This was one of many books that I read as a teenager. It first came out (1979) and boy did it leave an impression on me. For me it sparked a massive interest in the unexplained which I still have today. What makes this book so special is a number of things which I’ll come to shortly. The name of the book ‘The Occult’ obviously would turn those of a disposition who don’t like these subjects to leave it on the bookshelf, but for those with an open mind it was a must read, more so as it was written by the great Colin Wilson himself. The book covers a wealth of data regarding the paranormal but its beginnings start with looking at subjects such as the evolution of man, the world of the Kabbalists, the Masons and all that was scary during the 19th century. For me one of the more interesting chapters was the one concerning the most evil man on Earth, the infamous black magician Aleister Crowley. We learn of who the man was, his beginnings and ultimately what he got up to, which was quite a lot of dastardly deeds but I won’t spoil it all here by telling those who don’t know.
The book also looks at Witchcraft and Lycanthropy but the book’s main thrust is of course magic and mystery but Colin also takes a look into the world of Spiritualism its beginnings and where it is now. Philosophy is also given the once over and a number of historical characters are referred to. It certainly is a book packed with a spiritual punch and is a roller coaster ride of topics that take the reader on a thought provoking journey. Colin Wilson threads all the subjects together in a way that shows how mankind has delved into subjects that some might say we should never have entered into. I mentioned Aleister Crowley above, but Colin also looks at other historical characters who made a big impression on matters of the occult namely Daniel Dunglas Home who had the amazing ability to levitate and was seen to do so by going out one open window and in through another, a feat that the great Dynamo would be hard pushed to do!
Nostradamus is a name most people have heard of and his famous quatrains have been digested and dissected by many scholars over the years as to their veracity of truth or equally their veracity of falsehoods! Other reviewers of this book have stated that Colin has got a number of historical facts wrong mostly in the early chapters where his knowledge of ancient Greek matters seems to be a bit out of tune, that aside you can see where he was coming from and a few mistakes does not distract the reader from seeing how brilliant this book really is. It’s a mammoth book of over 760 pages long so you will have to pace yourself and digest the facts slowly. For me the book showcased aspects of not only mankind but how society back in those far flung days reacted to visions, to visionaries and to the ideology that strange things were clearly afoot and those ‘things’ required to be considered by any open minded man (or woman) Oh wait till you read what Colin has to say about Faculty X which he believes to be a latent power that most if not all humans harbor.
Colin Wilson died in December 2013 but his books and his thoughts should be an inspiration to us all. The re-release of this fine work, is indeed a classic and is testimony to one of Britain’s finest writers.
TITLE: The Occult. AUTHOR: Colin Wilson. PUBLISHER: Watkins, Angels Business Club, 359 Goswell Road, London, EC1V 7JL www.watkinspublishing.com PRICE: £16.99 ISBN: 978-1-78028-846-8