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.”