“The exploration of oneself is usually also an exploration of the world at large, of other writers, a process of comparison with oneself with others, discoveries of kinships, gradual illumination of one’s own potentialities.” – Colin Wilson
On Thursday, December 5th, noted English author and philosopher Colin Wilson passed away at the age of 82. Wilson rose to prominence in 1956 on the publication of his book “The Outsider,” which explored alienation and creativity in the modern mind. However, for many individuals involved in modern Paganism, ritual magick, and the occult, Wilson is best known for his many works exploring those topics, including “The Occult: A History,” published in 1971, “Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast,” published in 1987, and a large number of explorations on unexplained phenomena, life-after-death exploration, and mysticism.
“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.” ― Colin Wilson, The Occult
During an era when books on Witchcraft, magic, or the occult were still hard to come by, Wilson, and other authors, bridged the gap between the first books authored by modern Pagans, and the (comparatively) robust market that was to come in the 1980s and 90s. T. Thorn Coyle, in tribute posted to her public Facebook page, noted how Wilson’s books helped the spiritual teacher and activist as a young searcher.
“Rest well, Colin Wilson, chronicler of the esoteric, the occult, and the mysterious. I appreciated your books as a teen searching for something…more. Your thoughts were good companions, and the story of your own search strangely helped my own. What is remembered, lives.”
Author Vivianne Crowley, a Jungian psychologist and faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary, knew Wilson personally, and placed his death in the context of many others who’ve recently passed that had touched her life.
“Sad to hear of another death on Thursday of someone I admire – Colin Wilson, occult author and philosopher. I first read his books in the ’70s and was fortunate to spend some time with him in the 90s. This summer I had a personal project to re-read all his novels, which I’m glad I completed. So many deaths over the last few weeks – Nelson Mandela, John Tavener, Olivia Durdin-Robertson, our lovely friend Anne, and now Colin It’s sad that we’re losing the spiritual pioneers of the ’60s and ’70s. Let’s honour and appreciate them while they are still with us.”
At the film site Brutal As Hell, editor Ben Bussey pays tribute to the pulpy film (Lifeforce) made out of one of his stories (which Wilson hated), and notes that we should see this time as one of transition for Wilson, rather than sadness.
“Wilson believed wholeheartedly that death was not the end. As such, rather than mourn, I’ll wish him a comfortable period of transition, thank him for his lifetime of work, and congratulate him for having been able to devote his time on earth to that which was of greatest importance to him; reading, writing, and thinking. That in itself is a thoroughly admirable achievement to which I’ve no doubt a great many of us aspire.”
On that note, I will wish Wilson well in whatever adventure awaits him. For those who’d like to explore Wilson’s life and work in more detail, the site Colin Wilson World has many resources, interviews, and works by the author to peruse.