Category Archives: Interviews

Robert Anton Wilson Interviews

The Man with the Cosmic Triggerfinger

The Man with the Cosmic Triggerfinger

An Interview with Robert Anton Wilson
Conducted by Neal Wilgus

from Science Fiction Review #37, Vol. 9, No. 4., Nov 1980
reprinted in Seven By Seven, ed. Neal Wilgus, 1996


Robert Anton Wilson is a much-interviewed author. There may be others but to my own knowledge interviews with R.A.W. have appeared in NEW LIBERTARIAN WEEKLY, CONSPIRACY DIGEST, CONFRONTATION, WEIRD TRIPS and SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW — the latter being my first interview with him and in fact the first I ever conducted.

One reason Wilson is interviewed so often is that he’s available and cooperative, but more important is the fact that he can be relied upon to give provocative and stimulating – often outrageous -answers. What’s more, his comments are usual­ly about something important and controversial — and Wilson usually takes a strong position, often un­predictable, always witty, literate, urbane.

Wilson was born in Brooklyn in 1932, and suffered through the con­ventional upbringing and education of our times but somehow survived it all without losing that unique sense of self and universe display­ed in his writing and interviews. In the early 1970s he worked as an Associate Editor of PLAYBOY where he met Robert Shea who was eventually to collaborate with him on that un­ique three-volume romp known as IL­LUMINATUS! In the meantime Wilson managed to turn out numerous pieces on a variety of subjects for a variety of publications and to work on books such as THE SEX MAGICIANS, PLAYBOY’S BOOK OF. FORBIDDEN WORDS, SEX AND DRUGS: A JOURNEY BEYOND WORDS and THE BOOK OF THE BREAST.

By the time ILLUMINATUS! was published in 1976 Wilson had left PLAYBOY and moved to California to try his hand at full-time freelance writing. One of the first (and best) results of this successful venture was COSMIC TRIGGER: FINAL SECRET OF THE ILLUMINATI (1977), a non-fiction, somewhat autobiographical treatment of many of the themes that have oc­cupied him over the years, including the Crowleyanity of Aliester Crowley, messages from the dog star, Sirius, the uses and abuses of drugs and sex, the secrets of synchronicity, Timo­thy Leary’s cosmic mission, the illuminations of, the Bavarian Illumin­ati and SMI2LE. He has also collab­orated with Leary on a number of pieces, most notably several essays in Leary’s NEUROPOLITICS (1978).

Like the characters in ILLUMINATUS!, “Wilson is unpredictable, some­times inconsistent, often brilliant, always entertaining. So here’s yet another interview with the man with the Cosmic Triggerfinger. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


SFR: Why did you write ILLUMINATUS!?

WILSON: To make money. I have dis­covered that, contrary to Holy Writ, it is not true that with God all things are possible. It is not even true that with Zen all things are possible. And, despite what I may say at other times, it isn’t even true that with cocaine all things are possible (it only seems that way). But with cash, brothers and sisters, all things are possible.

SFR: Was that your motive? Are you totally commercial?

WILSON: Absolutely. If I speak to you with the tongues of men and of angels and have not cash, it is as nothing. If I have faith to move mountains and have not cash, it is as nothing. For now abideth faith, hope and cash, these three; and the greatest of these is cash.

SFR: Aren’t you a bit cynical and bitter?

WILSON: Not at all. I feel happy, joyous, vibrant and tranquil in every muscle, fibre, cell, molecule, atom and quark. I have arrived at the position where my chief commodity is wit, and as Bernard Shaw discovered before me, you can make a bundle in that market by simply telling the truth. People are so accustomed to lies and euphemisms that all you have to do is state the facts in plain, unvarnished language and you will immediately acquire a reputation as a most wickedly funny scoundrel.

SFR: Well, then, even if you claim ILLUMINATUS! was a totally commercial venture, you admit that it contains wit or truth, or is it truth disguised as wit?

WILSON: ILLUMINATUS contains very little wit or satire; it is a simple documentary presentation of the basic gambits and strategies of primate politics. If it’s a funny book, that’s because there’s something in­nately comical about the higher primates, such as chimpanzees, baboons and humans. Other classical studies of primate sociobiology, such as Ernest Hooten’s APES, MEN AND MORONS or Machievelli’s THE PRINCE are rath­er funny, too, but they are also serious documentaries, like ILLUMINATUS and not intended as satire.

SFR: George Scithers, editor of ISAAC ASIMOV’S SF MAGAZINE, summed up what you’ve said about commercial­ism recently by saying he’s only in­terested in competing for “beer mon­ey” and small change his readers might otherwise squander on booze. With out criticizing this policy — it’s his magazine after all — don’t you think there’s more to writing than beer money and ego-boo?

WILSON: Fucking aye. I am passion­ate about style, which is the white heat that makes a sentence glow; the reflection in words of the ment­al intensity of the writer. I’d like to write the greatest novel of the 20th Century. Since James Joyce ev­idently beat me to that pedestal, I’ll settle for Writing the second greatest novel of the 20th Century, if I have it in me. The point is merely that I don’t agree at all with those who tell us money is evil. To me, the supreme evil, the most cruel and obscene of all evils, is lack of money;I’ve talked to junk­ies about withdrawal symptoms and I don’t think that’s any worse than what the average husband/father, goes through if his’ money supply is cut off abruptly.

I would predict that when we abolish poverty (by the National Dividend of Pound and Douglas, or the Negative Income Tax of Friedman, or through the economy of abundance arising out of the new technologies of people like Bucky Fuller and Gerard O’Neill) there will immediately be a’ dramatic, almost “miraculous” decrease in suicides, homicides, violent crimes in general, schizo­phrenias, neuroses, psychosomatic ailments and the swinish bad manners of Capitalist society. As Mae West said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and rich is better”. To me that’s as axiomatic as “I’ve been sick and I’ve been healthy, and healthy is better”.

My friend; Wayne Benner, has a single question by which he judges people: “If you could make every­ body equally rich or equally poor, which would you do?” It’s astonish­ing how many Leftists answer that they’d make everybody equally poor. That’s on all fours with saying that, if you could make everybody healthy or give everybody the bubonic plague, you’d give them the plague. I don’t think any school of psychology can yet explain the Left; it would take a bile specialist to account for them.

SFR: In a letter to SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW some time ago, someone named Boschen takes you to task for a book review in which you referred to Mar­tin Gardner as “high priest of the Materialist Church”. Boschen says you’re a Materialist too and a member of the same church. Any comments on Materialism?

WILSON: In the immortal words of John Mitchell, I mis-spoke myself.  What I meant to say, and usually do say (as on page 101 of COSMIC TRIG­GER) is that Gardner speaks for the

“Fundamentalist wing of the Material­ist Church”. If I’m a Materialist at all, I certainly represent’ the Liberal wing. But I would rather call myself an Operationalist than a Materialist, since Materialism is a body of dogma and I am allergic to dogmatisms of all kinds. Operation­alism is a method of thinking, a kind of semantic hygiene; a tool, rather than a doctrine. When I dis­sent from mystics and parapsycholo­gists, it is not because I think that what they are talking about doesn’t exist – I know from exper­ience that it does – but because their terminology is operationally meaningless. I try to restate the facts about altered consciousness in precise scientific language, op­erational language — which causes the mystics to call me a Materialist. Meanwhile the Fundamentalists of the Orthodox Church of Materialism, such as Gardner, would regard me as a mystic for thinking and writing about such subjects at all. But that’s to be expected on a primitive planet. When you try to build a bridge between two gangs of rival fanatics, each side thinks you’re preparing an invasion route for the other side to over-run and massacre them. The idea of communication and synergetic pooling of information just does not penetrate the dogmatic mind. Dogmatists are Senders in William Burroughs’ terminology, not Receivers.

SFR: Perhaps that’s a good way of getting deeper into your own philosophy expressed in COSMIC TRIGGER. Why did you write COSMIC TRIGGER?

WILSON: Primarily, to make money. Secondarily, it’s an exercise in guerilla ontology — a calculated assault on the monotheist “one real­ity” delusion. By taking one person of average intelligence (myself), I show many different reality-grids the brain can construct if you make a determined effort to break down all the imprinted, conditioned, learned and habitual reflexes that program perception into one static world-view. I believe that about 99.99999% of all human stupidity is caused by imprinted and conditioned perception-sets. As Tim Leary says, we have literally been robbed blind; we have literally taken leave of our senses. We are like badly-wired robots bumping into each other -­sleepwalkers, as Gurdjieff said.  The practise recounted in TRIGGER of switching your reality-map fre­quently, over months and years, ‘ makes you aware of billions of sig­nals usually screened out by habit­ual reflex-circuits in the brain.  I regularly switch circuits from Materialism to Buddhism, from Bud­dhism to Sufism, from Sufism to something I’ve never tried before and each neurological quantum jump teaches me more. To remain stuck in one ego, one belief-system, one morality, one set of conditioned re­flexes, is literally walking zombie­ism. We should be able to turn channels in our brain as easily as we do on our TV sets, or switch programs as efficiently as a computer tech­nician. As the old Zen story has it, a monk asked a Zen Master, “How does one find the Tao?” And the Master replied, “Walk on!” Any place we stop or stick, any emotion­al or dogmatic hang-up, is a place where we have become deaf, dumb and blind to billions and billions of signals which would tell us of a much bigger and funnier reality, if we would only open ourselves to them. The universe is a Big Mother.

SFR: Following this line of thought, I’d like to protest against the “Never Whistle While You’re Pissing” concept from ILLUMINATUS. Isn’t it more important to develop simultan­eity — both halves of our brains at once — rather than such single­-mindedness?

WILSON: Every yoga is worthwhile if it teaches you something new. The yoga of total concentration on pis­sing is not my invention; I got it from R.H. Blythe, who got it from a Zen Master whose name I don’t remem­ber. If you’ve learned all you can from that exercize, by all means try other programs. The human brain is a multi -purpose computer. Use it to the utmost; learn as many of its functions as you can. Mathematics is a more powerful brain-change de­vice than LSD, for instance, but few people have discovered that yet – despite the fact that the most impor­tant new ideas always come from mathematicians or from scientists trained in mathematical yoga. Doing every single thing you’re afraid of is another good yoga. Since many of us are going to live 800 years or longer, it is very worthwhile to start using our brains better — for fun and profit — which is what Leary means by Intelligence Increase or I2. I call it the H.E.A.D. Revolution — Hedonic Engineering And De­velopment. If you don’t know how to enjoy your brain, longer life will just mean more time to get yourself in to miserable and frustrated states.

SFR: I’ve been looking into the works of Aleister Crowley recently’ and was struck by the prophecy in THE BOOK OF THE LAW about the 1980s being another major conflagration. This ties in with the dire predic­tions I’ve been reading about in CYCLES OF WAR: THE NEXT SIX YEARS, by R.E. McMaster, Jr., which shows a variety of predictions for disas­ter in the 80s. Given these, and various other gloom-n-doom philoso­phies floating around, how can you seriously expound the optimistic SMI2LE philosophy (Space Migration/ Intelligence Increase/ Life Extension) which predicts various world-­saving revolutions coming up?

WILSON: In the first place, the fu­ture is up for grabs. It belongs to any, and all who will take the risks and accept the responsibilit­ies of consciously creating the future they want. Karl R. Popper wrote a book around 30 years ago called TIIE POVERTY OF HISTORICISM which is still, I think, unrefuted. Popper demonstrated, very rigorously, that there is no way any person. or group of persons or any computer can predict the future exactly. His argument seems to me as sound as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, to which it is in many ways analogous. In the second place, I have never said that the SMI2LE scenario must happen; I only say that it can hap­pen. I am not in competition with the Delphic oracle. In the third place, there is no such thing as purelydescriptive Futurism; future projections are always somewhat prescriptive. They are projections in the psychological as well as mathe­matical sense. My guess is that if you ran a battery of standard psyche tests on the gloom-n-doomsters, you would find that basically they are guilty, masochistic people. They don’t like themselves much, and they like other human beings even less. (This is classically illustrated by one guy who wrote a denunciation of the Space Colony idea in CO-EVOLU­TION QUARTERLY and said he thought humanity deserved to perish.) The doom brigade wants a punishing fut­ure and hence declares it inevitable, by the same psychological trick by which Marx, who wanted socialism, declared it was inevitable. On the other side, I think rather well of myself (as you might have noticed) and of other people, and I think hu­manity deserves and has the wisdom to achieve the SMI2LE mutation, which will give us all the Space we need, all the Time we need, and all the Intelligence we need to enjoy Space and Time. I admit this is as much a projection of my Hedonism as the doomsday scenarios are a projec­tion of the masochism of their crea­tors. The real issue is, to anybody not awed by authorities and dogmas: what kind of future do you want, and how hard are you willing to work to create that future?

SFR: In my book THE ILLUMINOIDS I do my best to make a case for the continuing Illuminati conspiracy, a la the John Birch Society etc., but I never came up with any real proof that Weishaupt’s Bavarian Illuminati continued to function beyond 1787 when it was suppressed. Yet the myth persists (with who knows what core of truth) that the skull-duggery going on today is part of the same plot. Do you think the present Masters are direct descendants of  Weishaupt’s crew? Distant cousins? Different species?

WILSON: First of all, who are the present Masters? The Cowboys? The Yankees? The old boy network in England? I don’t think any of these mammalian predator bands have any­thing to do with the Illuminati at all. You might as well say that a gang of chimpanzees combining (“con­spiring”) to drive another gang of chimpanzees off the turf are the Il­luminati. These second-circuit ter­ritorial rituals have nothing at all to do with the real goals of the Illuminati, who are operating several evolutionary mutations beyond that. Specifically, a real member of the Illuminati (whether he knew it or not) was John Von Neumann, who pre­vented World War III. How did Von Neumann do that? He devised mathe­matical game theory and invented the first programmable computer. As a result of these innovations, the primates now feed their war game strategies into remorselessly logic­al computers, which tell them over and over again that they can’t win a nuclear exchange, and so war has been limited to symbolic (although still tragic) skirmishes over small areas like Indochina. Von Neumann was using the basic Illuminati law that you can only change primate be­havior radically by teaching the primates a new technology. Witness the dramatic changes in chimpanzee behavior after somebody taught them the simple manual technology of sign ­language. Similarly, the Wright Brothers, Einstein, Henry Ford and such types have caused more behavior change than all the politicians, po­licemen, prisons and psychologists in the world, by introducing new technologies. And, of course, the new technologies of Space Migration, Intelligence Increase and Life Extension, if and when we achieve them, will cause more behavior change than a million operant conditioners like Skinner.

SFR: How is the cause of Discord­ianism coming?

WILSON: We already hold Northern California and have agents in all the media in America, France, Eng­land, Denmark and Germany. I con­fidently expect a Discordian Pres­ident in the White House by 1984 and a Discordian Pope in the Vatican by the 1990s, if not sooner.

SFR: The usual objection to the con­cept of synchronicity and related ideas like the so-called 23 enigma, the law of octaves and so on, is that the observer of such phenomena is choosing the data deliberately to emphasize a “pattern” that might not otherwise be there. Do you think these things are objective reality or subjective selection? Paranoia? All of the above?

WILSON: I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might tend to incrim­inate me. I may have already given away too much by mentioning that Von Neumann was One of Us and that We control a large part of the media. Let’s just say that “reality”, so­-called, is an evolving, ever-chang­ing, quantum-jumping energy-dance, not a rigid and block-like box con­fining us. Those who know how to swing with the dance are co-creators of the next hour’s reality, the next day’s, the next year’s, the next century’s… The reality of any instant is the temporary resultant of the ontological guerilla warfare between rival gangs of artists, tech­nicians and magicians. John Archi­bald Wheeler of Princeton uses the term “participatory universe” to describe what I’m getting at here. It comes down to what Weishaupt said 200 years ago: we are all freemas­ons in the literal sense, builders of our own experience.

If this still isn’t clear, I can say it in words of one syllable, citing the late Redeemer of Biblical fame: “Ye are all Gods”. (John, 10:34.)

SFR: I understand you’ll have a science fiction trilogy coming out soon and are working on an occult novel called THE DEVIL’ S MASQUERADE.

WILSON: The occult thriller will be published first and is now called MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI. It’s set in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1914 and the principle characters are Albert Einstein, James Joyce and Aleister Crowley. It should be in the bookstores early next summer. The sci-fi trilogy is called SCHRODINGER’S CAT and is a kind of quantum comedy, based on the most literal possible reading of the Everett-Wheeler-Graham multi-universe interpretation of the Schrodinger equations. That is, it’s the parallel worlds theme that’s been done and redone and al­most done to death in sci-fi, but I really think I have an unusually com­ical slant on it. That’ll be out in winter’ 79- 80, in some universe or other. The action or actions of SCHRODINGER’S CAT are set in various possible realities that might emerge by 1984 and, if the Eveiett-Wheeler­Graham theory is true, the publica­tion of the trilogy should cause the readers’ subsequent experience of 1984 to be more like my Hedonic pro­jections than like the masochistic projections of the doomsters. That is, the writing and publication of the trilogy is a magical and scien­tific experiment — an attempt to demonstrate the creation of an altern­ative reality. It’s very much like the old Marx Brothers routine: “There’s $1000 in the house next door”. “But there is no house next door”. “Then let’s build one”. I’m going beyond guerilla ontology to guerilla Futurism.

SFR: Do you really think a work of art can alter reality?

WILSON: Ideas alter reality. Very concretely, if you believe a certain woman won’t ball you, you will not make a pass at her, and she will ball somebody else., If you think you can’t get a job, you will not go in for the interview. If you think you can’t pass the exam, you will not bother to study.

I feel that the writings of people who have lost faith in human­ity are semantic poison. I heard one of these embittered authors on TV a few nights ago, saying explic­itly what is obvious to any reader of his fiction: he doesn’t like the human race; I think self-hatred and hatred of humanity are self-fulfil­ling prophecies which can very def­initely produce all the worst gloom ‘n’ doom scenarios, if enough. people believe in them; but conversely, we can solve all our personal and soc­ial problems, if we believe in ourselves and in humanity.

Every minute you have a choice whether you will put out positive energy or negative energy. You alter your own future, without noticing it, by those little momentary decisions. You alter the whole future of humanity, even more obliviously, by the effect of those decisions on other people around you. No energy is ever lost. What goes around comes around, as some wise hippie once said.

You give negative energy to B, B passes it on to C, C to D, and so on, forever, or until it comes to somebody conscious enough to refuse to pass it on. When that one conscious individual makes that decision and performs the alchemical transmutation of turning the bad energy into good before passing it on, a whole new chain of good energy is started. This is what the Sufis mean when they say we don’t begin to understand our real responsibilities. Today is the first day of the rest of the universe.

Can art create reality? Damned straight. I know people who are living in gloomy Naturalistic novels of the ’30s, and people who get into the occult the wrong way are living the paranoia of THE EXORCIST, and people who are living in DAS KAPITAL, and people living in the New Testament, and so on. I prefer to live in science fiction, which is the most exciting and funny reality to be in. Of course, I don’t mean the misanthropic kind of sci-fi; I mean the cosmic and noble vis­ions of people like Clarke and Hein­lein and Olaf Stapledon. There is simply nothing better to live for than the idea that humanity has a noble destiny and that you can be part of the love-energy-brains net­work that will make it possible.

SFR: To you have any concluding thought?

WILSON: Yeah. As Ezra Pound once said, the only real enemy is ignor­ance — our own.



Daraul, Akron. A HISTORY OF SECRET SOCIETIES, 1961, Pocket Books Paperback.

Roberts, J .M. THE MY’IHOLOGY OF SECRET SOCIETIES, 1972, Paladin paperback (British).

Robinson, John. PROOFS OF A CONSPIRACY, 1798; reprinted 1967 as an Americanist Classic by Western Islands, Belmont, Massachusetts, 02178.

Shea, Robert, and Wilson, Robert Anton. ILLUMINATUS!, 1975, Pocket Books paperback (Vol. I – THE EYE IN THE PYRAMID; Vol. II – THE GOLD­EN APPLE; Vol. III – LEVIATHAN).

Wilgus, Neal. THE ILLUMINOIDS: Secret Societies and Political Paranoia, 1978, Sun Publishing Co.; available from Neal Wilgus, Box 25771, Albuquerque, NM, 87125.

