David Jay Brown interviews Robert Anton Wilson, June 1989
published in Mavericks of the Mind
RMN: What was it that first sparked your interest in consciousness enhancement?
ROBERT: Korzybski’s Science and Sanity. I was in engineering school and I picked up the book in the Brooklyn Public Library. He talked about different levels of organization in the brain-animal circuits, human circuits and so on. And he talked a lot about getting back to the non-verbal level and being able to perceive without talking to yourself while you’re perceiving.
It was 1957. I was very interested in jazz at that time, and I told a black friend about some of Korzybski’s exercises to get to the non-verbal level, and he said, “Oh, I do that every time I smoke pot.” I got interested. I said, “Could I buy one of these marijuana cigarettes from you?” He said, “Oh hell, I’11 give it to you free.” And so I smoked it.
I found myself looking at a quarter I found in my pocket and realizing I hadn’t looked at a quarter in twenty years or so, the way a child looks at a quarter. So I decided marijuana was doing pretty much the same thing Korzybski was trying to do with his training devices. Then shortly after that I heard a lecture by Alan Watts, and I realized that Zen, marijuana and Korzybski were all relating the same transformations of consciousness. That was the beginning.
DJB: Many of your books deal with a secret society called the Illuminati. How did your fascination with this organization begin?
ROBERT: It was Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley who founded the Discordian Society, which is based on the worship of Eris, the Goddess of Chaos, discord, confusion, bureaucracy and international relations. They have no dogmas, but one catma. The catma is that everything in the universe relates to the number 5, one way or another, given enough ingenuity on the part of the interpreter. I found the Discordian Society to be the most satisfactory religion I had ever encountered up until that point, so I became a Discordian Pope. This is done by excommunicating all the Discordian Popes you can find and setting up your own Discordian Church. This is based on Greg’s teaching that we Discordians must stick apart.
Anyway, in 1968 Jim Garrison, the D.A. of New Orleans–the jolly green Frankenstein monster, as Kerry later called him–accused Kerry at a press conference of being one of the conspirators in the Kennedy assassination. Garrison never indicted him–he didn’t have enough evidence for an indictment-so Kerry never stood trial, but he brooded over it for years. Then he entered an altered state of consciousness. I’m trying to be objective about this. Kerry, who served in the same platoon as Oswald, became convinced that he was involved in the assassination and that when he was in the Marine Corps, Naval Intelligence had brainwashed him.
Kerry decided Naval Intelligence had also brainwashed Oswald and several others, and had been manipulating them for years, like the Manchurian Candidate. He couldn’t remember what had happened, but he had a lot of suspicions. Then he became convinced that I was a CIA baby-sitter and we sort of lost touch with each other. It’s hard to communicate with somebody when he thinks you’re a diabolical mind-control agent and you’re convinced that he’s a little bit paranoid.
Somewhere along the line, Kerry decided to confuse Garrison by sending out all sorts of announcements that he was an agent of the Bavarian Illuminati. That got me interested in the Illuminati, and the more I read about it, the more interested I got. So eventually we incorporated the Illuminati into the Discordian Society. Since the Discordian Society is devoted to promoting chaos, we decided that the Illuminati is devoted to imposing totalitarianism. After all, a Discordian Society, to be truly discordant, should have it’s own totalitarian branch that’s working against the rest of the Society.
Pope John XXIV threw out six hundred saints on the grounds that they never existed. They threw out Santa Claus and a whole bunch of these Irish saints. The Discordian Society accepted them on the grounds that we don’t care whether these saints are real or not. If we like them, we’ll accept them. And since these saints were without a home, being thrown out of the Catholic church, we accepted them. In the same way we accepted the Illuminati, too, since nobody else wants them.
Then, I appointed myself the head of the Illuminati, which led to a lot of interesting correspondences with other heads of the Illuminati in various parts of the world. One of them threatened to sue me. I told him to resubmit his letter in FORTRAN, because my computer wouldn’t accept it in English and I never heard from him again. I think that confused him.
RMN: Who do you think the Illuminati really were–or are?
