Colin Wilson and a younger version of me

Reading Gary Lachman’s book brings back how much Colin’s work meant to my life. A short excerpt from my book Muddy Tracks:

For more than forty years I endured the long, hard, solitary road. Yet I had gotten a startling glimpse of the existence of a better way of living one night late in February 1970, when I was a few months from turning twenty-four. I was in a drugstore checkout line when a strong impulse led me to pick up a paperback book off the rack. Oddly, for some reason the thought came to me that I might steal it. I still don’t know why that thought came across, unless merely to underline for me the importance of that book, a science-fiction novel called The Mind Parasites, by an author I’d never heard of named Colin Wilson. I bought it, and that moment turned my life.

The plot was simple enough. Two scientists at the end of the twentieth century (then more than thirty years in the future) discover that we are all the unsuspecting hosts to—well, to mind parasites, creatures that sap our vitality and our sense of purpose. After sundry adventures, the scientists learn to defeat the parasites, and for the first time begin to take possession of humanity’s unsuspected abilities, including a host of powers then usually called occult.

When I read that book, I was seized with the conviction that the author was telling the truth. We do have such powers, and they are inexplicably beyond our grasp. What is more, it was clear to me that the author believed it too. The strength of his conviction ran like a strong current beneath the surface of the story, and was spelled out clearly in his preface.

His preface mentioned that he had begun his career (at just about my age then) with The Outsider, an international best-seller. I went looking in the local public library for any other of his books, the beginning of a lifelong habit. I soon found that, whatever form he uses—and he has written novels, volumes of criticism, biography, history, essays, plays—the same underlying message comes through. It came through to me that night, and filled me with excitement. Something within me went click! and said, “This is how it is.”

For a while I pressed this book on all my friends, and was disappointed and puzzled that it didn’t turn their lives as it had mine. But it had turned mine because it was the right book for the right person.

Chance? Coincidence? I would have thought so then. I don’t now. Today I know that the words “chance” and “coincidence” are shorthand terms covering mental laziness or, perhaps, fear of a world that is seamlessly purposeful. Neither was it predestination, karma, destiny, or fate; at least, not as commonly understood. Today I would call it guidance, but what I mean by that and what I don’t mean and why I think the way I do now probably will take the rest of the book to explain.

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