Wilson, Robert Anton. COSMIC TRIGGER: Final Secret of the Illuminati, 1977, And/Or Press, Box 2246, Berkeley, CA, 94702; also available in Pocket Books paperback edition.

Wilson, Robert Anton. SCHRODINGER’S CAT, 1979, Pocket Books paperback.

Searching for Cosmic Intelligence Interview, 1980

Robert Anton Wilson:
Searching For Cosmic Intelligence

by Jeffrey Elliot

From Starship: The Magazine about Science Fiction Vol. 18, #1, Spring 1981. Originally printed in Literary Voices #1, Jeffrey Elliot ed., 1980. pp. 50-64.

“The great beasts that inhabited Europe, Asia and North America die off as a result of mutations and diseases caused by the solar flare. All relics of the Atlantean civilization are destroyed. The people who were Gruad’s erstwhile countrymen are either killed or driven forth to wander the earth. Besides Gruad’s Himalayan colony there is one other remnant of the High Atlantean era: the Pyramid of the Eye, whose ceramic substance resisted solar flare, earthquake, tidal wave and submersion in the depth of the ocean. Gruad explains that it is right that the eye should remain. It is the eye of God, the One, the scientific-technical eye of ordered knowledge that looks down on the universe and by perceiving it causes it to be. If an event is not witnessed, it does not happen; therefore, for the universe to happen there must be a Witness.”

– Robert Shea/Robert Anton Wilson, Illuminatus!

High atop a hill overlooking the University of California, Berkeley campus, lies the rustic communal retreat of Robert Anton Wilson, the author of over 2,000 articles and ten books, including Illuminatus!, the highly-acclaimed epic science-fiction satire (written with Robert Shea). A former editor of Playboy magazine, Wilson has spent much of his life writing and lecturing on the challenges and opportunities of man’s future. In addition, he is the president of the Exo-Psychology Institute in Berkeley and a director of the Prometheus Society, as well as a charter member and advocate of Gerard O’Neill’s proposals for space colonization. His most recent work, Cosmic Trigger:  The Final Secret of the Illuminati, is the nonfiction sequel to his novels on the subject. It represents a synthesis of new trends in physics and parapsychology, combining elements of science fiction and political satire. It revolves around such contemporary interests as UFOs, holistic health, cosmology, quantum mechanics, and human consciousness. Several critics believe it is destined to become the most popular science-fiction cult novel since Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Robert Anton Wilson is an important thinker and doer, a renowned mystic and revolutionary, whose books and articles are read and debated with delight and fervor. His work has won the plaudits of the literary establishment as well as the literary underground. Alan Watts has dubbed his writing “subversive, esoteric, and extremely interesting.” Timothy Leary has proclaimed it “scholarly, literate, witty, and great!” David Harris has declared it “the anarchist acid-rock answer to Tolkien.” Henry Miller has pronounced it “something we’ve needed for a long time!”

When I arrived for our scheduled interview, Wilson was smiling and accommodating. He led me into his front room, which was chock-full of books and papers. After chatting a while, and discussing the merits of freshly squeezed orange juice, we began our dialogue. An incisive and engaging conversationalist, Wilson was enthusiastic and spirited. He talked for nearly five hours–without letup–exploring such provocative topics as space colonization, libertarianism, life extension, Timothy Leary, magick, higher intelligences, the Illuminati, and guerrilla ontology, among others.

There is something quite inexplicable about Bob Wilson–perhaps it is his earthy wisdom or his mystical propensities. In terms of the latter, he holds titles as an initiate in several occult orders, including the White Cord Witch, Voo Doo Priest, Water Broker, and High Priest of the Cult of the Sacred Cyborg. Whatever the key is to the Wilson persona, I came away from the interview buoyed and optimistic. His energy and vitality proved intoxicating. I left feeling I had, yes, made contact with one of the higher intelligences! In the interview that follows, Wilson discusses a wide range of subjects, constantly striving to forge a workable synthesis of both the scientific and mystical traditions. In the end, what emerges is a provocative discourse on the nature of reality–what it is and isn’t–and why such a synthesis is vital to this planet’s future.

STARSHIP: Let’s go back to the beginning. What made you want to be a writer?

WILSON: As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a storyteller. When I was 12 years old, I started drawing comic strips, which I circulated among other kids in the neighborhood. When I was 14, I discovered there were books made up of nothing but words. It seemed much easier to just write the words rather than having to do the drawings to accompany them. I wrote my first novel that year and, of course, I couldn’t get it published. It was about a meek, mild reporter, somewhat like dark Kent, who drank a potion which turned him into a virtual Superman-type character. His name was Danny Dingle, because it was a comedy rather than a melodrama. In my youthful naivete, I thought I could sell it as a movie starring Danny Kaye. I wrote quite a few short stories in my teens, all of which were rejected. I knew I needed a money-making occupation until I became a success as a writer. As a result, I decided to pursue engineering and write in the evenings. Well, after five years as an engineering aide, I realized I couldn’t be a writer and an engineer at the same time. It was too demanding in terms of time, so I decided to become, instead, an English teacher. Along the way, I got married and ended up in the advertising business instead of teaching English. I spent about three years in advertising and then escaped, thank God, relatively undamaged. I’ve spent most of my life since then in various editorial positions at a number of publications. It took me an awfully long time to get my first book into print. In fact, I sold over 2,000 articles to various magazines before landing my first book sale. I suppose I have more articles in print than any other living author.

STARSHIP: At what point in this process did you know you could support yourself as a full-time writer?

WILSON: I’ve only been able to support myself as a full-time writer in the last five years.

STARSHIP: What kinds of jobs did you take along the way while you were trying to get started?

WILSON: As I mentioned, I worked in numerous editorial jobs. I was also a medical orderly, a salesman, a long-shoreman, and an executive. In addition, I was an associate editor of Playboy for nearly six years. Also, I worked for a sweat shop in New York, where I edited five magazines simultaneously. Actually, this meant I wrote practically everything in the magazines under a variety of pen names. They had a very low budget. I got $125 a week before taxes for editing the five publications. I had a lot of other jobs like that. I was an editor of Ralph Ginzburg’s fact: magazine for a while (which is what Ginzburg did after Eros was suppressed by the Supreme Court, and before he started Moneysworth magazine).

STARSHIP: What formal training did you have as a writer?

WILSON: I took one course in writing at New York University.

STARSHIP: Have you ever found your lack of formal training a handicap when it came to developing your skills as a writer?

WILSON: No. The first piece of writing I submitted in that writing class caused the teacher to remark that it was the most professional piece of writing she had ever seen and that I should be a full-time writer, which simply confirmed my own opinion. So, really, I developed on my own.

STARSHIP: Can you see in your writing any specific stylistic influences in terms of other writers whose work you admire?

WILSON: Oh, very definitely. I can easily look at my own prose and see whose voices are represented. There’s a great deal of Ezra Pound, a great deal of James Joyce, a great deal of Raymond Chandler, a touch of Norman Mailer, and a soupcon of H.L. Mencken.

STARSHIP: Did any of these writers prove helpful in the sense of teaching you about the process of writing itself?

WILSON: Yes. For example, from Pound I learned that every sentence should have a life of its own. There should be no empty sentences. Basically, there are two types of writers: one type is interested in getting the damned thing done and sold, while the second type really enjoy writing and want every sentence to have its own wit, its own beauty. Pound converted me into the second type of writer. I want every sentence to contain a bit of pleasure for me and for the attentive reader. From Mailer, I learned how to write long sentences that are modern and swing. Faulkner writes long sentences, but one gets lost in the syntax; one doesn’t get lost in Mailer. Joyce taught me a great deal about how to vary the tone of a paragraph and create emotional effects that are almost subliminal, and how to convey very subtle psychological processes. Chandler was a major influence, in the sense that there’s not a single dull sentence in any of his books. I’ve tried to follow that practice in my own writing. It’s odd, but I can’t think of a single science-fiction writer who has significantly influenced my style of writing. What I have learned from science-fiction writers, though, is to have an open attitude towards the future. In this sense, they’ve influenced my philosophy more than my style.

STARSHIP: What is it about writing that you find so personally rewarding?

WILSON: Well, I think it’s a kind of hedonic-controlled schizophrenia. It’s also a kind of yoga, especially novel-writing. Full-time fiction writing is a constant daily exercise in getting outside one’s own head and thinking and feeling the way other people think and feel. I often think of it in terms of Gurdjieff’s work. Gurdjieff, the Russian mystic, devoted most of his energy to teaching his pupils how to get outside their own egos and see the world the way other people see it. I’ve become very interested in his work in the last four or five years, and it has occurred to me that what he is teaching is what every good novelist learns if he sticks with being a writer. One can’t create characters who are simply variations of oneself. One must go way out and create characters who are nothing like oneself. When one does that, one really learns something about humanity. In that sense, I think novel writing is more educational for the novelist than for the reader.

STARSHIP: Do you write more out of an innate need to express yourself or simply to support yourself economically?

WILSON: It’s sheer pleasure. As I said before, I’m definitely a style-oriented writer. Every paragraph is a challenge, and when I get the paragraph organized just the right way, I experience a great sense of bliss, such as a mathematician experiences when he solves a difficult equation. It’s a head game, a brain exercise, and it’s lots of fun if one’s attuned to that type of mental exercise. Every writing project is a growth project, especially if one has the aim, as I have, of never repeating myself. I keep trying to do things I’ve never done before, which means that every writing job entails another brain-change operation.

STARSHIP: Do you write with a particular audience in mind? Does audience figure into what you write and how you write it?

WILSON: Obviously, not as much as it should or I would have been more successful much sooner. Insofar as I have any audience in mind, it’s not the audience I should have in mind. I tend to write for the most hip and intelligent people I can envisage, which is not necessarily the way to commercial success. I must constantly remind myself that there are other audiences, too, and I must try to please them as well. Unfortunately, I always tend to slip back into writing for an elite audience. However, I try to put things into my books that appeal to a larger audience. For example, Illuminatus! has enough sex and violence in it to satisfy any television fan.

STARSHIP: How, then, would you describe your audience?

WIL50N: Actually, I have several audiences. My work appeals to those who are interested in such subjects as Kabala, magick, occultism, etc. There are political libertarians who dig my work because of the anti-government satire. Scientists and science-fiction fans also enjoy my work because of my comic use of ideas from modern physics.

STARSHIP: Is a book fully organized in your mind before you start writing or does it take shape as it unfolds?

WILSON: Sometimes I have a clearer idea of where I’m going than other times, but it always surprises me. In the course of writing, I’m always drawing on my unconscious creativity, and I find things creeping into my writing that I wasn’t aware of at the time. That’s part of the pleasure of writing. After you’ve written something, you say to yourself, “Where in the hell did that come from?” Faulkner called it the “demon” that directs the writer. The Kabalists call it the “holy guardian angel.” Every writer experiences this sensation. Robert E. Howard said he felt there was somebody dictating the Conan stories to him. There’s some deep level of the unconscious that knows a lot more than the conscious mind of the writer knows.

STARSHIP: Are you a meticulous writer? Do you agonize over word choice and syntax?

WILSON: I’m very meticulous, but I don’t “agonize.” It’s all a lot of fun, and no more agonizing than anyone else’s favorite hobby. It varies, however, according to what I’m writing. I’ve written some things as many as 16 times before I was satisfied with the finished product, but I enjoy myself the whole time. Sometimes, I enjoy myself so much that I collapse from exhaustion. I’ve been known to work from 16 to 20 hours and collapse with a very stiff back and wake up the next morning with an acute case of conjunctivitis. Even there, I enjoyed myself all the way through it.

STARSHIP: When you write, do you follow a set regimen?

WILSON: Yes, in a rough sort of way. I start some time in the morning, usually around nine or ten o’clock, depending on my mood or how much I want to sit around over breakfast talking to my family. Generally, I try to knock off between five and six o’clock. Frequently, though, I get a second burst after dinner and go back and write for several more hours. However, that doesn’t happen too often any more. It happened more when I was broke, desperate, and struggling to turn out as much material as I could in order to make ends meet.

STARSHIP: Does writing ever serve a therapeutic value for you? Have you learned important things about yourself in the process of writing?

WILSON: Oh yes, definitely. I would say, though, I’ve gotten more surprises out of LSD than I’ve gotten out of writing.

STARSHIP: When you finish a piece, do you generally like what you’ve written? Would you read your own work, had you not written it?

WILSON: Yes, very much so. I tend to be childishly delighted with everything I write. Every now and then, though, I’m very unhappy with a certain piece and can’t bring myself to submit it anywhere. Usually, in a case like that, after about three months, I’ll take it out, and submit it some place.

STARSHIP: Does writing come easily to you? Do the words flow smoothly and effortlessly?

WILSON: Oh, yes. It comes as easily to me as tennis comes to a professional tennis player. It’s my game. To me, it’s the third best thing in the world, after sex and Chinese food.

STARSHIP: How do you feel about critics? Do their opinions affect you?

WILSON: As William Butler Yeats said, “Was there ever a dog that loved its fleas?” Critics have been very kind to me, personally. Of all the reviews of my published books, something like 90 percent have been highly favorable, so I have no personal grudge against critics. On the other hand, in an impersonal way, I have a strong, moral objection to critics. Whenever I see a critic tearing a writer or actor to shreds in print, I feel a sense of revulsion. I write a lot of criticism myself, but I only review things I like. I don’t admire the desire to tear other people apart. I can only think of two unfavorable reviews I’ve written in my whole life, and I regret them. One was about a book in which a woman gets raped and is said to enjoy it; the other was a review of a very dogmatic book about UFOs, in which the author described those who disagreed with him as neurotics. People who like to write witty, nasty things about other people are not generous or charitable, to put it mildly. We should all try to give out as much good energy to other human beings as we possibly can. I honestly believe that every bit of bad energy we put out has adverse effects that go on forever. This is the Buddhist doctrine of karma. The Buddhists believe that every bit of anger, resentment, hate, and so on that goes out passes from one person to another, without stopping. The same is true of good energy: every bit of good energy one puts out makes someone else feel a little bit better. I think if people were really conscious of this psychological fact, they would try very, very hard to put out nothing but good energy, no matter what happened to them. They would certainly not be so casual about passing on bad energy. All the bad energy in the world builds up like a giant snowfall, until we have a huge war. Nowadays, it can mean a total nuclear Armageddon. This is traditional Buddhism, as I say, but I think it’s materialistic common sense, too. One only needs to study human behavior to realize it. I regard those people who make a career out of being nasty as emotional plague carriers.

STARSHIP: As you review those pieces you wrote early in your career, can you detect clear signs of stylistic improvement?

WILSON: I hope so. I would rather be gored by a rhinoceros than see some of my 1950’s pieces be reprinted now! Even some of my 1960s pieces, I hope, are lost forever.

STARSHIP: In what ways has your writing improved over the years?

WILSON: I hope I’m less acerbic, less dogmatic, less moralistic, and more charitable.

STARSHIP: Are you concerned that your work has didactic value, that people learn from it?

WILSON: Absolutely! Didactic literature is very much out of style these days; if one is suspected of having a message, it’s almost regarded as some kind of impurity. I think, however, that all first-rate literature is didactic. Dante is didactic. Shakespeare is didactic. Melville is didactic. Science fiction is the most didactic literature around; that’s why I enjoy it so much. All writers are teachers, whether they’re conscious of it or not, or whether they’ll admit it or not. For example, take Mickey Spillane. He used to give interviews in which he said he only wrote books for money. However, if you look at his work, it’s obvious he has very strong beliefs. He’s always pitching them at the reader. They’re rather fascist beliefs, but they’re beliefs nonetheless, and he’s a teacher, just like every other writer. Unfortunately, he’s only teaching a violent, fascist morality.

STARSHIP: You seem to be a virtual storehouse of ideas. Do you file ideas away, keep a notebook, or record your thoughts?

WILSON: When I’m working on a novel, I keep notes on things that occur to me that can’t be used in that particular work. I might use these thoughts at a later time, which is why I go through the effort of recording them. By and large, I don’t keep notebooks, except one special notebook, in which I record dreams, synchronisticies, and occult happenings. I like to have a record of such things, just so I can check it every so often and see if there are any significant patterns emerging.

STARSHIP: Are you still an active reader? Does being a writer afford you much time for reading?

WILSON: No. That’s one of the paradoxes of a writer’s life: the more successful one becomes, the less time one has to read. I spend so much time writing that, generally, by the time I knock off for the day, my eyes are too tired to do much reading. I used to read a book a day when I was younger. Now, if I manage a book a week, it’s unusual. A book every two weeks is more common for me now.

STARSHIP: Your work is said to be very symbolic in content. Do you pre-plan your use of symbolism or does it creep in by accident?

WILSON: Oh, I’m very tricky that way. My books are full of hidden gimmicks–not just symbols, but very obscure jokes, cross-references, and parodies of other writers. I feel I’m giving future Ph.Ds a vast field for research.

STARSHIP: You’re a writer who’s known for having an enormous cult following. What explains this underground interest in your work?

WILSON: Actually, I have several cult followings, not just one. That’s amusing. I’ve got fans who like me for one reason, others who like me for another reason, and neither are aware of the other. I have no idea why my work generates this interest, but I would like to think it’s because I’m a very funny writer. Of course, there’s the fact that an awful lot of my writing comes out of very deep levels of the unconscious. I incorporate into my writing a lot of stuff from my dreams and from various yogic and magickal exercises that turn on parts of the brain that connect with what Jung calls “the archetypes of collective unconscious.” So, there’s probably a level in my work that’s mythic, in the sense that King Kong is mythic or Lord of the Rings is mythic. I don’t know if it’s that archetypal level that explains the interest in my work, or whether it’s just the humor. Perhaps it’s a mixture of the two.

STARSHIP: Are you ever amused when you hear people discuss the symbolic significance of some aspect of your work, when you know full-well it has no real significance whatever?

WILSON: No. Everything in my writing operates on several levels at once. Any symbolism people find in my work was probably intended to be there, especially since I employ so much dream material.

STARSHIP: As you review the 2,000-plus pieces you’ve written, are there any salient themes or ideas which seem to repeat themselves over and over in your work?

WILSON: Yes. From the beginning, my writing has had a clear libertarian bias. It has always contained a good deal of anti-government propaganda. Moreover, there has always been an element of self-mockery in my writing, because I feel uncomfortable being on a pedestal, and so I try to encourage the reader not to take me too seriously. Furthermore, I’ve always written on a variety of topics, for a variety of audiences. I’ve never limited myself to any one field or area.

STARSHIP: Can you discuss the genesis of Illuminatus!? How did the idea originate?

WILSON: It started with the Discordian Society, which is based on worship of Eris, the Greek goddess of confusion and chaos. Actually, the Discordian Society is a new religion disguised as a complicated joke, although some skeptics think it’s a joke disguised as a religion. We [Robert Shea, his coauthor] felt the Society needed some opposition, because the whole idea of it is based on conflict and dialectics. So, we created an opposition within the Discordian Society, which we called the Bavarian Illuminati. We got the idea from the John Birch Society and various other right-wing groups who believe that the Illuminati really run the world. There were several Discordian newsletters written in the 1960s, and several Discordian members wrote for the underground press in various parts of the country. So, we built up this myth about the warfare between the Discordian Society and the Illuminati for quite a while, until one day Bob Shea said to me, “You know, we could write a novel about this!” The rest is history.

STARSHIP: When you began the project, did you ever envisage that it would take on such massive proportions, both in terms of scope and direction?

WILSON: No. When we started, Shea and I planned to write a fairly short novel. Once we got into it, though, we got carried away and it got longer and longer. Shea kept telling me, “It’s getting too long,” and I kept saying, “Yeah, but this is good stuff, isn’t it?” Eventually, the book was so long that when Dell finally accepted it, they insisted that we cut 500 pages.

STARSHIP: In what sense is the book science fact as opposed to science fiction?

