Category Archives: Interviews

Robert Anton Wilson Interviews

Russian Magazine Interview

(Wilson posted the following to the Maybe Logic Academy main forum back in April of 2005)

My first interview with a Russian magazine….

1. Tell something about yourself for Russian readers.

I have 35 books in print in my own country, and they seem to stay in print. Some also have infiltrated Germany, Greece, Japan,    Brazil, the Scandanavian countries etc.  This seems remarkable to me because I don’t believe in anything — my whole philosophy consists of non-philosophy: persistent and vehement agnosticism — but I still remain just popular enough to stay in circulation. I’m not sure I understand why. Maybe the world has more cynics and relativists than any of our diverse Establishments suspect?

2. It seems like you want to see marijuana regulations liberalized, why?

Right now, I have personal reasons — marijuana helps a good deal with my post-polio symptoms – but I have always opposed the currentUSAanti-drug laws since I first heard about them, for three reasons. [1] the drugs on the Tabu list seem selected by highly eccentric and unscientific methods; I suspect commercial motives. As Lenin said, when you see injustice, ask: cui bono? I suspect that “our” government acts to support the major drug corporations and to stifle competition. 2. Because of its very nature, a War Against Some Drugs cannot succeed without the full apparatus of a totalitarian state, and I dread that; need I explain why? 3. At 73, I don’t feel like a child and i resent being treated like one by our Drug Tsar. I supported a wife and 4 children for most of my adult life. I think me and my doctor know what’s best for my health better than a Tsarist bureaucrat 3000 miles away, who hasn’t even given me a medical examination. I mean, it’s like living in a Kafka novel.

3. Is there any correlation between Taoists sense of humor and your sense of humor?

I often quote the old Chinese proverb, “The wise become Confucian in good times, Buddhist in bad times and Daoist in old age.” Since we live in good times [technologically], bad times [politically], and I feel as old as the last dinosaur, I’ve become Confucian-Buddhist- Daoist all in one package. I try to treat all people kindly, or at least politely, in Confucian terms; my empathy with all sentient critters has increased, in  quite Buddhist manner; and I grow increasingly detached from fixed ideas and emotions, in the Daoist mood. I don’t know whether to consider this Wisdom or just senility, but it appears harmless and doesn’t seem illegal, immoral or fattening.

4. Is there any real conspiracy that affects global processes?

I suspect that not one “conspiracy” but dozens —or hundreds — of competing gangs of goons affect global and local processes. On any given day, one of these bands of Great Pirates might have more clout than  the others, bit it’s seldom the same gang for two days, much less two years. Not  to appear evasive,the gangs I would  worry about the most, if still inclined to worry, would include the Vatican/Mafia mob, the Orange gang [Dutch-English bankers,  who own American banking, too]], the CIA, fundamentalist Islam in general, and the World Bank. But they all have lots of rivals.

5. What would you say to someone claiming there is Global Government?

I think I already said it.To say  it again, I’ll  quote Juang Ju: “There is no governor anywhere.”

6. What is the most disgusting prejudice can you point out?

That seems totally relative…asked the most disgusting, to me, I’d have to say the American prejudice against intelligence in politics. I don’t know where that began– we didn’t start that way — our first three presidents included two of the best minds of their century, Adams and Jefferson, and George Washington doesn’t seem a nitwit either….but nowadays any inadvertent revelation of intelligence by anybody in politics means their career dies immediately. We have lots of intelligent people in the sciences and arts, but politiics remains closed to them. I guess that results from the success of what  George Bush calls “faith-based organizations.”

7. Tell us, what do you think of democracy?

CONSTITUTIONAL democracy, with strict limits on government powers, seems to me the best possible government, if we must have government. Without constitutional limits, democracy easily becomes another damned tyranny. I’d also accept a constitutional monarchy, like the Decembrists. But I remain, in my heart of hearts, an anarchist.  I’d prefer contractual syndicates to any government.

8.AmericaandRussia, how do you see relationship between our countries?

I don’t feel informed enough to speculate, beyond saying I feel damned glad the Cold War has ended and I don’t have to fear that either of our crazy governments will start heaving H-bombs around

9. What do you think of the works of L. R. Hubbard?

What do you think of Stalin and Hitler?

10. What is conventional logic down side?

Aristotle’s damned either/or doesn’t make any sense to me. My thinking — or my stumbling and fumbling efforts to think — derives largely from  non-Aristotelian systems. That includes von Neumann’s three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rappoport’s four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski’s multi-valued logic [degrees of probability.] and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it “is” A. it “is” not A, it “is” both A and not A, it “is” neither A nor not A]. But, as an extraordinarily stupid fellow, I can’t use such systems until I reduce them to terms a simple mind like mine can handle, so I just preach that we’d all think and act more sanely if we had to use “maybe” a lot more often. Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering “Maybe Jesus ‘was’ the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do” — or every tower in Islam resounding with “There ‘is’ no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet”?

Why, the world might go stark staring sane!

11. In Maybe logic when one would encounter multiple options where to forward one’s conclusions, what is a guiding light for those who implement maybe logic groundings in applied studies?

Don’t believe ANYthing.  You will, of course, still have some suspicions and prejudices, but keep them in that category. Don’t ever elevate any of them to dogmas. Be prepared to learn more, even in startling and annoying ways.

12. Do you agree with such popular inRussiadichotomy (Due to Marx heritage) – mind – matter?

I rather tend toward the view of physicist David Bohm that the words “mind” and “matter” create endless confusion and should get put on the back shelf in a box labeled “Discarded Nonsense.” At most we should speak of “mind-like and matter-like phenomena.”

13. If there were Aliens what do you think they would be up to humankind-wise?

Any aliens aware of humanity would probably find us cute but possibly dangerous — sort of like I feel about polar bears. Or maybe that represents projection on my part — I find most humans cute but dangerous, not as cute as the bears but much more dangerous

14. How would you correlate Oriental and Western cultures?

I don’t know enough to generalize beyond their religions. I have a strong affinity with Confucianism, Daosim and Buddhism, which gives me a slight pro-Oriental bias. I regard Judaism, Christianity and Islam as three of the worst cults ever invented. Monotheism seem like intellectual poison to me. I fear all faith-based systems, including secular ideologies, which all seem like hangovers from the monotheistic dark ages.

15. If someone asked you – ‘Do you believe in God’ – what would you say?

Hell, no! Oddly, I don’t consider myself an atheist, though– not in the ordinary sense. The universe seems fundamentally rational to me, but I see no signs of a central government or a Tsar. The cybernetic concept of feedback and the Chinese concept of the Dao account for the intelligence I see in the world. To me, in my ignorance, Juang Ju’s axiom “There is no Governor anywhere” implies that “government” resides non-locally, as in a cybernetic system… or an anarchist syndicate maybe….

16. What is your favorite book?

Beyond all doubt, Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE.

17. What would you recommend to young people?

Don’ believe anything i say: think for yourself.

18. There is a prejudice among some Russian people that Americans are stupid, how would you comment on that?

I feel staggered. I can’t and won’t deny it. I just don’t know enough to generalize about 200,000,000 people, especially since that group includes me…For all I know, our Nobel scientists  compare unfavorably with other Nobel winners, our dentists with other dentists, our carpenters with other carpenters, our grocers with other grocers , and [gulp]  even our novelists with others, and so on. I simply haven’t done enough travel to offer an informed opinion, and     I defer to those who have.

