Author Archives: quackenbush

La Belle Dame sans Merci

La Belle Dame sans Merci

by Robert Anton Wilson

Excerpt from Email to the Universe

The four weirdest and scariest drug stories I know all involve belladonna, a chemical for which I now have the same sincere respect as I have for hungry tigers, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, IRS and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

The first story I’ll tell comes from a young friend, then a 1960s drop-out hippie freak but now, 2001, a Ph.D. in sociology. He tried belladonna around 1965 under the impression that it had much the same effects as LSD. When he immediately went into toxic convulsions, friends rushed him to a hospital where the ER staff pumped out his stomach — probably saving his life, but a bit too late to save him from delirium, since the belladonna had already entered his blood stream.

When he returned to what seemed normal consciousness he found himself in a hospital bed, surrounded by people in other beds with different ailments.  Then a Beautiful Blonde Nurse with Great Big Hooters entered the ward, accompanied by an olde style New Orleans jazz band.

As my friend watched entranced, the nurse proceeded to perform a classic Strip Tease dance with plenty of tantalizing tease but eventual total nudity followed by even more bumps and grinds. The music seemed louder and raunchier than any jazz he had ever heard, and came to a wild Dionysian climax when the naked nurse crawled into bed with a delighted patient and proceeded to make love to him, loudly and frequently and more ways than a dozen porn stars.

My friend never once suspected that this might be a hallucination. Nor did it seem an unusually innovative medical procedure. You don’t ask philosophic or ontological questions during a belladonna journey the way you usually do on real psychedelics. He only began to wonder if any of that sex stuff really happened the following morning.

….and that’s this whole story. Belladonna erases a great deal of your memory of what you saw during the trip. He might have had dozens of other visions that night but all he ever remembered was the nurse from Mitchell Brothers Clinic for the Horrendously Horny. I guess I would have remembered her too.

The second, more perplexing yarn comes from another 1960s veteran, but I lost touch with him and have no idea how his life worked out. He told me he took the belladonna in his dorm room at the college he attended and then waited for psychedelic fireworks and transcendental experiences.

Nothing happened for a while.

Then his friend Joe entered the room and asked what he was doing. He told Joe about the belladonna and said he was waiting to feel an effect. Joe asked him something but he didn’t quite hear it.

Then his friend Joe entered the room and asked what he was doing. He told Joe about the belladonna and said he was waiting to feel an effect. Joe asked him something but he got distracted by having two Joes in the room. He tried to explain about the two Joes but then one of them vanished. He tried to tell Joe “Hey, you came in before you came in, ” but his tongue seemed unable to function and he thought he was merely grunting like a hog.

Then his friend Joe entered the room, and this time he got The Fear.  He fled the room and the dorm and hopped on his motorcycle to Get Away, speeding across the campus and down the nearest highway as fast as he could gun her.

He didn’t even own a motorcycle. I often wonder what the other people on campus and on the highway thought they saw when he went racing past them on his phantom bike….?

Medieval witches used belladonna in their brews, and some scholars think that’s why they believed they could fly through the sky on broomsticks. Modern witches — at least the ones I’ve known — prudently substitute the kinder, gentler cannabis.

The next morning my friend returned to “consensus reality” and found himself in a ditch several miles from campus. He had no bumps or bruises –and nobody else’s motorcycle either– but his right shoe and right sock had disappeared. He never did find them and never remembered anymore of that night either.

My longest yarn involves my own experience with belladonna, in 1962.  What can I say about why I did it? I hadn’t heard the above stories yet, I was young, I was a damned eejit, and the guy who gave it to me said it was “just like peyote.”

Let me explain that this happened on a farm in the deep woods.

A few minutes after I took the stuff — drank it as a tea, actually — my wife Arlen developed a severe case of fangs and quickly turned into a beautiful, sexy, red-headed vampire with malice in her eyes. I immediately rushed to the kitchen sink, stuck a finger down my throat and forced several painful fits of vomiting. When I could vomit no more I told her — she looked normal again for a moment: beautiful, sexy, red-headed but friendly, not vampirish — “This is a Bad Trip, but I’ll find my way back to you, I promise.”

Those were the last sane words I spoke for the next 12 hours.

I remember taking a long walk through a forest of magic green jewels with the Tin Woodsman of Oz. Later, the next day, it became clear that this was Jeff, a friend Arlen had phoned to help me through the Emergency. He was walking me around our cabin, thinking fresh air might help.

I remember some dwarfs in Nazi uniforms trying to shove me into a furnace literally “as hot as Hell.” I have never felt more terror in my life.

Blank space”: memory loss.

I remember thinking the worst was over and trying to tell Arlen and Jeff that some parts of it were quite good, really.  I was lighting one cigarette after another, chain-smoking I thought. Jeff and Arlen saw me striking the lighter repeatedly but I never did have a cigarette in my mouth.

I remember trying to explain something I had discovered Out There. Arlen wrote it down. The note said, “The literary critics will all have to be shot because of the Kennedy administration in Outer Space of the Nuremberg pickle that exploded.”

Not quite as good as the last words of Dutch Shultz, I’d say, but a bit better than what William James brought back from his nitrous oxide adventure: “Over all, there is a smell of fried onions.”

Around dawn, I had to go to the out-house, Jeff accompanied me to make sure I didn’t wander off into the Pink Dimension or get lost amid the buzzing and whistling things in the Realm of Thud.

I opened the out-house door and found Jeff already in there. I closed the door and told him, “I can’t go in. You’re already in there.”

He persuaded me reasonably that he wasn’t in there, but outside with me, so I opened the door again, found nobody inside and took a healthy crap.

I felt even closer to “normal” when I came out, but then I noticed King Kong peeking at me over the top of the trees. He seemed whimsical and unthreatening and when I looked again he turned into just another tree.

The next day I moved slowly back into the ordinary world, and by evening I felt well enough to go to a movie, Kurasawa’s The Seven Samurai. I enjoyed the first half, especially the innovative technique of alternating between black-and-white and color, but in the second half Toshiro Mifune’s nose started growing like Pinocchio’s and I knew I was hallucinating again, which vexed me a bit.

No more flashbacks occurred for about a month and then one day all the people in the supermarket turned into iguanas. That only lasted a few seconds, and it was the last of the trip. I never tried this nefarious chemical again, and I hope to gawd you won’t either.

My last story I heard from novelist William S. Burroughs, who bought some “morphine” once that some wiseacre had cut with belladonna. He never remembered anything of the experience, but a friend did: he said that at one point William walked to the window, opened it and stuck a leg out.

“What are you doing?” the friend asked.

“Going down for some cigarettes,” William replied. The friend grabbed him and dragged him back into the room, which was on the third floor.

“Bella donna,” by the way means beautiful lady in Italian. Go figure.


(submitted to by EWagner382)

The Persistence of False Memory

“The Persistence of False Memory” by Robert Anton Wilson, published in Wake Up Down There!: The Excluded Middle Anthology, by Greg Bishop, ed., 2000.   Submitted to by R. Michael Johnson (RMJon23).

Preposterous Perception has received almost as much publicity lately as the claim by Prof. Jesus Magdalena La Puta (University of Madrid) that, via computer enhancement, he positively identified the “face an Mars” as the late Moe Howard, or possibly Moe’s brother, Shemp. Nonetheless, despite some fair-minded academic debate, PP remains the area of science most beset by emotional, and often scandalously acrimonious, controversy-even more so than La Puta’s alleged Howard Head. The doctrine of PP holds, you see, that almost all of us see crazy and “unbelievable” things most of the time – almost all the time – even when we’re not an acid. Why don’t we remember this? Because we repress the memory in order to fit into a repressive society.

Many experts – or “pseudo-experts” as their critics call them – vehe­mently deny that PP exists at all. Other experts – or “pseudo-experts” as the other side prefers to say – claim that denying PP marks one as akin to those who deny the greenhouse effect or the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

In fact, the whale PP feud has opened a “can of worms” that begins to look more like a can of cobras. We face here the almost unthinkable question: who has the objectivity to distinguish Skepticism (in the scientific sense) from Denial (in the neurotic sense)? Or even from Denial (in the legal sense)?

Perhaps the problem began with Whitley Streiber. As professor H.H. Sheissenhasen (University of Heidelberg) has written,” Maybe somewhere out in space, on a galaxy far away, same especially perverted little aliens do exist. Maybe these vicious little buggers (I speak precisely) occasionally get their hands or tentacles an same especially nefarious drug, something combining the worst of PCP and the old ‘King Kong’ or ‘White Lightning’ home-brew distilled in the American Ozarks.

Maybe after these aliens have became totally “wasted” or “stoned out of their gourds” (as our students’ argot has it) one of them cries “Hey, fellas, let’s hop in the flying saucer and buzz over to Earth and have another go at same of that sweet Whitley Strieber ass.” And maybe they whiz across billions and billions of light years just to ram the poor man’s rectum with weird instruments one more time..

Maybe. Nonetheless, some doubts arise in any dispassionate contempla­tion of this scenario.

Dr. David Jacobs (Temple University, Philadelphia), on the other hand, insists that, after careful study of extraterrestrial sexual abuse, he believes that these people have indeed literally suffered alien rape, an experience so much more traumatic than ordinary rape that most victims block out the memory entirely-until Dr. Jacobs skillfully helps them recall it.

Dr. Richard Boylan, [see interview in chapter 6] meanwhile, continually circulates an exasperated letter warning that Dr. Jacobs lacks training in psychotherapy. Boylan also urges the American Psychological Association to “denounce” Jacobs as “untrained” and “unlicensed.” Dr. Jacobs, according to Boylan and other critics of his work, has his doctorate in history and thus has no more qualification to deal with borderline mental states than a Certified Public Accountant would have.

Curiously, when Jacobs appeared on the Joan Rivers TV show, whoever writes the subtitles attributed an M.D. to him. Did he acquire an M.D. some­time, in addition to his Ph.D. in history? If so, would that” qualify” him to claim more expertise than a mere historian in judging whether hypnotic visions belong in the category of the real or the hallucinatory?

Don’t expect me to answer such questions. Maybe “the Shadow knows,” but I’m as uncertain as Hamlet after he got home from studying philosophy at college and encountered what seemed to him a possible appearance of his father’s ghost.

