Hippocrates v Hypocrite  






In his book Proust was a Neuroscientist John Lehrer explores how the old Cartesian dualism falls apart when examining the life and works of some of the great artists – many of whom anticipated in their work the findings of science in the 20th & 21st centuries. He starts his enquiry with an examination of the life and work of Walt Whitman, who all his life celebrated the ‘Body Electric’.

Whitman’s poetry in aggregate represents an extraordinary pantheistic paean; that is in every poem he wrote he celebrates the god in man and the man in god. All of Whitman is about what I shall term ‘withness’ – about participation. I open a volume of Whitman at random and find this:



Spontaneous me, Nature,  

The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with,  

The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder,  

The hill-side whiten’d with blossoms of the mountain ash,  

The same, late in autumn—the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and light and dark green,

The rich coverlid of the grass—animals and birds—the private untrimm’d bank—

     the primitive apples—the pebble-stones,  

Beautiful dripping fragments—the negligent list of one after another, as I happen to call

     them to me, or think of them,  

The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,)  

The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me,  

This poem, drooping shy and unseen, that I always carry, and that all men carry,

(Know, once for all, avow’d on purpose, wherever are men like me, are our lusty, lurking,

     masculine poems;)  

Love-thoughts, love-juice, love-odor, love-yielding, love-climbers, and the climbing sap,  

Arms and hands of love—lips of love—phallic thumb of love—breasts of

     love—bellies press’d and glued together with love,  

Earth of chaste love—life that is only life after love,  

The body of my love—the body of the woman I love—the body of the man—the body of

     the earth,

etc etc (1)

This indeed is a celebration of the ‘body electric’ - it is a paean to love and sensuality and sex, but above all it is a paean to being with – with yourself and with the world, the landscape , the whole of Creation of which you are a part.

Whitman could be seen as an advocate for the philosophy of the Brethren of the Free Spirit which features large in Wilson’s novel The God of the Labyrinth.

A few of the recorded sayings of the Brethren of the Free Spirit who flourished for a time in the late middle ages will give a flavour of the Brethren’s philosophy:


God is in every stone.

God is in every stone and in each limb of the human body as surely as in the Eucharistic bread.

Every created thing is divine.

`They say they are God by nature, without distinction.'

The divine essence is my essence and my essence is the divine essence… . From eternity man was God in God….From eternity the soul of man was in God and is God.

Rejoice with me, for I have become God.

The Spirit of Freedom or the Free Spirit is attained when one is wholly transformed into God. This union is so complete that neither the Virgin Mary nor the Angels are able to distinguish between man and God. In it one is restored to one's original state, before one flowed out of the Deity. One is illumined by that essential light, beside which all created light is darkness and obfuscation.

Rejoice with me, for I have become God…. I am made eternal in my eternal blessedness.


Is this what Nijinsky experienced when he was sectioned for walking down a street declaring ‘I am God’? Is this what he experienced every time he danced?

In the critical chapter of the Outsider ‘The Attempt to Gain Control’ where Wilson outlines the three types of Outsider represented by T.E. Lawrence, Van  Gogh and Nijinsky he comments about Nijinsky: ‘With astounding penetration he analyses his creative urges: ‘I am feeling through flesh, and not though the intellect’ . (2)

Nijinsky understands what the Brethren of the Free Spirit meant when they say:


Paradise is within ourselves.

What is your name?

Nameless wildness

Where does your insight lead to?

Into untrammelled freedom.

Tell me, what do you call untrammelled freedom?

When a man lives according to all his caprices without distinguishing between God and himself, and without looking before or after.

[Heinrich Suso of Cologne] (3)


And it is in this sense we have to understand Nijinsky’s declaration ‘I am God in a body’, and it is part of the aim of this book to show that to a certain extent Nijinsky’s way of apprehending God is the only way open to human beings whether we do it physically, emotionally or intellectually. We are all ‘feeling through flesh’ and the only thing which prevents us being aware of this is the intellect – and the fact that we allow the intellect to dominate, or rather our civilisation encourages the predominance of intellect - to the extent that we cease to be aware of ourselves as ‘feeling through flesh’.

