ROBERT ANTON WILSON
This is an edited transcript of an interview which took place in Los Angeles on April 23, 1988. I would like to thank Bob Wilson and his wonderful wife Arlen for inviting me into their home, and special thanks to Bruce Eisner for helping to arrange it. The interview was broadcast on college radio station KFJC, 89.7 FM in Los Altos Hills, California five weeks later. –David A. Banton
DAB: This is David B, here in Los Angeles in the home of Robert Anton Wilson. It is April 23, 1988, a significant day in Robert Anton Wilson philosophy. What is the significance of 23?
RAW: Well, 23 is a part of the cosmic code. It’s connected with so many synchronicities and weird coincidences that it must mean something, I just haven’t figured out yet what it means! In several of my books, including the Illuminatus trilogy and Cosmic Trigger, I have given examples of a tremendous number of coincidences connected with 23. Take today as an example, April 23: this is the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, April 23, 1556 and his death, April 23, 1616. Also April 23, 1616, the same time Shakespeare died in England, Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, died in Spain. April 23, 1014 is when Brian Boru died, he was the first high king of Ireland to be a political as well as religious leader. He unified all Ireland and drove the Danes out, and on April 23, 1014 he was killed by one of the Danes after the battle of Clontarf, where he defeated the Danes for the final time, and liberated Ireland from foreign rule. August 23, 1170 is when the Normans came in, and Ireland has been under foreign rule again, in whole or in part, ever since. On Aug. 23, 1920 James Joyce was discussing coincidences with a friend in a Paris bar when he suddenly saw a giant black rat and fainted dead away. So that ties Joyce together with the invasion of Ireland, and Shakespeare, and Brian Boru. All of this is in (James Joyce’s) Finnigan’s Wake, by the way.
DAB: You have a whole series of books focusing on the Illuminati. What is the Illuminati, and how did that become an inspiration for so many books?
RAW: Well, the Illuminati was a secret society in Bavaria in the 18th Century. A certain number of paranoid individuals believe the Illuminati still exists and has either taken over the world, or taken over most of the world, or something like that. I discovered the anti-Illuminati literature in the late 60’s when there were all sorts of weird conspiracy theories going around. And then I discovered there were two ambiguities connected with the Illuminati. First, there are those who say the Illuminati don’t exist, versus those who say the Illuminati still exist, and then among those who say the Illuminati do exist, there are two schools of thought: those who claim they’re the arch-villains of all history, and those who claim they’re the heroes who are trying to liberate the human race from superstition and ignorance. And so, I decided a group that ambiguous, where we don’t know whether they exist or not, and we don’t know whether they’re the good guys or the bad guys, they’re the perfect symbol, to me, for all the confusions of the age we’re living through, and all of the rampant paranoia of our time. Conspiracy theories have never been more popular, not even in Nazi Germany.
RAW: Recently, Falcon press has been reprinting a lot of your books, and there’s a little joke in the list of Falcon Books. With so many of them by Robert Anton Wilson, it asks, is Falcon Press owned by Robert Anton Wilson? Well, is it?
RAW: No, that’s just one of the publisher’s little jokes. Falcon Press is actually owned by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was the English branch of the Illuminati, according to some conspiracy buffs. Of course, it wasn’t really, that’s just what some nutty people say. And I want to also deny Mae Brussel’s claim, uh, no it’s not Mae Brussel, it’s Lyndon LaRouche. Lyndon LaRouche claims I’m the head of the Illuminati; there’s no truth in that whatsoever. Mae Brussel is the one who said I’m an agent of the Rockefeller conspiracy. That is the truth, I can’t deny that one! Actually, my whole cellar is full from floor to ceiling with bars of gold sent to me personally by David Rockefeller for all the services I provide for the Rockefeller Conspiracy.
RAW: I confessed that several years ago when Mae first made the charge against me, and I confess as frequently as possible to that, because the more people who believe my cellar is full of bars of Rockefeller gold, the better my credit rating will be, so I don’t see how that can harm me at all. It can only do me good.
DAB: Speaking of the Golden Dawn, they have a mysterious reputation as some sort of secret society, and you say there is some variation of that going on today?
RAW: Oh yes, the Golden Dawn has three chapters in the Los Angeles area alone. It’s got chapters all over the country, in England, in Canada, New Zealand, Australia . . . and I believe there’s a chapter in Switzerland, I don’t know where else.