ROBERT: The Illuminati has been the label used by many groups throughout history. The Illuminati that is believed in by right-wing paranoids is a hypothesis that leading intellectuals of the eighteenth century were all members of the Bavarian Illuminati which was working to overthrow Christianity. I don’t think that’s quite accurate; I think there’s a lot of exaggeration in that view. I don’t think that Jefferson was a member of the Illuminati; he just had similar goals. Beethoven was probably a member, but Mozart probably wasn’t. Voltaire probably wasn’t, although he was a Freemason. Anyway, to the extent that the Illuminati conspired to overthrow Christianity and to establish democracy, I’m in favor of it.
DJB: What were the Illuminati out to achieve?
ROBERT: The historical Illuminati of the eighteenth century, as distinguished from all other Illuminati of previous centuries, had as it’s main goals, overthrowing the Vatican, overthrowing monarchies, establishing democratic republics and giving a scientific education to every boy and girl. Most of these goals have more or less begun to be achieved. Compared to what things were like in the eighteenth century they’ve largely succeeded, and I think that’s all to the good.
RMN: Many formerly held secrets known only to a select group of initiates, perhaps like the Bavarian Illuminati, are now available at the local metaphysical bookstore. What do you think are the sociological implications of such information exchange?
ROBERT: Oh, I think it’s wonderful. I believe very much that secrecy is the main cause of most social evils. I think information is the most precious commodity in the world. As a matter of fact, I think that information is the source of all wealth. The classical economic theory is that wealth is created by land, labor and capital. But if you have a piece of land, and you’ve got capital, and you hire labor, and you drill for oil, and there’s no oil there–you won’t get rich. What makes somebody rich is drilling for oil where there is oil, and that’s based on having correct information. I’m just paraphrasing Buckminster Fuller here. All wealth is information. So therefore, all attempts to impede the transfer, the rapid transmission of information, are making us all poorer.
DJB: Why do you think it is then, that it took so long for occult knowledge to come out of secrecy and into the open?
ROBERT: Well, that’s largely because of the Catholic church. Anybody who spoke too frankly for many centuries was burned at the stake. So the alchemists, hermeticists, Illuminati and other groups learned to speak in codes.
DJB: So you think it was the fear of persecution, rather than a feeling that most people weren’t “ready” for the information quite yet?
ROBERT: Well, I think that’s a rationalization, You can’t find out who’s ready, except by distributing the information. Then you find out who’s ready.
RMN: The wars in the Middle East and the rising fundamentalism in the West have been seen by some as the death screams of organized religion. Both Islam and Christianity, however, have survived many “Holy Wars.” What do you think the fate of organized religion will be?
ROBERT: I would like to think that organized religion is on it’s way out, but I’ve been doing a lot of research on the eighteenth century for my historical novels. Voltaire thought that the Catholic church would be gone in twenty years, and it’s hung around for two hundred years since then. When the Pope disbanded the Jesuits, Voltaire said that’s the end, the Catholic church is falling apart. Well, a few years later they reorganized the Jesuits. The Knights of Malta are running the CIA apparently, and the Catholic church just refuses to die. Fundamentalism has staged a comeback. It’s fantastic.
I’m a big fan of H.L. Menken. He was a very funny social critic of the 1920’s. His books went out of print for a while, because the things he was making fun of didn’t exist anymore. Now his books are coming back into print because all those things exist again. He was making fun of the same type of thing that Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, and that whole crowd stand for. It’s astonishing the way that this seemingly dead historical institution came back, like the Frankenstein monster. Every time you think it’s dead, it rises up again to afflict us. The Ayatollah. The Grey Wolves. The Grey Wolves are the biggest heroin dealers in the Mid-East because they believe Allah wants them to kill Jews and they can’t get enough money to buy guns without selling heroin. That makes about as much sense as most of the Christian theology I’ve heard.
I’m a mystical agnostic, or an agnostic mystic. That phrase was coined by Olaf Stapledon, my favorite science fiction writer. When I first read it, it didn’t mean anything to me, but over the years I’ve gradually realized that “agnostic mystic” describes me better than any words I have found any where else.
