Cleveland Okie

Monday, April 04, 2011

(Editor's note: This interview with Robert Anton Wilson appeared in "New Libertarian Notes/Weekly 39," September 5, 1976. I think it's one of the best interviews with Wilson I ever read, and I want to thank Mike Gathers, who made it available to me, and Jesse Walker, who made it available to Mr. Gathers. -- Tom)

Illuminating Discord: An interview with Robert Anton Wilson

By Jane Talisman and Eric Geislinger (Columbia Region New Libertarian Alliance)

Robert Anton Wilson, who along with Robert Shea wrote the Illuminatus trilogy, is the creator of yet another cult. The really neat part is that this is a cult of hard-core libertarian-anarchist-occult-mind expansionists whose demand for the Illuminatus books is making SF retail history. Walk into your corner bookstore and chances are excellent the books have been back-ordered. Borrow a copy or wait in line if you must -- it's worth it. The trilogy is truly mind-boggling, outrageous, and curiously familiar. With this in mind we set out to interview one of its authors, Robert Anton Wilson (hereafter R.A.W.)

Interviewing him by mail was an exciting, albeit frustrating job. His provocative answers triggered seemingly never-ending digressions. We had to more or less learn to limit our responses. Several of the questions in the following interview appear to be asked by R.A.W. himself. These are not misprints -- he does give himself questions. To give you some insight into Wilson's psyche we offer you this tidbit of data -- to wit, his return address rubber stamp has his name misspelled "Robert Antoon Wilson." Make of this what thou wilt. -- Jane Talisman and Eric Geislinger (hereafter the CRNLA).


CRNLA: Tell us a little about your background.

RAW: I was born into a working class Irish Catholic family in Brooklyn 44 years ago, at the brutal bottom of the Great Depression. I suppose this early imprinting and conditioning made me a life-long radical. My education was mostly scientific, majoring in electrical engineering and applied math at Brooklyn Tech and Brooklyn Polytech. Those imprints made me a life-long rationalist. I have become increasingly skeptical about, or detached from, the assumption that radicalism and rationalism are the only correct perspectives with which to view life, but they remain my favorite perspectives.

CRNLA: What are your favorite novels, movies, TV shows and music?

RAW: The novels would be, I suppose, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, The Magus by Fowles, The Roots of Heaven by Gary, Don Quixote and anything by Mark Twain. Movies: Intolerance, Broken Blossoms and everything else by David Mark Griffith, Citizen Kane, The Trial, King Kong, 2001. TV: Star Trek and Mary Hartman. Music: Beethoven's Ninth and his late quartets, Bach, Bizet, Carl Orff, Vivaldi, the less popular and more experimental stuff by Stravinsky.

CRNLA: What do you think of M*A*S*H, the Freak Brothers, Bob Dylan?

RAW: I loved Altman's film of M*A*S*H but I can't stand the TV series. The Freak Brothers are funny, but I deplore the lifestyle it celebrates. Of course, Einstein and Michelangelo were sloppy, too, but only because they were too busy with real work to fix their attention on sartorial status games. Hippies generally aren't busy with anything except feeling sorry for themselves. Dylan seems to me a totally pernicious influence -- the nasal whine of death and masochism. Certainly, this would be a more cheerful world if there were no Dylan records in it. But Dylan and his audience mirror each other, and deserve each other; as Marx said, a morbid society creates its own morbid grave-diggers.

CRNLA: How about Anderson, LeGuin and Heinlein?

RAW: I haven't taken Anderson seriously since 1968, when he wrote an account of the police-riot at the Chicago Convention which was totally false, according to my observations on the scene. I decided Poul loved the Vietnam War so much, that he could actually watch a cop hit an old lady and remember it as a young communist hitting the cop. I haven't bothered keeping up with Anderson's hallucinations since then. LeGuin is great already, and getting better book by book. Heinlein has been an idol to me for more than 20 years. He can do no wrong, no matter how much he loves wars and hates pacifists. (I'm the kind of anarchist whose chief objection to the State is that it kills so many people. Government is the epitome of the deathist philosophy I reject.)

RAW: Are you a pacifist?

RAW: Hell, no. I like pacifists, as a rule, and people who have a heavy emotional identification with deathism and war would probably call me a pacifist, but I am a non-invasivist rather than a non-violentist. That is, I believe that an invaded people have the right to defend themselves "by any means necessary" as the expression goes. This includes putting ground glass or poison in the invaders' food, shooting at them from ambush, sabotage, the general strike, armed revolution, all forms of Gandhian civil disobedience, etc. It's up to the invaded to decide which of these techniques they will use. It's not up to some moralist to tell them which techniques are permissible. As Tucker said, "There is nothing sacred in the life of an invader."

CRNLA: What magazines and newspapers do you read?

RAW: I read everything, including the labels on canned food. I'm a hopeless print addict, a condition alleviated only by daily meditation which breaks the linear-Aristotelian trance. (Most rationalistic libertarians would do well to try the same circuit breaker, or LSD.) National Lampoon, Scientific American and Green Egg are what I read most obsessively. I also read at least one periodical every month by a political group I dislike -- to keep some sense of balance. The overwhelming stupidity of political movements is caused by the fact that political types never read anything but their own gang's agit-prop.

RAW: Any more artistic opinions?

RAW: If I must. James Joyce is more important than Jesus, Buddha and Shakespeare put together. Pound is the greatest poet in English. Thorne Smith should be reprinted immediately, and would be enormously popular with the current generation, I wager. The novels that get praised in the NY Review of Books aren't worth reading. Ninety-seven percent of science fiction is adolescent rubbish, but good science fiction is the best (and only) literature of our times. All of these opinions are pompous and aggressive, of course, but questions like this bring out the worst in me. Artistic judgments are silly if expressed as dogmas, at least until we get an "artometer" which can measure objectively how many micro-michelangelos or kilo-homers of genius a given artifact has in it. Do you know that at UC-Berkeley, Dr. Paul Segall has a lab full of rats who are twice the age at which rats normally die of senility? And these rats are not only alive but still reproducing. This may be the most important fact I know. Dr. Segal hopes to have a life-extension formula for humans ready in the early 1980s.

CRNLA: Has Dr. Segall published any papers on his research? If so, where?

RAW: A good, non-technical article by Dr. Segall on his own work and on other approaches to longevity, is in the new issue of Spit in the Ocean, edited by Dr. Timothy Leary and published by Ken Kesey. That issue, incidentally, is also worth reading for Sirag and Sarfatti on quantum consciousness, and Leary himself on higher intelligence.

CRNLA: Speaking of Ken Kesey, What did you think of Cuckoo's Nest, and where can I get a copy of Spit in the Ocean?

RAW: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is certainly one of my favorite recent novels, but I like Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion even better. In fact, a great deal of the structural rhythms of Illuminatus, especially the space-time warps, were suggested by Kesey's similar techniques in Sometimes a Great Notion. The way the producers of the movie of Cuckoo's Nest swindled Kesey is entirely typical of the way producers and publishers rob writers -- it's perfectly normal Capitalist ethics and typically mammalian.

The last I heard, Kesey was supposed to have the new Spit in the Ocean out by mid-Summer. (Write: 85829 Ridgway Road, Pleasant Hill, OR 97401).

CRNLA: What route did you travel to get to libertarianism?

RAW: Arlen, my wife, discovered Kropotkin's article on anarchism in the Britannica and it immediately convinced us both (1961). We were both highly cynical about the alleged values of Capitalism and State Socialism already, and happy to find an alternative.

CRNLA: What is your present involvement in "movement" activities?

RAW: I'm more involved in space migration, intelligence increase and life extension which seems to me more important than any mammalian politics. What energy I have for terrestrial brawling goes into Wavy Gravy's Nobody for President campaign, the Firesign Theatre's Papoon for President campaign, and the Linda Lovelace for President (which I invented myself, since we ought to have a good-looking cocksucker in the White House for once.) I think these campaigns have some satirical-educational function, and, at minimum, they relieve the tedium of contemplating the "real" candidates, a more-than-usual uninspiring lot this year. Voting wouldn't excite me unless it included electing the directors of the big banks and corporations, who make the real decisions that affect our lives. It's hard to get excited about the trained seals in Washington. Of course, if voting could change the system, it would be illegal. Teachers would be handling out pamphlets for children to take home proving that voting machines cause chromosome damage, and Art Linkletter would claim that a ballot box drove his daughter to suicide.

CRNLA: There's another Vote for Nobody Campaign being run by Malibu. Have you heard of it? Are you interested in it?

RAW: Glad to hear it. There's a third "Nobody for President" headquarters in Washington, D.C. The more the merrier. One of my friends, the ArchDruid of the Berkeley Grove of the Reformed Druids of North America, is running George III for President -- although I admit that the satirical point there is a bit obscure for me. I've also heard, vaguely, about a Who-the-Hell for President campaign. There's also a Bonzo for President poster going around, Bonzo being a chimpanzee who once co-starred with the egregious Ronald Reagan in a rather dumb movie. The American people, who elected Richard Nixon twice, should not find any of these choices absurd. But before leaving this subject, I should mention the sanest political proposal I've heard in years, the Guns and Dope Party proposed by my good friend, Rev. William Helmer (who, like many of the characters in Illuminatus, exists also in so-called consensus reality.) The Guns and Dope Party, as the name suggests, would be based on a platform demanding an end to all government interference with guns and dope. Now, while the gun-nuts tend to be paranoid about the dopers, and vice versa, the Guns and Dope Party is a possible libertarian coalition that would constitute a clear majority and could really win an election. All that's needed for success, then, is for the gun-people and the dope-people to understand fully the advantages of affiliating -- that is, the very good chance of real success at the polls. Hopefully, this might be enough to persuade them to drop their mutual animosity. If this can be accomplished, we will have the first majoritarian libertarian party in American political history. It certainly seems worth thinking about.

CRNLA: Could you tell us more about your politics -- such as how you evolved from Kropotkin to Illuminatus?

RAW: After Prince Peter, I read Tucker, who was being reprinted by Mildred Loomis in a journal called, of all things, Balanced Living. (I later became co-editor of that, and changed the name to Way Out.) After Tucker, I read all the major anarchists and then began writing anarchist essays myself. I soon discovered that, in addition to the 99.8 percent of the morons who make up any political movement, every gang has its own intellectuals defending it (with every variety of sophistry the Jesuits ever devised.) To defend anarchism more effectively, I had to read Marx and Douglas and Gesell and H. George and William Buckley Jr. and so weirder, on and on into the depths of ideological metaphysics -- "the great Serbonian bog where armies whole have sunk," as Burke (the best conservative) once said. Such omnidirectional reading, alas, tends to produce a certain degree of agnosticism, but my basic axioms have remained that (1) a system which consigned me to poverty at birth and Nelson Godawful Rockefeller to riches, is demonstrably insane, and (2) I will do anything, including highway robbery and murder, to avoid leaving my children in poverty. In that sense, the political thinker I probably agree with most is Bernard Shaw, who presented that position, with equal bluntness, in his Major Barbara. I might add, to be even more offensive, that I regard morality and ideology as the chief cause of human misery. I am even more committed to unmitigated skepticism than I am to anarchism -- or to life extension, space migration or high intelligence. With doubt all things are possible. Doubt and courage.

CRNLA -- Your economic views still seem very much in the Benjamin Tucker tradition (especially on rent and interest.) Have you read any of the "Austrian" economists, such as Von Mises and Rothbard? What do you think of them?

