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Colin Wilson


British writer, noted for his first book The Outsider and over one hundred other books, including seventeen novels and numerous works in criminology, existential philosophy, psychology, religion, the occult, mysticism, wine, and music.
Colin Wilson
It seemed perfectly possible that, in spite of my certainty of my own genius, I might die of some illness, or perhaps even in a street accident, before I had ever glimpsed the meaning of life. My moods of happiness and self-confidence convinced me that I had a "destiny" to become a famous writer, and to be remembered as one of the most important thinkers of the century.
Wilson quotes
I have tried to show how religion, the backbone of civilisation, hardens into a Church that is unacceptable to Outsiders, and the Outsiders the men who strive to become visionaries become the Rebels. In our case, the scientific progress that has brought us closer than ever before to conquering the problems of civilisation, has also robbed us of spiritual drive; and the Outsider is doubly a rebel: a rebel against the Established Church , a rebel against the unestablished church of materialism. Yet for all this, he is the real spiritual heir of the prophets, of Jesus and St. Peter, of St. Augustine and Peter Waldo. The purest religion of any age lies in the hands of its spiritual rebels. The twentieth century is no exception.
Wilson
A child might be overawed by a great city, but a civil engineer knows that he might demolish it and rebuild it himself. Husserl's philosophy has the same aim: to show us that, although we may have been thrust into this world without a 'by your leave,' we are mistaken to assume that it exists independently of us. It is true that reality exists apart from us; but what we mistake for the world is actually a world constituted by us, selected from an infinitely complex reality.




Wilson Colin quotes
Now, obviously, the human race is on the point of an extremely interesting evolutionary development. The first step towards escape from this vicious circle is to recognize that the apparent "ordinariness" of the world is a delusion. If we could become deeply and permanently convinced that the world "out there" is endlessly exciting, we would never again allow ourselves to become trapped in the swamp of "taken-for-grantedness". And we would become practically unkillable. Shaw says of his "Ancients" in Back to Methuselah "Even in the moment of death, their life does not fail them". "Life failure" is that feeling that there is nothing new under the sun, and that we all have to accept defeat in the end. If we could learn the mental trick of causing the dynamo to accelerate, this illusion would never again be able to exert its power over us.
Wilson Colin
The Diary of Vaslav Nijinjsky reaches a limit of sincerity beyond any of the documents that we have referred to on this study. There are other modern works that express the same sense that civilized life is a form of living death; notably the poetry of T. S. Eliot and the novels of Franz Kafka; but there is an element of prophetic denunciation in both, the attitude of healthy men rebuking their sick neighbors. We possess no other record of the Outsider's problems that was written by a man about to be defeated and permanently smashed by those problems.
Colin Wilson quotes
No matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Fort's principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.
Colin Wilson
Now the basic impulse behind existentialism is optimistic, very much like the impulse behind all science. Existentialism is romanticism, and romanticism is the feeling that man is not the mere he has always taken himself for. Romanticism began as a tremendous surge of optimism about the stature of man. its aim like that of science was to raise man above the muddled feelings and impulses of his everyday humanity, and to make him a god-like observer of human existence.
Wilson Colin quotes
The progress of human knowledge depends on maintaining that touch of scepticism even about the most "unquestionable" truths. A century ago, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was regarded as scientifically unshakeable; today, most biologists have their reservations about it. Fifty years ago, Freud's sexual theory of neurosis was accepted by most psychiatrists; today, it is widely recognized that his methods were highly questionable. At the turn of this century, a scientist who questioned Newton's theory of gravity would have been regarded as insane; twenty years later, it had been supplanted by Einstein's theory, although, significantly, few people actually understood it. It seems perfectly conceivable that our descendants of the twenty-second century will wonder how any of us could have been stupid enough to have been taken in by Darwin, Freud or Einstein.
Wilson
And this in turn makes it plain that the Right Man problem is a problem of highly dominant people. Dominance is a subject of enormous importance to biologists and zoologists because the percentage of dominant animals or human beings seems to be amazingly constant. Bernard Shaw once asked the explorer H. M. Stanley how many other men could take over leadership of the expedition if Stanley himself fell ill; Stanley replied promptly: "One in twenty." "Is that exact or approximate?" asked Shaw. "Exact." And biological studies have confirmed this as a fact. For some odd reason, precisely five per cent one in twenty of any animal group are dominant have leadership qualities. During the Korean War, the Chinese made the interesting discovery that if they separated out the dominant five per cent of American prisoners of war, and kept them in separate compound, the remaining ninety-five per cent made no attempt to escape.
Wilson Colin
When Shaw is read in the light of the existentialist thinkers, a new philosophical position arises from his works as a whole, a position of he himself was probably unconscious. It is this: that although the ultimate reality may be irrational, yet man's relation to it is not. Existentialism means the recognition that life is a tiny corner of casual order in a universe of chaos. All men are aware of that chaos; but some insulate themselves from it and refuse to face it. These are the Insiders, and they make up the overwhelming majority of the human race. The Outsider is the man who has faced chaos. If he is an abstract philosopher like Hegel he will try to demonstrate that chaos is not really chaos, but that underlying it is an order of which we are unaware. If he is an existentialist, he acknowledges that chaos is chaos, a denial of life or rather, of the conditions under which life are possible. If there is nothing but life and chaos, then life is permanently helpless as Sartre and Camus think it is. But if a rational relation can somehow exist between them, ultimate pessimism is avoided, as it must be avoided if the Outsider is to live at all. It is this contribution which makes Shaw the key figure of existentialist thought.
Colin Wilson
We might liken the 'two selves' to Laurel and Hardy. Ollie is the objective mind, 'you'. Stan is the subjective mind, the 'hidden you'. But Stan happens to be in control of your energy supply. So if you wake up feeling low and discouraged, you (Ollie) tend to transmit your depression to Stan, who fails to send you energy, which makes you feel lower than ever. This vicious circle is the real cause of most mental illness.




