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Neville & the Rebel:
Reflections on Colin Wilson & Neville Goddard

[1]

Neville Goddard

4,337 words

Part 2 of 2; part 1 here [2]

Earlier, I noted Wilson’s second thoughts, 45 years later, about Religion and the Rebel as an “overstuffed pillow”; he specifically felt that the early biographical material on Rilke was “unnecessary.” But actually, it supplies us with a remarkable parallel to Neville’s method, as well as a hint of Wilson’s future development.

Wilson says if Rilke had died at age twenty-five, no one would have remembered him. Instead, he willed himself to be a poet. “It is the fact that he so thoroughly dramatised himself in the role of poet. The life of Rilke is an astounding case of self-creation” (p. 50). 

Rilke might almost be said to have made himself a poet by an act of will. As I have already mentioned, his early poetry shows very little talent; unlike a Rimbaud, a Hugo von Hofmannsthal, he did not create a great poetry at sixteen. He envisaged his ideal of the poet, and then quite deliberately acted the poet until he became one. (p. 56)

And if all this sounds too airy-fairy, remember that between that second book and those second thoughts twenty years later, Wilson had already turned to the parapsychological investigations of his “Occult Cycle”; his subsequent theory of synchronicity supplies a link to this earlier thought.

Now I would argue that our natural power of intentionality can create visible effects. For example, I believe it is responsible for what Jung calls ‘synchronicity’. I note that when I begin to focus on the idea of synchronicity, odd synchronicities begin to happen….

This … suggests that there is some mutual interaction between the mind and the universe, and that the key to ‘retrieving information’ is to be in the right state of mind: a state of deep interest or excitement: Albertus Magnus’s “excess of passion.”

(Or, I would suggest, Neville’s “feeling is the secret”)

It is my experience that coincidences like this seem to happen when I am in ‘good form’—when I am feeling alert, cheerful and optimistic, and not when I am feeling tired, bored or gloomy. … We are all at our best when the imagination is awake, and we can sense the presence of that ‘other self’, the intuitive part of us.[1] [3]

And this in turn clearly links him to Neville’s simple method.

With this linkage established, we can begin to notice and call attention to a great many similar features and concerns in both thinkers.

As we’ve seen, Wilson agrees with Spengler that our society–Western Man–is in decay; he connects this to his own thought by adding that the Outsider is the symptom. Why is this? Because in a healthy society, religion (such as the Catholicism of the Middle Ages) holds society together, providing a sense of purpose and optimism. For the sub-par majority, this takes the form of myths and rituals, but for a minority (Wilson infamously suggested 5%, leading to cries of “Fascism!”) it provides more or less esoteric techniques for satisfying the evolutionary impulse to develop greater and higher levels of consciousness. In the absence of such a religion, society decays, and the 5% become the Outsiders who rebel.[2] [4]

What is needed is not a return to some Mediaeval ideal, but to go forward; we need now a method, “a spearhead of conscious intellectual effort.”[3] [5]

If man can “change himself,” he must establish certain means to do so; he must work out a discipline.[4] [6]

Neville agrees; since imagination is what produces real effects in the “outside” (or what Neville would call the “out-pictured” or “ex-pressed”) world, we must acquire a disciplined imagination:

Prayer is an art and requires practice. The first requirement is a controlled imagination.[5] [7]

Man is warned to be selective in that which he hears and accepts as true. Everything that man accepts as true leaves an impression on his consciousness and must in time be defined as proof or disproof…. A man must discipline himself to hear only that which he wants to hear, regardless of rumors or the evidence of his senses to the contrary.

As he conditions his perceptive hearing, he will react only to those impressions which he has decided upon. This law never fails.[6] [8]

The disciplined man transforms his world by imagining and feeling only what is lovely and of good report.[7] [9]

Perhaps surprisingly, the key to this discipline is … relaxation; or rather, the ability to relax and strengthen the will as needed, as one would exercise any other muscle.[8] [10] Wilson says:

For sensitivity — essential to maturing — means relaxing the will, making the personality transparent, becoming completely receptive; and analysis means essentially reacting, using the will, strengthening the personality.

The ideally great existentialist, then, would have the ability to use his will power in analysis, and yet at a moment’s notice to become completely negative, transparent and receptive.[9] [11]

Here, as we’ve seen,[10] [12] Regardie lodges his main criticism of Neville: it is unreasonable for Neville to expect his audience to have the same level of control over inducing states of relaxation as he himself, a talented and trained dancer, possessed.

