Monday, January 02, 2006


A New Interview

by jody franklin

Robert Anton Wilson "is" one who is not "is." Perhaps we may describe him as a psychedelic philosopher, a postmodern trickster, an intellectual comedian, a twister ripping through the psyche. He first came to prominence as an editor of Playboy in the 1960s. During that time of magick he got involved with the Discordians, a "new religion disguised as a complicated joke," or "a complicated joke disguised as a new religion." Along with Robert Shea, he co-authored the Illuminatus! trilogy of novels, a work of mind-bending (fiction?) that weaved together multiple conspiracy theories and elevated Discordianism to true cult status. A close friend of Timothy Leary, he shared Dr. Leary's passions for radical psychology and futurism. His book Prometheus Rising melded model agnosticism to Leary's 8-circuit model of the brain to create a system that taught people how to deconstruct dogmatic personal belief systems. His numerous other books explored topics such as quantum mechanics, alternate universes, non-Aristotelian logic systems, sex magick, Wilhelm Reich, James Joyce and Orson Welles. His model agnostic approach to inquiry makes him a unique writer, one of few who can slip seamlessly from rationalist scientific thinking to non-materialist metaphysical speculation.

While he has struggled with post-polio syndrome in recent years, he remains active in propagating his various passions. Lance Bauscher, Cody McClintock and Robert Dofflemyer's 2003 film Maybe Logic explored and presented Wilsonian concepts wrapped in subtle yet explosive color and rhythm, a fitting tribute to his ideas. This project spun off into the Maybe Logic Academy, a learning institute that is
"grounded in the philosophy and perspective of maybe logic, an approach which emphasizes the fallibility and relativity of perception and tends to approach information and observations with questions, probabilities and multiple perspectives rather than absolute truths." New Falcon Publications will soon be releasing his new book Email To The Universe.

(Editor's note: This interview was conducted in two parts, in August 2004 and March 2005.)

You have a new book coming out called "Tale of the Tribe." What's that all about?

[RAW] I changed the title to EMAIL TO THE UNIVERSE. It's about James Joyce, Daoism, Internet and Aleister Crowley, plus my usual craziness.

[MB] It seems a lot of your writings have really connected with people, and perhaps even influenced their thinking and activities. Because of this effect on your fan base, some have suggested you to be a "cult figure." To make a clever little RAW-like slide here, this seems appropriate, given your early participation in the Discordian Society and your many writings on the Illuminati (a secret cult that may or may not exist.) Surfing the web one may find Discordian groups and references to Eris, golden apples, the Law of the Fives, the number 23, as well as other related ideas. Memes you sent out into the world twenty, thirty years ago continue to thrive and flourish. How do you feel about this legacy of having seeded such a diversity of eclectic memes?

[RAW] It's both pleasing and flattering, of course, but I'll feel much happier when Maybe Logic, the Snafu Law and the Cosmic Schmuck Law get seeded just as widely, or even more widely.

[MB] Let's seed them more widely right here! Can you explain to our readers what (Maybe Logic, the Snafu Law and the Cosmic Schmuck Law) are?

[RAW] Maybe Logic is a label that got stuck on my ideas by filmmaker Lance Bauscher. I decided it fits. I certainly recognize the central importance in my thinking -- or in my stumbling and fumbling efforts to think -- of non-Aristotelian systems. That includes von Neumann's three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rappoport's four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski's multi-valued logic [degrees of probability.] and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it "is" A. it "is" not A, it "is" both A and not A, it "is" neither A nor not A]. But, as an extraordinarily stupid fellow, I can't use such systems until I reduce them to terms a simple mind like mine can handle, so I just preach that we'd all think and act more sanely if we had to use "maybe" a lot more often. Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering "Maybe Jesus 'was' the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do" -- or every tower in Islam resounding with "There 'is' no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet"?

The Snafu law holds that, the greater your power to punish, the less factual feedback you will receive. If you can fire people for telling you what you don't want to hear, you will only hear what you want. This law seems to apply to all authoritarian contraptions, especially governments and corporations. Concretely, I suspect Bozo knows factually less about the world than any dogcatcher in Biloxi. The Cosmic Schmuck law holds that [1] the more often you suspect you may be thinking or acting like a Cosmic Schmuck, the less of a Cosmic Schmuck you will become, year by year, and [2] if you never suspect you might think or act like a Cosmic Schmuck, you will remain a Cosmic Schmuck for life.

[MB] Can E-prime revolutionize the English language?

[RAW] I sure hope so, but it needs help, like more computers online and more pot. LOTS more pot.

[MB] What is the purpose of your Maybe Logic Academy, and who else is involved? Just what the heck is going on there?

