Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, July 25, 2014


The Mind Parasites by Colin Wilson (1967)

Colin Wilson began his extraordinary career in 1956 with the publication of his best-selling The Outsider, which examined the role of the genius and social outsider.  Several years later, while visiting a friend, he came across another book with the same title by an author he had never heard of -- H. P. Lovecraft.  Developing an interest in Lovecraft and his work, Wilson soon began corresponding with August Derleth, who, with Donald Wandrei, published The Ousider as the first book in the Arkham House catalog.  Wilson's take on Lovecraft was not altogether pleasing to Derleth and, at one point in their correspondence, Derleth wrote, "Well, if you're so critical of Lovecraft, why don't you write a fantasy novel and see if it's any good..."  And so he did.

The Mind Parasites is a Lovecraftian novel.  Of sorts.  Or, perhaps it is an anti-Lovecraftian novel.  It uses Lovecraft and his fiction to form the skeleton of a story that expands on Wilson's own sense of existentialism, which he had promoted in his first book and many of those that followed.  In The Mind Parasites, Wilson's protagonist Gilbert Austin discovers a huge artifact buried two miles beneath the surface in a remote area of Turkey.  The artifact is incredibly old -- impossibly so, if one followed current archaeological thinking -- and seems to  have been described in some of Lovecraft's writings.
Around the same time, one of Austin's closest friends commits suicide.

All of this jumbles together with the realization that for two hundred years, mankind's suicide rate has soared significantly.  Using the philosophy of phenomenology as espoused by Edmund Husserl in 1920, Austin and his colleague Reich discover that mankind's progress has been hampered by some type of psychic vampires, entities that lurk in the depths of the mind and that derive their energy from man's despair.  It is these mind parasites that has blocked mankind from reaching its true potential.

As the novel progresses (often ploddingly), are able to use phenomenology to access parts of the infinite spaces of their minds and gaining the powers of telekinesis and telepathy.  Their efforts are seen as threats by the parasites who are able to control people by spreading fear, doubt, and anxiety, resulting in sickness, suicide, violence, and war.  As Austin and Reich begin their was against the parasites, the parasites fight back in a way that threatens the extinction of the planet.

And that artifact?  Turns out it was built by a race of giants, one of many races to have populated the planet in the past, each destroyed when the moon crashed into the earth.  We are on our seventh moon now, it seems.  And this moon, by the way, is acting as a kind of control center for the parasites who evidently came from the sun.  The parasites are bodyless and not very intelligent and may be just one entity composed of many parasites:  think jellyfish that is made of negative energy.  And the parasites exist throughout the universe but some alien races have been able to defeat them.

The Mind Parasites is a mish-mash of philosophy, bad science, wishful thinking, elitism, and occultism -- traits that can be found in much of Wilson's other writings.  Despite all this it is not a bad book.  Frustrating, yes.  Bad, no.  It can, and perhaps should, be read as a descendant of 1920s and 1930s gosh-wow science fiction but without the big machines.  Skylark of Mind Space, perhaps.

And that sound you hear?  That's HPL rolling over in his grave.


  1. Lovecraft seems to have made a big comeback in popular cutlure, much to my surprise I must admit. I think I read this long ago and just found it very silly, but I really enjoyed your review so maybe I shoudl look again - cheers!

  2. I read this in the early '70s and never did quite figure out what was going on. I still have the book, though.