Wilson, for his part, would disagree; he thought the method was eminently teachable:

The next day, I taught them a basic ‘trick’ for inducing deeper intentionality, the ‘pen trick.’ This demonstrates the basic principle: that if the senses can contract violently, and then relax and expand, the result is a sense of relief, and a perception of the objective value of being alive. … One simple method is to take a pen or pencil, and hold it up against a blank wall or ceiling. Now concentrate on the pen as if it is the most important thing in the world. Then allow your senses to relax, so you see the pen against the background of the wall. Concentrate again. Relax again. Keep on doing this until you become aware of the ability to focus the attention at will. You will find that this unaccustomed activity of the will is tiring; it produces a sense of strain behind the eyes. My own experience is that if you persist, in spite of the strain, the result is acute discomfort, followed by a sudden immense relief—the ‘peak experience’. The result is less spectacular—because less dangerous—than Greene’s Russian roulette, but it is, in some ways, more interesting, for we become aware that we can alter our perceptions with an act of will. They are not just something that ‘happens to us.’[11] [13]

This last point about will recalls Regardie’s other criticism, that Neville neglects the role of the unconscious.[12] [14] Wilson, as we’ve seen, rejects the idea of an unconscious that is beyond our control:

The ‘controlling principle’ in man … lies in the ordinary conscious mind, and not (as D. H. Lawrence thought) in the solar plexus or [as Freud thought] in the instincts.[13] [15]

And so does Neville; he urges us to reject the wisdom of the world–seeing is believing–and instead asserts that “believing is seeing”:

To accomplish this seemingly impossible feat, you take your attention away from your problem and place it upon just being.[14] [16]

To dissolve a problem that now seems so real to you all that you do is remove your attention from it. In spite of its seeming reality, turn from it in consciousness. Become indifferent and begin to feel yourself to be that which would be the solution of the problem.[15] [17]

Now, let’s circle back to Neville’s method of rising and returning in consciousness.

To accomplish this seemingly impossible feat, you take your attention away from your problem and place it upon just being. You say silently but feelingly, “I AM”. Do not condition this awareness but continue declaring quietly, “I AM–I AM”. Simply feel that you are faceless and formless and continue doing so until you feel yourself floating. … In this state of complete detachment, a definite singleness of purposeful thought can be indelibly engraved upon your unmodified consciousness.[16] [18]

Typically, Neville presents this as a Biblical doctrine, if we could but see it:

When it is recorded that Jesus left the world and went to His Father [“He was received up into heaven”, Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51], it is simply stating that He turned His attention from the world of the senses and rose in consciousness to that level which He desired to express.

There He remained until He became one with the consciousness to which He ascended. When He returned to the world of man, He could act with the positive assurance of that which He was conscious of being, a state of consciousness no one but Himself felt or knew that He possessed.

To rise in consciousness to the level of the thing desired and to remain there until such level becomes your nature is the way of all seeming miracles. “And I, if I be lifted up, I shall draw all men unto Me” [“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me”, John 12:32]. If I be lifted up in consciousness to the naturalness of the thing desired, I shall draw the manifestation of that desire to me. “No man comes unto Me save the Father within Me draws him” [John 6:44], and “I and My Father are one” [John 10:30].

My consciousness is the Father who draws the manifestation of life to me. The nature of the manifestation is determined by the state of consciousness in which I dwell. I am always drawing into my world that which I am conscious of being.

If you are dissatisfied with your present expression of life, then you must be born again [John 3:7]. Rebirth is the dropping of that level with which you are dissatisfied and rising to that level of consciousness which you desire to express and possess.[17] [19]

This individual, subjective process has an objective, societal parallel which Wilson derives from his meditations on Toynbee. The Outsider has been forced, by social decay, to go his own way; but once he has obtained his end, he must return and revitalize his society.[18] [20]

Zeteticus gives us a nice outline here:

How do the visionaries, the Outsiders, gain this supreme knowledge, and how do they convince the masses their ideas will heal their cultures? And Wilson asks, “How does the man of genius persuade the uncreative majority to follow him” …

Toynbee offers an idea called “withdrawal and return” … The course followed by the creative minority, the mystics and supermen, who lead civilizations into new glories, “pass first out of action into ecstasy and then out of ecstasy into action on a new and higher plane.” Just as Moses ascended Sinai to commune with Yahweh in solitude for forty days and nights, to be illuminated, and then to return to his people with a new way of living, so the creative individuals withdraw into solitude to solve the hard problems facing their people.

