Colin Wilson

I was in Holland speaking at a conference on Hermeticism when I heard the news of Colin’s passing. As synchronicity would have it, one of the people I spoke about was him; I even had that wonderful photograph of him in his early days, with the rollneck jumper and cracked tea mug, sitting by his typewriter as part of my presentation. As you might expect, the news shook me and I was not on best form, but I think the audience appreciated what I had to say. Colin was included in the talk because of his belief in humanity and its need for heroes. He wanted us to see through what he called “the fallacy of insignificance,” the belief that we are pointless, unimportant accidents in a purposeless universe, as most of the intellectuals who dismissed his work humbly accepted. He knew better and so did everyone who read his books. He lamented the loss of the hero but he was a hero to us all. I know he certainly was one to me. If anything I’ve written has any value at all, it is because it is informed with the brilliant ideas that came from his encyclopedic mind. To get an education you needn’t go to Oxford, Cambridge or an Ivy League school. You only have to read The Outsider, or The Occult, or Mysteries, or any of the many remarkable books on philosophy, literature, psychology, criminology, the occult, parapsychology and the rest that he wrote and follow his leads. If you do I assure you you will get an education you can’t obtain at any of those schools or elsewhere. I know, because I have. I am amazed when I realize I’ve known Colin and his family for 30 years. I first met him in January 1981 at the Village Bookshop on Regent Street. I still have a cassette recording of the talk he gave, somewhere among my things. It was on Frankenstein’s Castle, a book an enterprising and enlightened publisher should re-issue. I was living in NYC at the time and stayed an extra week in London, just to hear him speak. Like any fan boy, I asked him to autograph a book and he very graciously did. But my real friendship began in 1983, when I visited him in Cornwall as part of a ‘mini-search for the miraculous’ I embarked on that summer. Since then I have had the pleasure to visit him and Joy many times, and to put them up in Los Angeles in the late 80s, when he was in town for a talk. I had the great honor of getting several sheets to the wind with him on more than one occasion and believe me, Husserl is much more understandable under such conditions. He was a hero to me and a mentor but even more he was and remains a very good friend. He made all of us Outsiders very much at home.

30 thoughts on “Colin Wilson

  1. Talk of coincidences Gary !, only this morning I was thinking of something Colin said in an interview in 2010 about the prevalence of the powers of good.I decided that if someone at his age & with his knowledge & experience of life could still maintain such
    optimism then it’s bloody well GOT to be true !

    1. I think he would say you have to face life squarely in order to affirm it and it seems clear to me that he did. Thanks for sharing this. I wonder if other people had any similar experiences? Best, Gary

  2. “If you do I assure you you will get an education you can’t obtain at any of those schools or elsewhere. I know, because I have.” Me too, Gary. And I’ve been proudly asserting this fact for the past few days.

  3. I am so sorry to hear this. But I am so glad I heard it first from you. Though I never met him I consider him to be one of my most important teachers. A true guide .Where else would I ever hear of David Lindsay or John Cowper Powys? I presented a first edition of Glastonbury Romance to my wife on our wedding night. Only because of Colin Wilson. I have taught a course called Actor as Thinker at my university for over thirty years. One of my favorite classes in that course is when I tell people about Wilson’s ‘holiday effect’ and ‘the robot’. Concepts that I feel are imperative for all performers to understand and integrate.

    I am indebted to him for so much. Thanks for your wonderful remembrance. (It made me completely immune when I came across the snarky Independent article).

    Raymond Munro

  4. I was saddened to hear this and happy that it came this way first.

    The formal obituaries are illustrative of how far even ‘formal education’ has travelled. They are remote from any standard of a shaping of meaningful judgement and, to all appearances, have been written by people who neither read Wilson nor engaged with his ideas (even sufficiently to argue with them)!

    May he travel on in venturing peace.

    1. Hello Nicholas. It is a shame that most of the response is a rehash of cliches that were inaccurate when they were first carted out years ago. But people like yourself know why he was important and that’s what matters. Best, Gary

  5. That article in The Indie is utterly pathetic – written by a kiddie’s scribbler whose gift to humanity is a “Mr Wiz”. Their obit by Maurice Williamson is an excellent piece of work, however.

    1. I’ve avoided the obits so far mostly because I don’t want to burn up too much energy in anger. But I’ve heard the one in the Independent isn’t too bad and that even the Guardian managed a half-decent one. Ignore the prattle; he did for decades. Best, Gary

  6. I have just issued this challenge to Terence Blacker, author of a despicably insulting article about Colin Wilson in the Independent:

    Dear Mr.Blacker: the kind of civility and generosity that Colin Wilson showed throughout his life compels me to speak with restraint, and I must admit it takes a considerable effort to do so. I have reflected on how best to respond to this piece of utter garbage and after much thought this is my conclusion: I challenge you and the editor who commissioned this appalling exercise in inanity and pointless insult to a duel. Simultaneously or in sequence, it doesn’t matter. This is public and for once I hope the social networks do their thing and spread my challenge far and wide. You will then have an opportunity to apologize to the family you have grievously insulted, and also to do yourself a favor by recanting your attempt to trivialize the career of someone whose work and significance you are evidently irredeemably ignorant of. You can reach me on Facebook or at my own site, I look forward to hearing from you. Bring some friends; you may need help. Yours very truly, Gary Lachman

  7. I was so sad to read about Colin’s passing. His books and philosophy had a big impact on me when I was younger. I can’t believe that he’s gone.