[RAW]I want to use Internet to accelerate human evolution by replacing faith-based decisions with research-based decisions. The others have similar or compatible goals. Our class leaders include R.U. Sirius, cyber-philosopher; Patricia Monaghan, goddess researcher; Alan Clements, activist and former Buddhist monk; Peter Caroll, mathematician and inventor of Chaos magick; Douglas Rushkoff, media maven; and others will join up soon.

[MB] You've written extensively on (and found new applications for) various scientific theories, particularly in the field of quantum mechanics. Yet you've maintained a critical distance from the scientific establishment, a kind of heretical voice and a sceptic of scepticism. You often cite Dr. Wilhelm Reich's story as an example of authority run amok. The US government destroyed much of Dr. Reich's controversial work, and nobody, particularly fellow scientists, stepped forward in protest or defence. Science is supposed to be about innovation, yet few scientists seem able to revise their pet theories once they've been accepted. I think this is why many found it shocking when Stephen Hawking recently stepped out and said, "I was wrong about black holes." Nobody is used to respected figures revising or chucking out their strongly-held beliefs. What is the importance of heresy, scepticism and unorthodox ideation to the advancement of science?

[RAW] Let me differentiate between scientific method and the neurology of the individual scientist. Scientific method has always depended on feedback [or flip-flopping as the Tsarists call it]; I therefore consider it the highest form of group intelligence thus far evolved on this backward planet. The individual scientist seems a different animal entirely. The ones I've met seem as passionate, and hence as egotistic and prejudiced, as painters, ballerinas or even, God save the mark, novelists. My hope lies in the feedback system itself, not in any alleged saintliness of the individuals in the system.

[MB] You're a self-described model agnostic, and you've deconstructed all manner of belief systems (BS) in your books. In Prometheus Rising, you encouraged people to consciously enter as many different reality tunnels as possible, to examine their beliefs from multiple viewpoints. Human culture is filled with people zealously attached to various orthodoxies and ideologies. The clash of fundamental belief systems has often proven destructive to humankind. What will it take to shake people from their dogmas?

[RAW] In a word, Internet. Ever since I read Wiener's Cybernetics: Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine back in 1948 I've thought of "intelligence" as a function of feedback. The more feedback, the higher the measurable "intelligence," and the less feedback, the less "intelligence." As the computer gave birth to the Net and the Web, feedback has increased exponentially. As R.U. Sirius wrote recently, "The rise of the Net and the Web represents a victory for the counterculture and the subculture. The next generation, raised on the Net as their primary medium, won't even know what consensus reality is." In other words, feedback and Maybe Logic form a circle that spins faster and faster. The Tsarists fear and hate it -- they call it "flip-flopping" -- but it characterizes all high intelligence systems, electronic or protoplasmic.

[MB] I agree that the internet seems to be a product of such an accelerated feedback system. This is something we can witness with every single online interaction. Now, there has been a lot of talk post-9.11 of an ominous totalitarian spectre looming over us, that Orwell's Big Brother is finally here. There are conspiriologists who believe that the internet, having risen from the Pentagon, has never been anything more than a Big Brotherist plot, and that folks like RU Sirius, John Perry Barlow and other Information Age philosophers are dupes (un)knowingly(?) providing a libertarian façade for this vast conspiracy. What if the internet is nothing more than the latest Tsarist method of control and information gathering?

[RAW] Well, then we're sunk, ain't we? Fortunately, there exists no logical or factual reason to believe that paranoid fantasy, and it is directly contradicted by the hard mathematics of Wiener and Shannon on "redundance of control" in feedback systems. What Juang Jou said of the universe 2400 years ago is even more true of the 4,285,199,774 computer URLs online today - [21 August 2004] -"there is no governor anywhere."

[MB] Speaking of 9.11 and the Pentagon, the day after the airplane split a hole in the side of the building, I immediately thought of yours and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! novel. In it, the five-sided Pentagon imprisons a supernatural beast called Yog Sothoth. If this ghoul were to escape, humankind would witness the immanentization of eschaton. This seems to be as apt a metaphor for the current millenarian cultural climate as I've ever seen. So, in a sense, did Yog Sothoth bust out on that day?

[RAW] Let's not take metaphors too literally. I'll admit Bozo has a lot in common with Yog Sothoth, and that he even has the same initials as GWB666 in Schrödinger's Cat, but I regard those as accidental hits. I don't think of myself as a sleeping prophet.

[MB] How close are we to immanentizing eschaton?

[RAW] It got immanentized 5 years ago when the Supremes called off the election and appointed GWB --the Great Wild Beast-- to the white house.