Budd Hopkins, a chap who doesn’t even bother to claim psychothera­peutic training, supports Dr. Jacobs. But Budd claims to have hypnotically uncovered memories of extraterrestrial sexual molestations not just in 80 people, like Jacobs; but in “hundreds.” The experts (or pseudo-experts) on the other side, of course, claim that Hopkins did not exactly unearth these memo­ries, but implanted them. .

In the April/May 1993 Fortean Times – a  magazine devoted to free and op en discussion of the most heated, and fetid, disputes in science and/or “pseudo-science”-Dennis Stacy of MUFON notes that “early” (pre-­Hopkins) UFO abduction allegations lacked the sexual element that has entered the field since Hopkins started probing the unconscious of hypnotized subjects. But since Hopkins’ books got into print, and then got picked up on TV, Stacy indicates, it now seems impossible to find an “abductee” who doesn’t claim genital or rectal molestation.

Stacy implies that this evolution in the contents of memory should give us pause, and ambiguously concludes that abduction experiences do not take place “in real space and time.”

I do not feel confident that I understand what kind of space and time Stacy thinks the abductions do occur in.

Meanwhile, reports continue to multiply. One chap, David Huggins, even sells paintings of the numerous extraterrestrial females he has had sex with. They all posed nude for him. You can find one of Huggins’ paintings on the first page of the May 15th issue of Jim Moseley’s Saucer Smear. The ladies look a lot like Playmates of the Month from the neck down, but above the chin, they have that faceless, large-eyed look typical of interplanetary sex maniacs.

Incidentally, the same issue of Saucer Smear has an impassioned letter from a female victim of this cosmic invasion, one Christa Tilton, who writes (in part): “I was outraged by Dr. Richard Neal’s offer…of a $500 pay-off for absolute proof that women abductees are becoming pregnant and losing their fetuses after an abduction experience that many of them are unaware that they experienced…I would pay $500 to any doctor that could prove to me and all other female victims…that we were not abducted and artificially inseminated …” (Italics in the original letter.)

On the other hand, perhaps the real memory mystery began not with these Alien Abductors, but with the Mc Martin Pre-School Follies in Southern California.

As you may remember, that malign fiesta broke loose in 1983 when a woman in Manhattan Beach alleged that a Satanic child abuse cult had infiltrated that part of Southern California. The same woman later alleged that an AWOL Marine had sodomized her dog. This latter detail, and the fact that the woman received welfare as a paranoid schizophrenic, led the police to doubt her story originally, but mean­while the Satanic cult rumor had galvanized parents all over the area.

At the height of the excitement, over 100 teachers at nine schools, and the minister at a local Episcopal church, had all suffered accusations of child molesta­tion, Satanism, ritual human- and animal sacrifice, and playing rock records back­wards. Small (pre-school) children claimed they could remember seeing these things – after consultation with certain psychologists. The police and D.A. could not ignore all that, and eventually placed charges against seven out of the more than a hundred teachers (and one preacher) originally accused by rumor.

Nine schools closed, due to the legal expenses and the loss of funds because parents withdrew children. The Episcopal church also closed.

Eventually, the D.A.’s office decided to release four out of the seven they had originally arrested, citing lack of substantial evidence. Later, charges were dropped against one more. Finally, two out of the hundred alleged “Satanists” stood trial-a mother and her son. (Both came from the Mc Martin Pre-School, and that name got attached to the case thereafter.) The jury refused to convict either of them. The D. A. then brought the son to trial again. The second jury also refused to convict.

The case then more or less died, although in the last two years three of the accused successfully sued some of their accusers for libel and collected over $250,000.

To many, it seems that the most significant fact about this case consists in the “authentication” of the “memories” of the children involved as real memories, not hallucinations, by a group of (youngish) psychologists who have some­what better training than Mr. Hopkins or Dr. Jacobs. Kind of makes you wonder about the “experts” and “pseudo-experts”, doesn’t it?

Sociologist Jeffrey Victor of Jamestown Community College has written that at least 33 “rumor panics” similar to the McMartin case have occurred in 24 states in the last decade. The FBI Behavioral Science Unit (which deals with seria1 killers) says that it has investigated numerous “mass graves” where victims of Satanic sacrifice allegedly lie buried, and found no bodies in any of the “graves.” Not even a shin bone.

Of course, those who have a really fervent belief in the Satanic cult’s real existence in real space-time now believe “the FBI is in on the cover-up.” Why not? Those who believe in the UFO sodomites claim that the whole damned government has conspired together in that truly cosmic cover-up.

Memory seems a kind of silly-putty as one reads deeper in this literature. (Incidentally, the L.A.Times reported, on April 23, 1991 that Radical Feminists and Protestant Fundamentalists show greater belief in the alleged Satanic child molestation cult than the majority of citizens.)

All this led to the formation of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, funded by skeptical psychotherapists-and 3,700 families who had experienced some or all of the trauma of accusation, hatred, public disgrace, and (sometimes) actual arrest and trial when a therapist “helps” a patient “remember” these fiendish doings. Many of these families have passed lie detector tests, won acquit­tals in court, or later had the accusing “adult child” recant the accusation after consulting with a different therapist with a different orientation.

The FMFS attempts to educate the public about the simple fact that many “memories” – even (or some would say especially) those activated under hypnosis-do not always correspond with real events in real space-time. That is, “memories” can derive from hallucinations, from hypnotic suggestion, or even (as in one famous exper­iment) from simply hearing about an alleged event from many sources one trusts.

Dr. Jean Piaget, generally considered the world’s leading authority on developmental psychology, relates how he “remembered” an alleged (non­violent and non-sexual) event in his childhood all his life-until he learned that he had only heard about it from his parents, who heard it from a maid, who had invented it .to avoid admitting a minor malfeasance.

At this point, Preposterous Perception appeared in the literature, thanks to Professor Timothy F.X. Finnegan of Trinity College, Dublin. I should mention at once that Prof. Finnegan serves as president of CSICON -The Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal-and has developed, in several books, the system known as Patapsychology (not Parapsychology, although that error seems ubiquitous). Scholars trace Patapsychology to Alfred Jarry’s Pataphysics and Jacques Derrida’ Deconstructionism, but Prof. Finnegan has always insisted he got his basic inspiration from one Sean Murphy of Dalkey (a suburb on the southern coast of Dublin Bay). Murphy’s first fundamental finding (as Finnegan always called it) states succinctly, “I have never met a normal man or woman; I have never experienced an average day.”

Nothing else definitive appears on the record about this Sean Murphy of DaIkey, except a remark attributed to one Nora Dolan: “Sure, the only hard work that Murphy fellow ever did was picking himself up off the floor and getting back on the bar stool, once a night.”

As developed by Prof. Finnegan and his associates in CSICON, Murphy’s principle holds that the “normal” and “average” exist only in mathematics – i.e. “in pure fiction,” Finnegan always adds – and that daily life in ordinary space-time (Marx’s sensory-sensual reality) consists of nothing but enormities, aberrations, eccentricities, oddities, weirdities, anomalies, and a few occasional “approxima­tions to the normal.” In the last sentence of his Golden Hours Finnegan concludes: “The ‘normal’ labels that fictitious abstraction which nobody and no event ever exactly exemplifies.”

Finnegan’s work has won great acceptance among general Semanticists, surrealists, militant gays, sci-fi writers, libertarians, acid-heads, the Vertically Challenged Liberation Front (those we used to call midgets), and some really strange people, such as iguanaphiliacs, necrophiles, and lycanthromaniacs. On the other hand, Finnegan has become persona non grata with most academic philoso­phers, with the Fundamentalist Materialist wing of orthodox science and, espe­cially, with the religious of all sects.

The Finneganoid or Patapsychological “school” (which includes such writers as De Selby, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, S. Moon, Wildeblood and as a posthu­mous recruit, Foucault) holds that Preposterous Memories do not have any less “validity” than any other memories, since (in De Selby’s words), “All that we know derives from A) our own perceptions, which a thousand well-known experiments have proven fallible and uncertain, and from B) the instinct to gossip; sometimes called Public Opinion, which sociologists now consider equally unreliable.” (The “instinct to gossip” plays the same panchrestonal role in De Selby as the “will to power” in Nietzche, or “the id” in Freud.)

La Tourneur of the University of Paris has argued (Finnegan: Homme ou Dieu?) that the enigmatic Murphy played a larger role in Finnegan’s intellectual development than the mere statement of the First Fundamental Finding implies. Attempting a sketchy translation (I cannot capture La Tourneur’s crisp­ness), the French savant speculates:

“The more time the overly-analytical pedant Finnegan spent in the same pub with the unsophisticated ‘naive realist’ Murphy, and the more pints of Guinness they consumed, the easier it became for the philosopher to perceive what Murphy had discovered first: that nobody in Ireland looked like a normal Irishman, that no room in any house formed a precise 90° rectangle, that nobody’s life story made sense in any dramatic, novelistic, or even logical way and, most noteworthy, after leaving the pub, that every street contained myste­rious and vaguely inhuman shadows, especially after a 14-pint evening.”

In Finnegan’s own words (Archaeology of Cognition, p. 23), “A world where most men prefer sex with little children to sex with grown women, most allegedly Christian parents secretly engage in bloody Satanic rituals, and every third person has suffered anal, genital, and other harassments by demonic dwarfs from Outer Space makes just as much sense – and just as little sense – where the world is run by the ghost of a crucified Jew, George Bush had rational reasons (which nobody can now remember) for Bombing Iraq again two days before leaving the White House, and the barbaric, bloody-handed English Army still occupies six of Ireland’s 32 counties without Mr. Bush or any other American Policeman-of-the-World ever threatening to bomb them back to the Stone Age.”

On the other hand, La Puta (of the Moe Howard computer enhancements) argues (La Estupidez de la Tourneur) that Finnegan had merely rediscovered the proto-existentialism of Edmund Husserl, which does not accord any superiority in “realness” to any kind of perception over any other kind of perception. The letter bomb sent to La Puta from Paris shortly after this has never been traced to La Tourneur, despite the scandalous polemics of Prof. Ferguson (Alabama Creation Science University and Four Square Tabernacle) – who also claims to have seen the Moe Howard head on Mars with his own computer “enhancement.”

