in the raw

in the raw: necessary heresies (1/2)
by Alex Burns ( – January 22, 2001

Author’s note: This interview was originally published in
REVelation magazine (#13, Autumn, 1995): 36-40. The many
lists of occult and New Age philosophers betrays its
authors’ self-conscious youth: beginners often first learn
discourse by referencing. I subsequently joined the Temple
of Set in June 1996 after further correspondence with Dr.
Michael A. Aquino and other Setians. This was also Robert
Anton Wilson’s first interview by email. At least, I think
it was RAW who replied, but I’m still not sure . . .

The paleolithism of the future (which for us, as mutants,
already exists) will be achieved on a grand scale only
through a massive technology of the Imagination, and a
scientific paradigm which reaches beyond Quantum Mechanics
into the realm of Chaos Theory & the hallucinations of
Speculative Fiction.
~ ~ Hakim Bey, Temporary Autonomous Zones.

Some may get through the gate in time.
~ ~ William Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night.

Robert Anton Wilson has always been an enigma. Surfacing in
a Faustian Age, his writings, lectures and multimedia
projects have become frontline weapons in the war against
the forces of unconsciousness. A trickster-like figure, the
self styled ‘RAW’ has unleashed the forces of Rebellion and
Curiosity, Knowledge and Power, to many over the past 25
years. As the current social structures that have dominated
Western Civilization over the past 2000 years disintegrate
and Chaos ensues, RAW is amongst a loose cabal of
anarchists, scientists and philosophers, all firing the
opening shots in a war that will hope to awaken the latent
creative forces in humankind.

His work is a sobering antidote to much of the deliberately
irrationalist “New Age” theologies or the restrictive dogmas
of modern science. Written during one of the 20th Century’s
major culture shifts, his many books are weapons used by the
few self-conscious people against the smothering herd-like
masses. RAW makes us aware of the current low intensity
culture warfare in which the sacred is manufactured and
commodified, controlled by intellectual castes, and
challenges us to liberate ourselves from this neo-feudalism.
Whilst many other authors make millions out of flashy
psycho-mystical doubletalk about consciousness, ‘change’,
and pop psychology, RAW shows us the true methods of self
discovery. The landmark Prometheus Unbound (1983) and the
later Quantum Psychology (1992) are two key treatises on
self liberation from mental addiction to “ideals”,
alienation, cultured infantilism, anger fuelled by
anti-parental vengeance and other opressions. These modern
grimoires are loaded with techniques to move from being what
cyberneticist Norbert Weiner called “a controllable
thermostat,” to becoming more human.

Our interview was to be conducted by email, as RAW was
working frantically to finish several projects. It was his
first experience of an interview by email, and he was
genuinely excited to get his grips on the super-information
highway; previously being exposed to International Relay
Chat (IRC) in 1993. His new book Cosmic Trigger III: My Life
After Death was at the printers, and it seemed that RAW was
using his ‘trickster’ act to parody the constant queries on
various news-groups about his earthly existence. Eagerly
awaited by longtime fans, the new book promises to recapture
the early Wilson magic that made the original Cosmic Trigger
I: Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977) so special.

“My Life After Death represents a synechdoche, if you’ll
pardon a classical reference. The book deals with masks,
deceptions, art and conspiracy – but, I think, from a new
angle I haven’t used before. My death in cyberspace is just
the prolog and archetype of many other interfaces of art,
illusion and conspiracy I discuss. For instance, Elmyr de
Houry, the greatest art forger of our century – did he forge
as many masterpieces as he claimed, or did he exaggerate his
own criminality? Who can we trust to judge this, when he
fooled the experts for three decades at least? The Priory of
Sion – a serious conspiracy, a joke, a joke that turned into
a conspiracy, or what? The canon of art – another joke or
another conspiracy? UMMO, the alleged extraterrestrial
correspondence school that has impressed a lot of
intelligent people not normally fooled by UFO hoaxes – if
UMMO is not extraterrestrial, what band of human
conspirators are behind it, and is it is a joke, a
conspiracy or something else? All these questions, and many
others, relate to the basic topic of the reality of masks
and the masks of reality. My death is much less mysterious
than many of these other enigmas. . .By the way, some people
still insist I am dead, really. Anything I publish is
regarded by them as the work of a Virtual Robert Anton
Wilson created by the C.I.A. Will you believe me if I deny

It was ironic that the interview was by email, an
appropriate place to discuss masks of reality, conspiracy
and deception. RAW kept his address secret, posting using a
pseudonym. His manipulation of reality extended to the
interview process itself. As RAW has been known to comment,
“Reality is what you can get away with.”

