Faculty X

I don’t know if the late great Colin Wilson had the same indescribable feelings that I get from time to time when he wrote about a phenomena he called ‘faculty x’ but I know that my dad and I talked about it at length, and it’s something that not everyone feels. In fact I’ve only met a couple of people who know what I’m talking about when I attempt to describe it.

The best way I can describe the feeling I get is that it is like the feeling of nostalgia, but it isn’t nostalgia for the past or any point in time. Something needs to happen to provoke the feeling, usually a thought of somewhere you’ve probably never been to. When I explain this to people, they usually say something like’ Oh I get what you mean, like when you think of a green meadow and it makes you feel happy and peaceful’ to this I usually explain that it is similar to that, but a million times more intense. Often a few thoughts compliment each other to intensify the feeling. These thoughts don’t have to link or have any connection, but they somehow compliment each other in a more abstract way. What ever the feeling is, it seems to be the feeling I may have had before I was born and what I will feel after I die. It’s like a base feeling that I would feel constantly if I didn’t have a human body. Some people describe similar experiences while meditating however the feeling is not peaceful, it’s not the opposite of peaceful either, it just can’t be put into a category so easily.

It’s strange but the feeling seems to emanate from somewhere around the top of my head. It’s worth mentioning that I have synesthesia which basically means I see colours and shapes for sounds, particularly words and music. Some people have this mildly where they might think that days of the week have colours, for example Wednesday might be yellow. Some people have spatial synethesia which can enable them to do complex mathematical equations and even remember every single day of their lives. Even though I only have chromesthesia (the most common form) I have wondered if I do have some form of spatial synesthesia which could be responsible for me sensing that the feeling comes from a specific place in my head.

I don’t know if Colin Wilson’s idea of faculty x has anything to do with the feeling I get, I only know that my dad took the name ‘faculty x’ from Colin Wilson to describe what we had been experiencing. A different feeling I sometimes get is an intense feeling of reality, like a realisation of my place in time and space. I’m not sure if that would be classed as a form of faculty X.

“Faculty X is simply that latent power in human beings possess to reach beyond the present. After all, we know perfectly well that the past is as real as the present, and that New York and Singapore and Lhasa and Stepney Green are all as real as the place I happen to be in at the moment. Yet my senses do not agree. They assure me that this place, here and now, is far more real than any other place or any other time. Only in certain moments of great inner intensity do I know this to be a lie. Faculty X is a sense of reality, the reality of other places and other times, and it is the possession of it — fragmentary and uncertain though it is — that distinguishes man from all other animals”

― Colin Wilson, The Occult

From what I’ve read, it seems that Colin Wilson thought of faculty X as a kind of extra sensory perception, the key to all poetic and mystical experience. The most logical explanation that I can think of is that some people might be able to force their bodies to create a rush of endorphins or even DMT. Instead of this weird feeling arising for some mystical, profound reason, it could just be chemical. I’ve tried a few recreational drugs but I’ve never tried heroin and I know I never will (doesn’t interest me) but I have often wondered if heroin users experience faculty X.

I suppose I’m writing about this because I’m hoping there are others who understand what I’m talking about. I know it could sound like a mental illness or even physical illness is responsible for this strange feeling, but I can assure you that’s not the case.