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Wouter J. Hanegraaff : Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture


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Colin Wilson     -     Das Okkulte     -     Mysterien     -     The Outsider

The Essential - Colin Wilson



Colin Wilson - Interview – 2006


Strange Is Normal: The Amazing Life of Colin Wilsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_3vEelt7fA








Wilson was born and raised in Leicester, England, U.K. He left school at 16, worked in factories and various occupations, and read in his spare time. When Wilson was 24, Gollancz published The Outsider (1956) which examines the role of the social 'outsider' in seminal works of various key literary and cultural figures. These include Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William James, T. E. Lawrence, Vaslav Nijinsky and Vincent Van Gogh and Wilson discusses his perception of Social alienation in their work. The book was a best seller and helped popularize existentialism in Britain. Critical praise though, was short-lived and Wilson was soon widely criticized.

Wilson's works after The Outsider focused on positive aspects of human psychology, such as peak experiences and the narrowness of consciousness. He admired the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow and corresponded with him. Wilson wrote The War Against Sleep: The Philosophy of Gurdjieff on the life, work and philosophy of G. I. Gurdjieff and an accessible introduction to the Greek-Armenian mystic in 1980. He argues throughout his work that the existentialist focus on defeat or nausea is only a partial representation of reality and that there is no particular reason for accepting it. Wilson views normal, everyday consciousness buffeted by the moment, as "blinkered" and argues that it should not be accepted as showing us the truth about reality. This blinkering has some evolutionary advantages in that it stops us from being completely immersed in wonder, or in the huge stream of events, and hence unable to act. However, to live properly we need to access more than this everyday consciousness. Wilson believes that our peak experiences of joy and meaningfulness are as real as our experiences of angst and, since we are more fully alive at these moments, they are more real. These experiences can be cultivated through concentration, paying attention, relaxation and certain types of work.



Israel Rosenfield’s review of The Oxford Companion to the Mind [NYR, September 29] is a splendid commentary on the book’s articles about linguistics and the structure and function of the brain. As Rosenfield points out, most of the book’s articles on the paranormal admirably reflect the skepticism of an overwhelming majority of psychologists, but readers should be alerted to two articles in this area that should never have been commissioned. Indeed, their inclusion reveals a singular lack of judgment on the part of the book’s two editors.

I refer to the entries “Astrology” and “Paranormal Phenomena and the Unconscious.” Both are by Colin Wilson, England’s leading journalist of the occult, and a firm believer in ghosts, poltergeists, levitations, dowsing, PK (psychokinesis), ESP, and every other aspect of the psychic scene. After dismissing classical astrology as pseudoscience, in his four-column entry on astrology, Wilson goes on to defend what he calls “astrobiology”—the view that positions of the sun, moon, and planets strongly influence human personality and behavior. He praises the studies of Michel Gauquelin which correlate a person’s choice of profession with the positions of planets at the time of birth. Wilson is persuaded that this correlation is mediated by the earth’s magnetic field. He believes that dowsing is successful because arm muscles “react to weak changes in terrestrial magnetism caused by underground water.”

Although dozens of recent studies have exploded the myth that a full moon causally influences psychotic behavior, Wilson cites none of those studies. Instead, he refers to research purporting to show that the “electrical potential between the head and chest is greater in mental patients than in normal people, and increases at the full moon.” Someone in Tokyo, Wilson adds, has correlated sunspot activity with the rate at which “albumin curdles in the blood,” and “rises before dawn, as the blood responds to the rising sun.”

These and other “medical facts,” Wilson asserts, provide a foundation for astrobiology, though he admits it is not yet clear how terrestrial magnetism can “influence a human being to the extent of predisposing him to one profession or another.” He is convinced that our ancient ancestors, back to Cro-Magnon man, had a knowledge of astrobiology that later degenerated into traditional astrology.

Wilson’s five-column article on the paranormal and the unconscious is comparable rubbish. He defends the view that the unconscious is the source of PK—the mind’s ability to levitate tables and generate the poltergeist phenomena of haunted houses. As evidence for PK he cites the little miracles performed by Nina Kulagina, the Uri Geller of the Soviet Union, and the fact that Felicia Parise, a friend of American parapsychologist Charles Honorton, once moved a plastic pill bottle across her kitchen counter. Honorton’s videotape of this great event suggests that she had an invisible thread stretched between her hands as they inched forward on both sides of the bottle. She has never repeated the trick. Wilson mentions the theory of British physicist John Taylor that PK forces are electromagnetic, but he fails to say that Taylor later repudiated both this conjecture and the reality of PK.

Wilson believes that psi powers reside in the right side of the brain, and that the self is actually a “ladder of selves” with our consciousness at the bottom rung. The higher selves possess awesome paranormal powers that are becoming stronger as the race evolves. He ties all this to the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, and recommends that all parapsychologists take a course in Husserlian philosophy.