19. What future according to you mankind is facing today?

I’m an unabashed optimist. I agree with Marx that politics follows economics, but I also agree with Buckminster Fuller that economics follows technology — and technology seems to lead more and more to decentralization of control or “Green” alternatives. Also we’re doing more with less energy every decade. Once we reach the point where Internet replaces all — or most — functions of government, we’ll solve the rest of our problems easily.

20. Do you think formal education is necessary?

That would depend on your ambitions. Most questions have no one answer. What you want determines what you have to do to get it.

21. What do you consider your most important single idea?

My “Idiot of the Century” Law. This has two sides. First, if you occasionally suspect that you have acted like the Idiot of the Century, you will act a little less like the Idiot of the Century, and the more often you entertain that suspicion, the less of an Idiot you become. Conversely, if you never confront such dark suspicions, every idiocy that ever enters your head will stay there and you might actually become the certified, undisputed Idiot of the Century, despite the heavy competition.

22.  What do you think of George Bush?

Well, he never suspects he might qualify as the Idiot of the Century, so I think he has a good chance…

23. Where can people learn more about your ideas?
But be careful. It just might be me, not Bush, who really qualifies as the Idiot of the Century….

Hang the TSAR!

Robert Anton Wilson
In Conversation With R.U. Sirius

from Neofiles @

In a smarter world, Robert Anton Wilson would be widely acknowledged as one of the most important writers and thinkers in America. Of course, there is a smarter world within this one, and Wilson has a huge following both nationally and internationally. Most of our culture, indeed, operates beneath or beyond the mainstream media’s radar.

For many of us, Wilson is a subversive sage. He didn’t coin the phrase “guerrilla ontology” but he has been the world’s most valuable practitioner (MVP). The guerrillaontologist is a kind of memetic warrior who lives to dynamite people’s static reality tunnels (belief systems or b.s.). Since The Illuminatus Trilogy, a fictional tour de force published in 1975, he has managed to combine the most extravagant surrealism with unimpeachable logic; sometimes leaving us guessing as to which of these tactics he was employing.

Favorite books include the aforementioned Illuminatus Trilogy, Cosmic Trigger, and The Illuminati Papers, Masks of the Illuminati, The Earth Will Shake, and Prometheus Rising. (Many of you have your own list of faves, no doubt). NeoFiliacswho are willing to risk having the walls fall down around their own belief systems should read (or re-read) The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science, published in 1986.

Now at 71-years-old, Wilson has spent the last few years fighting off Post-Polio Syndrome with a little help from medical marijuana. At the same time, he wrote T.S.O.G.: The Thing that Ate the Constitution, a coruscating and hilarious rant against the current rulers of the USA, which he calls the “Tsarist Occupation Government.” T.S.O.G. rips into the drug war, imperial militarism, and a million or so other absurdities in a land ruled by “the Bush crime family.” And he appeared in a superb documentary about his life and philosophy called Maybe Logic.

Four of us gathered in Marin for a drive down to Santa Cruz to see the Wizard. The caste of characters that participated in this conversation includes:

Will Block: CEO of Life Enhancement Products and a long time friend and fan of Bob

Severe Tire Damage: Part of the original cast of characters around Mondo 2000 and another BobManiac

Videobrain (a.k.a. Eve): She goes all the way back to “The Network,” a group who would gather at Wilson’s Berkeley home to SMI2LE. She’s been confusing Mr. Wilson at regular intervals ever since.

RU Sirius: That’s me. I stole my pseudonym from RAW’s hallucinations. ‘Nuff said.

NEOFILES: Stem cell research, gay marriage … can panicky neophobes block the future?

ROBERT ANTON WILSON: They can’t stop scientific research. They keep on trying. Throughout all history they tried, but scientific research continued even during the inquisition. They can slow it down but they can’t stop it. Stem cell research will just continue in other countries.

NF: William Burroughs used to say that “the mark of a basic shit is that he can’t mind his own business.” I’ve been thinking about that during this gay marriage controversy. I mean, why in the world would anyone think that what those people over there are doing ruins it for me?

RAW: Yeah … what the hell is with that?! I saw Bob Barr debating Barney Frank on TV and Barr said that gay marriage will dilute the meaning of marriage. And Frank was saying, “I can’t understand. What would someone else’s marriage have to do with your marriage?” And Bob Barr said, “I don’t mean my marriage, I mean the institution of marriage.” It’s so damn stupid. Talk about “diluting” an “institution” makes as much sense as asking “Why is a duck?” Barr lives in the 13th Century. Next he’ll inquire into how many angels can dance on the head of a Pookah.

NF: I was trying to figure it out the other day and I realized it’s not even so much about bigotry, it’s just these people saying “the world is changing too fast. Make it stop.” Maybe we should take the state out of marriage entirely.

RAW: Have you looked at my Guns & Dope website?

NF: I have.

RAW: My new mantra is “Everybody for President.” Everybody can write in their own name and take responsibility forthemselves. We’re not going to pass on our responsibility to some asshole like George Bush or a Congress of assholes and corporate whores. We’re going to take our own responsibility. We don’t need a czar. Who the hell needs a fucking czar? Why should 21st century America be like 19th century Russia? My doctor and I can make our own medical decisions for me. The whole idea of the TSOG — the Tsarist Occupation Government — is that the Tsar is in communication with God just like in 19th Century Russia. He knows how to handle my health problems better than me and my doctor and my friends and family. And he does it without even seeing me! He knows because he’s in direct communication with God. And this horseshit is what the American people are supposed to believe? I don’t believe it. I think he’s a political hack. I don’t think he knows anything about my health at all. I’d like to debate him. Or I’d like to ask him about my health problems … “Do you think I can go back to eating chocolate now that I’m no longer officially borderline diabetic?” (my doctor changed my status to non-diabetic six months ago.) Does the Tsar and his God want to over-rule that medical opinion too?

NF: What do you think of the Barr McClellan scandal? One of this guy’s sons is press secretary to President Bush; another is head of the FDA. And their dad, a lawyer for LBJ, has written a book claiming that LBJ shot JFK … had him shot.

RAW: I have a copy of the TV special about that on video. They have about four or five inside figures who say he did it. It’s pretty interesting. It’s kind of a fringe theory. Most people think it was the CIA or the Mafia, and the worst most people say about LBJ is that he knew about it. But that’s the way LBJ worked. He got rid of people he didn’t like. And now the whole LBJ family is all screaming about slander and libel. I don’t know but it’s interesting.

NF: So what’s happening with the medical marijuana situation here in Santa Cruz?

RAW: Well, we’ve decentralized it. They’ll have to raid 100 gardens next time or maybe 200. It’s very decentralized. It’s working very well. I mean, what the hell are they going to do, arrest everybody in Santa Cruz County? 85%support medical marijuana. And it’s pretty much the same in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Counties of Mendocino, Humboldt, Marin, and Los Angeles … everybody knows that California is the marijuana capital of the country. They can’t really do anything about it. All the Tsar and his God can do is huff and puff.

