I missed the sad news that the prolific writer Colin Wilson died on December 5th. I had heard that he had a stroke last year.
Most of you have never heard of him, but he was a great thinker, and very important to many other great thinkers. He was an imperfect writer, but I think he could not be faulted for lack of important, provocative and intriguing substance—though academic philosophers would no doubt sniff and take exception, as much as critics of literature failed to understand his aims. Wilson himself was conscious that he was practicing philosophy of eternal importance (pointing the way to a “new existentialism” and one might say, a phenomenological spiritual sense), albeit unconventionally by academic standards. He was a great explorer of ideas, especially in writing about literature and the obscured side of life (crime, the occult). My own essay “Rising in Walls” (in the book Rising in Words) owes a debt of inspiration to his method in The Outsider.
A great man has passed, and like most great men, he was too little appreciated in his own time for his life to be celebrated and his passing to be mourned as it should be. I have confidence however that in the passage of time, he will be recognized for meaningful contributions to philosophy and humanism, when those words mean what they should and today’s so-called great men, politicians, popular artists, and VIPs are merely names and historical trivia.
On a personal note, his death considerably diminishes the very short list of my inspirations and influences who are still living, and adds one more man to the much longer list of the cultural ancestors who speak to me.