The Tragedy of Reason

by Michael Colantoni

from the book “The Occult” by Colin Wilson 1971


THE THESIS OF THIS BOOK IS REVOLUTIONARY and I must state it clearly at the outset.

Primitive man believed the world was full of unseen forces: the orenda (spirit force) of the American Indians, the huaca of the ancient Peruvians. The Age of Reason said that these forces had only ever existed in man’s imagination; only reason could show man the truth about the universe. The trouble was that man became a thinking pygmy, and the world of the rationalists was a daylight place in which boredom, triviality and ‘ordinariness’ were ultimate truths.

But the main trouble with human beings is their tendency to become trapped in the ‘triviality of everydayness’ (to borrow Heidegger’s phrase), in the suffocating world of their personal preoccupations. And every time they do this, they forget the immense world of broader significance that stretches around them. And since man needs a sense of meaning to release his hidden energies, this forgetfulness pushes him deeper into depression and boredom, the sense that nothing is worth the effort.

In a sense, the Indians and Peruvians were closer to the truth than modern man, for their intuition of ‘unseen forces’ kept them wide open to the vistas of meaning that surround us.

Goethe’s Faust can be seen to be the greatest symbolic drama of the West, since it is the drama of the rationalist suffocating in the dusty room of his personal consciousness, caught in the vicious circle of boredom and futility, which in turn leads to still further boredom and futility. Faust’s longing for the ‘occult’ is the instinctive desire to believe in the unseen forces, the wider significances, that can break the circuit.

The interesting thing is that Western man developed science and philosophy because of this consuming passion for wider significances. It was not his reason that betrayed him, but his inability to reason clearly, to understand that a healthy mind must have an ‘input’ of meaning from the universe if it is to keep up an ‘output’ of vital effort. The fatal error was the failure of the scientists and rationalists to keep their minds open to the sense of huaca, the unseen forces. They tried to measure life with a six-inch ruler and weigh it with the kitchen scales. This was not science; it was crudity only one degree beyond that of savages; and Swift made game of it in the ‘Voyage to Laputa.’

Man lives and evolves by ‘eating’ significance, as a child eats food. The deeper his sense of wonder, the wider his curiosity, the stronger his vitality becomes, and the more powerful his grip on his own existence.

There are two ways in which he can expand: inward and outward. If I am in a foreign country and I get a powerful desire to explore it thoroughly, to visit its remotest places, that is a typical example of outward expansion. And it would not be untrue to say that the love of books, of music, of art, is typical of the desire for inward expansion. But that is only a half of it. For what happens if I suddenly become fascinated by a foreign country is that I feel like the spider in the centre of a web; I am aware of all kinds of ‘significances’ vibrating along the web, and I want to reach out and grab them all. But in moods of deep inner serenity, the same thing happens. Suddenly I am aware of vast inner spaces, of strange significances inside me. I am no longer a puny twentieth-century human being trapped in his life-world and personality. Once again, I am at the centre of a web, feeling vibrations of meaning. And suddenly I realise that in the deepest sense those Indians and Peruvians were right. I am like a tree that suddenly becomes aware that its roots go down deep, deep into the earth. And at this present point in evolution, my roots go far deeper into the earth than my branches stretch above it – a thousand times deeper.

So-called magic powers are a part of this underground world: powers of second sight, pre-vision, telepathy, divination. These are not necessarily important to our evolution; most animals possess them, and we would not have allowed them to sink into disuse if they were essential. But the knowledge of his ‘roots,’ his inner world, is important to man at this point in evolution, for he had become trapped in his image of himself as a thinking pygmy. He must somehow return to the recognition that he is potentially a ‘mage,’ one of those magical figures who can hurl thunderbolts or command spirits. The great artists and poets have always been aware of this. The message of the symphonies of Bee-thoven could be summarised: ‘Man is not small; he’s just bloody lazy.’

