Morrab Library Talk: Evolutionary Metaphors: Colin Wilson & Ufology

Evolving Metaphors: Colin Wilson and Ufology

The reason I began writing Evolutionary Metaphors was due to seeing various parallels with the UFO phenomenon, Colin Wilson’s philosophical works and the occult. And what interested me most was the essential logic which often informs the absurd and mind-bending nature of the UFO mystery.

Of course, the occult and the esoteric, along with paranormal research, is often rejected by the scientific mainstream, and to bring all these subjects together to shed some light on an already difficult subject would seem, to most, entirely illogical. That is if one desires that the UFO phenomenon to be validated – or debunked – by the scientific establishment.

There are many works that attempt to achieve this goal of absolute proof or disproof; few are agnostic. However, for my investigation I decided to take a more literary and psychological approach, feeling that it would provide a more flexible question of ‘What if?’ – a question that forms the ground of science fiction.

This heady mixture of science fiction and the occult could provide, I felt, a way out of the frameworks of the ordinary limitations of what’s possible by our standard models, and allow us to approach ‘the Other’, or truly alien, in a satisfyingly expansive and imaginative manner.

Now, Colin Wilson’s early philosophy, and subsequent works in science fiction, the occult, and paranormal phenomenon seemed to me foundational for this investigation. And much of my own work has been influenced by his 1998 book, Alien Dawn: An Investigation into the Contact Experience.

This forms the basis of today’s talk.

*

The subjects of this talk – Colin Wilson and ufology (the study of UFOs) – requires a general introduction, for both cover an enormous amount of ground.  

Now, let’s begin with Colin Wilson himself.

His first, and most famous work, is The Outsider, which was published in 1956. It was released to great acclaim; its author was working-class, with no university education, and only 24-years old. In fact, he was a bit of an anomaly himself in intellectual circles of the time. Except that he was quickly heaped in with the ‘Angry Young Men’ – a journalist’s catchphrase for an uprising of mainly young working-class, sometimes anti-establishment figures, such as Stuart Holroyd, Bill Hopkins and John Osbourne, who wrote the famous play ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, the namesake of the movement.

Even amongst the Angry Young Men, Wilson was an outsider – he even said that he wasn’t angry at all. His literary reputation – a seemingly inevitable destiny once touched upon by British journalists – became increasingly marginalised shortly before his second book in 1957, Religion and the Rebel. As a result, Wilson’s work was ignored by the mainstream and deemed either irrelevant or, even, dangerous.[1]

So, what was the essence of his earliest work, The Outsider, and why has it, out of all his 150 or so books, stood the test of time – indeed receiving so many translations and republications over the years?

The reason, I believe, is quite simple: it articulates with great clarity the existential awakening of the individual. More than that, in fact, it explores the problem at length and, by the end of the book, provides a series of examples of individuals who went beyond the Outsider problem; the founder of Quakerism, George Fox; the esoteric psychologist, G.I. Gurdjieff; and the Indian mystic Sri Ramakrishna. And for this reason, it has gained an almost universal quality; resonating with a deeply felt sense of the human predicament.

Wilson describes the essence of the book in his important essay, ‘Below the Iceberg’:

“[The] book [is] about ‘Outsiders’, people who felt a longing for some more purposeful form of existence, and who felt trapped and suffocated in the triviality of everyday life.”

“[It’s] a book about ‘moments of vision’, and about the periods of boredom, frustration and misery in which these moments are lost. [It’s] about men like Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, van Gogh, T.E. Lawrence and William Blake, who have clear glimpses of a more powerful and meaningful way of living, yet who find themselves on the brink of suicide or insanity because of the frustration of their everyday life.” (2019: 275)

Now what is often overlooked is that The Outsider is just one a of a sequence of six books, which he called ‘The Outsider Cycle’. This forms the foundation of his philosophy which was summarised in an introduction to the whole cycle, the 1966 Introduction to the New Existentialism.

To begin to understand Wilson’s update of existentialism – the philosophy defined most famously by the French philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus – is to then understand the trajectory of all of his life’s work. And this provides an insight into why – and how – he went about approaching the bizarre subject of UFOs and extra-terrestrials. But more of that later.

For now, let’s turn to two summaries, in his own words, of this ‘new’ existentialism:

“The ‘new existentialism’ accepts man’s experience of his inner freedom as basic and irreducible. Our lives consist of a clash between two visions: our vision of this inner freedom, and our vision of contingency; our intuition of freedom and power, and our everyday feeling of limitation of boredom.” (1966: 180)

“The ‘new existentialism’ concentrates the full battery of phenomenological analysis upon the everyday sense of contingency, upon the problem of ‘life devaluation’.”

“It

[also]

suggests mental disciplines through which this waste of freedom can be averted.” (Ibid.)

All of his subsequent works contain – whether it’s on crime, the occult, wine or music – insights into the essential mechanisms of the mind and are threaded through with this recognition of a phenomenology of heightened states of consciousness. In every regard, whether it is through the act of murder, indulging in alcohol, or performing ritual magic, the intensity of mind is sought, whether consciously or not. However, what mattered for Wilson is that they converge into a fundamentally creative drive and not, of course, in such destructive endeavours.

So, in essence, the new existentialism set out to define how moments of vision, purpose, and ultimate meaningfulness could be objectively grasped. This is where the crucial metaphysic arrives in Wilson’s new existentialism, for as he says in Poetry and Mysticism, “Where the mechanisms [of consciousness] ends, the mystery begins.” (17: 1970).