An early influence on RAW was the work of Buckminster Fuller
(1895-1983), the inventor of the geodesic dome and a leading
researcher into synergetic geometry. In the 1960s “Bucky”
challenged the then emerging “pop ecology” movement’s
assertion that humanity faced imminent destruction because
population growth would outstrip our natural resources. He
believed that we use less than 0.05% of the energy available
on our planet. For example, since our architectural plans
are based around Pythagorean “golden means” and other
classical forms, this leads to generic buildings that
inefficiently use space and aren’t integrated into the
surrounding environment. Fuller’s experience with naval
design, which packs the most objects into the smallest,
lightest space, lead him to conclude that our land buildings
overuse potentially recyclable materials. RAW saw this self
imposed limitation was due to conditioned responses and
thinking, and that by changing perspective as Fuller had
done, new solutions, such as Mike Reynold’s “Earthships,” to
previously “unsolvable” problems could occur.

“As Bucky Fuller liked to say, there is no energy shortage
on this planet but there is a terrible intelligence
shortage,” RAW told me.

RAW’s early activities included membership in the legendary
“John Dillinger Died For You Society”, part of the
Discordian movement inspired by Greg Hill’s Principia
Discordia tract (1968). This was a direct influence on the
Illuminatus! trilogy (1975). What began as a satire on weird
religions has mutated over the last 25 years into an unusual
form of individual liberation by worshipping Eris, Goddess
of Chaos. It now has a sizeable net presence and several
news-groups, and has spawned a mini publishing industry. RAW
recently criticised several games companies who have
marketed products exploiting Illuminatus! and the
Discordians, and are able to escape paying royalties through
legal loop-holes. Further commercialisation beckons . . .

After working as an engineering aide and sales manager, RAW
became an Associate Editor of Playboy between 1966-71.
During these formative years he encountered revolutionary
artists/movements such as James Joyce, Surrealism, Borges,
and ‘Pataphysics’ which inspired him. He read the spy novels
of Eric Ambler, John Le Carre and Len Deighton (“where you
can’t believe anything the characters say”) and skeptical
philosophers such as John Hume and Friedrich Nietszche (“who
believed reality cannot be known but only guessed”).

Whilst studying these diverse sources which were to
influence his later work, Hefner’s empire published several
of his works. These included Sex & Drugs (1973), one of the
first Western book to explain the ancient Tantric secret
that consciousness can be altered by slowing the orgasm
during sexual intercourse, often with the help of drugs.
Such secrets had been previously available to initiates of
secret orders such as the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), and
had been alluded to by the notorious magician Aleister
Crowley, but RAW was the first to explain sex-magick
scientifically as a “peak experience.”

Breaking with the Hefner Empire coincided with the
authorship of RAW’s most popular work – the Illuminatus!
trilogy, co-authored with the sadly recently deceased Robert
Shea. This three volume work has been described as “the
longest shaggy dog story in literary history” and “a fairy
tale for paranoids.” Yet underneath the satire of just about
every conspiracy theory and political/religious group in
modern society lay an incredible work of hallucinatory
Speculative Fiction. As a means of liberation through trash
culture, it rivals Philip K. Dick’s VALIS novels, ironically
conceived around the same period.

Illuminatus! introduced readers to the enigmatic character
Hagbard Celine and Wilson’s theory that all points of view
are umwelts or “reality tunnels,” which exclude other truths
or information. Amongst the multi-layered characters and
shifting plots, RAW alluded to much of the modern Western
Magickal Tradition, such as sex magick, links between secret
societies and intelligence services (the three main figures
who influenced the early Twentieth Century occult revival –
Theosophist Helena Blatavsky, Russian mystic George
Gurdjieff and Aleister Crowley all worked for the latter),
ritual drug use, secret Nazi research under the Ahnernerbe
organisation into occult technology, and parodies of the
1960s hippie experience.

Whilst Illuminatus! was campy, its hidden references to
philosophies and descriptions of occult knowledge catapulted
Wilson and Shea into the ranks of writers like Daniel Defoe,
Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, and Mary Shelley – authors who had
used allegories to communicate a second, hidden meaning in
their literature – such as the perennial search for the
elusive Philosopher’s Stone: “pure consciousness” and the
Fountain of Youth.

Twenty years later controversy regarding Illuminatus! rages
on. Apart from discussing esoteric doctrines, the book
conveyed a model of conspiracies and paranoia that rival
Eric Hoffer’s examination of fanaticism in The True
Believer. Wilson and Shea used the metaphor of the “Order of
Illuminati or the Enlightened”, an organisation founded in
Bavaria, 1776, by Adam Weishapt, then Professor of Natural
and Canon Law at the University of Ingoldstadt. The
organisation was similar to Freemasonry, and after gaining
over 2000 members and lodges across Europe, was suppressed
in 1784 by the Bavarian Government. This group of republican
free-thinkers began to decline and Weishapt fled Bavaria in
1785, later dying at Gotha in 1811.

