“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” —Anais Nin
Of course, Anais Nin spent her life writing about all of her layers. Are you?
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin
I recently ventured up into my attic to clean it out after not having been up there for over ten years. Most of what I had stored up there were business records that Uncle Sam says we must keep for a silly length of time, and which I had subsequently forgotten about. However, I was shocked to discover that there were also several boxes of books. Most of them were old textbooks I had used while teaching composition and literature, and then there were a fair number of books related to NLP which I studied during my certification process, and also those related to my Master’s thesis. It was like running into old friends. I remember them fondly but had forgotten about their import until I opened them. The one that struck me the most was Colin Wilson’s The Occult: A History.
As I flipped through it, I looked at what I had underlined and what I had written in the margins. Ah yes, Faculty X. My thesis was on Anais Nin’s theory of creativity and how she used writing to create self. Though she did not use the term Faculty X, she understood that novelists and poets are acutely aware of the dynamic relationship between the “two halves of man’s mind.” (The Occult, 59) In fact, she argued, it is their job to make manifest and intelligible the link between the two.
What struck me as I started to read passages (cleaning could wait!) is how much Wilson’s ideas on this mysterious factor resembled current ideas expressed in The Secret and the plethora of offshoots resulting from its more mainstream acceptance. The Occult is a thick work in any sense of the word. It is well researched, well thought out, and well executed. And no doubt, most copies of it now sit in boxes or on dusty shelves, which is too bad.
Perhaps the title is off-putting. Perhaps its date of publication makes it seem arcane—1971. Perhaps its scholarly approach makes it feel unapproachable. This is regrettable and instructive.