Outside the Outsider
“…we possess all kinds of unknown powers, and the science of the future will be an exploration of these powers.”
with Colin Wilson
Colin Wilson was born in Leicester, England, in 1931, the son of a boot and shoe worker. He left school at the age of sixteen, spent some time working in taxes and the Royal Air Force, then became a tramp and did various laboring jobs for several years while writing his first novel Ritual in the Dark and then his first book The Outsider. Living on almost no money, he would sleep outside at night in London, and spend his days writing in the British Museum. After his first book became a best-seller in 1956, he took to writing full-time and moved to Cornwall, where he lives to this day. In the mid-1960s, he was commissioned to write a book about the “paranormal, ” became fascinated by the subject, and has written a number of hooks on paranormal phenomena. He has also written several works on criminology, psychology, and numerous novels with science fiction and fantasy themes.
Colin is incredibly prolific, and has produced over sixty books to date. Some of his well-known titles include The Occult, Mysteries, The Mind Parasites, and The Philosopher’s Stone. His favorite recreation is listening to music and at his home he has a large collection of opera recordings. Except for occasional lecturing trips abroad he lives near Mevagissey in Cornwall with his wife and two sons. I interviewed Colin, while Rebecca was abroad, outside the cafeteria at the Esalen Institute on the afternoon of September 16, 1990. There is a laser-beam-like intensity to Colin, and he has an extremely focused and well-disciplined mind. Colin spoke eloquently about his interest in the paranormal, the relationship between sex and creativity, certainty and ambiguity, life after death, and the new emerging species that he believes is evolving out of humanity.
DJB: Colin, what was it that originally inspired your interest in the occult and the paranormal?
COLIN: I was simply asked to write a book about the paranormal by a publisher in 1968. At first I was not very interested, although I’d always been mildly interested in the occult. I would buy books in American airports about ghosts, weird coincidences, or whatever. Never the less I took it on as rather a lighthearted thing, and I would not have been the least upset to discover that the whole thing was just a tissue of nonsense and wishful thinking.
However, when I had agreed to write the book for the sake of money, and I
began to go into the subject, I became increasingly fascinated as I saw that there’s as much evidence for the paranormal as there is for atoms and electrons. Moreover, what excited me so much was that my work had all been about this recognition that we possess powers that we do not normally know about or use. This appeared to be the perfect example of all kinds of powers we don’t know about or use. So that it was a direct extension of my work in The Outsider, as it were. I stumbled upon it at just the right moment.
DJB: Aha, or it stumbled upon you. Why do you think that magic is the science of the future?
COLIN: In a way this supplements the last question that you asked. Because what I was saying is that we possess all kinds of unknown powers, and the science of the future will be an exploration of these powers. But at the present science does not accept the unknown powers, and it’s still putting up a terrific struggle against the paranormal. You know this Society for the Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal, and so on. It seems to me that this is old-fashioned science, of the most narrow and materialistic kind. You have just got to be tolerant, and open up to this other possibility of unknown powers, which at the moment, we do not fully recognize.
DJB: I believe that you have said that if your first book made millions, you may have stopped writing at that point, implying that a lack of money motivated you to write more. Now I have always thought just the opposite–that a lack of financial freedom actually inhibits many people from creative expression. Are you saying then that it was money that motivated you to write your first book, and if not, what was it?
COLIN: Oh no, of course not. The first book, in any case, The Outsider, was written simply out of this compulsion that I have been speaking about all weekend.