Toynbee writes, “The withdrawal makes it possible for the personality to realize powers within himself which might have remained dormant if he had not been released for the time being from his social toils and trammels.”

The creative ones must escape to be alone for a time to receive insight and enlightenment. And “when they emerge, it is with the power to stimulate the rest of society to overcome the challenges” (Wilson 113). These creative individuals are Outsiders, the rebels of society who have a vision for the future.

The task that lies ahead for the Outsider is nothing less than formulating solutions that will transform our world.[19] [21]

For Wilson, this is the “crucial question”:

“Society held together by discipline … but what discipline? … Is the Outsider strong enough to create his own tradition, his own way of thought, and to make a whole civilization think the same way?”[20] [22]

Frankly, though Wilson has done much hard, valuable work, it’s not likely his pencil method would capture the attention of the masses like Mormonism or Islam. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how one would, in the modern world, establish a religion.

Here, however, Neville again has the advantage over Wilson. While sharing a barely concealed contempt for organized religion, Neville never the less retains the Bible, Old and New Testaments, as the foundation of his teaching. He does this through a rejection of not only organized religion but the literal understanding of the Bible that grounds it, [21] [23] substituting the understanding that God is our own Imagination, and that the Bible is consequently an inner, psychological drama.

The Bible has no reference at all to any persons that ever existed, or to any events that ever occurred upon earth.

The authors of the Bible were not writing history, they were writing a great drama of the mind which they dressed up in the garb of history, and then adapted it to the limited capacity of the uncritical, unthinking masses.

You know that every story in the Bible is your story, that when the writers introduce dozens of characters in the same story they are trying to present you with different attributes of the mind that you may employ. You saw it as I took perhaps a dozen or more stories and interpreted them for you.[22] [24]

Regardie, op. cit., thinks Neville’s readers would be shocked if he “admitted he is, in fact, an atheist.” But he is not a materialist, either. Like the writers, mystics, and scientists whose lives Wilson studies, Neville is threading his way between an ossified religious tradition and an all too lively dogmatic materialism.[23] [25] He has proven to himself, and offers to prove to others, that the only real God is the human imagination. “I and my Father are one, but he is greater than Me”; and His Kingdom is within us.[24] [26]

You are God conditioned as man. All that you believe God to be you are; but you will never know this to be true until you stop claiming it of another, and recognize this seeming other to be yourself. God and man, spirit and matter, the formless and the formed, the creator and the creation, the cause and the effect, your Father and you are one. This one, in whom all conditioned states live and move and have their being, is your I AM, your unconditioned consciousness.[25] [27]

Rather than the Herculean task of creating a new religion, and getting everyone to sign on,[26] [28] Neville simply avails himself of the same method of “reinterpretation” practiced by Christians themselves lo these many centuries.[27] [29]

Like a true existentialist, Neville interprets scripture in the light of his own experience, seeing how it helps to make sense of his life, and asks us to do the same.

Now, not everything in the Bible is inspired. Paul’s passages about marriage are not. Paul confesses he is not married and wishes that everyone were as he is; … This was his opinion, not his inspiration. In his letter to the Romans, Paul states his opinion about the homosexual–only because he forgot that in the Old Testament God made everything and pronounced it good and very good. If God made everything, then God made the homosexual, did he not? So not every word of scripture is inspired; but you will know the passages that are, for when you awake, scripture unfolds in you.

If you are meant to experience scripture consciously, you will be sent, and tell your experiences to those who will be drawn to you, to show them the parallel between what happened to you and what the word of God said through His inspired prophets….

We are in the act of awakening as God, and when the visions come they cannot be stopped. Coming suddenly and unexpectedly, their power possesses you as though something is wearing you. Then you begin to see and hear that which kings and prophets long to see, and cannot because the time has not fully come for them.

As passage after passage of scripture unfolds within you, you will recognize the inspired ones as they take place; but not everything written in scripture was inspired. They wrote certain dietary laws based upon what they called the need of the time, but these are not inspired.

There are passages in both the Old and the New Testament that were not inspired, but man-made traditions which have enslaved the minds of men. We are asked [by Jesus]: “Why do you deny the word of God for the traditions of your fathers?” If you are going to accept the man-made traditions, you will never know the inspired word of God.[28] [30]

In this way, Neville can leverage the existing knowledge and prestige of the Bible to give his teaching maximum impact among his listeners.[29] [31] It sure beats the pencil trick.[30] [32]

At this point one might pull in the oars, sit back, and ask: if Neville and Wilson seem to be on the same track, how explain this remarkable converge of two thinkers who never met nor, as far as we know, even knew of one another’s existence?

