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The Curse of Consciousness

The Curse of Consciousness

  Dostoevsky, in his classic book, Notes from the Underground, states I swear, gentlemen, that to be too conscious is an illness – a real thorough-going illness. For man’s everyday needs, it would have been quite enough to have the ordinary human consciousness, that is, half or a quarter of the amount which falls to the lot of a cultivated man . . .1 This is a very curious notion. One would think that greater consciousness, more awareness, is to…

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Consciousness and Water

Consciousness and Water

  …Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip…

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Thus Spoke Zarathustra: The Tree on the Mountainside, Part 1

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: The Tree on the Mountainside, Part 1

Zarathustra’s eyes had discerned that a young man avoided him. As he walked one evening alone through the mountains surrounding the town, which is called The Motley Cow, behold, there while walking he found this young man leaning against a tree, gazing wearily into the valley.1 This section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, called On the Tree on the Mountain, speaks primarily to the ones Colin Wilson calls “outsiders.” It speaks to those lonely souls who are obsessed with striving, with…

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The Outsider’s Guide to the Philosophy of Whitehead, Part 3

The Outsider’s Guide to the Philosophy of Whitehead, Part 3

In 2007, Colin Wilson wrote an article for Philosophy Now called, Whitehead as Existentialist. According to Wilson, Alfred North Whitehead was an existentialist. Even if his philosophy is not blatantly existentialist, like Nietzsche’s or Kierkegaard’s, I can understand why Wilson would think so, although what we usually think of as an existentialist is someone like Sartre or Camus, the most famous existentialists. The problem is, however, Sartre and Camus ended up believing that one is helpless against the chaos of…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 4

Religion and the Rebel, Part 4

It is the moral question that becomes an existentialist question only by the depth of the attempt to answer it: What shall we do with our lives? The Outsider’s standards are unusually high. For him, ‘success’ and ‘failure’ have a completely new meaning. Ordinary ‘success’ seems particularly poisonous to him: the success of a film star or businessman or the author of a best seller. That is only a way of wading out into the world’s stupidity and losing the…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 3

Religion and the Rebel, Part 3

The concept of hell is only important in so far as it points to a concept of heaven. The concept of insanity only matters because it is a step toward supersanity (48). In Religion and the Rebel, Wilson wants to define what he means by “heaven” and “supersanity,” but first he wants to get at the true meaning of Existenzphilosophie, or at least “the meaning that the Outsider attaches to it” (ibid.). This is a German word that means “the…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 2

Religion and the Rebel, Part 2

In the final two chapters of The Outsider, Wilson outlined several attempts at a positive solution to the Outsider’s problem. It is his plan in Religion and the Rebel to present a more complete answer. Just as a reminder, Wilson’s use of “religious” is not the typical dogmatic idea we have of the word. It is more akin to contacting the source of the sacred within oneself. The key to all religion, Wilson says, is “increased intensity of mind” (40)….

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 1

Religion and the Rebel, Part 1

Colin Wilson’s sequel to The Outsider, Religion and the Rebel, was published one year after his initial success. He lets us know immediately, in the opening sentence of the introduction, what his intentions are for this work: “The Outsider was an incomplete book” (1). Wilson says there were other ideas he wanted to deal with in Religion and the Rebel that he did not have the space for in The Outsider. He intends to “probe deeper into the Outsider himself,…

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Comments on The Outsider, Conclusion

Comments on The Outsider, Conclusion

I must admit that Wilson’s book, The Outsider, is one of the best I’ve ever read on the problem of attempting to go beyond the boring, everyday bourgeois world to find another mode of consciousness that has the potential to revolutionize one’s earthly experience. He brilliantly analyzes many who have tried and most who have failed. Let’s see how he wraps things up. As with the Existentialist viewpoint, in general, “the act of willing is important; the result, whether it…

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Thoughts on The Outsider, Part 3

Thoughts on The Outsider, Part 3

Wilson turns now to William Blake, perhaps the greatest poet who ever walked the earth. Blake is what Wilson calls a “religious Outsider” (Wilson 136), as was Dostoevsky. He is similar to Nietzsche in that he is life-affirming, making statements, such as, “Energy is eternal delight” (Blake 251), and “For everything that lives is Holy, life delights in life” (Blake 305). Wilson believes there is a definite correlation between Blake and Nietzsche: If we remember what Nietzsche has written of…

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