Tag: philosophy

Dark Politics and Lost Imaginations

This Wednesday, March 7th, I’ll be taking part in a live-streamed event with Evolve and Ascend: Dark Politics: Imagination, Magic and Power in the Age of Trump. I’ll be interviewed by Jeremy Johnson about my new books, Lost Knowledge of the Imagination and the forthcoming Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump. Jeremy is a brilliant writer, researcher and interviewer and I expect the exchange to be thought-provoking. We will be taking calls from listeners.

Also, Watkins Books has posted the video of my recent talk there about Lost Knowledge. 

There, you have all you need to get spring on the road.

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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.

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.

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?)

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.