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The Occult

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,631 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Colin Wilson’s classic work is an essential guide to the mind-expanding experiences and discoveries of the occult in the 20th century. He produces a wonderfully skillful synthesis of the available material—one that sees the occult in the light of reason and reason in the light of the mystical and paranormal. The result is a wide-ranging survey of the subject that provides ...more
Paperback, 800 pages
Published July 28th 2006 by Watkins (first published 1971)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,631 ratings  ·  100 reviews

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♥ Ibrahim ♥
May 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all open minded people, people with a broad scope and not fanatics
Recommended to ♥ Ibrahim ♥ by: A Syrian intellectual friend
Shelves: cultures

As a Christian, I was so afraid to even touch a book like this. But I knew who Colin Wilson was and enjoyed his intriguing style. I read the Occult and could not put it down. It is a really excellent book and it shows you what the human psyche is capable of, which brings to mind books of Tony Buzan who wrote the BBC use your mind series. You will not sin if you pick up such a book and plunge into it and see what the word "OCCULT" really means, apart from the phobia and hysteria that is attached
Jul 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Poets, Occultists, Parapsychologists
Recommended to Michael by: Michael Aquino
Any trained historian will be able to see the problem with writing a comprehensive history on a topic so steeped in subjectivism, rumor, and limited sources. Wilson, perhaps to his credit, does not try to simulate academic historical methodologies, but rather lets his poetic soul wander as it will, looking for connections between past-life-experiences, shady secret societies, and ancient systems of divination. Where his narrative falls down for me is his “hypothesis” of “Faculty X,” which is the ...more
Erik Graff
May 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those seeking entertainment in the odd
Recommended to Erik by: Michael Miley
Shelves: religion
This is not one of Wilson's better books. Given the topic, it should be hard to miss and, indeed, the text contains many juicy anecdotes and outrageous tales. What is lacking is a thesis or a canon of judgment whereby what is to be taken seriously, in the author's opinion, is distinguished from what is merely silly or pretentious. Instead, one is fed a not very nutritious stew of this and that.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
I read this before I knew better. While the writing is good and the subject matter is entertaining, I discovered later that the book contains several factual errors and what seems to be deliberate misinformation.
May 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wilson builds a marvelous history -- and then ruins it with an idiotic final section.
David Jordan
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it

Mostly a decent introduction to the subject, but the book suffers from Wilson's acceptance of tall tales from long ago as fact. He doesn't question that certain people were able to levitate. Also, his faculty X hypothesis is a bit naive. He doesn't need to invoke the supernatural to explain things, and despite what he claimed, the science of the day didn't support him. There were positive outcomes in some ESP studies, but they have since been refuted or found unrepeatable. There may be somethi
Lauren Patton
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I originally sought this book out for an overview of the history of the occult over the centuries and how humans used and responded to it. It definitely served its purpose for me in that regard--the author explores magic and other occult trends through the centuries from early man and also touches on witchcraft and spirits. Wilson discusses consciousness at length and theorizes that man has access to occult faculties/magic powers/perception/other senses that were lost to him over the course of e ...more
Andrew Howdle
The Occult is Wilson in guru mode, absorbed by his own unicorn-- Faculty X, the sixth sense, the third eye etc etc etc. It is a racy read and there lies its problem... it sprints a long without much evidence or balance. The chapter on Crowley says it all: a re-hash of the popular image without any deep understanding of the history that produced Crowley or the psychological forces that produced the world of Thelema and Agape. And a similar story occurs when it comes to Dr John Dee. Nothing is said of ...more
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
He was a valued friend and anything he wrote is worth reading. Honest, well thought out, balanced, and open minded
Fabiano Lourenco
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
My first encounter with Colin Wilson happened some 4, 5 years ago, when I read a Portuguese translation of The Outsider.