DAB: What exactly do they do?
RAW: Well, the Golden Dawn is a hermetic society devoted to altering consciousness on a planetary scale. Its objectives cannot be defined more clearly than that. It’s a Cabalistic, Rosicrucian, magickal group. Among the more famous members of the Golden Dawn have been William Butler Yeats, the great Irish poet; Arthur Machen, the great fantasy writer; Florence Farr, one of the great actresses of the Victorian age, who incidentally was the mistress of both Yeats and Bernard Shaw, that’s an interesting link; and, oh of course, Aleister Crowley was a member of the Golden Dawn all his life. The current head of the Los Angeles Temple of the Golden Dawn is a close friend of mine. However, I am not a member of the Golden Dawn myself.
DAB: Nor have ever been?
RAW: (laughing) Nor have I ever been! Except that the head of the Golden Dawn says I am . . . he was asked that question in an interview, Christopher Hyatt, the head of the Golden Dawn, the Outer Head. He was asked if I was a member, and he said Wilson belongs to all groups and none. I think that’s such a perfect definition, I don’t attempt to improve on it.
DAB: You mentioned Aleister Crowley. You’ve written about him a lot. How did you first become interested in him?
RAW: Sometime around 1970, or ’69, I was having lunch with Alan Watts and I mentioned the Illuminatus trilogy, which I was working on at the time, and the symbolism of the eye on the pyramid, which is the symbol of the Illuminati. And Alan said, that reminds me, the best book I’ve read all year is called The Eye in the Triangle by Israel Regardie, and I took Alan Watts very seriously. I mean, he was a very funny man, but when Alan said something was worth reading, I took that seriously, so I went out and bought the book, The Eye in the Triangle, and it turned out to be a biography of Aleister Crowley. Israel Regardie was Crowley’s secretary for a while in the 1930’s. Then later he was a psychotherapist right here in Los Angeles . I got into correspondence with Dr. Regardie for several years, before his death, and learned quite a bit from him about the inner traditions of the Golden Dawn, and about Crowley’s work.
DAB: So how about the eye in the triangle, what does that symbol represent?
RAW: The eye on top of the pyramid, let’s start with, the eye on top of the pyramid represents the transcendental ego as distinguished from the normal ego. It represents your awareness of your role as an evolutionary agent with all past generations holding you up to the position you’re in now. The pyramid represents all past generations and the open eye represents your realization of your oneness with all past generations, especially all past generations of magicians. Reality, as we call it, is the temporary resultant of continuous conflict between rival gangs of magicians and shamans. The eye in the triangle by itself represents the Eye of Horus. Horus is the lord of two horizons in Egyptian mythology; that means he’s the lord of the rising and the setting son, birth and death, and all other opposites. War and meditation are two of his chief characteristics.
DAB: The average person would think of a magician as a side-show entertainer. What is a magician, in your definition?
RAW: Well, it’s an ambiguous word. It can refer to prestidigitation, conjuring, other show business tricks, or it can refer to the ancient science of the magi, which is where the word magic comes from etymologically, it’s the science of the magi. It’s the science of rapid, voluntary brain change, how to use the human brain for fun and profit.
DAB: That brings us to something you’ve written about called the HEAD Revolution: Hedonic Engineering and Development.
RAW: The HEAD Revolution is my term for what’s been happening since the 1960’s, the discovery of newer and better technologies all the time for rapid alteration of brain functioning. We’ve gone from psychedelic drugs, to biofeedback and Lilly isolation tanks, and a lot of fascinating new machines like the Mind Mirror, which is an accelerated biofeedback system that gives you a continuous profile of both hemispheres of your brain, and which frequencies they’re working on. Every year, the technology of rapid brain change gets more advanced, trying to figure where it’ll be five years from now particularly makes me dizzy, it’s moving so fast at present.