  8. Hi Gary
    I came across an interview of your in 2011 when you mentioned Mr Wilson as a major influence in your work. This was a period in my life were I was on a new path shedding an old life to continue exploring a moment of oneness that had happened to me in 2007. Since then I am embarking on my final year of a fine art degree which through creativity via sound and visuals has giving me a lot of understanding of the process of why I have been on this quest to make the invisible visible. Yesterday I saw that Mr Wilson had passed away, when reading his obituary, I saw the reference to his work about the peak experience. When hearing his audio talks on the subject I has made me realize that I have been for the past 7 years been creating a space to always return to that moment of oneness. So I’m writing to you to complete the circle to let you know that Mr Wilson legacy touched me yesterday like he touched you and will do to others in the future tomorrows to come.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. It’s good to hear that Colin’s work and my small contribution are reaching the right people. Good luck on continuing your quest. All the best, Gary

  9. Hi Gary

    Have you seen that Terence Blacker has, on his blog, published something approaching an apology for his earlier piece on the late, great CW:

    I hope this helps to assuage your feelings a little. Mr Blacker has at least taken time to reflect on the unintentional hurt his words may have caused to CW’s family and friends:

    “I’m genuinely sorry that my article was thought to be disrespectful to a hard-working and original writer.”

    I enjoy reading your books very much btw – they are very well written and accessible. I’ve just ordered 3 more off Amazon as an early Xmas present to myself! I hope to attend one of your talks in London at some point in the not-too-distant future

    Best Wishes, Bryan

    1. Hello Bryan. Yes, I did see his recantation. It reaffirmed my belief in the power of intelligence and remorse. It seems pressure from other Wilsonians moved the BBC to finally mentioned Colin’s passing: they ignored it for a week. Many thanks for your kind words about my books. Christmas presents no less! All the best, Gary

  10. I made friends with a couple of people who knew Colin when I lived in St Austell, in the early 90’s, and hence read a ton of his books which I always found really absorbing. I haven’t read any other who chewed over mystical states in quite the same way, I doubt if there is a similar voice out there.

  11. The obit in the Independent by Marcus Williamson was pretty respectful. In case anyone didn’t see it. Probably still on file.

  12. Dear Mr Lachman,
    I was very struck by how mean-spirited the obituaries of Colin Wilson were, and grateful that you did much to redress the imbalance. As usual your remarks were interesting and bracing! I follow your stuff in Fortean Times, of course. And I particularly enjoyed your interview with Owen Barfield who’s a bit of a hero of mine.
    Best wishes,
    Patrick Harpur

    1. Dear Patrick – I hope you don’t mind the liberty – thank you very much for your warm message. I’ve enjoyed your work over the years and am happy to hear that you’ve read some things of mine. And yes, the mainstream press took the usual line with Colin, and I was glad to have the opportunity to redress the imbalance. His work has been a huge influence on me and it will be missed. All the best, Gary

      1. Thanks for that, Gary. Mind you, dear old Colin had his down side. I remember he phoned me up once, asking if I’d provide him with a 1000-word summary of my ‘daimonic’ view of alien abductions to include in his book on same – bit of a cheek getting me to do his work for him. But I didn’t resent it. Nor did I do it!
        I’m saving up to buy your Blavatsky book…

      2. Well I guess someone as busy as Colin needs to cut corners sometime, but that does seem cheeky. And if I had a spare copy of HPB, I’d send you one Patrick. Are you interested in Crowley? I have a book on him – yes, just what the world needs – coming out in May. Shall we swap? Best, Gary

      3. Cheers, Gary. Well, I’ve ordered a copy of your Madame B, so I’m looking forward to that…. By all means a swap! What would you like? Mercurius? Flosophers’ Secret Fire? Savoy Truffle? I’m all out of Daimonic Reality. Or, ahem, Complete Guide to the Soul? Perhaps we should confer when Crowley comes out. Best, Patrick

      4. I haven’t been to Jacobo’s yet but they say they will have me sometime soon. I have met he and Inka a few times in London. Very nice and intelligent people. He just sent me an interview I did for a Spanish paper – I can’t remember which one – but apparently it was something of a coup. I could certainly use some southern warmth though.

  13. I am presently reading your book on Swedenborg. Your prose struck me as so very good that I was compelled to look you up, and then of course I found this. I happen to love the work of Colin Wilson. I was truly saddened to hear of his passing, and was grateful you mentioned him so affectionately here. Thank you. He was and continues to be a gift to us all. He deserves such high praise.

    As for your Crowley book, I’m very interested to read it and will be one of the first in line to buy it, and wonder if it’s in keeping with some of Wilson’s ideas about the man? I’ll wait and see! Keep doing what you do! You happen to be fantastic at it.

    1. Dear Crystal, Thank you for your comments. I’m very glad you like my little book on Swedenborg and especially happy that it motivated you to look at this site. And yes, Colin Wilson was – is – a huge influence on me, both as a mentor and as a friend. And my book on Crowley will indeed be informed with some of Colin’s ideas about him and his work. I do hope you will like it. I’ll be putting up some excerpts from it as we get closer to its publication date – sometime in May – and will post notices for these on this site and Facebook. If you subscribe you’ll get a notice when they’re up. In any case, thank you for your warm and encouraging words. You seem like the kind of reader I am trying to reach. All the best, Gary

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