WILSON: I wanted to write a book that combined several different literary genres. As a result, Illuminatus! is a combination detective story, occult thriller, political satire, and science-fiction work, with overtones of a porno novel, a dissertation on politics, and an occult fantasy. It constantly keeps changing. Whenever the reader thinks he knows where it’s going, it turns into another type of novel. That was part of our problem in selling it. Publishers don’t like that; they like a novel they can easily label. I’m still struggling with this problem in my present writing. My next book, Masks of the Illuminati, is something the publisher is going to have a hard time finding a label for, because it deliberately starts out as one type of novel and turns into an entirely different type of novel. This, to me, is realism. After all, life doesn’t fall into categories. People don’t live their whole lives in detective stories or gothic thrillers or soap operas or science-fiction novels or Hitchcock dramas. People’s lives change from day to day, from hour to hour. I’ve always wanted to write novels in which the reader doesn’t know what kind of script he’s living in. Publishers can’t stand this approach. They want to put a label on a story, and I keep trying to break that restriction. This is all part of my insidious campaign to undermine the minds of readers who think they know what they’re reading. I want people to realize that literature isn’t always what they think it is. Then they might realize that life isn’t what they think it is.

STARSHIP: In the past, you’ve described your work as “anarchist fiction.” What does that term imply?

WILSON: My early work is politically anarchist fiction, in that I was an anarchist for a long period of time. I’m not an anarchist any longer, because I’ve concluded that anarchism is an impractical ideal. Nowadays, I regard myself as a libertarian. I suppose an anarchist would say, paraphrasing what Marx said about agnostics being “frightened atheists,” that libertarians are simply frightened anarchists. Having just stated the case for the opposition, I will go along and agree with them: yes, I am frightened. I’m a libertarian because I don’t trust the people as much as anarchists do. I want to see government limited as much as possible; I would like to see it reduced back to where it was in Jefferson’s time, or even smaller. But I would not like to see it abolished. I think the average American, if left totally free, would act exactly like Idi Amin. I don’t trust the people any more than I trust the government.

STARSHIP: Many people think that Illuminatus! can also be viewed as “anarchist fiction,” in that it employs a multitude of writing styles and techniques. Would you agree with their

WILSON: Yes. However, I didn’t invent that method. Joyce did the same thing in Ulysses. Every chapter of Ulysses is written in a different style. I don’t think Illuminatus! is quite as original as a lot of people who only read science fiction think it is. The basic structure which has aroused so much controversy is boldly lifted from D.W. Griffith’s movie, Intolerance. I think Intolerance is the greatest movie ever made, so I stole everything I could find from it. I’m very much in love with Griffith’s technique of montage. Illuminatus! is written just the way Griffith edited his films. In Intolerance, he has four stories set in four different periods of history. He continuously goes back and forth between the four. That’s basically the technique I used in Illuminatus! It’s amusing to me that people find it so startling when it was done in film as early as 1915, when Intolerance was made.

STARSHIP: How would you respond to the charge that the book lacks thematic unity, that it strays from idea to idea without ever resolving any of the ideas themselves?

W/LSON: The same kind of criticism could be leveled against Don QuixoteMoby Dick, and Ulysses, which are three of my favorite novels. I’m writing for an audience that digs that type of artistic encyclopedia. Those readers whose attention span is much shorter should ignore Illuminatus! and stick to “Little Orphan Annie.”

STARSHIP: You’ve also described your writing as “guerrilla ontology.” How does that term apply to your work?

WILSON: The Western World has been brainwashed by Aristotle for the last 2,500 years. The unconscious, not quite articulate, belief of most Occidentals is that there is one map which adequately represents reality. By sheer good luck, every Occidental thinks he or she has the map that fits. Guerrilla ontology, to me, involves shaking up that certainty. I use what in modern physics is called the “multi-model” approach, which is the idea that there is more than one model to cover a given set of facts. As I’ve said, novel writing involves learning to think like other people. My novels are written so as to force the reader to see things through different reality grids rather than through a single grid. It’s important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind. It’s only possible to see people when one is able to see the world as others see it. That’s what guerrilla ontology is–breaking down this one-model view and giving people a multi-model perspective.

STARSHIP: For those who have not read Illuminatus! and would like to know something about the storyline of the book, how would you describe its contents?

WILSON: I like the description by John White, in his review of the book, who said, “It’s a journey through paranoia to metanoia. “Paranoia is a state of mind in which one is able to see that everything is connected, which indeed it is, but the paranoid sees everything in the form of a conspiracy directed at him. In metanoia, you see that everything is connected, but in a very funny, comical, and ultimately triumphant way. I would say that the end of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is the greatest expression of metanoia in Western art. Every successful mystic has a basically metanoid outlook on life. Anyone who has ever taken LSD has experienced a few hours of metanoia.

STARSHIP: Why is it so difficult to get people to accept the fact that there are many answers to any given problem?

WILSON: Well, that started breaking down with the rise of urban civilization and commerce. As long as people lived in tribes, it was very easy to think that “our way of looking at things was the only correct way.” When piracy and nomadic raiding parties developed, people could still think that way. However, when people started trading and having commerce with one another, they had to learn to see things the way other people saw them. As a result, some sense of cultural relativism appeared in the ancient Greeks, who were great traders. I think that’s what’s responsible for the rise in Greek philosophy. Unfortunately, this has always remained a minority point of view because of the entrenched power of dogmatic thought. With the rise of modern electronics and technology, however, things have begun to change faster. We’re now living in the global village which Buckminster Fuller and Marshal McLuhan have long been predicting. I’ve actually met people in their 20s who have traveled to as many as 30 different countries in their lives. With that amount of travel and the emergence of modern electronic media, more and more people are developing a sense of cultural relativism. This leads directly to what I call “neurological relativism,” which is the recognition that the way one’s nervous system organizes impressions into Gestalts is not the only possible way; and that everyone else’s nervous system is likewise organizing an entirely different reality. They’re all equally real because they’re all an outgrowth of human experience.

STARSHIP:  A collaborative effort, Illuminatus! was written with the assistance of Bob Shea. Did you enjoy the process of collaboration? Did it pose any special problems?

WILSON: Actually, I’ve done a number of collaborations as well as seven books on my own. I wrote Illuminatus! with Shea and I wrote Neuropolitics with Tim Leary, as well as another book with Leary, which hasn’t been published yet, titled,The Neurological Tarot. I find that writing alone and collaborating are both fun in different ways. The collaborations worked very well with both Shea and Leary. I would be delighted to collaborate with either of them in the future. I suppose there are some people who, if I tried collaborating with them, would drive me up the wall. I think one has to choose one’s collaborators quite carefully.

STARSHIP: How would you explain the fact that while you’ve produced so much work, and really excellent work, you’ve yet to really crack the literary mainstream?

WILSON: I think the answer is genetic. If one studies the evolution of gene pools, it’s clear that humanity began somewhere in the east and has been migrating steadily westward. I think it’s the more adventuresome, far out, exploratory genes which have traveled west. Most of my fan mail comes from the west coast – California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. The official intelligentsia of the United States, by which I mean those who have declared themselves to be the intelligentsia, all live in New York. Genetically, they’re a separate stock from the westerner. Westerners are a totally different breed of people, and I don’t think it’s any accident that Tom Robbins, Thomas Pynchon, Ted Sturgeon, Tim Leary, and I all live in the west. To the eastern intelligentsia, the latest things in science are Marx and Freud; they simply haven’t heard of anything since then. There’s an entirely different genetic stock and neurological set in the east. Basically, I would say they’re about 70 years behind in terms of neurological evolution.

STARSHIP: In what sense is Illuminatus! a product of your own experiences with drugs, such as LSD?

WILSON: I suppose it’s a product of my own drug experiences, but it’s also a product of my experiences of being tear-gassed by the Chicago cops, my experiences of being an editor at Playboy, my experiences of being a welfare recipient, and my experiences of going up and down the economic ladder.

STARSHIP: Let’s talk about the issue of space colonization. There are many people who view this as such a remote possibility that they find it difficult to take the whole idea seriously. Do you see space colonization as a real possibility within the foreseeable future?

WILSON: Yes. I think space habitats are absolutely inevitable in the next 30 years. The only remaining question is, how soon? All of the major problems confronting this planet will either be alleviated or solved once we start building space colonies. By 2025, there will be more people leaving this planet than being born on it, so that the population will simply wither away. I think solar power derived from space is the first step toward creating worldwide affluence and abolishing poverty and starvation. Space is also a great hope in terms of enlarging human freedom, because freedom is always found on the perimeter of society, on the expanding wave. Freedom is the vector of where the pioneers went, to get as far away as possible from the nearest government. The art of freedom is to keep moving on the expanding wave. That’s why all the most libertarian people are piled up on this side of the Rockies or in Hawaii. The industrial frontier is closed, so the next place for the libertarian to go is into space. As Tim Leary likes to say, “In space, even the lesbian vegetarians can have their own habitat in 50 years.” Everybody who wants to create a new type of society will have a chance to join forces with like-minded individuals and create their own Utopia. That happened in this country in the 19th century. There were over 1,000 “intentional communities,” as sociologists called them, that were Utopian in nature and founded on the frontier. Some of these failed, some of them partially succeeded, and some of them were eventually incorporated by the federal government as it expanded its powers. A few still survive today, although it’s under the control of the federal government, like the Amish community. Basically, the argument for space is that we need the energy and that it’s a chance for societal experiments which are impossible on this planet under present conditions of increasingly omnipotent governments.

STARSHIP: Do you sense a growing national commitment to space colonization?

WILSON: Yes, very much so. A number of studies have been done which confirm that the majority of kids in grammar school expect to go into space by the time they grow up, and I think they’re quite right in expecting that to happen. More people have been in space now than had flown the Atlantic 50 years ago. If you use aeronautics as your model, taking the years 1928 to 1978, you will find that one person flew the Atlantic in 1928, while 200 million people did so in 1978. Projecting space forward at the same rate, there’s likely to be more than 200 million people leaving Earth in 2028. Moreover, for anybody with good old American cupidity in their heart, the quickest way to become a millionaire is to invest in space technology, space industry, and so on. There’s an awful lot of raw materials out there. It represents the greatest real estate boom we’ve ever experienced.

STARSHIP: How does this square with the present lack of federal resolve in this area?

WILSON:  The government’s foot-dragging suits me fine. I would much rather see space opened to settlement by private industry than by government. I don’t think that space colonization should become a government monopoly. Sadly, the government is only interested in space from the military angle, and that has turned out to be not as significant as they thought. Moreover, government in this country is made up chiefly of lawyers, and lawyers are always oriented toward the past. What does a lawyer do when preparing a case? He looks for precedents; in other words, he looks up the past. I think if our Congress were made up largely of engineers, or if we had as many engineers in Congress as we have lawyers, Congress would be much more oriented to the future and the space program would be rocketing ahead at incredible speed.

STARSHIP: How would you respond to the argument that spending increased dollars on space and space colonization rechannels those same funds away from badly needed domestic programs?

WILSON: In the first place, I think space colonization should be carried out by private industry rather than by government, so that argument doesn’t really apply. In the second place, I think people who raise that objection don’t fully understand how much we’ve already benefited from space exploration. It’s absolutely staggering when one considers the number of technological advances that have come out of NASA and been applied here on Earth. For instance, Buckminster Fuller, in his book, I Seem to Be a Verb, includes a long list of things developed by NASA which have proven to be extremely beneficial on Earth. Moreover, Arthur Clarke has estimated that the improvement in our ability to predict the weather, brought about by the development of weather satellites, has saved the farmers alone so much money, that that in itself would support the entire space program.

STARSHIP: Do you share the view that NASA has done a poor job of selling the space program to the American people, in the sense that it has played up the development of teflon pans as opposed to major medical breakthroughs?

WILSON: Yes, I do. I think NASA has an inept and clumsy style as far as public relations go. Hell, after the success of the Moon landing, one of their top officials was quoted as saying, “This is a triumph of the crew-cut guys who aren’t ashamed to say a prayer now and then,” thereby, in one great proclamation, insulting everybody who had long hair, everybody who wasn’t male, and everybody who didn’t believe in the Judaic-Christian God. That idiot managed to offend three-fourths of the population in one fell swoop, and, of course, what he said wasn’t true. NASA was built on the efforts of scientists over the last 3,000 years, including some who had long hair, like Einstein, many who were rabid atheists, like Haeckel, some who were female, like Marie Curie, and many others who would emphatically not be regarded as respectable citizens by middle-class America. I think NASA is a masterpiece of stupidity in the field of public relations.

STARSHIP: Given the large number of by-products which have resulted from science and scientific exploration, why is it that the average American has so little knowledge of and interest in science, even at its most basic level?

WILSON: I think it’s chiefly due to the activities of organized religion. Any teacher who tried to impart a really scientific outlook to students in grammar school, or even in high school, would come in for sharp criticism; at least, to some extent, this is true even at the college level. The teacher who really tried to convey to students the skepticism of the scientific outlook, the ability to distinguish a real argument from a lot of pompous noise, would fare very badly at most institutions. Organized religion, advertising, and politics are all based on perpetuating naivete and stupidity, so none of them are anxious to see people become more intelligent and rational. They wouldn’t want to see an educated, intelligent population–they wouldn’t know how to manipulate them.

STARSHIP: Many of the concerns that run central to your life, such as mysticism, the occult, and magick are often themselves the butt of ridicule on the part of large numbers of people. They’re frequently dismissed as too bizarre or outlandish to warrant serious examination. Why do people go to such great lengths to discredit that which they don’t understand?

WILSON: Well, it’s a question of hive solidarity. Every mammalian or insect colony is terrified of the mutant or the one who doesn’t play his assigned role in the hive or the pack. For example, the German secret police, at one point, were trailing Emanuel Kant around, and his philosophy had nothing to do with politics, really; the fact that he was a rational, thinking human being was enough to frighten them out of their wits. Right now, the occult is the area we’re not supposed to think about. It frightens people much the same way.

STARSHIP: Another salient idea that looms large in your writing is that of immortality and the entire question of life extension. How did you become interested in this area?

WILSON: It came gradually. I heard about cryonics in the late 1960s, and at that time it seemed like a very long shot to me. Then in the early 1970s, I started hearing about various new approaches to life extension. The more I heard about the subject, the more interested I became. I now believe it’s very likely that within this generation, we will see the first dramatic breakthrough in longevity. I would not want to predict what the first breakthrough would give us in terms of additional years, but assuming that we each had only 30 more years than we presently have, that means most of us would be living on to the point where the more enthusiastic researchers into life extension could conceivably raise our life span to 400 years or more. There are presently a number of scientists, such as Dr. Paul Siegal, who believe we can raise human life to 400 or 800 years. Even if they’re a generation premature, I think we’re going to see a dramatic jump in life expansion in this generation, which means that we’ll live on for another generation of researchers. These researchers will very likely achieve what the more optimistic researchers today are aiming at: life spanning the centuries, then the millenniums.

STARSHIP: Many of your books call upon the reader to view the world from alternative perspectives. As you see it, what are some of the best ways to bring about this mind-expansion?

WILSON: I really don’t know of any legitimate way to do it to somebody else. Almost any way you do it to somebody else is disguised brainwashing. The only legitimate one to experiment on is yourself, I think. Of course, if you’re a professional therapist and people come to you voluntarily, that’s quite a different matter. I don’t approve, though, of involuntary commitment to mental hospitals. I think there are many known ways of changing people’s heads around–putting them into a different reality–ranging from chemical methods to electro-shock to isolation to the traditional brainwashing techniques used by totalitarian governments. I object to all of these methods, unless the person has volunteered to have his brain changed. As far as experimenting on oneself is concerned, I think that’s one’s constitutional right, and no government has the authority to interfere with it. If people want to alter their consciousness with heroin, for example, they have that right. If they want to try electro-shock, they have that right. If they want to go through scientology, they have that right. Nobody, however, has the right to give them heroin against their will, or electro-shock against their will, or force them into scientology against their will, or force them to do anything against their will.

STARSHIP: For you personally, what kinds of mind-expansion techniques have proven most valuable?

WILSON: To be absolutely honest, I can’t be sure what techniques have benefited me the most, mainly because I’ve tried so many different techniques. I don’t know which ones deserve the most credit or blame for where my head is at. With that caveat, I suspect the techniques which have helped me the most have been the ones I’ve learned from Tim Leary and Aleister Crowley. However, I’ve tried so many different techniques that I can’t evaluate their individual effects. For example, I may have derived tangible benefits out of general semantics 25 years after I stopped studying it. I was in rather orthodox Freudian therapy back in my 20s, and that may have loosened me up to a considerable extent. Maybe that’s why I was able to respond more favorably to LSD than many other people who have experimented with its use.

STARSHIP: Many people view mind expanding drugs, such as LSD, as extremely dangerous, both to the individual and to society at large. How would you respond to the charge that the use of drugs, such as LSD, have extremely deleterious consequences, and that the potential benefits are not worth the possible risks?

WILSON: As you suggest, LSD is a powerful brain-change agent. As such, it’s extremely dangerous to the average American, especially those who don’t use it, but just read about it. It creates all sorts of paranoid trips in them. Among those who use it, I’ve seen some serious damage done. However, I think the benefits are also tremendous, particularly when used by professionals who really understand what they’re doing. In short, LSD is a potentially beneficial change-agent, but there are very few people capable of using it effectively at the present time. As a result, I discourage its widespread use, especially since most of what’s called LSD these days, is not LSD at all, but all sorts of things containing varying degrees of speed and other garbage.

STARSHIP: Timothy Leary has had a profound impact on you, both in terms of your life and work. How would you assess his overall influence on modern society?

WILSON: Leary has made a number of important contributions. In the first place, the Leary Interpersonal Grid is one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in the nation. In fact, it was used on Leary himself when he first arrived in the California prison system. An understanding of the grid will give you a better appreciation of yourself and other people. Leary’s comprehension of LSD is, I think, superior to any other scientist who has written about it; he understands it and knows how to use it constructively. He recognizes, as few others do, that LSD suspends the printed neurological programs of one’s life, thereby creating imprint vulnerability, in which a new imprint can be created. This means that if one is working with someone who understands LSD, or the person himself understands it, it is possible to create an entirely new ego for oneself. On the other hand, if one is simply experimenting casually with it, one is likely to imprint anything (including delusions).

STARSHIP: A prominent theme that runs throughout your writing is that of libertariansim. How would you like to see the government reshaped, recast, so that it would be more in line with libertarian thought and practice?

WILSON: First of all, I would like to see all of the “top secret” and “confidential” stamps thrown in the Potomac. I would like the government to be totally open. A government that hides things from its own people becomes implicitly totalitarian and, as we have seen in the last 20 years, explicitly totalitarian very rapidly. I don’t think government should ever hide things from its citizens. So, if I were asked to reform things, the first thing I would do is pass a law requiring the government to open its activities to scrutiny by any citizen, simply on the basis of being a citizen. Anybody should have the right to walk into any building in Washington and say, “I want to see what’s going on here!” and nothing should be hidden from them. If we don’t have that, we don’t have democracy.

STARSHIP: In addition to openness in government, what other areas of American life would you reform?

WILSON: I’m all for the taxpayers’ revolt which started here among the genetic mutants in California. I would like to see it spread throughout the entire country. I think the ideal government would be supported entirely by voluntary contributions, like any other business contraption. If people think they’re getting something useful from government, they’ll be glad to pay for it. If not, they won’t. I think government should compete on the free market with Lockheed, General Motors, and the Pinkerton Detective Agency. If one wants protection, one should have the right to choose whether one wants the FBI or the Pinkertons. I don’t especially trust the FBI, so if I felt I needed protection, I would personally go to the Pinkertons. I think government should be a free-market operation which buys and sells its wares to the public. That way, the people can buy them if they want or ignore them. They shouldn’t have to buy them simply because the government says they should. The idea that one has to buy something whether one wants it or not is simply a rationalization for exploitation. Taxation is merely robbery under another name. If one doesn’t have a choice about what’s happening to one’s money, then one’s simply being robbed.

STARSHIP: Do you favor volunteerism when it comes to providing for people who are unable to provide for themselves?

WILSON: If we were to make the reforms I’ve already mentioned, and go full speed ahead with space industrialization and longevity research, then everybody would have space enough, time enough, and eventually intelligence enough to not be in need of charity. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t cut welfare for the poor, but I would eliminate it for the rich.

STARSHIP: The criticism is often voiced that ours is a cultureless society, that we have contributed little to the development of Western Civilization. Do you share this point of view?

