This is the full interview transcript (well, actually it was more of a rambling conversation) with Colin Wilson, a summary of which can be found here.. However, as we got totally smashed doing the interview, it's a bit chaotic and disjointed! Sorry...
Creel ? It?s a lovely place Colin; we know you moved here after your success and persual by the press after the publication of the Outsider. How did you find it?
Colin Wilson ? Well, Joy came looking round the area to see if she could find a place, and she saw a notice at the end of that lane that said that there was a house for sale, so she came up the lane, peered in and thought, 'no that?s too big for us' because we had been in a cottage, and then she saw someone in the window so she knocked on the door and they invited her in and gave her a cup of tea, and she came back to me and said 'well, we got this place but it's far too big and it's far too expensive, its 4,500 quid, which is about twice as much as any house costs around here?'
Wilson ? there was a sequel called the 'Sex Diary of Gerard Sorme' - in America they called it the Man without a Shadow - but Aleister Crowley was a central character in that, or one of the central characters and at the moment there is a nice chap whose head quarters is in Devon who going to make a film of it... his character is based on a fictional Crowley so its not the real Crowley but a character I call Caridock Cunningham in the book...
Creel ? But Crowley was a man who propagated a myth about himself so I don?t see why he is someone who you have to tackle exclusively about as the man was, but also the myth...
Wilson ? Sure, would anyone like some more wine, or would anyone like some red? Joy?s bringing in some Chinese snacks for you in a minute.
Creel ? That?s very kind!
Wilson ? No problem. Since my stroke I never drink red, but since you brought it down here with you...
Creel ? Do you have many characters coming down here these days?
Joy Wilson ? Oh now and again, when people are coming from America or Australia in January.
Creel ? Are you working on any new books at the moment, Colin?
Wilson - Borders, a book shop, just asked my publishers if they could have a book about serial killers and how to catch them, and I?ve just finished this book of 130,000 words in 8 weeks, been working like mad...
Creel ? So how do you do your research?
Wilson -Well in the case of serial killers, I?ve done so many books on this that I just fire away.
Creel ? You talk about concentration and the ability to focus and how when you are really focusing your mind becomes like a laser beam, and this ability to just write a book from scratch is unusual, except perhaps in someone like Kerouac.
Wilson - Kerouac had no discipline, but on the other hand, to write a book in 8 weeks you need extreme discipline.
Joy Wilson ? Kerouac didn?t write a book in 8 weeks?
Wilson ? No, no, I was talking about mine?
Creel ? On the Road was written in a haze of Benzedrine?. He took forever with it but when he actually finally came to write it was written in a mad dash frenzy of Benzedrine, but it wasn?t the only draft..
Creel ? So how many hours a day do you write ? do you have a discipline of saying I?ll be at my desk at this time and won?t leave till a designated hour?
Wilson ? I do, but at my age you can no longer work at the same rate as you did when you were younger, it takes it out of you much much quicker ? I?m 74 now and you get tired! So if I get up as I do at half past five, I do 2 or 3 hours reading before I give Joy her breakfast and then I lounge around in bed eating my own breakfast and then I get down to work ten or half past, I then work on for most of the day, I usually break off for an our at lunch, usually sitting in this chair and fall asleep, then I take the dogs out for a walk a from for to five and then stick my feet up for the evening before I fall asleep at 9 o?clock ? what ever I?m doing I fall asleep like Cinderella and get carried away in a golden coach...
Creel ? seems very peaceful to me!
Joy Wilson ? well you can do that in the country really...
Creel ? Obviously you were a very avid reader from a very young age and writer too, but was the ability to sit down and focus something you taught yourself? I mean I can certainly say that growing up in this day and age there are a multitude of distractions from television culture to media ? children now seem to develop in terms of switching their mind from one thing to another at a high rate ? (creel, Ed) I personally don?t have a TV for these very reasons...
Joy ? you?re saying you expect to be distracted?
Creel ? I guess it?s a part of tuning into the way the modern world works?
Creel ? I ended up watching Big Brother all the time!
Wilson ? oh dear!
Creel ? ha! That?s right, the worst reasons for watching something, and there?s less and less quality...
Joy - there?s used to be quite a lot of good television.
Wilson ? well on Sky now you can spend every evening of every week watching programmes on science, art, music, even criminology, I usually record the crime programmes that go out in the evening and watch them the next day, because criminology of course has always been one of my interests, that?s in a way how I started The Outsider which originally had a chapter called the Outsider as Criminal.
Creel ? Has that chapter ever been published?
Wilson ? It was published in a book called the Encyclopaedia of Murder.
Creel ? I?ve read the Outsider and it is a good starting point to your work. Beyond that which book do you hold most dear?
Wilson - Probably my best book is a book called ?Beyond the Occult?. The Occult was the first book I wrote on the subject then there was another one called Mysteries, which is about to be re-published, and then the third one, which I didn?t really want to write, but I forced myself to write it, turned out to be my best book, covering the widest range of ideas and so on. So I would say if someone wanted to read me to begin with The Outsider and then to read Beyond the Occult...
? Interview interrupted by a phone call from Miles Murray
Wilson ? Do you know of Miles Murray? Miles in the 1960?s was very famous. He launched a magazine called Gandalf?s Garden and the copies are now worth 100 pounds a copy ?
Creel ? What was it about?
Wilson ? Well it was covering all these 1960?s weird subjects...
Creel - How did you get involved with the Occult?
