I’ve contributed an essay to what promises to be a memorable collection: Around the Outsider, a Festschrift for the writer Colin Wilson, who turns 80 this summer. Wilson is one of the most important thinkers of the last two centuries and his work has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me and for many others. Colin Stanley of Pauper’s Press, who is responsible for the Festschrift, has done a remarkable job publishing many works by Wilson that would be otherwise unavailable, as well as creating a venue for new writing related to Wilson’s ideas. Check out the announcement.
Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings (Tarcher/Penguin 2010)
“Gary Lachman has become an increasingly prolific engine of literate, well-written, and clearheaded books about esoteric history and ‘occulture’” – Erik Davis, author of TechGnosis.
The Dedalus Book of the 1960s: Turn Off Your Mind (Dedalus 2009) a new, revised and enlarged edition of Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius (Disinformation 2003; Macmillan 2001)
“A really well-researched, well-written book about a moment of destiny from which I for one was glad to escape alive” – Marianne Faithful
“Rips flower-power out by the roots to reveal the demented, psychedelic nightmare seeting below the surface… A fascinating, unputdownable masterpiece of obsesso cultural journalism. Gary Lachman deserves the satanic Pulitzer.” – Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight.
“Depicts the late-Sixties subcultural craze for the occult with graphic precision and without the whiff of Creative Writing Workshops.” – Jonathan Medes in The New Statesman.
“An impressively researched guide to the odder aspects of a weird decade. Lachman reveals the Sixties as a period when the credulous were willingly led by the duplicitous. Spiritual tourists resurrected forgotten gurus like Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Blavatsky and the creepy Crowley. Lachman notes that the fraudulent Carlos Castaneda was published by the University of California. Such was the strange power of the repellent Charles Manson that Rolling Stone almost ran a cover declaring “Manson is innocent”, until the paper interviewed him. The result was more accurately headlined: “Is this the most dangerous man alive?” There is much in Lachman’s book to entertain and inform those who wished they had lived through the Sixties and those who did but can’t remember. If you want to know about, say, beatnik king Brion Gysin, ley-line apostle John Michell, and zen master Alan Watts, this is the place to start.” – Chris Hirst in The Independent’s paperback of the week
Into the Interior: Discovering Swedenborg (2nd edition Swedenborg Society 2009)
“Lachman identifies all the roles Swedenborg inhabited (spiritual thinker, psychic, scientist, inventor, statesman, traveller and possibly even spy) and does an exceptionally good job of suggesting why this little-known polymath deserves more substantial critical attention.” – Independent on Sunday
“Lachman’s latest book presents the Western esoteric tradition as a richly detailed parade of characters, seething with political ambitions, follies, even infamy. He teaches by example that to understand their psychology and historical contexts is far more useful than moralizing or partisan reactions. The result is a profound questioning of the very basis of politics—including one’s own.”
—Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D., author of Arktos and The Golden Thread
“The invisible Rosicrucian brothers of the seventeenth century, the “Unknown Superiors” of high-grade Freemasons, French utopian occultists, and Traditionalists of the twentieth century trace a continuous tradition of esoteric idealism applied to political thinking. Gary Lachman offers a panoramic spectacle of occultists and millenarian visionaries who seek to translate an absolute gnosis into a radical programme of regeneration.”
—Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Professor of Western Esotericism, University of Exeter
The Dedalus Book of Literary Suicides: Dead Letters (Dedalus 2008)
“Dead Letters is an original and lively analysis of literary life (and death) that too often is sensationalised elsewhere, without proper context. The A-list of suicides includes: Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Arthur Koestler, Yukio Mishima and others, creatively categorised as existential, romantic, surreal and manic-depressive.” – Iain Finlayson in The Times
“Lachman’s goal to write a book ‘on writers who had killed themselves or had tried to, or had written about suicide at some length or depth’ would be immense. To qualify, the author requires the suicide to be in some way ‘interesting’. Thus we have the philosopher Philipp Mainlander, who killed himself because of the second law of thermodynamics; Zeno, who purportedly hanged himself after stubbing his toe on a turtle; and Yukio Mishima’s sensational and bloody hara-kiri performance
Suicides are arranged by type: Existential suicides brought on by metaphysical issues, emotionally rich Romantic suicides; political suicides; manic-depressive mortal coil shuffling a la Sylvia Plath; and the bizarre and often nonchalant suicides of many Surrealists. Lachman focuses on little known or forgotten characters such as Polish avant garde figure Witkacy; Thomas Chatterton, ‘the original tragic Romantic genius’; narcissistic publisher Harry Crosby; and the tormented Austrian poet Georg Trakl.
The second part of Dead Letters is a selection of writings about suicide whose real value lies in Lachman’s research and his knack of smoothly relating obscure biographical tidbits and philosophical ideas.
This work on a grim subject never becomes overly morbid and Lachman remains respectful of his troubled subjects. Suicide is not recommended, but this volume surely is. Splendid summary of self destruction.” – Mike Pursley in Fortean Times
Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work (Tarcher/Penguin 2007; Floris Books 2007)
“Although deeply sympathetic to Steiner, Lachman brings to this immensely readable study the balance of one who is on familiar terms with the whole range of esotericism. Reading his account of Steiner’s life and ideas, you feel you are in safe hands.” – Colin Wilson, author of The Outsider
In Search of P.D. Ouspensky: The Genius in the Shadow of Gurdjieff (2nd edition Quest Books 2006; 1st edition 2004)
“Gurdjieff and Ouspensky are two of the last century’s great esoteric thinkers. Gary Lachman does a masterful job of telling the fascinating tale of the entangling of each of their lives. Written in an erudite and compelling style, Lachman brings to life the ideas of an entire era.
