Colin Wilson

Yesterday, sitting at the airport, checking my e-mail I saw the post on Gary Lachman's web-site, (, announcing the sad death of the author, Colin Wilson. I was happy to have received the notice this way as it came from a friend of the author and one who recognised and acknowledged his gifts and importance.

His having gifts and importance would not be apparent from reading the official obituaries (even the half decent ones). He was, at best, a one hit wonder whose subsequent behaviour alienated mainstream literary society and he disappeared to Cornwall (on the edge of the known universe) where he wrote, voluminously, about arcane, dodgy or esoteric subjects (that none of the obituary writers showed any signs of having read or of understanding them if they were to)!

As Lao Tzu said of the Tao if it were not laughed at (by implication by the foolish), it would not be Tao!

The one hit wonder, of course, was 'The Outsider' and even if he had only written this, Wilson's life would have been a valuable offering to our wider culture. It is a 'young man's book' (both the youthfulness and the gender are significant) and it is written by an 'amateur' in the genuine sense of a person who writes out of the love (and need) of his subject. It was written both into its time and out of time such that it feels very much of its particular place and yet carries a universality that keeps it in print, read, and loved. Any book that is into a second fifty years is doing well and is likely to achieve a resonantly permanent place.

I would be tempted to say that this was the book that saved my life (which is a tad more dramatic than changed). I was an alienated and distressed teenager at university when I first read it and it was like being wrapped round not in a comforting blanket but by a sustaining, bracing sense that being 'out of place' was possibly a wholly sane response (however dispiriting at the time) to the nature of the world. It was an invitation to a journey that reaffirmed your inner life, the importance of one's dreams - both actual and metaphorical -and of not allowing yourself to have your intuitions of different ways of perceiving the world, of being conscious in the world ground out by the consensual view of a material and meaningless universe (rather than a living, pulsating cosmos).

It was a journey that Wilson himself was on, and that he would explore through many lens going forward, some were congenial, others, I confess less so, but whenever our paths met (always on the page, never, sadly, in reality) you could sense an intelligent, humane explorer of our consciousness and of what it means to be fully and consciously human. I cannot think of a more noble a quest and that our main stream culture is so far from seeing this and praising it is a sadness. It may, as the quotation from Lao Tzu suggests, ever been thus.

May Colin Wilson be blessed in his on-going journey and for the trails he left behind.


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