Wilson ? Well I just got interested in it and it has become one of the central themes in my work, so I think there is a lot in it.
Joy ? Though you didn?t feel that way about it originally though?
Creel ? We know that you have read the Bhagavad Gita and have practiced meditation ? have you had any practice in the Occult yourself, come across the Order of the Golden Dawn?
Wilson ? Well I?ve known people who are vaguely associated with it but on the whole no, I always assumed it was total nonsense until I began writing about it.
Creel ? Mainstream views on the Occult and Witchcraft certainly seem very wide of the mark, there?s a huge hysteria and fear ? well its linked in the mind with Satanism.
Wilson ? Well, with the paranormal you are not talking about Satanism and that type of thing. I was trained as a scientist and then when I was asked to write a book about the occult I agreed because I needed the money but I thought it to be a lot of nonsense and about all kinds of rubbish. And then I started researching this and then Joy was reading a book by Edith Sitwell called Left Hand Right Hand, she was a poet and she showed me a story that was in the book and Sitwell had been part of a family of famous sceptics, her father was always unmasking famous mediums and so on and this story was that just before the war, Sitwell and a group of officers went along to see a palmist, who was quite famous in London at that time and she looked at their hands one after an other and became more and more worried and finally Sitwell went up to her afterwards and said ?what?s the matter?? and she said there was nothing in any of their hands, they were blank. Three weeks later the war broke out and they were all killed before Christmas. Now that story was told by a total sceptic and I suddenly realized if Edith Sitwell can recount this story then there must be something in it. And in fact that business of pre-cognition is one of the most common place, people are always getting glimpses, and the more I looked in to it that far from being nonsense it absolute solid down to earth fact. And so the only thing I was dubious about was life after death but even that when I settled down and wrote a book about it I suddenly realized no, this is certainly true.
As a matter of fact I am going to collaborate on a book with a dead man. In two weeks time, Joy and I have got to go to London and a friend of mine called Monty Keane who was a well know member of The Society of Psychic Research, collapsed and died two years ago and when about a week later his wife started to get messages from him the messages were so completely down to earth and full of things that she knew about ? for instance she was reading in bed at 2 in the morning when the phone rang and an Irish voice said, look, I?m a medium and I?ve got your husband here, and she said that it was okay to ring you because you are reading in bed and he?s given me your phone number. Then she went on to deliver a message. Subsequently they went on to get a very good physical medium, which means the medium can actually be used by spirits and they can talk or don?t even have to use his mouth, they can sit there with the mouth bound up and just use his energies and wandered round the room. I?ve heard a recording of it and its Monty, no doubt, he went up to another friend of mine and makes a speech, into the tape recorded, totally normally then he goes up to another bloke I know, very well indeed, Guy Slater, and says how are you guy and starts patting him on the shoulder ? and Guy said, sure it was Monty alright. Anyway his wife asked me six months ago would I be willing to write up his researches which he had been doing for years and years and years and didn?t have a chance to write up before he died.
Creel ? What was the nature of those?
Wilson - Well he was involved with the Society of Psychic Research which is mainly psychical research and I said yes okay, so in just over two weeks I?m going up to London we will meet a sťance at his wife?s, and I shall ask Monty questions and say ?what have you got in mind?? (chuckles)
Creel ? Have you had any direct contact with that type of thing before?
Wilson - No. I went to sťance and it was a fake! But I have no doubt what so ever from the messages that have been coming through, that this is Monty all right. The weird thing is that you?ve heard of this electric voice phenomenon when you leave a tape recorder running in a room and when they play it back they?ve got voices on the tape, well, this kind of thing has apparently been happening since 1960 and is becoming something that is becoming more and more accepted. When, about 20 years ago, there was a chap who was called - what the hell was his name - well he wrote a book called ?The Ghost of Flight 101? ? John Fuller his name is ? and a man went to see him and said look, I would like you to write a book about this thing we have been working on for years. This chap was a very wealthy businessman but he decided he would retire at the age of 50 and devote himself to psychical research. And the first thing to find a way of communicating quite directly between this world and the next one, like being able to pick up a telephone and dial ? so, they got an electronic expert who also happened to be a medium and got him working on it and this is what happened ? they got to the stage where they could get ghosts talking though microphones and in Hamburg they actually did a programme of this, of spirits being talking through microphones whilst being questioned by the audience. So they reached an amazing stage of communication, which seems to be what they are aiming at and there?s a whole group of them who are very interested in this, in sort of bridging this gap, which seems to me very worthwhile.
Creel ? Absolutely! So how has it affected your thoughts about life after death?
Wilson - Oh well, as I say, I wasn?t really convinced about life after death till I was asked to write a book about it, a book called After Life.
Creel - Superficially they go hand in hand ? in terms of the engaging with spirits from different dementia ? so it would seem the one is bound up in the other.