I think it’s a great example of the evolutionary function of stupidity. When the government made psychedelic research illegal in the 60’s, scientific, open above-board research I mean, that did not stop research, the research just went underground, together with a great deal of partying and hell-raising and whatnot with those drugs. I thought it was the stupidest thing the government ever did, but in retrospect I think stupidity has an evolutionary function, because when they stopped that research, all the leading researchers in the field went into other areas, and so we’ve discovered dozens of other ways of rapid brain change. Lilly worked on his isolation tank, others went into biofeedback. Stan Grof, who came to this country seeking scientific freedom because he felt he didn’t have enough scientific freedom in Czechoslovakia, he came to this country seeking scientific freedom and they told him he couldn’t do any more LSD research, so he went to work on breathing techniques and the effect of sound on the brain, and has developed some very interesting post-Reichian, post-yogic techniques of brain change. So, by and large, the stupider the establishment is, the smarter the rebels become. Establishment stupidity is the greatest spur to creativity in evolutionary history. That’s why I think Reagan has been a godsend to this country. He’s brought more stupidity to Washington than anybody in my lifetime, and there’s been a tremendous upsurge of creativity while he’s been in there.
DAB: Have you tried any of these new brain machines?
RAW: Every one I can get my hands on. I started out with the Pulstar, which sends magnetic pulses into the brain, and the brain goes into the rhythm of those pulses, so you go to any frequency you want to go to, you move down from beta to alpha, to theta to delta, wherever you want to go, with direct magnetic impulses. I tried the Isis ,which uses light, and the Synchro-energizer, which uses light and sound, and the Neuro-pep which uses light and sound. I have a Pulstar, and Neuro-pep, and an Endomax. Endomax uses impulses against the mastoid bones behind the ear, and affects the hypothalamus directly, which controls the neuropeptide system in the whole body. And recently, I got to try the Graham Potentializer, which is a long, table-like contraption between two electromagnetic generators, and it revolves in a certain mathematical pattern that Graham has worked out. He claims ten sessions on that will raise your IQ tremendously. I only had one session on it, so I can’t judge yet, but after one session I was high as a kite, and I was feeling delighted with myself and the world for about 24 hours afterwards.
The Graham Potentializer is much more expensive than the others. I think what will happen, the way it’ll reach the mass market, is not people buying Potentializers, but people setting up places like with Lilly tanks, where you can go in and rent an hour on a Graham Potentializer like you can go in and rent an hour in a Lilly tank in most cities these days. When I go around the country on my tours, I always ask my audiences, can you get an hour in a Lilly isolation tank here, and in the last year I haven’t been anyplace where the answer wasn’t yes. No matter where you go in this country now, you can rent time in a Lilly tank. I think in a couple of years, you’ll be able to rent time on a Graham Potentializer, wherever you go.
The latest one I’ve tried is the Mind Mirror, which is the most sophisticated biofeedback system to come along. It gives you an instantaneous reading. I found out I’ve got a disorganized awakened brain, I found that very interesting, I kind of suspected it.
DAB: What exactly is a disorganized awakened brain?
RAW: Well, it’s a pattern that’s similar to the awakened brain state measured in Zen masters and yogis, but it’s not quite, it’s a little more raggedy. It’s usually found in scientists and artists, and some psychics.
DAB: Do you think these new brain technology tools and the flotation tanks are good enough to replace say, LSD and other chemicals for brain change? Are those no longer relevant?
RAW: I think the avant-garde edge of the consciousness revolution, the HEAD Revolution, is moving away from chemicals towards machines, because you can get much more precise control. Molecules are great big ungainly things to throw at your brain compared to electronic impulses. I think pretty soon, within five years, we’ll be able to have a little computer keyboard, and just punch in the right code to send the right impulse into your brain, to have any brain experience you want. The first time you tasted chocolate ice cream, you just punch in the right code, you get that back; your first sexual experience, you punch in the right code you get that; samadhi, you punch in the right code, you get that. And so on. I think that can’t be more than five years away, the way this technology is moving.
DAB: In the 70’s you and Leary came up with the SMIILE formula, which stands for Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension. Do you still find those three things to be important?
RAW: Oh, very much so. Space migration is tremendously exciting to me, because it’s the opening of a new frontier. Historically, every time a new frontier has opened, there’s been a big upsurge of creative energies, a Renaissance effect, a creativity boom, and the human race badly needs that at this point. Also, I think most of the energy problems that it’s fashionable to worry about will be solved when we get out of the closed system of one planet and start dealing with many worlds. When we have hundreds and hundreds of space colonies dotted all over the earth-moon system, or as far out as the asteroid belt probably, then there won’t be any more energy problem, there’s so damn much energy out there compared to the energy available on the surface of the Earth. And it will also solve the population problem, more and more people will be migrating into space, I’m sure. I want to go myself, some people think that’s whimsical in a man my age, but I’m expecting rejuvenation technology will be along in the next 10-15 years . . .