By then I was thoroughly fascinated with the man's clear and engaging style, and his ability to express his thoughts in a concise manner struck me as much as his perception of so many different men (such as Nietzsche, Nijinsky, Tolstoy, William Blake) as being essentially connected in their purposes and goals (albeit through various means), all of them consciously or unconscio
Edward Taylor
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written, in-depth, and researched piece of work. Wilson took a dive off the deep end into the history of all things (up to and including his time on Earth) majikcal, spiritual, and the occult. Laid bare are all the dirty secrets of John Dee, Gerald Gardner, Nostradamus, Madam Blavatsky, Rasputin and dozens of others who walked that line between here and there (to quote Clive Barker: divinity and trickery) - The only issue that I really had with it is in that how it is laid out and ...more
Signor Mambrino
The title 'The Occult A History' is a little misleading. A more accurate name might be; "A ridiculous theory based on an unquestioning and incredibly naive consideration of the History of the Occult". The history part is pretty good even if Wilson comes across as frustratingly credulous. A typical paragraph in this book takes the form of;

"Tom was able to communicate with the leader of the great race of flying ape-dogs on the planet Zime. Tom was a patient in mental hospital who was s
Jeremy Garber
Wilson’s overview of the extraordinary powers of human beings is ripe with interesting, well-told stories but short on the argumentation that ties his underpinning theoretical framework together. His basic argument is that humans possess abilities beyond our normal understandings of consciousness that are undeveloped because we need to be hyper-focused in the contemporary age. The plethora of interesting and well-told stories that comprise the bulk of the volume are meant to support this thesis, ...more
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-it-again
An excellent starting point if you are curious about the paranormal, sixth senses, strange and wonderful or terrifying things that modern science doesn't explain.

He started writing the book on the assumption that he would be chronicling the hoaxes that have been perpetuated through the years. He ends up admitting there are true "miracles," things that were irrefutably witnessed and investigated at the time. Like the saint who was canonized because he could fly. He was otherwise a rather stupid
Clayton Greiman
Aug 08, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's not that I don't (fully) believe in occultism; but if I in fact did believe, this book would make me an absolute skeptic. When the author of a book on a subject places a footnote trashing another author's work, a reader is apt to dismiss the credibility of the trasher's tome.
"After I had pointed out that the book was full of invented 'facts' and quotations, my publishers wrote to Liepman and asked him to comment on the allegations; he replied that he had written the book so long ago
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: esoteric
Wilson says that humanity has an ability called "Faculty X". According to Wilson, Faculty X is our ability to perceive a greater, deeper reality through intuition and ritual. The historical pursuit of this is the "occult". He does an extensive, thorough job of tracing this line of thinking from prehistorical nomadic tribes to the present. Wilson is open-minded yet appropriately skeptical and nicely navigates the paradoxical waters of consciousness on the fringe. The most interesting part for me ...more
mis fit
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: magick
This is just fun. But I guess also interesting if you pay attention to the gender/sex stuff going on. Not sure it really convinced me of anything, but maybe opened my eyes to possibility and a long history of the occult.
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Faculty X righty-ho! I love this book. It's a wide-randing survey of the western occult tradition and a suitably cranky contribution to that tradition in its own right. Great stuff, clearly written in that style just manages to sit a step or two above mediocre, take with lots of pinches of salt.
Louis Cecile
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of the occult
A fascinating tour de force of the many subjects of the occult. The research and language used is of such a high standard it prompts creativity. If you are new to the subject or simply wish to learn more than I highly recommend reading.
Basim Mahmoud
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned

Read it since 3 years or more . Nice study , to be followed and pushes to search to know more . Wilson's Mental Books are of an important addition for the humanity .
James Burn
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
For anyone even remotely interested in the occult, this is the most entertaining history you will ever read.
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Everything is true. Everything. Numerology, psychic powers, ghosts, astral projection, maybe UFOs -- everything. This is the odd approach Wilson takes with his enormous overview of the occult. For example, he casually says, despite multiple cases where psychic Madame Blavatsky was caught committing fraud, there's no denying her powers are legitimate. This kind of stance got more and more ludicrous as I read on.