Wilson - Oh yes, yes, and I have become fairly convinced as a result of writing this book. In fact, what got me really convinced about all this was somebody wrote to me and said would I like to write a book about poltergeists because in Pontefract there was a poltergeist that wrecked absolutely everththing in the house, the windows, smashed all the crockery and all the rest of it and this fellow who had investigated it said this is an amazing story you should come and investigate it... Anyway I couldn?t be bothered to go all the way to Pontefract so I sent another friend of mine along who lived near there and he wrote back and said yes, its happened alright, he said the manifestations have now stopped but they tape recorded them all and you hear this incredible racket this thing made, like beating a giant drum, he said giant crowds used to gather outside their house to see what was going on. Anyway, Joy and I decided we?d go up to Pontefract and investigate this so on the way there we stopped in some place in Derbyshire and just as we were about to leave someone said Guy Playfair?s on his way here. Now I had corresponded with Guy who is a brilliant psychic researcher, one of the best, so I said to Joy, let?s stay for another hour and meet Guy. So Guy turns up and says what are you doing here and I say well we are on our way up to Pontefract to investigate a Poltergeist case. I asked 'what do you think Poltergeists are' and he said 'oh, they?re footballs', and I said 'they?re what?!', and he said 'they?re footballs', and I said 'what do you mean they are footballs?!', and he said that 'when you get upset you tend to exude a type of energy', he said that this energy forms into fairly large droplets because it is of such a light quality - a little like raindrops - and he said what happens is you get a house where there is intense frustration and a teenager who is producing huge quantities of this ? apparently when you reach adolescence you do ? and a couple of spirits going around see these footballs lying around in the sitting room and they go in and kick them around and smash all the ornaments on the mantle shelf, so the football turns pop and goes into water. So I said, 'you mean the Poltergeists are spirits?' and he said 'hell yeah, they?re spirits alright'. So I thought (in hushed tone) ?amazing? and he said, you see it always happens in older in houses where poltergeist phenomena is about to take place, like you know in that movie, what was it called, ah yes, The Exorcist, you start getting scratching noises and all the rest of it and then you start getting movement, of furniture and things, and then sometimes you get voices, and so it goes on. But, he said, the first thing he said that goes on is the scratching noises and then the pools of water. He said they are quite distinctively shaped pools, they are like a little cat has put his leg against the wall and done a little pee, and it comes out like a little pool of ink poured from the bottle ? no splashing mind, always in the same shape.
Anyway, when we left, I said to Joy, 'poor chap, he?s mad as a hatter!' (laughter). Anyway we get to Pontefract and we went to the house where these people live and said, how did it all start and the woman said 'well, with these funny little pools of water', and I said 'what shape are they?', and she said they were little pools of water that formed on the ground in quite a distinct shape, without any splashing, and I suddenly got a weird feeling that Guy knew what he was talking about and I didn?t. I said well what happened then and she said 'well we assumed it was pipes under the floor that were broken, so we had the plumbers in and they got the floors up and they said the pipes were all perfectly okay' and then she said, 'when you turn the taps on foam came out instead of water' ? so that was the beginning, and then we got all these noises and so on, and they gradually worked up to the stage where the daughter of the house, was going up the stairs when a grandfather clock just fell straight on top of her and she was dragged up the stairs by her throat with the grandfather clock on top of her. And I said, 'weren?t you scared' and she said 'well no, I just had a feeling that it was okay, though it did make bruises on my throat'. So I found it all very puzzling and I said 'well what do you think it is?' and the woman said 'we?ve been told that this house has been built on top of a gallows at the top of a hill where there was a monastery once, and there definitely seems to be involved the ghost of a monk. And then, we?d listen to all this stuff and we listen to these recordings where we here these great drumming noises and they really were a racket and 'um, it was obviously all genuine but we could hear all these noises. So we asked the neighbours who all confirmed it all and said they had seen this peculiar looking dark thing shaped in the form of a monk when they peered in through the glass at the kitchen door.' By the time all this finished I had no doubt that poltergeists were real, that they are spirits of some sort and that they take their energies from people like the daughter of the house, Diane. She was a teenager then, and they just take their energies from the teenagers. And so I wrote my book Poltergeist and I said that I don?t believe, as most psychical researchers do that poltergeists are infact energies of disturbed teenagers, that cause these effects of things flying thru the air and what not, and I said, they are spirits. Dozens of psychic researchers I have met since then have agreed with me, but about 20 years ago this was not so, and it was thought to be what is called spontaneous psycho kinesis, which says that you are causing these effects through your mind. So anyway, once I got used to this idea that spirits existed then when I got round to writing a book about life after death and studying all the facts, I could see that if these spirits existed that it was very probable that there was life after death and I just got involved more and more, but always from a rather sceptical point of view, looking from the scientific side of all of this until finally, after years and years I have more or less come around to this.
When I wrote The Occult, which was about 1970, I thought that all this stuff about life after death and what not was a lot of nonsense and wishful thinking but you know, as I?ve looked through it I?ve gradually come to accept it.
Creel ? There?s a strong sense of reincarnation amongst Tibetan Llamas. Sometimes they hunt very far and wide for the reincarnations of the llamas ? infact they once found one of them in Spain.
Wilson ? Having looked into all of this I realized that when people died, they sort of move on to another kind of dimension parallel to this one which is extremely difficult to communicate with. Round about 1850 we suddenly have what might be called the invasion of the spirit people, we suddenly find all these weird effects happening quite suddenly and this was when people became very interested in the whole idea of psychical research.
Creel ? Do you think the evidence that began to be compiled was historically due to a new receptivity to this kind of phenomena? If you look back at Shamanic culture you could argue that there is evidence right back into pre-history of occult phenomena.
Wilson ? Here in the West we never accepted this type of thing, because we?d just had this incredibly scientific century with Newton and the rationalists and so on, and of course scientists hated it and dismissed the whole thing as a load of nonsense.
Creel - But you say there was a noticeable boom in the 1850?s of these phenomena ? how did you notice that?