And this was the importance of Whitman as Jonah Lehrer makes clear in his book. Whitman saw body and soul as being ‘interwetted’:

‘Whitman got this theory of bodily feelings from his investigations of himself. …..the landscape of his body became the inspiration for his poetry…. Every line he ever wrote ached with the urges of his anatomy, with its wise desires and inarticulate sympathies…’(4)

And Lehrer goes on to quote extensively from the researches of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio which would seem to give scientific corroboration to Whitman’s intuitions.

In a series of award winning books Damasio has outlined a theory developed from his researches that argues no differently from Wilhelm Reich that the human being is a functional unity and that we cannot separate out the life of the body from the emotions and the intellect. He calls it the ‘body loop’, which is constantly looping… We feel something because of a thought which in turn has physical repercussions, for instance if I think I may be going bankrupt I experience that sinking sensation in the stomach that I describe as a feeling of panic, which in turn leaves me lethargic and lacking in physical energy; we experience physical trauma which immediately has emotional repercussions if I cut my finger my brain releases a flood of cortisol which makes me angry, which changes the entire complexion of my thinking – possibly for the rest of the day: suddenly I feel victimized by the universe, no longer the arbiter of my own life; if I come face to face with a bear in the woods I may lose control of my autonomic functions entirely and become physically frozen to the spot – like a rabbit in the headlights. The sympathetic nervous system shuts down the autonomic functions of the body to the extent I can’t even think. And so the loop goes on and on

Now these may seem like obvious instances of the mind body matrix. We all know that the way we feel changes our behavior; but the most radical conclusion of Damasio’s researches has been that our capacity for emotional feeling and bodily sensation has a direct effect on our capacity for rational thought. Through observing patients that had lost all capacity for emotional reaction Damasio found that his emotionless subjects became incapable of making sensible decisions and became fixated on irrelevant details i.e. they lost the capacity to perspectivize – they became incapable of ‘birds eye consciousness’ and totally locked into ‘worm’s eye consciousness’. Lehrer comments ‘their frustrating lives are vivid proof that rationality requires feeling, and feeling requires the body. (As Nietzsche put it, “There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom.”). (5)

Without a body there can be no feeling or reason. Feeling and reason are attributes of a physical matrix. It may be that it may be possible to experience feeling and exercise reason in another matrix than the one we inhabit; but we can have no knowledge of this: so it is pointless to speculate.

Interestingly Damasio has written a book on the philosopher Spinoza Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain 2003 in which he suggests that Spinoza was a protobiologist who anticipated his own discoveries on the interrelation of mind and body. One of Wilson’s most revealing philosophical essays was on Spinoza in which he rejects Spinoza’s resolution to the Cartesian dualism thus:

‘His ‘improvement’ of the Cartesian dualism is not really acceptable on any practical level. To accept it as satisfactory, you have to rise to Spinoza’s idea of God as one with nature, then transfer this mystical idea to the human realm. It is very hard – in fact, it requires a kind of mental sleight of hand – to see mind and body as somehow inseparable – at least without slipping into the materialist viewpoint that mind is merely a product of body’

It could be said in this book I have been attempting this very same ‘mental sleight of hand’ and I make no apology for it - because it is my main contention that the New Existentialism is incomprehensible without it….

Wilson continues in the same passage:

‘The trouble is that human experience keeps making us aware of ourselves as mind and body. We say ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is week.’ Every day of our lives we become aware of ourselves as two conflicting forces. So monist solutions, no matter how logically satisfying, fail to appeal to our common sense’ (6)

This is a very strange sentence. How can something ‘no matter how logically satisfying, fail to appeal to our common sense’….? Surely in order for something to appeal to our common sense something must be logically satisfying? As I have tried to demonstrate throughout this book the only reason we ‘every day of our lives become aware of ourselves as conflicting forces’ is our failure to understand what thinking is, and how we are constructed.