WILSON: Hell, no! I only need point to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the design innovations of Buckminster Fuller, and the writings of William Faulkner, Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Chandler. I also think jazz has proven to be a singular contribution to the world’s music. I think the Modern Jazz Quartet will some day be looked back at in the same way we look back at Vivaldi.

STARSHIP: Finally, in recent years, it has become fashionable to deride television and its influence on modern society. How would you assess the impact of television on American life?

WILSON: Oh, man, there you’ve got me on one of my favorite subjects. I really think television is 100 times better than most literary intellectuals admit. I think that “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” in its two seasons on the air, was better than anything done in movies, in novels, or on Broadway at the time. As far as I’m concerned, television was the major art medium of the country for those two seasons. Movies, the stage, and literature were totally out-done. The combination of social realism, coupled with black comedy, was masterful. They really made it work! In looking at the show from minute-to-minute, you never knew whether you were going to laugh or cry. The artistic ambiguity was handled brilliantly. I think there has been a lot of other good things on television, too. Since most science-fiction fans despise “trekkies,” let me go on record as saying that I’m an ardent “trekkie” myself. I love the show. I also think “The Prisoner” is as good as any movie of our generation. In brief, I think television has come in for a lot of very unfair criticism. Of course, it’s primarily the fault of the networks themselves. It’s extremely irritating to look at something first-rate, only to have it interrupted by those idiotic commercials every seven minutes.

STARSHIP: Thank you, Robert Anton Wilson.

(posted across usenet by Dan Clore)

High Times Interview, 1980

Robert Anton Wilson

The Author of The Illuminatus Trilogy Expounds on Multiple Realities, Guerrilla Ontology, LSD, Life Extension and Things that Go Bump in the Night

By Michael Hollingshead

from High Times #56, April 1980

On the back of every U.S. one-dollar bill sits the Great Pyramid, eye blazing omni-di­rectionally from its apex, all a part of the Great Seal of the United States of America. Though this symbol is usually traced back to the myths and legends of the Masons, the full story of the Great Pyramid was finally revealed with the publication of the Illuminatus trilogy.

Written during 1968-69 by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, at that time both editors at Playboy, the Illuminatus trilogy has gone on to become one of the great classics of the last decade. A science-fic­tion epic, a detective story, a weaving to­gether of most of the known conspiracy theories of the past five millennia, the Illu­minatus trilogy is an inkblot of modern times: funny, wild, scary, sexy, political, philosophical, mystical-in short, modern moksha medicine.

Illuminatus captivates the reader with its incredibly complex plots, subplots, over ­and underplots, its madcap humor, its yellow submarine, its explanation for the Jack Kennedy assassination, its armies of revivified Nazi soldiers marching up from the depths of a Swiss lake in the middle of a rock concert, as well as its anarcholiber­tarian political philosophy. The trilogy has already been published in English (Dell), German, French, Japanese and Swedish.

It has also been adapted for the stage and performed in a nine-hour version by the National Theatre Company of London. Over the past three years other presenta­tions of the stage version have been seen in Liverpool and Cambridge,England, and in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Seattle. The film version of the Illuminatus is currently in preproduction.

Robert Anton Wilson has been bringing back communication from the farthest reaches of the mind and culture for more & than a decade. Described by anthropologist Roger Wescott as a polymath, Wilson sees his role as artist-psychologist (Ph.D.) enabling him to plumb the collective genet­ic archives for the myths that will deter­mine our future.

Born in Brooklyn on the 18th of January, 1932, Wilson says: “I share most of the traits associated with all the great Capri­corns: Jesus, Cary Grant, Joseph Stalin and Georges Gurdjieff.” His interests range far and wide over modern times: life exten­sion, new theories of physics, intelligence increase, space travel and settlements (he is an active member of the L-5 Society and often lectures on topics concerned with the future move into space).

His interests in life-extension research were put to a supreme test with the violent death of his teenage daughter, the victim of a robbery. Wilson and his wife made ar­rangements for the brain of their deceased child to be preserved in cryogenic suspen­sion; awaiting medical and brain-computer advances that might enable identity recon­struction at some future time.

Wilson’s involvement with the Physics Consciousness Research Group in the San Francisco Bay Area (they have made him chief literary spokesman for their more far-out ideas) may well yield the results necessary for such things as brain-to-brain communication and identity reconstruc­tion. His other interests and activities touch on topics as varied as astronomy, sex, magic, psychopharmacology and con­spiratorial history.

In order that his readers might better follow Bob Wilson as he charts the un­known, he published a “neurological auto­biography” entitled Cosmic Trigger (Pocket Books) in 1978. He has also written Sex and Drugs (Playboy Press) and coauthored, with Timothy Leary, Neuropolitics (Peace Press). His latest work of fiction, The Uni­verse Next Door (published earlier this year by Pocket Books), is the first volume of a tetralogy called Schrodinger’s Cat. The three volumes ofIlluminatus and the four volumes of Schrodinger’s Cat are part of a series of 12 novels Wilson intends to com­plete that will cover the entire scope of mystical, conspiratorial and scientific his­tory from 1776 through the 21st century.

Robert Anton Wilson, epistemologist, magician, psychedelic pioneer and master wordsmith, is one of the most exciting and imaginative talkers of the late 20th century. Michael Hollingshead talked with Bob high above the hills of Berkeley,California.


High Times: One critic has described Illuminatus as a “psychedelic novel.” What is a psychedelic novel?

Wilson: Illuminatus is a psychedelic novel in the sense that it is a novel of initiation and revelation in which the characters go through various forms of brain-change. Robert Shea and I were generally dis­mayed and pissed off by the stupidities of American politics in the late ’60s, when we began it. We had this strong drive to write a satire on all political movements, all the way across the spectrum.

High Times: The book that followed, Cosmic Trigger, was that also in the psy­chedelic mode?

Wilson: Well, I regard it more as “guer­rilla ontology.” The reader is challenged to decide what’s real and what’s fantasy. My books are the literary equivalent of magi­cal initiation. That’s the sort of thing you face when you get involved in conscious­ness games.

Hiigh Times: In other words, your books are intended to turn readers on?

Wilson: Yes. They’re intended to provide the literary equivalent of LSD or of magical initiation. I want the reader to ask the hard­est question in philosophy: What’s real? Most people think they know what’s real, but they don’t at all.

High Times: Really?

Wilson: People just know what they were conditioned to think of as real.

High Times: The Illuminati themselves are members of a mystical, secret brother­hood whose origins go back a very long time indeed but whose membership has had an upsurge since the so-called modern phase began in the Bavaria of the late 18th century. Have you ever met any of the Illu­minati yourself?

Wilson: I’ve met quite a few people who claim to be part of the Illumininati. Like I say somewhere in Cosmic Trigger, the final secret may be that you don’t know you’re a member until it’s too late to get out.

High Times: You said just now that you’ were pissed off with the stupidities of American politics in the late ’60s. We are now starting on the ’80s. Are we less or more free today than we were ten years ago?

Wilson: Oh, I think we are a much freer country today than we were back in 1960, in many dimensions. Of course, there’s a bit of a backlash building up against the new freedom, but that was only to be ex­pected. By and large, I think the drug revo­lution had a good effect on America, despite individual casualties. I wish it could have been handled more intelligent­ly, but I guess you don’t have major social changes without a certain amount of up­heaval. So it was perhaps only natural that there would be a certain number of bad trips, and a lot of people getting thrown into jail, and scientific research stopped, and so on. You’ve got to go through these upheavals before a new stage of evolution is stabilized.

High Times: Is there still a future in drugs? What about the year 2000? Will we be turning on then?

Wilson: Well, long before the year 2000 we’re going to have a much bigger drug revolution than we had in the ’60s.

High Times: What sort of drugs?

Wilson: I think psychiatrists, clinical psy­chologists, and so on, will have more and more specific drugs for every type of emo­tional problem. I agree with Nathan Klein and the recent McGraw-Hill poll of scien­tists that the majority of the scientific Com­munity predicts that we’ll soon have drugs to permanently raise your intelligence, for example. I’ve seen this coming for a long time.

High Times: You seem to be talking only of the therapeutic application of drugs. What about drugs for recreational pur­poses?

Wilson: Oh, sure, there will be many more of them. To mention Nathan Klein again, he thinks we’ll have perfectly safe intoxi­cant drugs in the year 2000. I think that marijuana and LSD and everything that has caused so much controversy will be phased out by a much more precise, specific pre­scription type of approach. People will be able to find out just what they need, just the right thing for their mental state at a given time, and they will up-level them to a higher mental state. A friend of mine who is a psychiatrist has predicted, for in­stance, that within 15 years people will be able to go to a psychiatrist and he’ll have a standard set of tests and about 30 differ­ent drugs. After giving you the battery of tests, he will prescribe a drug that’s just right for what’s bothering you. I think that is definitely the direction we’re moving in – control of the nervous system by the ner­vous system. We should be free to choose the circuits in the brain we want to use and not be robots subject to others’ imprints and conditioning.

High Times: You mean people ought to have the freedom to deprogram and re­program their nervous systems?

Wilson: That’s right.

High Times: But doesn’t LSD do that now to some extent?

Wilson: Oh, yes, to a very great extent. But I don’t think LSD is specific enough. I think in some ways it’s a little bit freaky and unpredictable. It needs a very good therapist indeed to get the best results out of it. Its use as a recreational drug has been a mixed blessing. It has done a lot of good for some people, and some people have gone completely ape under it. I think we’ll have much more specific forms of brain-change drugs in the next 10 to 15 years.

High Times: How did you first get interest­ed in psychedelic drugs? Was it as a result of meeting Dr. Timothy Leary?

Wilson: It had nothing to do with Tim. I didn’t hear of Tim until about one year after my first peyote trip. I was turned on first by a Quaker who had discovered pey­ote through Aldous Huxley’s books and was convinced that it was an aid to reli­gious awareness. And he became such an enthusiast of peyote that he went around turning on all his friends. You know, the picture painted by the mass media was en­tirely false. Many people were turned on originally by religious people.

High Times: And many by psychiatrists.

Wilson: Yes. Cary Grant, for example, was turned on by a psychiatrist in Los Angeles.

High Times: Why did a lot of people sud­denly start taking LSD and other psyche­delic drugs in the early ’60s and, indeed, throughout that decade?

Wilson: Most people were seeking to ex­pand their consciousness in order to become freer, higher human beings. Everyone was fantastically idealistic in those days. And at that time there was no criminal element at all. That came later when some people saw that they could make. a profit out of psychedelics, when the government stupidly made the whole thing illegal, thereby shooting the profits sky-high.

High Times: You have pointed out that the religious component was always very strong in the psychedelic sphere. I agree that many people who have used these drugs in this way do obtain a sense of what religious life is really all about, even that the mystical, revelatory experience, via drugs or not, is also a means of expanding one’s consciousness. Do you think that religion could ever become a true science?

Wilson: (Laughing) I really should be elo­quent on that subject and not be sloppy. I feel that through the work of Leary and John Lilly and Stanislav Grof and Stan Krippner and others that we are starting to learn precise, operational, scientific procedures for altering human conscious­ness, or “brain-change” as Tim likes to say. It’s a good word, brain-change. I think, though, we have always had a sci­ence of brain-change. After all, shamans all over the world have known techniques, including drugs and various types of ritual initiation, that cause rapid brain-change and the imprinting of new circuits. Even though these techniques have been used and acknowledged over many thousands of years, it is only in very recent times that we are getting a much more precise, sci­entific slant on how they work. And I think this is something completely new in histo­ry. Science – in the modern Western sense – when it appeared 300 years ago, was something completely new and it totally revolutionized the world. It’s still revolu­tionizing the world: It’s the most revo­lutionary force on this planet. But the sudden joining of the scientific revolution with the revolution of sensibility, or mys­ticism, that occurred in the ’60s, and chiefly via the new range of psychedelic drugs by modern synthetic chemistry, is something even newer.

We’ve got a completely new kind of scientist these days. I know quite a few physicists, for example, who’ve used LSD, and I think it has definitely mutated them to a state where they understand physics in a completely new way. They have a kind of emotional and existential relationship with the subatomic world, which-before LSD-was only a theoretical one. There are sociologists whose work shows the influence of LSD. And there are modern psy­chologists who were once involved in LSD research who believe that people can learn how to change their reality. Modern thinking is getting a whole new view of the fact that there is no given reality. Reality is simply something created by our nervous systems and our experiences as we go along. And I think this insight is completely revolutionizing all the sciences. We I have produced an entirely new mentality I that has never existed in history before, I yet one that is both scientific and mystical.

High Times: You seem to attach a lot of significance to the religious component of the psychedelic experience. I’m sure you don’t mean the sort of religion you get in church each Sunday. On the other hand, can you envisage LSD, or any psychedelic for that matter, ever being used in a sacra­mental way in a church kind of structure?

Wilson: I think the ideal way to do psychedelics is in a group.  I don’t think our socie­ty is ready yet for taking psychedelics in a religious context, but I believe that was the way these hallucinogenic substances were used in Vedic times inIndia and also in ancient Greece. From surviving refer­ences it seems to me that they were using a drug plus a ritual to get the person to a specific state of consciousness, what Stan Grof calls the “phylogenetic unconscious,” and Tim Leary the “neurogenetic circuits.” It is the stage where you remem­ber all the genetic archives and the fact that you’ve lived hundreds of thousands of lives before, animal as well as human.

High Times: This brings us naturally to a topic of great interest: life extension. Is it possible that modern science will some day come up with an answer to the prob­lem of dying?

Wilson: I think the breakthrough is definitely coming in the next five years. Some people say it won’t occur for the next 10 to 15 years, but I think they are be­ing unduly pessimistic. I see the momen­tum of the research accelerating. I have absolute confidence that by 1990 I’m going to be younger than I am today. This is the first generation in history where you could say something like that with some degree of sanity. (Laughs.) I really do think that in 1990 I will be younger and more vigorous than I am at this present moment!

High Times: Some scientists have predict­ed that they will be able to increase the human life span to 800 years. Is that a more or less accurate figure?

Wilson: There are various estimates right now. A very good friend of mine, Dr. Paul Segal, has been doing life-extension re­search for 17 years and he prefers the figure 400 to 500 years. Others put it much higher. However, once you’ve suc­ceeded in extending the life span, even if only by 50 years, you could expect that during those 50 years there will be further jumps-say, being able to extend life for 100 years or 200 years – and it could go on forever. It’s a thinkable thought. Alan Har­rington, an extremist who calls himself an immoralist, thinks that we can go on mak­ing these jumps in life extension and some of us will never have to die at all. It is something so new that it is a difficult con­cept to grapple with.

High Times: Isn’t this something many of the new gurus are also saying? And even though they may refer to eternal life in some other, more cosmic dimension, they do seem to be saying that the “particular Me” can live on in some form forever and forever. What do you think about gurus? Ram Dass [Dr. Richard Alpert], Swami Prem Dharmo and Dr. George Litwin come to mind.

Wilson: Well, I leave it to Tim Leary to cri­ticize those people. I prefer to think well of my fellow humans and to be as charitable as possible in my judgments. I am remind­ed of something Bucky Fuller said when he was asked what he thought about the Han­cock Building in Chicago: “I can’t think of anything good to say about it so I’d rather not say anything.” (Laughs.)

High Times: How do you feel, then, about traditional religion?

Wilson: I don’t think it’s a big advance to go back to the metaphysics and philosophy of 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. To the extent that gurus tell you to abolish mind and just go with the flow-I think that’s fine for a holiday. I don’t see it as a way of life. I think it gets pretty boring after a while. I want to know more and more precise things. However, I think you can learn a great deal from Tibetan Buddhism, from Zen, from the Hindus. My own preference, amongst all these movements, is Sufism, because Sufism seems to be more dynamic and more of a confrontation with the real world. I can also agree with the Sufis that mere ecstasy is not the goal of life. But all these trips are interesting if you learn something from them, and I think the more you know about everything the better.

High Times: Have you yourself ever duplicated the LSD experience without us­ing drugs?

Wilson: (Laughs.) I’ve done it through Cabalistic magic.

High Times: How did you do that?

Wilson: Well, I think I sort of explained that in Cosmic Trigger. Basically, Cabalistic magic is a complicated way of brainwashing yourself so you can find reality in a variety of entirely different ways. I also think that Cabalistic magic is much easier to do after you’ve done some psychedelics, when you’re used to going through brain-changes. At least, I have found it easier than it is traditionally sup­posed to be, and I attribute this to the fact that I had been experimenting on myself with psychedelics before I got into magic.

High Times: Cabalistic magic, as far as I am able to understand it, makes use of an elaborate symbol system, as indeed does the modern physicist, to tell something about the nature of reality or realities.

Wilson: Cabalistic magic is a way of relat­ing to symbols that turn everything into a joke, eventually, but a joke with a lot of poignant point to it, with lots of astonish­ing surprises on the way.

High Times: Do you know of any ongoing LSD research in this country at the mo­ment?

Wilson: The only research I know any­thing about is all illegal. I don’t know of any legal research.

High Times: It is quite possible that the CIA is still using psychedelics as tools for brainwashing.

Wilson: Well, how are you going to stop the CIA from abusing any technology? As a libertarian, I feel that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. I think it was, has been, and always will be a continuous struggle against the tendency of power groups to use any new technology, or any old technology, for that matter. Yet I think there is an innately self-defeating quality in the power game as it’s played by politi­cians on this planet, especially in the way they use secrecy. I believe the more secre­tive a government, the more it destroys its own effectiveness in the long run. My long­ range hope is based on the notion that eventually power groups will corne to realize this fact themselves, as they will also come to realize that in order to func­tion more intelligently they will need to get more accurate feedback. This means that they have to stop the whole mania of mak­ing things secret and conspiring against their own people, and so on. As Bert Brecht once said, if the government doesn’t trust the people, why doesn’t it dissolve and elect a new people?

I really do think that secrecy is the main cause of most of the problems of the modern world. Any society with a secret police (such as Soviet Russia or Nazi Ger­many or even the United States today) is playing russian roulette with itself. Secrecy breeds paranoia. It creates prob­lems more than it solves problems. Even the people who employ the secret police eventually get paranoid of the monster they helped to create. Nixon was paranoid about his own secret police. Stalin execut­ed three chiefs of the Soviet secret police in a row. You see, the secret police always have the capacity to get more power than any other branch of government. They can blackmail everybody. Even if they don’t do it, those employing them always worry that they might.

The more authoritarian a society becomes, the less feedback there is. The more communication jamming there is, the more inaccurate a picture people have of everybody else, which is why you get these wild, crazy, fear syndromes that have swept across America periodically ever since the National Security Act of 1947. I think at this point in our nation’s history the most constructive things that can be done are essentially nonpolitical, like advancing space industrialization and the human life span, and raising human in­telligence.

High Times: Should anything be banned? Should anything be made illegal in a democratic society? I think it was Truman Capote who said nothing should be banned, except murder. What do you think?

Wilson: I would add that people committing acts of fraud and force against us I should be legislated against. None of us want to be defrauded. And any laws going beyond that point are just impertinences. (Laughs.)

High Times: One last question: Dr, Wilson, what is your business?

Wilson: My business is making people see that there’s more than one reality.

Illuminatus! Play Interview


The ILLUMINATUS! Play Interview

(This interview conducted in March of 1977 first came across my radar in an odd little ‘zine, Weird Trips, Issue #2, 1978.  I later rediscovered it in the infosphere via James Nye.  Apparently it originates from a “fanatic supplement” dual titled “Illuminatus!” and “Immortalist,” that was distributed for the National Theatre run of the play. It was later published in Sphinx Magazine , Issue No. 1, 1978.)

Fortean Times issue 17 (August 1976) announced on page 23 that Ken Campbell (Honorary Member of the Isle of Wight Fortean Society) had written a cycle of five plays based on the Illuminatus! trilogy, and that from 23rd November there would be a different play (each consisting of five 23 minute acts) each night from Tuesday to Saturday, with the entire cycle being performed on the Sunday in a “bum-numbing marathon.” The cycle was performed at the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Drama and Pun at18 Matthew St,Liverpool. “Ken assures me,” FT continued, “that the plays will make brains boggle, and will be the biggest thing in the theatre for some years. If you can, read the novels before you go, so you won’t miss any of the intricacies or paranoia.”