Wilson ? Well it just emerged out of studying the history of the occult ? and you discover these things...
Creel ? I just read a great book on rock and roll and the occult in the 1960?s, which was fascinating as so many of the great bands were influenced by the occult, most noticeably Led Zeppelin who actually bought Aleister Crowley?s house in Scotland...
Wilson ? oh, really, Boleskin?
Creel ? yes, indeed, infact I?m off to visit it next week and to camp nearby ? but anyway Jimmy Page bought it and apparently all types of weird things started happening, eventually they decided they didn?t want it... (chuckles)
Wilson ? Well even Crowley was worried about that place!
Creel ? Ha, good luck on your visit up there John! (Laughter)
Creel ? Crowley of course became a seminal figure again in the 60?s, they?ve just made a movie on Brian Jones?s death and he?s all over it.
Wilson ? well I wonder if it would be Gary who wrote this book on him ?
Creel ? Gary Lackman?
Wilson ? Yes, he?s an old friend of mine.
Creel ? It?s a good book, I really enjoyed it.
Wilson ? Gary was of course an old rocker!
Joy ? He was with Blondie...
Creel ? That?s right, I really recommend it, it?s a great read.
Wilson ? I?ll tell Gary you said that?. the one good review I got for my autobiography was Gary! (Laughs) Well Gary is very interested in the paranormal and has written several books on this.
Creel (Ed) ? I saw many ghosts as a child but I haven?t since I was 20, I used to wake up at night and see spirits.
Joy ? Were you in an old house?
Creel ? Well, where Jamie and I grew up was an old cemetery during the time of the Black Death so perhaps there?s some explanation in that. I have no doubt about the existence of spirits. I had also a very strong week of pre-cognition once when there was a very intense period of strange things going on in my life, during a time when my brother had psychological difficulties during his 20?s and was essentially quite mad, he used to disappear quite a lot and be found in Ashram?s in India year?s later, or on the dole in Peckham. Anyway it was during the week my grandfather died and I found him in a very strange place, and I had very powerful dreams all week a day or two before each event happened. So I have a lot of time for this discussion ? in fact I was also trained as a scientist so also have a background of scepticism? I don?t believe in an objective world that can be agreed on there?s only an accumulation of individual experience, and its when those experiences align that people call it the objective world.
Wilson ? I don?t know, as a philosopher, I believe there is and objective world, and that there is a way of getting through to the objective world. It seems to me that if you say there?s no objective world then you fall into relativism.
Creel ? Well Husserl classed it as the inter-subjective world which I like because having studied quantum theory and relativity there is always the notion that the observer and the observed effect each other. The idea of an independent world without anyone observing it is very alien to those types of physics.
Wilson- There are some ways with which I disagree with Quantum Theory, I agree with Einstein, god doesn?t play dice (chuckles) but I have written about it at great length in one of my books called Alien Dawn which is basically about UFO?s but has a whole chapter devoted to a quantum theory.
Creel ? What are your views on life forms from space?
Wilson ? Well again, there are no doubt there are parallel universes, other dimensions and these things seem to be coming through from them.
Creel ? Have you had any personal experiences?
Wilson ? Not really. When I was writing the book about it, we had a series of odd synchronicities and even one day I was saying to Joy that one of the forms of UFO?s most commonly seen are a kind of orange ball and she said, ?oh, I saw one last night!? and it turned out she had taken the dogs out with my eldest son and they had seen this orange ball in the next field bouncing along quite slowly, but then stopped and came back
Joy ? it was weird, it went down the field that way and then stopped and went back again
Wilson ? Of course she didn?t tell me about it until the next day even though I was writing a book about it!
Joy ? Well I didn?t think it was anything too extraordinary at the time; I didn?t really question it till afterwards?
Wilson ? I discovered while I was writing the book that I just got these non stop synchronicities with a clock in by bedroom ? it was an electronic one ? and when I?d look at the clock whilst I was writing the book, I?d keep getting treble figures, you know 1.11, 2.22 etc and it just went on with a regularity that was far beyond chance, I?d turn over and there it would be 4.44! And the day I finished the book, I know it was after 4 o?clock and I thought I bet its 4.44 and there it was.
Creel ? Did it have any particular significance these numbers?
- We stop to open another bottle of wine -
Creel ? Colin glad to see you are still wearing the polar-necks after all these years! (Wilson was famous for his turtlenecks on publication of the Outsider in the 1950?s)
Wilson (laughs) well, they are very comfortable!
Creel ? Colin, do you know the guy who owns the Murder One bookshop
Wilson ? Maxim Jackabowski
Creel ? That?s right, I know his daughter very well.
Wilson ? I frequently stop there and drop in on Max when I am in London.
Creel ? He now has quite a pre-eminent position in the crime world?
A little interjection during which we talk about the talking parrot which we had mistaken as a poltergeist ? Joy informs us that it has a habit of chewing on Colin?s books, something she says which puts its life in perpetual danger?we now comment on the sheer volume of books in the house?.
Wilson ? Well I put up all the shelving myself?
Creel ? Eventually there will be no room for living!
Joy ? Well its already getting that way! (Laughter)
Creel ? Colin, they say you have never thrown out a book in your life (Colin Wilson has over 40,000 books)
Wilson ? well in the days before computers, being a writer like me, dealing continually with ideas, of philosophy and paranormal science, and all types of other fields then it was terribly important, I?d find myself writing an article about something or other and I?d think, I know I?ve got a book on that some where, have a hunt and there it would be?