At one point, Wilson talks about Serios, a man who can supposedly project
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love Wilson's investigation into the occult. This was the first of at least three books that he wrote about the occult. He entered into the research and writing as a skeptic and he came out more of a believer. I wouldn't say that he was a full fledged believer in the occult but he was acknowledging that there were some phenomena that modern science still has no explanation for and that the occult shouldn't just be written off as silly superstition. He frequently alludes to man having a "Facult ...more
Bruce Blanchard
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Colin Wilson is an acquired taste. As a writer he is prolific covering practically any topic. When he does dive into it he dives in deep depths gathering information from ever sources he can find, mulls over the material in his mind, and emerges with stories, dates and facts, and his own take will be the result. Those readers searching for a quick reference on the subject should stay from this as his was the mind not afraid to bring everything into the conversation. You may not agree with his co ...more
Damian Stephens
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most intelligent and creative introductions to the study of occultism. The most important aspect of the book involves Wilson's commentary on his notion of "Faculty X," the marginal capacity in humans (activated through focus and work) for paranormal abilities --- "the capacity for seeing other times and other places." If you're already involved in the study of occultism and haven't read this book, I suggest a visitation as soon as possible. On the other hand, if it's been awhile since ...more
Adam Gregory
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Wilson appears to have drunk the mystical koolaid early on in his research into the occult, but that's not the main problem with this book. That would be the rather outmoded sexism and casual racism inherent in the writing, coupled with supporting ideas that have aged rather badly due to them being built on disprovable pseudoscience.

It's very much a grimoire for conjuring up early 60s pseudo-intellectual exploitation pulp.

Markus Amalthea Magnuson
As an overview of the history of the occult this is an excellent book and well-written, but the author is hopelessly gullible and constantly makes assumptions that will make you roll your eyes. Like Martin Gardner said: ”With unparalleled egotism and scientific ignorance he believed almost everything he read about the paranormal, no matter how outrageous." Still, if you are into the esoteric, it’s a joy to read – you just have to let go of credibility criteria.
Robert Frobiszer
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The most comprehensive approach to supernatural and widely spoken occult, I have ever encountered. Big joy for long year fan of Gurdjieef, Ramakrishna, Ram Dass and other psychonauts as Terrence McKenna. I would only like Audible or other editor producing this book in Audio, as recently published Essential Colin Wilson.
Edric Unsane
A detailed history on just about everything occult. Colin Wilson certainly conducted a great deal of research for this book, and I must say that this is noticed and appreciated. I am somewhat disappointed in myself for taking so long to getting around to finish this book, but I found that the wait was worth the rewarding histories presented in this book.
Quicksilver Quill
It's All About Faculty X . . .

Very entertaining and informative read about the history of the occult. Colin Wilson is thorough and erudite as usual. There is plenty to ponder in this fun volume, whether you are a skeptic or a believer in human powers beyond our current understanding.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

Colin Henry Wilson was born and raised in Leicester, England, U.K. He left school at 16, worked in factories and various occupations, and read in his spare time. When Wilson was 24, Gollancz published The Outsider (1956) which examines the role of the social 'outsider' in seminal works of various key literary and
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“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.” 32 likes
“Faculty X is simply that latent power in human beings possess to reach beyond the present. After all, we know perfectly well that the past is as real as the present, and that New York and Singapore and Lhasa and Stepney Green are all as real as the place I happen to be in at the moment. Yet my senses do not agree. They assure me that this place, here and now, is far more real than any other place or any other time. Only in certain moments of great inner intensity do I know this to be a lie. Faculty X is a sense of reality, the reality of other places and other times, and it is the possession of it — fragmentary and uncertain though it is — that distinguishes man from all other animals” 12 likes
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