Investigator of the Paranormal

Colin Wilson, Prolific Best-Selling Author (1931–2013)

In December of 2013, we learned that author Colin Wilson had died at 82 of complications from pneumonia. The author of well over 100 volumes of fiction and nonfiction, Wilson, as the New York Times put it, in a retrospective on his life, “became a sensation at 24, when ‘The Outsider’ was published and instantly touched a deep nerve in postwar Britain.” An authority on the occult, ancient mysteries, unexplained anomalies, and many other topics, Wilson was also an early friend and supporter of Atlantis Rising Magazine, contributing several articles, and a very friendly review for our 2005 book, Forbidden History. In 1997, he joined us for a few days in England, which led to his appearance in our documentary video, “The Technologies of the Gods.” Earlier we had interviewed him in connection with his theories on the unrecognized advancements of our forgotten ancient forebears, and on his 1996 book, From Atlantis to the Sphinx. In his memory, we republish here the subsequent article, which appeared in Atlantis Rising #9 in 1996. —EDITOR


For the first time since his massive volume The Occult (1971), Colin Wilson has another bestseller, at least in England. And, with any luck come spring (1997) that achievement will be repeated here in the U.S. when the fledgling New York publishing house Fromm International unveils the U.S. edition of Wilson’s From Atlantis to the Sphinx.

While bestsellers may not be an everyday achievement for Wilson—though he’s had more than his share—distinguished books apparently are. In the forty years since originally bursting on the scene with his much acclaimed The Outsider, he’s averaged about two books a year, enough to earn him mentions in Who’s Who and the Encyclopedia Britannica along with various other honors including visiting professorships at several American colleges.

Especially interested in the supernatural, he wrote The Occult (1971) as an investigation of unexplained phenomena. “Initially, something of a skeptic,” he recalls, “I became absolutely convinced of the reality of the paranormal.” Many subsequent related works earned him a considerable reputation in the field. A fascination with the invisible dimensions of human experience has also prompted works on the psychology of crime, human sexuality, and his own unique form of existential philosophy, making him something of an authority on those areas as well.

In the new book he argues that thousands of years before ancient Egypt and Greece held sway, there was a great civilization whose ships traveled the world from China to the South Pole (which was then free of ice), and whose advanced knowledge of science, mathematics and astronomy was passed on to descendants who escaped to—among other places—Egypt and South America. Wilson believes the ancients possessed a completely different knowledge system from our own, which he believes was at the root of the achievements that so puzzle our modem minds. At the heart of his argument is the current research—especially surrounding the Giza plateau in Egypt—which threatens to overturn conventional theories of the origins of civilization.

Since reading in 1979, Serpent in the Sky, John Anthony West’s interpretation of the work of renowned Egyptologist R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Wilson has actively followed the most important developments in the field. He reports on the ensuing geological studies redating the Sphinx to as old as 12,500 years BC—as much as 8,000 years older than conservative Egyptologists believe—and the evidence developed by Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval of astronomical keys indicating advanced ancient knowledge (discussed in their new book The Message of the Sphinx or Keeper of Genesis in the U.K.). A close friend and virtual neighbor, Wilson has followed Hancock’s work closely since well before his monumental Fingerprints of the Gods as well as that of Bauval, Rand and Rose Flem-Ath (Wilson wrote the introduction for their When the Sky Fell) and, of course, West. In From Atlantis to the Sphinx, Wilson sets out to chronicle the unfolding story and the implications of the new discoveries, and goes on to attempt something of a reconstruction of the lost wisdom of the ancients.

As he explains in From Atlantis to the Sphinx, the machinations of official Egyptology have often been something other than exemplary. Despite overwhelming evidence of sophisticated engineering in the construction of the monuments of the Giza plateau and throughout Egypt, the establishment has persisted in claims that only primitive methods were employed, thus ruling out any suggestion that some kind of superior science inherited from a more sophisticated period—albeit a forgotten one—was involved. Most of Wilson’s speculation concerns just how sophisticated the ancients may have actually been, not only in matters of engineering but in many other areas as well.