The same issue of FT contained a review of the Immortal Trilogy on pages 26 to 27, which I quote in full:

A rambling story that trips through the Kennedy assassinations; a plot to release a heinous Anthrax-Leprosy virus; the notorious Chicago convention; how Hagbard Celine, the last of the freebooters, bought the Mafia with gold looted from an Atlantean temple; how ‘they’ shot a fake John Dillinger, leaving five colones on the loose; a revolution on the small island of Fernando Poo inspired by the minions of Chthulu; a whole regiment of Nazi stormtroopers in suspended animation on the bed of a Swiss lake awaiting activation by a rockgroup bent on world domination. Meet talking dolphins; Adam Weishaupt, who founded the Illuminati in 1776 (yeah! on 1st May, too) then fled to America when the sect got busted, changing his name to George Washington, and tending his huge marijuana plantations (why d’you think he looks so stoned on the dollar bill?) Padre Pederasty who recruits for numerous anarchist movements all using each other as cover; Atlanta Hope who uses her frightful anti-porn female militia, God’s Lightning, as one of the outlets for he operations as an Illuminatus; and many other cranks, dreamers, liberators and their victims.

This is a compendium of madness culled from all the key books of the (what used to be underground) culture on everything you can milk or laughs or shudders – drugs, sex, black magic, sex, comix, sex, horror & fantasy, sex, secret societies and even sex – written into a gut-busting, brain-withering riot guaranteed to become a cult novel (Tolkien will be spinning in his grave) and packed with enough paranoia to keep you glancing furtively over your shoulder for weeks. The authors prove the penis [sic] mightier than the sword on a philosophical battleground that draws on Lovecraft, Leary, Hassan-i-Sabbah, Kesey & Ginsberg, the Tzu brothers (Lao & Chuang), the Zen masters, Crowley & Levi, and other apostles, true and false, in the ancient conflicts between orthodoxy and unorthodoxy, the state and the individual, establishments and iconoclasts, us and them. Is the world really run by the Illuminati, and are a confused bunch of dope freaks really our last chance? Who is the lama who lives belowDealyPlaza and juggles with space-time? Why do our heroes stand by while a giant leviathan makes love to their computer? Is there any truth to the significance of the numbers 5, 23 and 33, upon which the entire novel is structured? (Be prepared for streams of consciousness in which not only identity but time and space no longer confine the narrative, which zips up and down time-lines and flashes into other minds with consummate ease.)

A damned good read. Has to be read to be believed (and even then I’m not sure – it really is preposterous in parts). See if you can spot all the allusions. Though Fort has only one fleeting mention that I can remember, the authors are fully aware of the Fortean philosophy, and indeed, the scope of the book is a brilliant exercise in Fortean flexibility, and an outrageous mirror of modern folly.

I think they liked it – and so have thousands of readers ever since. These pages are dedicated to the two Bobs’ Immortal Trilogy and the legendary Ken Campbell stage production, and are mounted in the hope that the show can be resurrected, so that those of us who love the book, but were just too young to go to the play, can at last catch up on what we missed. And if anyone thinks they might like to make a film of it too, that would be nice. My hope is that Daisy Eris Campbell, who is currently studying for an MA in production, and who owes her existence to the show where her parents Ken Campbell and Pru Gee met, will mount a production in time to celebrate the book’s 30th anniversary in 2006.

For the National Theatre run of the show (which included fantastic sets and design by Bill Drummond, who went on to become art terrorist and mainstay of leftfield pop-band KLF [a name, along with JAMM -Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – taken from the novel]), John Mackay and Heathcote Williams produced an Illuminatus/Immortalist ‘fanatic supplement’. It was designed by Richard Adams, with photos by Alan Bell and H. Murphy. Reproduced below are some pictures from that supplement, plus the interview with Robert Anton Wilson and the late Robert Shea. Robert Anton Wilson’s daughter had tragically been killed by thieves during an attempted robbery four months before the interview took place. Robert Anton Wilson movingly describes the efforts he and his many friends made to preserve Luna so that she might have life in the future. The interview also reflects Bob’s interest in life extension and immortality, the subject of the flipside of the supplement.

Bob Shea and Robert Anton Wilson are the authors of the 800-page SF epic, Illuminatus! Its subject is the history of the human race and the cloven-hoofed barbarism of contemporary politic. It’s no exaggeration to call it the foremost work of anarchist fiction to date. The interviews which follow took place inLondon in March 1977 on the occasion of the opening at the National Theatre of the 8-and-a-half hour stage version by Ken Campbell and Chris Langham’s Science Fiction Company ofLiverpool.

Fanatic: How far is Illuminatus a work of fiction and how far is it a work of fact?

Bob Shea: An intelligent person who looks at it will immediately recognise that it’s a put-on. But then there’s another level beyond that, where the fantasy blends in with the reality to the point where it’s not that easy to determine whether you’re being put on or whether it’s real. I myself keep changing my judgement about which parts of the book are real and which parts are fantasy.

Fanatic: Has anything happened since you finished the book to confirm you in your uncertainty?

Bob Shea: Yes, there have been a number if things that seem to bear out the direction we were going in: the discovery of the link between the Mafia and the CIA and their attempt to assassinate Castro. The existence of the informal international organisation of financiers called he Bilderbergers, who meet once a year and seem to determine the financial fate of the earth. The Trilateral Commission, similar to the Bilderbergers, headed by David Rockerfeller. This Commission seems to have membered at least two recent presidents of the US. The symbol of the Trilateral Commission is a triangle and the symbol of the Illuminati is an eye in a triangle. So as soon as I heard of the Trilateral Commission I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t the Illuminati at work again! Then there’s the groups in Illuminatus that seemed to foreshadow little suicidal terrorist groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Fanatic: What about the curious, rambling structure of the book?

Robert Anton Wilson: What we were trying to get away from was the assumed omniscience which writers have employed in the past. Nowadays, scientists admit they don’t know everything – there’s more than one model for what’s going on – on the subatomic level or the cosmological level. Liberal clergymen will admit their religion is not necessarily the only true one. And yet novels are written as if there’s at once a level at which the novelist knows everything. And the reader is just supposed to accept it. What we’ve done in Illuminatus! is to give several versions of reality and let the reader decide for himself or herself which one is the most believable. And then people ask us which is our real explanation. Our answer is we don’t know any better than anybody else. Everybody should think for themselves.

Fanatic: What about the book’s attitude to authority?

Robert Anton Wilson: The major song at the close of the play is, ‘Now Look What You Made Me Do!’ The phrase comes from Laurel and Hardy. Hardy does something completely asinine and then he turns toLaureland says, ‘Now look what you made me do!’ We’ve built that into the book as a sort of paradigm of the sort of things that go on in authoritarian, pyramidal societies, where everybody is looking upwards to get orders. Most people, if there are no orders coming, don’t know what to do and they sit around waiting for the next order, We’re trying to cure people of that ‘Now-look-what-you -made-me-do!’ reflex. It caused Buchenwald, Belsen,Hiroshima,Vietnam, the Crusades, the Holy Inquisition, the conquest ofMexico. As Gurdjieff said during the First World War: ‘It’s obvious that everybody on this planet is asleep. If those men were to wake up they’d throw their guns down and go home to their families right away.’ In addition to the play and the books, there’s an organisation known as the Discordian Society which is distributing cards making every man, woman, and child on the planet a Pope. We want everybody to recognise their own divinity and infallibility and stop looking outside themselves for orders.

Fanatic: Hagbard Celine, the book’s Discordian superhero, says – and it’s among the closing lines of the play: ‘Life on earth remains a tragedy as it ends with the death trip. My next projects are a starship to find some sane minds in this galaxy , and an immortality pill to end the death trip.’ Bob Wilson, You’ve become very involved in what’s become known as the Immortalist Movement. In theUSbooks seem to be coming out all the time with titles like Superlongevity, Man Into Superman, and No More Dying. How did you first get into the immortalist concept?

Robert Anton Wilson: Curiously enough, Bob Shea was the first one to start turning me on to the concept. At the time, in the mid-sixties, I couldn’t see any point in it. It seemed to me that it was at least a generation premature. It was such a long shot and so damned expensive. Nobody could afford cryonic suspension, as it’s called, except the very rich. Then in 1973 a whole bunch of weird things happened.

I began to have the impression I was receiving communications from Sirius, the double star nine light years away. [Timothy] Leary began to have the idea he was receiving extraterrestrial communications. And there was a whole bunch of weird synchronicities involving Uri Geller and some physicists I know. My Sirius experience started on 23 July 1973. The fact that it was on the 23rd blew my mind, because 23 has tremendous importance in Illuminatus. 23 has been a big number for me for some time.

Fanatic: This happened after you’d finished the book?

Robert Anton Wilson: We finished the book in 1971. On 23 July 1973 the Sirius thing began. Then I found 23 July was the day the Egyptian priests started all their rituals to Sirius, which continued until 8 September. These days were known as the days of the Dog Star, Sirius. I started getting these Sirius flashes before I knew about that. It was all so Jungian and weird that I began to think it was more than synchronicity, and that there was real communication going on and that I had tuned into it – into an interstellar ESP channel. As a result of the mental transformations I went through, I started developing pre-cognition and a heavy level of ESP. I found myself projecting to other parts of the country. All these things confirmed that it wasn’t just my imagination. I had objective evidence that I was seeing the future. I began to think through my experiments with certain kinds of kabbalistic magic. I had hooked into some real occult tradition that’s been going on since Ancient Egypt, that involved contact with extraterrestrials.

I abandoned that model around October 1974 when I developed a series of better models for the experience, in which I decided that I was turning on to higher circuits of my own nervous system. Unable to accept I was doing it all myself, I had to project like shamans usually do. I began to see that what Don Juan calls his allies – the Holy Guardian Angel of the kabbalah, my extraterrestrials – were symbols of the right lobe of my brain. I saw it that way until 23 July 1976, at which point I decided to do another experiment to see if I could get back in touch with Sirius. I re-entered the belief system, as John Lilly would say, that the extraterrestrial thing was real and working within that system. I did rituals to contact Sirius again and get objective evidence that it was really happening. Then, the next week, Time magazine had a full page review of The Sirius Mystery by Robert Temple. I immediately went out and bought it and found that he’s got tons of evidence that some kind of contact did happen around [the time of] ancientEgypt. He thinks they came here in a space ship. I think it’s more likely that techniques of interstellar ESP were worked out. As we say in Illuminatus, if you open your own eye fully you can see with every eye in the Universe. But I repeat that this is only one model of the experience. I agree with John Lilly and Aleister Crowley that you shouldn’t be satisfied with any one model. What’s going on is beyond our present concepts and, whatever model you use, you should regard it as tentative and temporary.

The whole explosion that was going on in ’73 involved a lot of weird synchronicities. Geller was working with these physicists I know who had their minds thoroughly blown. Mysterious hawks kept manifesting round Geller – the hawk Horus. None of these people were aware ofCrowley’s prophecies about the hawk-headed god who would manifest in the 1980s. One guy inTexasclaimed he was teleported thirty miles in his car – car and all – by Geller. A hawk appeared circling around the car right after that. A physicist I know called Saul Paul Sirac took LSD and went to Geller’s apartment and said: ‘Can I see the extraterrestrials while I’m on LSD?’ Geller said: ‘Look into my eyes.’ He looked into his eyes and Geller’s head turned into the head of a hawk. And he didn’t know about the guy inTexas, and he didn’t know that Puharich had been followed aroundIsraelby a hawk when he first visited Geller!

Fanatic: Can you describe what you experienced from when you woke up in the morning that day on 23 July 1973?

Robert Anton Wilson: I keep a magic diary by my bed to record whatever is left over from my dreams as I wake up. That’s a diary in which I record all of my consciousness-expanding experiments, whether with drugs, ritual, yoga or in dreams.

Fanatic: A hypnagogic diary?

Robert Anton Wilson: Not just that. I record things that happen in rituals, subjective and objective, what happens on an LSD trip – all sorts of right lobe activity. That morning I woke up with a very strong message and I had to get it down right away: ‘Sirius is very important.’ That was the beginning of it. I’d done a very powerful ritual the night before.

Fanatic: Could you describe that?

Robert Anton Wilson: The ritual was Aleister Crowley’s Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel, with all the accessories to make it as powerful as possible. In other words, I was having sex and stoned out of my head while I did it. All the ritual was memorised and recited inside my head – with vivid visualisations, the way you learn to do visualisation in any school of kabbalistic or other magic. The same day I picked up Tantra, the Yoga of Sex by Omar Garrison, which I’d started earlier. I started looking at it again and found a passage in which he says that there are two sex cycles: the female was 28 days and the male was 23. So there as another 23 added to the synchronicity. I thought, ‘Gee, between the 23 and the 28 is the Discordian 5 that runs all through Illuminatus! My fantasy life is coming at me from books and dreams and everywhere!’

Fanatic: Could you explain what Sirius is?

Robert Anton Wilson: Sirius is a double star. Sirius A is the brightest star in the sky. You find it by looking down the Belt of Orion. It’s the brightest star that the Belt of Orion points to – the brightest star in the Southern Sky. Sirius B is invisible to the naked eye and wasn’t discovered by telescope until a few decades ago. It wasn’t successfully photographed until 1970. The odd thing about Sirius B, whichTempledocuments in his book, is that there are unambiguous, no-doubt-about-it references to it in the mythology of several African tribes. He has demonstrated by inference, and I think correctly, that the Egyptians knew about Sirius B too. He believesIsiswas the symbol of Sirius A, and Osiris of Sirius B, and that’s the meaning of the old secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries: Osiris was a black god. Sirius B is a dark star, a collapsed white dwarf which is in the process of evolving into a black hole.

Fanatic: What do you think is the significance of Sirius?

Robert Anton Wilson: It could well be a red herring. It could be our own minds developing and we need to have some kind of entity that we can project all this on to. It could be that their are no ‘allies’, no Holy Guardian Angels, no extraterrestrials at Sirius. But there’s a whole chain of amazing coincidence. A guy I know named Neo Wilgus, who’s done another book on the Illuminati which is coming out soon, said that while he was researching it he couldn’t go into a bookstore without picking a book up and opening it at a page which referred to the Illuminati. That happened to Shea and myself while we were writing Illuminatus! Once I got into the Sirius thing it kept happening. I went into a bookstore and looked at a book by J.F. Bennett called Gurdjieff, Making aNew World. I opened it at random and found this passage where Gurdjieff talks about the hidden references to Sirius in Beelzebub’s tales to his grandson. I said, ‘What! Gurdjieff is making hidden references to Sirius – why?’ Then I found hidden references inCrowley’s work that Kenneth Grant talks about. There it seems much more that synchronicity. Grant says thatCrowleywas in contact with extraterrestrials and that Sirius was the Silver Star that’s referred to in a lot ofCrowley’s poetry – the Argentum Astrum [also the name ofCrowley’s secret magickal order].

Albert Pyke, who was a 33rd degree mason, and the highest ranking mason in theUnited Statesin the 19th Century, says in Dogma and Ritual of Freemasonry that the Silver Star of every masonic lodge is Sirius. He doesn’t explain why. I kept running into things like that, and the communications got stronger and stronger. I tried experimentally entering other belief systems. I decided to take the most far-out belief system I could pick up, which was that færy people really exist. As nobody believes in færies anymore – it’s funny you kept pointing out James Barrie’s place this morning – they’ve got to get in touch with us some way. So nowadays they’re pretending to be extraterrestrials, I entered that belief system, took some acid, and went to a witches’ sabbat. I belong to three different orders of witch covens inCalifornia. When we did the Raising of the Cone of Power I got really spaced out and a bunch of fairies came and took me to færy land. I went through the classic thing of La Belle Dame Sans Merci and all the classic Celtic lore, including time warps. The phenomena adapt to your belief system. If you believe there are no such phenomena, the phenomena adapt to that. I know people, intelligent people, who tell you there’s no such thing as ESP and they’ve never experienced it, whereas I guess 80 percent of the population has had some ESP experience.

Fanatic: I always ask such disbelievers what thought they’re going to think three thoughts from now – that gets ’em! Do you think fairy rings are connected with UFOs?

Robert Anton Wilson: Of course. Fairy rings are the burn marks from UFOs. I’m not the first one to have seen the link between fairies and UFOs. You can use any model you want. You can say it’s fairies or UFOs or time travellers if it fits into your belief system. You can decide it’s the kabbalistic Holy Guardian Angel, or you can decide it’s all your own nervous system developing its latent powers.

Fanatic: Apart from the incidents of synchronicity, what other things have occurred to you to indicate there are presences on Sirius?

Robert Anton Wilson: I’ve had voices speaking to me and telling me things that turned out to be true.

Fanatic: Different from your own inner voice?

Robert Anton Wilson: Yes. Very definitely.

Fanatic: A different tone, a different accent?

Robert Anton Wilson: Yes, a separate voice.

Fanatic: Speaking English?

Robert Anton Wilson: Yes.

Fanatic: With an American accent or an English accent?

Robert Anton Wilson: Now that’s odd. I guess it’s a Canadian accent if you really want to tie it down, or upper class middle American – something like that. Not very strongly accented. I’ve had the experience of seeing across space and time simultaneously, seeing something that happened half an hour later in another part of the city, and I’ve had the experience of being in California and Arizona at the same time, and being in California and seeing things in Arizona that were apparently affecting them. As if I were inArizona.

Fanatic: Was that in an every day context?

Robert Anton Wilson: No, that was at another witches’ sabbat. If anybody had told me things like this five years ago I would have said they were nuts. Meanwhile Leary got an extraterrestrial transmission that we can achieve immortality in this generation. I got involved with a bunch of biologists who are into life-extension research. They break down into two groups: one large group who believe we can have longevity in this generation and are working really hard at it. They’ve been at it so long and got sufficient respectability that those who disagree with them are now disagreeing very politely. It’s a respectable position to believe that longevity is possible. The belief that immortality is possible is still confined to a small minority. I got involved with a lot of the immortalists who are, I think it’s objective to say, some of the brightest people in biology. It doesn’t mean to say they’re right, and it’s not special pleading when I say that – the brightest people are often wrong. The brightest people are the most far-out and they may be right are wrong.

Fanatic: Your 15-year-old daughter, Luna, was murdered four months ago. Could you describe what happened?

Robert Anton Wilson: Luna was beaten to death in the course of a burglary at a store where she was working. Right after Luna’s death I got a call from Paul Segal, who’d just got his PhD for research in stopping the ageing process in rats three different ways. He acknowledges me as one of the people who helped him in his work. I didn’t do any of the research, but he felt I’d contributed a lot to his work. Paul said he knew I didn’t have the money to pay for cryonic suspension, but he said we could get it done voluntarily and funds for the upkeep could be raised later. It turned out that a lot of people in the Immortalist Movement were chipping in to help out and so on. So we had Luna preserved. All the work was done by the Bay Area Cryonic Society voluntarily as an expression of gratitude for the publicity I’d been giving their work. It’s probably the most deeply moving things that had happened to me in my whole life. There was a real anxiety that we couldn’t do it because of all the legal red tape. We were very fortunate. As soon as we approached the coroner he immediately understood the idea and did everything he could to help us.

Fanatic: But isn’t cryonic suspension extremely costly?

Robert Anton Wilson: It’s beyond the means of an ordinary person today. It’s available only to the very affluent. It’s a question of getting together sufficient capital to pay for the thing – and for an indefinite period of time out of the interest – which requires around 30,000 dollars. Part of the reason we’re doing a Luna Wilson immortality fund-raising affair in Berkeley in April, with Leary Eldridge Cleaver and Ken Kesey, and various rock bands, is to raise funds for Luna’s storage – and the rest of it will go into cryonic research.

Fanatic: There’s a persistent story that Walt Disney was one of the first to opt for cryonic burial . . .

Bob Shea: One version of the rumour is that he’s in a permanently locked chamber in Snow White’s Palace inDisneyland, because people have seen hoar frost coming from under the door.

Robert Anton Wilson: The Disney Organisation always denies it. But it is a fact that before he died he made a series of films, one of which is shown each year to Disney executives as a kind of pep talk. And at the end of each film he says, ‘I’ll be seeing you’ – which could refer to the next film, or it may have referred to the fact that he is cryonically suspended.