DAB: The Life Extension part of SMIILE . . .
RAW: Yes, I figure 20 years from now, I’ll be 20 years younger instead of 20 years older.
DAB: So you think you’ll make it into space one day then?
RAW: Oh, absolutely!
DAB: Do you think you’ll run into any UFO’s? You talk about that a lot, do you believe in UFO’s?
RAW: Of course! I don’t know what they are, but to deny them is like denying frogs falling out of the sky or brick walls, these are very obvious things. You may have different explanations of them. I don’t know what UFO’s are, I don’t know whether they’re spaceships, or time ships, or a special kind of hallucination triggered by abnormal electromagnetic conditions . . . that’s a theory suggested by a psychologist named Persinger, which I find very persuasive, but not totally convincing. Or maybe they’re archetypes escaped from the collective unconscious, as Jung suggested, or maybe they’re all heat inversions. I don’t know, maybe there is no one theory that accounts for all of them. But they’re certainly there, to say that they’re not there is like saying that Charlie Chaplin doesn’t exist. Charlie Chaplin may have been an actor, but he existed in some sense. Charlie Chaplin and UFO’s are at least as real as the Gross National Product.
DAB: We’ve covered the Space Migration part of the SMIILE formula, what about Intelligence Increase?
RAW: Well, I think these brain machines I’m talking about are going to play a tremendous role in raising intelligence. Graham, who claims to do more scientific measurement than anybody else in the brain-machine field, he claims he can demonstrate a definite increase in IQ in anybody who has used the Potentializer more than 10 times. And I’ve seen, I think it’s pretty clear that most of these machines have some effect on the IQ, as well as general health and tranquilization.
DAB: Life Extension: You were once Director of the Prometheus Society, right? Weren’t they involved in that?
RAW: I was the Western Director.
DAB: Does that group still exist and are you still involved with them?
RAW: I sort of lost touch with them, I don’t know whether they still exist or not. I’ve lived in Ireland for five years, I sort of lost touch with the L5 Society, the Prometheus Society, and a lot of things I was involved in before I went over to Europe. Now I’m trying to reestablish connections with groups that interest me.
DAB: What is the L5 Society?
RAW: That’s a society of scientists and others that are concerned with colonizing the L5 area, which is La Grange Point 5. There are 5 La Grange points around the moon, which are places where the gravity of Earth and Moon are approximately equal to each other, and they’re good places to build space colonies, for engineering reasons. L5 used to be considered the best. The latest calculations I’ve seen indicate that L4 may be better, but the L5 Society has already got that name, so I doubt they’re going to change it, even if we end up colonizing L4 instead of L5.
DAB: You’ve been living in Ireland for the last 5-6 years, now you’re back here in California . What are you current plans?
RAW: Oh, I intend to hang around LA for quite awhile, but I’m doing a lot of traveling, too. So far this year, it’s only April, so far this year I’ve been in Phoenix, Dallas, New York, New Jersey and Boulder, Colorado. Next week I go back to Austin, Texas, and at the end of May I’m going over to Europe and doing lectures all over Germany and Switzerland and Holland. And I intend to keep traveling, I find it exhilarating to be a citizen of the planet, rather than of one particular place.
DAB: Are you planning to go back to Ireland eventually?
RAW: Well, I am going back to Ireland to pick up a lot of my property I left there last Fall. When I came over here the last time I was doing a lecture tour, I didn’t expect I’d get hired to write a movie, so I didn’t go back to Ireland to get all my gear right away. I was trying to figure out how long will I be on the movie, how long do I want to be here, and so on, I’ve got involved in several other projects around Hollywood and it’s obvious I’m going to be here for quite awhile, so I’m bringing more of my gear over from Ireland while I’m doing the European lecture tour. But nothing is permanent, I may be living in Switzerland in five years, or I may be living in Mexico, or maybe in Japan.
DAB: I understand you’ve been working on a book about James Joyce.