He is especially interested in the capacities of mind, which the ancients must have possessed. In the book he argues that they must have had superior development of the left hemisphere of the brain—the intuitive side. Examples of such development have remained until the present but have been relegated to the domain of shamans and prophets. He cites the case of Gilbert Islanders, who in dream states are able to summon porpoises that then appear in great numbers to be killed and eaten. Citing vast contemporary research confirming the reality of telepathy and other so-called paranormal phenomena, Wilson suggests that the modern right-brain dominated society that we have created has forced us to unlearn many things we once knew. “It seems to me we’ve deliberately gotten rid of jungle sensitivities.” The reason, he believes, is clear; we don’t really need them. “What we’ve done is to plunge into this sort of narrow, rational consciousness, which has brought us to the point that we don’t know who we are.” In Wilson’s mind there’s no doubt that the ancients knew who they were.

However, while some have suggested that the ancient Egyptians possessed nothing less than a science of immortality, Wilson sees things a little differently. “Obviously they didn’t have real immortality or they’d be around now,” he points out, but adds, “I suspect their whole aim was immortality. That was the aim of their religion… The Egyptians believed absolutely totally in life after death, as all ancient people did, but as to a real science of immortality? No.”

Despite his demurs, though, he wants to expand on the topic that has interested him since his teens when he saw Bernard Shaw’s play, Back to Methuselah. “The idea of living to be 300 absolutely obsessed me,” he says. His own novel, The Philosopher’s Stone, played around with the idea and he’s become convinced that even today, “human beings possess a certain power that switches on at certain moments.”

His idea is that we possess a kind of “robot” that has the purpose of performing certain tasks for us. “You learn to type slowly and consciously and then the robot takes over and does it quicker than you could, and you learn to drive, or whatever.” The robot, he explains, is what makes humans the most advanced creatures on earth, but it is also the source of most of our problems, “because we are always being taken over by the robot—and when we don’t want to be. We listen to a symphony and it moves us deeply. The third time we listen to it, it’s the robot listening instead of us.”

The normal person, he believes, is about 50% robot and about 50% “real” person. “In curious moments of happiness, in great moments of intensity, what happens is you suddenly become 51% real you and 49% robot. And I’m sure that in mystical experiences you become something like 55% real and only about 45% robot. That’s what mystical experiences are.” If we could only switch into such moods—he thinks they are what psychiatrist Abraham Maslow called “peak experiences”—all the time, he believes we would be capable of amazing things. “I’ve got a feeling that all these so­called psychic faculties take over in those moments when we are non-robotic.”

As for the notion of surviving the death of the physical body, Wilson accepts that it’s probably true but doesn’t think it is particularly relevant or important. Unlike Dostoevsky who thought that the truth of life after death could be the most important thing that we could know, Wilson believes the most important questions are “how to live now that we’re here, how to escape the robot, how to live on a sort of higher level.” If we become preoccupied with life after death, he thinks, we’re wasting our time.

To Wilson the present world with all its difficulties offers special challenges, which have the potential to strengthen our hidden capacities. Human suffering he sees as, in large measure, due to the fact that we’ve forgotten who we are and are trying to recover what we have lost. That recovery, though, shouldn’t be so difficult.

“If we could get the right point of view, so to speak, suddenly these latent powers would become accessible to us all the time.” Certain that he’s on to something big, he expands, “It really does seem to me that one of the basic problems with human beings is that they experience wonderful moments of insight—for example, children at Christmas, when they feel the whole universe is absolutely glorious, and they feel that surely no one would ever want to die—but the trouble is, you know perfectly well at Christmas that within a couple of months, in the middle of February, you’ll be grimly bored and begin to long for the coming of the holidays around August.”