Although most likely a curious historical footnote, the
Illuminati were the first modern society to use for
political subversion the machinery of the secret
organization. RAW was able to link this back to the Knights
Templar and Hassan i Sabbah’s shadowy Assassins, who had a
stranglehold on religious power from the ninth Century
onwards. His dying words reportedly were “Nothing Is Real,
Everything Is Permitted.” Conspiracy theorists have linked
the Illuminati to the rise of Hitler, the Trilateral
Commission, the Club of Rome, International Zionism,
Communism, the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy and
Martin Luther King and the Military-Industrial Complex; all
vying for world domination. RAW found it intriguing that
such theorists were spread across the entire political
spectrum, suggesting that conspiracies are metaphors for
this troubled age. Some modern conspiracy theorists even
contend that the publication of Illuminatus! sent shockwaves
through the N.W.O., the Vatican, Masons and the CIA by
revealing the “great hidden secret.”

RAW’s response was: “Well, I’m flattered that some people
think Illuminatus! could have shaken up the New World Order,
but I find it hard to believe. The conspiratorial details in
that book came from (1) long published paranoid literature
(2) the satirical imaginations of Shea and myself.
Reprinting the old paranoid rants couldn’t have disturbed
the Masters of Earth, could it? The only alternative then is
that either Shea or I or both of us possess unconscious ESP
and the things we think we invent actually come to us by
telepathy. A charming idea! I must think about it some more
. . .

“Actually, a few things that I thought I invented did turn
out to be true, oddly enough. The one I still remember is
Beethoven’s link to the original, real, historical
Illuminati. I invented that as a parody of right-wing books
on the Beatles serving Moscow – but hot damn years later I
found, in a bio of Ludwig, that he had several associates in
the Illuminati and the Illuminati commissioned his first
major work, The Emperor Joseph Cantata. So maybe I do have
unconscious ESP. . . .in odd moments. Most of what I think I
invented still seems like fiction to me and to all sane
people I know.”

A startling revelation for RAW fans are his future
projections for the fictional Illuminat series as a whole.
“I eventually plan to continue The Historical Illuminati
Chronicles. Right now I’m more concerned with the future
again. I’m working on Bride of Illuminatus which takes place
in 2026, a more congenial place for my mind to roam than the
Eighteenth Century. If I live long enough, I hope all my
novels will form one continuous saga from 1750, when Bach
died and Sigismundo Celine was born, up through the
democratic and industrial revolutions, on to Darwin and
Nineteenth Century rationalism, then linking in the outbreak
of Relativity (Einstein, Joyce, Crowley) in Masks of the
Illuminati, jumping forward to the psycehdelic age in
Illuminatus and quantum/computer revolutions in
Schroedinger’s Cat and then finishing up with my hopes for
the future in Bride.”

He hopes that readers will gain a new perspective by being
able to read the series sequentially. “After the first
Illuminatus! trilogy with Shea, I noticed that some of the
negative responses indicated an ignorance, not just of
modern science, but of the Enlightenment philosophy of the
18th Century. Many people who can read are still living,
mentally, in the dark ages. So thats when I began to think
of a series of interconnected novels that would take such
readers through all the revolutions of the past two
centuries and prepare them for the 21st Century. The reason
Sigismundo Celine, in The Earth Will Shake, is born in
Naples is because the Inquisition still existed there in

  1. Taking him out of that fanatic Catholic world into the
    world of French rationalism begins the process of taking the
    readers from the Age of Aquinas to the Age of Space.”

A disturbing trend, which supports the need for many people
to be exposed to RAW’s grand vision, is that monotheistic
State and Religious powers have cracked down on many cults,
organisations and individuals who challenge consensus
reality – such as the ritual child abuse scares of the late
1980s, the trial by the Federal Drug Agency of Wilhelm Reich
(discussed by RAW in a 1988 play titled Wilhelm Reich In
Hell), parapsychologists, the Black Panthers, and religious
groups such as the Branch Davidians and Wiccans. Narrow
fundamentalist thinking and a witch-hunt inquisitorial
atmosphere by the media in the 1990s is the result of such
rampant, unchecked paranoia. Complicating the matter even
further is the existence of elite secret societies since
early Paleolithic agricultural based civilizations formed,
from the early priest-shamans and Socratic philosophers of
Egypt and Greece, through the Vatican, Knights Templar and
Freemasons to modern espionage agencies, G-7, Club of Rome,
the OTO, Temple of Set, hidden monasteries in Tibet and
Iran, and the Manhattan Project.

This inquisitorial atmosphere embraced the U.S. during our
interview after the Oklahoma bombing incident in May 1995,
with domestic law enforcement agencies cracking down on
right wing militia groups and controversy surrounding the
powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby. From a unique
vantage point, RAW (who once described his politics as
anarcho-technocrat and his religion as transcendental
atheist/experimental mystic) surveyed the resulting
socio-political upheaval and restriction of civil liberties.

“Considering the political capital that President Clinton
could make out of using the bombing as an excuse to lead a
witch-hunt and smear all his political enemies – and/or his
political “critics” – I think he has shown remarkable
restraint. I can’t explain it. At times I suspect that he is
a man of integrity despite being in politics. (Is that the
first sign of senility appearing in my aging brain?) I hate
to sound naive, but I think Clinton will try to avoid a
witch-hunt and just set the police on the nuts who did the
bombing. Of course, by the time the anti-terrorism bill gets
out of Congress, it will undoubtedly have some nasty and
dangerous clauses in it. I still don’t feel quite ready to
run for Canada. I just increased my monthly contribution to
the American Civil Liberties Union, to help them fight any
excesses that may get into the anti-terrorism bill, but I am
not ready to flee or hide yet.”

