Conspiracies and altered states go hand in hand with sharp intellect in the form of Robert Anton Wilson, author of the cult SF trilogy “Illuminatus!”
First published 1999 in The X Factor
ROBERT ANTON WILSON is arguably one of the most important and influential writers of our times. His opus of work ranges from Science Fiction and Historical Fiction to erudite and witty commentaries on psychology, conspiracies, the paranormal and quantum physics. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1932, Wilson early on took an interest in techniques of mind expansion. This led him to explore the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski, (Wilhelm) Reichian therapy, and eventually marijuana, LSD, and the “Magick” of Aleister Crowley. Wilson is perhaps most famous for the SF trilogy “Illuminatus!” (1975), which he co-authored with Robert Shea, and which won the Prometheus Award as a “Classic” of SF in 1986.
A subsequent SF trilogy, “Schroedinger’s Cat” (1979), was hailed by New Scientist magazine as “the most scientific of all science fiction novels”.
Of his non-fiction work, Wilson’s “Prometheus Rising” (1983) outlined a workable road map for mind expansion, “Quantum Psychology” (1990) brought psychology into line with quantum physics, while the autobiographical “Cosmic Trigger” trilogy (1977-1995) offered Wilson’s thoughts on the “universe and everything”.
Wilson’s book, “Everything Is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults and Cover-ups” (1998 HarperCollins, USA), co-compiled with Miriam Joan Hill, is an extensive A-Z of conspiracy theories. So I took the opportunity to ask him which of the many conspiracies floating around at present he considers to be the most plausible?
I find great plausibility in a combination of Buckminster Fuller and Ezra Pound, minus Pound’s anti-Semitism. I agree mostly with Pound’s judgment that banks currently have more power than governments; I do not think the banks all have Jewish owners or serve some “Jewish plot.”
I also accept Fuller’s verdict that governments consist of “sponsored entities” – sponsored by the billionaires and occasional millionaires who support the politicians’ election campaigns (one hundred million for a Senate race, 3 or 4 hundred million for president).
I also agree with Fuller that although banks make up most of this elite they have some degree of co-operation and some degree of rivalry with other “hidden rulers,” chiefly the Mafia, the atomic energy cartels and Big Oil. Fuller calls this confederation MMAO (Machievelli, Mafia, Atoms & Oil) and I think that sums it up as well as any label can.
In both your fiction and non-fiction, the idea of the Illuminati serves as a metaphor for individuals who have achieved a high-level of mind expansion. But, in reality, did the Illuminati continue much beyond Adam Weishaupt in the 18th century?
I don’t claim to know anything about this, but I do have opinions, based on 30 years of amusing, confusing and often frustrating and puzzling research.
In my opinion, the occult/mind-expansion side of the Illuminati survived through various “Masonic” lodges, especially the Order of Memphis and Mizraim, and still survives via the Ordo Templi Orientis and, perhaps, a few other lodges.
The political side of the Illuminati survives in our Bill of Rights, as far as some bleeding remnants of the Bill of Rights have survived, i.e. alive (barely) but severely disabled.
What is your view of the Freemasons?
Basically, I have a favorable view of Freemasonry. I think we owe our Bill of Rights to Masonic influence, for instance. I also think that in some cases Masonic lodges have served political ends, sometimes benign and sometimes quite malign.
Just remember that the list of known Freemasons includes Mozart, Ben Franklin, J Edgar Hoover, Voltaire, FDR, Ronald Reagan and the Italian bank owners of the P2 lodge of Grand Orient Freemasonry who laundered drug money for the Mafia and CIA in the 1970s.
I think Freemasonry does not possess fungibility or homogeneity. It depends on what lodge, what country and what decade you look at.
During the early 1970s you practiced Aleister Crowley’s system of Magick, which you found to be a very effective method of mind expansion. Do you think the magickal system outlined by Crowley is relevant to today’s world – or are there faster, more effective systems around now?
I don’t think one system works for everybody. I have found great value in LSD, Crowley, Reichian body work, NLP, brainwave machines, some Sufi and yoga exercises, general semantics etc. Other people will find some of these irksome or stressful.
Everybody has to find their own path.
