shape to the “existential jigsaw puzzle”. Despite the hugeness of the bibliography and apparently confusing shifts of topic, Wilson’s thesis is surprisingly simple. (I personally only began to understand the whole picture after reading Howard F Dossor’s 1990 study, as at the time I was only familiar with about a dozen CW books).
Rapatahana’s writings collected here make use of Wilson’s own concept of Existential Literary Criticism (ELC). It is, the author says, “the one great criterion with which to judge (written) work and I always use it.” (p.35). ELC is put to use throughout Philosophical (a)Musings, deconstructing both published and unpublished Wilson tomes. For the hardcore, the reviews of the unpublished texts are obviously the most intriguing – we have treatments of Will Shakespeare’s Hand, The Anatomy of Human Greatness and Metamorphosis of the Vampire, none of which have been published yet. There’s also a very tantalising fragment of his ‘lost’ novel, Lulu, which despite it’s brevity, is completely brilliant. Out of Left Field (p. 8), is an enthusiastic review of the vampire novel, and it made me want to see it published so much that I sent the original article (in Abraxas 14) to Starfire – the publishers of occultist Kenneth Grant. They were enthused, but there’s still been no show for Metamorphosis of the Vampire. It “needs and has to be published. It contains so much and I have only scratched the surface.” (p.10).
The Anatomy of Human Greatness is a summary of the Outsider Cycle written in 1964 and is also unpublished. Discovered by Wilsonian Maurice Bassett, Rapatahana’s treatment of it does make it sound as vital as Metamorphosis. Like Vaughan, I too desperately wanted CW to write Derrida Deconstructed, which he threatened to in Abraxas # 8. “I wish he would, whereby he might decimate the truculent triviality of the cult of insignificance as sanctioned by Derrida and his band of merry men and later the fulminating followers of his fashion: Lyotard/Baudrillard/Deleuze et al.” (p.14). Rapatahana wants CW to “restring his bow, clean up his quills and shoot to kill.” (ibid.) While I’d dearly love to read more Wilson-generated hard philosophy – think Anti-Sartre/Below the Iceberg – I’m not so sure that his tunnelling into popular narratives such as Fortean occultism (or grim true crime) was that much of a move away from his phenomenology. Much in the same way that Hitchcock still made great films after leaving his native country, or that Frank Zappa’s fabled ‘conceptual continuity’ remained intact after “selling out” (at around the same time Wilson published The Occult), I feel that his archery skills remained untouched. It was just that the target itself got larger.
Colin Stanley cannily pointed out in his recent lecture on CW’s Occult Trilogy that despite his assertions that he had no real interest in the subject – despite owning a ton of paperbacks on the paranormal! – Wilson’s early work contains quite a few splatters of ectoplasm. The World of Violence, for instance, even has this telling phrase – “some new faculty in me had been awakened”.
Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs has a typical digression inside the narrative of the ‘mad monk’. Speaking of Husserl’s insight that simple perception virtually never occurs due to the selective nature of consciousness, Wilson notes that this distorting power “can be much better studied through the psychology of sex or religion, since the mind’s strongest forces are here in question.” For me, the occult books are just as phenomenological as the Outsider Cycle, just less explicit. They are narratives to get you thinking in a particular way. As are the true crime books – all that sordid grime makes you feel glad to be clean. Having said that, an equal disappointment to the (apt!) non-appearance of the Derrida book was the mooted (in Abraxas, I’m sure) but never actually written History of Philosophy which was to be published by Robinson. That could have been a 600 page expansion of the important philosophical history chapter from Beyond the Outsider, and a truly great read. It is interesting that Colin Stanley also noted in his lecture that The Occult was Wilson’s first commissioned book. “Not many people realise, in fact, that this was Wilson’s first commission. Effectively, from 1956 to the late 1960s he wrote ‘as he pleased’.” Hmmm.
I recall being very excited when Gary Lachman ended a CW interview in Fortean Times by mentioning that Colin was working on a book about Shakespeare. I’ve had the pleasure of reading the manuscript, but it’s still not been published. It’s an odd book for Wilson; as Rapatahana says, it’s unusual probably because he barely touches on his usual themes. A relief, almost, to read CW writing about something I am relatively ignorant about, and free of his usual “foot soldiers” – his riffs on Proust/Nietzsche/Steppenwolf etc. Rapatahana tires of Wilson’s constant riffing to the same tunes – and I completely sympathise – but he returns to it so often that it’s almost like he’s doing exactly what he’s criticising Colin for (!)