Ferguson’s later writings, with their unsubstantiated attempts to link Finnegan with Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army, merely illustrate mindless madness, a strange cultish submission to the doctrines of La Puta and a Presbyterian inability to understand robust Irish humor. However, this does not mean we should naively accept de Selby’s counter-claims, attempting to find “sinister and signifi­cant” links between Ferguson, the late Clay Shaw, and the Bilderbergers.

Meanwhile, Prof. Finnegan continues to champion the Linda Napolitano case, on the grounds that “since this sounds on the surface like the most absurd UFO story of all, it has the greatest probability of proving true eventually.” Under hypnosis by the egregious Budd Hopkins, Ms. Napolitano remembered (or thought she “remembered”-as you will) ‘an abduction in which she got teleported or schlurped, out of her New York apartment, into a UFO, and then the Little Grey Bastards performed their usual molestations. She also remembered (or ‘remembered”) two CIA agents who later kidnapped her and attempted to drown her – part of the Cover Up, you know.

On the other hand, Jerome Clark, one of America’s leading UFO investiga­tors, lately sends out tons of mail, (or so it seems) denying that he ever endorsed the Napolitano case-although others claim to have documentary evidence that lark did endorse the whole Napolitano yarn less than a year ago. Clark now says that all this alleged documentation-circulated by rival UFO investigators – amounts to malicious libel perpetuated just to make him look like a fool.

I don’t know what it all means, but, like Ms. Tilton, I’ll gladly pay $500.00 to anybody who can prove that none of this weird shit ever happened, since I feel sure every bit of it did happen, although not necessarily in ordinary space-time.

A shocking photo, recently produced by Prof. Ferguson, shows Clark, Oliver Stone, La Tourneur, and Jim Moseley (editor of Saucer Smear) standing with G. Gordon Liddy on the Grassy Knoll as the Kennedy death car pulls near. Moseley holds a Confederate flag, La Tourneur appears to have some hood on his lead – whether Satanic black or Ku Klux white does not appear clearly, due to shadows – and Liddy, of course, has a Smoking Gun in his hand.

Almost all the “experts” have denounced this photo as an obvious scissors­-and-paste forgery. The one dissident voice belongs to Professor H.H. Hanfkopf, who in his book, The CIA: Pawn of the Interstellar Bankers attempts to demonstrate hat all the conspiracy theories of this century served only as misdirections to conceal the fact that paper money contains highly addictive drugs to make us Hopeless slaves of the Green Slime Entities of Algol.

That’s why you never feel you have enough money, Hanfkopf says, and continually need to increase the dose a little bit more than you could survive on last month. In reality, not in metaphor, the Green Stuff has addicted us.

As the more restrained Sheissenhosen would say, “Maybe.”


The Prophets Conference, 2000


Here is Wilson’s talk at the December 2000 Prophets Conference.   I appreciate Richard Metzger’s commentary on this appearance as I recall that Wilson was banned from appearing the next year due to the organizers taking offense at his swearing.   In fact, somebody once posted the rejection letter “they” sent him to the usenet group

Dear Bob,

As you will not be joining the Monterey and Santa Fe conferences as faculty please remove these events from your website.


“Shit, motherfucker! I want my fucking money, motherfucker!”

The opening lines of your web page are an example of why we have discontinued presenting your work. Even though you are quoting Spike Lee and leading to a significant point, we were set back by the above intro.

This has increasingly become the case at the conferences. What we feel to be your important insights are being lost to the audience when packaged in hard and harsh language. It has become increasingly clear that this is not your audience. The complaints have become too numerous. They are not hearing you.

Best regards, Robin


And then Kenn Thomas and RAW wrote in letters to Saucer Smear furthering their thoughts on the situation:

  • KENN THOMAS of Steamshovel Press  writes:

    “The Prophets Conference dropped Robert Anton Wilson as a speaker for using the ‘dirty’ words long ago liberated by the likes of Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. I was reminded of when Acharya S., great chronicler of the conspiracy known as Christianity, was kept off the dais at one well-known UFO conference in Nevada because her topic might have offended one of the other speakers. Then I thought of what Jerry Lucci wrote in the last issue of ‘Saucer Smear’, about the same people ranting on and on about the same things. Small wonder, considering the kind of decision making that apparently goes into these conferences. Too bad, since they should be places where free speech and new ideas reign. I called for Ram Dass to remove himself from the Prophets Conference in protest!”

  • And, the one & only ROBERT ANTON (“BOB”) WILSON writes:

    “Enclosed is background info on the Prophets and their excommunication of me from their Elite circle… which I have thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, I haven’t felt so flattered since Barnes & Noble removed my books from ‘New Age’ and placed them in ‘Philosophy’.”The androphagian joke at the end of my offensive essay (on the Net) refers, of course, to Swift’s demonstration, in ‘A Modest Proposal’, that those who can stomach imperialism should not gag at cannibalism.

    “Some of my fans have discussed staging a protest outside the ProfitsCon, but I don’t know if anything will come of that.

    “Keep the lasagna flying’.”

Journey to Erewhon

Journey to Erewhon

A Review Essay of
Passport to the Cosmos: 
Human Transformation and Alien Encounters

by John E. Mack, MD

Reviewed by
Robert Anton Wilson

from IONS Review #51, March – June 2000

John Mack’s new book on the UFO “abduction” experience probably will inspire as much furious opposition and denunciations as the collected works of Immanuel Velikovsky, Wilhelm Reich and Timothy Leary. Certainly, it contains more heresy than those three heresiarchs combined: sometimes it rivals L. Ron Hubbard and David Koresh. Turning page after page, I almost imagined I could hear the entire staff of CSICOP gnashing their teeth and growling.

Mack has modified his thesis—or his rhetoric—since his earlier book, Abductions. The people who provide the case histories in this book are no longer called “abductees” but “experiencers” (even though most of them still think that what they experienced sure felt a lot like an abduction—or even a rape). Mack also stipulates that the experiences, or abductions, may not have occurred in “objective reality” but in some other kind of “reality,” or maybe it was some other “reality” intersecting “objective reality.” I admire Mack for his honest confusion about these points as much as for his courage and daring to write about this academically taboo subject in the first place.

Judging by some of Mack’s defensive remarks here and there, he seems to think that the scientific world will find this multiple-reality model worse than any of his other heresies. I have no trouble with it myself. Every scientific instrument—and even more, every scientific theorem—describes a different “reality,” and calling them aspects of a single “reality” is only a lazy convention. (How can you get mass, acceleration, gravity, quarks, molecules, cells, hormones, neurotransmitters, reflex arcs, the unconscious, synchronicity, supply, demand, capital, labor, and the genetic code into one Grand Unified Theory?)

The “reality” of our sense perceptions often contradicts all these scientific models totally, as for instance when you bang your knee against a “solid” object which quantum mechanics describes as mostly empty space (haunted by probability waves that whimsically also appear as particles if you measure them a different way). If your banged-up leg hurts enough, you will have to admit that personal perception has a “reality” of its own distinct from any scientific “realities.” What seems “real” depends on what level of magnification you use, and on what hurts, among other factors.

I don’t know what kind of “reality” Mack’s subjects suffered but I certainly agree that their reports are important, especially in relation to other non-normal phenomena going on concurrently. (See below.)

Although Mack calls himself a “recovering Freudian,” he might still have something to learn from Papa Sigmund. Each case in this book has idiosyncratic features but they do seem variations on a single theme: the myth of Hades and Persephone. Like Persephone, these people have had intensely disturbing experiences that usually involved sex, “monsters,” abduction from ordinary “reality” to Something Weirder, and, like Persephone, they have emerged only partially, living half in this world and half in the other world.

Freud would probably call this the Persephone Complex—although a reviewer in Seattle Weekly (30 September 1999) compared it to a bondage-and-discipline fantasy from the porn factories, a kind of Behind the Green Door with a New Age ending tacked on in the form of an ecology sermon.

But that suggests another odd parallel: Howard Hughes’ once-banned and still-controversial film, The Outlaw, in whichRio (Jane Russell) is raped by Billy-the-Kid and then falls in love with him. Feminists consider this a particularly perverted male fantasy, but some of Mack’s subjects think they were raped, or sexually molested, and they also seem to love the inhuman critters who did this to them. Go figure.

To fully grasp the depth of this enigma, imagine what would happen if an equal number of US citizens said they had been sexually assaulted by aliens from Mexicoor Iraq, instead of aliens from Outer Space or Other Dimensions. Obviously, there would be no scientific taboo against investigating such cases, and Congress might even have declared war on the invaders by now. If the subjects claimed, as most of Mack’s subjects do claim, that they now love their kidnappers, and have learned from them important lessons about how wicked and wretched our society is, this would be considered evidence that they had been “brainwashed” as well as raped (“Stockholm Syndrome“). This difference in scientific and political reactions to atrocities by human aliens and nonhuman aliens seems even more confusing than the rest of this mystery.

Consider, in this context, the investigations of Dr Cory Hammond of the Universityof Utah, former president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Dr Hammond has had a lot of clients who, under hypnosis, remember hideous incidents of Satanic rituals, infant sacrifice, sado-masochism, coprophilia and assorted horrors. Dr Hammond believes that these cases, and the data he has unearthed on the Satanic cult in general, prove that three distinct groups working together—neo-Nazis, the CIA and NASA—have been secretly and brutally programming American children for more than 50 years to make them part of “a Satanic order that will rule the world.”

Can we believe both Mack and Hammond at the same time, and accept that while extraterrestrials or even weirder nonhumans have been raping people and teaching ecology, another conspiracy is simultaneously torturing and abusing children to make them Slaves of Satan? Or might we more economically assume that a lot of people have had a lot of nonordinary experiences, and we all tend to interpret these according to our own hopes and fears?

Or, consider the model offered by Jacques Vallée, who has been investigating UFOs for more than 30 years. Vallée has suggested as one possible explanation a vast experiment in mind control and behavior modification by some Intelligence Agency (he doesn’t try to guess which one . . . ). Could both Mack’s and Hammond’s cases represent persons who fell victim to this, and retain only shattered and distorted memories of their ordeal? Considering what has already leaked about the CIA’s MK-ULTRA research, this hypothesis does not seem altogether extravagant.

Hammond uses hypnosis to find—or create—the details of the Satanic conspiracy. Mack says he uses only “relaxation.” The line between the two seems blurry at best, and we still don’t have any reason to trust one of these techniques more or less than the other.

