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Colin Wilson: The Outsider

Biographical Notes


Born Colin Henry Wilsonon 26 June 1931,in Leicester, England.

...[T]he symbol of my childhood was never the racing goggles of Lawrenceor St. Exupery,but the tub of Diogenes.To establish complete independence, like a youth called Huckleberry Hodge featured in The Roveror some other of my favorite boy's papers, who lived in a barrel and fished with a line tied to his big toe while he slept. When I think back on my childhood, and try to focus that impulse again, it seems to me that my life has been dominated by a desire to contract into a point.
- From Voyage to a Beginning: An Autobiography

 My first expression of my sense of revolt at the universal self-delusion was an essay on 'Superiority', written when I was twelve. I still have this essay. It argues that all men are completely enmeshed in self-delusion, and that the universal motive that underlies all human conduct is the need of the individual to feel himself 'superior', to deny the obvious fact that he is a mere insect among billions of other insects.
- On his nihilistic period. From Voyage to a Beginning: An Autobiography

 Considering himself a genius, a born writer, and an outsider, Wilson found little value in formal education and left school at the age of sixteen. During the next few years he drifted and traveled around England and Continental Europe. The period 1950-1956 was marked by economic deprivation, marital difficulties, and general discomfort.
- From Colin Wilson: The Oustider and Beyondby Clifford Bendau

 Met Alfred Reynolds,became involved in the The Bridge,a quasi-anarchist organization partly composed of ex-Nazi prisoners of war. Wilson was eventually banned from Bridge meetings because his Outsider beliefs were at odds with Reynolds' Anarchist beliefs.

 Entered into literary scene with the publication of The Outsiderin 1956 when he was only 24 years old. Grouped with the English version of the Beats,as one of the Angry Young Menwas the general opinion among English intellectuals the The Outsiderhad been a craze that had died a natural death, and that I should now be returned to the obscurity from which I had accidentally emerged.
- From Voyage to a Beginning: An Autobiography

 The interesting question presents itself: Why was there such a reaction against me? The Outsideris not a fraud; neither is it superficial. It attacks a real problem- one that has poisoned European culture for nearly two centuries- and comes closer to solving it than any similar book (for example, The Romantic Agonyof Mario Praz).
- From Voyage to a Beginning: An Autobiography

 Almost all the published biographical material on Wilson ceases at or near this point in his life. It is as if, from the time he moved to Cornwall, his life disappeared into his work. In one sense this is true but there remains a personality beneath the writing that is intensely and the time may have arrived for a second volume of his autobiography to be written.
- From Colin Wilson: The Man and His Mindby Howard F. Dossor

 An enormously prolific writer, having written to date over 80 major works on a wide variety of subjects: philosophy, religion, occult and supernatural phenomenea, music, sex, crime and critical theory. His biographies include works regarding Bernard Shaw, David Lindsay, Herman Hesse, Wilhelm Reich, Jorge Luis Borges, Ken Russell, Rudolph Steiner, Aleister Crowley,and P. D. Ouspensky

 Major philosophical statements to be found in the Outsider Seriesconsisting of: The Outsider, Religion & the Rebel, The Stature of Man, The Strength to Dream, Origins of the Sexual Impulse, Beyond the Outsiderand Essay On the New Existentialism.

 Other valuable examples of the Wilsonian philosophy of will and consciousness are to be found in: The Mind Parasites, The Philosopher's Stone, The Occult, Frankenstein's Castle, Access to Inner Worldsand The Bicameral Critic,to name but a few.

  By far, the most valuable book about Wilson is Colin Wilson: The Man and His Mind,byHoward F Dossor, [email protected]

A Few Choice Wilsonian Aphorisms (from Dossor's book)

  • All values are ultimately mystical.

  • Everyday consciousness is a liar.

  • Freedom is a quality of consciousness.

  • Human beings experience a range of mental states which is as narrow as the middle three keys of a piano.

  • What we accept as everyday consciousness is thoroughly sub-normal.

Two Beautifully Typical Quotes

  • "It is true that there are exercises that can strengthen the 'muscle' that enable us to push back the bounds of acceptation. But these are relatively unimportant. The real problem is that we are trapped in misconceptions that always deceive us, as the matador's cape deceives the bull; that continue to decieve us a million times over the course of a lifetime. Wittgensteinonce said that traditional philosophy causes a form of mental cramp, and that the aim of his philosophy was to remove this mental cramp, or to 'show the fly the way out of the bottle'. Our misconceptions involve the passive fallacy and notion that consciousness is a plane mirror that cannot lie about the world it reflects." From Poetry & Mysticism

  • "If Tim Leary'sclaim was that you could, use the psychedelicexperience to find your way into new realms of subjectivity, and then use it to find your way back there without the psychedelic, I would agree, it would be extremely valuable. What tends to happen is that when people get into these realms they find that there are no words to express what they are seeing, and so in a sense the experience is useless. They can just say, well it was wonderful. And what's more, of course, this kind of experience of-- it was wonderful, but I can't express it-- tends, I think, to cause a kind of pessimism, a feeling that the only way I can get the experience is by taking the psychedelic again. Which is the reason, you see, that, as I say, after taking it once myself, I would not dream of taking it again. From the Mavericks of the Mind Interview

Other Links

Major Works

  • The Outsider, 1956.

  • Religion &the Rebel, 1957.

  • Age of Defeat(US: Stature of Man), 1959.

  • Ritual on the Dark, 1960.