The piece on what became The Devil’s Party (p.19) is interesting because it mentions the deleted sections, the essay on Foucault – “presumably not messianic enough” – which, along with a brief history of French philosophy was cut but thankfully published in Below the Iceberg. I can’t, however agree that his use of Yeats’ concept of the mask in TDP is unworthy or unfocused, for me, it’s one of the most interesting ideas in the whole book. The “mask of power” is usually the exact opposite of what a messiah actually appears to be: behind Aleister Crowley’s Beastly 666 persona, for instance, was an overweight Midlands schoolboy obsessed with fame. Reading Crowley’s own vast “autohagiography”, The Confessions, tends to support this assertion. It gets interesting thinking about this and his excluded digressions on Derrida, Barthes and Foucault for sure. A shame they were cut out of the book.
But back to Philosophical (a)Musings. There are also reviews of prime ELC texts – The Angry Years, The Books in My Life, and the (as then untitled) autobiography. Plus reviews of Spiderworld vol 4, The Atlantis Blueprint, Superconsciousness, and Serial Killer Investigations. There’s also a review of Atlantis and the Kingdom of the Neanderthals – a hodgepodge of missing bits from The Atlantis Blueprint – called How to Make a Milkshake. Amusingly scathing, yes, though I did actually enjoy the book, believe it or not! To paraphrase Nick Hornby, “I’ll read anything by Colin Wilson”. Probably because even at his most cut n’ paste, even reading the read n’ throw 99p World Famous books, Wilson still reminds me of something very important, a fact not lost on Vaughan Rapatahana throughout this book, even at his most critical.
The book continues with other, non-review sections, Colin Wilson as Hydra from Philosophy Now being one of the best essays. Perhaps more so than the book reviews, Rapatahana can speak of Wilson’s general philosophical strengths rather than the shortcomings of any particular book, with it’s attendant commercial compromises and deadlines. It’s a fine example of what I mentioned earlier about a birds’ eye view over the existential jigsaw puzzle, and is worthy of the price of the book itself. “To me, Colin has endured as a philosopher who must always be considered, if not for his ‘solutions’, at least for his syntheses, and always for his asking the questions we must all face. The fact that he has done so in a generally otiose academic and critical environment in his own homeland only makes his efforts all the more tenacious.” (p.85).
Postmodern Mysticism is an essay which originally appeared in the glossy Abraxas Unbound, aka Abraxas 20. It’s a very useful essay as it discusses the PoMo suggestiveness of Colin’s fiction; “what I would call Wilson’s ‘tangentalism'” (p. 89) which Rapatahana compares to Lodge and Ravichandran. This is important because it pulls Wilson out of the mid fifties time zone and inserts his voice where it should be, in the present. “Foucault and Wilson are brothers, both calling for disintegration of self-essence, even if Wilson abrogates it!” (p. 92). Wilson rejected this – “I am deeply opposed to everything they [Foucault, Derrida, Barthes] stand for, which is why I react with incredulity to your assertion that they and I are saying the same thing.” (see Abraxas Unbound, p. 216 for the full exchange). Yet odd concepts from Foucault and Derrida have since popped up in Wilson texts; Foucault’s epistemes are described as a “useful concept” in the introduction to Oliver Cyriax’s Encyclopaedia of Crime, for instance.
One of my favourite pieces in here is the essay on p. 110 – Jim Morrison and Colin Wilson – Partners in Crime. It’s noted that the teenage Lizard King read Wilson, yet also reveals that Wilson admired Morrison’s music. Interesting, for despite the fact that Wilson has influenced many rock ‘n rollers, punks and industrial musicians – he’s even recorded with some – he very rarely mentions any (give or take, off the top of my head: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Shadows, The [sic] H P Lovecraft and The Sex Pistols!) As Rapatahana reminds us, Wilson has influenced all kinds of well, Outsiders, rather than the “entrenched academic or critical squadrons armed to the teeth to withstand his full frontal assaults on their impervious and imperial ivory towers.” (p. 115).
Philosophical (a)Musings rounds off with some philosophical essays, all peppered with Wilsonia. There’s also some of Vaughan’s poetry and some correspondence with CW himself.
Rapatahana is one of the few commentators on Wilson who tries to put his New Existentialism in the modern philosophical jungle, and this is to be totally commended. While I obviously don’t agree with every assertion – just as I don’t with Wilson himself – there are an awful lot of suggestive pieces fitting into the Existential Jigsaw Puzzle. Plus many nods to obscure Wilsonian bits and pieces, some of which I was previously unaware of. Philosophical (a)Musings made me want to read my complete Wilson collection all over again, and find more if I possibly could. A recommendation if there was one.

You can buy Vaughan Rapatahana’s book here