RAW: Tucker is certainly a major influence. My economic ideas are a blend of Tucker, Spooner, Fuller, Pound, Henry George, Rothbard, Douglas, Korzybski, Proudhon and Marx. I always try to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. Read to see what I can learn from every school, rather than condemning any idea in its entirety. "Every man has the right to have his ideas examined one at a time," as Ez Pound once wrote. Rothbard is, like Marx and Pound, a brilliant closed mind: excellent for stimulation but anybody who gets dragged into a Rothbardian dogmatic trance should take LSD and try looking at the world through another grid. Von Mises is another who is excellent for stimulation, pernicious if erected into dogma. By and large, the Austrians remind me of a parable by Laurance Labadie, in which a certain tribe has the custom of allowing high-caste individuals to kick low-caste individuals in the butt whenever they pass them in the street. A philosophical school, much like the Austrians, naturally arises to prove rationally that the kicking is not only necessary but just, inevitable, beautiful and altogether glorious. If there were big profits in cancer, there'd undoubtedly be an Austrian school of medicine, proving that carcinoma is good for us.

CRNLA: Tucker is one of my favorite people -- but one of his views with which I can't agree is that in a free society interest rates and rent would disappear. I think the Austrians have advanced economic knowledge sufficiently since Tucker's day to show why these things exist and how they would come about even in an economy consisting totally of free trade. Your reply?

RAW: You can "prove" anything on the verbal level, just be accepting the necessary axioms at the beginning. Empirically, I don't think they can produce a single case in history where a free people elected landlords to own the land; the land monopoly always starts with conquest. Shot and shell are the coins of purchase, as Herbert Spencer said. Except by force of arms, nobody "owns" the earth, anymore than the moon, the planets, the stars themselves. When did God disinherit the majority of humanity, and turn all space over to the "ownership" of the Rockefellers and their friends? Without armed power threatening us, why would anyone but a fool continue to pay these conquistadores the extortion they demand? And, even if the Austrians could convince me that rent is legitimate, I still wouldn't voluntarily pay it to the present landlord class who remain receivers of stolen property. I would pay it to the nearest Indian tribe.

As for interest, I'm not aware of any case in which the credit monopoly has allowed a free currency to compete with them. In fact, every case I know of (e.g. Worgl in the 1930s), ended when the Capitalists used the armed might of the State to stop the competition. The one laboratory experiment in this field, by Don Werkheiser at Central State University in Ohio, confirmed Tucker and refuted the Austrians. Money, after all, is an abstract artifact, like language -- merely symbolized by the paper or coin or whatever. If you can fully grasp its abstractedness, especially in the computer age, it becomes quite clear that no group can monopolize this abstraction, except through a series of swindle. The average primate cannot distinguish the symbol from the referrent, the map from the territory, the menu from the meal. If the usurers had been bolder, they might have monopolized language as well as currency, and people would be saying we can't write more books because we don't have enough words, the way they now say we can't build starships, because we don't have enough money. As Bucky Fuller says, you might as well argue we can't build roads because we lack kilometers.

CRNLA: I think our differences in "rent" are basically in "land-rent" -- you don't see anything wrong if someone wants to rent out power tools and U-haul trailers -- true?
Your main argument with land-rent seems to be with the lack of legitimate owners. I'm assuming legitimate (i.e. non-conquistador) owners when I speak of legitimate rent. If two people went to Mars or the bottom of the ocean and one of them spent his time clearing rocks and fertilizing a section of land and the other spent his time assembling a tractor, and they reach an agreement to exchange the use of the land for one season for the use of the tractor for one season -- has anyone been harmed or exploited or extorted? Should some third party come onto the scene and say, "Hey stop that, you're committing rent?"

RAW: Land-rent, or ground-rent, is the most illegitimate aspect of the rent con, of course, and the main target of Tucker's criticisms. The whole concept of any rent, however, appears somewhat dubious to me, since it seems to presuppose "the accumulation of property in a few aristocratic heaps, at the expense of a great deal of democratic bare ground in between," as Ezra Heywood said. (Heywood's writings on this subject, and other aspects of libertarianism, are at least as important as Tucker's and Spooner's.) People rent, chiefly, when they cannot afford to purchase outright -- when ground-rent, interest and other inequalities haver already created a master-class of aristocrat-owners and a servile class of peasants or proles. I would expect to see rent wither away as the democratization of credit abolishes poverty.

I fail to see how your hypothetical "legitimate (i.e. non-conquistador) owners" would achieve "ownership." (I also don't see the bearing of such hypothetical, or fictitious, cases on the real issues of the real world, where all the landlords are conquistadors, or are receivers of stolen property from the original conquistadors, but that is another question.)

Ownership, in the real world, is a social agreement, a social fiction almost, and is produced only by force or by fraud or by contract. In practice, land ownership is produced only by force or fraud.

This may sound polemic, but it is literally true. The Henry George Schools have a book, Land Title Origins: A Tale of Force and Fraud, in which you can look up, wherever you live in the United States, exactly the acts of force and fraud (murder and robbery) by which land "ownership" was transferred from the Indian tribes to the current receivers of the stolen property. Now, the third alternative, contract, has never been tried, to the best of my knowledge. The only land contracts which I, or any other Tuckerites or Sternerites, would sign in freedom, without force being used against us, would be to our own interest, not to the interest of the landlords. In other words, we simply would not sign a contract giving up ownership of this planet, or any other, to a small group of the Elite who claim they have some better title to ownership than the rest of us have. If you would sign such a contract, I can only hint gently that you are more easily defrauded than we are.

The barter arrangement in your paradigm has nothing to do with perpetual tribute, which is the essence of rent -- indeed, the factor distinguishing barter from rent.

Of course, since Austrian ideas exist as factors in human behavior, I will admit that some people, hoodwinked by those ideas, will continue to pay rent even in freedom, for a while at least. But I think that, after a time, observing that their Tuckerite neighbors are not submitting to this imposture, they would come to their senses and cease paying tribute to the self-elected "owners" of limitless space, on this and other planets, and in interplanetary communities.

Of course, I myself would not pay rent one day beyond the point at which the police ("hired guns, on guard to see that property remains stolen" as Emma Goldman said) are at hand to collect it via "argument per blunt instrument."

CRNLA: Regarding interest: again I assume a totally free market, where there are no legal tender laws and anyone is free to mint, mine, print or grow anything that they feel the market will accept for money. I think that under these conditions the interest rate would be dramatically lower than it presently is but that it would not tend toward zero. Money generally performs at least three interrelated functions: (1) indirect exchange media, (2) provides a common "measuring scale," (3) stores wealth. In the first two money is definitely an "abstract artifact" -- a "cashless" society could exist merely using bookkeeping entries. But when it's used to store wealth it causes trouble as an "abstract" -- bank-runs and the like. Wealth isn't an abstract. It may be subjectively appraised, but it actually exists. When A wants to use B's wealth for a period of time, B is generally compensated for his loss of its use for that period by A -- interest. Among corporations (admittedly, a legal fiction) the issuing of "Tucker-money," (i.e., stock) is a fairly unfettered means of obtaining credit -- but the people who give it to them still expect a return and the corporations still expect to pay it. I'd be interested in seeing the Central State experiment. Usually because of the multiplicity of ever-changing factors involved in the market, it's difficult if not impossible to ever prove anything empirically.

RAW: Of course, my position is based on the denial that money does store wealth. I think it's a semantic hallucination, the verbal equivalent of an optical illusion, to speak at all of money containing or storing wealth. Such thinking should have gone out with phlogiston theory. The symbol is not the referent; the map is not the territory. Money symbolizes wealth, as words symbolize things, and that's all. The delusions that money contains wealth is the mechanism by which the credit monopoly hof study. as gained a stranglehold on the entire economy. As Colonel Greene pointed out in Mutual Banking, all the money could disappear tomorrow morning and the wealth of the planet would remain the same. However, if the wealth disappeared -- if squinks from the Pink Dimension dragged it off to null-space or something -- the money would be worth nothing. You don't need to plow through the dialects of the debate between the Austrians and the free credit people like Tucker and Gesell to see this; any textbook of semantics will make it clear in a few hours of study. Wealth is nature's abundance, freely given, plus the exponential advance of technology via human intelligence, and as Korzybski and Fuller demonstrate, this can only increase an an accelerating rate. Money is just the tickets or symbols to arrange for the distribution -- either equitably, in a free money system, or inequitably, as under the tyranny of the present money-cartel. As you realize, a cashless society could exist merely by keeping bookkeeping entries or computer tapes. Money is a primitive form of such computer tapes, serving a feedback function. If we are not to replace the present banking oligopoly with a programmer's oligopoly, in which the interest will be paid to computer technicians, we must realize that this is all a matter of abstract symbolism -- that it exists by social agreement and nobody owns it, anymore than Webster owns the language. Why is it, incidentally, that the Austrians don't follow their logic to its natural conclusion and demand that we pay interest to the dictionary publishers every time we speak or write?

You have to watch people playing Monopoly, and see them begin to "identify" the paper markers with real value, to understand how the mass hypnosis of Capitalism works. Fortunately, the Head Revolution is still proceeding and more and more people are waking up to the difference between our economic game-rules and the real existential situation of humanity.

Don Werkheiser might sell you a Xerox of his thesis on the Central State experiment if you write to him c/o General Delivery, Ponca, Arkansas. Similar experiments are recounted in Josiah Warren's True Civilization, involving four communes in 19th Century America. Let me conclude this answer by emphasizing that I do not blame the money-monopologists for any of their hoarding behavior. I am sure you will find similar absurdities in the primitive stages of anthropoid civilizations on most planets of G-type stars. Mammalian patterns persist in many other aspects of our society, especially in organized religions.

In my experience, I might add, virtually all adherents of the Austrian economic theories are academics who have never had any dealings with Capitalist corporations. The rosy view the Austrians have of these matters, I think, would collapse in two weeks if they had to deal with the damned corporate pirates as an ordinary worker does. When Joyce went into business briefly, he told Italo Svevo after a while, "You know, I think my partners are cheating me." Svevo answered, "You only think your partners are cheating you! Joyce, you are an artist!" Nixon is the typical Capitalist mentality, entirely identical in all aspects with every businessman I have ever encountered; his only real distinction is that he got caught. Of course, I'm not complaining -- part of the humor of living on this backward planet is listening to the hominids rationalize their predations.

CRNLA: I don't think that the Austrians have a particularly "rosy" view of business. I know a lot of them (Mises and Rothbard for two) consider a total separation of the economy and the government to be the best means of keeping these clowns from becoming too powerful. Most consider a totally free market to be the ultimate in "consumerism" -- not "capitalism" (at least as it's come to be known.)

RAW: Well, there is certainly a kinship between the Austrians and myself on the level of ultimate goals. I merely feel that their views of Capitalism-as-practised-in-the-past-and-present could only be held by college professors. After more than 20 years of working for the corporations in every position from office boy to middle executive, I have not been shocked or surprised in the slightest by the Watergate or post-Watergate scandals.

Austrians believe what they write, they must be somewhat abashed, I should think. For instance, David Friedman has published views about the corporate elite that would be flattering if applied to Jesus and his angels. However, this is turning into a diatribe against the group I find least obnoxious in the whole politico-economic spectrum (because you keep asking me questions that harp on my differences with them.) The orthodox conservatives and liberals, not to mention nazis and marxists, are really pernicious, and the Austrian libertarians are basically okay.