NF: It always wins wherever it gets on the ballot so why don’t any mainstream politicians back medical marijuana?

RAW: I have three theories on this one. In the first place, if you’re of a superstitious nature, you’re afraid of marijuana. Politicians want to appeal to people who are of a superstitious nature. That’s the largest voting bloc in the whole country. And then there are the pharmaceutical companies. If anybody can treat their own pain by growing a plant in their own house or on their own balcony … you could see a very sudden drop in the use of very expensive painkillers that are legal and addictive. And people will go with this example and look into other herbs as well. That’s a real threat to the pharmaceutical monopoly that gives a lot of money to both the parties in every election.

NF: I always thought baby boomer “liberals” like Al Gore were just being hypocritical about medical marijuana but I was thinking about it recently and realized that they’re probably actually genuinely offended by the idea of routing around the regulatory process through a populist vote.

 RAW: I read a book about ten years ago that said that seventy million Americans are pot smokers. How can you keep something that seventy million people do illegal? We’re the largest persecuted minority in the country. Eventually they’re going to have to back down.

If you look at the Dreyfus Case, then you know how governments work. They wouldn’t back down. Everybody inEurope knew he was innocent. Still they held him on Devil’s Island much longer than seems humanly possible. Governments hate to admit mistakes. People for years were lead to believe that the pope was infallible. Governments make more mistakes than anybody else because they don’t have to make a profit. Any other business that operated like the government would go bankrupt. They don’t go bankrupt; they just borrow more money and charge us the interest on it. They borrow more money from the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve prints the money, and then we all have to pay the interest on it forever. My children and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren will still be paying this debt that Bush has run up for his war in Iraq.

NF: One thing that makes me scratch my head are things that slip by, such as galantamine, a grandfathered nutritional supplement that’s also being sold as a drug called Reminyl for Alzheimer’s disease by Johnson and Johnson. Now, J & J is a big pharmaceutical company … yet neither they, nor the FDA, have been able to do anything about its sale as a supplement despite a huge and potentially huger multi-billion dollar market. From everything that you know, you would think that J & J is so powerful that no one could bump heads with them without getting blown out of the water, and ditto for the FDA. Yet they didn’t choose to do that despite their disgruntlement and admission, through the grapevine, that they screwed up. So here is a very powerful pharmaceutical company backed by a very powerful regulatory agency that appears to have its power very unevenly distributed on some levels ….

RAW: It’s my famous SNAFU principle — those on top don’t get accurate honest views from everybody else. Wherever I go I ask audiences if anybody there would swear that they would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to someone who was a government employee. Nobody ever raises their hand! Everybody lies to the government. We all want as little to do with them as possible. So that’s the first level of government corruption; theaccumulation of all the lies people tell to people just above them in the hierarchy. They make sure they don’t say anything to the one above them so they don’t have to write up reports or whatever and those above them lie a bit more to please the one above them so by the time the information gets up to George Bush, who knows what he’s getting? So they’re all running around asking, “How did we believe in the weapons of mass destruction when there aren’t any?” And the answer is that when you’re in a hierarchy of that sort, people won’t tell you what they know you don’t want to hear.

NF: Bush the other day was talking about how he met with a group of Iraqis who all told him how thankful they were that America had invaded their country and I thought … “ah hah … the burden of omniscience”

So what gives you the most hope in the midst of all this madness?

RAW: I don’t think politics is all that important. Spending too much time focused on politics leads to total despair with the state of the human race. But if you look at the whole spectrum of human behavior, I think the science and the arts are driving it. I think the sciences and the arts relate to a lot more of human behavior than politics does. They’re going to try to stop developments in science but they’re not going to stop it and it’s going to change everything. I think we’re going to have major breakthroughs in biotech in the next five-ten years and they can’t do a damned thing to stop it. It’s going to change the whole world. Meanwhile the Japanese are planning on building hotels in space.

NF: We just interviewed some people who are planning to build some space hotels.

RAW: Of course. It’s just a game these politicians play. It’s a permanent anchor on development but it never stops it.

NF: So we can just wait ‘em out?

RAW: I don’t know, but the acceleration of change is coming faster and faster all the time. There are more patents every year; more internet website opening every month … change is happening faster and faster everywhere.

Hey, I’ve got a replay TV. I didn’t even know they existed until a couple of months ago. I can set the replay TV and it will record anything I want. I can go to sleep and it will record a movie at three o’clock in the morning that I can watch the next evening. And I don’t have to ever look at a commercial if I don’t want to ever again. Now I can enjoy the TV as much as anybody in the country. I love TV.

NF: Back in the late ‘70s you wrote about the coming immortality pill …

RAW: Oh yeah … heh ….

NF: Are you optimistic about something like that?

RAW: Oh yeah, something like that. I don’t think it will be a single pill but there’s so much going on in biotech. Even now, the number of people on this planet over 100 is more than it’s ever been, and the average age of death inAmerica has gone from 73 to 77 just in the last few years. We’re getting closer to it all the time.

In that film, Maybe Logic, you said that you didn’t think I was really an optimist because you’re not an optimist … so I can’t be an optimist, I must be putting you on. Look in my condition. If I was a pessimist I wouldn’t be walking today. I have to be an optimist. Pessimism is a luxury that only the comfortable can afford.

NF: A recent article in Science by a demographer named James Vaupel has concluded that if there was a limit to the increment in average lifespan — which increases in the world’s healthiest countries by about 2.5 years every ten years — that increment would start to decline indicative of an approaching ceiling. But Vaupel says that the data indicates that there’s no ceiling … or that lifespan is going to shoot right through the presumed ceiling.

RAW: Yeah, Buckminster Fuller points out that most people in the 19th Century died after fifty years … that was the average lifespan … it was 27 in Europe during the French Revolution.

NF: That was an averaging out though wasn’t it?

RAW: Yeah, you have to account for crib deaths.

NF: … there appears to be something happening to increase the probability of longer life for every decade we live … that will tend to enable more of us who hold out to live to100 or more in better, more vibrant health..

RAW: Hell, when George Burns reached one hundred the whole country paid attention. When Bob Hope recently turned 100 hardly anybody noticed.

NF: They’re saying that the universe isn’t even entropic now. Starting with the big bang it just expands ….

Do you feel a rapport with young people?

RAW: It seems to me that every ten years I get a new audience among young people. It seems to me that some of my books are rather dated by now but they keep on selling so I guess they’re not as dated as they seem to me.

NF: I just re-read The Illuminati Trilogy. It was actually only the second time I read it all the way through. I think maybe references to stuff like SDS might be a little bit obscure but that’s about it. The names of the bands are right up to the moment.

RAW: [Laughter] Well, when I write a novel I set it somewhere definite, not in never-never land. So there will always be references specific to whatever time I’m setting it in. That’s not what I mean. I wasn’t thinking about Linda Lovelace or SDS. I was thinking of the scientific knowledge, but I can’t do anything about that.

NF: Is there anything specific that you can think of that you feel has been superceded?

RAW: I can’t think about it right now. You can’t be a generalist in this world. So many things I’ve written about have changed by now I don’t know how out-of-date I am. I just know I must be out-of-date.

NF: Do you follow the cosmological discussions about the origins of the big bang and all of that?