Civilisation cannot evolve further until ‘the occult’ is taken for granted on the same level as atomic energy. I do not mean that scientists ought to spend their evenings with an ouija board, or that every university should set up a ‘department of psychic sciences’ along the lines of the Rhine Institute at Duke. I mean that we have to learn to expand inward until we have somehow re-established the sense of huaca, until we have re-created the feeling of ‘unseen forces’ that was common to primitive man. It has somehow got to be done. There are aspects of the so-called supernatural that we have got to learn to take for granted, to live with them as easily as our ancestors did. ‘Man’s perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception,’ says Blake. ‘He perceives more than sense (though ever so acute) can discover.’ He ‘knows’ things that he has not learned through schooling or everyday experience, and sometimes it is more comfortable not to know. Osbert Sitwell has a strange anecdote about a palmist:

Nearly all my brother-officers of my own age had been, two or three months earlier in the year, to see a celebrated palmist of the period – whom, I remember it was said, Mr. Winston Churchill used sometimes to consult. My friends, of course, used to visit her in the hope of being told that their love affairs would prosper, when they would marry, or the direction in which their later careers would develop. In each instance, it appears, the cheiromant had just begun to read their fortunes, when, in sudden bewilderment, she had thrown the outstretched hand from her, crying, ‘I don’t understand it! It’s the same thing again! After two or three months, the line of life stops short, and I can read nothing…’ To each individual to whom it was said, this seemed merely an excuse she had improvised for her failure: but when I was told by four or five persons of the same experience, I wondered what it could portend…’

It portended the outbreak of the 1914 war, and the deaths of the brother officers whose life lines came to an end three months after consulting the palmist.

The number of readers who would dismiss this story as a fantasy or a downright lie is probably very small. A larger number may feel that there is some truth in it, but that it has been in some way exaggerated. The majority of people would probably accept that it is more or less true, and all rather odd…but not very important; at least, they have no intention of thinking about it. And we tend to fall back on this response whenever we are faced with the ‘odd’: to push it into a com-partment of the mind labelled ‘exceptions,’ and forget about it. I hear that Abraham Lincoln had dreams and premonitions of his death for a week before he was assassinated; that is ‘odd,’ but it is also past history, and it may have been exaggerated. I open a weekend colour supplement, and read that for a week before the explosion that destroyed a BEA Comet aircraft on October 12, 1967, Nicos Papapetrou was haunted by premonitions, and dreams of death and mourning, so that an hour before take-off, he tried to book on another flight. That is not past history, but then, Papapetrou was carrying the bomb that accidentally exploded. He was an explosives smuggler and had made six similar trips earlier that year; why did he get premonitions on this one? We shrug, agree that it is very odd, and think about something else.

Now, I am certainly not suggesting that we should spend our lives worrying about dreams and premonitions, or patronise fortune-tellers; it is a healthy instinct that makes us ignore them and get on with the practical business of living. But the hard-headed, tough-minded attitude towards such things is a mistake in the most ordinary, logical sense of that term. A mere two centuries ago, the most respected scientists declared that it was absurd to assert that the earth is more than a few thousand years old, or that strange monsters had once walked its forests. When workmen in quarries discovered fossilised sea-creatures, or even the skull of a dinosaur, this was explained as a freak rock formation, nature imitating living forms by way of a joke. And for the next fifty years the hard-headed scientists devoted their time and inge-nuity to explaining away the fossils and bones that were found in increasing numbers. Cuvier, one of the greatest zoologists of the nineteenth century, destroyed the career of his colleague Lamarck by stigmatising his theory of evolution as fanciful and unscientific; his own more ‘scientific’ belief was that all the prehistoric creatures (whose existence was now acknowledged) had been totally destroyed in a series of world catastrophes, wiping the slate clean for the creation of man and the animals of today.

This kind of thing is not the exception in the history of science but the rule. For one of the fundamental dogmas of science is that a man who is denying a theory is probably more ‘scientific’ than a man who is affirming it.

In spite of Cuvier, the ‘fanciful’ ideas of evolution have won the day – although, in the form in which they were most acceptable to scientists, they were rigorous, mechanical laws of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Slowly that is changing, and the latest developments in biology may end by altering our conception of the universe as much as the dinosaur bones altered our conception of the earth. And that is the premise upon which this book is based. The time may not be far off when we can accept certain ‘occult’ phenomena as naturally as we now accept the existence of atoms.

In order to clarify this assertion, I must speak briefly of the new science of cybernetics. Cybernetics was ‘invented’ in 1948 by the physicist Norbert Wiener of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is the science of control and communication, in machines and animals. (The Greek work kybernetes means a steersman or governor.) The floating ball in the lavatory cistern is a simple application of cybernetic control; when the cistern is full, the ball-cock cuts off the water. With a little ingenuity I could devise a similar control to turn off the bath taps when the water reaches a certain level, saving myself the trouble of sitting up in the bath. But in science and industry, the process I want to control may be many times more complicated than bath taps; it may, for example, be some chemical process that might develop in several directions. In which case, I must make use of an electronic computer and ‘programme’ it to deal with many possible situations. A card with a few holes punched in it is enough to give the computer its instructions and to make it behave like a foreman seeing that a job gets done properly.