None of these points is intended to “refute” or dismiss Mack’s works. He has made an important contribution, and his evolution toward what physicists call “model agnosticism” seems to me a step in the right direction. We don’t know what the hell is going on, but somebody or something has done a lot of messing around with human minds in recent decades.

If other scientists will not join Mack in looking at the evidence, the public can hardly be blamed for choosing among the nonscientific and New Agey explanations available to them. Interview, 2000 interview
with Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson: The two things I do best are writing and talking. I used to be pretty good at fucking, too…. How do you feel about your honorary title, “Father of Conspiracy Theory”?

Robert Anton Wilson: Well, I’ve written a few books that deal with conspiracy theory. I have 32 books in print, last I counted, and 28 of them don’t deal with conspiracy at all. It just seems that conspiracy is so fashionable, so in, that I get identified with that. My other books are all in print! People keep buying them! I get royalties every year! To tell the truth, it does begin to bug me. I can’t seem to get away from it. Worse yet, they keep offering me advances to write another book on conspiracy theory, which is hard to resist. Though I am resisting it at present.

PB: So what are you writing about now?

RW: I’m writing two books that can in no way be identified with conspiracy theory. One is about black magic and curses, which is either social science disguised as satire or satire disguised as social science. Even I can’t make up my mind. It’s about the historical/anthropological connections between hurling curses to kill people and using words that make people have extreme physiological reactions, like Lenny Bruce or George Carlin or myself in my own books. You say “fuck,” and you get reactions out of people these days quite similar to what you would get if you said “goddamn” 300 years ago.  Nowadays, “goddamn” doesn’t mean anything because people don’t believe in damnation. We still have a lot of people who think Playboy is so terrible that even mentioning the word may do some terrible damage. The Supreme Court actually ruled you couldn’t say “fuck” on radio before midnight. They didn’t put a ban on Playboy before midnight, so if you get horny at ten o’clock, nine o’clock or even in the middle of the afternoon, you can do it; you just can’t talk about it on the radio.

The second book is called The Tale of the Tribe, subtitled Alphabet/Ideogram/Pound/Joyce/Shannon/McLuhan and Internet. The idea is alphabetical and idiogrammatic thinking as it’s expressed [in the works of these thinkers]. McLuhan’s analysis shows we’re becoming a global village. Which is an idea he got from Pound.

PB: You’re tying the Internet to great philosophers; do you visit websites regularly?

RW: There are three or four websites I check every day for information: I check the weather in my area, I check what’s on Turner Classic Movies and I go to a hunger site to make a donation. When I’m writing a book, I’m on the web half the time because I’ve found that almost anything I need I can find there.

PB: Has the web made conspiracy theories trendier?

RW: Dissident politics, up until the web, was a matter of getting a mimeograph machine, and it didn’t have a chance to compete with the dominant paradigm or the corporate media or whatever you want to call the force that reaches the majority of people. On the web you don’t know who you’re reaching, but you know you’re reaching a hell of a lot of people. Anyone can put up their own website and put up their own view of the universe and humanity. I think this is a tremendous historical breakthrough. The printing press was nothing compared with this. It still had gatekeepers: Before you got published you had to find a publisher or raise the money to publish yourself. I really feel  it’s going to be the death of the major media. Nobody decides what gets on the Internet but the users.

PB: Doesn’t the proliferation of websites make it harder for people to know whom to believe?

RW: That’s all for the good. I think intelligence begins with questioning. That’s got to inspire brain activity. People are getting livelier. And that’s why  the government is getting more and more paranoid about the Internet and trying to figure out a way to control it. I have the optimistic opinion that they never will find a way. It’s more and more international, and it was designed by the military to survive an atomic war. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Orrin Hatch have a bill that tries to take out any information about how to make drugs. They can’t enforce that outside of the U.S. Feinstein has been the most intelligent and relentless enemy of the First Amendment in my lifetime, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that she’s trying to destroy the Internet.

PB: What do you have to say about your six years as an associate editor at Playboy magazine?

RW: All I can say about my years at Playboy is that those were the happiest years of my corporate existence. At Playboy, I got the highest salary I ever got anywhere, and I got it for writing exactly what I believe. I was writing for the Playboy Forum, Hefner’s philosophy. The only reason I quit was that I was approaching 40 and suddenly realized I didn’t want to die as an editor. I wanted to be a full-time writer no matter what the risks involved. So I quit, and I launched my career and plunged my family into two years of poverty before we started making a little progress. And I still feel guilty about that. I’m still being overly generous to my children to compensate them for what I put them through.


The Gnosis Interview with
Robert Anton Wilson

by Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney

 from Gnosis Magazine #50: Good & Evil, Winter 1999

A conversation with Robert Anton Wilson is like talking to an adult after spending years cooped up with children. Not that Wilson is dour or stern; he isn’t. But after spending time with this consummate challenger of what “everybody knows,” it’s hard to avoid thinking that most of what passes for accepted truth amounts to little more than schoolyard prattling.

Longtime GNOSIS readers will remember Wilson for his articles on the ultimate secret society (in #6) and Jung and synchronicity (#10). Others may remember him for his Illuminatus! trilogy, coauthored with Robert Shea in the 1970s, in which he took the reader for a stroll down just about every corridor of conspiracy, real and imagined, and left us wondering whether there just might not be something in it all.

Wilson’s latest work is Everything Is under Control (Harper-Collins), an engaging stroll into his favorite beat – the world of conspiracies, cults, and coverups. In this brief encyclopedia of un-conventional wisdom, Wilson explores everything from the secret Mason word” to the murder(?) of Marilyn Monroe to UMMO. UMMO is supposedly an extraterrestrial race that has been sending letters on advanced scientific topics to selected specialists since the 1960s, all signed with the glyph )+(. Although a psychologist named Jose Luis Jordan Pena has confessed to hoaxing this material, Wilson isn’t so sure he’s telling the truth, since according to some experts, the letters actually do reveal knowledge surpassing human science; moreover a spaceship bearing the UMMO glyph apparently touched down in a large Russian city, Other topics covered in this book include the Sirius mystery, Yales Skull and Bones society, and the Zapruder film of the John F. Kennedy assassination.

We went down to visit Wilson in his sunny apartment on the central California coast in September 1998. There we spied, among other artifacts, a copy of Aleister Crowley’s Magick: Book 4 on his endtable.


Richard Smoley: Why is conspiracy a hot topic these days?

Robert Anton Wilson: The major reason is that we’re undergoing such tremendous social change. Everything people take for granted is changing rapidly. This is because information flow is increasing faster than at any other time in history. I have some favorite figures I like to quote in that connection from the French statistician Georges Anderla, who says information doubled between the time of Christ and Leonardo; that’s 1500 years. It doubled again between Leonardo and the steam engine, 250 years; doubled between the steam en­gine and quantum theory, 150 years; doubled between 1900 and 1950, that’s 50 years. And he concluded his study in the ‘70s; it had doubled between ’68 and ’73, that was five years. Jacques Vallee recently calculated that it’s doubling every eighteen months.

Jay Kinney: Is that information or data?

Wilson: Information in the mathematical sense. Things that can be converted into binary units – and almost everything can be; that’s why you can see the Mona Lisa on your computer. That’s why compact discs sound so good. So as information doubles, society changes rapidly. After Leonardo, after that doubling, we had the first successful Protestant revolution in Ger­many, followed seventeen years later by the second successful Protestant revolution in England. After 1750, we had the American Revolution, the French Revolution, sev­eral Latin American revolutions, and the Industrial Revolution. So as information doubles faster and faster, there’s more and more dramatic and chaotic social change.

I heard Theodore Gordon, a mathematician, talking about information and fractals at the World Future Society in ’89. He said that every time he shows a cor­poration a fractal in any process that they’re trying to control, they say, “Who did it?” They can’t believe it’s intrinsic to the in-formation process itself; they look for some-body to blame.

That’s why we have so many conspir­acy theories. People are saying, “Who are we going to blame for everything changing?

Smoley: Of all the conspiracies you’ve looked at over the years, which ones are you most inclined to believe in?

Wilson: I put them on a scale from zero to ten. With the ones I put above five, I’m more inclined to give then credit than to doubt theta. The ones I put above seven, that’s pretty close to belief, except I try to shy away from belief, I think it’s a dangerous state co get into,

Bucky Fuller has a theory of the Great Pirates – the sociopathic types who have always been the dominant force in history. The Great Pirates in modern times make up a group the abbreviates “MMAO”: Machiavelli, Mafia, atoms, and oil. It’s the international banks, the Mafia, and the atomic and oil cartels. He doesn’t claim they work together, but they more or less make a singular force. But he also says that they’re so engaged in conflicts with one another that they’re steering Spaceship Earth in 50 different directions, which is why were going around and were not getting anywhere. I tend to find that fairly credi­ble. A simplification of it is Carl Oglesby’s theory of the Yankee and Cowboy War – the war between Western and old Eastern wealth. Those seem fairly credible to me.

The ones I find most incredible are the ones based on recovered memories therapy – the Greys and the monsters from outer space that are engaged in sexual molestation of people.

Kinney: How about Satanic abuse?

Wilson: That’s based on the same sort of evidence as the Greys. It’s the recovered memory therapy, which, for all I know, might be true, but I know you can get people to remember anything you want if you hypnotize them often enough. So the evidence doesnt seem very strong to me. I have no­ticed that with the more extraterrestrial conspiracy theories, you’re essentially getting back to the Middle Ages. You’ve got incubi and succubi again. You’ve got sex demons that attack people at night. And you’ve got these Zarathustrian cosmic wars between good and evil, like Scientology or the Church of the SubGenius — one of which I believe is a parody, I’m not sure which.

Smoley: This has all taken the field for imaginative play out of the purely physi­cal realm into alternate realities. The astral plane is populated by angels and devils and incubi and succubi or extraterrestrials.

Wilson: Well, if you identify the astral plane more or less with Jung’s collective unconscious, then all these beings exist on that level. The question is, how much of the other kind of reality are you going to attribute to them?

Smoley: Of all the paranormal experiences I’ve heard about, I can think of maybe two or three people who have told me about something that might sound like an encounter with a ghost. But I seem to know dozens who say, “I was walking down the street and there was a silver disk over-head.” I don’t know what they saw, I’ve never seen anything like that myself, but just from my own anecdotal experience, UFO reports seem to be the most common type of paranormal phenomenon.

