Colin Wilson Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Wilson, Colin 1931–

Wilson is a British novelist, essayist, and playwright. Essentially a phenomenologist, he has pursued the "sources of human energy" into the dark corners of witchcraft and the occult in his many books of fiction and nonfiction. (See also CLC, Vol. 3, Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

Martha Eckman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

My contention is that The Outsider contains the key idea to understanding the twentieth century, and that it contains all the seminal ideas of Wilson's later works, though I would agree quickly that Wilson was probably unaware at that time of the direction his theories would take. The initial premise in The Outsider is that since about 1800, with the development of the Romantic Movement in art, literature, and philosophy, a group of outstanding individuals has developed who are no longer satisfied with the dead-end streets of scientific or existential thought. They insist upon breaking out of their "prisons" of the mind in search of ultimate reality, whatever that may be…. In defending his outsider...

(The entire section is 955 words.)


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In Mysteries, Colin Wilson reveals that the germ of his subjective compendium of psychology and the occult began when he was trying to write over 3,000 words a day for a compendium of crime. Wilson kept waking up in the night with a terrible sense of anxiety. Standing back from this tale, it seems to be about the consequences of trying to write too much dreck too fast, but for Wilson his 'panic effect' came from a weaker personality and required a supra-natural cure, which he calls 'the school-mistress effect'. The rest of his 667-page book is a similar mélange of willed over-reading and gullible summary. Kabbalism, hermeticism, gnosticism and alchemy are relatively unsympathetically treated, probably because...

(The entire section is 199 words.)

Christopher Bird

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Mysteries] Colin Wilson addresses the same theme that has consistently threaded its way through all of his books, beginning with The Outsider, which brought him world attention in his early twenties—that so-called "conscious" human beings are pygmies, mere fragments of their true selves.

But, he avers, "human beings will one day recognize, beyond all possibility of doubt, that consciousness is freedom….

Part of Wilson's hopeful conclusion is directly based on his personal confrontation with a series of what he calls "panic anxiety attacks" which lasted several months and brought him to the edge of a nervous breakdown….


(The entire section is 305 words.)

Alan Hull Walton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Mysteries] marks a new 'high' in Wilson's prodigious output, placing him in the top rank of serious contemporary investigators of the paranormal.

The detail and wide range of the book (well documented) defies analysis in these few pages. But each and every example and subject is described, probed and weighed-up with such an eagle-eye that the volume immediately becomes 'definitive'. Moreover, the flow of writing is so natural and unaffected that nothing could be easier to read. There is, I think, only a single word which adequately sums up the qualities of this enormous opus of over 260,000 words—already a 'classic' in its own right—and that word is superlative. I might add that,...

(The entire section is 314 words.)

Paul T. Hornak

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Mysteries] is an encyclopedic treatment of the supernatural that begins with the assumption that seers, UFO watchers, dowsers, and people haunted by ghosts are not kidding. They honestly believe they've seen something, Wilson maintains, and on this basis he recites case after spooky case of happenings that seem to defy explanation. If he had stopped at storytelling, Mysteries could be written off as an unfortunate triumph of gullibility over good sense. But Wilson goes three reckless steps further. He tells why people have seen whatever they've seen, how someday we all will be able to see, and why the ability is a good thing…. As proof of his bizarre theory, Wilson offers the testimony of persons...

(The entire section is 222 words.)

Clifford P. Bendau

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Colin Wilson is not an academic. Not tied to a specific discipline, he concerns himself with the entire spectrum of the humanities. His case-book studies of the human condition are written with a sense of urgency, often ignoring the formal guidelines of academic writing. As a result, he has been criticized as self-righteous in expression, and unsound in analysis. In some respects, the critics are right. When subjected to analysis, his arguments often fall short. Isolated from the whole, individual works may appear to be hasty generalizations. But logical analysis and isolated dissection, while valid for criticism, do not justify a complete rejection of Wilson's ideas. These are not the only criteria available.


(The entire section is 5115 words.)