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Colin Wilson

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The Angry Young Man as a mellow middle-aged man.
I had never doubted my own abilities, but I was quite prepared to believe that 'the world' would decline to recognize them.
—Colin Wilson in Postscript to The Outsider

Colin Wilson was an English writer (26 June 1931 – 5 December 2013), who was originally connected with the Angry Young Men movement in the UK and the Existentialist movement in Europe. Nowadays, he is not so young, not so angry, and not so fashionable. He has over a hundred books to his name, excluding articles etc., so it will take you quite a while to get through his oeuvre should you wish to do so.

Literary career and descent into the deep darks[edit]

His career peaked too early, at the tender age of twenty-four: while living rough, he published The Outsider, a classic study of alienation amongst major cultural figures. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. Not only did Wilson's five sequels to The Outsider barely get noticed, but he also wrote a number of trashy novels,[1] books on the seamier side of criminology (he was a pen pal of the Moors Murderer Ian Brady for a good long while too), and… the Occult. His next most famous book after The Outsider is called, simply, The Occult; in fact, it's probably one of his better volumes on the subject, as some of his later ones seem like rush jobs, with even wilder ideas in them. The one thing that saves them, perhaps, is that when he wants to, Wilson can write quite well (despite not perhaps being the complete genius he claims to be). Some of his more literary novels are actually not bad.

Von Däniken and Crowley[edit]

Despite his interest in the paranormal, Wilson is highly critical of both Erich von Däniken and Aleister Crowley.

And despite his disdain of Von Däniken, he's something of a fan of Charles Hapgood.[2]

Quotes[edit]

  • "Christianity was an epidemic rather than a religion. It appealed to fear, hysteria and ignorance. It spread across the Western world, not because it was true, but because humans are gullible and superstitious."
  • "I do not regard the late Carl Sagan as any kind of authority. On the contrary, as this book [Alien Dawn] will show, I regard him in many ways as a dubious publicity seeker and careerist, more concerned to maintain his reputation as the brilliant and sceptical representative of hard-headed science than to look squarely and honestly at the facts. In short, a bit of a crook."
  • "I experience the same sense of absurdity when I listen to a cosmologist like Stephen Hawking telling us that the universe began with a big bang fifteen billion years ago, and that physics will shortly create a 'theory of everything' that will answer every possible question about our universe; this entails the corollary that God is an unnecessary hypothesis. Then I think of the day when I suddenly realized that I did not know where space ended, and it becomes obvious that Hawking is also burying his head in the sand. God may be an unnecessary hypothesis for all I know, and I do not have the least objection to Hawking dispensing with him, but until we can understand why there is existence rather than nonexistence, then we simply have no right to make such statements. It is unscientific. The same applies to the biologist Richard Dawkins, with his belief that strict Darwinism can explain everything, and that life is an accidental product of matter. I feel that he is trying to answer the ultimate question by pretending it does not exist."
  • "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."
  • "Religion, mysticism and magic all spring from the same basic 'feeling' about the universe: a sudden feeling of meaning, which human beings sometimes 'pick up' accidentally, as your radio might pick up some unknown station. Poets feel that we are cut off from meaning by a thick, lead wall, and that sometimes for no reason we can understand the wall seems to vanish and we are suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite interestingness of things."

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