CRNLA: Regarding our Rent Interest discussion: I think that our differences regarding money stem from a difference in definitions. I would include wealth that is used in certain ways under the heading "money," while you limit the definition to just its transactional functions. OK, as long as we know where we are. Once we start dealing with this "wealth-money" as wealth (and forget the word "money"), the problem of interest becomes just a special case of rent. Which really brings us back to property and ownership. I've never attempted to tie the concept of ownership to the metaphysical framework of the universe. I realize that it's merely a human invention -- much like language (which is not to say that other inhabitants of the planet don't use it also) that's purpose is to make the allocation of resources go as smoothly and efficiently and with the least amount of head-cracking as possible. Like the use of language, the use of the concept of "property" doesn't necessarily have to be enforced. When people discover it they use it because it's in their long-range self-interest to do so. (This is not to say that particular instances don't require enforcement -- just that the concept is usually retained without it.) The whole system of ownership/division of labor/rent transactions etc. is merely designed to allocate resources so that they maximize the "vector sum" of everyone's satisfaction -- or more accurately, that this system has the potential to maximize. You don't have to use it. Without this system some alternative method must be found to determine who gets the use of what. LeGuin faced this problem in The Dispossessed. She chose to do it collectively. Ultimately, this results in some system of voting or represenatives or syndics which bear striking resemblance to governments (in addition to being very inefficient.) So the so-called "anarchy" in The Dispossessed is actually a widespread proliferation of governments and poverty. If the determination of the use of resources is placed in the hands of the individual who makes the resources useful (i.e., grows, finds, fertilizes, builds on, digs up, etc.) this provides him with a good deal of independence from the rest of the herd. Seems like a natural for any anarchistic society. This is basically the idea behind my concept of ownership. Could you give a summary of what you consider to be a good method of allocating resources and any concepts similar to ownership that might be contained therein?

RAW: Since ownership is a social fiction, it should obviously be fluid and sensitive to decentralized feedback, to match the evolving needs of the persons involved in whatever social game is being played. In other words, I do not propose one "right way" of doing it; that has to be found pragmatically in each new situation. The traditional feudal-Capitalist system in which one hereditary group of Great Pirates "owns" everything is not acceptable to me, and obviously would not be acceptable to any band of Stirnerite egoists; and, of course, the altruistic forms of socialism and communism are equally unacceptable to me, and I predict they would be equally unacceptable to a band of self-owners in the Stirnite, Tucker or Crowley sense. What would emerge in such a rationalistic-egoistic context would, in a general way, probably follow the guidelines suggested by Stirner, Spooner, Proudhon and Tucker -- except that this would only be in a general way, as all of those writers realized. The specific individuals in each situation would define their own demands according to the specific situation always. The only contracts that would be acceptable to them, as Tucker indicated, would be those that require no enforcement -- that is, those that are so obviously in the enlightened self-interest of each member that their wording would be accepted with the satisfaction the scientific world feels when a hard question is finally answered. If the proposed contract did not have that self-evident feeling character about it -- if it didn't provoke the general feeling, "This is the answer to our disagreements" -- it would not be accepted. I speak with some experience here, being part of an occult order who do indeed govern themselves that way. My only general rules are Crowley's "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" and Leary's Three Commandments for the Neurological Age, to wit: "Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy neighbor, 2. Thou shalt not prevent thy neighbor from altering his or her own consciousness, 3. Thou shalt make no more commandments." The so-called "resources" problem is a terracentric delusion. The Universe is a Big Mother.

CRNLA: To return to life extension, space migration and higher intelligence, I worry about the potential of all that being screwed up by the politicians. How do you feel about that?

RAW: If the oncoming mutation to interstellar immortality is screwed up by the politicians (or the corporations), it will be because those of us who see the opportunities in modern science are not adroit enough to outmaneuver the forces of inertia, stupidity and greed. Well, if we're not intelligent enough to overcome such obstacles, then we don't deserve to carry off the mutation at this stage of evolution. The thing to do, in that case, is to sit down and have a good Taoistic laugh at our own presumption. Meanwhile, until the game is over, I happen to think we're winning. The other side is very, very stupid. Concretely, I say that if we have colonization of L5 by 1990, and longevity at about the same time, I think the game is won; some human seed will become cosmic and immortal. Robert Phedra, M.D., has already predicted life extension to 1,000 years.

CRNLA: A thousand years is OK for a start, but it's not enough. Would you settle for "indefinite life extension" if it means transferring your thoughts to a synthetic storage system?

RAW: I'd consider it, but temperamentally I'd rather blast off for the stars when lifespan reaches about 400 years. I think in a 400 year cruise around the galaxy we'd contact races who have immortality already and we might arrange a trade for the technology of it. (Maybe they'd want an unexpurgated Illuminatus. I'm for space, actually, whether there are immortals out there or not. Aside from that bias, I'd support life extension by whatever means, from cryonic suspension to cyborgism to coding ourselves into our computers or whatever. Contrary to the last 2,500 years of "philosophy" among the domesticated and neurotic carnivore species we adorn, there is nothing noble or beautiful or dignified about dying. Like poverty, it is ugly, nasty, brutal and primitive. The function of intelligence is to do better than those mammalian norms.

CRNLA: Could you give us a bibliography on everything you've had published and who published it and if it's still in print?

RAW: Hell, no. I've got about 1,000 articles in print and I can't remember where most of them were printed and don't really care to. The things I'm willing to stand by, in addition to Illuminatus, are the essays being collected in Prometheus Rising: Sex and Drugs, a Playboy Press paperback; my piece on "The Future in Sex" in Oui, November 1975; the article on brainwashing by Leary and me in Oui for June 1976, (which I especially commend to those who thought the consciousness-warps, ego-fissions, reality-mutations and sex-role roulette in Illuminatus were "fantasy"); "Scientific and Experimental Magic" in Gnostica, January 1975; and two pieces on Caryl Chessman and the Marquis de Sade in The Realist, dates unknown. Most of what I wrote before last week bores me.

CRNLA: What kind of stuff was the 500 pages that got edited out of Illuminatus?

RAW: It was sacrilegious, blasphemous, obscene, subversive, funny, surrealistic, trippy and much like what did get published. The portion of hard anarchist propaganda in what got cut is perhaps somewhat greater than in what got printed, but I do not attribute that to a government conspiracy. Editors always amputate the brain first and preserve a good-looking corpse. I knew that, and told Shea they'd do it, so we put in so damned much anarchist material that a lot would be left even after the ceremonial castration.

CRNLA: Is Bob Shea a hard-core libertarian?

RAW: More or less. I really don't want to categorize Shea, who can certainly speak (eloquently) for himself.

CRNLA: Who wrote the Atlas Shrugged parody in Illuminatus? Who wrote the appendices?

RAW: I wrote the Telemachus Sneezed section -- which is not just another kick at poor old Rand, but also a self-parody of Illuminatus, and of Moby Dick, and of my arcane Joycean use of Moby Dick parallels in Illuminatus. Unfortunately, that section was particularly mauled and truncated by the editors. Originally, it was trans-Melvillian satire on all ideology and morality, including my own lapses into ethical thinking. I also wrote the Appendices on various occasions when very stoned as a parody on my style in my more academic essays.

CRNLA: What was Hagbard doing in a government printing office?

RAW: Hagbard was visiting the Discordian agents who have infiltrated the government and sneaked parodies into the bureaucratic forms: SMI2LE = infinity. (Space Migration plus Intelligence Increase plus Life Extension = cosmic consciousness.

CRNLA: Any word on how sales are doing?

RAW: Fine. I might not have to take up highway robbery and murder to get rich after all.

CRNLA: That's good. Who is Tarantella Serpentine and why is she working for Limit newsletter?

RAW: The Discordian conspiracy has been radically decentralized from the beginning, in accordance with Malaclypse the Younger's principle that "We Discordians must stick apart." The last I heard, Tarantella was a fictional character, working in a San Francisco massage parlor (in my other novel, The Sex Magicians.) It doesn't surprise that she has a life of her own, outside my imagination. Illuminatus is only part of a total art work, or "happening" known as Operation Mindfuck. A group of New York Discordians, for instance, celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Illuminati with a public reading of Principia Discordia (which also exists) outside the UN building on May 1 this year. A lodge of Crowleyan magicians in Texas has officially changed their name from the Temple of the Hidden God to the Ancient Illuminated Good Old Boys of Houston. Emperor Norton posters, endorsed by the Illuminati, are for sale through Solidarity Books in Chicago. Everything the Birchers ever claimed about the Illuminati is gradually coming true.

CRNLA: Do you feel frustration living in the "real" world? After reading Illuminatus it's a downer to get back to reality -- even my usual escapist literature is depressing. How do you feel about that?

RAW: Every nervous system creates its own "reality," minute by minute -- or, in the language of Don Juan Matus, we live inside a "bubble" of neural abstractions which we identify with reality. In metaprogramming systems like Tibetan Tantra, Crowleyanity, or Leary's Exo-Psychology, you can make this neurological fact into conscious experience, and you will never be bored or depressed again. Just reading the scientific evidence that this is true, in social psychology or general semantics or neurology or whatever, will not liberate you; one needs actual re-training, in Tantra or Crowley or Leary, to experience what I'm talking about here. It is a great privilege to be conscious in this universe. Those who understand, shine like stars.

CRNLA: I was just speaking in relative terms. Actually, I'm quite excited about reality -- it's probably my favorite thing. I was just wondering if sometimes all the fnords tend to get you a little pissed-off.

RAW: Never. As Tim Leary says, the universe is an intelligence test. The things that hinder me are opportunities to learn more and develop further. That's where amoral thinking is distinctly superior to moral thinking. If you recognize that your latest problem is totally without moral significance -- for instance, you have a disease which you can't, by the wildest stretch of imagination, blame on anybody -- then it's just a question of coping with the situation as best you can. When you realize that people are just as automated as bacteria or wild animals, then you deal with hostile humans the same way you deal with infections or predators -- rationally, without claiming you're "right" or they're "wrong." Then you begin to understand Crowley's great Law of Thelema (Do What Thou Wilt) and you're free, really free, instead of being an actor in a soap opera written by the superstitious shamans who created morality 30,000 years ago. You are also free of anger, hatred and resentment, which are great burdens to drop. They live happiest, my friend, who have understood and forgiven all.

CRNLA: Are there real people, alive or in history, who resemble any of your characters (Hagbard in particular)?

RAW: Absolutely. There are hundreds of thousands of Hagbards around, and all the sleep-walkers are potential Hagbards. They only need to be shaken a bit and awakened. As Jesus said, "Ye are all gods, ye are all children of the Most High."

RAW: Have you ever walked into some public place like a shopping center and said to yourself something like, "Christ, it's solid earthlings! You'd think there'd be at least a couple of aliens strolling around looking at the shops, etc." ?

