THE GENIUS OF COLIN WILSON
In early December of the year 2001 myself, the author Ron Ellis along with the wonderfully talented and highly amusing Professor Joe Cooper went to visit Colin Wilson at his home ŒTetherdown¹ in the little Cornish village of Goran Haven. I had long been a great admirer of Wilson¹s work and must have read ŒThe Strength To Dream¹ (one of his lesser known titles) at least six times as it is, to me, simply inspiring. The idea to go see Colin Wilson was in fact Joe Cooper¹s he had been a personal friend for many years and so after a few tentative telephone calls it was agreed that we three men in a car all go to visit. It was an incredible experience for me as it is not often one has the opportunity to meet with a living legend and believe me Colin Wilson is at the very least that. Let me tell you just a little about this incredible man and his genius as both a writer and a philosopher:
Colin Henry Wilson was born on the 26th June 1931 into a working class family in Leicester where his first job was shifting stock in a warehouse. Wilson went on to work in the chemical industry but was so ill at ease with his position that he at one point contemplated ending his life. The shock of holding a flask of poison to his lips rocked young Colin into realising that not only must he live he had to do something of serious significance with his life. By the mid 1950s Wilson had managed to get into and quickly out of the RAF, where he was called up as a conscript, by pretending to be actively homosexual (a practice that was at the time unlawful). No square bashing for Colin, he knew he had a mission and set off with a rather tatty old sleeping bag and slept rough on Hampstead Heath whilst spending all waking hours in The British Library researching his first book ŒThe Outsider¹. When Victor Gollanz published this in 1956 it rapidly became an international best seller propelling the 24 year old Wilson to instant fame. It was though something of a poisoned chalice as Wilson soon found out. OxBridge, the home of British intellectualism, does not like outsiders and young Colin Wilson with his seminal anti-sarte philosophical examination of social alienation was very soon an outsider himself. He even managed to get himself horsewhipped by the father of his beautiful ladyfriend Joy who challenged Wilson, whom he believed to be a seriously disturbed beatnik, brandishing a riding crop. So Colin Wilson was literally one of The Beat Generation in both senses of the term. The popular press went to work on Wilson and soon he was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Labels soon followed as he became one of the original Angry Young Men of English literature alongside John Brain (Room At The Top) and John Osborne (Look Back In Anger). He fled London in absolute disgust at the vilification he was receiving and found peace with his Joy in a rented house overlooking the sea in far distant Cornwall. He was to remain there forevermore along with his new bride Joy.
In the year 1971 Wilson published a book that many readers of Psychic World may be familiar with ŒThe Occult: A History¹ in which CW covered numerous topics ranging from potted profiles of Helena Blavatsky, Daniel Dunglas Home, William Blake and P.D. Ouspensky to sections on magic and spirituality. If you have not read this book then really you should it is an erudite attempt at a reasoned examination of psychic and supernatural phenomena. Which brings me back to the year 2001 and my meeting with the man himself.
Colin Wilson presents as a typical professorial type, tall, imposing, slightly imperious but remarkably warm and friendly. He welcomed the three of us into his home and quickly introduced his wife Joy who is a delightful lady with sparkling wit. The house itself Wilson has named ŒTetherdown¹ and it is just what you might expect a nutty professors home to be like, extremely eccentric and stuffed top to bottom and back to front with books, records and CDs. There were book shelves in the kitchen, in every room, they lined the walls, jam-packed must have been ten thousand books or more. The bathroom had book shelves! Outside stood three mighty wooden sheds full of, you guessed it, books. Lots of the books in the sheds were written by CW himself as they were first editions sent to CW by the publisher. Imagine my delight when Colin invited us to select a few and he would sign them. Colin is also an amazing chef, he personally cooked us a simply brilliant meal of rich dark meat and we washed it down with more red wine than I can ever recall drinking in one sitting. What a wonderful kind and interesting host. And everyone who is anyone has been to see Colin Wilson, he told me that my favourite poet Sir John Betjeman had been sitting in the same chair I was in and he had even started to write a poem for Colin and, believe this or not, CW gave me the first few lines and suggested I complete it. So I did and here it is:
TETHERDOWN: The Home of Colin Wilson. By John G. Sutton
When the wind from Gorran Haven/Blows across to Tetherdown/Sweeping in sea salted ozone/From that cobbled Cornish town/And the sacred scent of fishes/Fills the early morning air/Then let me be in that safe lodging/For my joy is ever there. When the insults of this world/Can touch me nevermore/And the curfew sounding bell/Calls me to an unknown shore/Close in then The Outsider/Keep the wildest storms away/Be they errant human nature/Or the gales from Veryan bay. Wrapped in stone and ancient oak/Where the peace lies ages deep/Let me rest by Gorran Haven/In that long eternal sleep/And if some speak my name and whisper/Of a fleeting world renown/Let their comments catch the wind/That blows across to Tetherdown.
Colin Wilson kindly signed a copy of my poem for me and it is beside this computer as I write now of a happy day not so long ago when I met the genius that is Colin Wilson. CW wrote: For John with admiration Colin Wilson. I suspect that what he really meant was that he admired my absolute audacity in finishing the work of Sir John Betjeman and then having the nerve to present it to him.
Do read Colin¹s work, he has written over one hundred and twenty books and you can find them all in your local library. I personally recommend ŒThe Strength To Dream¹ and of course ŒThe Occult¹. He writes like a dream and as his autobiography says he has been dreaming to some purpose. Now go discover The Genius that is Colin Wilson.