Creel ? very useful
Joy ? well if you live in Cornwall you need to have your own bookshop! There isn?t a big library till you get to Exeter.
Creel ? Well I?m at that strange point in life where all the possession I have are on the shelf in my room as there is no space for anything else in rented accommodation?
Joy ? Well that?s how we started out and look at us now!
Creel ? Well you gather over the years with family and so?
Creel ? Can we quiz you about a few other subjects? One we are interested in is the question of mental illness. Obviously in the Outsider you talk about these characters as being the spiritual dynamo?s of society and very often people placed in between not being able to take on the normal jobs of society but also not necessarily having the belief in themselves or the particular gifts bestowed upon them to go off in artistic veins. It seems to me that there is still nowadays, an enormous misunderstanding about this type of person ? I mean you wrote the book in 1954 and it seems that a lot of the characters you wrote about in that book would traditionally be called mentally ill ?
Wilson ? They became mentally ill, but they weren?t originally?
Creel ? But even with the originally experiences they were having, any traditional diagnosis would often put these people in white padded cells ? I have three friends who have very recently been forcibly sectioned, one who has just re-emerged, one who broke out and has disappeared for some time now, and the last, a friend in a band who sectioned himself. The thing is that there is a huge stigma put on to people who not only undergo this type of experience, but a very shallow tolerance and understanding of those individuals who exist outside the mainstream. What are your opinions about how mentally ill people are diagnosed and do you think there is anything like the understanding there could be?
Wilson ? There was a psychologist called R.D Laing and he told me that he got this idea from The Outsider, he suddenly thought, my god, I should be writing a book like that when he saw that I was several years his junior and wrote a book called ?The Divided Self? which basically said that these people we call mad are not really mad at all they are just seeing deeper than the rest of us and this had a tremendous impact at the time and on this notion of mental illness, the idea that mental illness is actually a profounder form of perception. In the Outsider I had talked about all these characters who had more or less exploded because they could not take any more but I ended the book by saying the Outsider has got to stop being a sort of escapist and running away and that it is his job to change the world, to take over, to stop being an outsider and become the leader, what Shaw called, a world betterer, and it seems to me that that?s the really important thing about it?
Creel ? So much of the world has become a game ? a R.D Laing said ? ?they are playing a game, they are playing at not playing the game, I must play the game or they will punish me?, of something like that (Wilson grins in approval), and that?s what a lot of people who though the mainstream call insane, might themselves call themselves sane because they can see the game that people are playing. To say that these people need to become a world betterer, they have to come through that horror at seeing how the web of relationships works and the games that people play just to get society and to come through that and become conventionally sane again ? and the trouble is a lot of people don?t make it that far, do they?
Wilson ? Well this is what The Outsider was about, and I was very interested in that because it seemed to me, as Ginsberg said, I?ve seen the best mind?s of my generation destroyed by madness, and it did seem to me that it was true that in the C19 many of the best minds were destroyed or haunted by madness of stress but what normally happened was that they simply got overloaded and they were like wired trying to carry a current that was too strong for them and so melted or blew.
Creel ? Did you meet any of the 60?s Beat Characters?
Wilson ? Yes I knew Ginsberg. I never met Kerouac ? he was supposed to come along to a lecture of mine but got so drunk he never showed up ? he made his way but never quite got there.
Creel ? But that?s the thing ? the state between the initial feeling of mental illness and becoming a world betterer is the space which the Outsider and some of your subsequent work deals with, I feel that I?m 26 in 2005 and don?t feel that there has been any particular societal shift in understanding since that work was published regarding this space, or let alone professional understanding. That seems to be a sad thing to me, that there is an inability to reach out to these characters and to try and relate to them. Perhaps that?s just how it has to be in the West, that we have to find our own way through these patterns, make your own decisions. Its just seem wrong though to me, seeing friends who are being sectioned and diagnosed with Schizophrenia and what not before they have ever had the opportunity to express themselves in any way what so ever, whether through a creative path or an exploratory path with another human being as guide. So often they are people they are just people just tapping into things?
Joy ? I think there?s less understanding now than there even was in the 50?s?there?s nothing to hold on to and if you do hold onto something its unfashionable, everything is in a state flux
Creel ? Well there?s no dialogue, I despair at how conventional things are these days, I have two young kids and am putting them through school, and there?s absolutely no alternative ? there?s almost only one form of schooling and if you try and go outside it and choose something different ? well, we chose this Montessori school but even that we are having huge administrative problems ? they are forcing as similar agenda as anything else ? it?s very difficult to find alternatives. There?s a huge amount of research that suggests that children up to the age of six do learn sensorally, and that from then on their conceptual mind starts really taking over ? in Japan I believe they don?t teach kids to read until the age of 7. I feel with my daughter that there doesn?t have to be a rush and that over learning can lead to a crisis of metaphor ? society views children as vessels that needs to be filled? but that?s wrong ? a child knows when it is ready for anything ? this is something that?s opened my eyes ? you don?t need to have paranoia about potty training and all these things because they will do it themselves; it?s like a miracle, a bizarre thing.
Joy ? I?m not sure that schools have this perception of things! (Laughter)
Creel ? At Montessori if a child has a passion for something they let them do that thing and encourage them in that ? it they want to read, let them read ? obviously too much focus on one thing can be unhealthy but forcing all kids to do all things is not the path. I think that these systems lead to psychological problems. Friends of mine who are teachers, especially in London say the levels of dissent are absolutely extraordinary.