DJB: How about “transcendental agnostic”?
ROBERT: Yeah. The word agnostic has gained the association of somebody who’s just denying, but what I mean is something more like the ancient Greek concept of the zetetic. I find the universe so staggering that I just don’t have any faith in my ability to grasp it. I don’t think the human stomach can eat everything, and I’m not quite sure my mind can understand everything, so I don’t pretend that it can.
RMN: In Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade, she proposes that there has been a cultural transformation from a cooperation between the sexes to the dominion of male over female. She says that we’re now at a stage when men should be learning from women. What do you think about this?
ROBERT: Curiously, 1 was an early advocate of the theory of the primordial matriarchy. I got turned onto that by Robert Graves when I was in high school. I read The White Goddess, and then I happened to read a little-known book by a Scottish psychiatrist named Ian Suttie called The Origin of Love and Hate, in which he used the model of history evolving from matriarchy to patriarchy and back to matriarchy. Some of these ideas have been around my head for about forty years.
Currently I tend to agree with Eisler. There’s no evidence of a matriarchy at all. There’s evidence of a partnership society. It’s been coming back for the last two hundred years. Arlen calls it “stone-age feedback.” As European civilization conquered and exploited the Third World, ideas from these places came drifting back to Europe. Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau, the whole enlightenment was influenced by the ideas of these “primitives” having a more natural and happier way of life than we do. Democracy, socialism, anarchism, and all the radical ideas of the last two hundred years were inspired by studying stone-age cultures from the first proto-anthropologica1 reports.
I’ve been an advocate for a partnership society for years, before Eisler used that term. The term I used was “voluntary association” which comes out of the American Anarchist tradition. This was a school of philosophical anarchists in New England in the nineteenth century who are very little known. I got fascinated by them in the sixties and read most of their books. The idea of voluntary association migrated to Europe and became syndicalism, only the syndicalists added to it the idea of overthrowing the existing system by violence, so the whole idea developed a bad reputation. I think the basic idea of voluntary association, or partnership, is the one towards which we should aspire. It’s the most human, just, fair, decent and intelligent form of society.
RMN: Do you have hope that we can achieve it?
ROBERT: Yes, I do, in spite of the evidence we see on all sides of stupidity, ignorance, bigotry and the seemingly inexhaustible lust of the masses to be trampled on by Fuhrer figures and father figures. I see the last two hundred years as a staggering, groping, fumbling toward a partnership society.
RMN: Riane Eisler doesn’t address the masculinity of the Devil-the fact that in this society, the dark side as well as the light side of spiritual power is depicted as male. Do you have any ideas about that?
ROBERT: They do have some shadowy feminine counterparts. There’s the Lilith, the female Devil, and buried in Judaism there’s the Shekinah, the female aspect of God. I’m more interested in the way that the Devil infiltrated Christianity disguised as Santa Claus. Very few people realize the archetypes are the same. It’s the old pagan fertility god. Satan is the caricature that the Christian church created, but the fertility god came back as Santa, and he wears the same red suit as the Devil. The name Satan and Santa are made up of the same letters; you just move one and you’ve changed Santa into Satan.
RMN: That’s interesting. The Devil and sexuality are correlated in many people’s minds. Religious and political authorities have consistently attempted to control human sexuality and nip individual freedom in the bud. How do you see the role of sexuality evolving into the future?
ROBERT: I was just reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Gods in Everyman yesterday, and I found some of myself in Hades, though that’s the younger me back in my adolescence and early twenties. I also see parts of myself in Hermes, but I see a great deal of Dionysus. My mystical feelings and my sexual feelings are so close together that I find it hard to understand how Western society ever separated them. But that just goes to show that I’m a Dionysian type. Our society is run by Zeus types and Apollo types to whom the separation is perfectly natural.
RMN: Do you think society is evolving towards a more Dionysian character?