RAW: Nah. I don’t believe in any of it. They keep changing it every few years. It’s all guess work.

NF: I read somewhere recently someone saying that most of the versions of what Bell’s theorem could mean have been eliminated … disproved.

RAW: Yeah, that’s what I mean. I was doing an article about Bell’s Theorem about five years ago. I found out a new interpretation of Bell’s Theorem that I’d never seen before and I wanted to do some more research before writing the article. I had no idea that most of the theories had been discarded. You can’t keep up with everything. I can’t even keep up with Joyce scholarship.

NF: In the process of doing this site, dealing with biotech, brain science, nanotech … it seems like it’s increasingly difficult when you read the literature to distinguish between stuff that has actually happened and stuff that just inevitably will happen.

Do you follow the idea of the Singularity at all?

RAW: No. I know what it is … but I feel that cosmology is not of great interest to me because the models are changing so rapidly. By the time I learn about a model to the point where I can talk about it I have to replace it with a new one. It gets harder as you get older. Isaac Asimov wrote an article called “The Sound of Panting.” It’s about how it’s harder and harder to just keep up with his own field which is biochemistry.

NF: Do you think artificial intelligences … robots … will become smarter than human beings? Do you follow that discussion?

RAW: Definitely. I think they have to. In some ways some of the equipment I have around here is smarter than me. The Replay TV in some respects…

NF: One of the things that always touched me deeply in your work is the level of optimism.

RAW: Well you see I had polio at the age of four. I had to learn to be an optimist or I never would have walked for most of my life. Now I have return [Ed.: Post-] Polio Syndrome and now I’m walking again. If I wasn’t an optimist I’d still be in the goddamned wheelchair. I don’t understand how pessimists survive. If they all believed what they say, they would all sit down and starve to death. You have to have some optimism to accomplish something. When I was a child I just kept falling down. I wouldn’t believe that I couldn’t walk. Eventually I walked…

Now I’m for a war against pain. Medical marijuana laws are a great victory in the war against pain. All you’ve got to do is hang the goddamned TSAR. Let everybody and their doctor decide for themselves what to do with their pain. I don’t see why pain can’t be abolished. I think we could abolish both starvation and pain in the next ten years.

NF: We had an interview with David Pierce who wrote this online book, The Hedonistic Imperative. He talks about abolishing pain and ….

RAW: Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen it. “The Biology of Paradise.” Beautiful stuff ….

NF: Not just eliminating pain but eliminating negative mind states ….

RAW: I’m all for it. Leary was all about that.

NF: You’ve noted before that all the messages that spiritualists get when they channel seem really obvious and banal.

RAW: Yeah, I guess spirits are boring. At least I got something more interesting when I tried it. I got Harvey the rabbit, Olga the Ostrich, the talking dogs from Sirius … a Chinese alchemist, an Irish bard … now I’m channeling Olga. [Laughs]

NF: What are the great scientific paradigms of recent times?

RAW: Well, quantum physics and general relativity and the emerging one I think is neuroscience. We’re receiving billions of signals all the time all over our brain and our brain processes all that. Talk about paradigms. So in my next book, Tale of the Tribe, I deal with Leary’s eight dimensions … I don’t use brain circuits. Brain circuitry is a little bit too mechanistic.

NF: As we lose track of the changes in fields like quantum mechanics how do you keep track of what’s influencing the general culture? How is the general culture being supplied with information?

RAW: I can only talk about the United States. I’ve lived and traveled in Europe but mostly I’ve been in the United States. Most of the culture here is running on a sheer terror of how rapidly things are changing. George Bush might have won the election, it’s at least possible. People are screaming “Go back go back! Let’s have simple answers.” It’s very difficult to have useful answers to everything that’s going on. There aren’t simple answers. Things are complex. We need precise knowledge of complex systems. We don’t need simple answers. Most of the public wants simple answers like let’s stop gay marriage.

Right now the most poplar belief systems or BS in the country are, in descending order, Protestant, Catholic, Agnostic, Buddhist, Jewish, Islam, Mormon, atheist, Sikh, Hindu — I remember the descending order with the mnemonic P-CAB-JIM=ASH. This country is so damn ignorant most of them don’t even know what a Muslim looks like. Four nuns were turned off an airline flight today because they looked like Muslims. They were Hindus! I heard it on CNN.

NF: Have you been to Burning Man?

RAW: The Guns & Dope Party is going to be there. The Guns & Dope party is going to have a presentation at BurningMan. I keep on saying if the gun people and the dope people could get together they would be a majority of the country. All they have to do is get over their paranoia about each other. Really, if the gun owners and dopers could get together we could really overthrow this whole system. After all, anybody who takes your money without your consent and then will try to throw you in prison if you don’t pay up … they’re not going to use the money to do anything for you obviously. They’re going to try to use the money to enslave you. And of course the next step after stealing our money is to take away our guns so we can’t fight back.

High Times Interview, 2003

Paul Krassner Interviews
Robert Anton Wilson

from High Times #331, March 2003

I [Paul Krassner] first met Bob Wilson in 1959. The ’60s counterculture was in its embryonic stage, exploding out of the blandness, repression and piety of the Eisenhower-Nixon administration, Reverend Norman Vincent Peale’s positive thinking and Snooky Lanson singing “It’s a Marshmallow World” on TV’s Lucky Strike Hit Parade.

Wilson had written his first article, “The Semantics of God,” which I eagerly published in The Realist. “The Believer,” he wrote, “had better face himself and ask squarely: Do I literally believe ‘God’ has a penis? If the answer is no, then it seems only logical to drop the ridiculous practice of referring to ‘God’ as ‘He.'” Wilson then started writing a regular column, “Negative Thinking.”

His books include The Illuminatus! Trilogy (with Robert Shea); the Cosmic Trigger trilogy, The New Inquisition, the Schrodinger’s Cat trilogy, Prometheus Rising, The Walls Came Tumbling Down, Wilhelm Reich in Hell, Natural Law, Sex and Drugs, and Everything is Under Control: An Encyclopedia of Conspiracy Theories.

He is also the subject of a feature-length documentary movie by Lance Bauscher, Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson, featuring 23 different Bobs, Tom Robbins, R.U. Sirius, George Carlin and myself. For more information, go to

In 1964, I published Wilson’s front-cover story, “Timothy Leary and His Psychological H-Bomb.” “The future may decide,” he began, “that the two greatest thinkers of the 20th Century were Albert Einstein, who showed how to create atomic fission in the physical world, and Timothy Leary, who showed how to create atomic fission in the psychological world. The latter discovery may be more important than the former; there are some reasons for thinking that it was made necessary by the former….”

I hereby nominate Bob Wilson as the third greatest thinker of the 20th Century, who continues to explore his consciousness and communicate his ideas and causes—with passion, wit, imagination and insight—into the 21st Century. This interview was conducted by the electronic magic of e-mail.