Wilson: That doesn’t surprise me. I see two or three UFOs a week, but that’s be-cause I’m not quick to identify things. I not only see UFOs, I see UNFOs – unidentified non-flying objects. I see all sorts of things I can’t identify. As for the ones in the sky, I’ve seen things that I haven’t the foggiest idea of what they are. They might be spaceships. Then again, they could be airplanes with the sun blinking off them in a strange way.

I remember how once at the Irish sci­ence fiction society, after a lecture some-body asked me whether I believed in UFOs. And not yet having devised my ten-point scale between belief and unbelief, I said,”Yes.” So he launched into a long rap about how they were all heat inversions.] said, “We agree. We both believe in UFOs. You think you know what they are, but I don’t know.”

Kinney: Do you think that the interest in conspiracies now, with things like “The X-Files,” could be in part attributed to the Illuminatus! trilogy?

Wilson: I often wonder about that. The problem with that is that it would be tempting to think Im responsible for all this. They all owe me money in that case; they’ve all been ripping me off and they should pay me. But I suspect a tendency to self-flattery in that theory.

I think Illuminatus! was ahead of its time. And now is the time, for some rea­son; people are inclined to think that way. Although llluminatus! is still not in the mainstream, because it doesn’t accept any conspiracy theory literally; it toys with them, it plays with them, it uses them to open the reader’s mind to alternative pos­sibilities, but it doesn’t sell anything.

My major difference with conspiracy theorists – and I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist myself, though a skeptical one – is that most of them have never heard the word “maybe” Everything is the truth: “My conspiracy theory is true. Anybody else is a CIA disinformation agent trying to confuse people.” They’ve never heard of the word “maybe,” whereas “maybe is a very central word in my vocabulary.

Smoley: What do you make of crop circles?

Wilson: I find crop circles endlessly en­tertaining, because every time a new group of hoaxers confesses, another bunch of cir­cles appears that couldnt have been done by their method. I don’t mind being per­plexed. I think both people who are quick to believe in occult theories and people who are quick to deny them – like CSICOP – can’t stand being perplexed; they want to have an answer right away. But I find most of the universe so damn perplexing that a little bit of perplexity doesn’t bother me. The whole damn thing is perplexing,

Kinney: Have you had personal experi­ences over the years that have convinced you of deeper dimensions or subtle planes?

Wilson: I would rather say that I have had experiences that have convinced me that the commonsense, everyday map of real­ity is inadequate. We need other maps. I’m not particularly wedded to any particular other map. As you can tell from my novels and from my nonfiction too, I alternate between maps. If you’re going to talk politics, you want a political snap. If you’re going to talk geology, you want a geological map. If you want to talk weather, you want a meteorological map. A meteoro­logical map changes every hour or so; the political map changes after every war; the geological map changes over eons, but no map lasts forever. That’s a metaphor I adopt­ed from Alfred Korzybski, founder of gen­eral semantics.

Smoley: Of the metaphysical maps, which are the ones that you’ve found most per­sistently appealing?

Wilson: I suppose the Buddhist map which tells you don’t believe in any of your maps. Or don’t believe in them too fervently. To be absolutely honest, although I don’t be­lieve in anything too fervently, I do tend to believe in some kind of mind behind the cosmos. I don’t like calling it God, because God to most people means a grouchy old man sitting on a cloud, counting all the kids who are masturbating so he can put them in hell later on. That’s so ridiculous that I can’t use the word at all. But I don’t believe that everything happened by acci­dent. I just can’t believe that – to use a metaphor adapted from Arthur Koestler – if you keep throwing junk over a wall for seven million years, you’ll get a 747 jet in full working order. I can’t believe that; I think there’s intelligence somewhere in evolution.

Smoley: There’s also that notion of the secret meta-real brotherhood that’s sup­posedly working to enlighten humanity over the eons. Where do you put that on your scale of belief?

Wilson: It depends on what year you ask me. Back in the late 1970s, that was very high in my belief system. Since then I’ve retreated from that position quite a bit, al-though I haven’t totally abandoned it. Every now and then I have strange experiences which make me wonder. I’m quite satisfed to be left wondering rather than having an absolute certitude on such matters.

Kinney: Why have you retreated from that position?

Wilson: Because I found more reasons to believe that it was a wishful projection of my own Fantasies. But some synchronicities look like they’re orchestrated. I don’t dismiss it out of hand; I put it somewhere around Five right now on my zero-to-ten scale.

Kinney: In terms of updating old beliefs, I was curious how you stand these days on SMI2LE, since you were a big expo­nent of that.

Wilson: SMILE: space migration, intelli­gence increase, life extension. It was a slo­gan coined by Timothy Leary; one of Tims great talents was coining slogans.

I still have an ardent desire to see hu­manity migrate off the planet. For a vari­ety of reasons: one, I think we’re exhausting the resources of a single planet; and two, I think every time we move to a new envi­ronment, our intelligence increases. And I think that freedom is always found on the expanding perimerer. The further out you are from the centralized control system, the more freedom you have, And four, both the Russian and the American astronauts and cosmonauts – about 85% of them – have had consciousness-altering experiences of the type I regard as positive. Neurosomatic turn-ons, experiences of beauty and ecstasy, which I think is good for us. If 85% of the human race migrates off the planet, it means that 85% of the human race will mutate to a higher level of perception and consciousness.

I like life extension because the older I get, the more I realize how little I know. I’d like to live long enough to figure out a few things anyway. And intelligence in-crease is to me the number one priority on the planet. I’ve become more and more convinced that the major problem on this planet is stupidity, which not only exists as a thing in itself, but it’s supported and encouraged and financed. There are dozens of entrenched interests that want to pro-mote stupidity.

However, I’m more interested in the Internet than in SMI2LE right now., because the Internet is happening right now, and it’s happening fast and I’m a part of it – a small part, but I’m part of it – whereas SMI2LE I now see as about a generation away. lt’s not as close as it seemed as when I was wildly enthusiastic about it and ready to blast off in the next spaceship.

Kinney: It seemed to me – maybe this was mainly in the ’70s – that you were a better spreader of Leary’s ideas than he was.

Wilson: He said that too, which was one of the most flattering things I ever heard. I don’t know, I guess I reached a different audience than he did, that’s all. One of my favorite Timothy Leary stories was, a month after his death, I got an e-mail from him. It said, “Dear Robert, How are you doing? I’m doing fine over here, but it’s not what I expected. Too crowded. Love, Timothy” (laughter).

Kinney: Was there ever any explanation for that?

Wilson: Oh,Tim knew a lot about computers; I assume he had it set to go off at a certain time after his death.

Kinney: This interview is going to appear in our issue on Good and Evil. How you would define evil?

Wilson: I don’t like the terms “good and evil at all. They invoke too much sub­jectivity disguised as objectivity. I would rather talk about kindness and cruelty. They’re a little more clear-cut and specif­ic about what you’re talking about. You get shady areas, you get some ambiguity, but by and large, when you say you’re in favor of kindness and against cruelty, you’re setting up a standard. When you say you’re for good and against evil, you’re like the cler­gyman in the story about Cal Coolidge. After church somebody asked him, “What was the sermon on, Cal?” “He was against sin.” It’s easy to be against sin and evil; what the hell do you mean? I’m against cruelty. That’s more clear.

Kinney: Do you think theres any source of malevolence or cruelty larger than hu­manity itself- say, built into the universe as a force or a seductive tendency?

Wilson: I don’t believe in that; I find that very dubious, although it’s produced some damn good books – Moby Dick, and a lot of Faulkner. I think it’s a great idea for lit­erature, but I don’t personally think there’s any evil force seducing people. I think peo­ple do a good enough job seducing them-selves. Besides, I’m more inclined to look at it in the Buddhist way: its more igno­rance than malignancy. As a matter of fact, Ezra Pound got around to that at the end of his life after raving and ranting about conspiracies for so many years; toward the end of the Cantos he keeps repeating “Nicht Basheit – Drurmrheit”: “not evil – stupidity.” Which was his ultimate judgment on what was wrong.

And the trouble with fighting evil is, to quote Pound again, “I lost my center fighting the world.” If it could happen to Ezra Pound, it could happen to anyone. Don’t get too concerned about fighting evil; you lose your own center that way. Hey, I sound like a philosopher!

Kinney: It does seem as if one of the biggest sources of evil in the world is try­ing to do good too vociferously.

Wilson: Or trying to force people to be-come good. I once said, “An honest politi­cian is a national calamity. “The crooks we can tolerate; we have to; we’re used to them. An honest politician can turn the whole world upside down in his attempts to reform it. He could wreck everything.

Smoley: I’d certainly prefer a crook to an ideologue under most circumstances.

Wilson: Exactly. John Adams defined “ideology” as “the science of idiotism.” That’s what I think every time I hear someone spouting the standard libertarian line, the standard Marxist line, or any other stan­dard line: “My God! Where have their brains gone? They’ve turned into parrots.”

Kinney: Though you were identified with libertarianism pretty strongly.

Wilson: I think of myself as a kind of lib­ertarian, But I know I’ve got as many crit­ics in the libertarian movement as I have admirers. They don’t like my relativism, my tolerance – “tolerance” is a self-praising word; my indifferentism, my Buddhism – they want me to fight evil, like they’re fighting evil. But I prefer libertarianism to any form of authoritarianism.

Smoley: People who are blowing up Federal buildings are supposedly asserting freedom. But you wonder if thats helping anything. It’s also terrifying to think what would hap-pen if these people were actually able to dictate how society is run.

Wilson: I was a Trotskyist when I was sev­enteen. And the thing that drove me out of the Trotskyist movement was one of those doctrinaire meetings where we were all being corrected for our ideological errors, I didn’t get particularly bad criticism, except for liking Carl Jung and James Joyce, but something occurred to me: if these people ever took over the country, it’d be so much worse a mess than it is now. That’s when I began to develop the pragmatic distrust of ideologies that I’ve kept for the rest of my life.

Smoley: Do you think American society is more ideological than it was 50 years ago?

