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Religion and the Rebel, Part 12

Religion and the Rebel, Part 12

Continuing with chapter three, Wilson makes a claim I don’t think I’ve ever heard before: All man’s experience is emotional experience. Even the mathematician, plunged in his calculations, is undergoing emotional experience. His intellectual activity is accompanied by a pleasure and an excitement that is emotional, and it is this that makes him pursue mathematics. An electronic brain takes no pleasure in its calculating. All life is continual emotional experience.1 I tend to think this energy we experience when we…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 11

Religion and the Rebel, Part 11

In his chapter on Blaise Pascal, Wilson begins describing the Outsider as “the obsessed man — obsessed with the problem of where he is going and who he is.” 1 Many geniuses begin as mediocre and banal individuals. Wilson offers the example of Gaugin: “Gaugin’s painting is great, not because Gaugin is a talented painter, but because he cared so much about painting that his comparative lack of talent (in the sense that Ingres had talent) is unimportant.” 2 The…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 10

Religion and the Rebel, Part 10

Jacob Böhme and Friedrich Nietzsche have a few things in common, according to Colin Wilson. Both men wanted to get at the same thing: ultimate reality. We have learned that Böhme is every bit as much an existentialist as Nietzsche: As we read him, we discover that many of the things he says are not new to the student of existentialism. There is frequently a Nietzschean note; what could be more Nietzschean than this? If thou art not a spiritual…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 9

Religion and the Rebel, Part 9

In the next section of Religion and Rebel, Wilson begins examining several important Outsiders, beginning with Jacob Boehme. I will not give lengthy biographical sketches of any of these men, as Wilson does. I am more interested in his presentation of the Outsider psychology, which begins with Boehme. With the mystic, Jacob Boehme, Wilson begins to dig into the material I am interested in: Boehme’s inner journeys. He begins by saying, “Boehme was one of the earliest psychologists.” 1 He…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 8

Religion and the Rebel, Part 8

Colin Wilson believes we need a religion that will provide what the Outsider needs for a life filled with purpose and meaning. In this way, society can benefit from their genius. If “society dies from the head downward,” 1 the head being the creative minority of Outsiders, men and women of genius who formulate the path ahead for the culture, then it follows that the societal body flourishes via the living ideas and leadership of the head. By “solving the…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 7

Religion and the Rebel, Part 7

Part Two of Religion and the Rebel begins with a crucial lesson we have learned concerning history: “Society must be held together by a discipline…” but “What discipline?” 1 Wilson believes that society should have a strong foundation of discipline that keeps things functioning smoothly, but yet allows room for the views of the Outsider. In fact, in such a society, there are no Outsiders, since the society is open enough to allow the views of all. The ones who…

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 6

Religion and the Rebel, Part 6

During the years, 1934-1961, Arnold J. Toynbee published twelve volumes of A Study of History. He was still in the process of writing it when Colin Wilson’s Religion and the Rebel was released in 1957, although by this time he had finished ten volumes. The books include studies of the development and disintegration of nineteen different civilizations. Where to begin on such a prolific intellectual? Since we are examining how these issues relate to the Outsider, we will begin there….

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Religion and the Rebel, Part 5

Religion and the Rebel, Part 5

Today, I’ve been reading chapter two of Wilson’s amazing book, Religion and the Rebel. The chapter is entitled, The Outsider and History. As a matter of fact, I just received in the mail today my hardcover copy of the book, a first edition no less. I am thrilled! For my previous articles, I’ve been using a borrowed soft copy from the Internet Archive, which is a veritable goldmine for some of these older gems. The study of civilizations is crucial…

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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…

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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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