Colin Wilson  

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"When I was in Paris in the early 1950s, Samuel Beckett had just been discovered. Waiting for Godot was on in Paris and I thought ‘What fucking shit! Who is this half-witted Irishman who’s going around saying life’s not worth living? Why doesn’t he just blow his brains out and shut up?’ I felt the same about Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, and later on others such as William Golding. I had always had a passionate feeling that certain people I deeply approved of – like G K Chesterton, who spoke of ‘absurd good news’, for example – and people like Thomas Traherne… the mystics in general, that they were saying that we’re basically blind." --Colin Wilson, interviewed by Gary Lachman [1] in 2004

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Colin Wilson (1931 – 2013) was an English writer best known for his book The Outsider (1956).


Early life

Wilson was born and raised in Leicester, England. His father worked in a shoe factory. Wilson left school at 16. He worked in a wool warehouse (a job he hated), and read in his spare time. He then returned to school to work briefly as a lab assistant, but found that he had lost his passion for science. He then worked as a civil servant. He was then called up for national service, spending six months working as a clerk for the Royal Air Force; he managed to get thrown out by falsely claiming that he was a homosexual. Wilson then moved to London attempting to establish himself as a writer. For a time he lived in a sleeping bag on Hampstead Heath.

The Outsider

The Outsider (Colin Wilson)

Gollancz published the then 24-year-old Wilson's The Outsider in 1956; the work 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; Wilson discusses his perception of social alienation in their work. The book became a best-seller and helped popularize existentialism in Britain.

The inside cover of a late 1990s edition reads:

The Outsider is the seminal work on alienation, creativity and the modern mind-set. First published over thirty years ago, it made its youthful author England's most controversial intellectual.

Life and works after The Outsider

Non-fiction writing

Wilson became associated with the "Angry Young Men" of British literature. He contributed to Declaration, an anthology of manifestos by writers associated with the movement, and wrote a popular paperback sampler, Protest: The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men. Some viewed Wilson and his friends Bill Hopkins and Stuart Holroyd as a sub-group of the "Angries", more concerned with "religious values" than with liberal or socialist politics. Critics on the left swiftly labeled them as fascist; commentator Kenneth Allsop called them "the law givers".

After the initial success of Wilson's first work, critics universally panned Religion and the Rebel (1957). Time magazine published a review, headlined "Scrambled Egghead", that pilloried the book. By the late 1960s Wilson had become increasingly interested in metaphysical and occult themes. In 1971, he published The Occult: A History, featuring interpretations on Aleister Crowley, George Gurdjieff, Helena Blavatsky, Kabbalah, primitive magic, Franz Mesmer, Grigori Rasputin, Daniel Dunglas Home, and Paracelsus (among others). He also wrote a markedly unsympathetic biography of Crowley, Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast, and has written biographies on other spiritual and psychological visionaries, including Gurdjieff, Carl Jung, Wilhelm Reich, Rudolf Steiner, and P. D. Ouspensky.

Originally, Wilson focused on the cultivation of what he called "Faculty X", which he saw as leading to an increased sense of meaning, and on abilities such as telepathy and the awareness of other energies. In his later work he suggests the possibility of life after death and the existence of spirits, which he personally analyzes as an active member of the Ghost Club.

He has also written non-fiction books on crime, ranging from encyclopedias to studies of serial killing. He has an ongoing interest in the life and times of Jack the Ripper and in sex crime in general.


Wilson explored his ideas on human potential and consciousness in fiction, mostly detective fiction or science fiction, including several Cthulhu Mythos pieces.

Like his non-fiction work, much of Wilson's fictional output from Ritual in the Dark (1960) onwards has concerned itself with the psychology of murder — especially that of serial killing. However, he has also written science fiction of a philosophical bent, including the Spider-World series.