Q. You’ve written 34 books with the aid of pot. Could you describe that process?

A. It’s rather obsessive-compulsive, I think. I write the first draft straight, then rewrite stoned, then rewrite straight again, then rewrite stoned again, and so on, until I’m absolutely delighted with every sentence, or irate editors start reminding me about deadlines—whichever comes first. Hemingway and Raymond Chandler had similar compulsions but used the wrong drug, booze, and they both attempted suicide. Papa succeeded but poor Ray didn’t and just looked like a sloppy alcoholic. (He tried to shoot himself in the head and missed.) Faulkner also had obsessive components and died by falling off a horse, drunk. I don’t think booze is a very safe drug for us obsessive-compulsives. Almost as bad as becoming known as a Sage. By the way, Congress should impeach Dubya and impound Asa Hutchinson.

Q. The piss police read High Times. What would you like to tell them?

A. “You are all equally blessed, equally empty, equally coming Buddhas.” But some of them are such assholes it will take a long time to get from there to here.

Q. Columnist Clarence Page recently wrote about the DEA raiding “a legitimate health co-operative [WAMM, the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana] that was treating more than 200 patients, some of them terminally ill, in Santa Cruz. Snatching medicine out of the hands of seriously ill patients sounds like terrorism to me. In this case it was federally sponsored and taxpayer-financed.” Tell me about your own relationship with WAMM.

A. I thought you’d never ask. Long before I needed WAMM, Valerie Coral, the founder, came regularly to my Finnegans Wake reading/rapping group and I considered her incredibly bright. As I learned about her WAMM activities, distributing pot to terminal cancer and AIDS patients, sitting with them, giving love and support during the death process, I decided she was also a saint. I never thought I would become another WAMM patient. My post-polio syndrome had been a minor nuisance until then; suddenly two years ago it flared up into blazing pain. My doctor recommended marijuana and named WAMM as the safest and most legal source. By then, I think I was on the edge of suicide; the pain had become like a permanent abscessed tooth in the leg. Nobody can or should endure that. Thanks to Valerie and WAMM, I never have that kind of torture for more than an hour these days. I pop one of their pain pills and I’m up and back at the iMac in, well, if not an hour, then at most two hours. By the way, Congress should impeach Dubya and impound Asa Hutchinson. Or did I say that already?

Q. I think you did.

A. Well, it bears repeating.

Q. When the City Council staged a public giveaway of medical marijuana, a DEA agent asked, “What kind of message are city officials sending to the youth of Santa Cruz?” How would you answer him?

A. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” I didn’t invent that; I found it in the back of my dictionary, in a dusty old historical document called “U.S. Constitution,” which Dubya seemingly has never heard of, but it’s supposed to be the rules of our government. I wish more people would look at that document, because it has a lot of other radical ideas that seem worth thinking about. Look it up before the Bush Crime Family forces dictionary publishers to remove it. Congress should impeach Dubya and impound Asa Hutchinson. Or does this begin to sound like an echo chamber?

Q. How does all that tie in with your new book, TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution? First, what does TSOG mean, and how do you pronounce it?

A. TSOG means Tsarist Occupation Government and I pronounce it TSOG, so it sounds like a monster in a Lovecraft story. The book presents the evidence that ever since the CIA-Nazi-Tsarist alliance of the 1940s, the Tsarists have taken over as the “brains” of the Control System and America has become a Tsarist nation, with the Constitution only known to those who peek in the back of their dictionaries, like I did. Hell, we even have an official Tsar and he has the alleged “right”—or at least the power—to come between my doctor and me, and decide how much excruciating pain I should suffer before dying. What next? Is he going to rule on controversial questions in physics and astronomy? In mathematical set theory? In biology? Believe me, there’s no Tsar mentioned in the Constitution. Personal doctor/patient matters are left to the individuals. You see, this was supposed to be a free country, not a Tsarist despotism.

Q. You were brought up as a Catholic and became a Marxist when you were 16. What disillusioned you about each of those belief systems?

A. Their rigidity. All rigid Belief Systems (B.S.) censor and warp the processes of perception, thought and even empathy. They literally make people behave like badly-wired robots. Philip K. Dick noticed this too, and worried a lot about the possible robots among us. Some people think he was crazy, but I’ve never met anybody with rigid beliefs who seemed fully human to me. Phil got it right: a lot of them do act like robots. Especially in government offices and churches. Gort, Dubya marada nikto, dig?

Q. What was the purpose of what you call the Christian conspiracy?

A. Well, I regard the Bill of Rights as the result of a conspiracy by the intellectual freemasons of the Enlightenment Era. It’s always had a precarious existence because of the rival Christian conspiracy to restore the dark ages—Inquisitions, witch-hunts and all. With the Tsarist take-over, the Christians appear to have won. Not a single clause in the Bill of Rights hasn’t gotten either diluted or totally reversed.

Q. Why are you so skeptical about organized skepticism?

A. Like I keep saying, rigid Belief Systems frighten me and make me think of robots, or “humanoids”—some kinda creepy mechanism like that. Organized skepticism in the U.S. today contains no true skeptics in the philosophical sense. They seem like just another gang of dogmatic fanatics at war with all the other gangs of dogmatic fanatics, and, of course, with us model agnostics also. Look at the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. They never do any Scientific Investigation at all, at all. Why? My guess is that, like the Inquisitors who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, they have a deep fear that such research might upset their dogmas.

Q. What’s the basis of your obsession with Hannibal Lecter?

A. Hannibal Lecter, M.D., please. In the books, he seems one of the greatest creations in literature to me. I admire Thomas Harris more than any novelist since James Joyce. Everything about Dr. Lecter is likeable and even admirable except that one Nasty Habit [cannibalism], but that habit’s so intolerable, even to libertarians, we can never forget it even when we find him most likeable and most admirable. A paradox like that can inspire Ph.D. candidates for 1,000 years. I mean, how can you resist a psychiatrist who tells a Lesbian patient, as Hannibal did once, “There’s nothing wrong with being weird. You have no idea how weird I am”—and really means it? In the films, of course, Dr. Lecter also has the stupendous contribution of intelligence and eerie charm only Anthony Hopkins can project. By the way, God bless Valerie Coral and God damn Asa Hutchinson.

Q. I thought you don’t believe in God?

A. I have no “beliefs,” only probabilities; but I was not speaking literally there. A poetic flourish, as it were.

Q. I know you don’t believe in life after death, but I’m intrigued by the notion that, during 42 years of marriage, you and Arlen imprinted each other’s nervous systems. Could you elaborate on that?

A. I don’t “believe” in spiritualism, but that does not keep me from suspecting an unbreakable link between those who have loved deeply. To avoid sounding esoteric, let me put it in nitty-gritty terms. I literally cannot look at a movie on TV without knowing what she’d say about it. For instance, if a film starts out well and ends up a mess, I can virtually “hear” her saying, “Well, they had one Story Conference too many….”

Q, Would you relate the tale of Arlen and the Encyclopedias?

A. She liked to collect old encyclopedias from second-hand bookstores, and at one point we had eight of them. When I wrote my first historical novel—back in 1980, before I was online—I used them often as a research tool. For instance, I learned that the Bastille was either 90 feet high or 100 feet or 120 feet. This led me to formulate Wilson’s 22nd Law: “Certitude belongs exclusively to those who only look in one encyclopedia.”

Q. How has the Internet changed your life?

A. It has felt like a neurological quantum jump. Not only does the word-processing software make my compulsive rewriting a lot easier than if I still had to cut my words on rocks or use a typewriter or retreat to similar barbarism, but the e-mail function provides most of my social life since I became “disabled.” I do most of my research on the World Wide Web, get my answer in minutes and don’t have to hunt laboriously through my library for hours. It has improved my life a thousand ways. I also have a notion that Internet will eventually replace government.

Q. How do you discern between conspiracy and coincidence?

A. The way Mr. and Mrs. Godzilla make love: very carefully.

Q. A dinner party was scheduled for March 31, 1981, the day after an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, which, if successful, would have elevated Vice President and former CIA chief George Bush to the presidency. The dinner was immediately cancelled. It would have been held at the home of Neil Bush, and a guest was to be Scott Hinckley, brother of the would-be killer. Hinckley’s father and Bush were friends and fellow oil industrialists. A PR firm issued a statement: “This horrible coincidence has been devastating to the Bush Family. Our condolences go out to all involved. And we hope to get the matter behind us as soon as possible.” Congressman Larry MacDonald was the only legislator who demanded an investigation, but his plane crashed. Whattaya think—coincidence or conspiracy?

A. To me, it looks at first glance like coincidence by about 75% probability. I mean, who would be dumb enough to use an assassin with such obvious links to his employers? But then again, the Bush Crime Family seem to think they can get away with anything, from S&L fraud to stealing an election in the clear light of day with the whole world watching. They must have an even lower opinion of the intelligence of the American people than I do. Maybe I should change the probability down to about 50%. I guess this does deserve further investigation, by somebody who doesn’t fly in airplanes.

Q. Ishmael Reed said, “The history of civilization is the history of warfare between secret societies.” Do you agree?

A. Yes and no. I would say there is no history, singular; only histories, plural. The warfare between secret societies is a history, one that both Ishmael and I have explored. There also exists a history of class war, a history of war (or competition) between gene pools, a history of primate/canine relations, etc., ad infinitum. None of them contradicts the others, except in the heads of aristotelian logicians, or Ideologists. They each supplement all the others.

Q. You and I have something in common. Lyndon LaRouche has revealed the truth about each of us: You’re really the secret leader of the Illuminati; and I was brainwashed at the Tavistock Institute in England. Do you think he actually believes such things, or is he consciously creating fiction, just as the FBI’s counter-intelligence program did?

A. I still don’t understand some of my computer’s innards and you expect me to explain a bizarre contraption like the brain of Lyndon LaRouche? I can only hazard that he seems more a case for a bile specialist than a psychiatrist.

Q. What was LaRouche’s factoid about the Queen of England?

A. He said Liz sent Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts over here to destroy us with Oriental religions and drugs, so England could become the top Super-Power again. If you took Liz and England out and put Fu Manchu and the Third World in her place, it would make a great matinee thriller. I think Dubya lives in that film with Mickey and Goofy and Osama bin Laden and Darth Vader.

Q. What’s the most bizarre conspiracy theory you’ve come across?

A. A group called Christians Awake claims Ronald Reagan was a Gay freemason and that he filled the government and courts with other Gay freemasons. I suppose they let Clarence Thomas in as a concession to the Gay Prince Hal lodge.

Q. And what would be the least known conspiracy theory—I mean, that you know of?

A. The Church of Positive Accord believes—and I think they make a damned good case—that the God of the Bible is corporeal, not spiritual. In udder woids, he eats and shits just like you and me. And, contrary to my 1959 heresies, he definitely has a penis. He even has boogers: they proclaimed that in an interview with [SubGenius Church reverend] Ivan Stang. They point out that all “spiritual” ideas of God derive from Greek philosophy, not the Bible, and claim that gaseous Greek god has been promoted by a conspiracy of intellectuals. Just re-read the Bible with that grid and it makes sense, in a Stone Age sort of way. He walks, He talks, He’s a serial killer, and in the sequel He even knocks up a teen-age chick.

Q. Your readers can’t always discern—when you write about the Illuminati, for example—whether you’re sharing information or satirizing reality. Does it make any difference?

A. To quote Madonna, “I’m only kidding—not.” Add my Celtic sense of humor to Niels Bohr’s model agnosticism and out comes my neo-surrealist novels and “post-modern” criticism.

Q. I’ve had many occurrences of satirical prophecy, where something I invented turned out to become reality. Has that happened with you?

A. Well, in Illuminatus! (published 1975), terrorists attack the Pentagon and only succeed in blowing a hole in one of the five sides. Sound familiar? Also, in Schrodinger’s Cat (published 1981), terrorists blow up Wall Street. I don’t regard either of those “hits” as precognition or even “intuition,” just common sense. It seemed obvious to me that the TSOG could not run amok around the planet, invading and bombing damned near everybody, without somebody firing back eventually.

Q. Here’s a confession. In my article on the conspiracy convention in High Times, I did a reverse of satirical prophecy. I had once asked Mae Brussell, the queen of conspiracy researchers, why the conspirators didn’t kill her, and she explained that agents always work on a need-to-know basis, but they would read her work and show up wherever she spoke, in order to get a peek at the big picture, because it was “a safety valve for them,” she said, “on how far things are going.” I asked, “Are you saying that the intelligence community has allowed you to function precisely because you know more than any of them?” And she replied, “Exactly.” Well, in my HIGH TIMES satire, I put those words into the mouth of somewhat fraudulent conspiracy researcher David Icke. Anyway, my question is, do you think the conspirators allow you to live because you know too much?

A. I doubt it. I don’t think they’ve ever heard of me. They don’t read books.

Q. The original meaning of conspiracy was “to breathe together.” What’s your personal definition of conspiracy?

A. When me and me friends gits together to advance our common interests, that’s an affinity group. When any crowd I don’t like does it, that’s a goddam conspiracy.

Q. After my HIGH TIMES column on the Prophets Conference, in which I referred to you as “the irreverent bad boy at this oh-so-polite conference,” why were you disinvited from speaking at future Prophets Conferences?

A. A lot of my fans think I got booted for lack of respect for His Royal Fraudulency George II. I take that as an assertion beyond proof or disproof. The managers said it was for finding a Joycean epiphany in a Spike Lee movie. I take that as an assertion beyond even comprehension.

Q. I’d like to hear about your—perhaps psychotic?—experience with higher consciousness and the resulting epiphany.

A. I have had not one but many seeming encounters with seemingly nonhuman intelligences. The first was a Christmas tree that loved me—loved me more than my parents or my wife or my kids, or even my dog. I was on peyote at the time. With and without other drugs—for instance by Cabala—I have seemingly contacted a medieval Irish bard, an ancient Chinese alchemist, an extraterrestrial from the Sirius system, and a giant white rabbit called the pook or pookah from County Kerry. I finally accepted that if you already have a multi-model ontology going into the shamanic world, you’re going to come out with multi-model results. As Wilson’s Fourth Law sez, “With sufficient research you will find evidence to support your theory.” So I settled on the magick rabbit as the model nobody could take literally, not even myself. The real shocker came when I discovered that my grandmother’s people, the O’Lachlanns, came from Kerry and allegedly have a clan pookah who protects us from becoming English by adding periodic doses of weirdness to our lives.

