“Selecting a Pope is such a big secret – they all lay their wangs out on the table. It’s like casting the lead in a porn movie.” – Robert Anton Wilson
This 5-page interview with RAW hasn’t appeared online before, to my knowledge. It was originally published in ‘.net’ – a glossy UK newsstand magazine – in January 1998. The interview was by Cotton Ward, who was features editor at the magazine.
I found it in my files recently. I’d originally torn the pages out (I got rid of tons of magazines and books when moving to a smaller place over a decade ago), and it was a ‘perfect bound’ magazine (like a paperback book), so I made a terrible job of tearing out the pages. But the text (which I’ve scanned and OCRed) is mostly intact. It has a couple of really good large-scale photos of RAW which I’ve not seen anywhere else (I imagine the magazine had them taken on location)…
IMHO – In My Humble Opinion
Robert Anton Wilson
He’s a famous science fiction and conspiracy author, futurist, stand-up comic, punk singer and was an editor at Playboy. Cotton Ward struggles to comprehend an on-line overachiever.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? author Philip K Dick said, “Wilson managed to reverse every mental polarity in me, as if I had been pulled through infinity. l was astonished and delighted.” Which isn’t surprising. Robert Anton Wilson, 65, is best known as the co-author, with Robert Shea, of the underground conspiracy classic The llluminatus! Trilogy, which won the 1986 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Otherwise, he’s a humourous philosopher who enjoys engaging in “Operation Mind Fuck” by challenging our views of reality.
Busy Bob is a futurist, author and stand-up comic, who gives seminars at new age centres and was friends with Timothy Leary and William Burroughs. He has made a comedy record (Secrets of Power) and a punk rock record (The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy). His other books include Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy, called “the most scientific of all science fiction novels,” by New Scientist, and several nonfiction works of futurist psychology and guerrilla ontology, such as Prometheus Rising and The New Inquisition. His novel Illuminatus! was adapted as a ten-hour science fiction rock epic and performed under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll at the National Theatre, where Wilson appeared in a brief cameo role. He was also an editor at Playboy magazine during the heady ’70s.
With such an extensive career to cover, we cut to a few choice questions.
When did you first begin using the Net?
“I started using a computer about 12 years ago. lt‘s such a great invention and has millions of advantages for writers. I like to play the Japanese game, Go, which arouses my competitive streak, but the machine always beats me. I have a standard setup with a CD-ROM player. I got on the Web three years ago and almost stopped writing for months – I enjoy looking at sites. I don’t experience information overload – it keeps on growing and that‘s great. When l‘ve finished The Conspiracy Encyclopedia for Harper Collins I’m going to take a month’s break before I start my next book and I‘m going to spend the time surfing the Internet.”
How much time do you spend each week on the Internet?
“Maybe an hour a day in researching conspiracy theories. On Sundays I may spend one or two more hours surfing for entertainment. I use e-mail about 20 minutes to an hour a day, keeping up with business matters and a few friendships with about ten people who don’t live near me. E-mail means we write more frequently, with the latest joke and new URLs. The rest of a typical computer day is spent writing. In the evenings I look at Seinfeld re-runs and listen to music to rest my eyes.”
What are your favourite sites?
“The Sub Genius (http://sunsite.unc.edu/subgenius/) because they change it more often than anybody else I know. I also like to keep in touch with the Republic of Texas (http://www.republic-of-texas.com/). The sites I read to keep up with the areas that most interest me are the Institute of General Semantics (which advocates ‘a willingness to continuously test, examine, evaluate, and change our assumptions and behaviour based on our observations’ at http://www.general-semantics.org/), the Fully Informed Jury Association (http://nowscape.com/fija/fija_us.htm) and Leary.com (http://www.leary.com/). Of all the anti-government rebels around, the Republic of Texas has the most intelligent site. The federal government now has almost as much power as Nazi Germany, and it‘s all unconstitutional. The latest absurdity is urine testing, in which they pry into the bladder of the citizen. If even one’s bladder is not private property safe from State invasion, the idea of personal liberty has become a cruel joke.”