RAW: Curiously, I belong to a loose association of skeptical Contactees -- people who have had a Contact experience but are too skeptical to take it literally. There are over a hundred of us in the U.S. alone, most scientists, and I think that the gradual surfacing of this story will be one of the major cultural shocks of our time. Right now, Martin Gardner has already registered his viewpoint and I trust that MIT will have the courtesy to print Dr. Sarfatti's rebuttal. I must add that most of us who are involved in this have grown extremely doubtful about the now-conventional extraterrestrial explanation and are trying out various explanatory models that are even more mind-blowing. Those who are interested in this subject might look up my article, "The Starseed Signals," in Gnostica for June 1975, and Dr. Jacques Vallee's book, The Invisible College. As the divine Mullah Nasruddin said, "If you haven't seen me before, how do you know it is me?"

CRNLA: What are your plans for future books?

RAW: Prometheus Rising will be published by Llewellyn next year. It's a collection of my essays on space age occultism and post-LSD consciousness. I hope it will knock holes in the Christian revival, the Hindu revival, the Buddhist revival and all the other neolithic metaphysics going around these days. A book on immortality research, possibly entitled Death Shall Have No Dominion, is going around New York seeking a publisher. A book on Dr. Timothy Leary, and a new novel called Schrodinger's Cat, about quantum paradoxes and parapsychology, are also in the works. Leary and I are working on a collaborative venture called The Game of Life which started out as one volume and became three. It modestly attempts to deduce the next four billion years of evolution from the data of Leary's brain-change research.

CRNLA: Who did you know in the old Berkeley crowd such as Danny Rosenthal, Sharon Presley, Tom McGivern? How about Kerry Thornley?

RAW: I never heard of any of those people except Kerry Thornley and Sharon Presley. Kerry is one of the co-creators of Discordian atheology, which is why volume one of Illuminatus is co-dedicated to him. Sharon is a fine person who I've only met twice but liked vastly. I'm sure all those others are excellent people, too, but I've never met them.

CRNLA: The editor of New Libertarian Weekly, SEK3, would like you to write for them -- "... we're a hell of a lot better than SRAF and can even pay a token amount, and can run stuff he can't get past Playboy and Oui."

RAW: I'd be delighted.

CRNLA: Do you have any concluding thoughts for our readers?

RAW: Absolutely not. As Korzybski said, nothing is conclusive, and every sentence should end with an et cetera. Or perhaps Woody Allen said it better: "Not only is there no God, but you can't even get a plumber on weekends." The answer to that, of course, is to become your own god and your own plumber. That may be the fundamental secret of the Illuminati.













Monday, December 27, 2010

A look at the new Twitter

(Reprinted from the Lawton Constitution.)
Twitter, the popular Internet site and service, has launched a new and improved version of itself.
For those of you who need a refresher: Twitter is a Web service that allows anyone to set up an account and post short messages. Each message is limited to 140 characters -- one or two sentences.
This is obviously a limitation, but it's also a strength. The short messages make Twitter a Web service that also works well on a cell phone.
And it turns out that even celebrities can manage to write a few words, so Twitter has made it easy for famous athletes or actors to stay in touch with their fans. People who can actually write can use Twitter to point to longer blog posts or articles by posting links.
Anyone who sets up a Twitter account can choose to follow other Twitter accounts, and may also post messages and try to attract followers. You can view whom each person is following.
I have accounts on both Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook seems to be the more popular service, and more of my friends are there.
But I have more control over Twitter, because it's easier to choose who to receive messages from.
I use Twitter as a news service to keep up with what's going on in the world. I subscribe to Twitter accounts from the New York Times and CNN, and from various writers and commenters who interest me, and also a few friends.
Because the messages are short, I can use Twitter to keep up with the news while doing other work.
When the leader of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was in a British court trying to post bail, I followed a series of short reports on Twitter as I went about my workday.
The new version of Twitter -- you can try it, or stay with the old version for awhile -- has some nice changes.
Clicking on a Tweet opens up a window on the right side of the page which provides more information, including comments from other Twitter users.
Clicking on a username for a message provides information on that person, without having to go to another Web page.
Twitter says it has also made it easier to embed photos and videos in messages.
For many people, what Twitter does with its Web site is irrelevant. Many people never go to Twitter.com at all, but access their Twitter messages and send their their own missives using a third party application, such as Tweetdeck. I have a widget on my Gmail account called Twittergadget that I often use. Twitter can be accessed on cell phones as well as computers.
Ping.fm is a Web site that allows simultaneous posting of the same update to Twitter, Facebook and many other social messenging sites. Threadsy allows people to monitor their e-mail, Facebook updates and Twitter updates at one Web site, putting all of the messages together in one place.
Twitter also has inspired two Web sites which track who used to follow your messages but dumped your feed. The sites are who.unfollowed.me and useqwitter.com.
(Tom Jackson wants to hear about interesting Southwest Oklahoma Web sites and blogs and sites his readers find useful or interesting. Write me attom.jackson@gmail.com. I'm on Twitter as jacksontom.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson: The Trajectories interview

[Editor's note: I think I have something special here. This is one of the best interviews with Robert Anton Wilson I've ever read, and it's one that hasn't been reprinted on the Internet, until now.

It was published in issue No. 5 of Trajectories. This is NOT the magazine of the same name that Robert Anton Wilson published, but a journal published in the 1980s in Austin, Texas.

"In fact, I didn't know at the time RAW published a mag of that name, and believe that curiosity on his part is one reason he granted the interview. We determined they were different enough in scope to not worry about the name, and in fact, mine actually started publication first," says Richard Shannon, who published the Texas Trajectories, along with co-publisher Susan Sneller.

"As best I remember (and Rick probably has a better memory than I do), this all started with him. He found out Bob was going to be in town, and he knew that I was a HUGE fan of the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy. So he set up the interview, the three of us met for dinner (I think Rick picked up the check), and we had a tape recorder going the whole time. Rick even has a couple of photos of the occasion," Shiner says.

"It was kind of a weird interview. At the time, I felt like Bob was not really listening to me, kind of talking over me and delivering somewhat prefab responses. Yet when I listened back to the tape, it was a really good interview, and he sounded very compassionate and wise.. "

The interview is reprinted with Shiner and Shannon's permission. In fact,when I wrote to them, Shannon mailed a copy of the zine from Texas to Shiner (now a resident of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina referenced in my recent reprint of Arthur Hlavaty's article) and Shiner kindly scanned the interview TWICE, one as a jpeg so I could see what it looked like, and once as text so I could reproduce it.]

Conducted by Lewis Shiner, Susan Sneller, and Rick Shannon

We met Robert Anton Wilson in the lobby of the Marriott. It was April 28, 1988, and he was in Austin for a lecture and a workshop. He was dressed casually, his receding white hair combed straight back, his neatly trimmed beard slightly worn just under his lower lip, where he habitually rubs it while talking. He was only a little reserved, considering he'd committed himself to an evening with total strangers. We had a relaxed interview over dinner in the hotel. His answers were slow and well considered, delivered in a somewhat gruff voice that still has the accent of his New York upbringing.


Are you involved with computers?

I know a lot of people in Silicon Gulch. I know a lot of the gossip and shoptalk, but I don't do anything with my computer except write. I know I've got this enormous machine there that will do a million other things, but I'm so busy writing, writing, writing. Overproduction is the only way for a writer of minority appeal to survive.

I'm always trying new things to supplement my income. I did a new type of seminar in Boulder a few weeks ago, which I co-created with a friend named Liz Freeman. Instead of a regular seminar it was a game. Everybody who came in — we had about 40 people — was taken to a little room, and told who they were playing and what their goal was, and nothing else. And then the party began. There were five levels of deception, which we thought would be a lot of fun. The party ran from 3 in the afternoon to 9 at night, and by 9 most people had only got to the second level. We had made it too bloody complicated. Nobody found out how complicated it was. It was all based on competing conspiracies. I've been thinking that could be adapted for a computer game, for networking. If people had enough time they could get back on, in a week, you know, after they've thought it over, and figure out the deceptions.

Do you know about Steve Jackson's Illuminati game?

Everybody I meet thinks it's based on my Illuminatus! novels and I'm getting royalties on it. He claim it's not based on the novels, so I'm not getting royalties on it. Different lawyers give me different opinions. Decide for yourself.

Are you married?

Very. We're going to be celebrating our 30th anniversary soon. 30 years.

That's impressive.

I don't know if it's wonderful, but it's sure unusual. Especially in the circles we travel in. The average California marriage lasts about 6 months.

You grew up in New York, then moved to Ohio. Why Ohio?

I was offered a job editing a magazine for a place called the School for Living, which later moved to Maryland. The School for Living had a very interesting philosophy, which was "back to nature, live on the land, eat health food" — and a bit of anarchism and Wilhelm Reich. I agreed with about half of that and thought the over half was kind of flakey, but it was interesting. I thought it would be a great idea to live on a farm and see how I did at it.

I enjoyed it. We were there for two years.

Were you influenced by your years on the farm?

Yeah, I think so. My children were very young then. I guess the oldest was about eight when we left Ohio. I used to look at the grass and crops and trees and goats and cows and at my children and my wife and myself and think about evolution — all these different types of intelligence. I got fascinated by the intelligence of insects. It turned me into a pantheist. No, pantheist is not correct. The technical word is pan-psych-ist. I became more and more convinced that everything was intelligent.

Recently I read a Sufi philosopher of the 14th century who said, "Within every atom are a thousand rational beings." That's just what I've suspected for years.

How did you encounter Aleister Crowley?

I was having lunch with Alan Watts in 1969 and I told him I was writing a book. He asked me what it was about so I told him a bit about the Illuminatus trilogy, including the eye in the pyramid, and he said, "That reminds me of the most wonderful book I've read all year, called the Eye in the Triangle, by Israel Regardie." So I made a note of that. I was working for Playboy at the time — I went back to the office after lunch and I told the Playboy library to order the book. Editors had that privilege at Playboy; you could order any book you wanted and the library would get it in. So I read it and it got me fascinated, and that's how I got involved with Crowley.

So you came into Illuminatus through the conspiracy angle rather than the occult angle.

That's right. I was educated to believe that there are no conspiracies, or if there are we shouldn't talk about them. To think about conspiracies was somehow uncouth or lower class or might cause you to turn into a Nazi in your sleep or something. You should never think about conspiracies or talk about them. But then with the Kennedy assassination ... I just couldn't believe the Warren Commission. I started studying a lot of the different conspiracy theories and then I started running into the really kooky ones. Bob Shea and I used to go out for drinks every Friday evening after work and solve all of the problems of the world over a few Bloody Marys. We were talking about all of these kooky conspiracy theories and Shea said, "Why don't we write a book about all the craziest conspiracy theories." And eventually the Illuminatus trilogy developed out of that.

What have you been reading lately?

The book that impressed me most, recently, is The Psychobiology of Mind/Body Healing by Eugene Lawrence Rossi. It's a book about the neuropeptide system, and how the ideas in the cortex affect the hypothalamus, which affects the neuropeptide system. He explains how people can die of black magic curses and how they can get better if they have faith in something, like Christian Science, or Vitamin C — like Norman Cousins, who had an allegedly fatal disease. Cousins just took massive doses of Vitamin C and looked at comedies on television, and cured himself. I've known these things were possible for many years; Rossi's book gives the best, up-to-date, scientific explanation of how it works, how the neuropeptide system controls the immune system, how the immune system fights off disease or doesn't fight off disease. For instance, we all get cancer eventually, and most of us fight it off. The immune system is strong enough to fight it off. It's when the immune system fails that the disease kills you.

I'm a model of good health considering all my vices. Tim Leary said that recently, he said, "Bob is walking proof of the neurosomatic circuit — he has all the bad habits they warn us against and he's still healthy."

You've often said that we can't trust history — so how do you go about getting accurate historical research?

I don't know how accuracy is to be found in history, given the amount of prejudice and coverup. I don't have any faith in my historical research. I use what seems .... usable. I'm not entirely arbitrary; I can tell the difference between a real whacko and somebody who's fairly intelligent and rational. But even the people who are fairly intelligent and rational have their prejudices, so I don't trust them completely. Sometimes the whackos maybe were accurate.

You feel you've developed a nose for political agendas?

There's a certain style that warns you. There's a paranoid style of writing. When you see that you know you have to take everything very skeptically.

Are there any plans to restore the pages Dell ordered cut from Illuminatus?

No, all that got lost. Dell had the book for five years before they published it. They kept announcing they'd publish it next year, and then the editor would get fired, or quit to take a better job, and the new editor wouldn't know anything about it. The thing dragged on for five years. Finally we got a definite announcement they were going to publish it, but they wanted us to cut 500 pages, and they'd then divide it up into three volumes, which we'd never intended. Shea and I were so worn down, after five years of struggle, we said, "Okay, we'll cut 500 pages." So I said to Shea, "Let's cut it like Godard cut Breathless, totally at random. They're buying it by the pound, they have no concept of literary structure or anything like that, so let's give them a literary structure that's totally original, a stochastic structure." Shea agreed with me, so we just made our cuts at random. We didn't use any principle at all — there are cuts in the middle of dialog, people talking about one subject and suddenly they're talking about another. It's just like Godard did it with Breathless, even ten minutes he made a cut of a few feet of film. It kept the audience off balance. It seemed to work with Illuminatus, too.

When we were doing the cutting I was in Mexico and Shea was in Chicago and Dell was in New York, so in the process of these pages flowing back and forth through this loop, what got cut was lost permanently. I decided to accept it in the Zen way as a lucky accident. It turned out to be an even weirder book than we had planned. And the people at Dell were totally uninterested in literary qualities — they just thought it had enough sex and violence so it might succeed, and had no concept of literature at all. Nobody commented, "Hey you turned your book into total chaos." They were weighing it by the pound. If you've got a big name like Michener you can get a fat book published because everything he writes is a bestseller, but if you're unknown they divide it up into three books, cut it down to a size they can afford to lose in case it doesn't succeed.

Every chapter is based on a Sephiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. You can still find that in there if you look hard enough. It was very carefully planned originally. For instance, Simon Moon's first words in the book are "Crown Point," which turns out to refer to the jail Dillinger escaped from, but it also refers to Kether, the title of the first chapter, and Kether means "crown" in Hebrew and is symbolized by a point. That cabalistic symbolism runs all through the book, every page has parallels with the Tree of Life. There were 22 appendixes, which were the 22 paths on the Tree of Life, and that got cut to eight. I finally just decided to regard it as a joke. That's the way you have to regard capitalism or you either go crazy or become a socialist and I didn't want to do either.

How about politics?

I've gotten increasingly agnostic and I've gotten older, and increasingly wary of ideologies, including my own. So if you tied me to a lie detector, with a gun to my head, I would have to say, most of the time, I'm somewhere on the libertarian-anarchist continuum. But I distrust myself. I distrust being rigidified and getting dogmatic, so I keep challenging my own assumptions and looking at alternatives. Knowing how dumb I am, I don't want to become another dogmatist. I saw what happened to Ayn Rand and sweet Jesus forbid it should happen to me.

Now my political activity consists of making regular contributions to Amnesty International, which I regard as insurance, not as charity. Amnesty has a very simply policy, namely, "People should not be locked up for their ideas." I'm all for that. I figure anybody in jail for his or her ideas is depriving my brain of nourishment. If they could get out and publish their ideas it might inspire me; it might give me new ideas; it might cause brain growth. As long as one heretic is locked up, part of my brain is locked up and I'm not getting the nourishment I need. So that's the one thing I still contribute to regularly: Amnesty. My wife contributes to the American Friends Service Committee — I don't, because she's already doing it. That's about it. I'm very cynical about politics. I have a wan, nostalgic hope that Jesse Jackson will win, just because a black president would restore a balance. So would a woman president, of course.

Large parts of The Earth Will Shake are openly didactic —

I don't mind being didactic. It's unfashionable, but my favorite writers were all didactic — Dante was didactic, Shakespeare was didactic, Chaucer, Jonathan Swift, Ezra Pound.

Do you see a big distinction between your fiction and non-fiction?

No, because I can't tell the difference myself. I think it's entirely arbitrary which books are put in fiction and which are put in non-fiction. I'm a big fan of Charles Fort, and one of the things he said that I especially treasure is, "I frankly offer this as fiction, in the same sense that Genesis and The Origin of Species and Euclid's Geometry are fiction."

Strieber's Communion is entertaining, whether it was true or not.

It's a very clever work of art. He creates more terror in that "factual" book than most "fiction" writers. He knows how to build up the tension and get under your skin. I'm pretty skeptical about abductee stories, but there was a point about three quarters of the way through that book where I found myself looking around the room to see what damned thing might have gotten in in the last few minutes.

I'm not convinced Communion is fiction. I'm not convinced it's non-fiction. It's in a quantum "maybe" state as far as I'm concerned.

Were you a Lovecraft fan before you got into Illuminatus?

I was a Lovecraft fan since I was about 12. I think it was when I was 12 I heard "The Dunwich Horror" with Ronald Coleman as the narrator. It impressed the hell out of me. I started looking for Lovecraft and I couldn't find any Lovecraft books, but I found a few short stories by him in anthologies. Then when I was 14 I found a whole book of Lovecraft, edited by August Derleth. So Lovecraft has been a passion with me most of my life. I like the way he uses techniques that make you think, "Gee, maybe this isn't fiction." That fascinates me, because doubt lasts longer than faith and provokes thought rather than discouraging it.

Surrealism fascinates me, too. The first Surrealist show, people had to come in through a garden where there was a taxicab, and it was raining inside the taxicab but not outside. When the audience — or victims — got past that, the first thing they saw in the building was a big sign that Andre Breton had hung up that said, "Dada is not dead! Watch your overcoat!" At that point the distinction between art and life had been completely obliterated. I aim for that in all my books.

I like happenings, I like that game I was telling you about earlier. I like to blur the distinctions, because most of what we think is perception is actually projection anyway. I like to make people more aware that they are creating the reality they inhabit. Lovecraft taught me a lot about how to do that, in a literary way.

My favorite of all my books is The Widow's Son because I think I created uncertainty better there than anywhere else. I don't think there's anybody in the world who can tell how much of that book is real and how much is fiction. Including me. I don't absolutely know how much to trust my sources.

--- and how much you made up may have been true.

I've had that happen, too. In Illuminatus I made Beethoven a member of the Illuminati. That was a parody of the Christian Crusade in Oklahoma — they were claiming the Beatles were Communist agents. I decided to put it back 200 years and make Beethoven an Illuminati agent. And, my God, that was just a joke, but it's true! Beethoven either belonged to the Illuminati or was certainly a fellow traveler. He was very closely associated with them. I had no idea that was true when I wrote it.

What other SF writers have influenced you?

Robert Heinlein. Some people say Heinlein's later stuff isn't as good as his earlier stuff. There are weaknesses in his later books but there are good things in his later books too. In some ways I think he's gotten worse, and in some ways he's gotten better. But his books are all interesting. They're certainly provocative.

Some people regard books as a narcotic. I regard books as a stimulant. If they don't stimulate me, to hell with them. Same thing with movies. I don't want soothing, sedative movies. I want provocative, challenging movies.

The next science fiction writer who's been a major influence on me is Olaf Stapledon. I think he's the greatest science fiction writer who ever lived, and a greater philosopher than Bertrand Russell or Sartre.

Phil Dick is another of my favorites. In fact there's a lot of synchronicities between Phil and me. Phil and I had a lot of the same sort of paranormal experiences at around the same time. Phil was just as agnostic about it as I am. Cosmic Trigger and VALIS were statements for that time. I'm still mulling over a lot of those things, and Phil would be mulling too, if he were here.

What kind of a person is Timothy Leary?

That's a hard one. Tim says there are 24 Timothy Learys, and which one you contact is a measure of your own intelligence. I guess I've encountered about 18 of them. He continually astounds me. I find him admirable, at times. He's certainly brilliant. He's very funny. At times I find him annoying. He can be very cold and inhuman, and he can be very warm and sympathetic. There are so many facets to Leary that anything you say about him is untrue. He's just too complicated for anybody to summarize him briefly.

Visiting Tim in prison was a really major influence on me. Seeing how he kept himself high and cheerful under those conditions convinced me it can be done.

Have you done any short fiction?

I had a few short stories published, but I sort of stopped writing short fiction when I started getting books published.

Do you have a favorite of your own works?

I like all my books. [Laughs.] If you don't enjoy your work, you might as well give up. Frank Lloyd Wright was a witness in a court trial once, and he was asked, "What is your profession?" and he said, "Architect." The next question was, "What is your standing in your field?" and he said, "I am the world's greatest architect." His friends told him later, "Frank, you carry this arrogance too far sometimes." He said, "What could I do? I was under oath."

You must feel you've had some kind of growth.

I don't think I'm moving towards becoming a Platonic Ideal Writer. I think my style has improved over the years. I think I'm more versatile with certain types of dialog, styles of dialog for different types of characters. And the conversational tone--I'm getting better at that, without getting sloppy, or losing such intelligence as I possess. I think my style has developed, and I'd like to go on developing it.

I want to write a whole book about Joyce someday. I have a lot of ideas for books. One of them is The Truth About Sex. I probably will never do this one; that's why I talk about it so much. I'd like somebody to rip the idea off, so I don't have to do it. There was a book that was a bestseller, ten or 15 years ago, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But You Were Afraid To Ask Your Doctor, and it was in question and answer form. I thought the author was one of the stupidest people I'd ever read. I decided to do the book correctly. It'd be in question and answer form, but instead of one answer to each question there would be four or five, or maybe even a dozen, all from leading authorities, and all contradicting one another. The idea of the book was to show that the authorities don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's an area full of prejudice. There's no real science of sexology yet; it's all various people expressing their personal prejudices and disguising it as psychology or sociology. So I thought, take a question like, "What causes homosexuality?" and give twelve different answers just to show how much the scientific community really knows; they can't even agree about a simple thing like that. "What causes heterosexuality," for that matter? "What is the difference between vaginal and clitoral orgasm?" I'd get about 24 different opinions on that, in the literature.

The reason I'll probably never do that book is getting the permissions from all these authors is a Herculean task, which publishers always dump on the writer. And once they found out what they had agreed to, the experts would all be furious because they'd all look like idiots, because they're all overly dogmatic. They'd be very furious and god knows what they'd do about it. So I hope somebody else does that book and I don't have to do it.

I'd also like to write a book about Pearl Harbor. The revisionist historians have been thoroughly slandered and are mostly out of print. I wouldn't be adding much original; I think everything worth saying has been said by Charles Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes and James J. Martin and a few others. But their books are out of print or hard to find. My book would be just one more effort against what Barnes called "the historical blackout." One more effort to put the facts on record.

