The human race, unbeknownst to itself, is under the complete control of a race of repulsive parasitic entities, who drink our mental energies and prevent us from evolving into super-beings.
Every few years, I find myself rereading Colin Wilson’s The Mind Parasites. I’m half way through it as I write. It’s a very odd novel. Unique. Genuinely peculiar. Badly flawed by any reasonable standard. But really interesting.
Wilson is a bone fide thinker. He first came to prominence with ‘The Outsider’ a philosophical work that established him as one of the so-called Angry Young Men of the late fifties literary scene in England. [John Osbourne [Look Back in Anger] was another of these].
But from that point on Wilson’s ideas grew stranger - though never any less well thought through or researched.
I became a fan after reading The Occult – the big green paperback that was half history of the paranormal and half philosophical treatise. Then I swallowed up his back catalogue and attended his lectures whenever he came to town.
[Allow me to diverge. It was John Murphy, the brilliant and arcane drummer of such bands as WhirlyWirld and The Associates who really put me onto Wilson. Now, John, at this time, had the most pungent odour problem I have ever experienced. I saved a seat for him at the Northcote town hall where Wilson was due to speak. He arrived, sat down and, slowly, one by one, the people around us began to relocate, creating a buffer zone of two or three empty chairs around the wellspring of an astonishing stench. I don’t know if John even noticed]
Wilson was perfect for me. I’ve always been a disappointed sceptic. I’m too rational to believe in superstition or higher powers but, nonetheless, I am drawn, inexorably, to the mystical and paranormal. Almost like Mulder: I want to believe – but not if the evidence is lacking
Wilson is similar - but he has reasoned his way into a conviction that there is a untapped reservoir of possibility in the human mind. In the realm of instinct and intuition. Or, in his words, Faculty X. He believes we are so immersed in the day to day, in habitual life that we can never realise our true potential - or find what the psychologist Maslow would call ‘Peak Experience’.
He has pointed a finger at the bicameral mind, suggesting that the two very different hemispheres of our brains are consistently out of sync, and that to bring the creative and the rational sides into harmony would force our whole lives into focus. We would see the beauty radiating from every moment of our existence. We would never feel tired. We would instinctively make the right decisions. And even have access to paranormal powers.
The Mind Parasites, on first glance, appears to be a shoddy little science-fiction paperback. It’s set in a very roughly drawn future in which there is rocket flight between continents and people holidaying on the Moon. Here, Wilson is a little like Philip K Dick; he uses a populist genre to present original, quite complex ideas.
Interestingly, it has a Lovecraftian edge too. The protagonist, Austin, an archaeologist, is an expert on pre-Hittite civilization and is digging in Turkey at a place called The Black Mountain. Impossibly deep beneath the Earth, he discovers a vast stone city built by giants and compares it openly with the cyclopean ramped cities of The Great Old Ones described by Lovecraft. Indeed, the book describes Lovecraft as a visionary, who has somehow accurately predicted the future. Perhaps The Mind Parasites ought be considered a peculiar, rather tangential addition to the Cthulhu Mythos.
Austin comes into possession of the papers of a colleague who suicided in peculiar circumstances. The papers describe a race of beings, not of flesh but mental energy, who, around the time of Beethoven and Goethe, took residence in the human mind and proceeded to control it utterly. These ‘Tsathogguans’ feed off our life force, preventing us from realising our true potential by deliberately nurturing depression and perversion. We are a slave race. The work of artists such as De Sade, described as warped in the book, are a direct consequence of the Parasite’s short-circuiting of our natural intellectual and sexual energies.
The book tracks Austin’s bizarre efforts to defeat the Parasites using Husserl’s techniques of Phenomenology. He trains his mind to fully understand itself – and in the process he and his colleagues develop parakinetic talents, telepathy, mind-control and the ability to sync up their consciousnesses. They come to live their lives as one continuous Peak Experience. In effect, they become super-beings doing battle with a cunning extraterrestrial adversary.
Though most of the book is either dissertation or situated deep within the mind, it is still a weirdly pacy read - as these urbane scientists try and ultimately succeed in convincing the world of this madness and then set about defeating it.
I do wonder about these Mind Parasites. It would explain a great deal. If they were real.
I know I have something lurking in the depths of my consciousness, advising me to do things which could have no conceivable benefit. I know I’m always tired. I know I have difficulty thinking clearly. And I can only guess when I last had a Peak Experience.
Could it be these Tsathogguans, who urge me go out and get on – despite the fact that the heroin experience is no longer a pleasurable one for me. Not only have I ceased to enjoy the drug itself, but taking it wracks me with guilt and makes me sick for at least a week afterwards. Yet the urges, the cravings continue – reasonlessly, with nothing but self-destructive intent.
Are the Parasites in residence? Deep in those murky waters? it would make sense.
That oleaginous voice begs most when I am at my weakest. When I am alone in the house and have money. When it’s a certain temperature outside. When I go to Richmond or St Kilda. When I see someone using on the TV. When I go to funerals, or to a band … At these times it is raised its loudest. It knows when I am vulnerable.
The craving voice, researchers say, is the result of a rewiring in the brain of addicted persons. No longer is the pleasure-related dopamine system in play, but the excitatory glutamate system. One uses not for pleasure, but to stop feeling pain. And later, when the whole issue seems resolved? The voice keeps barking out its hollow commands.
Perhaps I could counsel myself in the techniques of Phenomenology, enter the country of the mind and root out this babbling idiot who distracts me from my life? But if long habit has hard-wired it in, what am I to do? At least, if it was an malign alien entity, then I would have something obvious to fight.
And who’s to say that it is not?
Who’s to say The Deadly Spores themselves are not under malign alien control?