In Wilson’s paradigm in The Outsider the three ways of experiencing life are quite separate and Wilson elucidates this when he comments ‘I am aware that these terms lack precision’, and proceeds to elucidate his meaning by inviting us to imagine ‘the absorption of a Newton or an Einstein in some mathematical problem for the intellectual, the intensity of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde for the emotions, and the ecstasy of an ancient Greek festival of Dionysius for the body. He concludes the passage by commenting: ‘Many men have experienced the feeling ‘I am God’ in a sexual orgasm; few have experienced it from listening to music or looking at a painting; fewer still from any intellectual activity’ thus suggesting a distinct hierarchy and a sense that the intellectual is an infinitely rare and possibly superior form of enlightenment. (7)

But if we remember the experience of Paul Weston in his book Avalonian Aeon where intellectual absorption leads to an intensity ‘erotic in its whole-body intensity’ we begin to see how actually all the different routes to enlightenment merge into one; and how separating out into different ways of experiencing – intellectual, emotional and physical – can be not only misleading, but actively obstructive to achieving the sort of transcendence that Wilson was aiming to elucidate.


Other sayings of the Brethren of the Free Spirit include:

Nothing is sin except what is thought of as sin.

He who attributes to himself anything that he does, and does not attribute it all to God, is in ignorance, which is hell.

Whatever the eye sees and covets, let the hand grasp it. [John of Brünn]

It would be better that the whole world should be destroyed and perish utterly than that a `free man' should refrain from one act to which his nature moves him…. The truly free man is king and lord of all creatures. All things belong to him, and he has the right to use whatever pleases him. If anyone tries to prevent him, the free man may kill him and take his goods. [Johann Hartmann]


Now this is all deeply Hermetic and inevitably makes one think of the poetry of William Blake with his ‘rather murder an infant...’ etc. It is not difficult to see why it was outlawed as heresy. Poets are allowed much greater licence than spiritual anarchists who attempt to form themselves into a church designed to rival a prevailing orthodoxy – the Brethren were inevitably deemed to be heretical by the Roman Catholic Church and were bitterly persecuted as a result.

The fundamental dictum of Hermetic philosophy is ‘As Above So Below’ and the notion that pervades all the hermetic literature is that Man and God are indivisible. This is expressed most succinctly in the Poimandred (see Chapter 12).

At a prosaic level the Brethren preached a form of anarchism – anything goes. The only ultimate arbiter of human life is the individual himself and his divinely appointed appetites and desires. And the only higher authority is the individual’s personal perception of God. There is no room in such a philosophy for a Church, or indeed any worldly authority, to limit or control the actions of the individual.

Putting aside all ordinary considerations of morality it is not necessary to emphasise that this can only ever be part of the story. For the human individual is always a part of a greater whole and indeed needs to feel himself a part of a greater whole in order to realise his or her full potential as an individual.


We have seen in Chapter 4 how Harold Saxton Burr came to develop an electrodynamic theory of life whereby all living beings are defined, if not created, by an electrical field. We now need to look at how this extends beyond the individual to include whole groups of individuals including the race itself and ultimately all of life.

It may at times seem as though the New Existentialism is paradigmatically individualistic – narcissistic even - for is it not about the individual ruthlessly realising his or her possibilities and learning to come to an accommodation with the Lebensfrage in spite of all efforts of the universe in which he finds himself to thwart his intentions and reduce him to the level of a very tiny cog in a vast machine? The ethos of the Brethren of the Free Spirit would seem to be designed for an Outsider.

And yet the peak experience and all experience of transcendence, is always associated with a sense of connectedness, of being with; an obliteration of the habitual sense of separation which is at the heart of the human experience.

And this sense of connectedness and withness so expressively voiced by Whitman is of the essence when reviewing the sayings of the Brethren of the Free Spirit – for the very fact of annihilating the distance between the Creator and his creatures means a cessation of the alienation that is so characteristic of human consciousness and the lives that we live.

In this book we have looked at ways in which the New Existentialism seeks to obliterate the distance between subject and object and how demonising the body is not helpful, indeed is totally obstructive.

