This very interesting passage comes from Poetry and Mysticism by Colin Wilson (1970) which was developed from an earlier, smaller book named Poetry and Zen. It has apparently never been reprinted but so far (I am on page 80) it seems to be one of Wilson's best books in the Outsider series - with a likable freshness and urgency about it.
This energetic quality probably derives from it being written in the era when Wilson was stimulated by several stints as a visiting professor in American colleges. This led to some interesting experiences and meetings - this book was written for City Lights press - the 'Beat' bookstore in San Fransisco after Wilson had met its owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti (who is, remarkably, still alive - aged 100!).
What makes the book significant is that it was his first exposition of the 'robot' idea, which featured strongly in his work from that point. The robot is the idea (which he shares with William Arkle, under a different name) that modern consciousness gains efficiency from the way that so many skilled and difficult tasks (like typing, driving a car - even basic abilities like walking and talking) become automatic; allowing us to focus attention on other matters.
But the robot also takes-over the things that most interest and satisfy us - like reading novels, listening to music, talking with friends... In the end, life becomes merely automatic - the robot does everything - unless we are shocked out of this comfort zone by some emergency, when we may come-alive again for a while.
Because it was Wilson's first discovery of the idea, there is an enjoyably exploratory feel about the book. Also, it has more detail about Wilson's evaluation of 'Eastern religions' than I have seen elsewhere. This following passage about Buddhism struck me as insightful - and there are several other similar sections which seem to bring out truths that seem valid (From page 30.):
Buddhism is an extremely positive religion. Its world rejection is quite unlike the Christian 'renunciation'. You wouldn't call it renunciation if you rejected cold tea for champagne.
This also explains why exponents of Buddhism feel only a patronising contempt for Christianity - as well as for Judaism, Mahommedanism and the more traditional forms of Hinduism.
The basic Buddhist belief is identical with the basic vision of science; it has no use for 'belief' or dogma; it aims at pure contemplation, as detached and unprejudiced as a scientist examining an unknown virus under the microscope.
But anyone who has fallen under the spell of Buddhism - or other eastern religion, for that matter - will have discovered the drawback. You can determinedly withdraw your mind from the objects of sense, assure yourself that you are free of all desire - and nothing whatever happens.
You cannot 'contemplate' merely by wanting to contemplate. In fact, you soon realise that contemplation is closely bound up with desire.
When you first perform that mental act of rejecting your desires and obsessions, the feeling of freedom is magnificent, and the mind is launched like a rocket, powered by the desire you are rejecting. That is why religious conversions are such violent experiences.
[However,] When there is nothing more to reject, the mind becomes static. And there is a world of difference between serenity and mere lack of emotion.
I would not go so far as to reject the whole Buddhist concept of contemplative objectivity; it can be achieved in flashes. But I am inclined to believe that when the aspirant sits cross-legged and concentrates the gaze at the end of the nose, his immediate aim should not be a state of contemplation. It is too negative. The mind requires a more positive aim.