ROBERT: Yeah. We have been since the sixties. Woodstock was a Dionysian festival–it was the rebirth of Dionysus–and right away the lid came down. My God Dionysus is loose! King Pentheus immediately called out the cops. The Dionysian religion had entered his kingdom and he tried to crush it, but he was torn apart by his own mother. That’s a warning of what happens when you try to suppress Dionysus; it’s one of the classic Greek myths. Look what happened to Nixon–he got torn apart. The only president to be forced to resign. Reagan escaped unscathed but I still have an intuition that he’s going to be repudiated. I think the people are going to be as disgusted with Reagan as they were with Nixon–eventually. I even had high hopes that George Bush was going to be impeached. Of course, he picked Quayle as impeachment insurance, but I just have a strong suspicion, based on Confucius, that the general decline of morals and manners in this country, the general increase in the sleaze factor in American life and the general corruption and crookedness, are all due to the fact that people like Nixon and Agnew get away scot-free. They had television pictures of DeLorean peddling cocaine. When I heard about this I said, “A man with that much money isn’t going to be convicted, even if they have him on television.” And he wasn’t.
Once everybody becomes aware that the rich can commit any crime in the book and get away with it, then the general attitude is, “Well, why don’t we do the same?” The whole sociobiology of Confucius is when the ruling class are decent, honorable, gentlemen scholars, the people will be well disposed; when the government is a bunch of thieving rascals, the people will become thieving rascals.
We’ve seen so much of that, and the only hope I can see is that some of the malefactors in high places get punished so that a sense of justice and order is reestablished in this country. I’m not a vengeful person and I have a great deal of compassion, even for Nixon and Reagan, but I think some of those people have to go to jail to restore the idea that there is justice in the universe.
RMN: The whirlwind ecstasies of the sixties have, for many, settled down into a gentle breeze. What do you feel were the fleeting and lasting effects of this cultural phenomena, and how have your attitudes developed since that time?
ROBERT: Well, we were just talking about that this morning. What survives of the sixties? What survives in different forms? I think Bucky Fuller hit the nail on the head. He said that around 1972, the brighter people realized that there are more effective ways of challenging the system than going out in the streets and running their heads against policemen’s clubs. So they got more subtle. People are working on different levels and in different ways, and it’s become less confrontational, but I do believe there are still a lot of people working for the ideals of the sixties.
DJB: You mean like in the movie industry?
ROBERT: Yeah, and in television, in computers, in banking, all over the place.
DJB: Really, in banking?
ROBERT: Yeah. I’ve met a couple of bankers who are really very hip people.
DJB: Timothy Leary and Aleister Crowley both played similar roles in history and both had a significant influence on your evolving belief systems. Tell us about the effect these two people have had on your understanding of consciousness.
ROBERT: Well Crowley was such a complicated individual that everybody who reads Crowley has a different Crowley in his head. There’s a million Aleister Crowleys depending on what part of him people are able to understand and integrate. Crowley, as the leader of the Illuminati and the Argentum Astrum the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), was continuing the project of overthrowing Christianity and added his own twist of reviving Paganism (which goes back to Giordano Bruno who wanted to do the same thing). Crowley is an interesting figure and has had a bigger historical impact than most people realize. The NeoPagan movement is bigger than anybody knows, except the Fundamentalists, who think it’s a Satanic movement — which from their point of view, I guess it is.
The Crowley who interests me is the scientific Crowley. He traveled all over the world, got initiated into every secret society he could, studied every occult system, studied Sufism in North Africa, Taoism in China, Buddhism in Ceylon and he tried to understand them all in terms of organic chemistry and physiology. He laid the groundwork for the scientific study of mysticism and altered consciousness. That’s the Crowley I’m fascinated by–Crowley the scientist, who co-existed with Crowley the mystic, Crowley the poet, Crowley the adventurer and Crowley the Great Beast.
RMN: The Golden Dawn from which Crowley got much of his inspiration was a mystical school which is still lively today. Have you found this system able to remain flexible enough to adapt to the cultural and psychological revisions that have occurred since the Order was first established?