Wilson: I’m astounded by the extent to which people are governed by almost meaningless slogans that are repeated over and over again. They don’t seem to have much content at all, but you just keep hearing them over and over again, like “the liberal media.” You break down what’s in most of the media, and how the hell it could possibly be considered liberal is beyond my comprehension.

And yet I know what theyre getting at, the people who talk that way. What they’re talking about is that the media tends to be liberal on one issue and one issue only, and that’s sexual morality. And to these people that’s the most important issue. So therefore the defining characteristic of the media is liberalism. Never mind the fact that the media is conservative on almost all economic and political ideas. Clinton is a godsend to these people; he’s the proof that liberals are sexual outlaws.

By and large, ruling-class males, how-ever they got into the ruling class, all tend to behave pretty much the same. Clinton’s is the typical behavior of the alpha male in any mammal pack. I think it’s hilarious that Ken Starr has taken five years and $50 mil-lion to uncover the fact that Clinton acts just like any other ruling-class male.

Smoley: To backtrack a little to Timothy Leary, could you perhaps tell us a little about your take on the possibilities of psychedelics?

Wilson: In the first place, my major take is the laws against them were imbecilic. I think the benefits in the early research were so promising that the research should have been allowed to continue.

I can see why one doesn’t want fif­teen-year-olds playing around with LSD, but even there I don’t think law is the best way to handle it. I think education is the best way – except when you say that, you sound like an idiot when you see what they put on as drug education. I mean se­rious drug education that tells the truth, But of course that’s the major thing that most teachers have been fired for in the his­tory of this country. If they’re ever caught attempting to tell the truth about anything, they’re immediately called before the school board and usually they’re fired. That’s what Scopes stood trial for: telling the truth about biology.

As for the dangers of psychedelics, I think Timothy understood those better than anybody. He said drugs depend on the set and the setting. And you look at the worst cases; the people who survived the CIAs MK ULTRA, in which they were given LSD and other powerful drugs or elec­troshock therapy or locked in rooms with their own voices played back to them over and over when they were on drugs. This produced horrible results because the set and the setting were calculated to produce horrible results. Even if they were just given drugs without any warning, that’s enough to make you paranoid. Some of them suf­fered from paranoia for decades after.

And if you’re just taking them with-out any knowledge of what you’re doing, that’s dangerous too. But I feel pretty sure that given by a sympathetic and intelligent psychotherapist in a supportive environ­ment – and I mean very intelligent as well as very sympathetic — they can be tremendously beneficial. I still believe that. The evidence supports it, actually. There’s very few cases of people being damaged in therapy by LSD. There’s lots of cases of people being tremendously helped, in­cluding Cary Grant, who went around rav­ing and ranting about how much good LSD did for him. He never went to jail for that. I think he learned to moderate his enthusiasm after a decade or so.

Kinney: But you’ve also been an advocate of recreational drug use over the years.

Wilson: I don’t think I ever advocated recreational drug use. I advocated the right of people CO decide for themselves if they’re going to do that. I would say if you want recreational drug use, stick to marijuana, thats the most recreational drug around. If you take any psychedelic, you’re going to get into some-thing deeper than recreation, and you may not be prepared for it. And I definitely dont trust cocaine, I dont like people who use cocaine getting into my environment. If I find out anybody is using cocaine, I try to keep them away. I don’t trust people on cocaine. Same thing with speed.

Again this is a practical approach based on information; it’s not a metaphysical ap­proach: Drugs are bad.” People who say “drugs are bad” never stop to think how many drugs the doctor gives them. If you go to a doctor and he says, “This is the galloping conniption fits; it’ll go away in seven days,” you feel let down. If he says, “This is the galloping conniption fits; take this for seven days, and it’ll go away,” you feel hes done his job. Everyone in this cul­ture depends on drugs, and then they tell us we’re having a war on drugs.

You’ve got to take one drug at a time, and say what you think about that drug. I dont think theres any drug that’s good for everybody, even penicillin; there are people who are allergic to it.

Smoley:Are there any spiritual teachers these days that you admire particularly?

Wilson: I’m more inclined to people who don’t use the label of religion or mysti­cism for what they’re doing. I’m a great admirer of Richard Bandler of neurolinguistic programming. I was a great admir­er of Tim Leary, and I still am. Ram Dass does a religious bit sometimes; I like him. Oh hell, I’ve met a few Zen masters I liked. I liked Baker Roshi. But I’m sort of sus­picious of religious leaders. As a friend of mine once said – he was a Druid; I know a lot of Pagans of various schools – “A perfect master is ideal, but only if you want to be a perfect slave.” I’m very suspicious of perfect masters.

Kinney: Were you raised in a religious household?

Wilson: Yes and no. I was raised by two lapsed Catholics. I don’t know why they lapsed, but since they only had two chil­dren, I suspect the Church’s position on contraception had something to do with their lapse. They were pretty skeptical about the Church, but they sent me to a Catholic school on the grounds that children should be taught some kind of morality. That makes sense to me in retrospect. I wish they had sent me to someplace else to learn some kind of morality rather than to a bunch of crazy nuns. My wife Arlen said the other night every ex-Catholic she knows hates the Church. And I said, “I don’t think that’s true. But they all hate nuns.” Because those are the ones that hit you with the yardsticks when you’re too small to fight back.

Smoley: I couldn’t help noticing the Crowley book on your endtable. What do you think of Crowley?

Wilson: He fascinates inc. because by my standards he rates as a genius of some sort. He was an incredibly brilliant person, with talents in so many fields, and I’ve never been able to figure him out. He always leaves me feeling somewhat puzzled. I ad-mire him a lot; I’ve learned a lot from him; I enjoy his sense of humor, but peo­ple who consider him a Satanist and a monster don’t seem totally deluded to me. There was something strange about Aleister Crowley that leaves me perpetually puzzled. And yet I’d rather read a book by Crowley than just about any other New Age writer. Because hes always a lot of’ fun, and he always gives use new ideas and new perspectives. Even a book I’ve read before, I reread, and my God, I didn’t notice that before! He’s like an exploding volcano of perceptions and insights you don’t get anywhere else.

Smoley: That sense of the monstrous and Satanic may have meant that he was will­ing to look at things that most other peo­ple close the door on.

Wilson: To get back to Timothy Leary again, Timothy said, “When you realize how many reality tunnels there are, you want to open the door to every one and see what’s in there, but if you open the door and there’s nobody in there but can­nibals and Nazis, you close the door right away. You don’t go in to check it out.” Crowley seems to have opened a awful lot of doors; I don’t know how many he walked into. I think he had enough sense to stay out of the worst ones.

Smoley: What’s striking to me about peo­ple like Crowley and Jung and Gurdjieff is that their ideas are incredibly powerful and alive, but then they settle down into a comfortable slumber in the minds of followers.

Wilson: Maybe that’s why I like Crowley so much. I find it impossible to slumber with Crowley. I’m always arguing with him whenever I’m thinking about him: “Yes, Meister, but . . . ” Sometimes he wins the argument, though.

Smoley: Speaking of books, what are you trying to do with your new book Everything Is Under Control?

Wilson: One of my major ideas was writing a book that would be like surfing the Web. Every entry has links following from it, and if you follow the links from item A and, say, you come to “Nazi hell creatures,” it’ll seem utterly absurd. If you follow links from someplace else and come to “Nazi hell creatures,” you’ll suddenly think, “Oh my God, maybe there’s something in this.” And I like the way it crisscrosses so that every item, however innocuous it seems at first sight, will turn either into a joke or into something that scares the pants off you. I like playing head games with my-self and my readers.

It’s also an interactive book. You can follow the links right out of the book onto the Web. And then you can go on for years following up these leads and steadily grow­ing crazier, if you’re inclined to believe all this stuff. Or laughing your head off, if you’re inclined that way. Or just being perplexed like use, if you’re inclined that way. Some of it I’m quite convinced ranks as so absurd that I can’t take it seriously for a moment. But theres a great deal of it in the area where I feel it sounds pretty silly, but Jesus, maybe if I investigate it further, who knows?

Smoley: One thing I find interesting in that book is the real or imagined UMMO hoax, which I don’t think is well known over here.

Wilson: It’s better known in Europe. The fascinating thing about UMMO was that somebody confessed recently that he did the whole thing by himself, and yet there are some things he couldn’t have done. The original UMMO sightings in Madrid would require the technology of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to do.

There was a sighting in Voronezh, a large industrial city in Russia. There were hundreds of people who saw what seemed to be a spaceship landing, what seemed to be eight-foot-tall extraterrestrials getting out and walking around, and there seemed to be teleportations; I don’t know what the hell happened there. But I don’t see how the guy who confessed could have managed all that by himself. He may have written the UMMO letters, but something else was going on; I don’t know what.

That’s another thing conspiracy theo­rists seldom say: “I don’t know what.”

Smoley: And yet in all of this, there’s prob­ably some border, however thin and neb­ulous, between conspiracy theory and just plain old paranoid schizophrenia. Where do you draw that line?

Wilson: Well, the line will of course be a little bit fuzzy. But when you get to peo­ple who, when you try to discuss the mat-ter with them rationally, gradually come around to the viewpoint that you are one of their CIA babysitters, then I think you’re not dealing with just an absurd belief system, but with a serious mental derangement.

Smoley: Many of your ideas have to some extent become part of the New Age con­sensus view. How do you feel about that?

Wilson: Uncomfortable.

Kinney: You don’t have much use for New Age circles?

Wilson: I don’t want that label put on my writing. If I have to have a label, I’d prefer co be known, like Kierkegaard, as “that individual.” That’s what he said he wanted to be called. If I have to have a label, “postmodernist” is not too bad. But I really prefer “damned old crank. That one is the least pretentious I’ve thought of in all my years.

Spoken World Festival

Robert Anton Wilson, Sci-Fi authour, legend, creator of the hilarious conspiracy cult novel The Illuminatus Trilogy and countless other novels, texts, treatises on future science, media, human psychology, esoterics, politics, conspiracies etc. presented in a breathtakingly amusing and absurdist format. This grand man, who has inspired a whole generation with his cross-referential and multilayered literary crusade now in an 2.5 hours mindblowing spoken word-performance!

Interview with RAW by Mr. Greg,  August 1999

Associate Editor, The Kerouac Connection

last sign

What current trend in popular culture do you find most interesting?