RAW’s interest in conspiracies in disguise and conspiracies
within conspiracies evolved into his “guerilla ontology”
phase of work during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He
collaborated with Timothy Leary on several books, including
Neuropolitique (1977) and Game of Life (1979). His analysis
of our reality tunnels synthesised many aspects of human
knowledge including the General Semantics of Count Alfred
Korzybski (“the map isn’t the territory, the menu isn’t the
meal”), Zen poetry, references to Beat writers like William
Burroughs, and other cultural icons.

RAW suggests as Gurdjieff and Burroughs did, that man lives
in a kind of hypnotised state, hardly ‘existing’ at all and
changing from hour to hour, a victim of events that pull him
along. Occasionally he receives flashes of intensity and
freedom, but mostly lives a routine, habit filled existence,
occupied by trivialities. Burroughs suggests a kind of
language-virus (as Ludwig Wittgenstein did), leading RAW to
examine political/religious fanaticism, mind-control
experiments, psychiatric manipulation, propoganda,
irrational science, and other traps that create non existant
problems to be exploited by politicians, priests, the media
and other authoritarian figures. With Philip K Dick, Timothy
Leary, John Cunningham Lilly and others, he became
interested in Information Theory, and the idea that people’s
nervous systems have been wired inefficiently into a “low
level fear” configuration, reinforced by benign deceptions
such as media rapid fire information; illogical
socio-religious concepts; psychotherapy that creates the
need for dependency on institutions; and knee jerk
authoritarianism. These keep people from realising their
true creative powers and keeps the sleeplike masses in
constant confusion, to be manipulated and controlled by an
elite few who restrict the flow of pure information signals
by distorting them to others. (RAW’s Situation Normal All
Fucked Up Law – “Communication is possible only between

Echoing the study of fascism in our family, political and
social structures by Wilhelm Reich, RAW sought to exalt the
individual over the State, and to make people aware of the
subtle, often hidden influences that control and distort
their lives. As Antonio Gramsci stated, “We are taught to
desire our own psychological imprisonment.” RAW’s
correlation of many seemingly separate fields of
experimentation and study often yielded surprisingly
coherent models and new concepts.

Taking the next step from rational study into action, RAW
began to fuse scientific techniques with those of ceremonial
magick (“the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in
comformity with Will,” according to Aleister Crowley) at the
same time as Timothy Leary was conducting LSD research on
William Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg and others, as well as
later developing his 8 circuit model of human consciousness.

Whilst Leary was lecturing across America on the Politics of
Ecstasy and later escaping prison with the help of the
Weatherman radicals, RAW tried most of the major methods of
brain exploration, bringing the new paradigms and manuals
into the Space Age; the next stage from Leary’s experiments
at Harvard using the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the

When asked what techniques were most beneficial, RAW
replied, “I really don’t know what techniques have helped me
most. I mean, really, you do 6 months of A and 6 months of B
and you feel you’ve learned something organic. Do you
attribute it to A or B or both? I’ve tried dozens of systems
and think I learned a little from each, but I don’t like
picking favorites. Well . . . a few favorites . . . the
Acoustic Brain Research tapes; General Semantics; yoga
meditation; cannabis; scientific method . . . but some
things that didn’t do much for me may do wondersor others. I
never liked isolation tanks, but I don’t doubt that they
have opened doors and new brain paths for many of their

“None of the “smart” drinks have impressed me much so far –
but I absolutely 100% support that line of research. I have
been more impressed with the brain-training tapes produced
by Acoustic Brain Research.But I am keen, as always, on any
new technique that accelerates or expands awareness.

“Most advanced shamanistic techniques such as Tibetan Tantra
or Crowley’s work in the West work by alternating faith and
skepticism until you get beyond the ordinary limits of
both,” he told Science Fiction Review in May 1976. “With
such systems one learns how arbitrary are the reality maps
that can be coded into laryngeal grunts by homids or
visualised by a mammalian nervous system. . .Most people are
trapped in one static reality-map imprinted on their neurons
when they were children.”

It seems extraordinary that two pioneering dissident
philosophers would meet and combine their talents to create
their most important work, but RAW preferred not to dwell on
it. “That’s like Crowley’s question to candidates who came
to him for mystical wisdom. “Why,” he would ask them, “of
all the teachers on this planet did you come to me? And why,
of all the days of your life, on this particular day?” You
just can’t answer such a thing in words. It’s a Zen koan.
The whole universe conspired to send each student to Crowley
on a particualr day, and the whole universe conspired (I
mean that in a literal or ironic sense) to have Dr. Leary
and myself thinking the same things at the same time and it
seemed natural for us to collaborate on a few parts of a few

The Wilson/Leary 8 circuit model of the brain is mentioned
at the end of RAW’s non-fiction post-script to Illuminatus!
called Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati
(1977), and by Leary in Info-Psychology (1987). This
acclaimed work, which ranks with Prometheus Rising (a
practical manual dealing with the 8 circuit model and how to
overcome the limits of your reality tunnels) as RAW’s most
important, is a mindblowing journey through a landscape of
Futurists, Immortalists, RAW’s occult experiments, secret
societies and synchronicities.