The need is to sustain the drive and purpose of the high moments during the low ones. The highs, it seems to him, amount to a kind of three-dimensional consciousness, contrasting with the ordinary, two-dimensional, humdrum consciousness. And he sees modern, nihilistic, existential pessimists, like Samuel Beckett and Jean Paul Sartre, as trapped in the 2D experience. In contrast, the thoroughly optimistic Wilson believes that we are on the threshold of a time when we will be able to find the kind of balance between modern, rational thought and ancient, intuitive knowledge that will enable us “to become masters of the peak experience.” Simply learning the true antiquity of ancient civilization may do much to help us on our way, as he reminded us, when we tried to probe an intellectual riddle, which puzzled us.

In his book, Wilson describes the Giza construction scenario proposed by Hancock and Bauval, which has the Sphinx built around 10,500 BC, as indicated by geological evidence and corroborated by the precessional time of the “Age of Leo,” and then, approximately 8,000 years later, the completion of the Great Pyramid as indicated by the astronomical alignment of “air­ shafts” within the pyramid. Wilson also cites Rand Flem-Ath and Charles Hapgood’s research on Earth Crust Displacement, which places the destruction of Atlantis at about 9,500 BC—or about 1,000 years after construction of the sphinx—as reported by Plato and confirmed by evidence of animal extinctions such as the mammoths in Siberia. Earth Crust Displacement would have dramatically altered all astronomical observational phenomena and since the Hancock/Bauval timetable relies on a predictable path for celestial objects, which have remained constant to the present day, we couldn’t help wondering how the apparent conflict could be resolved rationally.

Wilson agrees that it is all very puzzling and points to other destruction scenarios for Atlantis including collisions with meteors. “It seems to me,” he says, “that Atlantis did in fact go down in a number of catastrophes.” But in any event, he thinks the question is really unimportant at this stage. The most important thing, he believes, about the research of Hancock, Bauval, Flem-Ath, and others is, “that knowledge of the heavens and so on is far older than we thought, and that man really knew an enormous amount, maybe as long ago as 30,000 BC. If we can actually begin to grasp this, really feel that this is what happened, I think that simply that perspective on human history is going to cause a change of consciousness and a different way of looking at history.”

Nevertheless, he does not see a wholesale rewriting of the history books any time soon, “What I do think will happen,” he chuckles, “is that this kind of thing will gradually snowball, and a certain point will come when quite suddenly, it’s accepted knowledge. And then, and only then, will you get the academics who have this kind of vested interest to go along.”

Since Wilson has focused many times in his career on forensics (he’s written in depth about Jack the Ripper and other notorious criminals) we wondered if he ever thought of Atlantis as perhaps the victim of a great murder—a crime that we might live to see reenacted—and that our problem is amnesia resulting from the trauma of the first enactment.

“I would agree completely,” he declares. “It seems to me that Plato was right. Something almost certainly had gone wrong with Atlantis, spiritually speaking, before its destruction, which makes me feel that people like Graham, and Robert, and John West, and myself are doing our best, as it were, to sound the alarm before it actually happens again. We’re like someone digging frantically to raise some kind of barrier before the flood comes. I’ve no doubt whatsoever from my studies of crime that we are moving into an age in which mass murder and this kind of thing is going to become more and more commonplace—things like that affair in Belgium, which at the moment seems to me to be a horrific example of the kind of thing that is beginning to happen, and which inevitably happens, as a civilization becomes more and more free, more and more liberal, and so on. We can’t put back the clock. There’s no way of doing that. What we can do, with a little luck, is to really understand the implications of all this. It seems to me that there’s a great counterweight to these problems and that counterweight is this kind of knowledge that we’re speaking about. If this kind of knowledge could be established for everyone to understand, then suddenly, we would begin to see our civilization back on the rails, no longer in danger of meeting the same kind of fate as Atlantis.”

By J. Douglas Kenyon