Q. The dedication in my book, Murder At the Conspiracy Convention and Other American Absurdities, reads: “This one is for Robert Anton Wilson—guerrilla ontologist, part-time post-modernist, Damned Old Crank, my weirdest friend and favorite philosopher.” Since these are all terms you’ve used to label yourself, would you explain what each one means?

A. Well, I picked up “guerrilla ontology” from the Physics/Consciousness Research Group when I was a member back in the 1970s. Physicists more usually call it “model agnosticism,” and it consists of never regarding any model or map of Universe with total 100% belief or total 100% denial. Following Korzybski, I put things in probabilities, not absolutes. I give most of modern physics over 90% probability, the Loch Ness Monster around 50% probability and anything the State Department says under 5% probability. As Bucky Fuller used to say, “Universe is nonsimultaneously apprehended”—nobody can apprehend it all at once—so we have no guarantee that today’s best model will fit what we may discover tomorrow. My only originality lies in applying this zetetic attitude outside the hardest of the hard sciences, physics, to softer sciences and then to non-sciences like politics, ideology, jury verdicts and, of course, conspiracy theory. Also, I have a strong aversion, almost an allergy, to Belief Systems, or B.S.—a convenient abbreviation I owe to David Jay Brown. A neurolinguistic diet high in B.S. and low in instrumental data eventually produces Permanent Brain Damage, a lurching gait, blindness and hairy palms like a werewolf.

Then I started calling myself a post-modernist after that label got pinned on me in two different books, one on my sociological works and one on my science-fiction. Then I read some of the post-modernists and decided they were only agnostic about other people’s dogmas, not their own. So then I switched to Damned Old Crank, which seems to suit my case better than either of the previous labels. Besides, once my hair turned snowy white, some people wanted to promote me to a Sage, and I had to block that. It’s more dangerous to a writer than booze. By the way, Congress should impeach Dubya and impound Asa Hutchinson.

Q. Since you believe that the universe is indifferent, why are you an optimist?

A. It may have genetic origins—some of us bounce up again no matter what we get hit with—but as far as I can rationalize it, nobody knows the future, so choosing between pessimism and optimism depends on temperament as much as probabilities. Psychologist John Barefoot has studied this extensively and concludes that optimists live about 20% longer than pessimists. When the outcome remains unknown, why should I make the bet that keeps me miserable and shortens my life? I prefer the gamble that keeps me high, happy, and creative, and also increases lifespan. It’s like the advantage of pot over aspirin. Pot not only kills pain better, but the High boosts the immune system. High and happy moods prolong life, miserable and masochistic moods shorten it.

Q. Recently, when I spoke at a college campus, a student asked what I wanted my epitaph to be. I replied, “Wait, I’m not finished.” What do you want your epitaph to be?

A. I have ordained in my will that my body will get cremated and the ashes thrown in Jerry Falwell’s face. The executor of my will should then shout one word only: “Gotcha!”

Robert Anton Wilson is the coauthor (with the late Robert Shea), of the underground classic The Illuminatus! Trilogy which won the 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. His other writings include Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy, called “the most scientific of all science fiction novels” by New Scientist, and many nonfiction works of Futurist psychology and guerilla ontology. Wilson, who sees himself as a Futurist, author, and stand-up comic, regularly gives seminars at Esalan and other New Age centers. Wilson has made both a comedy record (Secrets of Power), and a punk rock record (The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy), and his play, Wilhelm Reich in Hell, has been performed throughout the world. His novel Illuminatus! was adapted as a 10-hour science fiction rock epic and performed under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Great Britain’s National Theatre, where Wilson appeared in a special cameo role. He is also a former editor at Playboy magazine.

President Hannibal Lector & the Thing That Ate the Constitution

President Hannibal Lector & the Thing That Ate the Constitution: An Interview with Robert Anton Wilson

By David Jay Brown

Robert Anton Wilson is a writer and philosopher with a huge cult following. He is the author of over 35 popular fiction and nonfiction books, dealing with such themes as quantum mechanics, the future evolution of the human species, weird unexplained phenomena, conspiracy theories, synchronicity, the occult, altered states of consciousness, and the nature of belief systems. His books explore the relationship between the brain and consciousness, and the link between science and mysticism, with wit, wisdom, and personal insights. Comedian George Carlin said, “I have learned more from Robert Anton Wilson than I have from any other source.”

Wilson is a very entertaining writer and both his fiction and nonfiction books can be as reality-shifting as a hearty swig of shamanic jungle juice. Wilson has an uncanny ability to lead his readers, unsuspectingly, into a state of mind where they are playfully tricked into “aha” experiences that cause them to question their most basic assumptions. The writers of many popular science fiction films and television shows have been influenced by Wilson’s writings, and they will sometimes make subtle cryptic references to his philosophy in their stories–often by making the number 23 significant in some way, which refers to Wilson’s strange synchronicities around that number.

Since 1962 Wilson has worked as an editor, futurist, novelist, playwright, poet, lecturer and stand-up comic. He earned his doctorate in psychology from Paideia University, and from 1966-1971 he was the Associate Editor of Playboy magazine. He is perhaps best known for the science fiction trilogy Illuminatus!, which he co-authored with Robert Shea in 1975. The Village Voice called the trilogy “the biggest sci-fi cult novel to come along since Dune.” His Schroedinger’s Cat trilogy was called “the most scientific of all science-fiction novels” by New Scientist magazine.

Wilson has also appeared as a stand-up comic at night clubs throughout the world, and he made a comedy record called Secrets of Power. His more academic lectures are best described as “stand-up philosophy”, and they are as funny and thought-provoking as his comedy routines. He also teaches seminars at New Age retreats, like the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and his Web site––is in the top two percent of the most visited sites on the internet. Rev. Ivan Stang, cofounder of The Church Of The Subgenius, described Wilson as “the Carl Sagan of religion, the Jerry Falwell of quantum physics, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of feminism and the James Joyce of swing-set assembly manuals.”

Wilson starred on a Punk Rock record called The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy, and his play Wilhelm Reich in Hell was performed at the Edmund Burke Theater in Dublin, Ireland. His novel Illuninatus! was adapted as a ten-hour science fiction rock epic and performed under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Great Britain’s National Theater (where he appeared briefly on stage in a special cameo role).   A documentary about Wilson’s life and work entitled “Maybe Logic” (by Lance Bauscher) was released on July 23, 2003. At the premiere of the film (at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, California), the mayor of Santa Cruz (Emily Reilly) officially declared that, from that day forth, July 23rd would be “Robert Anton Wilson Day” in Santa Cruz.

Bob and I have been good friends for over fifteen years, and he has been an important source of inspiration for me. Bob is particularly fond of the writings of James Joyce and Ezra Pound, and I’ve learned a lot about Finnegan’s Wake, The Cantos, and his own Illuminatus! by going to his weekly discussion groups. Actually, it was Bob’s book Cosmic Trigger that not only inspired me to become a writer when I was a teenager, but it was also where I first discovered many of the fascinating individuals who would later become the subjects of my interview books. So it was a great thrill for me when Bob wrote the introduction to my first book, Brainchild. I interviewed Bob for my next book, Mavericks of the Mind in 1989, and then again for my new book Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse in 2003. To follow are some excerpts from the interview that had to be cut from the new book.