Fanatic: Alex Comfort [author of The Joy of Sex] is one of the world’s foremost gerontologists. He’s also an anarchist and he lives inCalifornianow. What’s his attitude to the Immortalist Movement?

Robert Anton Wilson: Comfort has not endorsed immortality yet, but he’s one of the leading propagandists for longevity. He’s certainly convinced longevity is possible, maybe as soon as the 1980s. We’ve got enough good theories. Immortality is possible, and longevity is a damned good probability. The question is, How soon? That depends on how much funding is available for research, and that depends on how much public excitement we raise over the issue. There are different estimates – like maybe it’ll come in the late 1980s if we get enough people excited enough an yelling: WE WANNA LIVE LONGER! I think he’s right, so I’m agitating as much as possible to get more and more people into longevity.

Your attitude to it changes as you get older. I’m 45. One of the people I know who’s most dedicated to the whole thing is 67. If it’s coming around the year 1992, let’s say, it doesn’t make much difference to people in their 20s whether we hurry or not. As you get older, the idea of hurrying gets more and more important, especially if you’re going through what I’m going through, where you begin to realise you don’t know anything. When you being to realise that the universe is much more mysterious than you ever knew, that something is going on of which synchronicity is just the edge; that there seems to be a higher intelligence or higher intelligences – whether we think of them as angels or extraterrestrials, or time travelling anthropologists from the future or whatever – it’s obvious that our ordinary consensus belief system is inadequate. I’m not overly impressed with a lot of the professional wise men around – gurus and so on. I don’t think they know much more than I do, and so I have this tremendous sense of mystery and curiosity and I think it’s a damn shame that people get shoved under before they live long enough to develop this sense of mystery.

Right now I’m more excited about life and its mysteries than ever before, and I’d like to live long enough to find out what the hell is going on. J.B.S. Haldane said: ‘The Universe is not only queerer than we think, but queerer than we can think’ – especially when you’ve mutated to the neurological level, where you start getting what Leary calls ‘Sixth Circuit’ experiences. Everything I’ve been describing, Leary calls the Sixth Circuit.

Fanatic: Meaning what?

Robert Anton Wilson: Leary posits eight circuits. The First Circuit being simple bio-survival – being aware go dangers to your body and the way you can get nourishment, the way babies are oriented. The Second Circuit is mammalian politics -status and territory. And the Third Circuit is symbolic – that’s the one I’m doing right now: yakkity-yakkity-yak. The Fourth Circuit is the sexual circuit, and the Fifth Circuit is the rapture circuit or tantric circuit, where you can turn on to pure bliss. The Sixth Circuit he calls neuro-electrical, and that’s where weird things start happening. Above that there’s the Seventh and Eighth Circuits. When you get to at least the Sixth Circuit, asCrowleysays, the Universe becomes a more or less continuous ceremony of initiation. There’s synchronicity everywhere, there are miracles everywhere. Everything is much more puzzling than it ever was before. At this stage I just want to live as long as possible in the hope that I’ll eventually figure out what the hell’s going on.

Fanatic: What are the social and political implications of infinite life extension?

Robert Anton Wilson: It’s the most revolutionary concept that’s ever hit this planet. You can’t think of anything in our society that’s not going to be changed by it. What’s going to happen to the insurance companies? What’s going to happen to the banks when people go on living long enough to collect compound interest for a couple of hundred years? What are we going to do about the prison system? Prisons are desperate places already. People are going to live, let’s say, three hundred years. We’re going to have people in and out of prison continually, and every time they come out they’re a little crazier and more violent than when they went in. Think of that going on for three hundred years!

Fanatic: But isn’t there a potentially sinister side to the Immortalist idea? Can’t it also be seen as the logical extension of the Forest Lawn death trip – a symptom of a death-oriented society in a late stage of decay? The ultimate in terms of capitalist exploitation would be to charge people to breathe; at present that isn’t a reasonable proposition. When cryonic suspension achieved low unit-cost, it could be the next best thing: charging people for maintaining their bodies after physical death – an immense source of revenue for big corporations.

Robert Anton Wilson: Yes, people I know who are heavily into the immortalist trip are very aware of that. Paul Segal, to whom I referred earlier – he’s frozen the four people who’ve been frozen in the Bay Area – he’s very aware of that. Paul actually belongs to a radical group called Earth People’s Commune, which is very Marxist oriented, anarchist-Marxist. The threat is there. But what Paul’s most excited about right now is bringing down the cost of cryonics so anybody can afford it. He thinks that within five years they could bring the cost right down to make it available to almost anyone. But, in general, people in the immortalist movement are tremendously aware of problems like that. Leary’s approach to the whole thing is: Bring the message to the people. If enough people are turned on to it there’s no way it can be monopolised, because everyone will be demanding it. The only way it could turn into a really bad trip is if the Rockerfellers got hold of the formula and wouldn’t let anybody have it but themselves; so we’d have an immortal ruling class going on forever, and everybody else being mortals. It would be the ultimate horrors of capitalism carried to the extreme. But that can’t happen, because too many of the researchers are of a political persuasion where they just won’t let it happen. The people who are doing the scientific work aren’t going to let anybody monopolise it. They’re going to make damn sure that when they get the longevity formula, the pill will be available to everybody.

Fanatic: From what you’ve been saying, it’s clear that people like Leary and yourself are fairly confident human life exists in multiple dimensions – a notion consistent with conventional religious ideas of immortality. If humans continue to exist in other dimensions after physical death, why is it necessary to place such importance on immortality in the comparatively mundane physical sense?

Robert Anton Wilson: As Sinzaki Roshi said when he was dying of cancer, one year of life is wonderful, a hundred years of life is more wonderful.

Fanatic: Doesn’t what you’re saying bespeak a lack of confidence in the traditional notion of immortality?

Robert Anton Wilson: I don’t think ‘lack of confidence’ is correct. ‘Lack of blind faith’ is the way I would express it. My attitude is that the Universe is so damned mysterious I don’t have any dogmas about it. I have a lot of reason personally to believe in survival beyond the body, but I don’t think the evidence is conclusive. I think there’s a good chance that there’s a lot of wishful thinking there. I’ve had memories of past lives under hypnosis – I’ve been regressed. My attitude still is that we don’t know. A lot of immortalists would disagree with me on this. I’m not speaking for the Immortalist Movement on this, but I think we may get a hell of a surprise in the next fifteen years. We may get longevity and the first step towards physical immortality and we may get absolutely conclusive scientific proof from the parapsychologists that we survive anyway! That’ll present us with a very interesting alternative. We can have physical longevity or we can accept death with the knowledge that it isn’t the end. And other things’ll be opening up too. It’s quite possible.

Norbert Wiener talked about this as early as 1948, and Buckminster Fuller was talking about it inSan Franciscojust three weeks ago – that we’ll learn to code the personality into electrical impulses. We could translate ourselves into computer! Now some people would regard this as the ultimate horror, but I think it might be an interesting trip – to be a computer for a while. Like on Star Trek – the transporter. We could take ourselves apart and put ourselves together in a different part of the Universe. There may be many types of immortality. As long as we don’t know, I’m eager to explore the possibilities. It would be a real gas if we get longevity and physical immortality, and at the same time we prove that there is some kind of spiritual immortality. That will blow everybody’s mind. What the hell will people find to worry about then? That’ll totally transform human psychology.

Fanatic: Are there any currently available techniques of longevity that seem to work?

Robert Anton Wilson: That’s very debateable. There are a lot of theories about it. There are people who live a lot longer. Allegedly, there are people among the Hunsas, and in parts ofRussia, and in one part ofSouth America. The evidence is still being debated. There’ve been studies made of their diet and so on. Actually, Baba Free John, who’s a guru of a particularly farout cult inCalifornia- you could call it a kind of hippie Zen – is very into longevity research. He says we’ve got to live several hundreds of years each before we can develop to our full potential. He says that the kind of enlightenment people have achieved in the past is only partial, and when we live several hundreds of years we can attain a higher level of enlightenment. So he’s set up a group called Incarnation Incorporated which is co-ordinating all the different approaches to longevity. . They’re also organizing expeditions to places where people are alleged to live longer, and really check them out. It’s not all scientific materialists who are into longevity. Baba Free John is really quite a traditional guru of the crazy sort. Crazy gurus are traditional too, you know.

Fanatic: What about crypto-biosis? Do you see any significance in the way seeds can lay dormant in the desert for years until there’s a shower of rain, or in Sea Monkeys, which have the same ability. They’re known asartemia salinia in Latin slang. They’re little brine shrimps that don’t seem to die. They just encyst themselves and then re-animate.

Robert Anton Wilson: A lot of things are coming down to the hologram theory of life: the whole in very part. Every part of a hologram contains the whole, and that’s the old magic law: the macrocosm is in the microcosm. It’s literally true that within one cell of your body there’s all the genetic information of your personality – the Universe in a grain of sand. In that sense, it may not be necessary to preserve the whole body. It may just be a kind of conservatism and timidity on the part of people who meanwhile think they’re very far out.

Fanatic: Talking of cells, could you say what you see to be the role of DNA?

Robert Anton Wilson: We think that DNA is an intelligent entity, more intelligent than any of us – it designed all of us. And we think that DNA has a definite project in mind – that is to say, immortality. I think that what it’s been working on all along is to produce immortal organisms which are capable of travelling off the planet – transcending the mammalian condition, the struggle for existence, and so on. And actually, to be blunt about it, become God-like beings. I think that that’s been the programme of life from the very beginning. I think it’s a good model or metaphor to regard DNA as a higher intelligence which had programmed all the life on this planet for three-and-a-half billion years. Hubert Muller, a Nobel laureate in genetics, once said that we were all giant roots created by DNA to make more DNA.

I think there’s a lot of truth in that metaphor. DNA is immortal and has designed everything. Bucky Fuller points out that there’s no engineer or technologist, including himself, who has achieved the simplicity and tremendous structural strength and economy as the average tree. DNA is the greatest technologist on the planet, and, as my son Graham pointed out, it’s the world’s greatest psychedelic artist. Just take a walk in the woods. I think scientific understanding of DNA confirms everything that the mystics have been saying for millennia about the higher intelligence that never dies, in the essence of all things. You can understand it scientifically, but to really experience it – that’s what Leary calls the Seventh Circuit of the nervous system – when you really turn on to the DNA and receive the genetic signals. Nobody who’s had the experience has been able to talk about it rationally.Crowley, said you can’t talk about it without raving like a lunatic. The closest expression we have to what it’s all about is the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Fanatic: The double helix is a spiral. The wand of Hermes/Mercury, the Caduceus, is a stick with two snakes spiralled around it. It’s the symbol of medicine in the Western world. There’s the spiral dance of the Dervishes, and the spirallingTowerofBabel. Do you see any connection between the mystic spiral and DNA?

Robert Anton Wilson: Sure. The ancient Chinese physicians use marijuana stalks carved in a spiral for healing. The kundalini has to be a spiral. It’s obvious that a certain number of people throughout history have turned on to the seventh circuit, and have reached that level of consciousness, and have left the symbols behind. You can find the kundalini serpent in Babylonian art as well as in Hindu art, and the witches’ dance is always an inward-turning spiral, like my ring here. It’s the way ancient Irish burial grounds were laid out. (Right, the Goddess Kundalini.)

Fanatic: Shea remarked earlier that the double helix is a spiral that’s out to screw us. Do you agree with that?

Robert Anton Wilson: Well, the DNA doesn’t give a damn about us. It uses us [as a vector] to reproduce itself. In many species reproduction is the beginning of death. That was in the biology book James Joyce had when he was in university, and it made a big impression on him: reproduction is the beginning of death. The salmon dies right after spawning; as soon as we reach sexual maturity, we start declining. The DNA wants us to reproduce and make more DNA, better DNA, and then it’s finished with us. In another sense, though, on a deeper level, I think the DNA has designed our nervous system, including the right lobe of our brain and all our higher faculties, to enable us to do what it can’t do. It’s much more intelligent that us but it’s much slower. It works in billions of years and it’s designed human beings to think faster and do things quicker, so that we don’t have to settle for the original programme. We can revise the programme. We can revise the programme. I think that we can find the trigger of the senescence process and turn it off. The biologists who think that senescence is the result of entropy really haven’t considered the thermodynamics of entropy. If senescence were the result of entropy, we’d find a random graph of people dying at 30, 70, at 103, 350, 400 – and so on. Instead we find a straight line at around 70. Almost everybody goes within a few years of that point. So it’s not a random stochastic process. It’s a definite kinetic programme. The DNA plans to kill us off after it’s used us. But it’s very obvious that we’re close to finding the chemical trigger and nullifying it. Nobody knows how long we can live. Everybody’s guessing really – it may be hundreds of years, it may be thousands.

Fanatic: But won’t immortality make reproduction superfluous?

Robert Anton Wilson: That’s not entirely clear. I’ve heard some people argue that the rising survival and birth rate in the past century, due to modern medicine and so on, may all be a DNA programme to prepare us for star travel, which may require many more human beings than have ever been on this planet before to get the show on the road – to get us blasting off for the stars. Leary thinks that. Like all modern scientists, he’s sceptical of his own theories. He wouldn’t insist that it’s literally true, but it’s one useful model – that because we’ve been thinking too much with the left brain, we’ve been creating ecological havoc on the planet, so that the DNA had to get new signals through to us . It did this through the vegetative kingdom which was being severely endangered by pollution and so on. So the vegetative kingdom conspired to get chemicals into us that would teach us ecological common sense. The only way to get them into our nervous system in vast quantities in a quick way is hedonistically. So the vegetative kingdom set out to seduce us with drugs that get us high and make us happy and at the same time open us up to right brain activity. You see, the Fifth Circuit is the sugar coating to get us into the Sixth Circuit. First it turns us on and gets us high, and then it opens us up to a more cosmic perspective. It’s all a vegetable conspiracy to communicate with us. The mushrooms and the cacti and the hemp and so on are signals from the vegetative kingdom to our nervous systems.

Fanatic: So DNA is using us to get DNA off the planet?

Robert Anton Wilson: That was the transmission Leary got in August 1973 – that the DNA wants to get off the planet and we’re the tool-making part of the DNA ‘brain’. Maybe our function is to take the trees to the centre of the galaxy? They may be the only ones who can communicate with the really higher intelligences. Our function may be to build L5-type space cities with whole micro-ecological systems, streams and fish and so on, and take them to the centre of the galaxy where maybe the trees or the dolphins will do the communicating?

Fanatic: It always struck me as very odd why Christ cursed the fig tree. Do you have any answers to that?

Robert Anton Wilson: No. Do you?

[I have a guess, which is that the fruit of the fig (full of seeds like the pomegranate) is a symbol of reproduction/fertilty – and therefore the symbol of the repetitive cycle of material birth/rebirth. This passage must be a remnant of the world/matter hating ‘Gnostic’ element in Christianity. There were other less negative, world-embracing Gnostics too. – Ed.]

Fanatic: Do you have any interpretation of the recurring Methuselah myth that there have already been members of the human race who’ve lived for hundreds of years?

Robert Anton Wilson: I think it’s possible. There was the case of Nicholas and Pernelle Flamel. He was an alchemist, and he and his wife lived for 120 years each. As far as I can gather from his records – like all medieval alchemists he wrote in code – they were using some kind of tantric practices to prolong life. Maybe others did even better. There are these legends about wise old characters in the East who are several hundred years old. I don’t believe it. I don’t disbelieve it either.

Fanatic: It could be certain members of the race located the technique in the past and it’s been lost track of?

Robert Anton Wilson: They located one technique possible, or maybe more than one. I think certain yogic and magickal practices probably do extend life somewhat, and maybe there are practices which extend it quite a bit. This is very speculative, of course.

Fanatic: Could you explain the concept of neurologic?

Robert Anton Wilson: In the next 30 years there are three major things which are going to happen and which I have three acronyms for. They were coined by a group of people I’m working with in California: Dr Timothy Leary, Dr Wayne Benner, Dr Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirac and others. First of all, there’s the SMI2LE breakthrough – Space Migration, Intelligence-squared, and Life Extension. Now that’s going to change everything. It’s the biggest mutation in history. It’s not an historical event, it’s an evolutionary event, the biggest since life came out of the water and onto the land. Intelligence-squared means the nervous system studying the nervous system. Learning how to reprogrammed your nervous system for different levels of functioning. Together with that, we’ve got what I call the HEAD Revolution – that’s Headonic Engineering and Development. We are learning how to stay high all the time. The yogis discovered that about 2000 years ago.

We’re learning how to do much of it more efficiently. The breakthroughs that have happened already are minor in comparison with what’s going to happen in the next fifteen years. For instance, just two years ago bio-feedback demonstrated how to control the function of the erection of the penis at will. Nobody’s been able to learn how to do that at will except very advanced tantric yogis. At Harvard and John Hopkins, they got 60 percent of the subjects to do it within a couple of weeks. Biofeedback is only part of the neurological revolution. LSD was the tip of the iceberg. The science of reprogramming the nervous system for ecstasy in the next fifteen years is going to be just as important as SMI2LE. You’ve got SMI2LE, and then you’ve got HEAD coming; everyone’s going to be high all the time. Along with that, there’s the RICH scenario: Rising Income through Cybernetic Homeostasis. RICH also stands for Recreation, Intelligence-squared, Creativity and Hedonics. With that we’re going to automate everything and people will be free to use their nervous systems creatively.

Aristotle said slavery can only be abolished when the machine can run itself [at the moment, we are the parts of the machine itself]. We’re getting to the stage when machines can run themselves, and manual labour, repetitious toil – all of the dehumanising, degrading, robotic functions will be taken over by machines, leading to a fantastic increase in the gross national product everywhere. Poverty will abolished by the year 2000, between RICH and SMI2LE. When we start bringing in free energy from outer space, we no longer have a closed system. We’ve got an open system of virtually unlimited energy. When you put SMI2LE, RICH and HEAD together you’ve got the highest standards of all previous societies: utopia. Utopia or oblivion – heaven or bust – those are the only two choices. I’m betting on Utopia, and all that is necessary is for these signals to keep bouncing round the planet for people to become aware of these potentials. All the preconditions are available. You can’t judge the future by the past. It’s always full of surprises. I would say there are more high, holy, happy beings around on this planet than ever before in history, and there are going to be four times as many by 1987. You’ve got to realise there’s a planetary explosion of intelligence and consciousness. We can still blow it – we can still choose oblivion, but that’s the only choice we have; Utopia or Oblivion. There are no compromises.

Fanatic: What the powerful call Utopia is now the condition for human survival.

Bob Shea: The point is to appropriate the technology and use it. It’s not something that’s just going to happen because the technology is there. Solar power from space colonies could be the private preserve of monopolies like General Electric, something to which everyone would then be imbonded. It’s going to come – something that’s absolutely necessary, so people have to prepare themselves for this development and begin to work to ensure that when solar power comes it isn’t like oil or gas – just another thing that enslaves people.

Fanatic: What do you think of the stage version of Illuminatus!?

Bob Shea: I think it’s superb. I was thunderstruck at what a magnificent job they did in capturing the exact tone, the exact mixture of fantasy and reality in the book. It really does keep you guessing, which is what we intended. I’ve come round to the conclusion that this isn’t literature. It’s too late in the day for literature. This is magick!

Fanatic: Presumably things have happened in the last few days that have confirmed that?

Robert Anton Wilson: Oh God yes! I don’t know about other people, but the most overwhelmingly powerful moment in the play is when Saul Goodman realises his guilt in sending people to the electric chair and the way they play it – going through it once without any emotion, and the with emotion. That happened by accident. The Xerox machine made two copies of one page and the actors found themselves going though it twice, and Ken Campbell said, ‘Wait! That’s good!’ So they got the idea of going through it once without emotion, and then again with emotion breaking through. I think it’s tremendously powerful. It’s direct intervention of the goddess. She always works that way. Every time something chaotic and unexpected happens, we Discordians say: Hail Eris!

Fanatic: What were your other reactions to that scene?

Robert Anton Wilson: It made me cry. I’ve always been against capital punishment, and that was one of the most deeply felt scenes in the book. It really came across on the stage the way I wanted it to. Since my daughter was murdered people have frequently asked me, ‘Are you still against capital punishment?’ And the answer is – absolutely.

