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on October 10, 2009
In her article on Colin Wilson in the May 30, 2004 "Observer," reporter Lynn Barber mentioned that the author, then 73, had seemingly read "every book ever written." She also noted that Wilson claimed never to have thrown a book away, and that his home library in Cornwall contained approximately 30,000 volumes. Well, any reader who delves into the author's 1969 offering, "The Philosopher's Stone," is not likely to dispute those statements. Though chosen for inclusion in Cawthorn & Moorcock's "Fantasy: The 100 Best Books," the novel could just as easily have been placed on a Top 100 Horror or Science Fiction list, and its range of literary, cultural, historical and anthropological reference is immense. In his 1961 book "The Strength to Dream"--which he refers to as "a study of the creative imagination"--Wilson had disparaged the works of the great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and was challenged by Lovecraft publisher August Derleth to try to write something in the Lovecraft style himself. The result was Wilson's 1967 novel "The Mind Parasites," and "The Philosopher's Stone" finds the author again taking an exceedingly scientific approach to outdo the antiquarian recluse of Providence, and with winning results.

In the novel, we meet Howard Lester, a young scientist who is obsessed with the concepts of life prolongation and the expansion of human consciousness. By manipulating the prefrontal cortex of his brain, he gradually acquires the ability to use "time vision"--to look at an object and see its history--along with numerous lesser abilities. Wilson conflates into his story the mysteries of Stonehenge, Silbury Hill, Chichen Itza and the Voynich Manuscript; weaves in sidelines involving the provenance of Shakespeare's works and a haunted house mystery; treats the reader to numerous speculations regarding the potentialities of the human brain; and ultimately gets very dark and Lovecraftian indeed, as he shows us the true origins of man AND the Cthulhu Mythos! It is one wild story, lemme tell you, both mind-blowing and mind-expanding, and told with such a remarkable amount of scientific detail and citation as to seem absolutely credible. This reader almost found himself believing that he really COULD live forever, if he only stimulated his consciousness enough with what Wilson calls "value experiences," and that he COULD make concrete images appear by using the power of the mind, as Lester learns to do by the novel's end.

"The Philosopher's Stone," it must be said, is not an "easy" book. Wilson, self-proclaimed genius that he is, has, as I've mentioned, thrown in an incredible number of references into his novel; by my count, 214 that sent me scurrying to my encyclopedia, atlas and the Interwebs to check out. He is seemingly knowledgeable of every obscure philosopher (George Edward Moore, Henri Bergson, Edmund Husserl, etc.), mathematician (Julius Dedekind, Carl Gauss, Karl Weierstrass, etc.), composer (Ralph Vaughn Williams, Roland de Lassus, Carlo Gesualdo, etc.), Mayan authority (Diego de Landa, Whorf, Knorozov, etc.) and alchemist (Cornelius Agrippa, Alkindi, Costa ben Luca, etc.) who's ever lived, and the average reader will most likely learn an awful lot by the time he/she finishes this book. Wilson must have an IQ like a telephone number, but fortunately for the reader, he also has an astonishingly fine imagination to match. That said--and far be it for me to contradict a self-styled genius!--there do seem to be some slight problems with his book. He refers to a Grand Rapids, Illinois somewhere, when all we Yanks know that the city is in Michigan. He gets some quotes wrong, as far as I can tell: the Yeats poem referred to should read "truth flourishes where the student's lamp shines," NOT "where the scholar's lamp has shone." And he even misquotes his hero, George Bernard Shaw. The quote should read "minding your own business is like minding your own body--it's the shortest way to make yourself sick," NOT "the quickest way." He gets the title of a Benjamin Britten work incorrect; it's "A Boy Was Born," NOT "A Boy Is Born." And the title of G.C. Vaillant's book is "The Aztecs In Mexico," NOT "The Aztecs Of Mexico." Perhaps worst of all, in his description of the continent of Mu, he depicts a humongous chasm on the east coast; a little later, that same chasm is said to be on the west coast. Still, these are quibbles; the efforts of a comparative dunderhead to tweak a man who is manifestly some kind of evolutionary "throw forward" (to quote Wilson in this novel). The bottom line is that Wilson has written, in "The Philosopher's Stone," not just an engrossing and fun read, but one guaranteed to make the reader wonder and think. This is a great book.
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on December 19, 1997
Colin Wilson continues his exploration of "Intentionality" as a key element in his existential philosophy. If you liked The Mind Parasites, then you owe it to yourself to read this book (as well as The Space Vampires). His use of fiction as a vehicle to philosophical discourse is worth the effort to find these books.
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on November 8, 2002
Colin Wilson wrote this book because although he liked the basic ideas behind the "Lovecraftian" genre, he did not like the writing style of H.P. Lovecraft. His goal was to develop a well-written novel using the rules of the genre, such as making everything as real as possible in regards to references, events and places.
This book also deals extensively with the concepts that are more at home in a Frank Herbert novel, such as the limits of what it means to be human and what human beings are capable of. This book is part mystery, part science-fiction, part primer to Wilson's occult philosophy.
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on April 11, 2013
I have read a good many of Colin Wilson's books and they are always thought provoking and even informative. I am self-taught and most of what I learned I got from GB Shaw, S. Beckett and Joyce. Their books sent me after other books and so on. The same thing happened with Colin Wilson's books they helped me to take a different view of the world and I am the better for reading them. I really enjoyed the Philosopher's Stone because it read like fact but it was all fiction and a great read.
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on March 14, 2016
I recently finished a 2d read of this book and, while I read it in fits and starts, I gotta say, Colin Wilson is one of my favorite authors when it comes to "thinking" novels of this genre. If nothing else, he provides an introduction, at least, to the ideas of many other thinkers, philosophers, speculators etc. of the past, many of whom are not so known (if at all) by those of us who have not really studied in this area. And, this is a really interesting mystery story of humanity's evolutionary potential, including our humble, otherworldly origins, written by a guy who's brilliantly done a lot of the work for us.