Wilson reasoned, quite logically, that in heightened states of consciousness – which are apprehended in moments of what the psychologist Abraham Maslow called ‘peak experiences’ – a deeper reality of existence is objectively realised. This apprehension of reality is reached through what phenomenologists call ‘intentionality’; the mechanism of the mind’s ability to grasp what is out there, in the phenomenal world.

This can be illustrated by two simple examples:

When we feel alert and buoyed with energy, we notice more; for example, we can appreciate a sunset or feel intensely alive and connected to the environment outside of us, noticing even the intricate detail of the pavement, or the luminescence of a shop’s window. In low moods, by contrast, we notice less; we withdraw our intentional perceptual grasp and live in a vague mood of gloom and defeat.

Wilson was fond of quoting W.B. Yeats’ poem, ‘Vacillation’:

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

These moments of sudden and intense overwhelming happiness, so much so that Yeats’ felt he was “blessed and could bless” are, Wilson argues, closely related to the mystical experience, in which one somehow grasps the essential meaning of existence. And yet these often occur in moments of irrationality, that is, they cannot be logically explained; rather they appear to arise in moments of inter-section, as it were – in those brief moments of curious disengagement with the ordinary chatter of the mind.

It is this realisation that is at the heart of the new existentialism, for it reinstated what the ‘old’ existentialism had rejected – what the phenomenologist, Edmund Husserl, called the transcendental ego; an ‘I’ – or an ‘other you’ – that effectively energises your perception from behind the scenes, so to speak. Intentionality, the mechanism by which our consciousness ‘reaches out’ and apprehends the world is charged by this deeper self.

More than this, in fact, this ‘other self’ behind perception exists in a state that lies outside of time, and when it emerges in closer accordance with our here-and-now perceptions, it resolves the contradictions of existence faced by our rational, everyday consciousness. In effect, one experiences a supra-logical faculty which breaks the illusory deadlock caused by many of our philosophical categories.

Wilson importantly noted: “[P]hilosophical thought is a process of perception, and therefore depends on the drive, the energy behind it. It also follows that under-energised thought will actually falsify the objects of perception”. Yeats, in ‘Vacillation’, says that his “body of a sudden blazed”, suggesting some sort of occupation of a higher self which galvanised his perception, his poetic faculty which illuminated reality beyond the nausea-inducing categories of Jean-Paul Sartre’s vision of universal contingency.

Now implicit in Wilson’s new existentialism is an entirely new faculty of perception; a way in which human beings are capable of exceeding their five-senses and somehow being able to make sense of time and space in such a way that resolves the existential dilemma of Being. This is where he continued onto explore the paranormal, the mystical, and the heightened – or altered – mental states of ritual magic and occultism in his 1971 book, The Occult.

Importantly, he went through the genre of science-fiction prior to writing The Occult, with novels like The Mind Parasites (1967) and The Philosopher’s Stone (1969), which explore at length – as much science-fiction tends to do – psychic faculties and curious moments of super-consciousness. And, importantly for this talk, extra-terrestrial, alien intelligences and occult forces that meddle with human existence. Both books, I should add, were heavily influenced by the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft who is famous for his story, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ (1927), which includes a gigantic, subterranean malevolent force that slumbers beneath mankind’s ignorance – Cthulhu, the Great Old One. 

And so, what Wilson was attempting to do in his science-fiction books was to embrace the intuition that Lovecraft had about deep, underground and ‘terrifying’ forces and, instead, reframe them in Husserl’s more phenomenological recognition of a deeper level of reality that, in fact, forms the substrate of existence itself. And, by recognising this, Wilson saw that this was a misunderstanding – he called Lovecraft’s worldview a product of “curdled Romanticism” – based on a pessimistic bias which resulted in a negatively-charged “falsity of underpowered perception”.

The great poet and visionary artist, William Blake, also seemed to share Wilson’s insight, saying in ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’:

“The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence, and now seem to live in it in chains, are in truth the causes of its life & the sources of all activity.”[2]

Now, this recognition of underground, untapped resources of the mind seemed almost inevitably to lead to Wilson’s development from an existentialist to writing a book on the occult, for the latter, of course, wholly acknowledges these powers – and even provides ways of enhancing and mastering them. And if these higher faculties of human perception were real, as Wilson increasingly came to believe, then it logically follows that the ‘old’ existentialism had been selling human nature short.

With this background in the occult and the paranormal, of course, it seems somewhat inevitable that he would go on to touch upon the UFO phenomenon. And although he had explored this territory in his science-fiction books before The Occult, and then in its sequels, Mysteries and Beyond the Occult, it wasn’t until 1998 that his UFO book proper was released, Alien Dawn: An Investigation into the Contact Experience. Now, although it forms a basic history to ufology – and it is not until the later chapters of the book that he outlines his philosophical developments which formed his interest in the phenomenon – the book is, as we shall see, crucial to Wilson’s intellectual development.

The Wilson scholar Geoff Ward acknowledged much the same, saying that like the psychologist Carl Jung, who wrote one of the earliest and most classic books on UFOs, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1958), Wilson saw this as very much a symbolic event, offering “a revelation that could amount to a new kind of consciousness.”

This, essentially, is where I begin in my own book, Evolutionary Metaphors, for in surveying the wide range of UFO literature there is always the sense that they are more than merely nuts-and-bolts craft that can be detected on radar and potentially shot down by our military. They are, in their deepest sense, a sociological anomaly; even a symbol – perhaps – of Cold War hysteria and fears, with the first major sightings beginning around 1947.