ROBERT: There are several Golden Dawns around, like there are several OTO’s and several Illuminatis and so on. All of these things are fractionated, and of course, everybody with a power drive involved in these things claims to be the leader of the real and authentic Secret Chiefs. The Golden Dawn which I find most interesting is the one of which Christopher Hyatt is the Outer Head. He’s a fully qualified clinical psychologist with a good background in Jungian and Reichian therapy and a great deal of theoretical knowledge of general psychology.
He was trained in the Golden Dawn system by Israel Regardie who was also a psychologist as well as a mystic. I think Hyatt knows what he’s doing; I think he’s got his head on right. He doesn’t have delusions of grandeur. He’s not a prima donna and he’s free of most of the deviant and aberrant behavior that’s chronic in the occult world. What are the goals of the Golden Dawn? Unleashing the full positive potential of human beings.
RMN: What are the methods involved?
ROBERT: The original Golden Dawn in the 1880’s used Kabbalistic magic. Crowley revised it to include Kabbalistic magic and yoga and a bit of Sufism. Regardie revised it to include a great deal of Reichian bodywork, and an insistence that anybody who enters the Order should go through psychotherapy first. He became aware that people who get into Kabbalistic-type work, especially in the Golden Dawn tradition, who haven’t had psychotherapy, are likely to flip out or scare themselves silly. Regardie also insisted that they should know General Semantics, which is interesting since it was General Semantics which got me interested in the study of alternative consciousness.
RMN: Why did Regardie want this to be included?
ROBERT: General Semantics is a system that is very useful in clarifying your thinking. If you understand the rules of General Semantics, you’re more or less immune to most of the errors that are chronic at this stage of civilization. One of the rules of General Semantics is avoid the is of identity, which is a rule I just broke when I said “General Semantics is…” It’s very hard to avoid the is of identity in speech. We all use it all the time. I’m getting pretty good at avoiding it in my writing. Whenever you’re trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with my thinking? Why can’t I get to the bottom of this? Why am I confused about this problem? Write it down and take out every “is” and reformulate it in some other way. You’ll find that your thinking has been tremendously clarified.
It’s like the celebrated problem in quantum physics in the 1920’s. The electron is a wave. The electron is a particle. Those two things contradict each other totally, which led to a lot of physicists saying that the universe doesn’t make sense, the universe is irrational and so on. If you reformulate it without the “is” of identity, there’s no paradox at all. The electron appears as a wave when we measure it in certain ways. The electron appears as a particle when we measure it in other ways. There’s no contradiction. There are a lot of other ideas in general semantics that are equally useful in clarifying thought.
DJB: That’s one of the claims of the recent technology of brain machines. What experiences have you had with them, which ones do you find the most promising and what kind of potential do you think they hold for the future?
ROBERT: The most outstanding experience I’ve had with a brain machine was with the first one, the Pulstar. I had an out-of-body experience which registered as flat brain waves on the EEG, and that fascinated me. That was the first objective sign I had ever seen that something was going on in out-of-body experiences besides heightened imagination. I don’t see much difference between a lot of the brain machines around. Some are demonstrably inferior, and out of charity I won’t mention their names. Some claim to be very superior to all the others, but as far as I can see, most of them function pretty much the same.
At present, I’m more interested in the light and sound machines than I am in the electro-magnetic machines, because there is some legitimate cause for concern that sending electro-magnetism into your brain too often may not be good for you. The whole field is growing very fast. There’s a bunch of tapes put out by Acoustic Brain Research in North Carolina. They use only sound, but they combine it with subliminals and Ericksonian hypnosis in a way that I find very effective. They’re using sound at the same frequencies that you find in the electro-magnetic machines, or the light and sound machines.
The Graham Potentializer does seem a little more powerful than any of the other machines, but I wouldn’t guarantee it because I haven’t had enough experience with it yet. What T want to see is more controlled, double-blind studies of these machines, because everybody has their own anecdotal impressions, but we don’t really know yet which are the best. Which wave forms are the best? We don’t know that yet. Why do some people respond better to one than to others? We don’t know why. There’s a lot mure to be learned and I’m very eager to see more research.
RMN: Do you think that the use of brain machines requires an accompanying discipline?