Rudolph Bauer in a paper already quoted from (see Chapter 7) identifies the distinctively human as being ‘awareness of awareness’:

‘Our mind can be integrated within our field of awareness. When a person is in awareness of awareness, the experience of the field of Being is completely present and completely pervasive.  In this awareness field, we may experience the singularity of a person; the singularity of an event or the singularity of a thing as the manifestation of the field of Being. We more easily experience the Being-ness of beings through our own embodied being. It does take one to know one.

There is a spontaneity of experience that reflects our experience of the spontaneity of self-arising awareness. The fusion of the field of Being within our embodied personal awareness brings forth the bliss of samadhi which is actually the bliss of the world as Being itself. This bliss is the field of bliss that overcomes suffering.  Here the word samadhi means ongoing experience of absorption in the field of pervasive awareness. Samadhi is not an altered state, or trance state. Here samadhi is the natural experience of the being-ness of our own being as Being itself.’

Bauer’s style is highly allusive and owes much to the style of the mystics Eckhart and Boehme, and also that of Martin Heidegger (who was himself a poet and mystic long before he was a philosopher). Bauer uses the same distinction as Heidegger made between being and Being –  the first being equivalent to Heidegger’s ‘triviality of everydayness’ – the type of being that is merely existing without being aware that we are existing and  the second being equivalent to coming into our full estate – full consciousness – full awareness and celebration of our existence. Bauer also makes a critical distinction between mind and awareness. True awareness is something that transcends mere knowing, the operation of the intellect.

What Bauer is saying is that Whitehead’s absoluteness of self enjoyment is only possible from a condition of embodiment – or this is the only condition we can know that we can know it in. Our awareness of awareness establishes a field in which we may if we are so inclined achieve a condition of Samadhi – or less esoterically the peak experience - but only once we accept the degree to which the field is delineated and engendered by our embodiment.

Bauer continues:

‘Within the awareness field as the field, there is a sense of being informed, a felt sense that is not an emotion or an affective reaction. There is within the field as the field, a sense of knowing that is not conceptually based but is direct and unmediated knowingness. Awareness manifests vital forms of experiencing. This is the power of the field of embodied awareness. In truth as Merleau Ponty describes, the body is the medium of the field. Embodiment is the medium of the field of awareness, the field of Being in ‘us as us.’   Awareness is Being’s knowingness.’

‘A sense of knowing that is not conceptually based but is direct and unmediated knowingness’ is probably the best definition of mystical experience I have come across.

This last paragraph is the philosophical justification and elucidation of Harold Saxton Burr’s scientific discovery of L fields which define each living organism and also define how that organism interacts with the surrounding environment.

Later in the same paper Bauer writes:

‘A Dzogchen story that elaborates this experience takes place in the late 19th century.  A luminous Dakini appeared to the great Dzogchen master Dudjom Lingpa and says “You and I are indivisible”. There is a “you” and there is an “I” and there is indivisibleness. The Dakini is declaring that we can experience duality within non-duality. And we can experience within non-duality, duality.  We can experience duality and non-duality simultaneously.  We can experience oneness and difference simultaneously. Dudjom Lingpa would continuously teach that appearance is nothing other than ground awareness. Appearance is nothing other than the manifestation of Being itself.’ (8)

We have seen how Yoga and Tantra are routes to mystical experience through directly engaging with the body. How do they do this? In Bauer’s terminology we can say by engaging with the ‘field of awareness, the field of Being, ‘us as us’. Specifically all yogic and tantric discipline aims at by-passing the chronic need in the human machine to conceptualise, and in so doing aims to return the practitioner to a condition where they are experiencing themselves at the most fundamental level, as Being, as pure sensation without reference to an ‘ought’ or a ‘should’, without reference that is to the social programming that has conditioned us.

In the previous two chapters we have looked at ways in which Yoga and Tantra may contribute to the much sought after spiritual enlightenment, which, after all, is the ultimate aim of the New Existentialism. Tantra is itself a kind of yoga. But there is a critical distinction to be made been tantric yoga and the sort of yoga purveyed on our high streets (in the Western world at any rate). And this distinction is tackled head on in a paper available on researchgate.net  with the rather daunting title ‘’The Potential of the Bi-Directional Gaze: A Call for Neuroscientific Research on the Simultaneous Activation of the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems through Tantric Practice’’  by Jeffrey Lidke.