—Leonard Shlain, author of The Alphabet Vs the Goddess and Art and Physics
“In this excellent book, biographer Gary Lachman leaves few stones unturned in his remorseless quest for the real Ouspensky. In doing so he creates what I believe to be the most vivid portrait yet of this contradictory man. It is a salutary lesson for all those who would put their faith in a guru. In Ouspensky’s case, high intelligence proved to be no protection against the guiles of a ‘Sly’ man. —Adrian Gilbert, author of Magi, co-author of The Orion Mystery
A review by Jah Wobble in the Independent on Sunday http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/in-search-of-p-d-ouspensky-by-gary-lachman-750073.html
“Lachman on Ouspensky”: Erik Davis on In Search of P.D. Ouspensky
The Dedalus Occult Reader: The Garden of Hermetic Dreams (Dedalus 2005)
“Lachman has found in these stories such a strong linking thread that not only will you marvel that precisely the same interest in the world of hidden forms…has animated so many authors, you may even begin to think there’s something in it…There is a time and a place for these stories: it is now.”
Nick Lezard’s Choice in The Guardian for paperback of the week. Read the review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/jan/01/featuresreviews.guardianreview16
“Following on from his intriguing Dedalus Book of the Occult, Lachman presents a generous anthology of literary texts inspired by the weird, the supernatural and the gothic. From Beckford’s Vathek to Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem, there is a successful balance of the well-known, the esoteric and the curious. It is encouraging to see Arthur Machen getting the attention he deserves; and readers will hopefully be inspired to read the complete texts.” – Stuart Kelly in Scotland on Sunday
“The first item, from William Beckford’s Vathek, indicates the feverish imaginings gathered in this “occult reader”. It encompasses drugs, sacrifice, a genii and an Indian who becomes irresistibly arousing by transforming himself into a ball. ETA Hoffman’s The Golden Flower Pot shows how this writer’s fertile imagination can animate even everyday objects, as in his best-known work, The Nutcracker. But the oddest example is the most recent. From 1999, Robert Irwin’s explicit account of cult sexual initiation somehow involves “The Gambols” cartoon strip from the Daily Express.”
Chris Hirst in The Independent
A Secret History of Consciousness (Lindisfarne 2003)
“Opens up vast vistas of possibility, suggesting that what we experience as the earth may, in itself, be inseperable from our state of mind, and that the evolution of human consciousness may be as fundamental a process as our development through genetics. A must read for those seeking an escape from our contemporary culture’s cul-de-sac” – Daniel Pinchbeck, author of Breaking Open The Head.
“Thinking outside the box, Lachman challenges many contemporary theories by reinserting a sense of the spiritual back into the discussion. Profoundly erudite, yet easy to read, this book is a provocative mind-stretcher.” – Leonard Shlain, author of Sex, Time & Power.
“A marvelously exhilirating gallop through every important modern theory of consciousness.” – Colin Wilson
“It’s a sure thing that anyone with a taste for literary esoterica and magical history will learn something from A Dark Muse. It’s a cavernous grotto full of dark glittering jewels, but one haunted by the shades of so many intriguing characters that keeping to the true path is difficult, and you lose your way forever. Verdict – Fine encyclopaedia of occult lives and thought. 9/10″ -
“Brisk, workmanlike and lucid, this is a survey of ‘adventurous souls’ whose output was the reverse: ‘often crazy, sometimes hilarious and, on occasion, clearly insane’. Lachman’s gallery of occultists ranges from the hypnotist Mesmer (1734-1815), whose salon had ‘an orgy-like atmosphere’, through Goethe and Balzac (who achieved enlightenment by drinking an estimated 50,000 cups of coffee), to Algernon Blackwood, an early TV celebrity who wrote the original Starlight Express, and Aleister Crowley – aka the Great Beast 666. – Christopher Hirst in The Independent
“Lachman’s highly enjoyable survey makes lots of good points and all the right connections.”
Suzi Feay in The Independent on Sunday. Read the review: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-dedalus-book-of-the-occult-by-gary-lachmanbrmagic-and-witchcraft-by-nevill-drury-572833.html
“A fascinating look into how occultism has moved and inspired some of the most influential figures in literature and the arts – this book has inspired me to search out my own dark muse…” – Kirk Hammet, lead guitarist for Metallica
As Gary Valentine:
New York Rocker: My Life in the Blank Generation with Blondie, Iggy Pop, and Others 1974-1981 (Thunder’s Mouth 2006; UK edition Macmillan 2002)
” A remarkable account of the fermenting of a period in art, music and culture than changed rock music forever.” Max Decharne in Mojo
“Valentine witnessed the nights when Patti screwed Christ, when Hell blanked the world, when Verlain sent guitar solos spinning slowly back into 19th century Paris…He got to argue with David Bowie and get drunk with Iggy Pop. What else is there to do?” – Paul Morley in The Guardian. Read the review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2002/mar/02/iggypop.music
My Guardian account of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I am also the author of two monographs in the Paupers Press Colin Wilson Studies Series:
Two essays on Colin Wilson: World Rejection and Criminal Romantics & From Outsider to Post-Tragic Man
Colin Wilson as Philosopher & Faculty X, Consciousness and the Transcendence of Time (with John Shand)