ROBERT: I suspect so. One manufacturer told me that the return rate is about fifteen percent. I think these machines are much easier than the biofeedback machines, but they still require some discipline. I think they require some previous experience with Yoga, or Zen, or some consciousness-altering work. You need some kind of previous experience or you just won’t know how to use the machine. I don’t think the machine really works as an entrainer unless you practice between sessions, trying to revive the state without the machine. A lot of people can’t do that, they just assume that the machine will do all the work for them, which is kind of like thinking that you just get in the car and it’ll take you where you want to go.
DJB: The potential of nanotechnology seems far more vast. How do you think it’s development will affect human consciousness in the future?
ROBERT: I haven’t thought much about that. That’s an interesting question. It’s going to change everything. Nanotechnology is a much bigger jump than anything else on the horizon. It’s bigger than space colonization, bigger than longevity. It’s a million times bigger than the industrial revolution. It’s going to change things so much that I can’t begin to conceive how much; but everything’s going to get dirt cheap. The ozone layer will get repaired rapidly. We could create redwoods as fast and as many as we want, and then there’s star-flight. I don’t know; it’s just a whole new ballgame, and it leads directly into immortalism.
DJB: How about new ways to alter the brain?
ROBERT: Oh, of course. Eric Drexler, in his book on the subject, talks about constructing micro-replicators that, if you let them loose in the body, they run all over the place, inspecting every cell. If it’s not functioning properly they go back, get information from the main computer and repair it. You can obviously do the same thing with brain circuits. It’ll probably replace psychiatry. Nanotechnology is so staggering, we can’t think about it without hyperbole, and it’s coming along rapidly. The Japanese are spending fantastic amounts on that kind of research.
RMN: What do you think about the idea than many inventions are actually rediscoveries of technologies that have already existed in the past?
ROBERT: That’s always seemed very implausible to me. There are some cases–the steam engine was discovered in Greece and forgotten until Watt rediscovered it–but I doubt that there are many. Most things weren’t discovered until they could be discovered, until there was the time-binding heritage, or until the information accumulation had reached the necessary level. This is why you have so many cases of parallel discovery in science, where in five years three people patent the same thing in different countries. As Charles Fort said, “It’s steam engines when it comes steam engine time.”
RMN: What if there were times when the information had accumulated but not the political or social climate necessary to appreciate it? Libraries have been burned and knowledge chased underground by authoritarian forces.
ROBERT: Well, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should remain silent.”
RMN: A lot of people feel that technology is at odds with their ecological thinking. What do you think is the evolving role of the science of Ecology.
ROBERT: The first book I ever read on ecology was way back in the forties. It was called The Road to Survival. I’ve always been fascinated by ecology because I’m fascinated by whole systems. That’s why Bucky Fuller fascinates me. He always starts with the biggest whole system and works his way down. I’ve written a lot of satirical things about pop ecology because I think a lot of people have got on the ecology bandwagon who don’t know their ass from their elbow about science, and it’s turned into a kind of late Christian heresy like Marxism. It’s become a new blame game, where people go around laying guilt trips on other people. Guilt is very fashionable in Western civilization.
Albert Ellis said the most popular game in Western civilization is finding and denouncing no-good shits. I found that so impressive I’ve incorporated it into a couple of my own books. Every generation picks out a group of no-good shits. In the Victorian age it was adolescent boys who masturbated, and now it’s cigarette smokers. There’s always got to be some no-good shits for people to denounce and persecute, and to the extent that ecology has degenerated into that, it arouses my satirical instinct. But of course the science of Ecology itself is tremendously important, and the more people who know about it, the better.
RMN: The methods of science and art are beginning to achieve some wonderful things together. What do you think created such a chasm between the two disciplines in the first place, and why do you think they are now merging?
ROBERT: Science and art. Now what created such a chasm between them? Why the hell did that happen? I think I’m going to go back and blame the Inquisition. Science had to fight an uphill battle against the Inquisition and this created a historical hangover in which scientists had acute hostility to every form of mysticism, not just to the Catholic church which had been persecuting them. I think that rubs off onto art, because there’s something mystical about art no matter how much you try to rationalize it. If you get a bunch of artists together talking about where they got their creativity from, they sound like a bunch of mystics.