Since the late-nineteenth century, it has been understood that living creatures derive their characteristics from tiny cells called genes, which are contained in the male sperm and the female egg. The colour of my hair and eyes, and the size of my feet, are all determined by genes. But no one was sure how the genes did this. In the mid-1950s, it gradually became clear that the genes are like a computer card with holes punched in it. The ‘holes’ are actually molecules of a substance called DNA, linked together in the form of a double spiral, something like two springs twisted together in opposite directions.

The more we know about this computer system that makes us what we are, the more baffling it becomes. Darwin’s theory of evolution accounts for the giraffe’s neck and the elephant’s trunk in terms of accident, just as you might explain a rock worn into the shape of a face by pointing to the wind and rain. Science hates ‘teleology,’ the notion of purpose. The rock didn’t want to be sculpted into the shape of a face, and the wind and rain didn’t want to sculpt it; it just happened. Similarly, biologists hate the heresy known as ‘vitalism,’ the notion that life somehow ‘wants’ to produce healthier and more intelligent creatures; they just happen to get produced because health and intelligence survive better than sickness and stupidity. But when one realises that human beings are produced by a highly complex computer card, it becomes difficult to avoid slipping into ‘teleology’ and wondering who programmed the computer.

In 1969, a cybernetician, Dr. David Foster, lectured to the International Conference on Cybernetics at the Imperial College, London, and sketched some of the philosophical implications of these discoveries. He pointed out that from the cybernetician’s point of view, it is possible to consider the universe in terms of data and data processing. An acorn, for example, may be regarded as the ‘programme’ for an oak tree. Even an atom can be thought of as a computer card with three holes punched in it, the holes being (a) the number of particles in the nucleus, (b) the number of electrons orbiting round it, (c) the energy of these electrons expressed in terms of the smallest known ‘parcel’ of energy, Planck’s constant. Dr. Foster goes on: ‘Surely it must be obvious that the essential nature of matter is that the atoms are the alphabet of the universe, that chemical compounds are words, and that DNA is rather a long sentence or even a whole book trying to say something such as “elephant,” “giraffe” or even “man.”

He goes on to point out that the basic building brick of any electrical information theory is one electrical wave, and a wave consists of two halves, because it is measured from the top of one ‘bump’ to the bottom of the next trough.

That is, a wave is a ‘binary’ system, and computers work upon binary mathematics. This is an important step in his argument, for if we think of ‘waves’ as the basic vocabulary of the universe, then you can think of life – in fact, of all matter – as being due to waves that have somehow been cybernetically programmed.

What he is saying certainly sounds like ‘teleology.’ If I saw a complex chemical process being regulated and controlled by a computer, I would infer that someone had programmed the computer. Dr. Foster is saying that, to the eyes of a cybernetician, the complex structures of life around him reveal data processing on a massive scale. This is a matter of scientific fact. And he naturally finds himself wondering what intelligence processed the data?

And now Dr. Foster takes his most controversial step. He explains that ‘as an automation consultant, whenever I design a control system for a process it is axiomatic that the speed of the control system must be greater than that of the motions of the process concerned.’ For example, you can drive your car because you can think faster than the engine works; if you couldn’t, you would crash. But in that case, programming of matter must be achieved by vibrations – or waves – much faster than the vibrations of matter. That is, in cosmic radiations. The universe is, of course, full of cosmic radiations; and, in Dr. Foster’s view, these are probably what lie behind the ‘programming’ of the DNA molecules.

But observe the central point. A wave that carries information is quite different from a wave that doesn’t. The information is imposed on its structure by intelligence. Dr. Foster’s conclusion – although stated with the typical caution of a scientist and hedged around with qualifications – is that the level of intelligence involved must be a great deal higher than our human intelligence. This is also a scientific deduction, not a metaphysical guess. He mentions the Compton Effect in physics, by which the wave length of X-rays is increased by collision with electrons, and the rule deduced from this that you can make red light from blue light – because its energy is less – but not blue light from red light. ‘The faster vibrating blue light is programming for red light, but not vice versa.’