Joy ? From the children?
Creel ? Yes, they?re all texting each other and playing games, they don?t want to be there, they don?t see the point in it.
Creel ? I think that the level of exposure to pop culture, especially in inner city?s also puts a huge pressure on kids psychologically as well as forcing them to grow to quickly ? I mean, what ever happened to childhood! It all starts on TV and in the newsagents where they see all the glamorous models and so on. There was a survey done recently of a 1000 young schoolgirls in London and their top ambition was to be a model (chuckles from Colin)
Creel ? Colin, do you think society as a whole is going insane?!
Wilson ? I don?t honestly know ? I live down here and I don?t pay it much attention (chuckles). On the whole, I have to get with my own work and pursuing my own line and if I pursue too much time trying to be perceptive and seeing what?s going on it couldn?t be done and I certainly wouldn?t be able to write a book in eight weeks.
Creel ? But then again your work looks at these patterns- for instance, surely the criminal mind finds its source at individuals going down the wrong channels, and unfortunate circumstances and making the wrong choices
Wilson ? Crime is undoubtedly the wrong choice, it leaves you totally fucked up, that?s the reason I got so interested in criminology, because, I mean the Elizabethans used to go along to all the hangings and get pamphlets about the people who were being hanged and that type of thing. It was very good for them ?
Creel ? It?s exactly the same thing we read in the Daily Mirror everyday!
Wilson ? It is in a way but the reason people are interested in it is they think thank God that?s not me (chuckles). Well you get bored people who don?t know where they going, and if they are suddenly confronted by crime they get this odd feeling, a feeling of meaning. I used to know this headmaster and he used to say there was a chap at the school who was a total sceptic and said there was no such thing as right and wrong and that type of thing. One day this fellow said to him, about a gym master, ?I can ?t stand him, he strikes me as evil?and Hugh said, you mean by evil that he doesn?t conform to the greatest good of the the greatest number, and this chap said ?no, that?s not what I mean? and it took that to suddenly see that he wasn?t actually a Benthamite who believed that being good is standing up for the greatest number and so on and as soon as you recognize that you see that there are values, it wakes you up. Doctor Johnson said that when a man knows he is to be executed in a fortnight it concentrates his mind wonderfully. The problem is you see that you?ve got to have concentration of mind, that?s the most important thing that you can possibly have, and I suddenly realized that I would never have done anything if it weren?t for the extreme difficulty of my younger days. What?s more, I?ve noticed that almost all the writers who ever achieved anything, began from extremely bad beginnings. People like Dickens, and Bernard Shaw and H.G Wells and so on, they really had to struggle to get their cart out of the mud whereas people like Graham Green and Evelyn Waugh who went to public schools and didn?t have to struggle never made it to the first rank. In the early C20, people like John Goldsworth etc who get there fairly easily because they had this social background didn?t make first class writers.
Creel ? You don?t rate Graham Greene?
Wilson ? I think he?s a fucking shit. (We roar) He irritates me. He?s so gloomy and pessimistic and tries to influence us that this is a rotten world full of sin.
Creel ? To me there is certain humanity to his writing in that he puts the individual and the emotion world above dogmatic ideology.
Wilson ? Yes, and later when he overcame his Catholicism he became much more broad minded about things, but when he was very young he just felt that the world was a totally evil place and there is on of his essays where he says that he read this thing in the newspaper about a boy and a girl who killed themselves while laying their heads on a railway line and that girl was pregnant for the third time and wasn?t? sure who the father was?and Greene obviously feels that he?s living in a kind of nightmare.
Creel ? I wonder if that was to do with his Catholic upbringing?
Wilson ? He wasn?t brought up a Catholic, he became a Catholic. The only interesting thing about Graham Green was when he decided to play Russian Roulette ? he got into this state of awful boredom at school, he was at a public school where his father was one of the masters and because of this he was in a privileged position and he said that he was in a state of absolute permanent boredom. So, they send him to a psychiatrist to see if he could help improve things and the psychiatrist did infact get him playing games and all types of things and as a result (chuckles) he became even more bored and he said at this stage of total boredom the problem was that he would look at something like a beautiful sunset which he could see was beautiful but would feel nothing what so ever, was kind of dead inside and he said he was in this state of mind when he found in a cupboard in his brothers room, a revolver. So he went out onto Berkhamstead Common, put one bullet into the chamber, spun it, aimed it at his head and pulled the trigger. He said that (becomes elated) one he heard there was just a click, he had this wonderful feeling of sheer happiness and relief and said it was as if a light had been turned on and he felt as if everything in the world was marvellous but he went on and did this about six different times before eve n that bored him.
Creel ? So what?s the key to finding that kind of elation?