Kenneth Arnold, an aviator with over 9,000 flying hours, is the most classic case, and the origin of the phrase ‘flying saucer’, which was adopted feverishly by the press. On 25 June 1947 he reported, near Mount Rainer in Washington State, seeing nine unusual objects flying at incredible speeds far surpassing modern technology, which he described variously as both shaped like a “pie-pan”, a “big flat disk” and “saucer-like”. This led to, of course, the more famous combination: flying saucer. Arnold’s sighting tends to circumscribe the UFO mystery to a comfortable date, allowing it to be too easily ascribed to the ‘Cold War hysteria’ hypothesis.

In researching Alien Dawn, Wilson also came to this conclusion in the chapter, ‘The Labyrinthine Pilgrimage of Jacques Vallee’. Here Wilson explores the work of the computer scientist – who was instrumental in the French pre-run for the internet, Arpanet – Jacques Vallee, whose hobby from a young age was to collate and schematise UFO reports from around the world. He went on to write the classic, Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds (1969), and more recently Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times (2010), a compendium of specifically pre-20th century UFO – or ‘mysterious light’ – sightings.

More importantly, Vallee asked the question of what UFOs overall effect was on the human race, that is, merely as an observed phenomenon and growing mythology. Vallee took the in-between route, refusing to draw a line on exactly what they were, and instead observing their sociological and psychological effects on those who had apparently witnessed them.

Essentially, this is how I approach it in my own book, calling the experience a type of ‘evolutionary metaphor’, or a symbolic experience which offers alternative ways of understanding existence. Indeed, Vallee, in The Invisible College, states much the same:

“With every new wave of UFOs, the social impact becomes greater. More young people become fascinated with space, with psychic phenomena, with new frontiers in consciousness. . . changing our culture in the direction of a higher image of man.” (2010: 127) [my italics].

Now, what interested me so much about Alien Dawn was that as much as it appeared a breakaway from his earlier ‘new existentialist’ works, it quickly turned out to be much the opposite, rather that it was a bridge through his works on the occult, and an opportunity to expand his ideas into cosmology, consciousness studies and even quantum physics.  

The social question of the UFO phenomenon, for Wilson, became symbolic of a change of orientation in the human drama, with a possible new vision which lifts us out of our cosmic provincialism and provides a larger context for our own existence. And with all of the interrelated topics in ufology explored in Alien Dawn, such as crop circles and the now famous alien abduction phenomenon, there appears to be something underlying the whole mystery which Wilson called a sense of “deliberate unbelievableness” – rather as if the phenomenon deliberately obscures itself. (Indeed, Carl Jung once said that the “highest truth is one and the same with the absurd”, and this seems to be the essential message of the UFO phenomenon.)

It struck me that with this ‘deliberate unbelievableness’, and apparent playfulness with time and space –even the absurd theatrics as found in the witness testimony on abduction literature – that whatever entities that were behind this phenomenon were quite at home in the strange and novel logic explored in works of popular science fiction.

One novel in particular which penetrates to the irrational heart of the UFO phenomenon is Ian Watson’s The Miracle Visitors (1978), in which he explores something he calls the ‘plus and minus factor’, saying that in ‘lower-order’ systems of logic something must either ‘change within the lower-order reality or be lost to it, to compensate’. ‘The trick was’, he continues, ‘to make the loss the least negative one possible – to create merely mystery, not damage’.

Here, I think, is the whole of ufology compressed into a single sentence: to create mystery, not damage. And that is what it appears to be doing; providing a liminal, abstract form of ‘meta-logic’ that orientates man’s vision of the cosmos to one of the mysterious, the ‘What ifs’ of science fiction; the emotional, personal, aspect that science lacks is therefore complimented by the dramas and vast possibilities – and sometimes impossibilities – of science fiction.  

The UFO becomes the subject of folklore. One could argue that the alien may represent man as abstracted to himself – or, as the psychologist Stan Gooch proposed, as a part of ‘the on-going folklore’ of the Ego. Science fiction, then, becomes the avant-garde of this evolving folklore. Its metaphoric quality is, of course, oriented towards the future – towards an evolutionary beckoning – and science fiction, of course, becomes a part of the imagination’s groping towards this actualisation.

We should not, however, overlook the often dreamlike and surrealistic quality of the UFO experience reported in many books of case studies. The Harvard-trained psychiatrist, John E. Mack, collected many such reports in his book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1998), or, for example, as can be found in the classic The Andreasson Affair (1979) by Raymond E Fowler. J Allen Hynek even said of the latter, “At certain points… [the] narrative seems to deal with a reality so alien that it can be described only in metaphors, and perhaps only understood in terms of an altered state of consciousness.” (17: 1978) [my italics]. Vallee also speculated:

 “These forms of life may be similar to projections, they may be real, yet a product of our dreams. Like our dreams, we can look into their hidden meaning, or we can ignore them. But like our dreams, they may also shape what we think of our lives in ways that we do not yet understand.”

My own book is an attempt to continue where Colin Wilson left off in Alien Dawn, particularly with his analysis of science fiction, psychology, and cosmology as being fundamentals of what the phenomenon seems to urge us to examine. The cultural import of its existence cannot be doubted; it has generated popular films, TV shows and books, and shows no signs of slowing down. And if it does – and many of the best books on the subject tend to conclude – form a part of an on-going folklore in our more materialistic and less religious times, then the question may be what it supplements, or even replaces that our culture has lost?