Science Fiction Review #17 Interview

An Interview with Robert Anton Wilson

Conducted by Neal Wilgus

Science Fiction Review #17, May 1976
two short excerpts published in The Illuminati Papers

SFR: I know you’re co-author of Illumatus!, have written for GnosticaGreen Egg and others and were once assistant editor of Playboy – could you fill us in on the details of your life and present activities?

Wilson: Well, to begin with, I never balled Sophia Loren on a bearskin rug.  I think that’s what gives my writing its unforgettable poignance and haunting sense of cosmic search.  I’ve got about a thousand articles in print, in everything from scholarly journals to tabloids of the sleaziest nature, some poetry here and there, a few short stories.

My other books are Sex and Drugs: A Journey Beyond LimitsPlayboy’s Book of Forbidden Words and The Book of the Breast, all non-fiction, and The Sex Magicians, a rather funny porn novel featuring Markoff Chaney from Illuminatus!

I was busted for civil rights activities in ’62, walked a few yards behind Mailer in the Pentagon protest of ’67, got tear-gassed at the Democratic Convention of ’68.  I’ve worked as a longshoreman, astrology columnist, reporter, medical orderly, laboratory assistant, engineering aide, encyclopedia salesman and most of the things you find on writers’ resumes.  And I was an Associate Editor, not an assistant editor, at Playboy.  The difference is as important as that between a mere Congressman and an anointed Senator or between a zebra and a horse with striped pajamas on.

I have a beautiful red-headed wife, four kids, and a cat named Conan the Bavarian.

SFR:  Robert J. Shea is Senior Editor at Playboy and I understand Illuminatus! was written in 1970 while you were an editor.  Could you tell us something about Shea?

Wilson: Illuminatus! was written in 1969-1971, while we were both Associate Editors.  Shea had what it takes to stick it out at the Bunny Empire and is now Senior Editor.  I quit after five years because I got bored and wanted to do something more amusing.  Shea has a beautiful blond wife, a son, a home in a prosperous suburb and passes as a well-adjusted citizen.  I have long suspected that he is actually a time-traveling anthropologist fro the 23rd Century doing a report on primitive civilizations.  When I try to pump him about that, he becomes very evasive and looks nervous.  To the best of my knowledge, he has never balled Sophia Loren on a bearskin rug, either.

SFR: Could you give us some idea of how Illuminatus! was written? Who wrote which parts?

Wilson: Most of it was communicated to us telepathically by a canine Intelligence, vast, cool and unsympathetic, from Sirius, the Dog Star. I was aware of being a channel for interstellar sarcasm, but Shea thought he was inventing his part of the transmission. In general, the melodrama is Shea and the satire is me; but some of the satire is definitely him and some of the melodrama is certainly me. “When Atlantis Ruled the Earth” is 99% Shea. The sections about Simon Moon, Robert Putney Drake and Markoff Chaney are 99% me. Everything else is impossible to untangle. The celebrated Blow Job on the beach, for instance, is almost all Shea, but I think my lyrical additions to the text add to the esthetic beauty and philosophical richness of the symbology and give more existential meaning to Georges ultimate ejaculation into Mav’s warm, passionate mouth, in a Maileresque sense. Of course, this is only important if you agree with Vonnegut’s claim that the function of the modern novel is to describe Blow Jobs exquisitely.

SFR: Illuminatus! incorporates much of the Cthulhu Mythos, refers often to H. P. Lovecraft and even includes a short scene in which HPL appears.  Is it you or Shea that’s the HPL enthusiast?

Wilson: It’s me.  I went through a period in the early 1960s when I kept having the Lovecraft horrors every time I took peyote.  Cthulhu leering at the window.  Yog-Sothoth oozing down the chimney.  Azathoth invading my neurons with vampiric psychic-horror vibes.  It was like a non-stop Creature Weatures without commercials, every time I gobbled a cacti.  A lesser man would have changed his religion, I assure you, but I managed to recapture the Reality Studio and banish them all with violent Cabalistic imprecations.  They don’t dare show their faces, or lack of faces in any of my universes anymore.

SFR:  Will there be more collaborations with Shea?  A sequel to Illuminatus!?

Wilson:  That depends on our Contact, the Mad Dog fro Sirius.  Right now, we’re working on separate novels.  Mine has some of the characters from Illuminatus! and much of the same psychedelic style.   It concerns the aftermath of a sex-change operation and what happens to the amputated penis.  To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first novel ever written with a penis as the protagonist and I’m hoping for a huge sale, especially in San Francisco.

SFR:  The theme of “immanentizing the Eschaton” runs throughout Illuminatus! but the phrase is never defined or explained.  In the framework of the book this seems to imply that various secret societies are working to bring about the end of the worked – is that a valid interpretation?

Wilson:  The phrase was coined by a Christian historian, Eric Bogelin, and refers to the Gnostic doctrine that people aren’t really as hopeless as Christians think.  Eschaton, form the Greek, means the last things, and, in Christian theology, these are Heaven and Hell.  Immanentizing the Escaton means seeking heaven within the “immanent” universe, i.e. the only universe we know.

To a thorough going Christian pessimist like Vogelin anybody who tries to be happy or make others happy is dangerously close to Gnostic heresy.  I am all for immanentizing the Escaton in this sense, next Tuesday if possible.  Vogelin detects immanentizing tendencies in humanists, liberals, technologists, optimistic philosophies of evolution like Nietzsche’s communists, anarchists and most of the post-medieval thought of the Western World, all of which are overtly or covertly aiming at the verboten “heaven on the material plane.”

In the novel, we make the point that conservatives are also in danger of immanentizing the Eschaton by continuing a Cold War that can only result in Hell on the material plane – nuclear incineration.

In one sense, Illuminatus! is a reduction to ad absurdum of all mammalian politics, Right or Left, by carrying each ideology on logical step further than its exponents care to go.  Voltaire used that satirical judo against the Churchman and I decided it’s time to turn it on the Statesman.  The only intelligent way to discuss politics, as Tim Leary says, is on all fours.  It all comes down to territorial brawling.

SFR:  I understand the Eschaton them stems from an anti-Gnostic campaign in the National Review some time ago.  Could you fill us in on the origins of the term?

Wilson:  As I say, it was coined by Vogelin.  The anti-Gnostic them was chronic in conservative circles during the early 60’s and even got into a Time editorial once.  As an ordained priest of the Gnostic Catholic Church, I find this amusing, since it makes most of the educated classes into unknowing disciples of us Gnostics.  As Marx said under similar circumstances, “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.  How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

SFR:  What is your relationship with Timothy Leary?

Wilson:  Are you sure you’re not from Gay Times?  Dr. Leary and I are just good friends.  I mean, really, do you mind, Bess?  Honestly!  Well if you must have the truth, I’m playing Zola and Tim is Dreyfuss – or, at least, that’s one of my old scripts.  I suppose Tim might think he’s Johnson and I’m Boswell.  Then there’s the theory that I’m his C.I.A. “babysitter” and supervised his whole campaign of mind-rot and betrayal of the New Left.  Actually, if you want the facts, which are always funnier and more interesting than myths, Dr. Leary is the ring-leader and I’m an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to immanentize the Eschaton by achieving higher intelligence, longevity and extra-terrestrial migration in this generation.  In the next generation (for which, due to longevity we’ll both still be active) the hope is to achieve immortality and starflight.  I told you the truth was more interesting than the myths.

SFR:  Why are you suing the Neo-American Church for $1,000,000?  Isn’t that just a promotion device to publicize Illuminatus! and the new book you’re writing with Leary?

Wilson:  The Neo-American Church, who most certainly did not ball Sophia Loren on or off a bearskin rug, have claimed that Illuminatus! is actually written by Dr. Leary and that Shea and I are co-conspirators in a legal fraud committed by Tim to evade contractual obligations, whatever that means.  (Neither Dr. Leary nor his lawyers nor the Justice Department are aware of any contracts that would prevent Tim from publishing Illuminatus! as his own book, if he had indeed written it.)  The Neo-Americans have accused Shea, Dr. Leary and myself of a felony, and they have done so maliciously and untruthfully.  In the American legal game, maliciously and untruthfully accusing somebody of a felony is a libel.  The persons so damaged in reputation may collect pieces of green paper, blessed by the Federal Reserve and called “money,” in proportion to the damage, as estimated by 12 jurors who are hopefully sober at the time.  Happily, the two typists who typed the originally ms. of Illuminatus! are still at Playboy, many of the editors heard Shea or me read parts of it when it was coming out of our typewriters (after business hours, Hef!) and there are dozens of accessory witnesses. The Neo-Americans have fouled and will have to pay the penalty.  It does me no good in publishing circles to have my funnies book attributed to somebody else, or to be accused of a Clifford Irving fraud.

SFR:  How serious are you about the rule of fives and the Importance of 23?

Wilson:  Being serious is not one of my vices.  I will venture, however, that the idea that there are no conspiracies has been popularized by historians working for universities and institutes funded by the principle conspirators of our time – the Rockefeller-Morgan banking interests, the Council on Foreign Relations Crowd.  This is not astonishing or depressing.  Conspiracy is the standard mammalian politics for reasons to be found in ethology and Von Neumann’s and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.  Vertebrate competition depends on knowing more than the opposition, monopolizing information along with territory, hoarding signals.  Entropy, in a word.  Science is based on transmitting the signal accurately, accelerating the process of information transfer.  Negative entropy.  The final war may be between Pavlov’s Dog and Schroedinger’s Cat.

However, I am profoundly suspicious about all conspiracy theories, including my own, because conspiracy buss tend to forget the difference between a plausible argument and a real proof.  Or between a legal proof, a proof in the behavioral sciences, a proof in physics, a mathematical or logical proof, or a parody of any of the above.  My advice to all is Buddha’s last words, “Doubt, and find your own light.”  Or, as Crowley wrote, “I slept with Faith and found her a corpse in the morning.  I drank and danced all night with Doubt and found her a virgin in the morning.”  Doubt suffereth long, but is kind; doubt covereth a multitude of sins’ doubt puffeth not itself up into dogma.  For now abideth doubt, hope, and charity, these three and the greatest of these is doubt.  With doubt all tings are possible.  Every other entity in the universe, including Goddess Herself, may be trying to con you.  It’s all Show Biz.  Did you know that Billy Graham is a Bull Dyke in drag?

SFR: Could you tell us something about the authors and ideas that have influenced you?  Are you a long-time science-fiction/fantasy fan?  A neo-Pagan or occultist?

Wilson:  My style derives directly from Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Raymond Chandler, H.L. Menken, William S. Burroughs, Benjamin Tucker and Elephant Doody Comix, in approximately that order of importance.  Chandler has also influenced my way of telling stories; all my fiction tends to follow the Chandler mythos of the skeptical Knight seeking Truth in a world of false-fronts and manipulated deceptions.  (Of course, this is also my biography, or that of any shaman.)  The writers who have most influence my philosophy are Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Alfred Korzybski and Karl Popper (and a few Logical Positivists) are absolutely necessary for epistemological clarity, especially when you get to the growing edge of science, where the hot debates are going on, and even more if you wander into the occult.  Sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite forms of fiction; I think the so-called “naturalists” and “social realists” have committed high treason against humanity by selling their gloomy perspective as the “real” reality.  A book that lacks the element of heroism is a crime against the young and impressionable, in my opinion.  A book full of anger and self-pity is another crime. Needless to day, as a libertarian I don’t mean literally that these are crimes to be punished in court.  The only final answer to a bad, sad book is to write a good, funny book.  (I love debate and hate censorship.  Accuracy-of-signal and free flow of information define sanity in my epistemology.  I should have included Norbert Weiner among the primary influences on my thinking.)

As for neo-Paganism and the occult: I’m an initiated witch, an ordained minister in four churches (or cults) and have various other “credentials” to impress the gullible.  My philosophy remains Transcendental Agnosticism.  There are realities and intelligences greater than conditioned normal conscious recognizes, but it is premature to dogmatize about them at this primitive stage of our evolution.  We’ve hardly begun to crawl off the surface of the cradle-planet.

The most advanced shamanic techniques – such as Tibetan Tantra or Crowley’s system in the West – work by alternating faith and skepticisim until you get beyond the ordinary limits of both.  With such systems, one learns how arbitrary are the reality-maps that can be coded into laryngeal grunts by hominids or visualized by a mammalian nervous system.  We can’t even visualize the size of the local galaxy except in special High states.  Most people are trapped in one static reality-map imprinted on their neurons when they were naïve children, as Dr. Leary keeps reminding us.  Alas, most so-called “Adepts” or “Gurus” are similarly trapped in the first post-rapture reality-map imprinted after their initial Illumination, as Leary also realizes.  The point of systems like Tantra, Crowleyanity and Leary’s Neurologic is to detach from all maps – which gives you he freedom to use any map where it works and drop it where it doesn’t work.  As Dogen Zenji said, “Time is three eyes and eight elbos.”

SFR: Would I be right in saying you probably lean more toward the libertarian from of anarchism than the classic leftist variety?

Wilson:  My trajectory is perpendicular to the left-right axis of terrestrial politics.  I put some of my deepest idealism into both the Left anarchism of Simon Moon and the Right anarchism of Hagbard Celine in Illuminatus!, but I am detached from both on another level.

Politics consists of demands, disguised or rationalized by dubious philosophy (ideologies).  The disguise is an absurdity and should be removed.  Make your demands explicit.  My emphasis is on whatever will make extra-terrestrial migration possible in this generation.  The bureaucratic State, whether American, Russian or Chinese has all the clout on this planet for the foreseeable future. The individualist must fulfill hir genetic predisposition to be a pioneer, and the only way SHe can do that today is by moving into space faster than anyone else.  I think the maverick Seed is included in the DNA scenario to serve that function in each epoch.  I’m leaving Earth for the same reason my ancestors left Europe; freedom is found on the expanding, pioneering perimeter, never inside the centralized State.  To quote another Zen koan, “Where is the Tao?”  “Move on!”

SFR: You’re involved in an organization called the DNA Society which is interested in biological engineering and immortality, the creation and exploitation of higher forms of consciousness.  How serious are you about this?”  How close are we to achieving this on a broad scale?

Wilson:  Let me refer the reader to the The Prospect of Immortality and Man Into Superman by Ettinger, The Biological Time Bomb by Taylor, Te Immortality Factor by Segerberg, Terra II by Dr. Leary and Wayne Benner, the writings of John Lilly and Buckminster Fuller, and my article “The Future of Sex” in Oui for November 1975.

With that documentation, I assert that the basic longevity breakthrough will occur before 1980.  Segal, Bjorstein or Froimovich, among others, may be very close to it already.  The basic principles of reimprinting or meta-programming the nervous system, as discovered by Leary and Lilly, will be accepted and used in daily practice by around 1985.  A neurogentic quantum jump in life-expectancy, intellectual efficiency and emotional equilibrium (or, as Leary calls it, Hedonic Engineering) will be revolutionizing human life before the 21st Century.  Some of us will be alive when the Immortality Pill is found between 2050 and 2100.

SFR:  Dell’s marketing of Illuminatus! As a trilogy rather than a long novel and its hardsell advertising of the books seem designed to make it a “cult” novel like Stranger in a Strange Land and Dune.  Do you think it will succeed?

Wilson:  The senior execs at Dell had very little faith in such a madcap prank as Illuminatus! for a long time; it took the enthusiasm of five junior editors in succession, each of whom fought for publication, before the Alphas at the top of the herd were persuaded.  Then they split it up into 3 volumes (and cut 5—page of the more spaced-out stuff) because he investment in paper to print it as one volume seemed too great a business risk to them.  They only gave it an advertising budget, finally, after it became a success without advertising.  As for my private opinion as one of the co-authors of this accursed neo-Necronomicon, why, I think it should be promoted as a major historical event, similar to the publication of Ulysses or the bombing of Hiroshima, and not as a “cult” novel at all.  Did you know that Disney was a secret peyote and jimson weed cultist and his last words were “Red, white and blue cockroaches dancing in harmony.”?

SFR:  Illuminatus! has heavy doses of obscenity and sex, requires  pretty broad background knowledge and uses unconventional stream-of-consciousness techniques – do you think thee things will be an obstacle for large numbers of readers?

Wilson:  There is no such animal as “obscenity,” scientifically speaking, until and unless somebody invents an obscenometer which can be pointed at a book and will give you an objective reading of how many smuts or microsmuts of “obscenity” are in it.  Meanwhile, “obscenity” is just a word used by people with sex-negative imprints and confuses their private map with the objective territory.  Sex seems to be the most festive aspect of mammalian life and should be enjoyed and celebrated to the full.

I started the “Linda Lovelace for President” campaign two years ago, by having a rubber stamp made with that slogan and using it on my envelopes.  (I correspond extensively with editors, writers, witches, scientists and other culture-makers.)  To my delight, the campaign has already resulted in a move with that title, Linda Lovelace for President, and I hope the idea will continue to snowball and become a mammoth write-in vote next November, which would be a perfect Discordian action to commemorate the first anniversary of Illuminatus!  In a sane society, cock-sucking would be esthetically judged in terms similar to novel-writing, grand opera, swordsmanship, etc. and Linda would be an honored artist.  I mean that gal can really swallow Peter.  But I digress.

I don’t think the reader needs to be particularly erudite to appreciate most of the humor in Illuminatus!  I’ve received lots of fan letters from teen-agers, and nobody is particularly erudite at that age (although I thought I was).  There are lots of “in” jokes that will only be appreciated by mathematicians, or physicists, or Joyce scholars, or acid-heads, or Cabalists or other special interest groups, but that’s just the icing on the cake.  Some traps are deliberate, of course; as Josiah Warren said, “It is dangerous to understand new things too quickly.”  I have tried to shield my readers from that danger.  Besides, a book should last and not get worn-out.  I’ve been reading Finnegans Wake for 27 years now and I still find loads of new jokes and subtleties every time I get into it.  I hope Illuminatus! might last that way for its real aficionados.  There’s lots of fun, for instance, in store for anybody who starts relating the contents of the ten chapters to the Sephiroth on the Cabalistic Tree of life after which the chapters are named.

Finally, there is virtually no stream-of-consciousness in Illuminatus!   The narrative technique is based on D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, which I think is the greatest movie ever made.  Of course, to get Schroedinger’s Cat and the new physics in, I had to introduce parallel universes alongside of or on top of the Griffith time-montage.  But, as McLuhan pointed out, the newspaper uses similar collage or mosaic effect every day.  Only static, archaic notions about what a book “should be” prevent people from just going along with the ride when similar cinematic-journalistic matricies are applied to the novel.  Hitchcock uses the Griffith cross-cut continually, for tease-effect and suspense.  People only object when the tens reaches the intensity of a Zen riddle and makes them genuinely uncomfortable about their current reality-map.  Well, Illuminatus!  reflects post-LSD consciousness, the new (post-

Bell’s Theorem) physics, the occult revival, etc. and therefore is an utter failure, In its ambitions, if it doesn’t make people uncomfortable with static reality-maps.  There may be red, white and blue cockroaches in the universe next door.

SFR:  Who really did kill JFK?

Wilson:  In the universe created by Earl Warren, Lee Harvey Oswald did it, acting alone.  In the universe created by Mark Lane, it was done by a cabal of right-wing millionaires and former CIA agents.  In my current universe, that’s just one of the many mysteries remaining to be solved.  I might add – “without fear of contradiction,” as Hitler used to say – that, whereas current IQ tests only measure one dimension of intelligence, future psychology will measure n-dimensional intelligence, according to how many universes a person can occupy simultaneously.

SFR:  Is it true that your initials, RAW, are an Illuminati joke revealing you are really Ra, the Egyptian Sun God?

Wilson:  No. Actually, I’m Kharis the Mummy, and who took my tanka leaves?”

SFR:  What did happen to Joe Malik’s dogs in Illuminatus!?

Wilson:  I’m surprised that a person of your intelligence hasn’t seen through that little koan.  Anybody trained in classic detective-story thinking can solve that mystery quite quickly, by simply reviewing the evidence in an orderly fashion and then making the logical deductions.  Actually, the first step is to ask, did anybody ever see the dogs, or were they only inferred?  If the answer doesn’t appear from sifting the data through that question, re-read page 33 of Volume II very slowly.  I might add that other “loose ends” complained of by certain distinguished critics (nameless assholes, actually) are, like the disappearing dogs, easily penetrated by a reader of lively and skeptical intelligence.  But where are my tanka leaves?