What Dr. Foster is saying is not fundamentally different from the Paley’s watch argument. The theologian Paley remarked that when he looks at the works of his watch, he realises that it implies an intelligent maker, and that man is, after all, more complex than any watch. However, Dr. Foster – if I understand him aright – is not trying to introduce God through the back door. He is less concerned with theories about who does the programming than with the fact that there is programming throughout nature; he is concerned with the question of how the ‘information’ gets carried to the DNA, and ‘cosmic radiation’ suggests itself as a plausible assumption. He says, ‘One establishes a new picture of the universe as a digitised universe, an information universe, but I think that because of the strong cybernetical influences at work, I prefer to call it The Intelligent Universe.’

It is interesting that Dr. Foster arrives at this Intelligent Universe not by starting from the idea of purpose or God, as religious thinkers do, but simply by considering the facts we now know about the cybernetic programming of living matter. What emerges is a picture of the universe that fits in with the theories of other scientists and psychologists during the past twenty years: Teilhard de Chardin, Sir Julian Huxley, C. H. Waddington, Abraham Maslow, Viktor Frankl, Michael Polanyi, Noam Chomsky. What all these men have in common is an opposition to ‘reductionism,’ the attempt to explain man and the universe in terms of the laws of physics or the behaviour of laboratory rats. The psychologist Abraham Maslow, for example, writes: ‘Man has a “higher nature” that is just as instinctoid as his lower (animal) nature…’ Dr. Foster’s theory of a ‘digitised universe’ is perhaps bolder than the evolutionism of Huxley and Waddington, but the spirit is fundamentally similar. There is no contradiction.

And all this means that for the first time in Western history a book on the occult can be something more than a collection of marvels and absurdities. Religion, mysticism and magic all spring from the same basic ‘feeling’ about the universe: a sudden feeling of meaning, which human beings sometimes ‘pick up’ accidentally, as your radio might pick up some unknown station. Poets feel that we are cut off from meaning by a thick lead wall, and that sometimes for no reason we can understand the wall seems to vanish and we are suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite interestingness of things. Ivan Karamazov, in Dostoevsky’s novel, tells a story about an atheist who did not believe in life after death, and after his death, God sentenced him to walk a billion miles as a penance. The atheist lay on the road and refused to move for a million years; however, he eventually dragged himself to his feet and unwillingly walked the billion miles. And when he was finally admitted to heaven, he immediately declared that it would have been worth walking ten times as far just for five minutes of heaven. Dostoevsky catches this mystical sense of a meaning so intense that it surpasses anything we can conceive and that would make any effort worthwhile. It is the sense of meaning that spurs man to make the efforts necessary to evolution. While he believes that his boredom and pessimism are telling him the truth about the universe he refuses to make an effort. If, like Ivan’s sinner, he could get a sudden glimpse of ‘meaning,’ he would become unconquerable and unkillable; walking ten billion miles would be a joke.

Now, Western science has always agreed that there is plenty to discover about the universe – but it is fundamentally a dead, mechanical universe. You might say that the scientist is nothing more than a glorified accident-investigator. And the accident-investigator is himself the product of accident. But man is more deeply moved by meaning than by accident. The French speleologist Norbert Casteret found the underground caves at Montespan exciting to explore; but this was nothing to his excitement when he found the walls covered with paintings of lions and horses, and realised that he had stumbled on the art of prehistoric cave men. Discovery of the product of intelligence is always more exciting than the product of accident.

If David Foster is right, or even half right, then it is the beginning of a new epoch in human knowledge, for science will cease to be the investigation of accident and become a search for meaning. He writes, ‘The universe is a total construction of waves and vibrations whose inner content is “meaning”…’ admitting at the same time that our instruments are far too clumsy to decode the meanings carried by high-frequency vibrations. But to believe that the meaning is there, to be decoded, is an enormous step forward, almost the equivalent of the atheist’s glimpse of heaven.

And, for present purposes, it also provides a picture of the universe that has room for ‘occult phenomena’ as well as for atomic physics. In the past, the trouble was always where to draw the line. If you could accept telepathy and premonitions of the future, then why not astrology and fortune-telling and werewolves and vampires and ghosts and witches casting spells? Because if you are going to contradict scientific logic, you may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, and see how many impossible things you can believe before breakfast.