That it forms an excellent metaphor cannot be doubted, with writers such as H.G. Wells using the alien as a base for his book War of the Worlds as far back as 1897. Carl Jung knew this well, and I’m not convinced that we’ve gone much further than his analysis of the phenomenon. He asked, as any good psychologist should of such a liminal, and apparently, deeply symbolic phenomenon: What is it doing to us, our consciousness? That it challenges us, and our models of reality, tends to suggest, that it is gently eroding our sense of cosmic provincialism.

A quote I’ve always enjoyed is by the psychologist Maurice Nicoll, and he warns us that if we become too “sunk in appearances” the world – and ourselves – quickly become numbed, for “through the lack of realisation of the mystery of the world” leads us to being “dead” due to an inability to “face the mystery of existence with any real thoughts of our own”. What I have noticed is that the UFO experience, whether real or even simply talked about, invokes mystery by its very nature; and this of course generates a lot of intense debate and polarisations within and outside the field of ufology. 

In an updated introduction to Alien Dawn, Wilson noted that “civilisation has forgotten a whole dimension of consciousness that once came naturally to tribal shamans, and that we shall remain trapped in a kind of mental dungeon unless we can regain it”. He continues, “[O]ur dream of a purely rational science is a delusion, and that we shall have to learn to recapture lunar knowledge”.

This is the same realisation that hit him while writing his earlier book The Occult; he had originally thought it would be a test of his patience, a sort of collection of quaint ghost stories a section on palmistry and the curious gullibility of the human mind. Instead what he found was a subject that was overwhelming convincing, providing too many accounts by reliable witnesses to be easily swept under the carpet. More than that, he realised that it confirmed an intuition that he had had as early as the 1950s: that man is on the brink of an evolutionary leap.

In a talk as short as this one, I can only begin to scratch the surface of this mystery. So, I will here attempt to condense my own thesis in Evolutionary Metaphors – which I wrote as a sort of bridgeway between Wilson’s ‘new existentialism’, his occult studies and ufology.

Colin Wilson’s biographer, Gary Lachman, remarked that entities commonly associated with UFOs seemed to be “fans of Monty Python, the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges,” adding that this might be a deliberate attempt to frustrate our interpretations; forcing us out of our perceptual laziness. And, perhaps, generated a sort of camouflage so they can act outside of the restrictions of credibility. One comes away after reading much of the literature with the nagging suspicion that somewhere along the line we missed the point, rather like failing to grasp a Zen kōan – the very reason for its clownishness is because we are only aware of half the picture.

Ufology also provides much the same stimulus and attraction as the occult and provides a means of widening mankind’s sense of significance and wider meanings. And in doing so, of course, this automatically provides the groundwork for a ‘new existentialism’, for the provinciality of the diagnosis of many existentialists simply doesn’t hold up against a worldview that accepts occult powers as real.

I argue that it was inevitable that Wilson would continue to incorporate parapsychology and paranormal phenomenon into his later works, for they inferred a much stranger dimension of reality, one that suggests another way of being and, more importantly, of a purpose to human existence.

The title Evolutionary Metaphors seemed to me to capture the spirit of the UFO phenomenon and contextualises it in such a way that it can be treated almost as a work of fiction, while exploring its metaphysical implications and providing an alternative to understanding anomalous phenomenon more generally.

In other words, if they are real, they can be processed as symbols, or implications, of a deeper reality that we do not understand, and in attempting to unravel their mystery we could potentially find out more about our own minds and universe as a result. And if they turn out to be mere fictions, then what they beckon, psychologically, is an obsessive drive within us for prototyping the unknown and generating mythologies that may prove the unconscious motivation of the human enterprise.

The sixth man on the moon, Dr. Edgar Mitchell, who underwent what he described as a mystical experience while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere in Apollo 14, even commented that “life itself is a mystical experience of consciousness; it’s just that we have grown used to it through the millennia.” (1996: 187). Obviously, if you were hurtling back to Earth after stepping foot on the moon, this would inevitably adjust your perspective; jolting you out of a millennia-worth of conditioning.

In essence, Mitchell’s experience encapsulates the message of Wilson’s ‘new existentialism’ and brings us close to the heart of the UFO mystery.

Often it is commented that our culture has reached a threshold; by ejecting mystery in favour of scientific ‘problems’ – codes to be cracked, but, we feel, that we already have these tools. It is a matter only of time. Yet in certain moments we yearn for strangeness and a sense of deep otherness, and we turn to space, an apparent endlessness that becomes the backdrop of our dreams, fantasies, and possibilities. What haunts these skies of ours is, in the end, our own psyche acting as a mirror – and the mysteries that haunt it also become embroiled into these mythologies, these stories so linked to our evolutionary drives.

We have no real sense of how a truly alien intelligence might act. However, it would be interesting to wonder if it would be through symbolism and metaphors, even synchronicities – unusually significant coincidences – that these other forces would communicate; after all, each of these transcends the limitations of time and space, posing deeper levels of reality (or realities) that is/are parallel to our own.

But this might be a subject best left for science fiction – or a future folklore – that might turn out to prove that reality is more dynamic, even magical, than we presently suspect.   


[1] Gary Lachman says in his biography on Colin Wilson, Beyond the Robot (2016): “The fact that, like The Outsider, it presented a religious view, rather than the strident leftism of Osborne and Co. made it a target of scorn by the socially minded critics. Kenneth Tynan in particular saw Wilson as a kind of fascist, with his talk of religion, discipline, the need for a new kind of man rather than a new society, his hatred of mediocrity, lack of interest in left-wing politics, and concern about the spiritual crises of characters like Nietzsche and Dostoevsky.”