RAW: Well, I was working on a book on Joyce, and I finally decided that for financial reasons, the kind of money you make out of writing scholarly books on Irish writers is not really huge. I’m publishing about a third of the Joyce book together with essays on other writers, under the title Coincidance, and that’s due out any day now from Falcon Press. Meanwhile I’m working on more commercial ventures. There will come a time, sometime in the future, when I will write a whole book on Joyce. Meanwhile, I’ve got a third of a book on Joyce bound together with two-thirds of a book on other subjects.
DAB: What is your fascination with Joyce?
RAW: I could talk all day about that! Joyce was more interested in synchronicity more than any other writer before me, and he influenced me a great deal. My fascination with synchronicity grows more out of Joyce than out of Jung. Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake are all about synchronicity, and they came out long before Jung ever wrote anything on the subject. Joyce fascinates me because of many other things. In Ulysses, he was the first one to write a relativistic novel, the first Einsteinian novel. Every other novel before Ulysses had one point of view, which was supposed to be the objective point of view, and in Ulysses, Joyce refuses to give you an objective point of view. He gives you about 54 different points of view, and leaves it up to you to decide which of the various narrative voices you’re going to believe. And I find that a very appropriate style for the 20th Century, it’s entirely compatible with relativity and quantum mechanics . . . the amount of deception and propaganda in the 20th Century world, where you can’t take anything at face value. It’s compatible with modern philosophy, everything from Nietzsche and Wittgenstein on, we’ve learned more and more about how the mind creates its own reality-tunnel; it’s entirely compatible with modern psychology and neurology and cultural anthropology.
I don’t see why anybody is still writing Victorian novels, I think everybody should be writing Joycean novels, to be contemporary, to be compatible with modern science, modern philosophy and modern civilization in general. People who are writing pre-Joycean novels, it seems to me like they’re riding around in a stagecoach instead of using a car or a plane.
DAB: Of all the books you’ve written, how many are novels, 6 or 7 maybe?
RAW: It depends on how you count. If you count the Illuminatus trilogy as one novel, you get a different figure. If you count the Schrödinger’s Cat trilogy as one novel, you get a different figure. If you count the Illuminatus trilogy as three, and the Schrödinger’s Cat trilogy as three, then I seem to have nine novels in print.
DAB: And the other three are Masks of the Illuminati . . .
RAW: The Earth Will Shake, and The Widow’s Son.
DAB: Aren’t those two books part of a trilogy, too?
RAW: No, that’s part of a pentology.
DAB: A pentology?
RAW: Yes, that’s a series of five books.
DAB: And so far two of them have come out.
RAW: That’s right. I’m working on the third, which is called Nature’s God.
DAB: And what is the basic concept behind that series of books?
RAW: Well, that series deals with European, and to some extent, American history, between 1764 and 1824. That was a period in which all the rules changed, everything, the whole Western world went through a total change. We went from feudal, agricultural monarchy to capitalist democracy and industrialism. Everything changed, the style of music changed, we went from Baroque to Romantic, everything changed. Philosophy changed, it was in that period that David Hume’s books appeared, knocking the bottom out of all previous philosophy. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations appeared there, the Declaration of Independence, of course. I’m taking that as a model to show how revolutions work. They work on many levels besides violent revolutions, there are non-violent revolutions, but they’re all tied together. We’re going through a period like that right now, and what got my started writing those novels was to give an example of a previous period that was as revolutionary as the period we’re living through; to show some of the general laws of what happens when society goes through rapid transition. We’re going through a dozen revolutions at once right now, too.
DAB: So the new novels could almost be thought of as an earlier . . . For example, the Illuminatus Trilogy took place in the seventies, right? So the new series takes a similar view, but from an earlier cultural revolution.
RAW: Well, the pentology deals with 1764 to 1824. Masks of the Illuminati deals with the 1890’s to 1914. Illuminatus is set in the 70’s, but has flashbacks to the 1930’s and everything in between the 30’s and the 70’s. The Schrödinger’s Cat trilogy is set in the 80’s and the early 90’s, and when I write a few more and fit them into the pattern , I’ll have a complete history of the Western world from 1764 to 2001.
DAB: That’s quite a feat! Do you have a favorite of the books that you’ve written? I think my personal favorite right now is the Schrödinger’s Cat trilogy.