In The Strength to Dream (1961) Wilson attacked H. P. Lovecraft as "sick" and as "a bad writer" who had "rejected reality" — but he grudgingly praised Lovecraft's story "The Shadow Out of Time" as capable science-fiction. August Derleth, incensed by Wilson's treatment of Lovecraft in The Strength to Dream, then dared Wilson to write what became The Mind Parasites — to expound his philosophical ideas in the guise of fiction. In the preface to The Mind Parasites, Wilson concedes that Lovecraft, "[f]ar more than Hemingway or Faulkner, or even Kafka, is a symbol of the outsider-artist in the 20th century" and asks: "what would have happened if Lovecraft had possessed a private income - enough, say, to allow him to spend his winters in Italy and his summers in Greece or Switzerland?" answering that in his [Wilson's] opinion "[h]e would undoubtedly have produced less, but what he did produce would have been highly polished, without the pulp magazine cliches that disfigure so much of his work. And he would have given free rein to his love of curious and remote erudition, so that his work would have been, in some respect, closer to that of Anatole France or the contemporary Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges"

Wilson also discusses Lovecraft in Order of Assassins (1972) and in the prefatory note to The Philosopher's Stone (1969). His short novel The Return of the Lloigor (1969/1974) also has roots in the Cthulhu Mythos - its central character works on the real book the Voynich Manuscript, but discovers it to be a mediaeval Arabic version of the Necronomicon - as does his 2002 novel The Tomb of the Old Ones.


Tobe Hooper directed the film Lifeforce, based on Wilson's novel The Space Vampires. After its release, Colin Wilson recalled that author John Fowles regarded the film adaptation of Fowles' own novel The Magus as the worst film adaptation of a novel ever. Wilson told Fowles there was now a worse one, the film adaptation of Lifeforce.

Personal life

Colin Wilson suffered a stroke in June 2012 and lost his ability to speak. He died in December 2013.