Wilson ? Well Maslow called it peak experience and said that all healthy people have peak experiences and he said that as a psychiatrist he got sick of studying sick people because they talk about nothing but their sickness. So he decided to look around for the healthiest people he could find and study them. So he said to his friend, who?s the healthiest person you know and he pointed him to various people and he got together about 20 or 30 of these extremely healthy people and studied them. He then discovered something nobody had ever discovered before because no one had ever studied healthy people but all these healthy people had with great frequency what they called peak experiences, just sudden feelings of terrific overwhelming happiness. They weren?t mystical experiences he said, they were quite ordinary ? a woman just giving breakfast to her husband and kids and suddenly a beam of sunlight came in thru the window and she thought ?My God aren?t I lucky? and went into a peak experience. A hostess had just given a very successful party and looking around the room with wine all over the carpets and cigarette ash on the chair thought ?My God, that was a good party? and went into the peak experience. A marine who came back from the Pacific, where he had been alone on an island without seeing a woman for something like 18 months came back to base and saw a nurse and instantly had a peak experience (laughter) he said, because, (comically) he realized women are different from men. We take it for granted, and he said you suddenly realized we are as different from women as cows are from horses. And this suddenly hit him like a blow when he saw this nurse. The real trouble with us is that a large part of us consists of what I call the robot that is a series of habits, and we human beings are this extremely complex robot which means that we can learn all kinds of things that an animal can?t, you know, you learn to type, to ski etc, you do it very painfully and consciously and within no time at all the robot takes over and does it automatically. Suddenly, this is the thing that makes human beings so unusual; we have this robot that does all these things for us. The trouble with this robot is that he does the things we want to do like speaking French etc, but he also does all the things we don?t want him to do ? you take a walk and you say ?my God, this is really lovely? and you try doing it a second time and you find the robot is doing it instead of you. And you are looking at it without any real feeling at all. Well as soon as Maslow discovered that this happens with great frequency he realized that all normal human beings should have these experiences and he realized something else ? when he talks to his students about peak experiences, they began remembering peak experiences that they had had but which at the time they not noticed. For instance one student was working his way through college as a jazz drummer, and once at about 2 in the morning as he was drumming away he found he was drumming perfectly, he couldn?t do a thing wrong and he went into the peak experience. And then all his students realized they had had peak experiences but as soon as they began talking about their peak experiences, they began having peak experiences all the time.
Creel ? So there are ways we can live our lives day to day, which can accentuate our capacity for growth ? but I would say that in modern culture that belief in spiritual growth as a real and daily part of existence is very shallow ? have you read Zen and the Art of Archery
Wilson ? good book ?
Creel ? He found this Zen master and practiced archery everyday. Through the repetition he achieves the state where he becomes the target and the target becomes them
Wilson ? What you are trying to do is to persuade the arrow to fire itself. This is the really interesting thing ? a part of you knows how to do these things, and you have to learn to get in behind the eyes of this part of you and suddenly all these things become very easy. Now the reason we find it so difficult is this bloody robot. He becomes brilliant as far as the modern man is concerned, super men in a certain sense, but unfortunately he keeps taking over and doing the things we ought to be doing ourselves. Well, the tireder you get, the more the robot takes over so that for example some times you can drive all the way home from work and not remember the journey because the robot has driven home for you. And this is the problem, the robot will take over everything we do unless we can stay focused above the level of the robot. You might say that we are basically 50 percent robot and 50 real you. Well, when you wake up in the morning and are feeling good you are 51 % real you and only 49% robot. That?s the reason they seem so wonderful; on spring mornings you may feel absolutely splendid, and then you are 52% real you and only 48% robot. But when you begin to get tired you get the opposite way round, you are 52 % robot, only 48 % real you. Now the problem with that is when the robot is doing experiences, you don?t really experience them, you do it automatically, you don?t really enjoy them. The result is, its quite easy to get into a state of depression in which you are no longer putting any type of effort into living and infact you become more and more robotic. Now if you sink to say a level of 47 % real you it is very very dangerous and almost impossible to get out of. It?s one hell of a struggle. Now what Graham Green did when he pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger was the robot suddenly gave a scream of alarm and lept of his shoulders, and suddenly there was the real him looking out from behind his eyes. So, this robot is the real danger and he?s the answer to all you talk about mental illness, it?s the robot who?s causing the mental illness and what he is doing is taking over the real you and squeezing the real you into a little corner of your being. And because the real you feels all suffocated and upset we call that mental illness. Infact mental illness has always been this same business of getting more and more fed up and therefore more and more squeezed by the robot.
Creel ? but then again it could be argued that someone like Van Gough was attaining those experiences very frequently, and that when he was painting his best canvases he was he was accessing those parts of himself very actively and yet that wasn?t enough ? personally, I am not saying that mental illness doesn?t exist but I am saying that society can be very quick to label and define people as mentally ill or to have this category or that category, but with Van Gough the notion of the robot was being consistently countered by the vitality of his internal experience ? although to be sure he was frequently being drawn back into the grimy reality of human affairs
Wilson ? It wasn?t that, the poor devil was broke all the time, he just didn?t have any money and he got more and more desperate on his poor brother trying to support him, and his brother became more and more broke. Painting was his way of getting out of the robot and getting back to the real him so in a sense, painting was his form of yoga but he couldn?t afford to do it part time because if he tried to do some other type of work full time more or less to make a living, as his poor brother had to, he would quickly become robotic, his only way of becoming non ?robotic was to paint?
Creel ? but then again to there are dimensions to it that far exceed, well, as you said in ?Dreaming to Some Purpose?; the grim hardship of living is something that incurs with Kings and it incurs with people on the dole and it would be a simplistic conclusion to draw about Van Gough to say that his financial situation was necessarily the dominant aspect of his condition ? the hardship of reality is something that all people have to deal with ?
