Anyone who was exploring the occult back in the heady days of the 1970s will know the name Colin Wilson and will probably have read some of his books.
His three big titles were The Occult,first published in 1971; Mysteries : an investigation into the occult, the paranormal and the supernaturalin1978; and Beyond the Occultin 1988. They are known as the ‘Occult Trilogy’and are still very popular today. However, they are long - around 1,600 pages.
Last month, Axis Mundi published a book aimed at fans and scholars of Colin Wilson's work, called Colin Wilson's Occult Trilogy: a guide for students.The author, Colin Stanley, is an expert on the subject and edits the Colin Wilson Studies series, which features essays on Wilson's work. His new book is intended to provide an overview of the trilogy, to help those less familiar with the original books to find what they want easily.
I asked Carol Tierney, who is more knowledgeable about Colin Wilson's writing than I am, to review Stanley's new book. This is what she said:
"I don’t think Colin Stanley’s short book on Colin Wilson’s 'Occult Trilogy' is likely to have much of an audience. He has summarised the contents of the three books with a selection of short quotes that give partial glimpses of Wilson’s arguments and included an additional list of Wilson’s other works. It’s really not much more than an index, which my copies of the trilogy already include.
"The summary presented is too brief to deliver any real insight into the original work, and as the author himself admits, Wilson’s writing is “eminently readable (even when dealing with the most challenging of subjects), so much so that attempts at elucidation can often have the opposite effect”. Stanley therefore chooses not to make any attempt at elucidation, which makes me wonder what the guide was supposed to deliver. It certainly isn’t adding anything to the original or presenting a context in which to view it.
"It claims to be a guide for students, but I think it’s more likely to be useful to other authors who can’t remember just where in the originals the point they wish to reference was made, and even then I can’t see that reading through 97 pages of summary offers much advantage over flicking through the index pages. Other readers may find it useful, but for me it missed the mark."
However, if you want to hear what Colin Stanley himself has to say about his book, he is giving an author talk on Colin Wilson's 'Occult Trilogy': A Guide for Students at Watkins Books, 19 Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4EZ, on 18 July at 6.30pm. The event is completely free and you don't need to reserve a place in advance. So why not pop along and have a look?
Links and previous related posts
Colin Wilson's 'Occult Trilogy': a guide for students
Mysteries : an investigation into the occult, the paranormal and the supernatural / [by] Colin Wilson
Beyond the Occult