Some seem to have found value even in psychoanalysis, but I don’t know why. Some even follow Scientology, which puzzles me even more. Different scenes for different genes, different lanes for different brains.
Could you outline what you consider to be the essential ingredients of any mind expansion program?
I would want emphasis on technique (or techniques) and serious practice of same. I want no dogma and no guru. A Perfect Master seems suitable only for those who desire to become Perfect Slaves.
In your opinion, do we have a spirit or a soul?
Those terms carry connotations that seem footless to me. I do suspect that we have a local mind, here and now, and a non-local mind, everywhere and everywhen, like the non-local software in David Bohm’s version of quantum theory.
Zen calls them Little Mind and Big Mind. Once you contact Big Mind, even briefly, most of “metaphysics” and most of “materialism” seem rather unreal and beside the point.
Outlined in Cosmic Trigger is how, during the early 1970s, you entertained the notion that you had some contact with an ET from Sirius, which was in some way connected with your higher self – what are your views on this now?
I think I might have contacted the Sirius sector of non-local mind, or maybe I just needed that metaphor because otherwise I’d have no idea at all about what had happened. As the Sufis say, when a blind man who has never touched water falls into the ocean, he knows something unthinkable has happened, but he doesn’t yet know what to call it.
What is your view on aliens – are they flesh and blood ETs?
I don’t claim to know, but I incline toward the view of one deep or non-local mind appearing in various forms, as edited by the belief system (b.s.) of the observer.
In the light of your experiences with Magick and hallucinogens, what is your view on the literal reality of spirits – be they goetic demons, poltergeists, shamanic allies, Crowley’s “Aiwass”, or whatever?
I don’t take “spirits” literally, but then I don’t take anything literally. All of our perceptions derive from sub-conscious editing and orchestration of the billions of signals we receive from Universe every second. We edit and orchestrate the signals to fit our current reality-tunnel. General ideas and scientific, religious or philosophical theories based on such selective perception become even more neatly tailored to our reality tunnel, or our current b.s. (belief system). I regard “spirits,” pookahs, angels and UFOnauts the same way I regard the rest of humanity’s mental furniture. If it stays in somebody’s mental library long enough, it serves some function for them. It may not serve any function for me.
What aspects of the various quantum theories do you most agree with and why? And which ones do you disagree with?
To make explicit what has lurked implicitly in all my answers, I have much agreement for the “model agnosticism” created mostly by Niels Bohr. A similar model agnosticism appears in the general semantics of Korzybski and the ethno-methodology of Garfinkle.
According to this viewpoint, we should never believe in our models or maps of Universe the way most people believe in their religion or ideology.
I have often described belief as the death of intellect. I prefer to use a model only and always where it appears to work for me, and to use other models in other areas, and to abandon any and all models if and when a better model comes along.
In one of my polemical works, “The New Inquisition,” I call belief in any model “idolatry” and “modeltheism.”
I still stand behind that.
After strong doses of model agnosticism, I find great merit in the non-local theories that have emerged from Bell’s Theorem, especially in the works of such physicists as Wolfe, Walker, Bohm and Herbert.
A popular version we owe to Douglas Adams states it generally as…”All things are interconnected but some things are more interconnected than others.”This non-locality idea not only seems to make more sense of quantum weirdities than other models do, but it also explains some of my psychedelic and Magick experiences better than any other model.
I also strongly support the Von Neumann/Finklestein idea of a three-valued “quantum logic” (true, false, maybe) in preference to Aristotelian true/false logic; but I go beyond physics in giving even more weight to Korzybski’s infinite-valued logic, a scale of probabilities running from 0 to 10 with as many spaces in between as fits the data, e.g., “Probability of 7.03 plus or minus 0.05”.
I don’t totally reject any quantum model, although some seem pretty weird to me – e.g. the idea that the universe “is” “not” there when nobody looks.
When the ideas of quantum physics are eventually assimilated into everyday culture, how do you think they will effect the man or woman in the street?
I think that when the ideas of model agnosticism, the Uncertainty Principle, fuzzy logics, etc, become generally known it will cause a social revolution bigger and more global than the Renaissance or the Age of Enlightenment.
I have no prediction of how soon this will occur… If I judged by the people I meet on my lecture tours, I’d say it has already happened.