The first Cosmic Trigger covered the dark side of the “New
Age” movement, such as links between Aleister Crowley, the
Jet Propulsion Laboratories at Pasadena (which launched the
Apollo space missions), and Scientologist L.Ron Hubbard. But
mainly, these books were nothing less than a manifesto for
self controlled evolution, which all true religious
teachings point to: an effort to exalt the gift of isolate
awareness, reason, and the unnatural aspect of mankind’s
consciousness. Neo-Nietzschean in flavour, they presented
the reader with the modern Quest for the Holy Grail – the
realisation of the unique (polarised) self (or ubermensch).

Extending John Cunningham Lilly’s idea that the mind can be
modelled by computers (thus linking with his work on
informations theories and guerilla ontology), Wilson/Leary
postulated 4 basic circuits that program our behaviour: (1)
the Oral Bio-Survival Circuit; (2) the Anal
Emotional-Territorial Circuit; (3) the Time-Binding Semantic
Circuit; and (4) the “Moral” Socio-Sexual Circuit. Wilson
acknowledged that these circuits are antique and
conservative, existing in everybody and readily manipulated.
When reprogrammed, they allow control of the five senses,
which if properly trained allow the psyche to experience the
world directly, but most often act as blockages. However his
most inspiring work deals with the next four circuits –
relatively new in terms of our evolution, which Wilson hopes
will foreshadow our future stages of development. These four
new circuits are: (5) the Holistic Neuro-somatic Circuit;
(6) the Collective Neurogenetic Circuit; (7) the
Metaprogramming Circuit and (8) the Non-Local Quantum

These circuits are triggered by certain psychoactive drugs
and other “peak experiences”, leading to deeper appreciation
of aesthetics, noetic apprehension and the eventual
unravelling of “the language of the gods” – contained in
Egyptian hieroglyphs and the DNA Double Helix. In one stroke
Wilson and Leary had linked the post-Einstein Quantum
Physics revolution with modern religious, occult, and
psychological techniques. This is one reason why despite the
model being over twenty years old, Wilson sheepishly wrote,
“I’m embarassed to say that I still like the 8 circuit model
of the brain better than any other. This embarasses me
because I said frequently over 20 years ago that it would be
replaced by a better model within 10 years. Maybe it has
been made obsolete already and I just don’t know about it .
. . but in my area of knowledge, the 8 circuit model still
fits more facts than any other model.”

The Wilson/Leary model extends on the Sufi/Gurdjieffian
analogy of the “body as a transformational apparatus for
energy,” linking with physicist Jack Sarfatti’s theory that
higher levels of consciousness are a special form of energy
within the universe, which only a few in each generation
will discover and control.

“One of the major revisions in my current seminars (I
haven’t published this yet) changes the names of the
polarity of the first circuit. Instead of calling the
extremes neophilia and neophobia, I now call them infophilia
and infophobia, which I consider more general. I also have
started (not always consistently) replacing 8 “circuits”
with 8 “systems” because the circuit metaphor seems a little
too electronic and I think humans are more electro-colloidal
systems than the electronic models of human “mind” that we
find in computers. In other words, like all protoplasm we
can be modelled by computers but we remain more chemically
complex and otherwise more complex than mere circuitry
describes. I’m not trying to drag in some New Age
“spirituality” here. I just mean that General Systems Theory
seems more . . . well, more general than computer theory.

“I got the electro-colloidal idea from Charles M. Childs in
his Individuality in Organisms. He says all protoplasm
exists in electro-colloidal suspension between sol and gel
and dies if it moves too far in either direction. (He says a
lot of other interesting things, too . . .) So I tend to see
humans as dynamic living systems in that kind of suspension
between sol and gel. That means they can only be understood
holistically or organically, not in a linear or mechanistic
way. Hence, I prefer Systems to Circuits as models.”

This revision poses some important implications for
Artificial Intelligence work, and whether computers will
ever acheive consciousness. Wilson’s revision suggests that
they may acheive some form – such as awareness of death, or
intelligence (seen in the example of viruses approaching the
complexity of low level bacterial forms), but never the
“self-consciousness” that makes mankind unique on Earth.

