Is Colin Wilson repeating the old existential mantra - existence precedes essence - or is he throwing something new into the mix?

In answer to Quora question: "Is Colin Wilson repeating the old existential mantra - existence precedes essence - or is he throwing something new into the mix?"

Thanks for the A2A Andrew McBride. I'm certainly glad to get a question about Colin Wilson.

I would say he is throwing something new into the mix, in that "essence" is not just a reactive condition - not just a creative response of mind and will to existence - but also a phenomenon in itself. How does he arrive at this conclusion? Well, this is a bit tricky, but I'll take a crack at it here and hopefully get close. First we might ask: are peak experiences of consciousness a reflection of a reactive, generative essence? That is, indicating an "essence of choice?" Well, on the one hand, they are pre-existent in the sense that they occur naturally and with some frequency in all people as involuntary fleeting moments, and then with particular potency, persistence and continuity in highly creative outsiders. On the other hand, over time, this pre-existing propensity can be amplified, refined, focused, expanded and so forth. So there is a nurturing component that Wilson advocates as a conscious choice, while at the same time using language that ascribes this to a "waking up" to something already there. So both created and pre-existing. And, as this essence is cultivated, it gains durability and strength, to the point of surviving death. Since the capacity to be awake, have peak experiences, be highly creative, etc. are primarily on the nature side of the equation - and then have, apparently mainly via *nurture, *endured beyond death, possessed other people, etc. - it would be impossible (from Wilson's perspective) to separate them from an inherent "meaning" or evolutionary trajectory that precedes existence even as it is generated by existence. And therein lies the tricky part. To be conscious, intentional, present, and "awake," are we entering into a process that evolved consciousness itself (and implies meaning for that evolution), or are we actively inventing and generating such a condition, state or process along with its meaning? That is the phenomenological dialectic that Wilson seems to be invoking over and over again. However, he may have said something more definitive about this at some point that I either haven't encountered or can't recall...and such specificity would certainly be helpful here. But regardless of where we might land in the essence/existence recursion, I suspect that Wilson would prompt us back into flight, as the dynamics of these phenomena in his universe are always in motion; to rest in any static conclusion would therefore be akin to...falling back asleep.

My 2 cents.


Trackback specific URI for this entry

This link is not meant to be clicked. It contains the trackback URI for this entry. You can use this URI to send ping- & trackbacks from your own blog to this entry. To copy the link, right click and select "Copy Shortcut" in Internet Explorer or "Copy Link Location" in Mozilla.

No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry