Author Robert Anton Wilson Speaks With The TVI Times
By Arthur Simoni
May 15, 2001
He has been called in his time a sage, a prophet, a psychologist, a guru, a futurist, a guerilla ontologist, an adept and a postmodernist to name many. One thing is for sure, he is a first class writer. With 32 books in print in fiction, philosophy, and psychology, he could never be called a one hit wonder.
But Robert Anton Wilson doesn’t like labels.
Ask him and he will tell you what he prefers, Well, two books described me as a postmodernist. I liked that for a while, Wilson said. But recently I decided that was a bit pretentious, so now I ‘m just calling myself a damned old crank. Besides, when you‘re my age you have a right to act like a damned old crank.
Born in New York, Wilson grew up in a Roman Catholic environment.
To quote James Joyce, I left the church at the age of 14 detesting it, Wilson said. I went through a period of atheism until my late 20‘s. Then I became an agnostic.
Wilson said that there are different definitions of agnosticism.
To me, agnosticism means admitting that I don‘t know everything, Wilson said, laughing. I mean, how the hell can I comprehend the universe to come to a definite conclusion about whether or not it was created or just happened. I ‘m inclined to think some sort of creative intelligence, but I don ‘t like to talk about because I don ‘t know anything about it. I avoid the word God scrupulously, as did George Washington.
Which brings the conversation to what Wilson is best known for, his books about various conspiracies.
Washington was a Freemason, Wilson said. You know back in those days Freemasonry was very closely associated with rationalism and free thought. It was a secret society for the bourgeoisie. Now the bourgeoisie are running the country.
The big masons of the 18th century were people like Washington, maybe Jefferson, Franklin, Voltaire, Beethoven and Mozart. Who can you think of recently? J. Edgar Hoover, Ronald Reagan, can you see the change? Wilson said, laughing again.
Because of his many books on conspiracies in general and the ticular, the question is always there, is he himself a Freemason?
No. Maybe. Well, I am an initiate of an order that considers itself freemasonic, is all he will say on this day.
I‘ve written books on a couple of dozen subjects and every time I get interviewed I get most questions about that, Wilson said. I can‘t seem to get away from it.
You know sometimes I think they are all an elaborate joke, Wilson said referring to many of the conspiracy theories he writes about. You know John Cocteau was the twenty- third Grand Master of the Priory of Sion and he was also one of the founders of the surrealist movement. I think around 1932, they were sitting around, smoking opium and Cocteau said to Dali and Picasso ‘Surrealism is running out of gas, we gotta do something bigger. So they all took another toke of opium and Dali said I know, let ‘s start a conspiracy. ‘
But Wilson would much rather talk on other subjects. He will be in Albuquerque on November 2-7 for the International Conference on Altered States of Consciousness that will bring together over fifty of the top authors on the subject for lectures and workshops. Wilson said it was important to find ways to alter your consciousness.
From the time we are born every tribe, culture or society tries to imprint or condition us to see, feel, smell just like the rest of the tribe. I think it is very important to jar, shock or otherwise discombobulate your brain so your tribe doesn’t recognize you, Wilson said.
He also thinks that you should question everything.
The more things you totally believe in, the less thinking you ‘re inclined to do, Wilson said. The less thinking you do, the stupider you get. Besides, there are no grounds for believing in anything absolutely. All you really have are high probabilities.
As far as being a writer, Wilson said that it was always what he wanted to do.
I don‘t know why I write. Maybe if I had better art supplies when I was a child I would have been a painter, Wilson said.
Before becoming a freelance writer, Wilson worked as an editor for Playboy Magazine in the 1960‘s, answering letters for the Playboy Forum, which he described as a platform for the libertarian viewpoints he and many of his contemporaries held at the time.
And I got paid for it, Wilson said. I don‘t see any necessity for the government to decide what I eat, drink or smoke. It‘s none of the government‘s God damned business.
Working at Playboy was where he connected with Robert Shea to co-write his bestselling novel The Illuminatus Trilogy.
Illuminatus was so damned experimental most people gave up after the first ten pages. But what the hell, most people give up after the first page of Finnegans Wake, Wilson said.
Wilson listed his influences as Ezra Pound, James Joyce, William S. Burroughs, R. Buckminster Fuller, Aleister Crowley, Orson Welles and Timothy Leary.
Leary, with whom he co-wrote Neuropolitics, was one of his closest friends.
Personally, Tim could be a son-of-a-bitch, Wilson said. But ninety percent of the time he was the funniest, most amiable human being I ever met. The last time I saw Tim, I said ‘Timothy, I‘ve met Bucky Fuller and I still think you ‘re the most intelligent person I‘ve ever met. I‘ve met George Carlin and I still think your the funniest person I‘ve ever met. And Tim said to me, Robert, you‘re an excellent judge of character. Those were the last words we ever exchanged.
As for what inspires him, Wilson said he considers himself lucky to have a lot of young friends. He said that the reason most older people don‘t have younger friends is that they are too entrenched in their belief systems.
I don‘t believe anything, so I am always learning something new, Wilson said. But don‘t trust me. Don‘t believe anything that I say. I don ‘t know the truth, but I will tell you what I feel and think.
For those of us who have read some of his books, we are damn glad he didn‘t have better art supplies in his youth, or we may not have had the pleasure of reading what he thinks and feels.