"You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knit group of nearly omnipotent people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends." On this day 5
years ago Robert Anton Wilson died
Robert Anton Wilson was born in Brooklyn on January 18, 1932 (One week from today will mark the 80th anniversary of his birth). Known as Bob to friends and family, Pope Bob
to fellow Discordians
and members of the Church of the Sub Genius
, and RAW to his fans
, Wilson wrote more than 30 books
and hundreds of published articles
As a young boy Wilson contracted polio and was treated with the controversial "Sister Kenny" method
. Wilson attributed the curing of his polio to the Kenny method physical therapy, which the medical establishment at the time considered ineffective and fraudulent. This early experience with alternative, non-government-sanctioned approaches would have a profound effect on Bob's life trajectory.
As a young man Wilson read Alfred Korzybski's Science and Sanity.
Korzybski's critique of language caught on with Wilson and he extolled the virtues of E-prime
in particular and General Semantics in general throughout his life (his book Quantum Psychology is largely an experiment in writing in E-prime
Wilson described his six years as an associate editor at Playboy magazine
as the happiest years of his corporate existence: "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."
RAW's best-known work may be the Illuminatus! Trilogy
that he co-authored with Playboy colleague Robert Shea. First published in 1975 and now considered an underground classic of science-fiction and a countercultural hallmark, the fnord trilogy is a hallucinatory odyssey and satirical send-up of conspiracy theories and the flower power movement of the late 1960s, among many other things. Selections from the audiobook version: Introduction
; JFK assassination
On July 23
1973 Wilson had an experience that left him with "the impression that I was being contacted by some sort of advanced intellect from the system of the double star Sirius." Wilson writes about this experience in detail in Cosmic Trigger.
RAW's description of the incident and its effects has similarities with Phillip K. Dick's experience
that he sought to understand in his Exegesis
. PKD referred to the experience as 2
-74, the date it began. Anyone oblivious to the synchronicity should reacquaint themselves with the 23
enigma and RAW's connection to it.
There is a reference to RAW in Dick's novel VALIS
. RAW appears in the documentary The Gospel According to Phillip K. Dick
From Cosmic Trigger
: "VALIS is a novel which broadly hints that it is more than a novel -- that it is an actual account of Phil Dick's own experience with some form of "Higher Intelligence." In fact, VALIS is only slightly fictionalized; the actual events on which it is based are recounted in a long interview Phil gave shortly before his death (see Philip K. Dick: The Last Testament, by Gregg Rickman.) The parallels with my own experience are numerous -- but so are the differences. If the same source was beaming ideas to both Phil and me, the messages got our individual flavors mixed into them as we decoded the signals.
I met Phil Dick on two or three occasions and corresponded with him a bit. My impression was that he was worried that his experience was a temporary insanity and was trying to figure out if I was nutty, too. I'm not sure if he ever decided."
In 2003 the mayor of Santa Cruz, CA proclaimed July 23 to be Robert Anton Wilson Day
. In 2005 alt-weekly Metro Santa Cruz published an excellent feature article on Bob's life and work
When asked about his political views Wilson described himself as a Libertarian, "but that's only because most people don't know what anarchist means
." In 2006 Bob ran for the governorship of California as a member of his own political party, the Guns
Party. (YT about the party
) Also in 2006 a feature length documentary about RAW entitled Maybe Logic
was released (doc on youtube)
More than sixty years after Bob's polio was cured by the Sister Kenny method he began exhibiting symptoms of post-polio syndrome
. Paul Krassner, Wilson's friend and publisher of Realist magazine (that RAW contributed to
had a regular column called "negative thinking"), posted on HuffPo that RAW was on his death bed
. Douglas Rushkoff later reported on his blog that RAW was in dire financial straits and unable to pay his rent. Users on Slashdot, BoingBoing and elsewhere
responded. The resulting show of support exceeded all expectations and moved Wilson to write, "You have all reminded me that despite George W. Bush and all his cohorts, there is still a lot of beautiful kindness in the world." RAW's final blog entry
ended by saying: "Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd." RAW died at home in Capitola
, CA on 01/11/2007.
Bob's passing was marked by obituaries in the New York Times
, the Fortean Times
, the Guardian
, and Metafilter
, among others
To mark the fifth anniversary of Bob's passing BoingBoing is currently observing RAW week.
The official RAW site has a comprehensive links page
. Deoxy.org has a page dedicated to RAW with links to many interviews with Wilson and other resources.
RAW on youtube:
On Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher
to discuss LSD and his friend Tim Leary.
The Eye in the Triangle
: A two hour talk held at a Santa Cruz bookstore.
Clips from DisInfoCon (DVD
): On the Federal reserve
, on belief systems (BS)
The Universe Contains a Maybe
: Hour-long talk from Bob's later years.
The Secrets of Power
: RAW's stand-up comedy performance (Pts. 2, 3
"Unearthed" interview with Tom Ross from 1991 (Pt. 1 of 3)
Everything is Under Control
: Interview with Scott Appel from May 1998. (Pt. 2)
(Years earlier Appel and RAW regularly appeared together on Santa Cruz public access TV to discuss and decipher The Prisoner
, but all recordings of those sessions appear to have been removed from the web)
RAW and Timothy Leary at the 1991 Bridge Psychedelic Conference.
Radio interview about his book The New Inquisition
Interview on KBHK San Francisco
Clip from "Hour of Slack
" with Ivan Stang (mp3 of full interview
Bob on the blue previously:
The last days of Robert Anton Wilson
Alan Moore pays tribute to RAW
Maybe Logic Academy
The Science of Godmanship
Reasonable thoughts on Operation Iraqi Freedom
Thoughts on the War on Terror from 2001
I dreamed I called D.A.F. de Sade on the phone and asked him, "Jesus told me that he and you agree on at least one thing and it explains freedom. What is that one thing?"
"Quite simple," he replied, "don't be afraid of the Cross. The fear of death is the beginning of slavery."