Or, I'd like to do a book of eight essays on eight things that everybody believes about history that can be clearly proven to be dubious at best and probably untrue. That the arrack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise. Or the common image of Christopher Columbus. It's pretty well documented that he was a Jewish homosexual, but that's not what we're taught in school. And the genocide of the American Indians. Americans all assume genocide was invented by Hitler. I'd like to document that. Hitler was just copying the example of this country.

I'd like to do an essay on the case against Earl Warren. I remember getting into an argument with Ralph Ginsberg, and he said "I believe the Warren Report, because I believe Earl Warren was a great liberal and an honest man." So I'd like to do a whole review on Warren's record, beginning with putting' the Japanese in concentration camps during World War II, and show what a great liberal Warren really was.

Another book that I am doing, as a matter of fact, when I get the time--I've already discussed it with Falcon press--is New Age, Sewage. I just did a book, The New Inquisition, which was on the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. As usual, when you start writing a polemic, you get carried away by your own rhetoric. I figure I gave them such a drubbing that people are going to think I'm entirely on the opposite side--this being an Aristotelian culture where people think in either/or terms. So I figure I ought to give the New Age a drubbing too, to show what my true position is: agnostic, against all dumb dogma. I especially want to do a chapter on Ramtha, demonstrating that you can be dead 40,000 years and still be a bore.

Have you ever been tempted to pull an L. Ron Hubbard, and start your own religion?

Oddly enough, I've never been seriously tempted, although I think I could get away with it. It reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my daughters recently. She asked if she could borrow some money to pay her auto insurance, and I said, "Sure," and I sent her the money. She called back a few days later to say she got the money and thank me, and I said, "Would you agree there are 20 million cars in California, at least?" And she said, "Oh, at least 20 million." I said, "The lowest insurance you can get is $400." She said, "Yeah." So that's eight billion dollars a year the insurance companies are making, in one state. Eighty billion in ten years. So that was worth spending at least ten million on bribing legislators--maybe a hundred million--to get a law like that through. So I said, "Why don't we start our own insurance company." And she said, "I'm afraid that would be bad karma." And that's why I haven't started my own religion. It's bad karma to swindle people.

What's your opinion on pornography?

I agree with Magnus Magnusson. He's the host of an English quiz show called Mastermind, that's a very--not intellectual, but erudite quiz show. The contestants are all experts in some rare field of knowledge, like German history from 1872 to 1886, or Irish poetry of the 7th and 8th centuries--things like that. The winner is the person who can answer the most questions in one minute.

Anyway, Magnus Magnusson was on an Irish television show and somehow the subject of pornography came up and he said, "I'm absolutely against all censorship." And the host said, "That's on the usual Libertarian grounds?" And Magnusson said, "Of course. But I also like pornography." And I thought, my god, that's the first time I ever I heard that. Everybody else who defends it, they argue on these abstract things, the First Amendment or whatever--in England they quote John Stewart Mill. Magnusson was the first person honest enough to say, "I like it, you know." I like a lot of it. I'm not only against censorship, but I feel the damn people who want to ban it are interfering with my right to enjoy myself.

Kiddie porn is a different issue--that's nothing to do with censorship, that has to do with abusing children.

There's a lot of bad pornography around, but there's a lot of bad detective stories, a lot of bad science fiction. One of the things that fascinates me is, the best pornography I've seen recently is by women, and it's on the Playboy channel. There's a company called Femme Productions. They make very good soft-core porn, very artistic and very sensitive.

The issue that bothers me, where my libertarianism starts to break down, is not pornography, but the exploitation of violence in films. There's growing clinical evidence that it does tend to produce more violence, and that scares the hell out of me. It's caused me a long, painful reexamination of my principles, from which I have not yet emerged; I'm still working on it.

It was right up in the center of my attention in the last few weeks in LA because of this movie Colors, in which Hopper used the actual jackets of actual LA gangs. I can see why he did it, artistically, it makes the film more vivid and real. But the upshot is a lot of the community is in hysterics that this will inspire the gangs and it has already. There's been one shooting, The guy was waiting on line to see the film.

That is a hard one. Hopper is a serious artist, there's no doubt about that. But that's a very hard one and I don't have the answer. I don't believe it's necessary to have the answer all the time. It's better to think a while.

People need to use their creativity to come up with nonviolent solutions.

You know who's urging that? Colonel Jim Channon. He's retired, but he's still a consultant for the Pentagon. He keeps writing proposals for non-violent solutions to problems. He suggested we need a class of Buddhist soldiers. He's a really far-out guy and so far he's had no major influence on American policy.

Has he published?

He has, and he's been widely interviewed. His proposals on hijackers have been used a couple of times. His proposal is they should be given maximum media coverage and allowed to talk to television as much as they want--hours and hours on end if they want to. He says what motivates terrorists is their feeling that nobody in the world is listening. If they feel that everybody is listening, then it's easier to negotiate with them. Where that has been tried, it has tended to work. He's got a lot of other ideas, about the Army going into third world nations where there are anti-Capitalist revolutions brewing and instead of trying to kill the anti-Capitalists, go in and build dams and bring modern technology in, and give the people a better life.

The Sandanistas originally wanted help from the US and we wouldn't give it.

Ho Chi Minh's constitution for North Vietnam , began, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men ... " It begins like the Declaration of Independence. He was very influenced by Jefferson. But this country supported the French against them, and when the French couldn't fight anymore, JFK sent American troops in, so Ho became more and more anti-American.

While we're on this subject--I was saying some favorable things about Heinlein a while ago. The thing that irritates me most about Heinlein is his constant pro-war propaganda. What irritates me is not only that I disagree with him, but that it's inconsistent with his basic position. Heinlein's basic position is "never trust the government." They're a bunch of thieves, liars, and looters, they're out to rob us and deceive us and gull us and abuse us all the time, except when they say, "Hey, we want you to go kill a bunch of people on another continent." Then we must believe them, and we're traitors if we have any doubts whatsoever. That is such a thumping, enormous contradiction. How do these crooked, stupid bureaucrats suddenly become honest people we should believe once they declare war?

The only people who are pro-war who make sense are the people who believe the government is divine all the time. I wanted to get this into some science fiction magazine--thank you for giving me the opportunity. I hope Heinlein sees it. [In fact Heinlein died before this interview was transcribed.] Oh, well, if a few people who've been influenced by Heinlein notice this, and notice that contradiction in his thinking, then it's worth saying.

Any final thoughts?

I'd like to see people get a lot smarter, a lot kinder, a lot less gullible, a lot more skeptical, and a lot less paranoid, and a lot more optimistic. I'd follow Leary's basic rule: TFYQA. Think for yourself, question authority.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wilson: the Diagonal Relationship letters

In the late 1970s, science fiction fan Arthur Hlavaty began to publish a series of fanzines called Diagonal Relationship. The custom for science fiction fanzines was to send a copy to anyone who was willing to write a letter of comment.

Robert Anton Wilson wrote a series of letters of comment to Diagonal Relationship. Beginning today, I will serialize them, with one letter for each blog entry. When I have finished running them, I will then publish the letters as one block of copy and link to it in the Feature Articles and Interviews section.

Here is the first letter:

The Diagonal Relationship 9, 1979

Concerning "Again, Dangerous Fuck": Words have both denotations, which can be found in the dictionary, and connotations, which vary from one nervous system to the next.

Words like fuck, cunt, etc. became "obscene" when Puritanism took over the English-speaking world. They are gradually becoming de-obscenified in various segments of the population, but are still charged with heavily obscene connotations for other large segments. Thus, their use is fraught with psychological ambiguity--which makes them fascinating for writers of a certain cast of mind; namely, those who are convinced that ambiguity is the essence of the human situation.

Joyce broke through two centuries of Taboo to bring these words back into literature. in Ulysses, because they are present in the human psyche (even in Puritanical Ireland in 1904), and the psychological truth he was seeking could not be attained while tacitly submitting to the then-prevalent hypocrisy by pretending the words were not there. As used by Joyce, none of these words are obscene, anymore than a laboratory report is obscene. Joyce eliminated obscenity from his world view, as he eliminated anger, pity, sentimentality, and all other subjectivities; he simply observes, with Zenlike detachment, and reports what he sees.

D. H. Lawrence, on the other hand, attempted by brute force, or the poetic equivalent of brute force, to transform obscenity into tenderness and beauty; to cure Puritanism by artistic "persuasion." He invented a whole new way of writing about sex, which has been so universally imitated that we now assume it is the only way to write about it. In the course of the alchemical transformation of obscenity into loveliness, Lawrence rediscovered a childish innocence in so-called "dirty" words. Just as Mellors lapses into his lower-class dialect as his intimacy with Connie increases, so both lovers lapse into "obscene" language as their passions mount;

Lawrence obviously realized that the semantics of love is a reinfantilization in some ways.

When Mellors rhapsodizes about Connie's cunt in working-class argot, he is deliberately rejecting his educated self and returning to the first language he imprinted as a child, with all its sensory, numismatic, emotive connotations. In short, as Kenneth Burke noted in A Rhetoric of Motives, Lawrence's use of these words is a species of baby talk, which was necessary to get down to the primordial level below and before the point where obscenity and shame are learned.

William S. Burroughs, on the third hand, uses obscenity with full obscene connotations intended. He is exploring those areas of the psyche where obscenity (sex hatred) and murder (life hatred) are bred. When he gives the formula for Nova as "Before I give an inch, the whole fucking shit-house goes up in chunks." he is clinically precise. The place from which nuclear holocaust comes is the place where every bodily function is charged with rage and fear.

Thus, fuck has three markedly different connotations in three of the major stylists of our century--and as many other connotations as there are writers and readers.

Test question: How is Ezra Pound using fuck in the following lines from Canto 39, describing Circe's enchanted island?

Girls talked there of fucking,

beasts talked there of eating,

All heavy with sleep,

fucked girls and fat leopards.

Second test question: In Canto 46, Pound asks, "Hast 'ou found a nest softer than cunnus?" What happens if we replace the Elizabethan and Latin and modernize the line to "Have you found a nest softer than cunt?"

If we ever have a totally post-Puritanical and post-obscene society, calling a man "you prick" or a woman "you cunt" will be the highest form of praise, since it will imply that they are delightful, lovely, exciting, creative, and cute.

Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 2


(Second in a series of letters of comment by RAW reprinted from the pages of the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 10, 1979

Alas, I have noted that in my letter in DR 9 I use the word "numismatic" where I meant "numinous." I guess all that fucking dope has finally fucked up my head.

Oh, well, even Homer nodded; jeder macht ein kleine dummheit; and the function of our mistakes is to remind us that humility is endless.

Do you realize that almost everybody is a member of a minority now? The Civil Rights Commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination, said in a recent news story that 86% of the population can have their complaints investigated since they belong to one minority or another.

Actually, since women are 51% of the population, and Gays are estimated between 12% and 37% (depending on whose figures you believe), and Blacks are around 11%, 11m surprised that only 86% of the population qualify as minorities. There are also Jews, Chicanos, Buddhists, atheists, Orientals, eighty dozen unpopular religious sects, Arabs, etc., etc. On second thought, I'm sure the 14% who don't presently qualify as minorities would qualify if the bureaucrats looked into the matter more closely.

Concerning your debate with Tony Parker about robots: I suggest that it is amusing and profitable to regard all of us as robots. Some of our programs are hard-wired via genetics. Others are softer and more flexible, since they are due to imprinting or conditioning. Conditioning, of course, is softer than imprinting.