[2] http://www.itu.dk/~metb/Exercise2/memorable3.html

A Husserlian Quest for the Philosopher’s Stone – a review of Lurker at the Indifference Threshold by Philip Coulthard (2019: Paupers’ Press)

Over the Easter holiday, I visited a couple of fine Cornish coves, Sennon and Lamorna, and while at the latter, I thought of one of its past residents, the surrealist artist and occultist Ithel Colquhoun. I recalled that she had once reviewed Colin Wilson’s classic book The Occult (1971) and recommended the encyclopaedic Wilson to focus, perhaps, on just one or two occult disciplines – the Kabbalah and the tarot being her particular favourites.

Now, it would have been a great pity if Wilson had so narrowed his interests, for as many of his readers know, he covers a vast array of subject matter; from criminal psychology to wine and esotericism. But, on further reflection, I realised that what Colquhoun said was true for many of us. I had recently said much the same to my friend, the author Jason Heppenstall, who replied, “Yes, we can sometimes have incredibly greedy minds…”

And so, I thought about Wilson’s work (and Colquhoun’s recommendation) as to understand his trajectory as a philosopher; and why, moreover, he ranged so far and so wide, so near and yet so far in search of the evolutionary Faculty X – a vivid sense of the reality of “other times and places”.  

Wilson was never greedy; in fact, he was generous, voracious and a master synthesiser of great swathes of inter-related topics. Indeed, his biographer Gary Lachman has said that in reading Wilson you gain the equivalent of a liberal arts education. He was, in my opinion, a philosophic tour-de-force who, from the outside, may appear as sometimes random and digressive. However, once you acquaint yourself more deeply with his work, you soon come to realise that it forms a part of his earlier philosophical methodology, which he called the ‘new existentialism’.

This, I think, is what Colquhoun had overlooked. Wilson had indeed, throughout all his work, essentially focused upon this extra-dimension of human consciousness; of sudden flashes of meaning and insight, of other times and places which, of course, forms the basic recognition of almost all of occultism.

Now, Philip Coulthard in Lurker on the Indifference Threshold: Feral Phenomenology for the 21st Century, presents an extended essay on the many threads of Wilson’s work. Coulthard takes us on a stimulating tour, stopping by at postmodernism and the challenging esoteric work of Kenneth Grant to the horror writer H.P Lovecraft’s gloomy cosmology, all the while providing a unique backdrop for the essential integration of Wilson’s formidable oeuvre – he wrote, after all, over 180 books – into the more contemporary frame of the 21st Century.

Coulthard lifts the new existentialism into new light and provides a beacon towards a more intentional – and far less nihilistic – vision of the future. And what is so remarkable about Lurker is its original insights into Wilson’s work, and, in doing so, is an example of Wilson’s own method of unifying both intuition and the intellect. Lurker is a sort of prism of the new existentialism, refracting a new light into a philosophy with a future that is imminent and a much-needed antidote to the bureaucratic academy, and more importantly, the neurosis of contemporary culture.

The new existentialism, here, becomes a remedy to our cultural malaise; the lurker of the title becomes our immense potential, and the threshold: our culture’s blind spot.

Today, it seems, philosophical trends such as postmodernism and Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction, are finally losing favour, and as Coulthard convincingly argues throughout Lurker, Wilson’s philosophy, by comparison, “remains diametrically opposed to such trends, even when it anticipates aspects of them” concluding that his work “is more relevant than ever.” (23). He also makes the interesting point that many who are attracted to Wilson’s philosophical works are individualists who – temperamentally or intellectually – resist the essentially passive and helpless “postmodernist legacy”, which, as Coulthard argues, places “the human subject at the mercy of external factors and [condemns us] not to freedom or meaning… but to strict identity, language, history, and cultural determinisms, [where we are] forever stuck in a grim Darwinian power struggle.” (20).

In fact, this is why I was first attracted to Wilson. He seemed to not only provide an accessible overview of history and philosophy, but also posited something radically more active, and as a result, practically more engaging.

Instead, Wilson wrote with an infectious intensity which, around every corner, opened up a new shift in perspective that enabled curious glimpses into another way of seeing. In fact, what he was effectively doing was writing from the standpoint of a more open-ended – even open-system – form of psychology that valued heightened states of consciousness as essential to grasping reality.

Of course, this was partly as a result of Wilson’s familiarity with the psychologist Abraham Maslow, who broke the psychiatric mould and sought to define the pinnacle of human psychological health. But, before being acquainted with Maslow’s positive psychology, he had clearly already developed a deep analysis of our culture’s dis-ease in his 1956 debut, The Outsider.

Reading Wilson is so refreshing because he effectively opens the door, allowing more ideas, as a direct result of his optimistic approach, to enter in; rather, that is, than sealing them off into the dry Siberia of academic obscurantism or focusing on tedious minutiae. A true existentialist, he sought for the essential meaning of existence, thus transcending the dullness of spirit, and denigration of intuition, so esteemed by our trivial-minded age, where political journalism reigns supreme.

Coulthard quotes from Wilson’s Beyond the Outsider, which encapsulates Wilson’s essential urgency and visionary spirit for a new approach:

“Western man has become so accustomed to the idea of passivity and insignificance that it is difficult to imagine what sort of creature he would be if phenomenology could uncover his intentional evolutionary structure and make it part of his consciousness.”