Wilson ? Its mainly the problem that all of us have these particular problems and Rudolph Steiner once said never complain about your lot in life because you chose it before you were born, and if you suddenly realized that all these problems can infact, if tackled properly have this effect of producing important stuff, then you suddenly begin to recognize that the problems can be valuable and useful but this is the reason I am not terribly sympathetic about all this talk of mental illness and the notion that mentally ill people see more deeply than the rest of us. I said that in the Outsider ?I see too, deep and too much? but then went on to reject that at the end of the book when I said that look, all these people like Gurdieff and T.E Hulme were perfectly normal and didn?t get into that state at all
Wilson ? Everything we do is for the flow experience, from taking drugs to driving at 90 mph its all for the flow experience
Creel ? like watching the British give the Aussies a good kicking in the Ashes! Did you watch any of that Colin?
Wilson ? no, I don?t have time for that, and on the whole sport just doesn?t interest me. When I was young I wanted to learn languages and do all types of things and then I learnt quickly that if you want to do one thing well, you can?t afford to do all these other things. You must just absolutely restrict yourself to one thing.
Creel ? but then it seems to me that you are still in some ways somewhat of a renaissance man. I mean you haven?t exactly limited yourself to one area of interest!
Wilson ? Not to one area of interest, even as a child I was interested in all types of things, and even now, if you look through the range of my books you will find that there are all types of subjects from criminology to wine and music...
Creel ? And to Gardening (chuckles) or so I read on the Internet!
Wilson ? well there was a book called the book of gardens in which they said to me will you write about gardens and I said ?I hate gardening!? and so they said will you write an article about hating gardening (laughter)
Creel ? so they suckered you in! But you?ve got a green house ?
Wilson ? oh that?s Joy, and we got it with this house when we moved in. There was a long green house in those days, it ran the full length of the garden and it was full of tomatoes. The green house gradually fell down and then Joy had it gradually taken away and replaced by these smaller green houses which were enough because putting tomatoes into all of them was just too much.
Creel ? Thinking of Professor Lovelock who we interviewed earlier there is a small connection with tomatoes, I read the other day and my figures are all wrong (you know there are lies, dam lies and statistics but apparently we?ve gone from about 50 years ago from 250 genetics of the tomato plant to now where there are only four, because mass production has just totally destroyed?its the same in all things, in Sri-Lanka ?
Wilson ? I?m going to open another bottle because I don?t think we are going to have enough
Creel ? Colin, is this standard with anyone coming to have a chat with you or have we just caught you at a lucky time!
Wilson ? no, not many people come and talk with me these days, mainly because I try and keep them away, because I am just getting on with my books you see, that?s why there is that notice on the gate saying no one is aloud in without an appointment ? yesterday afternoon Joy said someone is here who has brought you a present so I thought I had better go and see who he was, and it turned out to be a rather nice young Irishman who used to be in then pop music business and made a hell of a lot of money ? his name was Tim Daley and he said he ran a group called something like the Yellow Submarine ? was there a group called the Yellow Submarine? ? I don?t know ? but anyway, what ever the group was he had made so much money (Creel wasn?t U2 (!) Was it? oh yes, could well have been ? it was two words anyway ? by instead as spending all his money on drugs as so many of them do he bought himself a peninsula in Ireland.
Creel ? perhaps it was Martin McGuiness
Wilson ? I don?t know but he had read a lot of my books and was remarkably intelligent, so it was actually quite a useful half hour and I had to say after a while, well I am sorry but I have to get back to my book?
Wilson ? well the wife of T.C Lethbridge, who was a magician said the thing is to put a sign over your gate, an upside down pentagram and you?ll find that people won?t come ? so said how do you do that and she said ? ?oh you just draw it in the air? and it worked! We tried it and it did work ? you visualize it very clearly but upside down with the point downwards.
Creel ? A friend of mine called Tom is doing some work on Crowley about Crowley?s long term nemesis and friend ?
Wilson ? Victor Noyberg.
Creel ? That?s right and Crowley cursed one of his mistresses...
Wilson ? I know the legend, one of the Ales In Leister is called ?Crowley?s ale?s?
Creel ? Have you ever met Alan Garner?
Wilson ? no, mainly because he?s a fucking shit, I was going up to?
Creel ? you don?t like many of these guys do you!
Wilson ? I was going up to a conference in Edinburgh and I saw that Alan Garner was going, so I dropped him a line saying my kids greatly admire you and all the rest of it and lets get together in Edinburgh and have a meal ? never replied
Creel ? that?s a shame, because I think you?d get on very well, I know him because I know his daughter and I met him for the first time the other day and the whole family was saying, oh he?s quite difficult or whatever, but he was great and very into the occult as well, he lives in an old apocathary's house, amazing, its like an old barn and every time they?ve restored it they find viles behind different posts and a lot of it takes alchohol? by the way is there a good pub in the village?
Wilson ? there?s The Rock...
Creel ? Is that the place where the last time you went it took so long to shake off the people that wanted to talk to you that you decided not to go back again...
Wilson ? yes, that was the reason, partly, Joy said come on we?re going out one New Year?s eve and by the time we?d done the rounds of the pubs in the area we?d met so many people that we really didn?t want to know who all said come and have drinks with us and we?ll come and have drinks with you and so on, that it took us nearly a year to get through it all (laughter), so we decided that it is better not to do this kind of thing
Joy ? well a lot of people come down here and retire and they have nothing much to do but sit around and socialize. A lot of people don?t necessarily live here; they just come down as holidaymakers.
(Adjourn as we are cooked a delicious supper, and we guzzle yet another bottle of wine)
Creel ? Colin and Joy thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing you lecture when you come to London to talk at the London Occult Conference.
Interview added 08-08-2005