The basic thesis of this paper is contained in the title – namely that the aim of all Tantra is to achieve ‘the simultaneous activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems’. This may not seem a very exciting proposition, but it is of the essence when considering Tantra from the perspective of the New Existentialism. Why?

Because the majority of yogic practise as practised in the West aims at stimulating solely the parasympathetic nervous system in order to achieve a quietening of the mind and the body, and in so doing provide an antidote  to the stress of contemporary living in a highly competitive industrialised society. Thus the practise of yoga in the West could be seen as little different from swallowing a tranquilizer - it aims at reversing the effects of high blood pressure and hypertension that so often accompany life in the rat race, albeit in a far healthier way than resorting to pharmaceuticals.

Litke’s thesis asserts that Tantra, by stimulating both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, is not just a panacea for stressful living, nor just a quietist discipline aimed at achieving some passive state of enlightenment, but a means by which the individual may develop not just their physical and spiritual well being but also their evolutionary potential and consequently their capacity for participating in the world.

Like Rudolph Bauer in the opening to his paper, Litke refers to the writings of the 11th-century Tantric exegete Abhinavagupta who mapped out ‘a complex system of contemplative ritual practice that combines an “inward-gazing meditative state” (nimīlana-samādhi) with an “outward-gazing meditative state” (unmīlana-samādhi).’ The inward gaze is characterized by contemplative practises that aim at removing the practitioner’s concentration away from the external world, while the outward gaze concentrates on ‘the synesthetic activation and fusing of all five sense capacities through the consumption of wine, meat and grain, the uttering of sacred syllables, the worship of sacred diagrams (maṇḍalas) and other ritual accoutrements, and, in rare cases, sexual congress.’

The ultimate aim of Tantra, Litke asserts, is to bring the inward and outward gazing together into a higher synthesis, which Abhinavagupta called “the meditative state in which the eyes are both open and closed”. In Chapter 11 we’ll look at the work of the Jungian analyst Marion Woodman who used to emphasise the importance of holding together ‘the tension of opposites’.

Litke makes the critical point that the anabolic action of the parasympathetic nervous system and the catabolic action of the sympathetic nervous system are intimately connected to each other:

‘....anabolic and catabolic are two aspects of one overall neurological system. They are just as linked and inseparable as the opening and closing of the eyes themselves.  The mutual dependence of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems is necessary for the overall functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which is one, integrated, whole.’

And he goes on to invoke the ‘flow experience’ often experienced by sportsmen, musicians, and artists ‘who claim to enter into the “zone” and describe a state in which their countless hours of both mental (introvertive) and physical (extrovertive) training result in a state in which the mind, body and breath come into complete integration.  In such a state, there is an experience of heightened awareness in which the action performed requires no further premeditation. One simply does what it is that needs to be done in the moment that it needs to be done.’ (my italics)

As somebody who originally trained as an opera singer I can confirm that this condition is not just desirable it is the essential prerequisite if you are to go out in front of an audience and entertain them with confidence. Wilson wrote extensively about this very condition in terms of close cooperation between the left and right brain.

What we are talking about, from whichever angle you look at it, is the bringing together of opposites into a fruitful collaboration. And this is where Tantra is an invaluable tool because it encourages the individual to experience himself as a gestalt – as an integrated whole. The explanation lies in the theoretical underpinning which Litke describes as follows:

‘Tantric practice is grounded in a non-dual episteme that quite intentionally transcends the limitations of binary, a or b, thinking. The Tantric episteme, in its non-dual orientations combines and conflates “inner” with “outer”, “relaxation” with “rest”, “man” with “woman”, “God” with “human”, “sympathetic” with “parasympathetic”. If we are to listen carefully to the logic of Tantric meditation practice then we will recognize that the tradition is (a) well aware of the dynamics of the human autonomic nervous system (b) which operates with both an outward-focused, arousal-oriented, energy burning, catabolic metabolic dynamic together with (c) an inward-focused, rest-oriented, energy rebuilding anabolic dynamic. These two aspects of the internal system frame one larger subtle-body system that is to be activated and synthesized through Tantric practice toward the end of creating the kind of “powers” that reflect neurological well-being.’(9)