The fact that Internet continues to grow faster and faster all the time. I read about 5 years ago that the number of users was doubling every eight months; it must be doubling even faster now. Friends in the computer business tell me there are now 80 million [80,000,000] websites, and that must be doubling faster, too. I think this represents something much, much bigger than the Industrial Revolution of the 18th-19th centuries. I incline to believe it’s the biggest evolutionary event since life migrated from the sea to the land.


Many reasons. One, Internet has what’s called redundancy of control” in Information Theory. That means radical decentralization of power and communication, and it also means average increase in “IQ” (the ability to decode signals.) Because of this, all attempts to censor or monopolize the Net or the Web will fail. This means we (all of us: the whole human race eventually) will finally have real freedom of speech, a free marketplace of ideas. This must eventually destroy all tyrannies and most major forms of economic corruption.  Second, as an inter-active media of information and entertainment, Internet tends to raise the overall intelligence of its users, not just the “IQ.” In newspapers, even in TV – in all previous media – you made relatively few choices and have relatively few options. On Internet, your options grow wider all the time and you become aware of multitudes of choices every minute you are online. We are being forced to become more self-aware and self-responsible and that means we have to remedy any defects in our intelligence to enjoy and benefit from what the Net offers us. Thirdly, the ultimate result of world-wide Internet access must be what Buckminster Fuller called de-sovereignization, the end of traditional politics and traditional nationalisms. Since I regard politics and nationalisms as the causes of 99 percent of the misery on this planet, I eagerly look forward to their collapse, the sooner the better.

As an author, what new developments in physics or science do you find most exciting?

Well, I suppose genetic engineering and nanotechnology. I know all about the downside of both of them, and the hell they can cause while they “belong” to multinational criminals or corporations concerned only with profits. But molecular engineering has an upside, too. It can Iiteral1y make everything “cheap as dirt,” and give us (all of us: all Earthians) an abundance and a super­abundance. All we have to do is take the control away nom the bandit/banker elite and use these technologies to “advantage all without disadvantaging any.” How can we get the control away nom the elite, you ask? I don’t know, but I’m working on it. I don’t have all the answers. I only have parts of some of the answers.

In regards to personal privacy, what do you perceive currently as the greatest threat to it? Its greatest defender?

The greatest threat is centralized power, which always wants to know more about us so it can control us better. Whether this power is wielded by the puppet governments set up to distract and amuse us, or by the corporations who really run the world, I always regard it as nefarious. [As Lord Acton said, “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That rule is as universal as gravity.] I regard the computer hackers as our greatest defenders: by turning the tables, and increasingly making the power elites as visible to us as we are to them, these hackers are accelerating our evolution out of the old reptile parts of the brain, the part that still governs the elites who govern the world, and into the forebrain and truly human mentatation.

What individuals – scientists, politicians, artists, authors, etc. ­do you find most intriguing and contributing most greatly to contemporary thought and culture? Please elaborate.

Buckminister Fuller, because he gave us the most comprehensive (omni-inclusive) scientific philosophy of the 20th Century, and showed us, with concrete inventions, how to use that philosophy “to advantage all without disadvantaging any.” All the philosophers of the quantum revolution – especially Bell, Schroedinger, Bohr, Bohm, Bridgman, Walker, and Wheeler – because they not only created a non-aristotelian epistemology useful for all the other sciences, too, our also, usually unconsciously, gave us in that non-­aristotelian system, the keys to multi-culturalism, i.e. the doorway to understanding non-European systems, such as those of Aftica and the Orient. Joyce, Pound and Picasso because they introduced that kind of multi-culturalism or neurological relativism into our literature and art. Timothy Leary and Wilhelm Reich, because their ideas were so revolutionary that they actually got thrown in jail for them – the one sure sign that a scientist has discovered something new and important. The Dalai Lama, because he’s the only religious leader ahoof on this planet who doesn’t sound at least half cracked.

In Stockholm. what is your intended agenda?

