Tag: Colin Wilson

20% Discount on my titles at Floris Books

The generous people at Floris Books are offering a 20% discount on my titles from now until the end of April. Along with Lost Knowledge of the Imagination, this includes The Caretakers of the CosmosThe Quest for Hermes Trismegistus, Rudolf Steiner, and A Secret History of Consciousness. Here’s what you need to know:
Code: LA0218
Offer: 20% off all books written by Gary Lachman when purchased via
Valid until: 30/04/18
And as a starter, here’s a brief excerpt from Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.

 

There are of course many books on the imagination. Psychological studies, motivational works, instructions in visualization, research into creativity, guides to using imagination in business, relationships, and self-improvement – these are some of the results that come from a quick internet search on the subject. There are many more. Most definitions of imagination speak of its contrast with reality. My Oxford Dictionary tells me that imagination is the ‘mental faculty of forming images or concepts of objects or situations not existent or not directly experienced.’ Merriam-Webster tells me it is ‘the ability to imagine things that are not real’ – which seems something of a tautology – and ‘something that only exists or happens in your mind.’ The Cambridge Dictionary says that imagination is ‘the ability to form pictures in the mind’ and that it concerns ‘something that you think exists or is true, although in fact is not real or true’. Imagination is of course also creative. Roget’s Thesaurus calls it the ‘power to create in one’s mind,’ and samples of the synonyms it provides range from  ‘artistry,’ ‘awareness,’ and ‘inspiration’, to ‘ingenuity,’ ‘insight’ and ‘creativity’.

I believe imagination is one of those things which we all know immediately but which, as I’ve said, we would find difficult to define. Indeed, an exact definition of it would only make it more obscure.[1] Nevertheless, here I will offer my own definition of imagination. It is not necessarily exclusive of others; I give it to emphasize what I take to be imagination’s central work, and also to make clear how it is a different way of understanding the imagination. I take it from the writer Colin Wilson. Imagination, he said, is ‘the ability to grasp realities that are not immediately present’. Not an escape from reality, or a substitute for it, but a deeper engagement with it. We could also say that imagination is simply our ability to grasp reality, or even, in some strange way, to create it, or at least to collaborate in its creation; with whom or what we will look at further on. For the moment let us limit ourselves to the first formulation.

It is because we need imagination to grasp reality – that part of it immediately before us, and its wider horizons that exceed the reach of our physical senses – that we can speak of a ‘knowledge’ of the imagination. Imagination has a noetic character; it is the source and medium of our other way of knowing. It shows us aspects and dimensions of reality that we would miss without it – and which much, if not most of official western culture has missed since the new way of knowing became dominant. While it can be used for fantasy, illusion, make-believe, and escapism, the real work of imagination is to make contact with the strange world in which we live and to serve as both guide and inspiration for our development within it. It is the way we evolve. Imagination presents us with possible, potential realities that it is our job to actualize. It also presents us with a world that would not be complete without our help.

Let us look then for this lost knowledge of the imagination, and see how much of it we can find.

 

[1] It is a phenomenon, in Sir William Grove’s words, ‘so obvious to simple apprehension that to define it would make it more obscure’. Quoted in Samuel Butler ‘Thought and Language’ in The Importance of Language ed. Max Black (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969) p. 13.

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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.

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.

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.

Lost Knowledge, Dust, and Religious Rebels

Recently I received a copy of Philip Pullman’s new novel The Book of Dust.  I have to say I am deep into it and enjoying it immensely. Philip had said some warm words about Beyond the Robot, and my name must have gotten on the list of copies to be sent out. I didn’t expect this and it was a pleasant surprise, as I don’t often get a chance to read fiction. My book, Lost Knowledge of the Imagination, had just come out in the UK, and I sent him a copy in return. Not long after this I saw his comment on my tweet about the book. That was another very nice surprise. “I am reading it now” he wrote “and it is very important.” Well I can say the same about The Book of Dust. I am reading it now, and it is very important – and a very good read too.

Another book I am happy to see is the new Aristeia Press edition of Colin Wilson’s Religion and the Rebel. This was Wilson’s follow-up to The Outsider, and, as I say in my Introduction, it almost ended Wilson’s career. The critical response to Wilson’s second effort was as unlike that to his first as could be imagined. From hailed as a boy genius, Wilson was vilified as a fraud, and sent to literary Coventry. This had little to do with the book itself, which is a serious and passionate exploration of a possible religious answer to the Outsider’s existential dilemma. Wilson examines the lives of Pascal, Boehme, Swedenborg, and Kierkegaard, looks at the Outsider against the historical vision of Toynbee and Spengler, and contrasts the philosophy of Whitehead and Wittgenstein in light of his aim: to extend the range of human consciousness. Reading this fine new edition of a central work in Wilson’s Outsider Cycle may be one means of doing just that.

 

Lost Knowledge, Robots Not Allowed and Occult Politics in Spain

My new book, Lost Knowledge of the Imagination, comes out in the UK this month, with the US edition following early next year – although the Kindle edition will be available sooner than this. For my London readers, there will be a launch for the book at Treadwells Bookshop in November. I’ve had great success with launching my books at Treadwells and I suspect this will not be an exception. And let me say that if people launched more books than missiles, the world would be a safer place.

Here’s a link to the first part of an ongoing interview with Greg Moffitt at Legalize Freedom about my biography of Colin Wilson, Beyond the Robot. Greg is a great reader of Wilson and I am glad that my book reignited his interest in his work. We will be continuing the interview with at least two more sessions, which will still not be enough to cover all of Wilson’s importance.

Lastly, I am off tomorrow to Madrid and then Leon, Spain for the Ocultura Conference, where I’ll be speaking along side Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, and also Javier Sierra and other presenters at what promises to be a major European Occulture event. My talk will be on Politics and the Occult, and I will be promoting a new Spanish edition of my book on precisely that subject. I am not sure how prominent the occult is in Spain today, but given recent events there, politics is certainly on the agenda. (P.S. Just as I write this, BBC Radio 3, which I listen to fairly constantly, is playing Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie Espangnole  – how’s that for synchronicity?)