Do you think the Internet will change the world?
“The Net has realised futurists’ predictions of a global village. It could make a great contribution to world peace because it encourages communication.”
Will intellectual property lose its market value on the Net?
“That worries me, though I also have a successful career as a speaker. I have post-polio syndrome and it‘s not too bad now, but cramped airline seats and travel make it worse. Still, I’m in great shape for a 65-year-old. I’m hoping I‘ll be able to use video conferencing for my lectures and still get the fee.”
What is the origin of the rumour that you are dead and why does it persist?
“It was started by some joker at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991. It persists because after many people claimed to have seen me and heard me at lectures, the rumour began that the CIA killed me and replaced me with a robot or android that imitates my style of thought and speech and I was programmed not to know the difference. Since that cannot be refuted, by definition, I’ve learned to live with the idea.”
What is Timothy Leary doing now?
“He’s in a ‘maybe‘ state. According to the mass media, he had a fight with the cryonics people and his head wasn’t preserved after all. In the film Timothy Leary‘s Dead his head was preserved – you can see the whole grisly operation on the screen. If you believe this, the alleged quarrel with the cryonicists was a mask to prevent the government interfering with Tim‘s de- and re-animation plans.
“Worse yet, three people have received e-mail from him, or seemingly from him, since his death. I‘m one of the three. Mine came a month afterwards, from leary.com, where all his mail used to come from, and he informed me he was ‘doing fine’ on the other side but it wasn’t what he expected – ‘too crowded‘, he said. There are a lot of different realities going around these days.”
What was William Burroughs like?
“In person, he looked like an undertaker. He had a brilliant, intellectual prose style and I was certainly influenced by it.“
What’s the most bizarre conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard?
“That Princess Diana was descended from the French dynasty, the Merovingians [supposedly descended from extraterrestrials or Jesus] and the Vatican was responsible for her death because it‘s trying to wipe out the Merovingians. It’s so absurd.”
Have you ever been surprised by a ridiculous conspiracy theory that turned out to be true?
“Yes! It was actually one I made up myself. During the ’60s there was a book about the Beatles that claimed they were hypnotising teenagers and convincing them to become Communists. It was silly, so I did a parody of it, claiming that Beethoven was an Illuminati agent. A few years later, I discovered he’d had many Illuminati friends, and the Illuminati had commissioned his first major work, ‘The Emperor Joseph Cantata‘. There’s no proof that he was an Illuminati member, but he had dealings with them. lt freaked me out.”
Do you believe in UFOs and the paranormal?
“I’m the American CEO of the CSICON, the Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal. We hold that nobody can ever produce a person, place or thing that is totally normal in all respects, or even average. Nobody has yet shown us a normal sunset, an average dog, or anything that doesn’t have something weird and unique about it. The normalists believe in abstract mathematical fictions (spooks).”
Why do you think so many people have seen UFOs and ghosts since the 1960s?
“The use of recreational drugs has broken down imprinted circuiting and people are perceiving events in new ways. Also, an awful lot of people just want to see a ghost or UFO to brighten up their lives and make them feel special.”
What do you think happened at Roswell?
“One of my rules of semantic hygiene is not to have strong opinions on subjects l don’t know a lot about. I admit to scepticism about the ‘evidence’ of a crashed spaceship. Just remember that my kind of scepticism does not equal the dogmatic denial of a group like CSICOP, The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (http://www.csicop.org/about/).”
Do you think you’ve ever been investigated by the FBI or CIA?
“Not that l know of. Still, I’ve crossed the Atlantic many times and the State Department has never approached me to do a ‘little job for the government’. They often ask tourists to do small jobs, such as take photos of buildings. It all seems innocent, but when you have thousands of people doing that, the information adds up. Since I’ve never been asked, l think my file has been marked ‘untrustworthy’.“
You once said, “The greater the willy, the greater the divinity indwelling.” What does that mean?
