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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Colin Wilson has died

Author Colin Wilson has died, age 82. He wrote a biography of Aleister Crowley and books about mysticism and the paranormal and it seems reasonable to suppose there was overlap between his readers and those of Robert Anton Wilson.

Indeed, RAW read Colin Wilson; Colin Wilson's name pops up in RAW's writings, as in this autobiographical essay on H.P. Lovecraft's influence on RAW's writings:

Like Colin Wilson (no relative, as far as I know), I am also tempera­mentally incapable of writing the typ­ical Lovecraft ending – the note of bleak cosmic despair that makes HPL strangely akin to mainline fic­tion of our day with its ever-defeated heroes and ever-hostile universe. I use Lovecraftian horror because I think it is an aspect of the truth, a poetic mythos that says something real about our predicament as mammals aware of our own fragility and mortality. I cannot restrict my­self to that horrible perspective, be­cause I think it is only one aspect of many.

In the comments for the Nov. 27, 2013, entry for this blog (on RAW's "famous" admirers), Michael Johnson writes, "from a letter RAW wrote in Ireland to his old San Francisco friend Kurt Smith on 29 November, 1984, RAW's writing about interviewing Colin W. in Cornwall two weeks earlier, presumably for New Age magazine: 'Colin is charming, intelligent, generous, a fan of my works, conceited, arrogant, humorous; all in all, I like him. He gave me a pile of his books, which I have been reading.') I couldn't find the letter at


michael said...

There's a lot of RAW material at that's

1.) not been scanned and put up by people who know how and are in a position to do that

2.) miscategorized or misspelled or not arranged in a way that's alphabetic or chronologic

I've written that site four or five times with suggestions for amendations or additions; no one has ever written me back.

Colin Wilson is in How To Read/How To Think in Coincidance: "Colin Wilson argues that when we say, 'Life is boring and meaningless,' it means that we are boring and meaningless. Can there be any truth to this?" -p.67

I think of this idea all the time when I read personal ads on Craigs List where someone write, "I'm bored. Someone please text me."

Leary and RAW at one point were saying, "If you're're BORING."

In Natural Law, RAW writes, "I am quite prepared to agree with G.I. Gurdjieff and Colin Wilson that most people can be said to be hypnotized most of the time..." p.62

Colin Wilson appears in the imitation of Ulysses's "Ithaca" catechism in Masks of the Illuminati, p.59

On p.371 of The Widow's Son there's a quote from CW's Criminal History of Mankind, a fat book that RAW quite admired. The quote has to do with the millennial powers of Rome.

On p.70 of Coincidance, RAW quotes from a different section of the Criminal History of Mankind: "To be truly human demands a real effort of will rather than our usual vague assumption of 'mutual concern.'"

Wilhelm Reich In Hell, p.5: "As Colin Wilson has written, 'I wish I could be as sure of anything as Martin Gardner is of everything.'"

RAW cites CW in Everything Is Under Control under the entry for John Dee, related to the Necronomicon and HPL. Under "Jack the Ripper," RAW discusses Masonic/royalist conspiracy as depicted in the film Murder By Decree, then: "English author and criminologist Colin Wilson assured the present writer that this 'solution' was defective in countless ways, and that one of the three alleged murderers had actually suffered a stroke and was bedridden at the time of this alleged participation in the plot."

See RAW's citing/quoting of CW in The New Inquisiition, pp.38-39; 105; 139-140;198-201;205;225; and 228.

As far back at 1975 RAW was noting CW. See the 1975 article on Neurologic from Green Egg mag (it might be at

In Neal Wilgus's book The Illuminoids (intro by RAW) CW's mentioned a lot, but see esp. pp.254-261, "The Last Synchronicity," where Wilgus gets into his weird synchronicities: CT1 hadn't been released while Wilgus was writing Illuminoids. Then he read it as it came out and had a very odd experience, and it involved the two "Wilsons" CW and RAW, Leary, Crowley, John Dee..and much high weirdness.

Illiaminated said...

Outside of the Times there is little news coverage of his death. Is it any wonder writers steer away from serious examination of the esoteric. I expect Fortean Times will devote an issue to him. RIP.

michael said...

I'd guess even the NYT will give CW an obit. When he published The Outsider he was a the new hot young Brit intellectual, sorta putting a brilliant spin on French existentialism, historicizing it more and making it more accessible to Brits and Americans.

He seems to have "lost" the Kulchur mavens by embracing the outre, writing SF and about Crowley, WR, HPL, criminals...topics the counterculture intelligentsia loved. I was happy to read that RAW and CW admired each other's work.

Oh hell yea Fortean Times will devote many pages to CW.

Illiaminated said...

I recently read the Mind Parasites, the only work of fiction by Wilson I've read. It's quite unusual. It seems to be heavily influenced by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and reads like a work of occult philosophy disguised as science fiction. I quite enjoyed it and found it inspirational to a certain degree with Wilson's insistence that within ourselves exists an incredible reservoir of information and energy waiting to be utilised.

Interestingly, while there has not been much mention of Wilson's death (so far) in literary circles, among the first to eulogise him have been fans of the shlocky 1985 movie Lifeforce which was based on his novel The Space Vampires

tony smyth said...

He's a bit of an Orson Welles type character, in that he arrived explosively and young - The outsider was kind of his Citizen Kane> he, like Welles, was under 30 when he had his 'big hit'(this only a rough analogy). I didnt read a lot of his stuff after that though. Oh well RIP

tony smyth said...

Ah, as I suspected. This seems to be how hes being seen in the UK.

John M. said...

A little late chiming in, but here it is...

I found Colin Wilson in 1987 while looking for RAW in a small bookstore in Burlington, Vermont. No RAW on the shelves, but the Mind Parasites looked interesting enough to chance. Glad I did.

Funny note, obscure to be sure, but later that year I was reading The Book of the Subgenius and was tickled to find a quote by one "Colin Anton Wilson". Can't remember the quote, but it's in there.

John M. said...

Okay, a little Google-fu turned up the CAW quote:

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh "BOB" D'lyeh* Wgah'nagl Dhobbz f'htagn." ("In his
Great Easy Chair at D'lyeh, Dread Dobbs lays Smoking.")
-- one of the Dhol Chants for raising the Elder Gods, from
Incubustum Mysteris des Helle, Sir Colin Anton Wilson, 1706