  • The Outsider (1956)
  • Religion and the Rebel (1957)
  • "The Frenchman" (short story, Evening Standard 22 August 1957)
  • The Age of Defeat (US title The Stature of Man) (1959)
  • Ritual in the Dark (Victor Gollancz, 1960) (Reprinted, Ronin Publishing Visions Series, 1993)
  • Encyclopedia of Murder (with Patricia Pitman, 1961)
  • Adrift in Soho (1961)
  • "Watching the Bird" (short story, Evening News 12 September 1961)
  • "Uncle Tom and the Police Constable" (short story, Evening News 23 October 1961)
  • "He Could not Fail" (short story, Evening News 29 December 1961)
  • The Strength to Dream: Literature and the Imagination (1962)
  • "Uncle and the Lion" (short story, Evening News 28 September 1962)
  • "Hidden Bruise" (short story, Evening News 3 December 1962)
  • Origins of the Sexual Impulse (1963)
  • The World of Violence (US title The Violent World of Hugh Greene) (1963)
  • Man Without a Shadow (US title The Sex Diary of Gerard Sorme) (1963)
  • "The Wooden Cubes" (short story, Evening News 27 June 1963)
  • Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs (1964)
  • Brandy of the Damned (1964; later expanded and reprinted as Chords and Discords/Colin Wilson On Music)
  • Necessary Doubt (1964)
  • Beyond the Outsider (1965)
  • Eagle and Earwig (1965)
  • Sex and 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) ISBN 978-0-213-17790-4
  • The Return of the Lloigor (first published 1969 in the anthology Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos; revised separate edition, Village Press, London, 1974).
  • Poetry and Mysticism (1969; subsequently significantly expanded in 1970)
  • "The Return of the Lloigor" (short story in Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, edited by August Derleth, 1969; later revised and published as a separate book)
  • L'amour: The Ways of Love (1970)
  • The Strange Genius of David Lindsay (with E. H. Visiak and J. B. Pick, 1970)
  • Strindberg (1970)
  • The God of the Labyrinth (US title The Hedonists) (1970)
  • The Killer (US title Lingard) (1970)
  • The Occult: A History (1971)
  • The Black Room (1971)
  • Order of Assassins: The Psychology of Murder (1972)
  • New Pathways in Psychology: Maslow and the Post-Freudian Revolution (1972)
  • Strange Powers (1973)
  • "Tree" by Tolkien (1973)
  • Hermann Hesse (1974)
  • Wilhelm Reich (1974)
  • Jorge Luis Borges (1974)
  • Hesse-Reich-Borges: Three Essays (1974)
  • Ken Russell: A Director in Search of a Hero (1974)
  • A Book of Booze (1974)
  • The Schoolgirl Murder Case (1974)
  • The Unexplained (1975)
  • Mysterious Powers (US title They Had Strange Powers) (1975)
  • The Craft of the Novel (1975)
  • Enigmas and Mysteries (1975)
  • The Geller Phenomenon (1975), ISBN 0-7172-8105-1
  • The Space Vampires (1976)
  • Colin Wilson's Men of Mystery (US title Dark Dimensions) (with various authors, 1977)
  • Mysteries (1978)
  • Mysteries of the Mind (with Stuart Holroyd, 1978)
  • The Haunted Man: The Strange Genius of David Lindsay (1979)
  • "Timeslip" (short story in Aries I, edited by John Grant, 1979)
  • Science Fiction as Existentialism (1980)
  • Starseekers (1980)
  • Frankenstein's Castle: the Right Brain-Door to Wisdom (1980)
  • The Book of Time, edited by John Grant and Colin Wilson (1980)
  • The War Against Sleep: The Philosophy of Gurdjieff (1980)
  • The Directory of Possibilities, edited by Colin Wilson and John Grant (1981)
  • Poltergeist!: A Study in Destructive Haunting (1981)
  • Anti-Sartre, with an Essay on Camus (1981)
  • The Quest for Wilhelm Reich (1981)
  • The Goblin Universe (with Ted Holiday, 1982)
  • Access to Inner Worlds: The Story of Brad Absetz (1983)
  • Encyclopedia of Modern Murder, 1962-82 (1983)
  • "A Novelization of Events in the Life and Death of Grigori Efimovich Rasputin," in Tales of the Uncanny (Reader's Digest Association, 1983; an abbreviated version of the later The Magician from Siberia)
  • The Psychic Detectives: The Story of Psychometry and Paranormal Crime Detection (1984)
  • A Criminal History of Mankind (1984), revised and updated (2005)
  • Lord of the Underworld: Jung and the Twentieth Century (1984)
  • The Janus Murder Case (1984)
  • The Bicameral Critic (1985)
  • The Essential Colin Wilson (1985)
  • Rudolf Steiner: The Man and His Vision (1985)
  • Afterlife: An Investigation of the Evidence of Life After Death (1985)
  • The Personality Surgeon (1985)
  • An Encyclopedia of Scandal. Edited by Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman (1986)
  • The Book of Great Mysteries. Edited by Colin Wilson and Dr. Christopher Evans (1986), ISBN 0948164263
  • An Essay on the 'New' Existentialism (1988)
  • The Laurel and Hardy Theory of Consciousness (1986)
  • Spider World: The Tower (1987)
  • Spider World: The Delta (1987)
  • Marx Refuted - The Verdict of History, edited by Colin Wilson (with contributions also) and Ronald Duncan, Bath, (UK), (1987), ISBN 0-906798-71-X
  • Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast (1987)
  • The Musician as 'Outsider'. (1987)
  • The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries (with Damon Wilson, 1987)
  • Jack the Ripper: Summing Up and Verdict (with Robin Odell, 1987)
  • Autobiographical Reflections (1988)
  • The Misfits: A Study of Sexual Outsiders (1988)
  • Beyond the Occult (1988)
  • The Mammoth Book of True Crime (1988)
  • The Magician from Siberia (1988)
  • The Decline and Fall of Leftism (1989)
  • Written in Blood: A History of Forensic Detection (1989)
  • Existentially Speaking: Essays on the Philosophy of Literature (1989)
  • Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence (1990)
  • Spider World: The Magician (1992)
  • Mozart's Journey to Prague (1992)
  • The Strange Life of P.D. Ouspensky (1993)
  • Unsolved Mysteries (with Damon Wilson, 1993)
  • Outline of the Female Outsider (1994)
  • A Plague of Murder (1995)
  • From Atlantis to the Sphinx (1996)
  • An Extraordinary Man in the Age of Pigmies: Colin Wilson on Henry Miller (1996)
  • The Unexplained Mysteries of the Universe (1997) ISBN 0-7513-5983-1
  • The Atlas of Sacred Places (1997)
  • Below the Iceberg: Anti-Sartre and Other Essays (reissue with essays on postmodernism, 1998)
  • The Corpse Garden (1998)
  • The Books in My Life (1998)
  • Alien Dawn (1999)
  • The Devil's Party (US title Rogue Messiahs) (2000)
  • The Atlantis Blueprint (with Rand Flem-Ath, 2000)
  • Illustrated True Crime: A Photographic History (2002)
  • The Tomb of the Old Ones (novella published as half of a double volume alongside a novella by John Grant, 2002)
  • Spider World: Shadowlands (2002)
  • Dreaming To Some Purpose (2004) - autobiography
  • World Famous UFOs (2005)
  • Atlantis and the Kingdom of the Neanderthals (2006)
  • Crimes of Passion: The Thin Line Between Love and Hate (2006)
  • The Angry Years: The Rise and Fall of the Angry Young Men (2007)
  • Manhunters: Criminal Profilers & Their Search for the World's Most Wanted Serial Killers (2007)
  • The Death of God' and other plays (edited by Colin Stanley) (2008)
  • Super Consciousness (2009)
  • Existential Criticism: selected book reviews (edited by Colin Stanley) (2009)
Unpublished works
  • The Anatomy of Human Greatness (non-fiction, written 1964; Maurice Bassett plans to publish this work electronically)
  • Metamorphosis of the Vampire (fiction, written 1992-94)