RAW: Oh, thank you, that’s the one that got more bad reviews . . . you know, that’s about to be reprinted, I’m happy to say. But that got more bad reviews than anything else I’ve ever written, it only got two good reviews I ever saw. The “LA Times” said it was hilarious, multi-dimensional, a laugh a paragraph, something like that. “New Scientist” in England had the other good review, they said it was the most scientific of all science-fiction novels. Everybody else said it was unintelligible, deliberately obscure, pretentious, incoherent, everything they say about Joyce!
DAB: Right, like when Finnegan’s Wake came out.
RAW: Yes, exactly, just like Finnegan’s Wake. As a matter of fact, it’s my attempt to translate Finnegan’s Wake into a quantum comedy. Even the title has the same rhythm as Finnegan’s Wake: Finnegan’s Wake, Schrödinger’s Cat, Finnegan’s Wake, Schrödinger’s Cat, there are all sorts of analogies built in.
DAB: You appeared on a punk rock album by a band called the Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy?
RAW; No, that was the title of the album, the name of the band is the Golden Horde.
DAB: How did you get involved with that project, and what exactly did you do on that?
RAW: Well, they came up to me after a lecture in Dublin, and said, we’re a punk rock group. And I said, yes, I kind of suspected that from the way you’re dressed. And they said, we’d like to have you on our next record. And I said, hey, I’d love that, I’d love to make a punk rock record. Not many men my age get invited to make punk rock records. And I wrote a whole bunch of lyrics, and they picked out the ones they liked, and then they lured me down to the studio to improvise some surrealist poetry in between in the songs, and so it’s a combination of rock and poetry and surrealism and gnosticism. It’s basically Celtic-Gnostic punk rock.
DAB: Is this album available anywhere that you know of?
RAW: It seems to be released on a need-to-know basis. People have found copies of it in the United States. I have seen them, I have autographed them. It’s very hard to find, but not impossible.
DAB; You have another album called “Secrets of Power,” made up of talks you gave . . .
RAW: No, that was a stand-up comedy act I did in a nightclub in England. I’m doing stand-up comedy these days, just because I’ve never done it before. I’ve done stand-up comedy in London, Dublin, New York, San Francisco and a couple of other smaller places I don’t quite recall. I think I’m getting better at it all the time, and I’m enjoying it, I’m having a great time. It’s a tremendous challenge. When you’re doing a lecture, or even a workshop, they don’t have to be laughing all the time. But when you’re in a nightclub, they’ve got to be laughing all the time or you feel like you’re dying up there, and it gives you a tremendous adrenaline rush. It’s the next best thing to skydiving, as far as scaring the hell out of yourself for fun. As Edmund Kean said on his deathbed, Sir Edmund Kean the great British actor, his last words were, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” And it really is, so I enjoy the challenge.
DAB: Leary’s been doing some stand-up comedy, too. Have you seen his act?
RAW: Oh, yes!
DAB: Back to the album: The “Secrets of Power” album is released on the Illuminated Records label. How was that arranged?
RAW: Well. the boys down at Illuminati Headquarters said, Bob, we want you to put . . . no, no, I’m not supposed to reveal that! The cover story is that the people who started the record company named it after my Illuminatus novels. And then when they discovered I was in Ireland, and they were in London, they decided to have me do a record for them. That’s the cover story, anyway, and I’ll stick to that!
Oh, this morning I looked at “Bride of the Monster” for the first time.
DAB: “Bride of the Monster”?
RAW: It’s an Ed Wood movie, he made the world’s worst movies. He made “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” you must have heard of that. “Bride of the Monster” has Bela Lugosi live, instead of his (Wood’s) wife’s chiropractor pretending to be Bela, as in “Plan 9”? This one has Bela Lugosi while he was still alive, and Tor Johnson, the guy who played the sheriff in “Plan 9,” he plays Bela Lugosi’s moronic assistant. Bela plays a classic mad scientist, and it is just as bad as “Plan 9,” it’s incredibly bad! Ed Wood was a backwards genius, he set out to make horror movies and he didn’t know how to do it, and he ended up making, unintentionally, he made the funniest movies ever to come out of Hollywood. Ever scene in this movie which tries to scare you is so stupid that you bust out laughing. Ed Wood is proof that Mencken was wrong. Mencken said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Well, Ed Wood did go broke by underestimating their intelligence. It is possible, you can underestimate the intelligence of the masses!