On the other hand, Dr. Foster’s theory agrees with the intuitions of poets, mystics and ‘occultists’: that there are ‘meanings’ floating around us from which we are normally cut off by habit, ignorance and the dullness of the senses. So-called esoteric tradition may be no more than the superstition of ignorant savages, but it could also be an attempt to explain one of those accidental glimpses of a meaning that goes beyond everyday banality, a moment when the human radio set picks up unknown vibrations. The word ‘occult’, after all, means ‘the unknown,’ the hidden. Or perhaps these glimpses are not accidental; perhaps the Intelligent Universe is trying to communicate to us.

But whether we want to go this far or not, there is a sense of liberation in being able to accept that the universe is full of meaning that we could grasp if we took the trouble. Bertrand Russell expresses the same feeling in My Philosophical Development when he tells how he came to reject the Kantian notion that there is no ‘reality’ out there: ‘With a sense of escaping from prison, we allowed ourselves to think that the grass is green, that the sun and stars would exist if no one was aware of them, and also that there is a pluralistic timeless world of Platonic ideas…’

Man must believe in realities outside his own smallness, outside the ‘triviality of everydayness,’ if he is to do anything worthwhile.

And this brings me to one of the central assertions of this book. As long ago as 1887, Max Müller, the editor of The Sacred Books of the East, pointed out that for all practical purposes our ancestors of two thousand years ago were almost colour-blind, as most animals are today. ‘Xenophanes knew of three colours of the rainbow only – purple, red and yellow; that even Aristotle spoke of the tricoloured rainbow; and that Democritus knew of no more than four colours – black, white, red and yellow.’ Homer apparently thought the sea the same colour as wine. There are no colour words in primitive Indo-European speech. We can understand why Aristotle’s pupil Alexander of Macedon spent his life conquering the world. It must have been a singularly dull world, with no distinction between the red of wine, the blue-green of the sea, the emerald-green of grass and the deep-blue of the sky. But it is understandable, biologically speaking. Life was hard and violent, and the capacity to grasp subtle distinctions of thought or colour would have been of no value for survival. Alexander was energetic and imaginative; what else was there for him to do but conquer the world, and then cry when there was no more to conquer?

But the capacity to enjoy ‘subtle vibrations’ is an important part of our energy-outlets. A man who cannot read is going to have a very dull time as he recuperates in hospital from a serious operation, whereas a man who loves reading may find the inactivity delightful. Boredom is lack of the capacity for registering subtle vibrations. And the definition of a living organism is an organism capable of responding to energy vibrations. These vibrations constitute ‘meanings.’ Whether I am relaxing in front of a fire, or enjoying a glass of wine, or responding to a symphony, or smelling cut grass as I mow the lawn, I am registering meanings and recording vibrations. The important difference between a man and his dog is not only that the dog is colour-blind, but that the man has a wider range of response in almost every field.

The higher the form of life, the deeper its capacity for registering meaning, and the more powerful its hold on life. For Alexander, meaning was bound up with conquest, and when he reached a limit of conquest, he also reached the end of his tether; he had conquered the world at thirty-one; he died at thirty-three.

Evolution is simply the capacity to register meanings that are already there. Blue and green existed, even if Xenophanes could not distinguish between them. We are evolving into a universe that becomes progressively more fascinating as we learn to register new vibrations. No doubt in another thousand years, human beings will see a dazzling universe with a dozen colours that do not exist for us.

Now, it should be obvious that an increase in ‘subtlety’ is an inward evolution. An apprentice clockmaker begins by repairing large docks, and slowly graduates to the finest watches. He develops an increasing stillness and concentration, and these are ‘inward’ qualities.

Man has reached a point in his evolution where he must graduate from clocks to watches, from the large to the subtle. He must turn increasingly inward. That is, he must turn to the hidden levels of his being, to the ‘occult,’ to meanings and vibrations that have so far been too fine to grasp.

I have divided this book into three parts. Although it was originally intended to take the form of a history, I felt that a lengthy preamble was needed – a section in which I could state my own preoccupations and convictions. I have argued that there is a connection between creativity and ‘psychic’ sensitivity. The creative person is concerned to tap the powers of the subconscious mind, and in doing so, may become aware of forces that are normally inaccessible to consciousness. This is why I have included discussions of the I Ching and the Tarot in this section.

