Webb, James (C. N.) (1946-1980)

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Webb, James (C. N.) (1946-1980)

Scottish author who conducted historical surveys of the occult. Webb was born in 1946 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge University. He spent some years as a ghostwriter, television producer and trainer, and schoolmaster, but in 1969 became a full-time writer.

He was advisory editor of The Occult, a series of thirty-three reprints chosen to illustrate the origins and development of modern occultism, as well as Perspectives in Psychical Research, a series of 34 books (both for Arno Press, New York, 1976) and contributed to Man, Myth and Magic (Marshall Cavendish, 1970), and Encyclopedia of the Unexplained (McGraw-Hill, 1974).

Webb's major contribution, however, came from the special study he conducted of the historical and cultural background of Western occultism, with special reference to its relationship with extremist political movements. This research resulted in three major books: The Occult Underground (1974; British title The Flight from Reason, 1971), The Occult Establishment (1976), and The Harmonious Circle (1980). Along the way he also edited several volumes, including The Quest Anthology (1976), The Subliminal Consciousness (selections from writings by Frederic W. H. Myers in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, London, 1976), and The Mediums and the Conjurers (anthology of writings by J. N. Maskelyne, G. Smith-Buck, and George Sexton, 1976).

The scholarly surveys by Webb of the ideas and personalities preceding the occult revival of the 1960s and 1970s constitute an overview of the problem of the twentieth century as a battleground between reason and unreason. He started his writings with a somewhat skeptical viewpoint, but in the course of time experienced unusual visions and insights, sometimes associated with hallucinations and nervous breakdowns. He died May 9, 1980, in Scotland.


Collin-Smith, Joyce. "A Precognitive Dream: James Webb." Light (summer 1982).

Webb, James. The Harmonious Circle. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1980.

. The Occult Establishment. LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court Press, 1976.

. The Occult Underground. LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court Press, 1974. Reprinted as The Flight from Reason. 1971.

Wilson, Colin. "James Webb and the Occult." Light (summer 1982).