Colin Wilson quotes
Sadism is plainly connected with the need for self-assertion. At the same time it cannot be separated from the idea of defeat. A sadist is a man, who, in some sense, has his back to the wall. Nothing is further from sadism, for example, than the cheerful, optimistic mentality of a Shaw or Wells.
Colin Wilson
(Gardner) writes about various kinds of cranks with the conscious superiority of the scientist, and in most cases one can share his sense of the victory of reason. But after half a dozen chapters this non-stop superiority begins to irritate; you begin to wonder about the standards that make him so certain he is always right. He asserts that the scientist, unlike the crank, does his best to remain open-minded. So how can he be so sure that no sane person has ever seen a flying saucer, or used a dowsing rod to locate water? And that all the people he disagrees with are unbalanced fanatics? A colleague of the positivist philosopher A. J. Ayer once remarked wryly "I wish I was as certain of anything as he seems to be about everything". Martin Gardner produces the same feeling.
Wilson quotes
During his lifetime Gurdjieff did not publish any books on the techniques of his teaching, and his pupils were bound to secrecy on the subject. Since his death in Paris in 1949, however, many of his works have been published, and there has been a flood of memoirs by disciples and admirers. Gurdjieff was in almost ever respect the antithesis of Aleister Crowley. Whereas Crowley craved publicity, Gurdjieff shunned it. Crowley was forgotten for two decades after his death; Gurdjieff on the contrary, has become steadily better known, and his influence continues to grow. One of the main reasons for this is that there was so little of the charlatan about him. He is no cult figure with hordes of gullible disciples. What he has to teach makes an appeal to the intelligence, and can be fully understood only by those who are prepared to make a serious effort.
Wilson Colin
This is what fascinates Shaw: this enormous force that ignores our human preferences, our logic and intellect. It fascinates him because to be suddenly gripped by it is to see that human beings are not the accidental products of a mechanical universe that they are not 'alone'. As social animals, we live in a narrow but apparently logical world with a well-defined identity and position. But man is the satellite of a double-star; there is also an inner-world that seems to have a completely different set of laws from the rational universe. And in fact, if we judge this 'rational universe' by its own laws, we see that it is not self-complete and self-explanatory; space must end somewhere, time must have a stop; but the alternative propositions sound equally 'logical': space is infinite; time has neither beginning nor end. The answer to these paradoxes must be that the outer universe is not self-complete; it is only half a universe. The inner world is the other half. But at present we know very little about this inner world. It is only within the present century that its existence has been clearly recognized by psychology.
Wilson Colin quotes
We all observe that the reality of sexual intercourse is far from perfect; yet this does not convince us that sex is a greatly overrated occupation. Every time a man glimpses a pretty girl pulling up her stocking, he catches a glimpse of what might be called the "primal sexual vision." It is unfortunate that there seems to be a certain disparity between this primal vision and most ordinary sexual experience. But it dances in front of us like a will-o'-the-wisp, luring us into tormented effort. It can lead novelists to write novels, poets to write poems, and musicians to write symphonies.
Colin Wilson
The characteristic of the really great writer is the ability of his mind to to suddenly leap beyond his ordinary human values, into sudden perception of universal values.
Colin Wilson quotes
One cannot ignore half of life for the purposes of science, and then claim that the results of science give a full and adequate picture of the meaning of life. All discussions of 'life' which begin with a description of man's place on a speck of matter in space, in an endless evolutionary scale, are bound to be half-measures, because they leave out most of the experiences which are important to use as human beings.
Colin Wilson
Art is naturally concerned with man in his existential aspect, not in his scientific aspect. For the scientist, questions about man's stature and significance, suffering and power, are not really scientific questions; consequently he is inclined to regard art as an inferior recreation. Unfortunately, the artist has come to accept the scientist's view of himself. The result, I contend, is that art in the twentieth century literary art in particular has ceased to take itself seriously as the primary instrument of existential philosophy. It has ceased to regard itself as an instrument for probing questions of human significance. Art is the science of human destiny. Science is the attempt to discern the order that underlies the chaos of nature; art is the attempt to discern the order that underlies the chaos of man. At its best, it evokes unifying emotions; it makes the reader see the world momentarily as a unity.
Wilson Colin
One simple method is to take a pen or pencil and hold it up against a blank wall or ceiling. Now concentrate on the pen as if it is the most important thing in the world. Then allow your sense to relax, so you see the pen against the background of the wall. Concentrate again. Relax again. Keep on doing this until you become aware of the ability to focus attention at will. You will find that this unaccustomed activity of the will is tiring; it produces a sense of strain behind they eyes. My own perception is that if you persist, in spite of the strain, the result is acute discomfort, followed by a sudden immense relief - the 'peak experience'.


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