The second part is the history that I set out to write. I had the choice of attempting either a history of magic in general, or a history of individual ‘mages’ and adepts, with the necessary historical background to connect them together. I have chosen the latter course.

The third part of the book is concerned with the subjects that I only had time to touch upon in the second part: witchcraft, lycanthropy and vampirism, the history of spiritualism, the problem of ghosts and poltergeists. The last chapter of the book, ‘Glimpses,’ returns to the subjects of this preface: the metaphysical questions that arise out of occultism; the problem of time; and the nature of ‘man’s latent powers.’

This is a large book, and as comprehensive a history as I can make it. But it soon became clear to me that it had to be essentially a personal statement of conviction rather than an encyclopaedia. There are good encyclopaedias: notably Lewis Spence’s Encyclopedia of Occultism. Nandor Fodor’s Encyclopedia of Psychic Science, and the wide-ranging Man, Myth and Magic (which, at the time this book goes to press, has only reached the second of seven volumes). But their disadvantage is that they tend to be a disconnected mass of information. The books of the late Charles Fort have the same fault; he spent his life collecting newspaper reports of weird and unexplainable events to disconcert the scientists, and then failed to disconcert anybody but his admirers because he tossed down a great mountain of facts like a heap of firewood and hoped they would argue for themselves. But facts never do. In this book, perhaps I have argued a little too much, but it seemed to me to be the safer of two courses.

In an early chapter I speak about coincidences; and certainly there have been enough in the writing of this book. On one occasion, when I was searching for a piece of information, a book actually fell off the shelf and fell open at the right page. And items of required information have turned up with a promptitude that sometimes made me nervous. After a while I got used to this, and even began to feel a mild resentment when some piece of information evaded me for more than ten minutes or so. Which seems to demonstrate my point that if the supernatural made too many incursions into human existence, it would end by making us lazy.

My own attitude to the subject has changed during the course of researching and writing this book. Although I have always been curious about the ‘occult’ – I have five hundred or so volumes on magic and the supernatural – it has never been one of my major interests, like philosophy or science, or even music. While I was by no means entirely sceptical, I felt that most people are interested in the supernatural for the wrong reasons. My grandmother was a spiritualist, and the few spiritualists I met through her did not impress me as particularly wide-awake or intelligent. Some ten years ago the Shakespearian scholar G. Wilson Knight talked to me about spiritualism and lent me books on the subject, and again I could not bring myself to take any deep interest. It was not that I rejected what he said; I had sufficient respect for his intellect in other fields to accept that this was not pure wishful thinking. But I still felt that, compared to the world of philosophy or psychology, there was something trivial about all this preoccupation with life after death, as there is about chess or ballroom dancing. There was a smell of the ‘human, all too human’ about it. Camus expressed the same feeling when he said, ‘I do not want to believe that death opens out onto another life. For me, it is a closed door…All the solutions that are offered to me try to take away from man the weight of his own life. And watching the heavy flight of the great birds in the sky at Djémila, it is exactly a certain weight of my life that I ask for and I receive.’ Hemingway, at his best, possessed this same awareness. It is a feeling that our life can offer a reality and an intensity that makes most ordinary religious emotion seem trivial and self-deluding. The spiritualist says, ‘Surely this life would be meaningless if it came to an end with death?’ Camus’s reply would be that if he accepts life after death as an answer to this meaninglessness, he is losing even the possibility of the moments when life becomes oddly ‘real.’

It was not until two years ago, when I began the systematic research for this book, that I realised the remarkable consistency of the evidence for such matters as life after death, out-of-the-body experiences (astral projection), reincarnation. In a basic sense, my attitude remains unchanged; I still regard philosophy – the pursuit of reality through intuition aided by intellect – as being more relevant, more important, than questions of ‘the occult.’ But the weighing of the evidence, in this unsympathetic frame of mind, has convinced me that the basic claims of ‘occultism’ are true. It seems to me that the reality of life after death has been established beyond all reasonable doubt. I sympathise with the philosophers and scientists who regard it as emotional nonsense, because I am temperamentally on their side; but I think they are closing their eyes to evidence that would convince them if it concerned the mating habits of albino rats or the behaviour of alpha particles.

In the past few centuries, science has made us aware that the universe is stranger and more interesting than our ancestors realised. It is an amusing thought that it may turn out stranger and more interesting than even the scientists are willing to admit.

Colin Wilson – The Occult, Introduction (1971)

Cover of The Occult