Obviously, if this metaphor is accepted, we are presently in the process of derobotizing ourselves, becoming self-programmers or even metaprogrammers in Lilly's sense. We began to learn deconditioning with Pavlov and have learned more from Skinner, Wolpe, and Co. We learned, or some of us learned, reimprinting from the psychedelic revolution. Current work on genetics opens the possibility of rewriting the genetic Code and really becoming free masons, cocreators of our destiny.

If this is plausible, then any use of such sciences for other purposes, i.e., for more efficient conditioning, for more rigid imprinting, for the production of genetic drones, etc., is part of the general trend to increase our robothood.

Moral: Today is the first day of the rest of history. Are we becoming more efficient self-programmers or are we drifting along in oar old programs or passively allowing the many skilled Head Mechanics around to program us into their trips?

Which brings me to Buck Coulson's question in DR 9: What do we do with all the dumb people? As a libertarian, I find the only acceptable answer is: give them a chance to get smart. Fortunately, the chance to get smart is becoming more pragmatic and operational. The current OMNI has an article about intelligence-raising drugs already known; the majority of psychopharmacological researchers, in the latest McGraw-Hill poll of expected breakthroughs, believe the intelligence-raising drug industry will be in full flower by the 1990s.

In passing, quietly as it were, I might mention that this subject, and my previous remarks on self-programming, and the general H.E.A.D. Revolution (Hedonic Engineering And Development--using the brain for fun and profit) are the main themes of my next book, The Illuminati Papers, to be published by And/Or Press in December. End of advertisement

What about those who won't nohow noway never do nothing to increase their intelligence?

Perhaps they will be seduced by the general trend toward brightness that I foresee in the next two decades. After all, intelligence is the most powerful of all known aphrodisiacs...

Diagonal Relationship letters of comment, No. 3


(Third in a series of letters reprinted from the pages of the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 13, 1980

Permit me to horn in on the inside/outside debate between Ron Lambert and Adam Weishaupt.

I. An atheist is one who is quite sure there is no Higher Intelligence; if there isany doubt on the matter, you are not an atheist but an agnostic. God, by definition, is the only being who can be quite sure there is no higher intelligence than Hirself. Therefore, God is the only real atheist.

Others must be theists or agnostics.

II. Berkeley says the universe is inside the mind of God. Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. If and only if both Berkeley and Jesus are right, I am inside God and God is inside me.

Berkeley and Jesus must both be right since:

III. In the highest mystical states, in all religions, the mystic experiences oneness with God. But we have already seen that God is an atheist. Therefore, the mystic alone can escape theism and agnosticism and become, like God, an atheist. This is possible by turning inside out.

IV. In a Möbius strip or Klein bottle, inside is outside and outside is inside. The same flip-flop occurs in music, art, and mathematics, as demonstrated by Hofstadter in the greatest book of our decade, Gödel, Escher, Bach. Therefore, if and only if God is like unto a Möbius strip, a Klein bottle, Gödel's proof, Escher's paintings, and Bach's fugues, Berkeley and Jesus can both be right, and God is inside and outside simultaneously

V. In Euclidean geometry, inside and outside do not flip-flop. Therefore, God is either inside or outside--and the Lambert-Weishaupt debate can be decided on one side or the other--if and only if God is limited by Euclidean geometry. But a limited God is not God. Therefore…

VI. Pantheism is really atheism under a fancier name, as all critics of pantheism agree. But the highest forms of theism, such as Vedanta, are all pantheistic on the very logical grounds that God must include everything, or else God is limited, and a limited God is no God at all. Since the highest form of theism is pantheism, and pantheism is indistinguishable from atheism, the highest form of theism is atheism.

VII. I can know the mind of only one Creator really well: myself. InSchrödinger's Cat, I put myself in the book as a character, but I also remain outside the book as its Creator. Therefore, the only Creator I know well is inside and outside his work at the same time.

VI I I. When God actually, or allegedly, wrote a book, He put Himself inside it as a character. If one Creator is like unto another Creator, God evidently wanted us to understand that He is inside and outside at once.

IX. When God actually or allegedly wrote a book He made Himself the villainin it, as all intelligent readers have noted. (This is why the Gnostics and William Blake, among others, have denied that God wrote the book and claimed Satan wrote it to discredit God.) But if God did write it, the portrait of Himself as a sadistic monster must be either an attempt to frighten us or a very subtle joke. Since God would not want to frighten us, it must be a joke. Since God is both an atheist (knows no Higher Intelligence) and a mystic (is at one with Hirself), the joke must be such that only those who are both atheists and mystics can understand it.

X. Since only the mystic is one with God--an atheist--all others, as demonstrated above, must be agnostics or theists. But the theist claims to know what he has not experienced; if he had experienced it, he would be, like God, an atheist. Therefore, for those who are not mystics, the only honest, modest, and logical alternative is to be agnostics.

XI. According to literal Christianity, Jesus was God and the son of Mary; the Holy Ghost was God and the husband or at least the impregnator of Mary. Therefore, God is His own father. But God is also the father of all humanity, including Mary, so God is the father of His mother, and thus His own grandfather. If God is both inside and outside, and an atheist, and His ownfather and grandfather, any attempt to reason about God must lead to paradoxes and contradictions.

It will be observed by the thoughtful that these arguments are quite logical, and totally mad. I do not claim that they are true, but merely that they are at least as lucid as the other writings about God produced by the human mind to date.

Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 4


(Fourth in a series of Robert Anton Wilson letters reprinted from the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 14, 1980

Adrienne Fein is quite right about the term "temple prostitute": It is a projection of Christian prejudice backward on pre-Christian theology.

Certainly, sexual yoga or sex magick or hierogamy is powerful magick, and that is what the so-called temple "prostitutes" were doing. It takes a considerable amount of shamanic training to work up an equally passionate and devout religious mood by any other method.

The trouble with Christians is that they are constitutionally incapable of understanding anybody else's point of view. I mean literally I have never heard or read a Christian describe a non-Christian belief system accurately. (The one exception to this rule is the Jesuits, but there is some doubt--shared by the Pope lately--that they are really Christians.)

I was amused by your account of the parapsychology class where everybody thought skepticism meant a dogmatic refusal to believe. This confusion has been created by a band of vehement and intolerant fanatics (the Fundamentalist wing of the Materialist Church) who have coopted the word "skepticism" to describe their own bigotry.

I haven't been able to take the so-called "skeptics" seriously since the burning of Wilhelm Reich's books in 1956. The ringleader of the "skeptics," Martin Gardner, was one of the instigators of the persecution of Dr. Reich, and I was young and naive in those days. I kept expecting Gardner to say, when it became obvious that the government was going to throw Reich in jail and burn his books too, "Hey that isn't what I meant. I meant Reich's theories should be criticized, not obliterated." But Gardner never objected to the mutilations of the Constitution in the Reich case, and I finally decided that having Reich in jail and his books in a bonfire was exactly what Gardner wanted. I strongly suspect that what he wants today is all the parapsychologists in jail and their books burned, too.

If you will pardon me, I think you misuse the word "nature" just as badly as the pop ecologists or ecologoids do. That is, both you and they seem to mean by "nature" something which does not include humanity. I think it is semantically and scientifically more accurate to use the word for something that does include humanity, as a domesticated primate species as much a part of the biosphere as the wild primates.

In the latter usage, not only are our bodies part of nature in general, but so are our brains, as tools or adaptation for our bodies. The purpose of the dog brain is to make survival of doggihood possible; the purpose of the human brain is to make survival of Homo Sap possible. I believe Freud pointed this out before me.

The idiocy of the ecologoids is that they believe, or talk as if they believe, that nature stops at around the human neck, everything above there being "unnatural." On the contrary, I cannot conceive of my thoughts being any less natural than my bowel movements, my endocrine system, or my blood circulation.

In this connection, it is obvious that the dog brain does not abstract enough information to create a perfect model of the total universe; it abstracts enough for the dog's survival, pack-status, and reproduction scripts. I assume the same is true of the human brain. Those who are looking for the Total Truth are probably looking for more than a domesticated primate brain can achieve. I do, however, think it is amusing, entertaining, and survivally useful to look formore of the truth than we currently own.

No, the Craft is not a front for Discordianism. But, since more and more witches are Discordians, and more and more Discordians are getting initiated into Wicca, the two are increasingly hard to disentangle. Which is just the way I want it....

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 5


(Fifth in a series of letters from Robert Anton Wilson, reprinted on the Internet for the first time since their original appearance more than 30 years ago.)

The Diagonal Relationship 14, 1980

On the "nature" problem: Bucky Fuller suggests that "Universe" should mean everything that exists including me and "environment" should mean everything that exists excluding me. This is totally arbitrary, like all definitions, but at least is (or seems to me) clear and bereft of muddy metaphysics.

Of course, this distinction is only useful in some areas of discourse. In other areas, it becomes necessary to note that environment and me are constantly interacting, exchanging energy, etc., and that we cannot, ultimately, be disentangled. (That is, we can only be relatively disentangled for special purposes in special areas of discourse.)

This does not clarify the "nature" problem but possibly confuses it further. I'm sorry. I'm doing the best I can. Give me a few more years and maybe I'll figure it all out.

In any case, I cannot feel, imagine or conceive myself as outside of "nature." I seem, to myself, as natural as any hamster, rosebush, cockroach, bear, rock, pelican, or star anywhere. I may be peculiar, but that does not make me unnatural. Pelicans are peculiar, too. Lobsters are very peculiar.

I think my blasphemous inability to develop a sense of guilt has to do with this inability to develop a feeling of being outside nature. When a moralist (Christian, Marxist, Libertarian or whoever) tells me I should not be what I am, I am not offended; I just think they are silly-as if they were telling a lobster not to be a lobster.

Einstein got into relativity by imagining vividly what it would feel like to be a photon. I got into whatever is wrong with me by imagining vividly what it is like to be a cow. I was living on a farm and doing acid at the time and maybe the six-legged majority on this planet somehow got more real (or as the mystics say, more Real) than the domesticated primates with whom I am supposed to identify. I don't know if I'm a star imagining progressive games in which I pretend to be a cow, a lobster, domesticated primate, etc. or if I'm a domesticated primate imagining I have been a star, a lobster, a dinosaur, etc.

Ecology and ethology make perfect sense to me. So does sociobiology, that bane of the Left. But nobody makes any sense when they start telling me that I'm unnatural or that any part of domesticated primate life is unnatural. I don't know why birds sing or why Beethoven wrote Sonata 23, but, while both astonish me, neither seems un-, anti-, super- or infra-natural to me.

I have read Theodore Roszak, who argues at length that everything or most things that I like are unnatural. I concluded that Roszak does not like the same things as me, but I could find no merit in his claim that what he likes is natural and what I like is unnatural. I think that he and I are equally natural, but different, as the purple-assed baboon and the preying mantis are equally natural, but different.

And I have read you, Arthur, arguing that nature is "mundane shit" but that did not change my perceptions. I merely registered that Arthur Hlavaty has different perceptions than me--which is not astonishing to me, since it is an axiom of my neurology that everybody has different perceptions. I continue to perceive all of nature, including myself, as beautiful, mysterious, grand, and radiant with intricate intelligence.

James Joyce said he had never met a boring person; he was a Humanist. I have never had a boring perception, because I am a Universalist.

