The background to the landmark Colin Wilson Conference in 2016 – marking 60 years since publication of his first book The Outsider – is that when the Wilson archive was opened at the University of Nottingham, UK, in the summer of 2011, it was agreed among those attending that a conference should be arranged there to discuss his work.
This edifying and propitious book, with an introduction by its editor Colin Stanley, comprises the transcripts of the eight papers presented on a range of Wilson-related topics at the inaugural conference on July 1, 2016, and complements the videos of all the speakers which can be viewed on YouTube.
Generally, considering the profound implications of Wilson’s ideas, the approach of the papers is non-academic, promoting accessibility for a potentially wide audience – something of which Wilson himself surely would have approved.
Briefly, the contributions were: Simon Brighton on his project to digitalise Wilson’s journal, recorded on hundreds of cassette tapes over the years. Professor Stephen R L Clark, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Liverpool, on Wilson’s attitude to H P Lovecraft’s works. Nigel Bray on Colin Wilson and the ‘Dread of Being’, which included discussion of Wilson’s important ideas on depression, boredom, and how we can overcome them. Lindsay Siviter, a historian who has worked in various museums in the UK, including Scotland Yard’s Black Museum, and an expert on Jack the Ripper, on Wilson as a ‘Ripperologist’. Nicolas Tredell with a talk on philosophy and narrative in Wilson’s The Outsider and first novel Ritual in the Dark. David Moore, in ‘The Light Barrier: Existentialism and the Occult in Colin Wilson’s science fiction’, argued that the novels The Mind Parasites and The Philosopher’s Stone formed the link between Wilson’s new existentialism and his writings on the occult. Gary Lachman expounded on Wilson’s theory of ‘Faculty X’, the sense of the reality of other places and other times. George C Poulos, an independent researcher from Australia, spoke on Wilson’s transcendental theory of evolution in an attempt to provide a link between recent scientific research and Wilson’s ideas.
As one might expect, these papers, now, laudably, on permanent record in one hardback volume, reflect Wilson as broadly a thinker in the Romantic tradition with a firm assertion of the importance of self and the value of individual experience, an insistence on the ability to realise human potential through the expansion of consciousness, an explorer of the non-rational with an accompanying sense of the infinite and the transcendental, and a rigorous responder to the imperative of the ‘reason why’ of human existence, the question of the nature and destiny of the human race.
The conference, indeed, showed clearly how Wilson’s ideas impinge upon so many aspects of existence. It also reflected a welcome new surge of interest in his works. The fact that, since his death in December 2013, there have been a dozen new books published either about him, or presenting his works, is testimony to this, and to his assured position to the fore of the pantheon of ‘new consciousness’ pioneers.
This review was originally posted on Colin Wilson World.
To find out more about Proceedings of the First International Colin Wilson Conference and to purchase a copy, click here.