Why the editors would have asked England’s wildest occultist to write two lengthy articles for an otherwise praiseworthy encyclopedia passes all comprehension. As one reviewer put it, “This is like letting a creationist write an appreciation of Darwin for a scientific review volume on evolution.”




Paranormal Companionship from the February 16, 1989 issue                                                  

To the Editors:

I have just seen Martin Gardner’s attack [Letters, NYR, February 16] on my two articles in The Oxford Companion to the Mind, which, with his usual level of polemical courtesy, he dismisses as “rubbish.” He also refers to me as “England’s leading journalist of the occult, and a firm believer in ghosts, poltergeists, levitations….”

It might surprise Mr. Gardner to know that I am not particularly interested in “the occult.” In 1969, I was commissioned by Random House to write a book on the subject, and I started out from a position of total scepticism convinced that it would turn out to be mostly fraud and wishful thinking. However, I did something that Mr. Gardner would not dream of doing: I actually studied the facts. At that stage, I still rejected ghosts, poltergeists and the rest, and tended to believe that most paranormal phenomena—for example—telepathy—are simply due to “unknown powers” of the unconscious mind. Twenty years of studying the evidence has convinced me that ghosts and poltergeists cannot be dismissed as delusions. Yet, oddly enough, I don’t give a damn one way or the other. It wouldn’t worry me in the least—although it would greatly surprise me—if Mr. Gardner turned out to be completely correct in his across-the-board scepticism.

For the record, I should state that Mr. Gardner and I were once friends. This ceased when I directed a few extremely mild criticisms in my book on Wilhelm Reich, at his attitude of rigid scientific dogmatism. Mr. Gardner very promptly and angrily broke off the relation and has periodically continued to attack me in his books.

It seems to me a pity that two fairly balanced and reasonable people should not be able to agree—or agree to disagree—about whether paranormal phenomena are entirely fraudulent and nonsensical. Unfortunately, Mr. Gardner has no interest in rational discussion. I think I could describe his attitude as sticking both fingers in his ears, tightly closing his eyes and screaming over and over again: “I don’t believe, I don’t believe!”

Personally, I don’t give a damn whether he believes or not. The facts are there to prove that his attitude is narrow and dogmatic.

What strikes me as so interesting is that when Mr. Gardner—and his colleagues of CSICOP—begin to denounce the “Yahoos of the paranormal,” they manage to generate an atmosphere of such intense hysteria, reminiscent of a medieval Inquisitor denouncing heresy, or Hitler fulminating against the Jews. They seem unaware that the heresy-hunting mentality is the reverse of the open-minded curiosity that has led to all the great scientific discoveries.


Colin Wilson
Gorran Haven, Cornwall

Martin Gardner replies:

Colin’s coy claim that he is not particularly interested in the occult is impossible to swallow. When his 608-page book The Occult outsold any of his earlier volumes, he quickly followed it with a 667-page tome, Mysteries, packed with more of the same garbage. He edited a twenty-volume set, A New Library of the Supernatural, that includes two crazy books by himself: Mysterious Powers and The Geller Phenomenon. The latter book extolls the spoon-bending talents of the Israeli mountebank Uri Geller. Wilson’s Poltergeist! is an impassioned defense of the reality of ghosts. More recently Colin has churned out a dozen or so more books promoting pseudo-science and the occult. They include The Psychic Detectives (on paranormal crime detection), Frankenstein’s Castle, Rudolf Steiner (the anthroposophist), G.I. Gurdjieff, Life Force, The Laurel and Hardy Theory of Consciousness, and The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries. “Forty-two amazing true cases,” says the last book’s jacket, “of psychic powers.”

The man is obviously obsessed by the occult, with an ignorance of science exceeded only by his ego and a compulsion to believe in all things paranormal. Here is how I described him at the end of chapter twenty-nine, “Colin Wilson Prowls Again,” in my Order and Surprise:

The former boy wonder, tall and handsome in his turtleneck sweater, has now decayed into one of those amiable eccentrics for which the land of Conan Doyle is noted. They prowl comically about the lunatic fringes of science, looking for ever more sensational wonders and scribbling ever more boring books about them for shameless publishers to feed to hungry readers as long as the boom in occultism lasts.

Colin says that he and I are “two fairly balanced and reasonable people.” Sorry, old bean. That applies to only one of us.



Gerhard Kienle - Leben und Werk: Bd. 1: Eine Biographie / Bd. 2: Ausgewählte Aufsätze und Vorträge: 2 Bde. [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Peter Selg (Autor)



Rudolf Steiner 1861 - 1925. Lebens- und Werkgeschichte. 3 Bände im Schuber

Peter Selg (Autor) - Gebundene Ausgabe: 2148 Seiten

Verlag: Ita Wegman Institut (6. Dezember 2012)

ISBN-10: 3905919273 -                       ISBN-13: 978-3905919271