DAB: So, you’re a fan of bad science fiction movies?
RAW: Oh, yes. Bad movies are generally just plain bad, and you can’t stand them, but bad science fiction and bad horror is funny. And the worse it is, the better it is, because the less convincing, the more amateurish, the more stupid and clumsy it is, the funnier it gets. Like “Plan 9,” with that immortal line, “The message couldn’t get through because of the weather conditions in outer space.” “Bride of the Monster” has some really wonderful stuff, too. There’s an atomic explosion at the end and the main characters are all standing around, there’s no fall-out, no blinding white light, none of the side effects of a real atomic explosion, just a mushroom shaped cloud and they stand there and look at it. And the chief of police says, “He meddled in God’s domain,” which is probably the corniest line in the history of films, but this together with an atomic explosion that isn’t an atomic explosion, it’s absolutely hilarious. I think there should be an Ed Wood memorial toilet somewhere in Hollywood. He brought movies, he brought his movies down to the crap-house level!
DAB: What about good science-fiction? A lot of your books are considered science-fiction, although they are often hard to categorize. Do you have any current favorite science-fiction writers?
RAW: The guy who wrote Neuromancer,William Gibson. I’d say he’s my current favorite. Phillip K. Dick, but he’s dead, or they claim he is. They took the liberty of burying him anyway. There are people who think Phil isn’t dead, you know.
DAB: Like some people think Jim Morrison isn’t really dead.
RAW: That’s another interesting question. Why did so many photographs disappear from the LA Police Department connected with the Bobby Kennedy assassination?
DAB: One of your recent books is The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about this book.
RAW: I coined the term irrational rationalism because those people claim to be rationalists, but they’re governed by such a heavy body of taboos. They’re so fearful, and so hostile, and so narrow, and frightened, and uptight and dogmatic. I thought it was a fascinating paradox: irrational rationalists. Later on I found out I didn’t invent that. Somebody else who wrote an article on CSICOP, that’s the group they all belong to: Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Somebody else who wrote about them also used the term irrational rationalism. It’s a hard term to resist when you think about those people.
I wrote this book because I got tired satirizing fundamentalist Christianity, I had done enough of that in my other books. I decided to satirize fundamentalist materialism for a change, because the two are equally comical. All fundamentalism is comical, unless you believe in it, in which case you’d become a fanatic yourself, and want everybody else to share your fundamentalism. But if you’re not a fundamentalist yourself, fundamentalists are the funniest people on the planet. The materialist fundamentalists are funnier than the Christian fundamentalists, because they think they’re rational!
DAB: They call themselves skeptical.
RAW: Yes, but they’re not skeptical! They’re never skeptical about anything except the things they have a prejudice against. None of them ever says anything skeptical about the AMA, or about anything in establishment science or any entrenched dogma. They’re only skeptical about new ideas that frighten them. They’re actually dogmatically committed to what they were taught when they were in college, which was about 1948-53, somewhere in that period. If you go back and study what was being taught in college in those days as the latest scientific theories, you find out that’s what these people still believe. They haven’t had a new idea in 30 years, that’s all that happened to them. They just rigidified, they crystallized around 1960.
DAB: The Amazing Randi recently “debunked” Uri Geller, the guy who bends metal. What do you think about the Amazing Randi in particular? I understand that he has investigated some of these faith healers, he’s debunked some of that. So some of the work that he’s done seems to be rational. What would be an example of something irrational that he’s done?
RAW: Well, his whole critique of the research of Plutof and Targ, at Stanford Research Institute. Randi was not there, he was not on the scene, and yet he claims to know what was going on there better than the two scientists who were supervising it. This implies 100% accurate telepathy. He was in New Jersey at the time of the experiments. The only way he could know better than the scientists running the project what was going on in their laboratory is if he had 100% accurate telepathy. Now he’s offering a $100,000 reward to anybody with 100% accurate telepathy; he should give all the money to himself! How else could he know? If he wasn’t there, he can’t know, he’s only guessing, and to the extend that he thinks he knows, and doesn’t realize he’s guessing, that’s what I mean by irrational rationalism. He’s lost all track of reality. He doesn’t know when he’s guessing anymore.
