Secrets of Power

‘A disciple is an asshole looking for a human being to attach itself to’
– Robert Anton Wilson, Secrets of Power

My first sampling of RAW was ‘Secrets of Power’ – a cassette tape that I bought from a London record shop, around 1986. At the time, I’d never heard of Robert Anton Wilson. As I mentioned in an earlier piece, the recording had been recommended – without explanation and rather mysteriously, I thought – by Bill Nelson, the prolific English musician (formerly of Be Bop Deluxe and Red Noise). As a big fan of Bill, I purchased it out of curiosity.

It starts with a strange, ominous montage of sounds (‘Leviathan Dreams’) including spoken references to the Illuminati. RAW’s first words after being introduced, in front of a live audience, are: “Has the government fallen yet?” (the British government – you can hear the whole recording below).

Remember this was pre-internet – I had no context and no way to look up “Robert Anton Wilson”. The cassette sleeve supplied precisely zero information on Wilson, but at the bottom of the credits, it says “To become an infallible send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Illuminated, 46 Carter Lane, London EC4”. An infallible? How peculiar!

The recording sounded to me like surreal stand-up comedy (mostly) with short atmospheric/cryptic sound-montage interludes and some interesting heckling. Political, religious and philosophical/esoteric topics, and hilarious jokes – including one about Rajneesh and Krishnamurti, and one that starts with Bob’s observations on flirting with Margaret Thatcher. There are several references to British politician Michael Heseltine and aspects of British culture, eg the TV licence (RAW was living in the vicinity of Dublin, Ireland around this time).

The supreme secret of power

‘[T]hese are people who know they’re infallible – like the Ayatollah and the Catholic Pope and Ronald Reagan and Gaddafi and all the other infallible beings on the planet…’

‘And what is the secret of power? The secret of power is understanding that you are a pope. You don’t have to wait for the Ayatollah or the guy in Rome or Ian Paisley or anybody else. All you’ve got to understand is that you are infallible just as you are.’
– Robert Anton Wilson, Secrets of Power

The second side of the tape gets to the “secret of power” via Discordian eschatology and Subgenius ironic-comic framing. Even when I first heard this (in a state of ignorance) I sensed an insight “beneath” the humour – a sort of intriguing koan to chew on. I mean, Bob appears to be advertising the recognition of one’s own infallibility whilst at the same time telling us that this is what defines the Ayatollahs and Ronald Reagans of the world. What the hell does it mean?

Without overthinking this (I hope) there seem to be several ways to approach infallibility and popehood. Circuit 2 alpha-dominance on one hand, and ‘illumination’ on the other. But to the extent that ‘illumination’ (or ‘enlightenment’) gets confounded with vertical status metaphors (“higher” vs “lower” – as in “top dog”, “high priest” and “this is the highest spiritual teaching”) we get led around by the nose. As RAW says (again – even on this recording) “all that is, is metaphor”, and he gives us an assortment of dualist metaphysical metaphors to ponder in comedy context: hodge and podge, yin and yang, thesis and antithesis, something and nothing:

‘If you get to the pivot point between something and nothing, you are in a state of total slack, and then you can get something for nothing. But how do you get there? Well, this is the secret that all the Popes understand.’
– Robert Anton Wilson, Secrets of Power

Elsewhere (Prometheus Rising, Chapter 4 exercizes) RAW recommends practising meditation daily for a month, and then visiting someone who usually puts you on the defensive, to see if they still press your territorial buttons.

Any sense of infallibility via ‘non-dual’ means – whether through simple meditation, infrequent Samadhi-type states, or just ordinary everyday “lowly” awareness (minus dualistic thinking and self-involved emotional burden) does, it seems, “inoculate” against robotic disciple-hood, intimidation, mystification and awe of authority figures of all types. “All you’ve got to understand is that you are infallible just as you are.” Just as you are.

‘There’s a difference between a scientific proof, a mathematical proof, a legal proof, and a merely plausible argument… There are thousands of plausible arguments around, and everybody who has a plausible argument, who can acquire disciples, is a Pope right away.’
– Robert Anton Wilson, Secrets of Power

7 thoughts on “Secrets of Power

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  1. Thanks for sharing as I was unaware of this recording. I just finished an initial listen, and I’m feeling more inspired now. I presume this is due to a greater number of neurons stimulated as compared to my previous state. Perhaps this coffee helped as well!


  2. I went to this gig. It was strange. Along with Bob were a Christian ranting poet and a middle aged white guy from Chicago doing rap. I think the latter was connected Bob in some way. God knows why the former was there, a certain lack of overlap in audience I feel.
    The idea was to release the gig as a record but there was a heckler throughout and frankly Bob was not at his best I thought so they added additional material. Have never listened to it, will listen to see if it jogs memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recollections, John. I saw RAW talk a few times in London around that period (a couple of years after c. 1990). The first time, there was a Christian protest of some sort outside the theatre, but inside the audience seemed mainly young people who looked dressed for a rave.


      1. Protesting at RAW specifically? I don’t recall the audience being other than what I would have expected ie vaguely nerdy or I’d probably have remembered.
        I remember there was a photocopied Pope card on every seat (picture from The Illuminati Papers maybe?)


      2. Most probably not protesting RAW specifically, but difficult to tell (I was more concerned about finding my way into the theatre).


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