Of course, one answer is simply that Neville and Wilson are right; each has found the truth and therefore their answers are obviously convergent. As John Deck wisely said:

[If] it is good to keep our eyes open to spot “sources,” it is even better to bear in mind that a philosopher is one who sees things, and to be ready to appreciate it when sources are handled uniquely and, in fact, transmuted.[31] [33]

Indeed. But still, this is not graduate student source-mongering, but as plain as, to use Deck’s own subject, the “influence” of Plato or Aristotle on Plotinus (however “transmuted” or, as we would say, “spun”). For not only did Wilson devote a whole chapter to Blake in The Outsider, and refer to him often, Neville also devoted a fairly scholarly and widely read lecture to Blake,[32] [34] and moreover,

Neville once said that if he was stranded on an island and was allowed one book, he would choose, The Bible, without hesitation. If he could squeeze in more, he would add [three others, including] William Blake, (“… Why stand we here trembling around, Calling on God for help, and not ourselves, in whom God dwells?”) ….[33] [35]

Blake, Neville, Wilson; for all three, God dwells within us, and our task to realize it–to become a visionary.[34] [36]

Wilson seeks a method to produce visionary or peak experiences “as needed.” Neville’s method does so: it is a clear, easy to use technique; and as for Wilson’s demand for a “new existentialism” that would dispense with the pessimism of Sartre and Heidegger, what could be more inspiring than the ability to take control of oneself and even one’s destiny and change the future to fit our desires? To have found the savior, and found him in oneself?

Surely this is Chesterton’s “absurd good news,” the phrase Wilson uses frequently to describe the peak experience.

In Feeling is the Secret, Neville quotes the Song of Solomon:

What more beautiful description of this romance of the consious and subconscious is there than that told in the “Song of Solomon”: “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth [3:1] … I found him whom my soul loveth; I held him and I not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me” [3:4].[35] [37]

And adds:

Our understanding of and delight in what sleep has to bestow will cause us, night after night, to set out for it as though we were keeping an appointment with a lover.[36] [38]

The following passage might be said to tie all these threads together:

[The] Bible is a message of the soul and must be interpreted psychologically if man is to discover its true symbology. Man must see this story as a psychological drama rather than a statement of physical fact. In so doing, he will discover the Bible to be based on a law which, if self-applied, will result in a manifested expression transcending his wildest dreams of accomplishment. To apply this law of self-expression, man must be schooled in the belief and disciplined to stand upon the platform that “all things are possible to God.”[37] [39]

In Beyond the Outsider, the penultimate book in the Outsider Cycle, Wilson says that “The first man to learn the secret of control of consciousness will be the first true man…” Perhaps he has already been here among us, and we knew him not.

Notes

[1] [40] “Afterword: Colin Wilson on The Outsider Cycle,” in Stanley, op. cit.

[2] [41] Mildred: Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against? Johnny: Whadda you got? Marlon Brando, The Wild One (1953).

[3] [42] Religion and the Rebel, “The Outsider and History” loc. 2825.

[4] [43] Religion and the Rebel, “The Making of a Religion,” loc. 3214.

[5] [44] Prayer (1945), Chapter One.

[6] [45] Your Faith is Your Fortune (1941), Chapter 10

[7] [46] Prayer, Chapter Three.

[8] [47] “Freedom and imagination are also muscles that we never exercise; we rely upon external stimuli to make us aware of their possibilities.” “Postscript,” loc. cit.

[9] [48] Religion and the Rebel, “Bernard Shaw,” loc. 5031.

[10] [49] “Magick for Housewives”, loc. cit.

[11] [50] Access to Inner Worlds (Rider & Co., 1983), p36; see also his “Postscript to The Outsider,”, loc. cit.

[12] [51] Of course, at the time Regardie was in the process of evolving from Crowley’s secretary to a psychotherapist, so he would say that, wouldn’t he?

[13] [52] “A Retrospective Introduction” to the 1984 reprint of Religion and the Rebel; reprinted in the Aristeia Press edition, op. cit.

[14] [53] Your Faith is Your Fortune (1941), Chapter Three.

[15] [54] At Your Command, Chapter One.

[16] [55] Your Faith is Your Fortune, Chapter Three.

[17] [56] Your Faith is Your Fortune (1941), Chapter Three.

[18] [57] We discussed this dialectic in “Two Orders, Same Man: Hesse And Evola,” here [58].