These powers that Tantra is supposed to release equate precisely with the paranormal powers that Wilson wrote about so extensively in the second half of his career – second sight, prevision, healing powers, telepathy, psychometry, astral projection i.e all extra sensory powers that lie beyond our common experience of the world. The serious tantric practitioners like Swami Saraswati (see previous chapter) will tell you that these powers should never be the goal of tantric practise; they are merely the offshoot of overcoming the bifurcation at the heart of Julian Jaynes’ bicameral consciousness, of opening all the chakras and realising our full human potential.

Wilson was always being asked why he had devoted so much time to studying the paranormal. The most concise answer he gave to this question that I have come across is to be found in an interview with Alan Morrison published on the Philosophy Today website:

‘Implicit in the ultimate ‘existential' question “Who am I?” is the possibility that ‘I' may turn out to far more than I had assumed. It is even implicit in Sartre's discovery that he never felt so free as when in danger of death, for that implies a ‘stronger' Sartre, a more Nietzschean Sartre. (Note: Sartre's Le Diable et le Bon Dieu admits such a possibility as the hero claims that he can transform himself from devil to saint and back again.)

Now as I began to look into the paranormal, even into a phenomenon as simple as dowsing, I began to realise that man possesses powers of which he is totally unaware. The first time a divining rod twisted in my hands as I approached a stone megalith, I gaped in astonishment, feeling that this had nothing to do with the ‘ordinary me'. As to precognition, which is extremely well authenticated, it seems to reveal a totally different self.

Herbert Spiegelberg described Husserl's aim as “to unveil the hidden achievements of the transcendental ego”. Well, I believe, as a result of my researches, that these hidden achievements include such powers as telepathy, ‘second sight', precognition and out-of-the-body experience. So there is, as far as I am concerned, a meeting point of existential phenomenology and the so-called paranormal (which is not really paranormal at all, but a normal possibility of human consciousness).’ (10)

But because he was interested in these higher potentials did not mean that he wanted to abandon himself to the experience of ecstasy, any more than he would have wanted to devote his days to dowsing for water. What he did find was that through his researches he became increasingly aware how it was enough in itself to be aware of the higher potential to actually start experiencing it in your own life. In the same way as he quarrelled with Maslow concerning the impossibility of invoking a peak experience he became aware that to invite miraculous things or, merely synchronicities, into your life, it was enough to think about them and believe it to be possible; hence his chronic insistence on the need for a positive outlook.


Wilson’s attitude to mystical experience was not much different from his attitude to mescaline and mind changing drugs generally. Because of his interest in all aspects of human consciousness he devoted a great deal of his life to studying and writing about both, but after his experience with mescaline in the 1960’s (chronicled in an Appendix to Beyond the Outsider) he was never seriously tempted to engage either with psychedelic drugs or mystical experience, for the simple reason that he realised that to submit to either would mean to relinquish control of his consciousness, which in turn would mean relinquishing his capacity to direct his own life and write the books he wanted to write.

 The postscript to Below the Iceberg makes it clear that he viewed all physical and yogic disciplines as in some way inferior to the exercise of the all important human capacity for intellect. (11)

His temperamental aversion to the mystic way of life becomes only too clear in the Autobiography of Nicholas Haggar, an advocate of ‘philosophical universalism’, where Haggar describes the stormy relationship he had with Wilson. Haggar declared that he had discovered the Fire and was devoting himself to alerting the human race to the importance of the Fire as the source of all life and consciousness, to which Wilson rejoined ‘I don’t want the f***g fire. Hulme (T.E. Hulme) wouldn’t have championed your Fire. He’d have described it as Romantic abandon...’ (12)

Yet this brutal dismissal of Haggar’s vision seems almost incomprehensible when you consider that Wilson had devoted his entire life to the exploration of mystical and visionary states of consciousness. The only explanation can be that his reaction to mystical experience was no different to that of Jordan Peterson which we reviewed in Chapter 7, namely that he realised if he acceded to his capacity for mystical experience it would incapacitate him for the work he wanted to do.