Lurker takes this search for the ‘evolutionary structures’ further, with the chapter titles providing a context as well as a general atmosphere of vast and impersonal forces at work: ‘Far Out, But Near’; ‘Cyclopean Architects’ and ‘Goad of the Powers’. They evoke an almost daemonic Beethoven symphony; pounding and triumphant, yet impersonal and strangely savage – rather like a splash of cold water up your back: invigorating as with a sense of electric control. This, after all, is essentially the motive underlying – often unconsciously – the great works from Lovecraft’s Mythos, to the passionate call for a revaluation of all values as found in Nietzsche’s works from The Birth of Tragedy to his masterpiece, and poetic evocation – or invocation – of the Superman, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

As Wilson said in Beyond the Outsider, the point of these Dionysian and deep subterranean energies is not to be washed away with them in frenzy and chaos, but to canalize them into consciousness; to allow them to creatively charge our lives and our art. To lose this vision – which is the reason for the general malaise of the 21st Century – is to fall into a passive state, and to dwindle our psychic resources at such imaginative distortions of this Life Force. Coulthard argues, “Art and culture not receiving these currents can only lead to banal sterility… and an acceptance of the morbid undercurrent [of defeat and pessimism].”

Now, someone who instinctively understood this subterranean force and the possibilities of super-consciousness was the great dowser and archaeologist, T.C. Lethbridge.

In his posthumous work, The Power of the Pendulum, Lethbridge crystallises the essence of Wilson’s work – who wrote at length about Lethbridge in his 1978 book, Mysteries – and his most fundamental insight. The two writers had much in common.

Lethbridge, in a similar spirit to Wilson, says:

“Man exists on many mental levels, of which the earth life appears to be the lowest… He is entirely independent, and his method of development is peculiar to himself… Only when he can realise this will he rise at all in the scale of evolution.” (44).

He continues:

“If you find out anything, I feel it is your duty to pass it on to your fellows… The power is yours on the higher level … but to make use of it here, it is necessary to learn how it can be brought down to a lower level. The transformer is something which you forge mentally between one level and the next… [my italics]”

Lethbridge, like Wilson, are impressive examples of this anti-bureaucratic attitude to truth and intelligence, working with their minds in an open and vibrant way; sending off sparks of insight in a manner that is both generous and – according to Nietzsche’s analysis of what constitutes a good writer – with a fundamental willingness to be understood rather than merely to impress.

Further still, there is this recognition at the heart of their work of something lurking at the threshold of everyday consciousness, and that is that there is a higher ‘you’ – a superordinate identity, or, in more esoteric language, your daemon. This is a super-charged Self that is experienced in moments of what Maslow called ‘peak experiences’, flashes of sometimes overwhelming joy that imports feelings of immortality and a tremendous zest for living.

One of Coulthard most fascinating insights is that these “subterranean” forces, as he calls them, are in some sense repressed, and as a result, they are often misrepresented in such artistic expressions as in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. That is, as gigantic, impersonal and essentially malevolent forces. Wilson had always argued that Lovecraft’s attitude was that of “curdled Romanticism”, an essentially self-devouring, self-harming Will to Power that had backfired into destruction and nihilism.

Coulthard argues that these subterranean forces are instead “wellsprings of creativity” which are too often misunderstood and channelled into “distortions” where “no amount of rationality can supress their chthonic rumblings”. Wilson’s phenomenology navigates these negative biases towards the hidden ‘I’ of the transpersonal ego, that self that provides the very perceptual energy that fires our zest and sense of meaning. If this arrow of intentionality backfires, rather, it works as Lovecraft’s curdled romanticism – towards crime and destruction, rather like some disastrous machine that becomes recklessly out of control and destroys an entire city. Or, as Wilson would have perhaps put it, poisoned an entire culture.

The new existentialism is a form of self-analysis that attempts to rid our collective unconsciousness of these very real dangers of a negative bias, and instead provide techniques and a ‘conceptology’ that we can use to steer ourselves away from such immensely wasteful disasters.

What makes Lurker such an important book in Wilson Studies is that it presents an exceptionally wide area of analysis, pulling in Lovecraft, whose popularity is becoming ever larger – perhaps symptomatically – and providing a robust counterargument against the fundamental nihilism of postmodernism. It is, I think, something Wilson would be doing if he were still alive today. In fact, with our culture becoming evermore saturated with signs of this precise implosion, as it were, of an inadequate cosmology and sense of psychological health, Outsiders – those who feel alienated by their civilisation, yearning for more intense and serious states of consciousness – are likely to grow as a result.

Coulthard provides a precis and condensation of Wilson’s’ vast output, producing a sort of visionary manual on how to survive as well as to identify the key symptoms, culturally and phenomenologically, of an essential wrong-headedness that saps our vitalities. Furthermore, intuition is once again provided its rightful place as an arrow towards conceptual widening, and, when aided by the intellect, actualities and creativity expands exponentially, as it is only our intuitively-driven insights – usually seeping in from the transcendental ego, or hidden ‘I’ – that equips us with the key to that secret of Being, or, as Coulthard puts it, as a part of our “intentional quest for the philosopher’s stone”.