I cannot help but think that many readers of this book (as well as some of his others like The Mind Parasites, The Outsider etc.) will experience its effect as being expansive of their psyches or their outlook; and, in challenging or discovering some of the heretofore unconscious or unexamined limits of our worldview...both as to ourselves and everyone else. 50 years from now, if not sooner, this book will be considered one of the classics of the 20th century!

Thank you Colin Wilson, wherever you are!
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on August 20, 2012
One review mentioned Wilson's vast personal library. Personally, I don't hang onto every book I have ever read and often "lend" them out knowing that they will not be returned. This book, however, I will not lend out, because I know I will want to re-read it again, every 5 years or so. The book should appeal to many sci-fi fans. At points, I cannot help thinking of The X-files. Then, of course, any Lovecraft fan is really missing out if they don't pick this one up. Another reviewer called it "one of the best" Lovecraft stories. Well, although I always enjoy attempts to re-capture Lovecraft, this one is THE BEST! The plot is complex and filled with not just Lovecraftian mythology, but also filled with non-fiction references and philosophy which make the story that much more haunting. We can't just dismiss it as fantasy so easily. Of course the story is fiction, but what of the points which are more philosophical? It really appeals to urge to dig into things and wonder upon the nature of existence. As for the writing style, I must say that I just love Wilson. He gives enough descriptions to invite us to color our own blak and white snap-shots, while inviting questions about what is really experienced, what is there and what is more a matter of perspective, ultimately inviting us to play with our own universes and explore our own abilities to alter what is around us.
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on June 5, 2013
I first read this book in 1975, leant it to someone, bought a second copy and leant it to someone. This is my third copy. Though I cannot support the kind of magical thinking that the protagonist engages in, I find the atmosphere evocative and thourougly enjoyable.
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on March 13, 2015
One of the curious tools that Colin uses is to regularly refer to 'other' fictional books as fictional, seeming placing this book into a higher realm, or as this is used in television occasionally, on a level playing field, making this just another competent Cthulhu Mythos Episode ?
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on July 2, 2014
Thought provoking to say the least.
This book was recommended to me by my dear mother when I was a teen. I have since read it two more times to include this latest reading. Colin Wilson was a fine author and all of his books are worthy of reading at least once!
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on March 7, 2015
One of my favorite books, and I finally have a Kindle version. Colin Wilson's best attempt at creating a Lovecraftian novel, with a twist. His consciousness experiments that open his eyes to the existence of the Old Ones really adds a new level of dread to the novel. I've read this book at least 4 times since I found an UK published version at a local used book store. Now I'll always have it available to read whenever I want.
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