Fundamentally it would seem when it came to mystical experience Wilson was content to limit his experience to the incidental glories of the peak experience - Proust’s moment bienheureux - that could suddenly illuminate the landscape and give you courage to continue with your workaday life. He most certainly wasn’t interested in removing himself from his workaday life.

The significance of Jeffery Lidke’s researches is that he makes it clear that in his view Tantra is a legitimate means by which human beings can experience mystical ecstasy and yet still function in their workaday life, and not only that but increase and extend the range of their experience of life.

It has to be said that Wilson’s workaday life was far removed from the workaday lives most of us struggle with, and as I have mentioned elsewhere, one has to take into account that on so many levels he was already connected. He knew what he wanted to do with his time and he was doing it.

Wilson’s conviction was that higher powers are already inside us and are only waiting to be activated. In The Occult, writing about Jim Corbett and jungle sensitivity he had made the point that what we now consider to be extra-sensory or extra-ordinary powers may once have been totally instinctive in us, and that we may once have been naturally connected to the universe around us in a way that is almost incomprehensible to us now.

Wilson’s starting point in From Atlantis to the Sphinx was the work of Rene Schwaller de Lubicz and in the critical final chapter entitled The Third Force Wilson quotes from Schwaller’s magnum opus Sacred Science as follows:

‘The higher animals, as well as the human animal, are totally bathed in a psychic atmosphere which establishes the bond between the individuals, a bond as explicit as the air which is breathed by all living things....Every living being is in contact with all the rhythms and harmonies of all the energies in his universe’ (13)

In the same book Wilson, after surveying the different theories as to how the Egyptians built the pyramids and speculating that they achieved what remains a mystery to this day through employing a kind of collective unconscious that we would appear to have all but lost touch with in the present day, goes on to refer to a book called Out of Control by Kevin Kelly to prove that ‘modern computer science can provide an insight into this paradoxical notion of a collective unconscious’:

Kelly describes a conference in Las Vegas, in which five thousand computer enthusiasts came together in one hall. On the stage facing the audience is a kind of vast television screen in which the audience can see itself. Every member of the audience holds a cardboard wand, red on one side and green on the other; as the audience waves the wands, the screen dances with colours. Individual members of the audience can locate themselves by changing the colour of their wands from red to green and back.

Having identified themselves on the screen the audience is invited to play a succession of computer games commencing with a game of electronic ping pong and eventually culminating in the landing of an aircraft through the mass control of a flight simulator. The first attempt at landing the aircraft has to be aborted. 'Nobody decided whether to turn left or right... Nobody was in charge. But as if of one mind, the plane banks and turns wide.'

A second landing makes the wrong approach and is again aborted.

'The mob decides, without lateral communication, like a flock of birds taking off... And simultaneously, everyone in the audience decides to see if they can make the plane loop the loop. The horizon veers dizzily, but they succeed, and give themselves a standing ovation.’

And Wilson comments:

‘So modern man can achieve group-consciousness, and moreover, achieve it almost instantaneously. It is obvious that we have not lost the trick. In effect - as Kelly observes - the audience turns into flocking birds. Presumably this could be explained in terms of individual feedback, but for all practical purposes, it is group telepathy.’ (14)


If we remember Harold Saxton Burr’s researches into L fields the only explanation for such a phenomenon as Kelly describes, is that the separate L fields of all the individuals present have merged into one – precisely as we may witness in a flock of birds.

This would seem to indicate that the individual L field is totally permeable and susceptible to influence – if we choose to allow it to be. The essence of the New Existentialism and of Bauer’s ‘awareness of awareness’ is that we have the capacity to choose. We have the capacity to allow ourselves to merge or to remain separate. The only thing that prevents the capacity to merge is our ego consciousness that clings to the notion of our inviolable uniqueness and individuality.

The Kelly experiment gives rise to the speculation whether it would be possible for one or more individuals in the room to skew the experiment by willing to not allow the majority consensus to prevail. Or is this action entirely beyond volition; is it a manifestation of undifferentiated energy that emerges as a force in spite of the 5000 individualities involved? Much as one could argue that the rise of Nazism in Germany was an historical force that could not be gainsaid by any amount of well meaning individuals dwelling within the Third Reich.

