Lost Knowledge at Steiner House, Audible Imagination, and Swedenborg’s Correspondence.

I’ve posted a short video of  the Question and Answer session following my recent talk at Rudolf Steiner House on YouTube . Here’s the link. I’m aiming to post more of the talk sometime soon, and to record future talks and make those available too. It’s a slow process and while I am not a technophobe, I know why I studied the Humanities.

I’ve also recently agreed a deal with Thirteen Ventures Limited, of Toronto, Canada, for them to produce an audio book version of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. Mark Jeftovic, the man in charge, has had success with his earlier audio ventures, but Lost Knowledge  is, I think, a new departure. I look forward to hearing the finished product, and with any luck others will too.

And last week I submitted my 10,000 word essay on ‘Swedenborg’s Correspondences’, to the Swedenborg Society, who commissioned me to write it for a new series of short books they are launching, dealing with different aspects of Swedenborg’s huge body of work. The idea of correspondences is at the heart of Swedenborg’s vision, and it is an idea that has had an enormous influence on western culture over the last two centuries. I take a look at Swedenborg’s influence on Baudelaire and the Symbolist movement, his own correspondences with the western Hermetic tradition, and ask how his ideas may be of help to us today, in the early years of the post-truth world.

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Legalize Freedom with Colin Wilson

Greg Moffitt has posted the third part of our discussion about the life and work of Colin Wilson, based on my book Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson, on his popular Legalize Freedom site. Like myself, Greg is a dedicated Wilson reader, something that comes through in his comments and questions. Wilson’s antipathy to the ‘socially conscious’ – read left wing – sensibilities of many of his early contemporaries starts us off, which seems apt for our own time, when practically everything has taken on an unfortunate political character. Personal growth and development versus political ideologies and utopias: that seems a significant contrast today, and much of what Wilson had to say is applicable to our own situation. And if you’ll allow me the plug, I touch on some of this in Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, which will be coming out this summer.

In other news, I’ve been asked by the Swedenborg Society to contribute to a series of short works, exploring the many areas of the eighteenth century Swedish savant’s work. I’ll be writing a long essay on the notion of ‘correspondences’, which is central to Swedenborg’s vision of a earthly, physical realm informed by links to the higher spheres. I’ve talked about this in other books – Swedenborg: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas and A Dark Muse (aka: The Dedalus Book of the Occult: A Dark Muse) – and of course the idea of correspondences is a central theme in the western esoteric tradition. I will place Swedenborg within this tradition and look at how his ideas influenced people like the French poet Charles Baudelaire, who took them and, with some borrowing from Edgar Allan Poe and the the German fantasist E.T.A. Hoffmann, invented Symbolism.

Lost Knowledge at Steiner House

I’m giving a talk on 23 January at Rudolf Steiner House, London, on my latest book Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.  Steiner House is a good location for this talk. Steiner himself saw developing imagination as the first step in his program of intensifying consciousness and achieving “supersensible perception,” and in the book, along with other figures such as the poet and Blake scholar Kathleen Raine and the scholar of Persian mysticism Henry Corbin, I devote much space to two thinkers closely connected to Steiner. The German poet, novelist and scientist J.W. von Goethe was Steiner’s central inspiration on his way to esoteric knowledge, and the essayist, historian of ideas, great friend of C.S. Lewis and occasional Inkling Owen Barfield, developed Steiner’s ideas and applied them to his own investigations into the evolution of consciousness. Both warrant chapters exploring how their insights into the cognitive character of imagination – its aspect as a “way of knowing” – can help us grasp imagination’s importance today. My talk will look at the historical roots of imagination being sidelined in favor of a strictly logical and empirical approach to knowledge, and will offer examples of how imagination can help us know reality and even, in some strange way, help it come into being.

Rudolf Steiner House 35 Park Road, London NW1 6XT  (Telephone: 0207 723 4400.)

Time: 7:30

Price: £7/5 with concessions.

For the year ahead…

Today I start my sixty-second turn around the sun; here’s what’s in store so far for 2018. For one thing the print edition of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination will be available in the US on January 15th. It’s been out in the UK since October, and the Kindle edition has been available stateside since then too, but for those yanks who like to crack the spine of whatever they’re reading, they’ll soon have a chance to do this with my latest effort as well. Later in the year, on May 29th in fact, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, will be published in the US. It comes out about a month later here in Britain, and I suspect the Kindle version will be available before then too. This time around I’ll also be published audibly; Dark Star will be coming out as an audio book, my first. As I understand it, the rights were sold before I had even finished the book, on the strength of it being about Trump. Forgive my selfishness, but I hope he stays in the news at least until the book is out. I’m curious who will narrate it; I’d be happy to do it myself but I haven’t heard from the publisher.