L'Ascension

An ‘Other-Valued Reality’: Some Thoughts on Synchronicity

Synchronicity is a word coined by the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Gustav Jung, for the phenomenon of a uniquely meaningful coincidence. It is, in short, when the outer-world quite remarkably mirrors the inner-world of the individual. Jung defined synchronicity as a “psychically conditioned relativity of space and time.” He also described it as an ‘acausal connecting principal’ which is an event with no apparent – or, at least, something unknown to contemporary physics – form of ‘transmission’ that makes any logical, or causal – through cause and effect – explanation almost impossible.

Often in these experiences the mind seems to have a far more direct and active relationship with the outer-world – a world we too often assume is subject to the law of accident, entropy and a uni-directional flow of time. In this article it is not so much my intention to use just so many examples of personal and other’s reports of synchronicities, but simply to unpack a series of reflections on the implications of undergoing a synchronistic experience.

The experience of synchronicity ranges, like any such experience, from something merely curious to something far more numinous and potentially life-changing. It is also, naturally, something too slippery and mercurial for the logical, rational and time-linear mind to grasp. Indeed, it has, in many instances, a profoundly symbolic nature which seems geared towards intuition rather than rationality. 

Now, the English existentialist philosopher, Colin Wilson, remarked that synchronicity may be one of the most important powers of the human mind. Reflecting upon his own experiences, Wilson noted that they tended to happen more frequently when he was feeling “cheerful and purposive” in which, he says, “convenient synchronicities begin to occur and inconveniences that might happen somehow don’t happen.” More importantly, Wilson observed that it was “as if my high inner-pressure somehow influences the world around me.”

Wilson’s phenomenological insights into the synchronicity experience helps us us in our quest to understand the essential ‘cause’ of the synchronicity – an important key, as it were, to untangling the ‘acausal’ mystery behind Jung’s ‘connecting principal’.

In a recent interview for the YouTube channel, Rebel Wisdom, the author and esoteric scholar, Gary Lachman, made the important link between intentionality – or will – and its ability to ‘nudge’ reality into its desired form. In other words, the ability to perform – in accordance with one’s will – magic. Lachman goes on to say that magic is essentially causing synchronicities to happen. Another scholar of the occult, Jeffrey K. Kripal, a Professor of Religious Thought at Rice University, has also called synchronicity “essentially a shiny new word for what we would have earlier called magic.”

So, it seems as if a crucial part of the synchronicity is indelibly a function of the mind, and that, in some magical way, this can cause meaningful events to unfold in one’s life. According to Wilson these magical events tend to cluster when the mind, the psyche, is functioning at optimum performance. We may venture to say, then, that synchronicity is the magic of a highly-charged mind, and when the vital energies are working in tandem with the individual’s will.

However, another aspect of the synchronicity we have not so far mentioned is what I have decided to call its ‘moment of interjection’. That is, it tends to ‘shock’ us by its seeming non-conformity with our usual everyday sense of time and space, while also inter-jecting itself in unexpected and unpremeditated moments. In other words, the synchronicity experience seems to be the result of another mind, as it were, that acts – sometimes ‘plays’, in a trickster-like fashion – both outside and inside one’s mind in a manner simultaneously ‘within’ time and outside of it; free from the laws of both the linear mind and the world ‘outside’ of linear causality.

We might here, then, say that Wilson’s state of healthy-mindedness provided some essential source of vital energy for this ‘other mind’ – or force – which inter-jects within our lives with curious ‘symbols’ which infer a meaning that somehow lies outside of the frame of ordinary causation. Instead the synchronistic moment acts as a ‘real life’ signifier of a deeper substrate of reality which is in direct contrast to how we normally experience it in our everyday consciousness.

Now, if we were to place the synchronicity phenomena into an evolutionary context, then one could say that evolution – or the gleaning of any new knowledge – tends to occur in moments of inter-jection, as it were, and these inter-jections into our existence are often the hall marks of both humour and the synchronicity experiences. This may at first seem like a leap too far if synchronicity is treated as a curious, and admittedly difficult phenomena, but nevertheless as fundamentally trivial. Of course, a synchronicity can be quite easily shrugged off with the pressing needs of everyday life demanding more of our attention. They can also be seen as ‘mere coincidence’ or simply a ‘minor mystery’ that affords little existential content.

However, this is all a matter of degree rather than kind, for if synchronicities come in thick and fast, then the observer will be forced to ask him/herself a number of questions, not only about him/herself, but also about the nature of reality. (And then, just to be safe that he or she isn’t going mad, to then ask questions about him/herself!)

This is where, I think, a phenomenological and psychological approach becomes an important tool for analysing the relationship between the mind – most crucially – and the world ‘out there’. Note that Wilson also commented essentially on the experience of luck and the distinct lack of accident-proneness he experienced when he was in a “purposive” state of mind. Indeed, Jung also importantly said in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961), that the synchronicity experience may force us to notice the “other-valued reality” that lies outside the “phenomenal world . . . and we must face the fact that our world, with its time, space and causality, relates to another order of things lying behind or beneath it.”

What seems to be of most important is just how we can find this crucial correlation between ‘purposive consciousness’ and this “other-valued reality”. Once this is found one ought to be able to find not only the key to psychological health, but also an orientation in life that coheres to a profoundly powerful evolutionary drive that somehow exists
“behind or beneath” reality.   

Another important clue can be found in the work of the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof M.D., who has explored the realms of non-ordinary states of consciousness in his book The Cosmic Game (1990). Grof observed that synchronistic phenomena tended to increase in people’s lives “when they become involved in a project inspired from the transpersonal realms of the psyche.” He continues with the important detail that “remarkable synchronicities tend to occur and make their work surprisingly easy.” In other words, their work is somehow in accordance with Jung’s ‘other-valued reality’ which, it seems, is also the domain of Grof’s transpersonal self.