“This theory came about when I was travelling around Europe and noticed that the more important pagan gods, such as Dionysis, had larger phalluses. The Catholic Church is greatly influenced by paganism, so l think this means the Pope needs to have a great big willy to be a holy person. That’s why selecting a Pope is such a big secret – they all lay their wangs out on the table. It’s like casting the lead in a porn movie.”
Have your irreverent comments, such as the Papal selection theory, attracted the wrath of rnany detractors?
“I’m very unpopular with the politically correct. Anyone who’s bigoted or has rigid ideation sets. Racism, violence – l think all of these conditions are due to faulty brain chemistry and will eventually be curable with medication. LSD should be legalised – that’s a promising area of research, particularly in the area of psychology. Unfortunately, it can also be damaging. Patients should be able to make a judgement about medications, involving themselves, a physician and a philosopher in residence.”
You’ve spoken at dozens of new age conferences. How do they react to your scepticism of dogmatic beliefs?
“If you make fun of something you usually get away with it. I haven’t experienced any overt hostility – a few have walked out with sour looks, but I haven’t been denounced for heresy. [??] new ageists support the exploration of different ideas. They’re not dogmatic.”
What was it like working as an editor at Playboy for six years during [??]
“Not as glamourous as everyone [??] The salaries were better than at other publications, although one editor [??] go to Reader’s Digest because [??] more. We were invited to Hugh Hefner’s mansion once a week to watch [??] not porn – and have a great [??] bunnies used to be there and editors had affairs with them, [??] There certainly weren’t any orgies when I was there, or drugs. After I left Hefner was busted for drugs, but never went to jail.”
Life, the universe and everything…
With Bob’s approval, we selected the following quotes to give you an overview of his diverse opinions:
“Death makes me realise how deeply I have internalised the agnosticism I preach in all my books. I consider dogmatic belief and dogmatic denial very childish forms of conceit in a world of infinitely whirling complexity. None of us can see enough from one corner of space-time to know ‘all’ about the rest of space-time. Every day is full of wonderments to me: Death will probably come to me as the greatest wonderment of all.”
“From a Darwinian perspective, Radical Feminism represents the withdrawal of certain females from the breeding population. This means that they will play no role in the future gene pool of humanity. Now if only we could persuade the Radical Right to withdraw from the future gene pool too, l would like the results even better.”
“l started doing acid (ascorbic acid: megadoses of vitamin C) at around the age of 37. 23 years later, despite smoking and bad diet, l have stayed out of hospitals and have never had a cold in all that time. But, of course, one can explain this by invoking the almighty Genes or the occult Allies (or maybe even the marvellous Coincidence, that supernatural entity that always seems to banish or at least disempower all inconvenient data). l started using PERSONAL RADICAL SHIELD and CHOLINE COOLER (available from Smart Basics at http://www.smartbasic.com/cat.durk.sandy/prs.html) about six years ago.”
DECAY AND REBIRTH
“The Internet helps you get used to the fact that we’re living in a world where everything is being torn down and rebuilt continually. The Buddha understood that, but very few people since Buddha have understood it.”
“What some have called my ‘blasphemous cheerfulness’ just depends on my basic agnosticism. We don’t know the outcome of this worldwide transformation, so it seems sick and decadent (in the Nietzschean sense) when fashionable opinion harps on all the gloomy alternatives and resolutely ignores the Utopian possibilities that seem, today, equally likely (and, on the basis of past evolution, perhaps a little more likely.) I regard it as late in the day to still cling to Christian and/or post-Christian masochism. Let us have the courage to think in less neurotic categories. The stars, now, look like they await us.”
“If you think you know what the HELL is going on then YOU’RE PROBABLY FULL OF SHIT.”