Also on the horizon is Carl Abrahamsson’s Occulture, for which I’ve written a foreword. I’ve known Carl for some time – we met, I think, at an OTO seminar held here at London’s Canary Wharf – and have participated with him in several conferences and other esoteric get-togethers, both in London and abroad. He has a keen eye for the unusual, as readers of his journal, Fenris Wolf, know. I also recently had the pleasure of writing an introduction to a new edition of Colin Wilson’s second book, Religion and the Rebel, a book as important as The Outsider, but which was practically universally panned on appearance. That Wilson carried on writing after taking such a beating shows that the one thing an aspiring Outsider needs is a tough hide. (I know this is out already but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to slip in a plug for it here. It is an important book and should be much better known.) In other Wilsonian news, I’ll be giving a talk on Wilson’s interest in the work – ahem – of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, something that was with him from the start, at the Second International Colin Wilson Conference, to be held at the University of Nottingham on July 6th. When they say international, they mean international; some of the speakers come from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. Last year’s conference was a landmark event and I suspect next year’s will be as well.

I’ll be giving talks in London too. So far three are lined up. On January 23rd I’ll be speaking about Lost Knowledge of the Imagination at Rudolf Steiner House. If you don’t know it, it is a good example of Steiner’s architectural principles; an extra attraction is that the Sherlock Holmes Museum, at the fictitious 221 B Baker Street, is just around the corner. For some reason I find that not only appropriate, but significant. I’ll also be divulging some lost knowledge at Watkins Bookshop, one of the oldest – if not the oldest – esoteric bookshops in London; past customers included W. B. Yeats, Aleister Crowley, and Mick Jagger. I’m scheduled for a talk on February 15th, but it isn’t up on their site yet.

Speaking of Crowley – well, I will be speaking of him, at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Library on March 15th. I’ll be joining Antony Clayton, who will talk about Crowley’s last days in a boarding house in Hastings, run by eccentrics and where he was visited by a number of interesting characters. Antony put together a fascinating book, Netherwood: The Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, about this last stage in Crowley’s life, to which I contributed a chapter. Antony will talk about the Great Beast’s sunset years, and I will get him to them.

The big project for 2018 is a work I’ve been commissioned to do by Inner Traditions. It’s a follow-up to Dark Star Rising. Where in that book I focus on the strange occult politics surrounding Precedent Trump, in the next – title to be announced – I look into the strong messianic current that runs throughout Russian history. I ask to what extent does Tsar Vladimir tap into this? How do ideas about how Holy Russia will resist the decadent West inform his plans for the future? And what will that mean for the twenty-first century? I go into these questions to some extent in Dark Star Rising, focusing on the ideas of Alexandre Dugin, who occupies an orbit around Putin somewhat similar to Steve Bannon’s around Trump. But to say more now would be inadvisable.

I wish everyone who reads this – and everyone who doesn’t too – a very good Christmas. May 2018 find us ready to meet the challenges it will undoubtedly present. Oh, and thank you all very much for the birthday wishes.

Lost Knowledge at Golgonooza

Nicholas Colloff has posted some thoughts about Lost Knowledge of the Imagination on his excellent Golgonooza site. Golgonooza was the name William Blake gave to his “city of the imagination.” What better place to get some feedback from about a book that looks at Blake and his fellow students of the “learning of the imagination”? Nicholas knew Kathleen Raine, the poet and Blake scholar whose work was the inspiration for the book, and I imagine he received some of this learning from her first hand. Not all of us are this lucky. But imagination can be remarkably resourceful, especially when directed at itself – as I imagine readers of the book will discover.

Robots Beware: Colin Wilson Strikes Again!

Greg Moffit has posted the second session of our three part interview about the life and work of Colin Wilson, based on my book Beyond the Robot, on his excellent Legalize Freedom site. Greg is an intelligent, engaging interviewer – may their number increase! – and as usual we cover what is generally known as a wide spectrum of subjects, all of which converge on Wilson’s philosophy of consciousness and our need to develop the muscles of “intentionality” that can free us from our usual, if subnormal, state of semi-conscious passivity. In the process we touch on topics I explore in a new work, scheduled to be released this spring, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, about how the mind’s ability to “participate” with reality – even to affect it – can be put to dubious uses, something alluded to at the close of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. In this time of rising conformity, and, paradoxically, of a spreading “war of all against all,” when free, open and aware minds are needed more than ever, Wilson’s insights into the phenomenology of consciousness provide a way to ensure that some of us at least may stay awake.

Evolutionary Revelations

David Moore has posted an exhilarating and deeply probing essay about Lost Knowledge of the Imagination on his Ritual in the Dark web site. I met David last year at the Colin Wilson Conference held at Nottingham University, where he gave a brilliant talk on the links between Wilson’s ‘new existentialism’ and his investigations into the occult, as evidenced in Wilson’s novels The Mind Parasites and The Philosopher’s Stone, and I am happy to see that he will be speaking again at next year’s conference. I also understand that Colin Stanley’s Paupers Press will be publishing a collection of his essays sometime in the near future. I hope that future is very near, as I look forward to reading more of, well, Moore’s work – due credit to the god of unintentional puns given. It is encouraging and heartening to see new minds taking up the Wilsonian banner, and if it is simply not done for a writer to applaud an essay about his own work, then I accept the calumny such action entails. Diffidence be damned: it is a fine piece of writing.