The author, Anthony Peake, in his excellent book The Daemon (2008), calls this other self the Daemon, which he describes as “the part of us that knows that we have lived this life before”, and that in moments of deja-vu, for example, is when the Daemon recognises significant moments in our lives. The ordinary-self Peake calls the Eidolon, which experiences our life in a linear fashion for, of course, this life will always seem as a surprise, a completely new experience, except in cases of deja-vu phenomena, that is. Peake also says that this other-self, the Daemon, “finds its home in the non-dominant hemisphere [of the brain] and from there acts as an ‘all knowing’ passenger.”

The Daemon is a fascinating book full of accounts of deja-vu and near-death experiences, however, in our discussion it might be said that the synchronicity is the Daemon’s tool – or method – for indicating an evolutionary turn, as it were, in the ascending spiral of self-actualisation, that is in moments when we begin to actualise these realms of the transpersonal psyche into this world of physical matter and linear time. We are, as it were, fulfilling a type of evolutionary destiny.

Rather, it seems, like a convergence of two worlds in which the laws of the other are sympathetic to a world which is becoming in a process. The purpose of existence, then, may be to converge, to unify, two ‘values’ which lie in curious cross-sections of time – and once these evolutionary ‘values’ are acted upon from ‘our side’ then two realities converge in a satisfying ‘click’ which unfolds in our lives as a synchronicity experience.

Although using the ‘convergence of worlds’ metaphor implies two or more worlds, in reality it seems more likely to function along what Jung and the physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, came to understand as the unus mundas – or ‘one world – under which two principals unfold: mind and matter.

However, it is at this point important to remember that the actualisation of wholeness – as in Jung’s individuation, or Abraham Maslow’s self-actualisation – is effectively the unification of psychological factors within the individual in order for them to work most efficiently together. And that these are precisely the components of the whole individual that work towards what the Italian psychologist, Roberto Assagioli, called ‘psycho-synthesis’.

Indeed this attempt to activate the bridge between one’s purpose in accordance with what Grof calls the ‘transpersonal self’ is the goal of Psychosynthesis therapy. The psychotherapist and author of The Way of Psychosynthesis (2017), Petra Guggisberg Nocelli says that “to promote transpersonal synthesis, Psychosynthesis indicates methods to awaken the energies of the higher unconscious” in order to “facilitate contact with its contents”. To do this the therapy includes: “the use of anagogic symbols . . . evocation of superior qualities and techniques for the development and use of intuition.”

We may now see Wilson’s comments about purposiveness as the driving force for increasing synchronicities in the context of Nocelli’s awakening of “the energies of the higher unconscious” mind, or Peake’s Daemon, which seems to awaken – or increasingly integrates – with our ‘lived reality’ once we begin making an effort to fully achieve some dimension of our potential. And, as Peake underlined, ifthe Daemon finds its temporary residence in the non-dominant right hemisphere of the brain, then it makes sense that this creative part of our selves is both buoyed by symbols and efforts to explicate, in some creative and developmental form, some of its contents. It is, rather, as if it has been heard for the first time – and the most effective way to encourage this participation is to ensure that the linear mind learns to accept its existence, and particularly, of a mode of ‘other values’, which is essentially less passive.

One of my own observations has come both through personal experience and through reading many books on the UFO and abduction phenomenon while writing my first book, Evolutionary Metaphors (2019). Throughout my research I noticed that it was commonly mentioned that people involved with this subject – including Wilson himself – were often beset with unusual and sometimes transformative synchronicities. Indeed, one of the most interesting examples is Raymond E Fowler who wrote an investigation into an abduction case called The Andreasson Affair in 1979, and then, following that book was inundated with an uncanny number of synchronicities afterwards. He records some of these in his 2004 book SynchroFile.

Now it seems to me that these may have had less to do with the UFO phenomena itself – at least directly – but with the fact that interest in such liminal and evolutionary ideas in themselves were acting as anagogic symbols and awakening layers of their higher conscious mind!

Of course, it would be absurd to deliberately set out to write books on UFOs in order to actualise unconscious forces latent within the psyche, and it is, furthermore, likely to fail more often than succeed. However, in some typically Alice in Wonderland topsy-turvy and upside-down way, considering creativity itself may aid us in peeling away some of the absurdities and mysteries of both consciousness itself and the anomalies we face in such experiences, whether mystical or in moments of synchronicity.

The curious idea is this: by looking into liminal and anomalous phenomenon we may be finding, in synchronistic moments, the very cause for these strange events we have been looking for; or, in a twist of irony, they may be the evolutionary by-product of that very search for the ‘deep reality’ in the first place.

Or, more importantly, both!

Evolutionary Metaphors: UFOs, New Existentialism and The Future Paradigm (6th Books)

You can pre-order Evolutionary Metaphors here:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Evolutionary-Metaphors-Existentialism-Future-Paradigm/dp/1789040876/ctoc

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1789040876?pf_rd_p=330fbd82-d4fe-42e5-9c16-d4b886747c64&pf_rd_r=KRTA97VMSSYGC3VZ8NZR

6Th Book Publishers: https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/6th-books/our-books/evolutionary-metaphors

I have also done a two-part interview with the excellent Greg Mofitt over at Legalise Freedom, which you can view here on YouTube:

Part 1
Part 2

Thank you for following this blog. There is more to come!

(Contact: dmoore629@gmail.com)