I’ve heard him make charges against scientists that remind me of Joe McCarthy. The only excuse for such things is that such a person doesn’t realize he’s guessing anymore, he thinks any suspicion that crosses his mind must be true. And that’s the only way you can forgive them, because every ethical system has some equivalent to the Bible injunction against bearing false witness against your neighbor. Anybody who goes around charging so many people with being frauds and criminals and whatnot, the only way to forgive them is that they don’t understand the seriousness of what they’re doing. And they believe they are infallible. If he had any sense of fallibility, he couldn’t do such things.
DAB: Let’s talk about the whole New Age movement happening now, Shirley McClaine, crystal healing and all that: Didn’t I hear something about you writing a book about that?
RAW: Yes, I’m writing a book about New Age sewage.
DAB: New Age sewage?
RAW: Yes, I got the idea from William Erwin Thompson, the anthropologist. He pronounces New Age as “Newage” so it rhymes with sewage. And I thought, boy there sure is enough of that around, isn’t there, New Age sewage. Just because there’s a slight chance people may not have read my other books, and may read The New Inquisition, and think I’m only against one type of fundamentalism, I decided to make the sequel to it, an attack on the imbeciles on the other side. And so, I’m going to tear into Ramtha and all these other sages who come back . . . the main thing Ramtha proves is you can be dead 40,000 years and still be a bore. That may be interesting news, but that’s . . . Everything I’ve heard from Ramtha sounds like an editorial from the Reader’s Digest in 1958 or something.
Then there are these ecological loonies who would like to abolish the human race so that the trees could live in peace again. I think they’re kind of funny. Then there’s these animal rights activists who also seem to have a very low opinion of humanity. I don’t know why they don’t all commit suicide, and get rid of the most, I mean, if you hate humanity, you’ve got to regard yourself as one of the prime offenders, because you know yourself better than the rest of humanity. If they have a low view of humanity, they must have a very low view of themselves. I wish they’d remove themselves from the scene and stop annoying the rest of us. I like people, I like humanity.
DAB: Except for the ones who don’t like people?
RAW: Well, I like them, too, I just find them a bit of a drag!
DAB: Is the Pope infallible?
RAW: I regard that as a game rule of the Catholic game. If you want to play the Catholic game, you’ve got to accept that rule. Like if you want to play baseball, you’ve got to accept the rule of the umpire, who is considered infallible. I don’t believe umpires or popes are de facto infallible, it’s just a game rule. I choose not to play the Catholic game. I’d find myself terribly constricted to live in a world where some right-wing Polish schlimazel is supposed to be infallible. I’d sooner accept Randi as infallible than the Pope.
DAB: Don’t you, in fact, hand out Pope cards?
RAW: Oh yes, I do. Kirby Hensley set out back in the 50’s to make every man, woman and child, and other miscellaneous, on the planet a clergy-entity.
RAW: Yes, well clergy-person has human chauvinism in it, and Hensley got over that very early in his career. After ordaining all sorts of men and women, he started ordaining chimpanzees and parrots, and house cats and all sorts of critters. A friend of mine named Malaclypse the Younger got the idea that it’s not enough to make everybody a clergy-entity, let’s make everybody a Pope. He started printing up Pope cards and distributing them, and I thought it was a good idea, so I started distributing Pope cards too, and there are oh, a couple hundred at least Discordians who are distributing Pope cards.
Only recently, the Vatican announced that Cardinals can give indulgences over television, which raises some interesting theological problems, because if you make a videotape of it when a Cardinal is giving an indulgence and you play the videotape over and over, do you get perpetual indulgence? And then can you join the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in San Francisco? The Jesuits haven’t answered that, yet. But while they’re working on it, I figure, well, if they can do indulgences over television, I can do pontifications over television, or radio. So every time I’m on a television or radio show, I make the whole audience Popes.
As a matter of fact, everybody who is listening to me right now, if they take a deep breath and relax while I say the magic formula, “Spectacles, testicles, brandy, cigars,” they’re all Popes. Everybody listening, they’re all now as infallible as the guy in Rome, or Randi, or Carl Sagan, or the Ayatollah Khomeini, or any other authority on the planet. You’re all equally infallible, and take crap from nobody!
DAB: And they thought they were just listening to the radio!
RAW: Yes, they didn’t know I was about to liberate them totally, did they?