Colin Wilson's Outsider and the Emerging Enlightenment.

Warren Kinston 5. July 2012 12:00

Colin Wilson's 'The Outsider' was a great read.  But that was 1956.  Then human experience and purpose were subjects of novels, not a focus for everyday living.  Purpose has now invaded the blogosphere.  

Colin Wilson Outsider  courtesy of Wikipedia

That means it is rising in human consciousness.  It also means that an awareness that you must choose your purpose and have freedom to apply your will to it and be creative in achievement—all this is emerging too. 

Who would've thought it?

These notions have crept up so surreptitiously that you probably think it was always like this.

But it wasn't.

When I was focusing on purpose in the 1970s and 1980s, 15 years after The Outsider, it was still an esoteric subject.  The only people who wrote about it were unfashionable academics railing against weaknesses of brute empiricism and abstract reasoning, abstruse philosophers trying to get past modernity into post-modernity, and the odd sociologist fed up with the critical school and its preoccupation with power in society.

Like so many unfashionable things, there was an attempt to create legitimacy by inventing new terms.  Have you heard of axiology?  That was a name given to studying values: although it seemed to focus only on ethics and aesthetics.  Why would anyone study values and omit social values, management values and commercial values?  And what about praxeology?  That was the study of human action and its consequences, more or less about purpose without always directly using the word.  It gave rise to the Austrian School of Economics, whose theories are brilliantly constructed out of common-sense ideas. (They are still anathema to the world's politicians and bankers, who prefer pandering to unrealistic wishes of the populace en route to lining their own pockets.)

When I started on my book Working with Values in the 1980s, friends advised me that no-one would even know what I was talking about.  It was a one-way ticket to obscurity.  No-one cared about values or even knew what they were.  Did I want to be unemployable today and famous after I was dead?

I remember being affected in the 1960s by a sentence asserting the centrality of purpose written by Colin Wilson, that controversial unschooled writer, who shot to fame with The Outsider in 1956.  He became an angry young existentialist, labelled as 'fascist' because he wasn't much interested in political ideology and socialism, and 'religious' because how else (in those days) did you label someone interested in values and the experience of being fully human?  Inevitably he got dragged into writing on the occult and psychic phenomena because that is where you went (in those days) if you wanted to escape mechanistic materialism.  Something similar led to formation in the UK of the Scientific and Medical Network in the early 1970s.

The idea that psychosocial reality is the everyday non-materialist world of experience in which we are immersed, that human life is powered by purpose and value, that our existence emerges from creativity and ethical choices—well, such ideas were not an acceptable way of thinking. You were just ignored and if you were too assertive you were rejected and excluded.  Hence the outsider label for simply noticing what goes on in social life.

Colin went on to write lots of books and seems to be writing still, but nobody pays much attention any more: confirmed by this fascinating Guardian interviewColin Wilson's Outsider is virtually autobiographical, though it presents as a synthesis of views put forward by writers like Shaw, Sartre, Tolstoy, Hesse, Blake, Nietzsche and others.  I have just posted about humanity's great Quests and Colin Wilson with his Outsider is a great example of what the enlightenment quest is like.

I pointed out that everyone on this Quest needs self-belief and, because of the clarity of insight through contemplation and sheer effort, there is a natural temptation to feel superior. That is probably at the root of CW's explicit claim to be a genius. He is certainly a natural writer and he was someone a bit ahead of his time. I can see that certain insights required penetrating insight then: 'man needs purpose', 'mind controls life', 'intuition is more basic than logic'. But this sort of talk is now pop philosophy that has become the stuff of tweets and Facebook postings. 

But, to get back to why I am writing this blog.  I can't help but notice that this emergence of purpose into consciousness has not yet got very far.  There is one element I want to draw to your attention: Purpose is like a three-sided coin.

But I am at the end of the blog—so explanation must wait till next time …



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Warren Kinston is the creator of the THEE-Online website as an open forum for the further discovery and development of THEE. He writes this blog as an escape valve for the excitement and frustrations of the work. More info here.

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