At 73 Bob remains as sharp and witty as ever. Bob has an uncanny ability to perceive things that few people notice, and he has an incredible memory. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of many different fields–ranging from literature and psychology, to quantum physics and neuroscience. He is unusually creative in his use of language, and he has his own unique style of humor. Despite many personal challenges over the years, Bob has always maintained a strongly upbeat perspective on life, and–regardless of the circumstances–he never fails to make me smile every time I see him. Everyone who meets him agrees; there’s something truly magical about Robert Anton Wilson.

David: What were you like as a child?

Bob: Stubborn, it seems; maybe pig-headed. My mother often told me how, when I had polio at age 4, I kept trying to get up and walk. She said that no matter how hard I fell, I’d stand and stagger again until I fell again. I attribute that to Irish genetics–after 800 years of British occupation, the quitters did not survive to reproduce, you know. But I still loathe pessimism, masochism and every kind of self-pity. I regard loser scripts as actively nefarious and, in high doses, toxic. Due to that Nietzschean attitude, and the Sister Kenny treatment, I did walk again and then became highly verbal.

A neighbor said, even before I started school, that I should become a lawyer because no judge could shut me up. I attribute that, not to genetics, but to the polio and polio-related early reading skills. Due to a year of total-to-partial paralysis,I missed a vital part of normal male socialization and never became any good at sports, but I devoured books like a glutton. The nuns at the Catholic school where my parents sent me did shut me up for a while. Catholic education employs both psychologocal and physical terrorism: threats of “Hell” and physical abuse. But they never stopped me from thinking–just from saying what I thought.

David: What inspired you to become a writer?

Bob: The magic of words. One of the biggest thrills of my childhood came at the end of King Kong when Carl Denham says. “No, it wasn’t the airplanes–it was Beauty that killed the Beast.” I didn’t know what the hell that meant, but it stirred something in me. In fact, it felt like what the nuns told me I would feel after eating Holy Eucharist–what we call a mystic experience–except that I didn’t get it from the eucharist but from a gigantic gorilla falling off a gigantic skyscraper and having that line as his epitaph. I wanted to learn to use words in a way that would open people’s minds to wonder and poetry the way those words had opened mine.

David: Why do you think politics on this planet is such a huge mess, and human beings are so violent towards one another?

Bob: Because most people have never heard of maybe logic and live in an either/or world, which applied to ethics and social policy becomes a good/evil world. Human vanity then determines that all the damned eejit always put themselves in the good position and anybody who disagrees in the evil. Look at any literary/politics journal–any journal of the nonscientific “intelligentsia”–and you’ll see that they all sound as medieval as George W. Bush or Osama bin Laden. Violence comes of self-righteousness and self-righteousness comes of right/wrong logic, without maybes.

David: Who is the TSOG, and why do we need to keep this “thing” from eating the U.S. Constitution?

Bob: I coined the term TSOG to mean “Tsarist Occupation Government” and to sound like a monster from a Lovecraft horror story. In a constitutional democracy, decisions concerning your health depend on your own judgement and that of your doctor. When such life-and-death matters get decided not by you and your doctor but by an allegedly omniscient Tsar, we have neither constitution nor democracy anymore but blatant and brutal Tsarist tyranny.   Look at America today: we not only have a Tsar but he has more spies and informers working for him than Russia had in the days of Konstantin Pobedonostsev, who served as an advisor to Alexander III and Nicholas II. Pobedonostsev managed such an army of snoops that they called him “the Grand Inquisitor.” Read Turgenev and Dosteovksy and you’ll see how much America in the early 21st century has become like Russia in the 19th.

David: Tell me about your decision to run for governor of California, and about the Guns and Dope Party.

Bob: After I had written several articles and a whole book on the TSOG, my friends kept asking me to run, and I kept refusing, until it seemed every other nutcase in California had gotten into the act, so I finally made the leap. The Guns and Dope Partyrepresents my attempt to unify the libertarian right and the libertarian left, not on a theoretical or ideological basis, such as Norman Mailer once tried, but just on the rule all horse-traders understand: give me something of value and I’ll give you something of value.

I want the dopers to fight for gun rights and the gun people to fight for medical and recreational rights, because together we make a majority in the Western states, and especially in California. Besides, I agree with the gun people about this government. If only the police and the army have guns, we have a de facto totalitarian state that can do anything it pleases. The War on Some Drugs seems like an overture or dress rehearsal for such a totally Tsarist nightmare.

A few decades ago, Henry Kissinger said, “Anybody in Washington who isn’t paranoid must be crazy.” Under Dubya, I feel that anybody outside Washington who doesn’t feel paranoid about what’s going on in Washington must be crazy. First they take our money by force to do with as they please [the accursed IRS] , then they want to disarm us, and they dare call this democracy? I don’t think Jefferson or Adams would agree. They’d call it tyranny, and so do I.

David: Why do you think Hannibal Lector would make a better president than George W. Bush?

Bob: I started the Lecter for President write-in campaign to make people think about style in politics. Look: Dr. Lecter doesn’t kill for money. He has some standards, however egregious. Dubya seems to have none at all. Besides, Hannibal has a decent education and a sense of humor. He frightens me much less than Dubya. If we must have a serial killer in the oval office, and most Americans east of the Rockies seem to think we must, I’d prefer one with some class and panache. Dubya has as much of those as the stuff you step in and scrape off on the curb, hoping it’s not as bad as it smells.

David: Can you tell me about the film “Maybe Logic”, and about your reaction to the mayor of Santa Cruz’s proclamation at the film’s premiere that July 23rd will officially be “Robert Anton Wilson Day” in Santa Cruz?

Bob: My ego grew three inches in 24 hours.

David: What are you currently working on?   Bob: I’m learning to walk for the third time. (I hope). Promoting the Guns and Dope Party. And I’m writing a book on the decentralization of power that I think Internet will create.

To find out more about Robert Anton Wilson visit his Web sites: &

David Jay Brown is the author of two New Falcon titles, Brainchild and Virus, and was a contributor to the New Falcon book Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation. David is also the co-author of the three volumes of interviews: Mavericks of the MindVoices from the Edge, and Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press this Spring. To find out more about David’s work visit his award-winning web sites: and

TVI Times Interview

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. Interview, 2000 interview
with Robert Anton Wilson

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

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

PB: So what are you writing about now?

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

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

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

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

PB: Has the web made conspiracy theories trendier?

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

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

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

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

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


The Gnosis Interview with
Robert Anton Wilson

by Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Jay Kinney: Is that information or data?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinney: How about Satanic abuse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoley: What do you make of crop circles?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinney: Why have you retreated from that position?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinney: Was there ever any explanation for that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinney: Though you were identified with libertarianism pretty strongly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinney: Were you raised in a religious household?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilson: Uncomfortable.

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

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

Spoken World Festival

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

Interview with RAW by Mr. Greg,  August 1999

Associate Editor, The Kerouac Connection

last sign

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Stockholm. what is your intended agenda?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn Chinese. Translators will earn a bundle.

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

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

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

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

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

It would appear immodest to reply.

The Booklist Interview

conducted by Patricia Monaghan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Dogmas kill both intelligence and perception.

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

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

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


(posted to by R. Michael Johnson)