  • Encyclopedia of Murder(with Patricia Pitman), 1961.

  • Adrift in Soho, 1961.

  • The Strength to Dream, 1962.

  • Origins of the Sexual Impulse, 1963.

  • The World of Violence(US: The Violent World of Hugh Greene), 1963.

  • Man Without a Shadow(US: The Sex Diary of Gerard Sorme), 1963.

  • Rasputin & the Fall of the Romanovs, 1964.

  • Brandy of the Damned, 1964.

  • Necessary Doubt, 1964.

  • Beyond the Outsider, 1965.

  • Eagle & Earwig, 1965.

  • Sex & the Intelligent Teenager, 1966.

  • Introduction to the New Existentialism, 1966.

  • The Glass Cage, 1966.

  • The Mind Parasites, 1967.

  • Voyage to a Beginning, 1969.

  • A Casebook of Murder, 1969.

  • Bernard Shaw: A Reassessment, 1969.

  • The Philosopher's Stone, 1969.

  • L'amour: The Ways of Love, 1970.

  • The Return of the Lloigor, 1974.

  • The Strange Genius of David Lindsay(with E. H. Visiak & J. B. Pick) (US (abridged): The Haunted Man: The Strange Genius of David Lindsay, 1970.

  • Poetry & Mysticism(US (abridged) , 1970.

  • Strindberg, 1970.

  • The God of the Labyrinth, 1970.

  • The Killer(US: Lindgard), 1970.

  • The Occult, 1971.

  • The Black Room, 1971.

  • Order of Assassins, 1972.

  • New Pathways in Psychology, 1972.

  • Strange Powers, 1973.

  • "Tree" by Tolkien, 1973.

  • Herman Hesse(US: Hesse, Reich, Borges), 1974.

  • Wilhelm Reich, 1974.

  • Jorge Luis Borges, 1974.

  • Ken Russell: A Director in Search of a Soul, 1974.

  • A Book of Booze, 1974.

  • The Schoolgirl Murder Case, 1974.

  • The Unexplained, 1975.

  • Mysterious Powers, 1975.

  • The Craft of the Novel, 1975.

  • Enigmas & Mysteries, 1975.

  • The Geller Phenomenon, 1975.

  • The Space Vampires, 1976.

  • Men of Mystery(US: Dark Dimensions), 1977.

  • Mysteries, 1978.

  • Starseekers, 1980.

  • Science Fiction as Existentialism, 1980.

  • Frankenstein's Castle, 1980.

  • The Book of Time(editor), 1980.

  • The War Against Sleep, 1980.

  • The Directory of Possibilities(editor), 1981.

  • Poltergeist!, 1981.

  • Witches, 1981.

  • Anti-Sartre, 1981.

  • The Quest for Wilhelm Reich, 1982.

  • Access to Inner Worlds, 1983.

  • Encyclopedia of Modern Murder, 1983.

  • The Psychic Detectives, 1985.

  • A Criminal History of Mankind, 1984.

  • Lord of the Underworld, 1984.

  • The Janus Murder Case, 1984.

  • The Essential Colin Wilson, 1986.

  • The Bicameral Critic, 1985.

  • Rudolph Steiner, 1985.

  • Afterlife, 1985.

  • The Personality Surgeon, 1986.

  • An Encyclopedia of Scandal(with Donald Seaman), 1986.

  • The Book of Great Mysteries(editor with Christopher Evans), 1986.

  • An Essay on the New Existentialism, 1986.

  • The Laurel & Hardy Theory of Consciousness, 1986.

  • Spider World: The Tower, 1987.

  • Spider World: The Delta, 1987.

  • Marx Refuted(editor), 1987.

  • Aleister Crowley, 1987.

  • The Musician as Outsider, 1987.

  • Jack-the-Ripper: Summing Up & Verdict, 1987.

  • Autobiographical Reflections, 1988.

  • The Misfits, 1988.

  • Beyond the Occult, 1988.

  • The Mammoth Book of True Crime, 1988.

  • The Magician from Siberia, 1988.

  • The Decline & Fall of Leftism, 1989.

  • Written in Blood (US: (published as three books) Written in Blood Vol.1, 2, 3), 1989.

  • Existentially Speaking, 1989.

  • Spider World: The Magician, 1992.

  • The Strange Life of P. D. Ouspensky, 1993.

  • Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries(with Damon Wilson), 1993.

  • A Plague of Murder, (US: The Killers Among Us, Book I), 1995.

  • From Atlantis to the Sphinx, 1996.

  • Atlas of Holy Places and Sacred Sites, 1997.

  • The Unexplained: Ghost Sightings, 1997.

  • The Unexplained: Strange Vanishings, 1997.

  • The Unexplained: The Mysteries of the Universe, 1997

  • The Books In My Life, 1998.

  • Alien Dawn: An Investigation into the Contact Experience, 1998.

  • The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order, 1998.


  • Crawling Chaos: Selected Works 1920-1935by H P Lovecraft

  • Monsters of Weimar: The Stories of Fritz Haarman & Peter Kurten by Theodor Lessing, Karl Berg, George Godwin

Secondary Texts

  • Colin Wilson: The Man and His Mind byHoward F. Dossor. Element Books, 1990

  • Colin Wilson: The Outsider and Beyond by Clifford P. Bendau. Borge Press, 1979 (The Milford Series of Popular Writers Today, Vol. 21)

Author: Bonesy Jones

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