SFR:  Here’s a hard one.  If George Dorn was a student at Columbia at the time of the 1968 student strike, how could he possible be as young as 23 in the novel, which is obviously set in the late1970s?

Wilson:  The novel is set in a very specific year of the 1970s, which can also be deduced from the dialog on pages 118 of Volume II.  If you don’t have any tanka leaves do you have some Columbian Gold?

SFR: I realize the Squirrel is not inferior to most of the characters in Illuminatus!, but I’m still wondering what purpose he served. Did he serve any?

WILSON:  One of the first things you learn in this business is that you just follow orders and you don’t ask questions.  They told me we needed a squirrel, and I put the squirrel in.  Once you start asking why, you lose your effectiveness immediately and then you’re no good to anybody, not even yourself.  It’s your balls in a sling then, friend.  I shit you not.  “Termination with maximum prejudice” – as the boys around Alexandria and at CFR headquarters in New York.  The overlords, on Sirius, don’t like it when any of us in Earth Control get out of line, believe me.

Actually, I think it has something to do with giving a DNA-eye view of history. It makes more sense in the original, before 500 pages were sent down the Memory Hole by the Reality Monitors at Dell, but even in the truncated published version, we have representatives of all the major races; nations and tribes if WoMankind; the gorillas and dolphins, representing Higher Intelligence; the squirrel, representing mammal-kind and at an even more primitive level than the human characters; FUCKUP representing non-biological intelligence; Leviathan, standing in for unicellular life Writ large, as it were; the American Eagle, for the domination of the air; the squinks (Swift-Kick Inc.), as designers of the local galaxy; etc. Together with the linear jump across time-zones and the non-linear warps of space-time itself, this should create a perspective transcending normal human chauvinism, oxygen chauvinism, Type G star chauvinism, and other parochialites imposed on “realistic” novels by the taboo against asking serious philosophical questions in so-called serious fiction. In other words, the squirrel and the other infra- and sub- and supra- and trans- human characters are there to dramatize Ouspensky’s injunction “Think in other categories.”

SFR:  Thinkers of the John Birch persuasion have linked the “Illuminati to the modern super-rich so-called Bilderbergers, but there was no mention of this idea in Illuminatus!  How come?

Wilson:  That idea is in Illuminatus! several times, but the word “Bilderbergers” somehow didn’t get included.  Probably a thought-ray from Bilderberger Hq. managed to knock out that particular synaptic connection in our brains.  The Sphere of Chaos which controls the Elders of Zion, the Rothschild banks, the Federal Reserve, etc., in the diagram on p. 97 of Vol. I, is a portrait of the “Bilderberger” wing of the Conspiracy without the “Bilderberger” label.  Curiously, the single most intelligent and least nutty of all the conspiracy books I’ve read (and I’ve literally read thousands by now) is The Naked Capitalist by W. C. Skousen.  Skousen describes the Rothschild-Rockefeller-CFR network in brilliant detail, but he doesn’t use the word “Illuminati” and only mentions “Bilderberger” conferences in passing.  I presume that these omissions must have some sinister meaning.  Quite possibly, Skousen, along with Shea and me, is influenced by psionic Ascended Masters who prevent us from seeing, or revealing, too much.

SFR:  What is your reaction to the reviews of Illuminatus!?

Wilson:  They’ve all been most kind and gratifying, but I get the distinct feeling that none of them have really understood the book.  Of course, I enjoy being told how witty and imaginative we were, but thus far only Dr. Leary and an occult journal called Green Egg have noticed that the satire is only the surface.  Something else is going on under and above and alongside of the joking.  Like Bernard Shaw, I have to look askance at my own skill in disarming my audience by making them laugh, and I almost wish I had provided a Shavian preface warning everybody that the final joke only becomes obvious to those who decipher the appendices called “The Tactics of Magick” and “Operation Mindfuck.”  Or, as Shaw said, the funnies part of this comedy is that I really am a menace. Heh-heh-heh.  (Murkey laugh.)

SFR:  Thank you, Mr. Wilson.

(submitted to rawilsonfans by RMJon23)

DangerMedia Innerview

The DangerMedia Innerview

by Kevin Kovelant, a.k.a.Naile

“I used to be an atheist, until I realized I had nothing to shout during blowjobs. ‘Oh Random Chance! Oh Random Chance!’ just doesn’t cut it….” – R.A.W. DragonCon, 2000.

Robert Anton Wilson is a name that many are familiar with. He is co-author of the infamous Illuminatus! Trilogy, with Robert Shea, he is a hero to many of us here at DangerMedia, and many more outside of DangerMedia. As such, I was nervous about approaching him. After all, here was a man who had utterly changed my life in college with a simple book called Cosmic Trigger. He was a guest at DragonCon this past year in Atlanta, and I was lucky to land an interview with him. I will admit, I approached this interview nervously, but soon found myself relaxing and enjoying the task at hand. Here I was, able to finally talk to a man I’d wanted to meet for the last 11 years. As “Bob” reassured me, once we were getting started…

“talking and writing are two of my favorite occupations.”

What followed was a wide-ranging conversation dealing with books, conspiracies, poetry, and everything in between. A logical starting point was with the Illuminatus! Trilogy… definitely the most intertwined series of in-jokes, speculation, fnord, and conspiracy theory ever published.

Illuminatus! to me is like Citizen Kane to Orson Welles. Everybody says its his greatest work, everybody thinks Illuminatus! is my greatest work. But nobody wants to hear about something they did early in their careers. It implies I’ve been going downhill ever since.”

Yikes! Afraid I’d hit a raw nerve (no pun intended), Bob did reassure me that

“I do like Illuminatus! In spite of the fact that more people have read it than any of my other books. You know, I’ve written so many things since Illuminatus! But its not that bad. Somebody told me today that Coincidance was his favorite book, somebody else said The Widow’s Son, and somebody else said Prometheus Rising. So that cheered me up. Some people have read some of my other books.”

Bob also assembled a rather impressive volume of conspiracy theories, Everything Is Under Control. I’d found this to be a useful reference guide (okay, I’m a bit of a conspiracy buff), but learned that it had not been as comprehensive as originally envisioned…

“Its not as good as it should have been, though. The reason that it wasn’t, is my wife was dying when I was writing it. I was not in my best state of concentration. That’s why it is shorter than its supposed to be. That’s why there’s so much white space around the different items. They tried to make the book longer than it was. What they should’ve done is give me more time after my wife’s death to recover, and really write the book the way they wanted. But they wanted to get it into print in a hurry. So, I feel it’s a very incomplete book. If I had included all the conspiracy theories I wanted to, it would be much funnier, and much more confusing. There are so many conspiracy theories around.”

I wanted to know more…. After all, with so many conspiracy theories available, how does one pick and choose which one is right for them? One of my personal favorites has been the Priory Of Sion, as exposed in the book Holy Blood Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh, and Nichols. I found a sympathetic ear!

“The Priory Of Sion fascinates me, because it has all the appearances of being a real conspiracy, and yet if you look at the elements another way, it looks like a very complicated practical joke by a bunch of intellectual French aristocrats. And half of the time I believe it really is a practical joke by a bunch of intellectual French aristocrats. And then part of the time I think it is a real conspiracy.”

Delving deeper, we found that trading conspiracy theories was even more fun than trading Pokemon cards! Bob shared a few more with me.

“Another one I like a lot is one from Birmingham, Alabama, that claims that the United States has been run by Freemasons ever since the beginning, but they added that the Freemasons are really a gay secret society. Even George Washington was gay. Everybody knows he was a Freemason, right? George Washington was gay, and all the Freemasons are gay, we’ve been run by gays for two hundred years, and that’s why Jesus created AIDS, to punish this country. I think that’s the craziest conspiracy theory I ever heard! Its one of my favorites, because it is so incredibly absurd, and yet there are people quite capable of believing it.”

His favorite though?

“The conspiracy theory that’s my favorite, is the one I invented myself. That’s the TSOG. Not to be confused with the ZOG. The ZOG is a right-wing conspiracy: The Zionist Occupation Government. I haven’t ever found any evidence of any Zionists in our government. But we do have a Tsar, no doubt about it. I traced it back to 1945, when Hitler’s Chief of Soviet Intelligence Rheinhard Gehlen surrendered to the American Army after first burying several truckloads of data about the Soviet Union that he had obtained while working for Hitler, which he had gathered from all of his connections in the Soviet Union, which were all led by General Vlassov, who was a Tsarist who had infiltrated the Red Army, just to betray the Communists. And so the CIA, when they were formed -Gehlen was working for the OSS for three years- then the OSS turned into the CIA, and Gehlen became the head of the Soviet Penetration section, and his chief agent in the Soviet Union was this Tsarist, General Vlassov. The Tsarists had infiltrated the KGB, and the Red Army. So all of the United States’ Cold War policies were based on reports about what the Soviet Union was doing or planning to do came through Tsarists and Nazis. So no wonder the United States policies got more and more crazy and Right Wing as the years went by! But then as I traced the influence of Tsarism on the American Government, the next thing I knew, we had an official Tsar! And he’s in charge of what medicine we take! Which inspired me to write not my best poem, but what I think will be my most widely quoted poem:

Oh the sick can’t get their meds in the States
The sick can’t get their meds in the States
The sick can’t get their meds
They are hounded by the Feds
They are dying in their beds
In the States.

Oh the sick can’t get their meds in Iraq
The sick can’t get their meds in Iraq
The sick can’t get their meds
Bombs are falling on their beds
Are we off our fucking heads?
That’s a fact!

I call it The Ballad Of Killer Bill

“I’ve invented this symbol I’m using in my e-mail. Its five dollar signs. This is to avoid all the other conspiracy theories. The five dollar signs represent the one half of one percent of the world’s population that controls almost all the wealth. They may hate one another, they may fight with one another, they may conspire against one another, but they have interests in common which are not the interests of the rest of the world like you and me, and everybody we know. And they do act as a unified force whenever its in their interest. In fact, I think there’s a Japanese word for it. Its when all the competing forces in Japan in industry and banking, when they all decide to work together to get rid of some common problem annoying all of them. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to go back to competing with one another, and back-stabbing each other next week. But when they have one common problem, they all work together. A reporter named Danny Cassalero discovered this. He didn’t even know the Japanese word for it. He just called it “The Octopus”. He discovered that all the power forces in the world, no matter how opposed they seem to be all work together when there seems to be a challenge that challenges all of them. He called it “The Octopus.” I represent it by five dollar signs, representing the people who own almost all the money on the planet.”

Realizing that we had now identified “the enemy”, the next question becomes “how do you fight back?”

“Nobody could fight them successfully by any ordinary means. The militias go out, and they practice shooting, so they can go out and fight the American Government. How can you fight the American Government with those kinds of weapons? The American Government has atom bombs! The only way you’ll ever overturn the Five Dollar Signs, is through ones and zeros. Information! Fucking with the computer systems! The Iraq War was stalled for five days because of a fifteen year old who shut down all the computers in the Pentagon. I DO NOT URGE PEOPLE TO DO THIS, IT IS A FEDERAL CRIME TO URGE PEOPLE TO DO IT, AND I’M DEFINITELY OPPOSED TO IT. I want to be perfectly clear: I DON’T BELIEVE IN THIS, but its going to happen. People who don’t like the way the world is run are going to be fucking more and more with the computer systems of the governments, and the power centers, and they’re going to screw with all of them so much that they’re going to collapse eventually. And as I said, I don’t urge this, I just predict that its going to happen. [laughs] How’s that for skating around a Treason charge? I don’t want to spend thirteen years in a nuthouse….”

Settling deep into paranoia, I decided it was time to call upon some of Bob’s other “disciplines.” After all, I wanted to interview Mr. Welles about more than just Citizen Kane. Bob has written books on a number of other subjects as well, and I wanted to make sure I could cover as many bases as possible in our limited time together. As he told me…

“I’ve written about a lot of different subjects! I’ve got about ten different fan-clubs, depending on which book they’ve read!”

I brought up the topic of magick. Aleister Crowley, and other mystic-types have made guest-appearances in a few of his works. I wondered what affiliations my interviewee might have…

“Christopher Hyatt was asked that, he’s one of my publishers – New Falcon Press, and he said ‘Bob belongs to no group, and to all.’ I like that answer so much, I let it stand. I’ve been initiated into several groups. Like most writers, I’m congenitally solitary. If they put me in solitary confinement, I’d feel just like Timothy Leary when they put him in solitary confinement. He said ‘What’s the problem? All I’ve got to talk to is the most intelligent person I know!’ What’s the problem there? That’s what Timothy told me after he got out of solitary confinement. That’s the way I feel. Being a writer is a lot like a self-imposed life sentence of solitary confinement. I had a wife, and four kids, and most of my days were spent in one room with a typewriter, until I got a computer. Now its one room, with a computer. But I like people, I’m gregarious up to an extent, but magick seems to be a very private and personal thing. I don’t like group workings.”

I inevitably realized I wouldn’t be able to stay out of conspiracy-mode for long. One of the books I had had him sign for me that morning was Sex And Rockets by John Carter, about Jet Propulsion Labs founder and Crowley disciple Jack Parsons. He had written the introduction for it. So, Jack Parsons – murdered, or was it an accident?

“Well, I don’t know, but I’m really fond of the theory that J. Edgar Hoover ordered the assassination of Jack Parsons. This theory is in a screenplay by a guy I know, who’s been working his ass off trying to sell it to a major studio. Of course [Hoover]’s just crazy enough that he could’ve done it. Parsons was planning on leaving the United States. He knew more about rockets than anybody except maybe Werner von Braun. Hoover thought he was a communist, which shows how crazy Hoover was. Parsons was a libertarian. Virtually an anarchist. J. Edgar Hoover knew that Parsons had a lot of friends who were communists. You couldn’t work in science in California in the forties without having a lot of friends who were communists. Hoover was a nut. He thought Parsons was a communist, and the idea of a communist who knew all these top secrets leaving the country… it makes sense to me that Hoover could have ordered the assassination. It’s a theory I’d like to see more widely discussed.”

Hmm. “other disciplines!” I reminded myself. Knowing that Bob had been a close friend of Dr. Timothy Leary’s I was curious to know what his first experience with mind-altering substances was like.

“Do you count marijuana as a psychedelic?” he asked.

“We can.” I assured him.

“My first marijuana experience, which seemed psychedelic at the time, was at the Village Vanguard in New York in 1955 or 1956. The Modern Jazz Quartet was playing, and I was a big fan of theirs, and I went to the men’s room to take a leak. One of the musicians was in there smoking a joint, and he recognized me because of the enthusiasm of my applause, and he said ‘Do you want a toke?’ and I said ‘Yeah, man!’ I didn’t know where to contact anybody who had any pot, and I’d been reading about it for years. So I was turned on by a member of The Modern Jazz Quartet in the men’s room of the Village Vanguard. I went back out there, and their second set just seemed even so much better than the first set! It as was the greatest music they ever played, as far as I was concerned.”

In regards to his first actual hallucinogenic/psychedelic experience….

“My first experience with a major psychedelic was with peyote in 1962, and that was full of marvelous philosophical revelations, beautiful colors, magnificent visions, and at the height of it – and this was New Year’s in 1962- and I went into the other room, and looked at the Christmas tree, and the ornaments and everything were beautiful. It was the most beautiful Christmas tree I ever saw. And then I realized that the Christmas tree loved me, and I burst into tears. I was running back to tell my wife and my friends ‘The Christmas tree loves me!!!’ Even telling that story, tears came to my eyes, I remember the experience so vividly!’ The Christmas tree that loves me!'”

Bob then shared his plans for the upcoming U.S. elections with me.

“I’m planning to look at the first debate between ‘Bore’ and ‘Gush’ on acid. A couple friends of mine are coming around. We’ve all agreed that we want to watch that on acid.”

I hadn’t thought of that! and what brought about this idea?

“[This] was inspired by the testimony of Cary Grant’s third divorce trial. His wife charged mental cruelty. One of the accounts of mental cruelty was that he never went to the Academy Awards dinners. Every year she tried to blackmail him to take her to the Academy Awards by buying the most beautiful and expensive gowns that she could to put down all the other rich Hollywood women with their beautiful expensive gowns by having one more expensive and beautiful than any of them. Cary still refused to go. He would stay home, look at the Academy Awards on television, drop acid, and spend the whole five hours jumping up and down on the bed laughing his head off. And I thought ‘That’s really the way to enjoy the Academy Awards!’ And then I realized it would be an even better way to enjoy a debate between a coke-freak who claims he’s not a coke-freak, anymore than a pot-head who claims he’s not a pot-head. And they’re both running for president on a platform devoted to throwing other drug users into jail. It’s the only way to really appreciate modern American politics.”

I just can’t see Cary Grant on acid….

” Oh, Cary Grant was one of the most enthusiastic acidheads in Hollywood. He turned on almost everybody in Hollywood. He went into therapy in his late fifties, with a doctor who used LSD therapy. And Cary Grant thought it did so much good for him, that he went around turning on everybody in Hollywood that he knew. Cary Grant did as much for the psychedelic revolution as Ken Kesey and Tim Leary! Just before he died, he came out of retirement. He did a one-man stage show. He toured the country, and sat in a chair, and would chat with the audience about his career, and his memories, and this and that. Then he’d take questions. In San Francisco, somebody yelled out ‘STILL DOING ACID, CARY??’ and here he is, 84 years old, sits back on his stool, gave that famous ‘Cary Grant grin’, and said ‘Well, if I did, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to talk about it in public!’ I was asked that question when I was on Politically Incorrect, my answer was ‘I haven’t done acid in two days, and I want you to know, its great to be clean!'”

Knowing about the “evolutionary” angle of some of Bob’s works, I wanted to know whether he thought the recent mapping of the human genetic structure and/or cloning, were good ideas, or not?

“I’m 100% in favor of both. As far as mapping the genetic structure, as you can see, I’m in a wheelchair. This is the result of having had polio when I was 4 years old. I’d been entirely mobile since I was cured of polio, but I’ve had increasing leg problems over the years, which is normal. Its called Post-Polio Syndrome. With the mapping of the genetic code, there’s a whole new field in medicine opening up, which gives me great hope I won’t spend the rest of my life in this wheelchair. Plus I’m a congenital optimist anyway. Cloning really turns me on.”

I brought up other recent scientific theories as well, including the idea that life began on Mars.

“Life may have arrived here from Mars, on a meteor. There’s some evidence of that. Our sun is a fifth generation star. I’m sure life began a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. [laughter]”

So, the Panspermia Theory?

“Not as a belief system, but as a high probability. Its hard to believe in this vast universe, that its only happened once. It’s the last bastion of fundamentalist materialism, which was invented to make us all feel as depressed as possible about everything. I just can’t believe it. As Carl Sagan used to say…’Billions and billions of galaxies! And billions and billions of suns in those galaxies!’ And we can’t possibly be the only one.”

I’d always found Bob’s books to be full of hope for the future. I’d wondered what lessons he wanted to see humanity learn. What advice could he impart to us?

“Don’t believe anything. Regard things on a scale of probabilities. The things that seem most absurd, put under ‘Low Probability’, and the things that seem most plausible, you put under ‘High Probability’. Never believe anything. Once you believe anything, you stop thinking about it. The more things you believe, the less mental activity. If you believe something, and have an opinion on every subject, then your brain activity stops entirely, which is clinically considered a sign of death, nowadays in medical practice. So put things on a scale or probability, and never believe or disbelieve anything entirely.”

Finally, I had to ask. The question we’ve all wanted to know. Does 23 occur because we look for it, or do we look for it because it occurs?

“I don’t know. And I think that’s a great way to end an interview. ‘I don’t know.’ There’s more that I don’t know, than there is that I do know. I think almost all writers -politicians and clergymen do it much more- but anyone who writes books has a tendency to slip into this nasty habit of pretending they know everything. Even when they try to avoid it, people try to force them into it. I started out in my twenties, to be a generalist. I like that term. I find that the older I get, the harder it is, because any area in which people think I know a lot, I’m either five years or twenty years behind the current level of research. You can’t be a generalist nowadays! I’m a great generalist for the 1970’s, but the year 2000, I’m behind in almost everything.”