Leary linked this model to his SMI²LE paradigm (Space
Migration, Intelligence Intensification and Life Extension)
which envisions a future free of restrictive Judeo-Christian
morality and the limits imposed on us by a certain death.
His monograph 22 Alternatives to Involuntary Death was an
important contribution to the LE field, which involves a
diverse range of technology and techniques, such as yoga,
virtual reality, AI, cryonics, flotation tanks and certain
elements of magick Commenting on the present trends, RAW
observed that, “The people I know in anti-aging research all
expect some major breakthrough soon, but I would not hazard
a guess about in what area of research it will occur or

“I think anti-AIDS research will most likely give us the key
to what causes the accelerated breakdown of the immune
system in that disease, and that will probably but give us
the key to what causes the slower breakdown that leads to
aging and death for the rest of us who don’t even have AIDS.
It will be a wonderful, and kindly, joke on the
Fundamentalists if the greatest scientific gift to Gay men
becomes a wonderful gift to the Fundamentalists, too.”

In the mid-1980s after having his work published by a range
of major and independent publishers, RAW became involved
with New Falcon Publications, a loose cabal of similarly
minded authors, spearheaded by Dr. Christopher Hyatt, who
wrote the seminal Undoing Yourself with Energized Meditation
(1989). New Falcon reprinted his earlier work, along with
tracts by Leary, Crowley and other proponents of brain
change. Currently New Falcon is one of the leading
publishers of such modern grimoires, differing from other
New Age publishers in jettisoning pompous acedmia or hazy
cosmic foo foo.

“Believe it or not, I don’t understand how New Falcon came
about or even why it does much of what it does,” RAW
admitted. “All I know is that Dr. Hyatt was a Jungian
therapist, decided Jung didn’t cover everything and became a
Jungian-Reichian therapist, and then for some reason became
a publisher on top of that. He’s also the Outer Head of the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. I think his major concern
is to publish books that he considers important, especially
if they contain the kind of ideas that the Establishment
publishers in New York won’t touch with a ten-foot pole.”

Unfortunately despite much pioneering work, RAW does have
his critics. Dr. Michael A. Aquino, co-founder of the Temple
of Set observed in a review of the Illuminatus! trilogy that
his later non fiction work “lacked the unself-conscious
style of Illuminatus!, and fell right into the category of
publications so successfully lampooned by it. Truth,
however, remains stranger than fiction, and within the pages
of Illuminatus! you will actually find many gems of occult

Robin Robertson of Psychological Perspectives points out
that “beneath the skeptic, I find he is drawn to the magical
side of life . . . he is not the model agnostic he holds up
as ideal.” Such criticisms are hidden under a deluge of
appreciative comments. RAW was criticised harshly by members
of the science community after the publication of The New
Fundamentalists in 1986, but he has managed to avoid the
kind of criticisms about integrity levelled at his friend
Timothy Leary.

More glaring are comments by Gnosis magazine contributor Jay
Cornell in a review of Cosmic Trigger II: Down To Earth that
Wilson’s later work suffered from “predictable ’80s pop
leftism or nostalgic sentimentalism about the ’60s” and that
“his trickster act needs updating.”

Wilson responded to this harsh indictment of his work by
stating, “I never respond to that kind of criticism. First,
nobody can be objective about his own work, and you make a
fool of yourself if you pretend that you can. Second, if
perchance my work has anything of lasting value, it will go
on, as it has gone on for two decades, getting reprinted
continually, and Cornell can’t stop it. On the other hand,
if my work has no real lasting value, it will eventually all
go out of print, and I can’t persuade people they ought to
buy it to make me happy.”

In a 1976 Science Fiction Review interview he felt that his
books should “leave the reader with the feeling that the
universe is capable of doing something shocking within the
next 5 minutes. Life without certainty can be exhilirating,
liberating, a great adventure. I hope to create a real sense
of awe, which is all the religion we need, and all we can
honestly expect in this day and age.”

On the topic of literary criticism itself, RAW revealed,
“I’m probably too sensitive, but so are a lot of artists.
Richard Burton gave up reading all reviews, because he went
into such dark suicidal depressions whenever he saw a bad
one. Hart Crane and Ross Lockeridge actually did kill
themselves because of critics. I don’t get that wounded, but
I do feel pain. Why hide this? Critics know that most
artists are sensitive. They would get no fun out of their
vicious work if they didn’t know it hurts. Sadists don’t
attack inanimate objects. They want victims who feel pain.”

Despite Cornell’s criticisms, RAW is still as relevant in
the 1990s as ever. A recent essay in his Trajectories
newsletter criticised the defence of the military-industrial
complex by ‘futurist’ Alvin Toffler, author of the classic
Future Shock (1971), now spokesperson for the Progress &
Freedom Association. With the election of Republican Senator
Newt Gingrich as House Speaker, Toffler has been elevated to
guru-like status, serving as an adviser to various
government departments, and being regularly quoted by
Gingrich. Toffler’s closest rival, author John Megatrends
Naisbitt, and right wing sci-fi author Jerry Pournelle, have
also pushed for rises in military/high-tech industry/NASA
spending. Pournelle was an avid supporter of the Star Wars
or SDI (Strategic Defence Initiative) in the early 1980s,
giving a vision that space is a new frontier like the Wild
West once was, only bigger. This rush to put mankind into
space as a priority echoes Leary’s admirable Space Migration
work on the surface, but is more like the visions of pulp
writer Robert Heinlein, who lobbied the Eisenhower
Administration in the 1950s for similar industry subsidies,
believing space to be the final utopia.