Linking in as of 2023

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Lovecraft, Hampstead Heath, Hannah Arendt, Hans Jonas, Harold Pinter, Hell (Barbusse novel), Herbert Silberer, Hermann Hesse, History of the Daleks, Hunky Dory, Hyperborean cycle, Idries Shah, In His Own Write, In the Nursery, Index of continental philosophy articles, Index of philosophy articles (A–C), Insignificance, International Fortean Organization, Inuhiko Yomota, Iron Foot Jack, Jack Sullivan (literary scholar), Jack the Ripper in fiction, Jack the Ripper suspects, Jack the Ripper, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, Jake's Thing, James Thomas Sadler, Jean Gebser, Jean-Michel Charlier, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jeffrey Hamm, Jehovahkill, Jeremy Beadle, Joe Bugner, John Arden, John Braine, John Coulthart, John Deakin, John Duffy and David Mulcahy, John Dunning (true crime author), John Gilmore (writer), John Grant (author), John Osborne, John Pick, John Rety, John Wain, John Zegrus, Jonathan Guinness, 3rd Baron Moyne, June 1931, June 26, Karl Jaspers, Karl Marx, Keith Waterhouse, Kenneth Tynan, Kingsley Amis, Kitchen sink realism, Leap in the Dark, Leigh Blackmore, Leonard Matters, Leslie Paul, Liam Gerrard, Lifeforce (film), Lloigor, Lloigor, Location hypotheses of Atlantis, Lois Roden, London Library, Look Back in Anger, Lucky Jim, Ludwig Tessnow, Marjorie Bowen, Mark E. 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Lethbridge, The Beginning Was the End, The Blood of the Bambergs, The Delta (novel), The Divine and the Decay, The Entertainer (play), The Ghost Club, The Killer (Wilson novel), The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, The Magic Monastery, The Magical Revival, The Mammoth Book of True Crime, The Mind Parasites, The Movement (literature), The Occult: A History, The Outsider (short story), The Outsider (Wilson book), The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, The Philosopher's Stone (novel), The Picture in the House, The Space Vampires, The Tower (Wilson novel), Theory Z, This Sporting Life (novel), Thomas Hinde (novelist), Timeslip, Tsathoggua, Twentieth-century English literature, Two–Mona Lisa theory, Übermensch, Uri Geller, Victor Gollancz Ltd, W. A. Harbinson, Walter Powell (politician), Welsh literature in English, Werewolf fiction, When the Lights Went Out, Wilhelm Reich, William Arkle, William Heirens, William Herbert Wallace, William James, Yukio Mishima

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Colin Wilson" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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