Then there was the rise of capitalism. I’m inclined to agree with Karl Marx about that, that every previous form of society has had different values, a hierarchy of values. Capitalism does tend to reduce everything to just one value–what can you sell it for? And as Oscar Wilde said, “All art is quite useless.” The value of art depends on who’s manipulating the marketplace at the time. It’s spooky. Art is the Schrodinger’s cat of economics.
All of a sudden, an Andy Warhol is worth a million, and nobody knows how that happened. Then it’s somebody else the next year. Picasso never paid for anything in the last twenty years of his life. He just wrote checks which never came back to his bank. People saved them because they knew that the signature was worth more than the sum of the check. They knew it would be worth even more in twenty years, and so on.
Somebody asked a Zen master, “What’s the most valuable thing in the world?” and he said, “The head of a dead cat.” The querent asked “Why?” and the Zen master said, “Tell me it’s exact value.” That’s a good exercise if you’re into creative writing. Write a short story where the hero’s life is saved by the fact that he could find the value of the head of a dead cat. It could happen. Everything has a fluctuating value.
In capitalism, everything gets reduced to it’s immediate cash value. Citizen Kane, to take one egregious example, is generally considered one of the best films ever made. It lost money in it’s first year, so Orson Welles had extreme difficulty for the rest of his life getting enough money to make other movies. Yet Citizen Kane made more money than any other movie made in 1941, if you count up to the present, because it gets revived more than any other movie. But the bankers who own the studios aren’t interested in profit in twenty years, they want profit next June. They want Indiana Jones not Citizen Kane.
RMN: So, if the areas of science and art are merging it indicates a move away from the capitalist perspective.
ROBERT: Yes. I think information theory has probably done a great deal to bring science and art back together again. Norbert Weiner invented the basic equation for information at the same time Claude Shannon did. That’s another example of things happening when they’re ready to happen. Weiner explained information by saying that a great poem carries more information than a political speech. Information is the unpredictable. As we come to realize the value of the unpredictable, the value of art has become clearer.
You go through a museum and you look at a Leonardo, a Botticelli, a Rembrandt, a Van Gogh, a Cezanne, a Picasso, a Klee, a Jackson Pollock, and it’s obvious the value of each of them is that they weren’t copying one another. If Van Gogh were copying Rembrandt nobody would give a damn for Van Gogh. He had the chutzpah to paint his own vision. Somebody having their own vision instead of just repeating an earlier one in a different style–that’s information. Information is the new and unpredictable, and information theory led to the computers which fascinate artists. Computers have opened up whole new areas of art.
DJB: Information is the unpredictability of a signal, but it’s not quite chaos or randomness. It carries a message.
ROBERT: Yeah. When unpredictability gets too high, information turns into noise. That part of Shannon’s theory involves very complicated mathematics and I’m not sure I fully understand it; I just more or less intuitively follow it. There has to be an information redundancy ratio where the highest grade of information is diluted with repetition.
DJB: Because it’s so unpredictable one can’t relate it to anything.
ROBERT: Yeah. Originality frequently looks like chaos until we learn how to deal with it, until we find the redundancy in it.
DJB: Have you had any experiences with lucid or conscious dreaming?
ROBERT: I’ve had a lot of lucid dreams, but I can’t think of anything that’s particularly worth discussing. I’d like to learn more about it. It happens spontaneously sometimes. I have a very rich hypnagogic and hypnopompic life, like Philip K. Dick. William Burroughs told me that his characters all manifest as voices in hypnopompic reverie before they have bodies, or names, or anything else. Robert Shea, an old friend of mine who’s a scientific materialist of the most rigid sort, really blew my mind by admitting he hears his characters talking. I suspect all writers do. I think the difference between a writer and a channeler is that the channeler has found a way to make more money out of it than most writers ever do.
DJB: Synchronicity is a major theme that runs through most, if not all, of your books. What model do you use at present for interpreting this mysterious phenomenon?