RAW is far more pragmatic. “The I-squared (Intelligence
Intensification) part of Leary’s SMI²LE program has always
seemed to me more important than the SM (space migration)
and LE (Life Extension.) Without more brains, we won’t get
more space or more time.

“I would tend to see this emerging culture as another sign
of the fundamentalist materialism I’ve criticised in the
past. Certainly, Futurism or Future Studies seem to have
split into two camps. First, the Utopians like Barbara Marx
Hubbard and the people carrying on Bucky Fuller’s work (they
have about four different groups, advancing different parts
of Bucky’s scenario.) Then, on the other side, the ones who
call themselves the nuts-and-bolts realists. I regard them
as “crackpot realists” in the sense in which the sociologist
C. Wright Mills used that term. They define realism by the
norms of the ruling class and then work within those
parameters. I think all work within those ruling class
parameters is doomed and pointless. The information
revolution is changing everything so totally that we have to
think outside the traditional Master/Serf paradigm, so the
Utopians, who did get out of that grid, make more sense to
me. I agree with Riane Eisler – the Dominator model is
collapsing and a Partnership model will replace it. So, the
Tofflers and their glorification of war seem anti-Futurist
to me. War is the ultimate schoolyard bully form of
Dominator ethos, unfortunately magnified into mass murder.
This paradigm will destroy humanity unless we transform it
into a Partnership/Negotiation paradigm.”

Hakim Bey, the author of Temporary Autonomous Zones and an
ally of Wilson’s argues that such control of new technology
by corporations will only continue the current neo-feudalism
pervading our society. In TAZ he writes “certain doctrines
of “Futurology” remain problematic. For example, even if we
accept the liberatory potential of such new technologies as
TV, computers, robotics, Space exploration, etc., we still
see a gap between potentiality & actualization. The
banalization of TV, the yuppification of computers & the
militarization of Space suggest that these technologies in
themselves provide no “determined” guarantee of their
liberatory use.”

The issue is one of control and has occured before – LSD was
used by the CIA’s MK-Ultra program as a mind control tool
but also by Leary and many others to expand their
consciousness and as a research tool into the human
bio-computer. As Wilson says in a famous quote: “Whoever
controls the definition has the ultimate control.” Since the
State won’t wither away or be overthrown, Hakim Bey and
others hope to render it obsolete by decentralist electronic
technology and programmes of self liberation. “There is no
humanity without techne,” Bey reminds us, “but there is no
techne worth more than my humanity.” Despite a false
optimism and egalitarianism, its clear that social
stratification is more prevalent than before, and that
technology will play a deciding role in what future society
finally occurs.

Discussing the potentiality/actualisation gap, RAW suggests
that, “actually, there are gaps in every part of the
social-evolution process. For instance, new mathematical
theories turn into new technology in about two years in
computer science, but it takes fifty years in architecture.
Fuller did a lot of calculation of these time-lags and most
of his predictions about the 1980s, made in the 1920s, have
come true.”

As we head towards the Omega Point and information spirals
out of control, emerging subcultures such as the Cyberpunks,
or sudden renaissances, such as the rise of dark goths
transmute social groups into mutated forms. As an observer
of this emergence, RAW surprisingly refrained from
criticising others who fail to look beyond the surface
trappings. “I don’t like to bum-rap other writers. They have
to take enough crap from the envious little shits who write
reviews; they don’t need my abuse, too. So, without saying
anything about what I don’t like, the living writers whose
work especially interests me at present include Douglas
Adams, William Burroughs, who still seems topical no matter
how old he gets, Tom Robbins, who writes the best sentences
of anybody working in English today, George V. Higgins, who
sees humans with a wonderful irony and writes the most
realistic dialogue I’ve ever seen (even better than Joyce or
Hemingway), and a lot of scientist-philosophers who seem to
me to be giving us wonderful new ideas and perceptions:
Rupert Shelldrake, Ralph Abraham, Terrence McKenna, Barbara
Marx Hubbard, the fuzzy logic people, Riane Eisler, Nick
Herbert, Nichlas Negroponte, Marilyn Ferguson, Peter Rusell,
Fred Alan Wolfe . . . and of course, Tim Leary, who is ill,
but may have a few unpublished books that might still blow
all our minds.”

Regarding the subcultures themselves and projection of
current trends, RAW suggests that, “.there remain a lot of
reactionary forces, on all continents. But I still think
that the basic cluster of science, democracy and Welfare
Capitalism (or Free Market Socialism – call it what you
will) seem stronger than all the other reality-tunnels and
will increasingly dominate the next century . . . even more
than they have dominated the last two centuries.”

In this projected world where fuzzy logic and shifting
alliances are “good”, RAW’s unique brand of cultural
antinomianism will continue to play an important role in
shattering mainstream idols and agendas.

1997 Update: Three Responses:

When the Australian magazine REVelation published my profile
of futurist author Robert Anton Wilson, it prompted some
revealing comments from several people quoted in the
original printed article.