[19] [59] “Religion and the Rebel, Part Six,” here [60].

[20] [61] Religion and the Rebel, “The Making of a Religion,” loc. 3203; Wilson’s italics.

[21] [62] “There is a little statement in the book of Exodus which bears this out. Millions of people who have read it, or have had it mentioned to them throughout the centuries have completely misunderstood it. It is said, “Steep not a kid in its mother’s milk.” (King James version, “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” Exodus 23:19). Unnumbered millions of people, misunderstanding this statement, to this very day in the enlightened age of 1948, will not eat any dairy products with a meat dish. It just is not done. They think the Bible is history, and when it says, “Steep not a kid in its mother’s milk,” milk and the products of milk, butter and cheese, they will not take at the same time they take the kid or any kind of meat. In fact they even have separate dishes with which to cook their meat.” Neville Goddard Lessons 5: “REMAIN FAITHFUL TO YOUR IDEA.”  Or again: “The formula for the cure of leprosy as revealed in the fourteenth chapter of Leviticus is most illuminating when viewed through the eyes of a mystic. A literal application of this story would be stupid and fruitless, while on the other hand a psychological application of the formula is wise and fruitful.” Freedom for All, Chapter Six.

[22] [63] Lesson 5, loc. cit.

[23] [64] Perhaps he resembles the 45% of self-identified UK Christians who say they do not believe in God [65], either.

[24] [66] Neville says that the reason people think prayer doesn’t produce results, is that “you are praying to a God that doesn’t exist;” i.e., an external God elsewhere.

[25] [67] Freedom for All (1942), p7. Chapter One.

[26] [68] To say nothing of trying to revive one: “Given that most of our European ancestors converted to Christianity at various points during the Middle Ages, depending upon location, the practice of paganism amounts to a form of historical reenactment (e.g., LARPing), based upon mythological texts written after the Norse conversion to Christianity, incomplete historical accounts and archeological digs. A religious practice is not exactly “traditional” when neither your father, grandfather nor great-grandfather had any familiarity with it, much less if you have to rely upon a potentially faulty interpretation of scattered historical remnants to reconstruct it.” “The Bearer of Trad News,” by Decay123321; AltLeft.com, Feb. 7, 2018, here [69].

[27] [70] In fact, many scholars today think that the Gospels are not historical or biographical but simply narrative reinterpretations of the Hebrew scriptures by the earliest Christians, a method the rabbis call midrash. Remember, the Christian faith predates the New Testament. As Robert Price says, if we want to read about Jesus we go to the Gospels, but where did the early Christians go? Neville, as usual, is au courant with the latest scholarship of our time: “It is said that, beginning with Moses and all the prophets and the psalms. Paul interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things that concerned him. Remember: in Paul’s day there was no New Testament. It was written to record the passages of the Old Testament which were fulfilled. So when you read the New Testament, pay strict attention to any passage that is quoted by the Risen Lord and taken from the Old Testament.” Neville, “The Mystery of Inspiration,” January 27, 1969.

[28] [71] “The Mystery of Inspiration,” loc. cit.

[29] [72] Or was able; it may be questionable not only how much reverence is given the Bible today, but even how much of it is still read and remembered.

[30] [73] Though this one [74] is still cool.

[31] [75] John N. Deck, Nature, Contemplation, and the One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus (University of Toronto Press, 1969; Toronto Heritage series, 2017 [Kindle iOS version]); Preface.

[32] [76] “Blake on Religion,”1963; many editions and available all over the internet.

[33] [77] “Neville Goddard (1905-1972) Influential New Thought Teacher,” no author, at this Neville website: http://www.nevillegoddard.wwwhubs.com/.

[34] [78] “How can an individual hope to escape the general destiny of futility? Blake’s solution was: Go and develop the visionary faculty. Good. But how?” The Outsider, “The Outsider and the Visionary.”

[35] [79] I.e., the imagined Beloved state of affairs is brought into the womb of imagination.

[36] [80] Chapter Two, “Sleep.” Neville plays his audiences like a fiddle; he delights in slyly making sexual allusions and metaphors, no doubt causing a flutter among the suburban housewives. Asked by one how to know when one’s imagining has done the job, he says “Well, it’s like making love. How do you know when you’re done? You just can’t go on.”

[37] [81] Your Faith is Your Fortune, Chapter Eight (“Christmas”); cf. Matthew 19:26; Mark 9:23; 10:27; 14:36; Luke 18:27; Acts 8:37.