Tag: consciousness

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.

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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.

A Dark Star Rises

Amazon has posted a link to my new book, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, which will be published in May 2018. It is a kind of follow up to Politics and the Occult, except that in this case, the occult politics I look at is taking place now, not in the past. The focus is Trump – I could even say he was the inspiration for the book – but my investigation led beyond the White House and to points east, such as the Kremlin. I encountered some odd pairings, such as positive thinking and Traditionalism, and chaos magick and New Thought. And what exactly do Norman Vincent Peale, Austin Osman Spare, and Julius Evola have in common? You’d be surprised.

Dark Star Rising

Yesterday I submitted the manuscript of my new book, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, to Mitch Horowitz, my editor at Tarcher/Perigee. Mitch must like it, at least that’s how I read his tweet about it. It’s a report on the strange “occult politics” that seems to have come out of the shadows with the recent US presidential election, and which I discovered has been at work in Russia for some years prior to this. Researching it I came upon some odd pairings, between “positive thinking” and chaos magick, Traditionalism and a resurgent Russia, and a cartoon frog and postmodernism, to name a few. The book will be out next year. In the meantime you can look forward to The Lost Knowledge of the Imagination which will be available in the fall. In a sense Dark Star Rising begins where Lost Knowledge ends.

Criminal Outsiders

Steven Greenleaf has written a very insightful review of my first book, a collection of  essays on Wilsonian themes that Colin Stanley at Paupers’ Press took a chance on publishing back in 1994, unambiguously entitled Two Essays on Colin Wilson. It is somewhat humbling to recognize that one’s juvenilia was written in one’s late thirties – but then I’ve always thought of myself as a late bloomer, at least in terms of writing. Some encouragement, perhaps, to others who have put off getting their thoughts down on paper – or a computer screen – until their later years. Some of the material on William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller later found a home in Turn Off Your Mind and originally started life as an essay for a film class when I was working an a soon-to-be-aborted Ph.D in English Literature at USC. My professor thought my criticism of Burroughs etc was “vitiated by moral snipping” – remarkable what we remember. I doubt if the professor, Leo Braudy, author of The Frenzy of Renown, remembers it though.

The Outsider Strikes Back!

Here is a letter I wrote in response to a review of Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson published in Fortean Times No. 353, for May 2017. While I am open to criticism, I believe the reviewer did little more than repeat much of the calumny Wilson received in his lifetime. I am very happy that David Sutton, editor of Fortean Times, was open to my letter and published it in Fortean Times No. 355, for July 2017.