The self styled ‘RAW’ has always been a target for
controversy. His exploration of subjects that contemporary
society finds dangerous or even sometimes frightening has
often prompted angry responses from critics. The more
mindless responses to RAW’s published work have been by
Andrea Antonoff, who labelled him as “stupid”; Lou Rollins
comment that RAW is “a male feminist . . .a simpering pussy
whipped wimp . . .” and most scathingly by CSICOP’s
(Committee for Scientific Investigation Into Paranormal)
Robert Sheaffer, who labelled the views expressed in The New
Inquisition (New Falcon Press: 1986) as “malicious,
misguided fanaticism.”

The REVelation article quoted three major criticisms of
Wilson’s work which were deemed by its author to be
relevant. It’s true that those quoted were largely
sympathetic to his pioneering work: Robin Robertson of
Psychological Perspectives states in the same review that
her initial quote was pulled from that “Wilson’s a very
funny man . . . readers with open minds will like his

I subsequently received responses from two other critics
quoted. Jay Cornell is a columnist for the respected
magazine Gnosis who wrote a review of RAW’s Cosmic Trigger
II: Down To Earth (New Falcon Publications: 1992). Whilst
largely positive, the review contained significant
criticisms of the limits of RAW’s “reality tunnel” concept
(“all views are reality tunnels that exclude other
information and keep us all far stupider than we should be”)
that RAW seemed to take a serious dislike to.

Cornell responds:

“I was surprised that he remembered that review and that it
still bothered him so much. As a whole, it is far less
negative than your piece implies. My overall opinion as
expressed there might be summarized as: ‘Here’s a good and
interesting writer and one I’ve always liked, but his latest
book is a very mixed bag.’ I find it hard to see how any
reader of that review would call it “vicious”, “more
glaring” than some other “harsh” criticism he got at another
time, or the writing of a “sadist.” Hell, I consider myself
a fan! I certainly have no wish to “stop” him or his work in
any way. Though I admit my libertarian soul wishes he would
change his sometimes reflexive leftism/anti-conservatism.

“I was disappointed with only part of Cosmic Trigger II. I
tried very hard to explain just what I liked about Wilson’s
work in general and C.T. II in particular, and exactly what
I didn’t like in that particular book. I realized at the
time that he might take umbrage, but I felt that his own
principles were forgotten when he wrote about certain
subjects (Catholics, the C.I.A., and conservatives were the
three main ones, I believe). It seemed especially glaring to
me because in the autobiographical part of the book (the
part I liked, and said so!) there were events which clearly
formed to his negative feelings about those subjects. It
seemed like he was blind to conditioning in himself that he
would easily see in someone else. (Not an uncommon fault.)

“The thought even crossed my mind to write more of a puff
piece, just in order to promote the work of someone I liked,
but hey, I have to call ’em as I see ’em. Little did I know
that this would plague him for years! My goodness, I had and
have no wish to be cruel to him or anyone. I’m very sorry
for any pain I caused him. I wish he would read that review
again, and maybe give it to a friend to read so as to get
another perspective about this “vicious” review. I don’t
like thinking that a favorite author of mine hates me
because he thinks I hate him.”

I also recieved a response from Dr. Michael A. Aquino,
co-founder, and for many years High Priest, of the Temple of
Set. Since 1975 the Setian approach to metaphysics and
“conscious evolution of the individual self”\ (examined in
RAW’s later work) has been amongst the most complex and
precise in the occult community. It has investigated and
studied many of the roots of RAW’s work, such as the ancient
Egyptian Priesthood of Set, the magick of Aleister Crowley,
Quantum Physics, and the psychological commentaries of
Gurdjieff/Ouspensky alongside modern rituals/”brain change”
techniques. As senior spokes-person for the Temple of Set,
Dr. Aquino is uniquely qualified to comment on RAW’s work:

“Re-reading my comments about Wilson, I would stand by them
today, but I do not mean that unkindly. I thought
Illuminatus! was a marvelous work – just the sort of enema
the “occult subculture” [and those without it who crab about
it] needed so badly at the time. I continue to recommend it
today to those who show signs of needing its dash of cold

“Similarly I greatly enjoyed Wilson’s Schroedinger’s Cat
trilogy. All of these are books that I admire without any
qualification whatever. As noted in the comments of mine
which you quoted, I was a little disappointed in Cosmic
Trigger and its aftermath. It seemed to me that Wilson was a
bit dazzled by Timothy Leary, to the point of losing his own
“arms-length grip on reality” where occultism &
fringe-science are concerned. I think that works like
Illuminatus! and Schroedinger’s Cat were possible because
Wilson (& Shea) actually had their heads well-grounded in
common sense, hence could lampoon their topics very
accurately without being at all condescending about it. In
the Cosmic Trigger series, I get the feeling that Wilson has
lost his intellectual tether and is floating on up there
into the stratosphere with Dr. Tim – not that this is an
unpleasant pastime, as Leary is certainly a charming

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