This would argue for a deterministic view of history – and of human consciousness - that is deeply disturbing to our individualistic desire for self determination, but is of the essence when reviewing the New Existentialism. There is much that we cannot change ...but there is also much that we can change.

We have seen (Chapter 4 & 5) how the science of epigenetics underlines the fact that how genes express themselves cannot be considered without reference to the environment in which they have their being and that through changing the environment we can change the way in which our genes express themselves. And this is critical to an understanding of the New Existentialism; for everything about the New Existentialism is about changing the environment for the better – if only the intellectual climate in which you are living (as Wilson did with every one of the 181 books he published) in order to improve your own possibilities and chance of self expression.

We have also seen how Saxton Burr’s experiments were expanded upon by those of his associate Edward W Russell and how Russell came to believe that T fields – Thought Fields - both anticipate and supercede Burr’s Life Fields. The conclusion from this must be that every single thought that we have is in some way changing the environment in which we have our being.

The Kelly experiment, and the experience of the Germans in Nazi Germany would seem to suggest that it becomes increasingly difficult for an individual to influence an environmental outcome in a group situation; but this is not to say that the individual can’t remove themselves from the group entirely – as of course was the case for thousands of individuals who fled Nazi Germany.

The only group we cannot remove ourselves from is the human race. And if nothing else this is the message of the New Existentialism – that there is always a greater perspective, a wider perspective than the one we allow ourselves to become enmeshed in (or the one in which we have become enmeshed by circumstance or accident).

And the ultimate wider perspective is that of existence itself – which is fundamentally the concern of all Wilson’s Outsiders, notably Nijinsky when he declared: ‘the life of my wife and of all Mankind is death’, by which he was merely observing that, as far as he was concerned, all those around him didn’t know how to live in the way that he had apprehended was possible through his dancing.

If we are part of an enormous group substrate how do we come to assert ourselves as individuals? The question is itself based on a false dichotomy and is at the root of Sartre’s Nausea & Camus’ Absurd. Actually we need to accept that we are both a part of something much greater than we are and at the same time apart from it. We can be with and we can be apart at one and the same time. This is the point Rudolph Bauer is making in the extracts above.

The error of the old existentialism was to imagine that because we are individual, because we are separate, we cannot be a part of a greater whole.

The experience of all the great poets and mystics, like Walt Whitman and the Brethren of the Free Spirit, is we cannot not be with. We are implicated in existence whether we like it or not. And no amount of thinking about it can change that.


Chapter 10 Fields of Resonance Footnotes

1 For all Whitman’s published works see www.whitmanarchive.org

2 Colin Wilson The Outsider Picador ed 1978 page 112

3 These texts are in the words of contemporaries of the historical Brethren of the Free Spirit, cited in Norman Cohn's classic The Pursuit of the Millennium, Secker and Warburg, London, 1957; and in Walter Wakefield and Austin Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, Columbia University Press, New York, 1991.

4  Jonah Lehrer Proust Was A Neuroscientist Canongate Books 2012 page 2

5  Ibid page 20-21

6 Colin Wilson The Bicameral Critic Asgrove Press 1985 page 83

7 Colin Wilson The Outsider Picador ed 1978 page 112

8 See https://www.academia.edu/33723166/Forms_of_Vitality_within_Embodied_Awareness_A_Phenomenology_of_Invocation

9 See https://www.researchgate.net/publication/310389538_The_Potential_of_the_Bi-Directional_Gaze_A_Call_for_Neuroscientific_Research_on_the_Simultaneous_Activation_of_the_Sympathetic_and_Parasympathetic_Nervous_Systems_through_Tantric_Practice

10 See https://philosophynow.org/issues/49/Colin_Wilson

11 Colin Wilson Below the Iceberg The Borgo Press 1998 Postscript

12 Nicholas Haggar A Mystic Way Element 1994 page 652

13 Colin Wilson From Atlantis to the Sphinx Virgin Books page 246

14 Ibid page 268