October 5, 2012

St. Colin Wilson: "it might one day force itself upon me without my committing myself to a preliminary gesture"

Two excerpts from Colin Wilson's 1956 masterpiece The Outsider:
The atmosphere of the existential Outsider is unpleasant to breathe.  There is something nauseating, anti-life, about it: these men without motive who stay in their rooms because there seems to be no reason for doing anything else.  It is essentially an adult world, this world-without-values. 

...the Outsider is always the man who is not susceptible to the general enthusiasm; it may be that he is too short-sighted to see the establishment of Utopia before the end of the century ...  He must believe that he is in the wrong ... it follows that it is the Outsider who is in some way 'not of this world,' and if he dies young, like Shelley, or is a sick man, like Novalis and Schiller, or takes drugs, like Coleridge, that is all in the proper order of things.
Chapter 3

This is the Outsider's extremity:  He does not prefer not to believe; he doesn't like feeling that futility gets the last word in the universe; his human nature would like to find something it can answer to with complete assent.  But his honesty prevents his accepting a solution that he cannot reason about.  His next question is naturally: Supposing a solution does exist somewhere, undreamed of by me, inconceivable to me.  Can I yet hope that it might one day force itself upon me without my committing myself to a preliminary gesture of faith which (in point of fact) I cannot make?

The poet finds that he can answer this question with a 'yes'.  His position is understandable.  He begins with Reason, which, as it were, makes him self-sufficient ... Ultimately, his reason informs him: you are not self-sufficient; you are futile, floating in a void.  This is unanswerable.  What is he to do?  Demolish his own premises?
Chapter 5

The young skeptic says, "I have a right to think for myself."
But the old skeptic, the complete skeptic, says,"I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all."
-GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

1 comment:

Jon Coutts said...

whoa that was fascinating.