As much plain blunt truth as I can get away with, until the police shut me up.

~~~Interview continued in February, 2000 ~~~

The recent riots in Seattle, Washington, during the WTO meeting renewed publicity and public awareness of anarchism. Do you see that happening as an historical event, working to coalesce a strong anti-corporate movement, or more of a minor explosion to release tension or . . .? Any opinions on the self-described “black-hooded messengers” are most welcome.

It seemed to me that the Seattle protests did represent a real historical marker– the first time since the 1930s [70 years ago, more or less!] that the labor unions and the radical youth worked together for a common goal. I hope this represents a real change. More got accomplished in the ’30s than in the ’60s because we had that kind of unity during the Depression and we haven’t had it since then.

What protest group or alliance of concerned citizens do you believe has the greatest potential to effectively direct political and social concerns over the next ten years?

All things considered, I have more faith in the World Game than in any traditional politics. Check them out at

Given the fact that the US government continually runs operations like COINTELPRO against activists and its own citizens, whom do you believe they will be focusing their attention on over the next ten years?

The people who use computers. We have much more power than we realize, and the governing elite has started to worry about that. They may have to give up the War Against Some Drugs, not for any sane or moral or Constitutional reason, but to use the money for a War Against Some Information. Freedom of communication represents the greatest threat our Power Elite has ever confronted. Janet [“Burn, Waco, Burn”] Reno comes out with a new plan to abolish the first amendment twice a week and one of them just might pass Congress. On one hand, I don’t think such schemes can “work” — Internet has too much “redundance of control” to allow effective censorship. On the other hand, the War Against Some Drugs can’t work either — never has worked, never will work– but trying to make it work has given us the biggest prison population in world history. Trying to censor internet may fill the prisons even more, but information will still travel faster and further than the governing class wishes. The genie is out of the bottle. The gap between what legislators can understand and what technologists can do is wider and deeper than any abyss you can imagine.

In an ideal world, what form of government would you choose to live under?

None. I would prefer a contractual association [as presented by the individualist-anarchist model] or at least some form of anarcho-syndicalism. Nobody’s life or liberty are safe as long as a government exists.

In the Sixties Timothy Leary, like many activists, was sure that marijuana would be legalized in a couple of years. It is now thirty years later and the weed is still illegal. Why do you think this is the case?

We have about 1,500, 000 people in prison for marijuna offenses and an estimated 65,000,000 pot-heads who ain’t been caught yet. Calculate how many people’s yearly earnings depend on maintaining this system — the cops, the sheriffs, the DEA, the defense attorneys, the prosecutors, the social workers, the prison guards, the contractors who build new prisons, the architects etc. plus the labs who do the urine tests, the nurses who administer, the chemists etc etc. If you add to this the amount of graft in this system, as shown by the recent Los Angeles and other investigations, you’ll probably agree with the estimate that this black market is worth billions, not millions, per month. That’s a mighty big vested interest opposed to a free market.

You have written several dozen books. You have made numerous speaking engagements. You have cavorted with some of the most interesting cultural revolutionaries around. What words of wisdom or advice can you offer to aspiring cultural hipsters?

Oh, hell, you expect wisdom from me? I’ll give you wisdom. “Think for yourself, shmuck!”

Given your long life, lengthy exposure to presidential politics, and healthy wit, would you care to offer any commentary on current US Presidential candidates Al Gore, George W. Bush, and John McCain?

I find it all an amusing clown show, since the same people will continue owning and running the country no matter who holds the nominal position of “president.” Frankly, I hope the voters’ alleged “choice” will fall to Gore and Bush, since everybody knows they are both Lying Bastards. You see, every election in my lifetime has seemed to me a choice between two Lying Bastards, but this year I think the whole country will share that view for the first time. Gore and Bush have changed their stories about the extent of their illegal drug use so often that I don’t think anybody with more than a half inch of forhead can believe anything they say. How will the public at large react to a choice between two known and proven Lying Bastards? Will they ignore the voting booths, like me and everybody I know, or will they get pissed off enough to burn down the voting booths? I don’t know, but it should prove more entertaining than most elections.

What is your opinion of the WTO’s recent decision to admit China?

Kipling said it for me:
At the end of the fight
Is a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased
And an epitaph drear:
“A fool lies here
Who tried to hustle the East.”

Learn Chinese. Translators will earn a bundle.

Almost everyone I know who is on-line or uses computers complains about Microsoft’s monopoly. Even the US government has slapped them silly. What strategy would you recommend in terms of helping to break their stranglehold on information and computer technologies?

I think it will happen organically. Several million bright young lads and lasses will [a] break every stranglehold and [b] unleash new software and hardware that Gates can’t compete with. One of those several million will get rich enough to become for a while the new Bill Gates that everybody hates and fears, but only for a little while, and then they’ll be replaced by a newer revolution in technology.

Throughout your career you have consistently challenged rigid thinking and missionary morality. What advice can you offer to people in their teens and twenties who want to “fight the system” in an effective and efficient manner?

I regard the counter-culture as a pretty sad spectacle. I would urge them to learn to think before they act, and to think long and hard, and to think in concrete specifics. Specifically, I recommend intense training in general semantics and neurolinguistic programming.

Who do you think is the greatest American political or cultural agitator of the Twentieth century?

It would appear immodest to reply.

The Booklist Interview

conducted by Patricia Monaghan

from Booklist, 05/15/99, Vol. 95 Issue 18

Before The X-Files – long before – there was Illuminatus! – a wild, weird, three-volume journey (partly by yellow submarine) through a world in which secret societies enfold other secret societies, conspiracies contend with other conspiracies, but everything is controlled, from beneath that grassy knoll in Dallas, by the Dealy Lama … or maybe not. FBI agents, possibly double agents for the Bavarian Illuminati (or, perhaps, the Mafia), threaten to release anthrax. Rock musicians, possibly members of the Illuminati, give drugs to festivalgoers while releasing zombie Nazis upon them. And then there’s this dwarf.

After almost 30 years, the trilogy remains in print, selling strongly to a third generation of readers. Fans abound, including TV writers who encode 23 and 17 (secret Illuminatus! numbers) into their scripts (X-Files agent Dana Scully’s ID number includes both) in homage.

The coauthors of Illuminatus! are the late Robert Shea, who went on to write such historical nobels as ShikeThe Saracen, and Shaman, and Robert Anton Wilson, whose novels, essays, screenplays, and even haiku straddle every boundary he can locate: between philosophy and fiction, between science and psychology, between fantasy and satire. His Schroedinger’s Cat trilogy is one of those science-fiction works that is invariably labeled “a cult classic,” while nonfiction works like Quantum Psychology (1993) and Everything is under Control (1998) have wide and intergenerational influence. Not surprisingly, Wilson is a major presence on the Web, with numerous sites dedicated to his works and ideas. In keeping with that aspect of his personal “reality tunnel,” this interview was conducted entirely online.

BKL: Would you describe Everything Is under Control and how it fits into your overall work?

WILSON: I regard Everything Is under Control as a mini-encyclopedia of conspiracy theories. I couldn’t include all conspiracy theories (that would take as many volumes as the Britannica), but I tried to cover the territory by judicious sampling of the whole spectrum from Far Right to Far Left, from the plausible to outright wacko, with lots of examples in between those extremes.

It’s also intended as an interactive book: every entry has links at the end, leading the reader to (a) similar and/or contrasting entries elsewhere in the book and (b) online Web sites where further data on that particular theory can be found. Following path (a) you will quickly find that the plausible often leads to the totally nutty, and the totally nutty leads to the plausible, in a very surrealist montage. Following path (b) you can easily spend a year following my leads around the World Wide Web and either turning into a stone paranoid or laughing yourself silly, or probably doing both alternately.

I never try to persuade the reader to think what I think; I always try to offer a heaping platter of sweet-and-sour reality tunnels, and provoke and prod the reader to think and choose for him-/herself. The traditional authorial stance of “Here’s The Truth, all in one book, come and get it” seems to me as archaic as the televangelists yowling, “I’ve got the one true religion!”

All of my books, whether they get called science fiction or science fact or philosophy or whatever, all attempt to break down conditioned associations—to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models (maps) and no one model elevated to the Truth. I doubt that I’m smart enough to know the Truth, and I leave great suspicions about those who think they’re smart enough to know the Truth. A book like Quantum Psychology–my most technical bit of scientific writing–has the same structure as the wild satire of conspiracy theories in Illuminatus! (which I wrote with Bob Shea): the reader gets several versions of what’s happening. They call this “model agnosticism” in physics, but Joyce used it in Ulysses, before Bohr brought it into physics. I regard this multimodel approach as the single most important advance in both science and art in this century.

BKL: Conspiracy has been a theme in your works ever since Illuminatus! Would you comment on contemporary interest in conspiracy theories and its sources?

WILSON: I see at least three sources. First, the government and the major media have gotten caught in so many bare-faced lies that most people don’t trust them anymore. Everybody wants to know what the hell is really going on, and conspiracy theories provide quick, easy answers. Secondly, some conspiracy theories make a certain amount of sense, or at least they make more sense than the official line handed out by Washington and NBC-ABC-CBS, et al.

Thirdly and most important, we live in a time of ever-increasing information acceleration, which necessarily means ever-escalating chaos. I’m using both information and chaos in their technical mathematical sense. Information = binary units of unpredictable-in-advance new data; chaos = unpredictable-inadvance change in systems. The more information flow accelerates, the more the world changes chaotically, unpredictably, suddenly. People who can’t follow this simple mathematical argument perforce have to find simpler answers. Usually they ask “Who’s doing this?” or, even more likely, “Who’s to blame for this?” Once you’ve asked those questions, you have started thinking like a conspiracy buff.

According to statistician Georges Anderla, information doubled between the birth of Christ and A.D. 1500. What happened next? The Renaissance. In 17 years–one breeding generation–the first successful Protestant revolution in Germany (1517). Seventeen years later, 1534, the second successful Protestant revolution in England. Thereafter, about 250 years of religious wars. Information doubled again by 1750. Results: the Industrial Revolution, the American and French Revolutions, the first Mexican Revolution, the decline of feudal-agricultural society, the rise of capitalist democracy. Information doubled again by 1900, followed by relativity, uncertainty, surrealism, two world wars, the rise of fascism and communism.

Information doubled again by 1950, followed by cybernetics, a long cold war, the age of anxiety. In each case, most people became conspiracy buffs: they looked for somebody else to blame for the abrupt, unpredictable changes. Now information is doubling every year, and we have more conspiracy theories than ever. As mathematician-economist Theodore Gordon says, every time he finds a fractal (chaotic chain) in a corporate profit cycle and tries to explain it to the client, they exclaim, “Who’s doing it?” Most people don’t have enough math. They always look for an agent or first cause instead of looking at the interrelated functions synergetically.

BKL: We’re conducting this interview by e-mail: me in Chicago, you in Santa Cruz. Would you comment on the rise of the internet in terms of your philosophical and social ideas?

WILSON: I consider the computer the most revolutionary invention of all time. A computer “is” NOT a machine as previously known, but a metamachine: it becomes a potentially infinite number of machines, depending on the software you put in it. This means ever-increasing unemployment, as Norbert Wiener of MIT realized 50 years ago. Or, in Buckminster Fuller’s terms, it represents a giant leap in “ephemeralization,” or “doing more with less.” Our whole socioeconomic system will go through increasing chaos until we reorganize on a higher level of coherence.

The ‘net seems even more interesting. Hitherto, freedom of the press (or media in general) has belonged to those who own the press or media. I have always regarded the Marxists as correct on that one point. All previous media have been centralized-monopolized, and dissidents just didn’t count as news—they became marginalized, as Noam Chomsky says. The Internet, the Web, the e-mail, the newsgroups, etc., have no monopolized-centralized censor or control center as such. We will get dragged, kicking and screaming, into real freedom of communication. I think it can only stabilize at a level of world-round desovereignization. The ‘net will replace governments: the future looks like a ramshackle technoanarchy to me, and I love it.

BKL: Many thinkers of your generation have little appeal to younger readers. Yet your readership distinctly crosses generations. I understand you regularly appear at raves.

WILSON: I suppose my appeal registers chiefly on those who have anti-authoritarian attitudes, which usually means young people. Not only do my lecture audiences have more young than old members, but my biggest European market, both for books and lectures, is Germany. I think that’s part of the anti-Nazi reaction there: young Germans don’t trust leaders and respond very warmly to somebody who tells them to think for themselves.

I have appeared at several raves, and quite a few punk rock and trash rock groups have dedicated albums to me. What can I say except that I love it? John Adams had the same delight when, as vice president, age 55 or older, he wrote an article under a pen-name and saw it denounced as the work of “a brash young man.” But I also take great pleasure in the number of older people who have begun to appear more and more at my lectures, and I feel positively ecstatic when I get a fan letter from a hard scientist. Maybe I’m not as crazy as I sometimes suspect.

BKL: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in your long life?

WILSON: 1. They live happiest who have practised forgiveness.

2. A sense of humor results from perspective. The wider the perspective, the more humor you will perceive.

3. Dogmas kill both intelligence and perception.

4. I don’t know what is important art or literature, but I know I prefer science fiction and surrealism to mainstream books, Orson Welles to Elia Kazan, bawdy jokes to ugly news bulletins, and Gene Kelly musicals to Death of a Salesman.

5. The Dalai Lama seems the only religious leader around who isn’t at least half crazy.

6. Certitude belongs exclusively to those who look up the answer in only one encyclopedia.


(posted to by R. Michael Johnson)

The Realist Archive

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With the completion of The Realist Archive Project, we present an index of contributions to The Realist by Robert Anton Wilson:

Man Becomes What He Hates (short poem)
No 6, February 1959

The Semantics of ‘God’
No. 8, May 1959

“Splitting Bad Hairs” and “Wilson Replies”  (letters on “The Semantics of ‘God'”)
No. 9, June/July 1959

No. 10, August 1959

No. 11, September 1959

Negative Thinking: Sex Education for the Modern Liberal Adult   (text)
No 12, October 1959, reprinted in The Best of The Realist 

Negative Thinking: Notes on a Skeptical Mystic
No 13, November 1959

To the White Citizen’s Councils
Negative Thinking: The Morality of Head-Hunting
No 14, December 1959/Janurary 1960

Negative Thinking
No 15, February 1960

NEGATIVE THINKING: The Doctor with the Frightened Eyes
No. 16, March 1960, reprinted in Coincidance

Negative Thinking: Letter to a Lady in Iowa (on Caryl Chessman)
No. 17, May 1960

An Impolite Interview with Albert Ellis questions by Krassner and Wilson
Supplement  – May 1960, reprinted from Issues 16 and 17

NEGATIVE THINKING: The Semantics of the ‘Soul,’ Part One
No. 18, June 1960

negative thinking: Ezra Pound at Seventy-Five
No. 19, July/August 1960

negative thinking: The Semantics of ‘Soul’, Part Two
No 20, October 1960

negative thinking: The New Art of the Brave
No 22, December 1960

negative thinking: Is Capitalism a Revealed Religion?
No. 27, June 1961

negative thinking: What I Didn’t Learn at College   (text)
No. 29, September 1961

negative thinking: Letter to a Man in Washington
No. 30, December 1961

negative thinking: [on Hugh Hefner]   (text)
No. 41, July 1963

Timothy Leary and his Psychological H-Bomb   (text)
No. 52, August 1964

The Anatomy of Schlock by A Nonymous Hack   (text)
No. 62, September 1965, reprinted in The Best of The Realist

The Fatal Snowball Fight on Cumberland Avenue
No. 65, March 1966, reprinted in The Illuminati Papers

Three Authors in Search of Sadism or Thirteen Choruses for the Divine Marquis
No. 67, May 1966, reprinted in Coincidance

The Cybernetic Revolution   (text)
No. 72, December 1966

The Great Beast – Aleister Crowley   (text)
Nos. 91-B, 91-C, 92-A, 92-C; Winter 1971-72

Married: Connubial Bliss Blues
No. 100 – Jan-Feb 1986

Why I Voted For Michael Dukakis
No. 108, Winter 1989

The Future is Coming!
No. 111, Winter 1990, reprinted in part in Cosmic Trigger 2

Is Alan Cranston Full of Shit?
No. 114, Fall 1990

The First International Orgasm Conference
No. 117, Summer 1991

Out of the Innsmouth Triangle   (text)
No. 120, Summer 1992

The Persistence of False Memory
No. 124, Summer 1993

Tim Leary is Tripping Again
No. 133, Summer 1996

excerpts from Everything Is Under Control
No. 140, Autumn 1998