ROBERT: I never have one model. I always have at least seven models for anything.
DJB: Which one is your favorite?
ROBERT: Bell’s Theorem combined with an idea I got from Barbara Honegger, a parapsychologist who worked for Reagan. She wrote a book denouncing Reagan, Ollie North and the whole crowd, giving inside dirt about what she discovered while she was at the White House. Long before Barbara became a controversial political figure, she gave me the idea that the right brain is constantly trying to communicate with the left. If you don’t listen to what it’s trying to say, it gives you more and more vivid dreams and if you still won’t listen, it leads to Freudian slips. If you still don’t pay attention, the right brain will get you to the place in space-time where synchronicity will occur. Then the left brain has to pay attention. “Whaaaat!?”
DJB: What do you think happens to consciousness after physical death?
ROBERT: Somebody asked a Zen master, “What happens after death?” He replied, “I don’t know.” And the querent said, “But you’re a Zen master!” He said, “Yes, but I’m not a dead Zen master.” Somebody asked Master Eckart, the great German mystic, “Where do you think you’il go after death?” He said, “I don’t plan to go anywhere.” Those are the best answers I’ve heard so far. My hunch is that consciousness is a non-local function of the universe as a whole, and our brains are only local transceivers. As a matter of fact, it’s a very strong hunch, but I’m not going to dogmatize about it.
DJB: Could you share with us any experiences you might have had communicating with what you thought to be extraterrestrial or non-human entities?
ROBERT: I’ve had a lot of experiences with what could be interpreted as extraterrestrial communications. They could also be interpreted as ESP, or as accessing parts of my brain that are normally not available, or as contacting a non-local consciousness that permeates everything. There are a lot of different models for this type of experience. I got fascinated by the extraterrestrial model at one stage in the early seventies, and still, every now and then, it makes more sense to me than any of the others.
Other times the non-local model makes more sense, which is a development of Bell’s Theorem. This was stated most clearly by Edwin Harris Walker in a paper called The Complete Quantum Anthropologist. He developed a mathematical theory of a non-local mind, to which we can gain access at times. It’s a complete quantum mechanical, mathematical model to explain everything that happens in mystical and occult experience. That makes a great deal of sense to me, especially when I found that Joyce was using the same model in Finnigan ‘s Wake. I think it also underlies the I Ching. I explain this at length in my book Coincidance.
DJB: How do you see consciousness evolving into the twenty-first century?
ROBERT: It staggers my imagination. I get about as far as 2012 in my future projections, then I can’t imagine beyond that. So much is going to change by then.
DJB: What do you see coming along up to 2012?
ROBERT: In Leary’s terms, I think about one-third of the West now understands the neuro-somatic circuit, and some techniques for activating it. I think that’s going to reach fifty to fifty-one percent pretty soon–and that will be a major cultural change. I think more and more understanding of the neuro-genetic and meta-programming circuits are coming along.
It’s very obvious that quantum physics, parapsychology and all the work they’re doing attaching brain scanners to Yogis and Zen masters means we’re going to learn a great deal about the non-local quantum circuit. I think the history of mysticism has been sort of like a bunch of firecrackers with two or three going off every century. With the LSD revolution it became two or three every month and now it’s moving up to two or three every week. I see a real acceleration in consciousness, just like in technology.
DJB: Soon it’ll be fireworks every day. One final question, Bob. Tell us about any current projects on which you’re presently working.
ROBERT: I’ve just finished a book called Quantum Psychology subtitled: How Brain Software Programs Your Self and Your World. I’m working on a movie, tentatively titled The Curtain, which may or may not ever get produced. I’ve been paid enough so that I’m not wasting my time, which is a good thing to know in Hollywood. There are all sorts of people around Hollywood who’ll get you involved in projects without ever paying you a penny, if you’re dumb enough to do that.
If the movie does get produced it’ll have a tremendous impact. I’m also working on two possible television shows and I’m continuing my historical novels. I’m doing more lectures in more places than ever before, with workshops here and there, which involves a lot of traveling. Altogether, I’m very excited about what the next ten years will bring into my life.