Dear Fortean Times,
Many thanks for David Barrett’s review of my latest book, Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson, which appears in FT 353 for May 2017. I appreciate that you devote ample space to the book, but I would like to clarify some remarks that, I believe, may give readers a wrong impression about it.
The reviewer remarks that “aside from the early pages,” most of the book is about Wilson’s work, and hence is not really a biography, but more of a ‘philosophy textbook’. Would that such textbooks had such philosophy. He does acknowledge that because Wilson wrote about ideas, this makes the book more about their development than his. Perhaps, although I do believe I follow Wilson’s life fairly closely, linking the ideas he is grappling with to their expression in his life. I don’t believe it is true that aside from charting his early years as a struggling wannabe before The Outsider threw him into a celebrity spotlight he never really wanted, there is nothing about his life. There is plenty about it. But Wilson himself would say that what is really important about a writer is what he says. As the majority of material written about Wilson ignores practically everything he wrote aside from The Outsider, I believe, as he did, that the books that followed, and which made up what he called ‘the Outsider cycle’, warrant serious consideration,and I was determined to give them that. As I say in the Introduction, my aim was to present an ‘introductory overview’ of Wilson’s life and work and to ‘make clear some of the basic ideas and aims of Wilson’s philosophy’ so that it may ‘prompt readers unfamiliar with his work to seek out his books and read them for themselves.’
My reason for doing this is, as the reviewer remarks, because Wilson wrote an enormous amount about a wide range of different but related subjects. Yet all of his subjects are linked by a common theme, what Wilson calls ‘the paradoxical nature of freedom’. My aim was to show to readers how this common and, to my mind, absolutely important insight, informs all his work. The reviewer’s cursory assessment of this as ‘common sense’ and his brief remarks about it suggests that in his case I failed.
The reviewer also suggests that I did not sufficiently question Wilson’s assessment of himself as a ‘genius’. Yet he seems to have missed several places in which I do just that, or at least question a 24 year-old’s too frequent acknowledgement of it. So, on p. 54, I write: ‘It was that word “genius” that began to irritate the mostly modest reading public” and I suggest that the fact that “he himself breathed it somewhat injudiciously did not help.” I also suggest that “Wilson’s own inexperience and lack of guile also ensured that he would put his foot in it” (p. 56) in interviews.There are other examples of my questioning as well. But then, reviewers like Cyril Connolly, Philip Toynbee, Edith Sitwell and others were themselves announcing Wilson’s ‘genius’ to their readers from the moment The Outsider appeared. Who are we – or Wilson – to disagree? And do I consider him a ‘genius’? Well, Wilson himself points out the difference between having genius and being one, and I have no doubt that he had it, and on more occasions than only The Outsider. I let the reader know up front that I am a ‘fan’ and that Wilson was a ‘mentor’ to me – and to many others who found in his work important and essential ideas about human existence and consciousness. But then the ‘totally brainless’ English approach is very often to castigate anyone who believes in anything and to celebrate either mediocrity or the kind of cynical know-it-all pessimism that is forever fearful of any wool being pulled over its eyes. By the way, two other English thinkers I met and wrote about, Owen Barfield and Kathleen Raine, said exactly the same thing about the English, so perhaps this insight is not limited to Wilson.
The reviewer also points out that there is only one paragraph about Wilson’s politics, mentioning his support for Thatcher. Yet he fails to mention that Wilson also wrote an open letter calling for her resignation. He also says that Wilson had views ‘much further to the right’. That Wilson was labeled a ‘fascist’ by people like John Osborne, Kenneth Tynan and other fashionably left writers, solely because he was interested in existential concerns, not social ones,  is simply name-calling. Wilson was not in the least interested in politics – in fact, he started his public career as an anarchist at Speaker’s Corner –  although, as I do point out, some of his Angry Young friends, like the novelist Bill Hopkins, were. Wilson did edit a book called Marx Refuted, which included contributions by Karl Popper, Leszek Kolakowski, and Arthur Koestler, among others. Calling them ‘far-right’ is rather like called Tony Blair ‘far-left’. I also say, on p. 359, that Wilson ‘could show surprising political naivete’, apropos of a lunch he once had with Oswald Mosley. On the same page I have Wilson saying that he ‘always labelled myself a socialist’ but he later came to reject socialism while writing a book about Shaw. But he has ‘been against the Tories all my life’. With all this, I somehow can’t find the views that the reviewer says were ‘much further to the right.’
I can’t agree that most readers would see ‘arrogance or blindness or both’ about Wilson’s confidence in his work. My experience and that of the readers of my book has been quite the opposite: in this we see the kind of self-belief that anyone attempting to do something out of the normal run of things must have in order to survive the kind of disparagement and sheer disdain that most often comes from being – dare I say it? – an ‘Outsider’. And what are we to think of a reviewer for the Fortean Times who thinks that all of what Wilson had to say about synchronicity – a phenomenon whose reality I am as convinced of as I am of anything else – came from one experience? That is simply not the case, and the reviewer misrepresents the incident in question egregiously.
The other supposed flaws in the book are, sadly, duly acknowledged. I would have liked to have had more room to discuss Wilson’s fictions, although I do go into detail about his first novel Ritual in the Dark and do comment on The Mind Parasites, The Philosopher’s Stone, and, at greater length, The Black Room. This lack must be chalked up to sheer space and time; the book is over 200,000 words (twice the word count allotted) and I was already far behind schedule by the time I delivered it. (Readers interested in an excellent study of Wilson’s fictions should find Novels to Some Purpose: The Fiction of Colin Wilson by Nicolas Tredell.) And the index was the publisher’s work. I did want to include a bibliography, but space and time again precluded that.
I should point out though, that the reviewer’s dismay about not being able to look up ‘key Wilsonian concepts like “Factor X” is perhaps more home-grown than he may think. Wilson does not write about ‘Factor X’ but ‘Faculty X‘. Such an obvious mistake from a reviewer whose tone throughout suggests a prejudice against Wilson’s work, and whose review fails to do justice in any way to any of Wilson’s ideas- a fate Wilson had to endure endless times over during his life- suggests that he may have profited from grasping the key phenomenological insight – which Wilson spelled out in many ways in many books – about how our expectations can obscure what is right in front of us.