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 create new ideas that are for the good should be allowed to put them into practice. Yes, we need a disciplined society, but what we know of “modern dictators is enough to make us recoil from the idea of political absolutism.” 2 The United States currently has no place for its Outsiders, so we know exactly what this means. If our Outsiders do not fit into what academia says, or what scientists claim is true, then they are ostracized, just as an intolerant Catholic Church once did (and perhaps still does).

It is true that a country as a whole, is likely to work better under a political dictatorship. But the men of genius are never included in ‘the country as a whole.’ They do not fit easily into a political strait-jacket. And if a regime cramps its highest type of individual, it may as well give up the ghost at once, for it cannot survive long.” 3

The most creative individuals (Toynbee’s creative minority) of our society should be our leaders, not career politicians, who have been bought off by corporations. They will never fight for the good of the people, only themselves and their wealthy donors. The problem is, the masses will only vote for these fools in Washington D.C., who have been there for years. So, what do we do? It is a great problem that has perplexed many societies. The only thing we can do is keep creating, keep formulating new possible solutions, continually leavening the lump. Hopefully, someday that lump will rise.

Wilson’s idea is this: “The ideal social discipline is the one that takes fullest account of the men of genius,” 4 or the “men and women of genius,” as he should have said. “If this rule is true, no political totalitarianism can provide a lasting social discipline. It is only when a society is half-dead that people are stupid enough to think that it can.” 5

Has there ever been a society that catered to Outsiders, allowing them to be who they want to be? Wilson claims that, for the Outsider he is referring to, the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was such a society. But I’m sure there were still Outsiders who were still excommunicated. For the Church, there is always someone who doesn’t fit in. Of course, Wilson is not referring to all we would consider Outsiders today. I believe he is referring only to intellectual and/or religious Outsiders, such as the ones discussed in his first book: Nietzsche, Nijinksy, Rilke, Dostoevsky, and many others. We tend to view what we think of as Outsiders today according to their identity, as in identity politics, whereas the Wilsonian Outsider is concerned with religious, spiritual, and psychological ideas that set him or her apart from the masses. Basically, they are searching for meaning and purpose in life and usually not finding it.

The argument I am propounding is quite simple: Outsiders are a symptom of a dying culture. Without sense of purpose, there can be no life. Society always begins to die from the head downward. First, the men of genius lose their sense of purpose. When that happens, the decline has begun. 6

He sees Outsiders as the head of the societal body, since these always exert the greatest influence and create the most brilliant ideas for the good of the remaining body. The Outsider accomplishes this through pure imagination and intellect.

Outsiders are not as concerned with civil liberties because “man is not born free; he is born in chains that are more degrading and demoralising than loss of social liberty: the chains of boredom and futility. Without a discipline to give him purpose and save him from his own aimlessness, man is nothing.” 7 This makes sense to me. If we don’t have a purpose in life, of what good are these so-called civil liberties that are supposedly ours by birthright? You think you are free? You are not. Our lives are controlled from cradle to grave by economics.

But, it might be objected, man has a purpose that saves him from aimlessness: to feed and clothe himself and his family. Precisely: most men are saved from a sense of futility by mere physical demands. It is only the Outsider who resents this easy way of solving the problem of meaning. 8

Sure, most Outsiders have jobs, usually boring, soul-killing jobs that will not allow their spirits to fly, will not permit their imaginative souls to explore the depth and breadth of  their fecund minds. Of a truth, the Outsider “hates mere ‘living’ on this primary level; he infinitely prefers the ‘secondary’ plane of the imagination and intellect. And you cannot live on that plane for more than a few hours before the problem of aim and purpose blocks the road.” 9




Wilson, Colin. Religion and the Rebel. Houghton-Mifflin: Boston, 1957.

  1. Religion and the Rebel, 131
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.
  6. Religion and the Rebel, 132
  7. ibid.
  8. ibid.
  9. Religion and the Rebel, 133

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2 thoughts on “Religion and the Rebel, Part 7

  1. I try to remember that my “soul-killing” job is a means to an end & try to spend my time at work nourishing my soul…
    As much as my neurotic mind allows me anyway…

  2. Yes, me too. It’s the best we can do under the circumstances, I suppose. You know, we always hear of the evils of cell phones, but they are excellent means of nourishing the soul. It’s a big help.

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