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The Occult: A History

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The Occult: A History is a 1971 nonfiction occult book by English writer, Wikipedia:Colin Wilson. Topics covered include Aleister Crowley, George Gurdjieff, Helena Blavatsky, Kabbalah, primitive magic, Franz Mesmer, Grigori Rasputin, Daniel Dunglas Home, Paracelsus, P. D. Ouspensky, William Blake, Giacomo Casanova, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and various others.[1]

The author was an influence on David Bowie (WP).[2] Wilson himself described it as "a best-seller in England and America".[3]


The Occult: A History is divided into three sections. Part one is entitled "A Survey of the Subject" and covers topics such as "Magic-The Science of the Future". Part two is titled "A History of Magic" and covers occult in history. Part three is called "Man's Latent Powers" and deals with topics such as spiritual entities in the chapter "The Realm of Spirits".


Wikipedia:Joyce Carol Oates reviewed the book, remarking that it was an "excellent idea" for a book and that it "is one of those rich, strange, perplexing, infinitely surprising works that repay many readings."[4] Wikipedia:The Robesonian commented that the book was "vast" and "extremely well researched".[5] A reviewer for the Wikipedia:Boca Raton News panned the book, saying that "[Wilson] expects this "Faculty X" to unite instinct and intelligence, but what this might achieve explicity, eluded this reviewer throughout the book's 560 minutely-detailed pages."[6] In his book Modern Occult Rhetoric Joshua Gunn acknowledged the book's popularity but criticized "Wilson's expressed agenda to prove the existence of psychic and astral forces" as an occasional annoyance that "detracts from the value of his scholarship".[7] Wikipedia:Kirkus Reviews praised the history portion of the book while criticizing the other two sections of the book as "the usual pretentious, polymorphous thinking of that paraclete/exegete on what he calls Faculty X".[8]

Wilson's book is described as "a popular reference" [1]; a Google Books search shows evidence of a (negative) TLS review in 1971 and also various references to this book in others' books. The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Volume 69, page 84


  1. Bendau, Clifford P. "Colin Wilson: The Outsider and Beyond". Borgo Press, 2007, p 53.
  2. Guardian
  3. Colin Wilson, Google Books
  4. Oates, Joyce Carol. "Books And People: The Occult: A History by Colin Wilson". The American Poetry Review. Vol. 2, No. 1, Jan./ Feb. 1973, p 8-9
  5. Wasson, Virginia. "The Robesonian" May 9, 1972, p 6.
  6. Lesem, Jeanne. "2 Books Vary on Same Topic". Boca Raton News, Feb 23, 1972, p 5.
  7. Gunn, Joshua. Modern Occult Rhetoric: Mass Media and the Drama of Secrecy in the Twentieth Century. The University of Alabama Press. 2011, p 238, 267
  8. THE OCCULT: A History Kirkus Reviews