In answer to Sam Konkin, I am an agnostic about every thing, not just about "God," and for totally pragmatic and selfish reasons. I have observed that when certitude enters a human mind, mental activity then quickly ceases. Wishing to continue mental activity, I therefore avoid certitude. This is not a philosophical position (I am not a philosopher) but an empirical rule for growth, change, and mental alertness.

I'm as agnostic about Sam Konkin as I am about "God," or more so, since I have had a great many experiences with "God," or with what is alleged to be "God," and only a few experiences with Sam Konkin or what is alleged to be Sam Konkin.

I am also dubious about Sam's proposition that if you can't prove something, you should assume it has been disproven, or pretend that it has been disproven, or label yourself as one who has disproven it. (This may not be exactly what Sam meant but it is as much as I can understand of his argument against agnosticism. I am sometimes slow.) I think at once of the alleged 10th planet beyond Pluto. Nobody has found it yet, but astronomers do not for that reason assume it is not there; they go on looking. Similarly, the proposed quarks in quantum theory have not been found yet, but physicists do not assume quarks are not there; they go on looking.

To "go on looking" seems worthwhile to me, because It is good exercize for the intelligence, and also because if one goes on looking, one generally finds something, although not always exactly what one was looking for.

I suspect that "God" is a term invented by humans in certain cultures to describe experiences of contact, or seeming contact, or mind-fusion, or seeming mind fusion, with an intelligence or intelligences that are, or seem to be, inhuman or trans-human or super-human. I suspect that similar experiences in other cultures led to the invention of terms like "the Buddha-nature," "the True Self," "the World Soul," "the Atman," "the Tao," and once, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, "the Force." I also suspect that Alan Watts was a very smart man in simply calling it It. And I suspect that contact, or seeming contact, with It provoked philosophers and scientists to such terms as "Mind" (as distinct from individual mind (Plato), "orgone" (Reich), "implicate order" (Bohr), "the psychoic Level" and "synchronicity" (Jung), the "neurogenetic" and "neuro-atomic" circuits (Leary), "Life Force" (Bergson, Shaw) "synergy" (Fuller). These are suspicions, not certitudes.

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 6


(Latest in a series of blog postings reprinting letters Wilson wrote to a fanzine, the Diagonal Relationship, about 30 years ago).

The Diagonal Relationship 16, 1980

Seeing myself as part of nature, rather than as an alien who landed here by mistake, does not incline me to determinism. In fact, it inclines me to the opposite...if not to free will in the classical theological sense, at least to a notion of give-and-take or feedback or flexibility in the system.

"In nature there is immediate adjustment but no Compulsion," said Chuang Chou, who also considered himself part of nature.

l am part of nature in that my mother and father produced me by purely natural processes, with no supernatural aid. r.\y DNA comes half from her, half from him, and is one node in a molecular message going back, via him, to Irish and Norwegian strains, and via her, to Hungarian, Austrian, and Polish-Jewish strands, and, further back, to various primates, other mammals, reptiles, fish etc.

Natural selection played a role every step of the way in this process. Which male mated with which, female involved some kind of stochastic process of "choice"--see Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature.

Since I am whimsical, playful, imaginative etc., I assume that these traits can be traced back pretty far in this genetic roulette.

All of which is to reject traditional or constipated determinism. I also reject classical notions of free Will, of course, since there are some elements of determination in the process.

"In addition to a yes and a no, the universe contains a maybe," as David Finkelstein says. That's my view.

bThe Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 7


(Seventh in a series of letters reprinted from the Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 17, 1981

I was delighted to read of your oceanic experience at the Samhain festival.

The first "satori" is a turning point; the second is much easier. After a while, it becomes fairly regular and even deeper....One discovers gradations in the oceanic, more and more comes through....(See Maslow on what he calls "the Peak Experience.")

Encouragement: it tends to happen after 35, as documented by Bucke in Cosmic Consciousness. If this is the fifth neurological circuit, as Leary sez, it may be genetically programmed. Bio-survival circuit turns on at birth, emotional-territorial circuit at about 8 months (walking), semantic circuit between one and two years, sociosexual circuit at puberty, between 11 and 13. Neurosomatic (oceanic) may be more and more likely to open up (if one is not rigidly armored against it) the more years one lives after about 35 or 40....Maybe it is becoming more common because people are living longer than they used to.

Further encouragement: in many cases, after neurosomatic circuit begins to work, conditions like asthma "miraculously" disappear. (That's why Mary Baker Eddy invented Christian Science after her fifth circuit opened....)

I don't share Michael Shoemaker's disdain for those who think they have found something new, or for those who think they are important. Everybody I admire in history (a) thought they found something new and (b) thought they were important. E.g. Beethoven, Shakespeare, Joyce, Michelangelo, Galileo, Leonardo, Jefferson, Newton, Blake, Frank Lloyd Wright, etc. etc. etc. As Wright said, give me honest arrogance rather than hypocritical humility any day. And as Mark Twain said, it is dangerous to associate with the depressed, because they will make you depressed, whereas those who expect to accomplish great things will make you think you can do great things yourself.

All my friends believe they are geniuses or damned close to it; that's why they're fun to have around. You can find all the humility you ever care to see at a mental health clinic, but that scene is very dreary indeed.

I also disagree with Shoemaker's Ecclesiastes-like insistence that "there is nothing new under the sun." Evolution being a stochastic process, there is newness appearing every second; one has only to open one's eyes and LOOK for it. Besides, as Picasso or somebody else of that school said once, Art always shows heredity but never shows identity. Many are children or grandchildren of Pirandello, as Shoemaker would have it, but all are new voices nonetheless.

I hope that Shoemaker soon comes to feel that he is so damned COSMICALLY important that he will enjoy rather than deprecate the possibility that others are important, too.

(A) Anybody who speaks English probably has, somewhere, a signal that I can learn from; (B) The more important they think they are, the more likely they are to utter that signal.

In this connection, I also dissent from Mary Frey's expressed wish that people stop discussing religion in your pages. I had no desire to write anything about religion for you when 1 saw that letter, but after seeing it I nonetheless felt constrained, repressed, mildly annoyed, and somewhat (in the jargon of the day) "dehumanized." I think the desire to communicate is very strong in third-circuited (symbol-using) critters and all repressions of it are unhealthy. It is, in general, much better for humanity if those who wish to avoid certain signals (political, religious, pornographic or whatever) simply AVOID them, i.e., avert their eyes, go elsewhere, etc., rather than trying to shut up those who wish to communicate. That is, I think it is more in keeping with our humanity for people to walk away from communication than to stifle the communicator. (This is a generalization but not an absolute. In some cases, seeing real distress, I am willing to stifle myself until an unhappy person leaves the scene. Courtesy and tact are real factors even if one can't include them in a legal definition of civil liberties....)

Since I believe that ONLY immediate sense impressions are given to us by the universe (and even they are edited by our previous imprints and ideas), all maps and models and theories are projections of the mind that creates them. Thus, the Atheist creates an Atheist universe, the Theist creates a Theist universe...and both are too modest to take credit for such marvelous artistic-philosophical organizing and information making skill! (They don't even take credit, generally, for making roses red....) Perhaps they both need more sense of self-importance.


The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 8


(Another of a series of letters Robert Anton Wilson wrote to the fanzine the Diagonal Relationship. Roy Tackett, mentioned here, was a famous science fiction fan; I used to get fanzines from him years ago. His Wikipedia biography says Tackett "was a rifleman with the United States Marine Corps during Wolrd War II who was credited with the introduction of science fiction to Japan following the war when he was stationed in that nation as part of the American occupation.")

The Diagonal Relationship 18, 1981

In answer to Roy Tackett's question, "How many of these professed believers in the ancient gods have even the slightest knowledge of the ancient gods?" I would say: Having met with hundreds of neopagans in all parts of the country, I have been astonished at the abundant erudition they generally possess and their extensive and sometimes scholarly or pedantic knowledge of minute details about the old religions. If Mr. Tackett's question was rhetorical and he assumed the answer would be that most neopagans know little about their historical origins, then either he has met a different sampling than I have, or he has met few or none and formed his opinions without data. In any case, Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moonis the most complete sociological study of neopaganism thus far, and it confirms my own impression of the generally high level of erudition among neopagans.

I assume that Tackett's sentence, "A superstition is a superstition is a superstition is a superstition is a superstition," is some kind of incantation. Certainly, he could not intend it as argument, since it is only a tautology. Perhaps there is a missing first term and we are to understand it as meaning "paganism is a superstition" etc. In that case, it is not a tautology, but a mere assertion, and still does not qualify as an argument. It is not clear to me whether Mr. Tackett will not argue his position or does not know how to argue it. Or perhaps his letter was a clever piece of satire, intended to illustrate the axiom that ignorance is the origin of intolerance.

As a lover of the past as well as the present and the future, I was delighted with David Palter's letter, in which he frankly stipulated that he did not try the Thoth exercise before passing judgment on it. I think all archaic ideas should be revived periodically, so that we may look at them anew and reevaluate them; and it is refreshing to have the classical antiexperimentalist dogma reasserted in our time. I had thought that position vanished around the time the Inquisition refused to look through Galileo's telescope before condemning what he saw through it. I hope Mr. Palter will continue to enlighten us about experiments he hasn't tried and Mr. Tackett to inform us about groups he scarcely knows





The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 9

(Last in a series of letters reprinted from the fanzine the Diagonal Relationship. A short letter from Robert Shea also is included.)

The Diagonal Relationship 20, 1982

My apologies to Mr. David Palter. His original letter attacking the Thoth exercise sounded dogmatic and intolerant to me, and I thought it was funny for someone to sound so certain about an experiment which he admitted he had never tried. Due to this misunderstanding, I wrote a short rebuttal which be quite correctly describes as "baroque sarcasm"; be also says that he was not dogmatic about the experiment, but only tentative. Well, everybody has a right to form tentative opinions (pro and con) about experiments they haven' t tried, so there is no real argument between Pa1ter and me. I merely misunderstood his style of expression.

Since this subject has aroused debate by others as well as Palter, I would like to add something. The Thoth exercise is in four parts. These are (1) the traditional assumption of god-forms, out of gnosticism and Tibetan Buddhism; (2) experiments in self-hypnosis with tape recorder; (:3) experiments in self-hypnosis adding marijuana to tape recorder; (4) reading books by Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Aleister Crowley, G. 1. Gurdjieff, Israel Regardie, and Mary Baker Eddy. These books will provide six contrasting "maps" (or models, or paradigms) to interpret the results obtained in steps 1, 2, and 3. Seeing that each of these "maps" fits the results to some degree leads to the last, synthesizing step of forming one's own conclusions about what such exercises offer and show many neurological programs they can be extended to reprogram. These books also suggest many other, more advanced exercises to accomplish more radical reprogramming and reimprinting.

Anybody who shares Palter's dread of such matters should emphatically emulate him in avoiding such experiments. "Fear is failure and the forerunner of failure"; or in Freudian terms, those who fear have reason to fear. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in Mr. Palter's philosophy, and one should not gaze into them if one is not prepared to have them gaze back at one.

And one from Shea (1980)

We have a lot to be thankful for. Many of us were too young to experience the Scopes trial, the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, the days when books like Ulysses had to be smuggled into the country, the McCarthy era and the judicial murder of the Rosenbergs. Now, as a consequence of election day 1980 we have a chance to live through a replay of those great days. Let us gird our loins, because if the New Christian Right has its way it will soon be illegal to have loins at all.