[MB] You wrote a compelling piece following the 2000 US presidential election, in which you pointed out one of those obvious things that most people missed: while 50% of eligible voters split their votes between Bush and Gore, the other 50% consciously chose to vote for Nobody. (I've actually been arguing that, since children, prisoners, aliens and other disenfranchised people were unable to vote, Bush only really got a mandate from about 14% of the American people. So much for "half the country" supporting him, as the media played it.) You've also theorized that a nefarious, neo-autocratic "Tsarist Occupation Government" (TSOG) controls the apparatus of the State. Screw the old Democrat versus Republican debate. Tell me, how do you think both Nobody and the TSOG will fare in the upcoming presidential election?

[RAW] I assume most intelligent people will continue to vote for Nobody, and the moron majority will split their votes about evenly, depending on which of the two multi-millionaire Skull-and-Bones-men has the most sex appeal. It doesn't really seem to matter: if the people marginally prefer the "wrong" candidate, the Supreme Court will assuredly "correct" them again. The TSOG seems a comfortable disease, like death by sleeping sickness. After 7000 years of Authoritarian Patriarchy, most people accept Tsarism and, in America, resent that pesky constitution imposed on them by a few intellectual freemasons.

[MB] This statement recalls Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism. It seems that there is massive, widespread public mistrust and disgust in politics and government, not only in the USA but in many parts of the world. Why are citizens so loyal to systems and leaders they admittedly have no respect for?

[RAW] Raymond Chandler, who served as a lieutenant of infantry in World War I, pointed out the same paradox on a smaller scale: in charging an enemy, troops are statistically safer if scattered broadly, but they all show a tendency to bunch together near the lieutenant, thereby increasing their risk. This seems a hardwired [even premammalian] vertebrate program. On top of that we've got the 7000+ years of authoritarian conditioning documented by Reich. Seems rather bleak, doesn't it? My optimism rests on the fact that, historically, in emergency, people often mutate in unpredictable and creative ways. As John Adams said, the American Revolution took place "in the minds of the people in the 15 years before the first shot was fired." I suspect a similar revolution is occurring in the minds of educated people worldwide.

[MB] Across the post-election landscape, there has been much talk of a "divided America," with pundits drawing a hard line between "blue states" and "red states." Is this line illusory?

[RAW] I suspect all lines exist only in our minds -- especially political lines. Universe seems more like waltzing chaos than like an account book.

[MB] Are we living in Phillip K. Dick's Rome?

[RAW] Well, Phil certainly lived there. I feel more like I live in Tsarist Russia. Sometimes I think of myself as the last Decembrist - and if that seems obscure or too kooky, just set your search engine for "Decembrists + Illuminati" and grok in their fullness the URLs that come up. Anyway, we certainly don't live in a constitutional democracy. I feel almost 99.999999999999999999999999999999% sure about that.

[MB] When I've been severely depressed, or severely stoned, I've been able to actually *feel* Dick's Rome, not just grok it as an intellectual concept. For me this reality tunnel is filled with emotion, paranoia, delusion, synchronicity, symbology, metaphor, heightened awareness. Does it ever go beyond theory for you? Do you *feel* Tsarist Russia?

[RAW] Frequently--- especially when I test my Buddhist detachment by trying to listen to "our" leaders without growling or cussing under my breath. I feel like the Decembrists, very poignantly. But I also identify a lot the founders of this moribund Republic. They knew the Constitution alone could not restrain the power lusts of Certain Types and warned that we needed eternal vigilance - - but they could only give us the Constitution, not the vigilance. Alas!

[MB] It would seem, then, that democracy is a cloak for autocracy. Has that all it's ever been? Or is history cycling backwards, have we collectively betrayed the Enlightenment?

[RAW] First, my passion turns toward CONSTITUTIONAL democracy, not just "democracy" in general, which I fear as much as our founders did. I want LIMITS on government, clearly defined and virtually "graven in stone." As John Adams wrote "My credo is that despotism or absolute power is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratic council, an oligarchical junta or a single emperor --equally arbitrary, bloody and in every respect diabolical." I agree totally. Yeah, I think we have lost a lot of light lately - and by "we" I mean both the suidaen politicos and the masses.

[MB] You've had to fight for your right to use marijuana medicinally. How did you become an activist?

[RAW] I've "activized" for various causes since 1959, because I have that sort of temperament. I got involved actively in the medicinal marijuana cause long before my post-polio symptoms made medical pot necessary in my own case. Now, stuck in a wheelchair most of the day, I feel not just activated but super-activated. I supported a wife and four kids most of my life. I have 35 books in print. NEW SCIENTIST called my CAT trilogy "the most scientific of all science-fiction novels." Now, at 73, I'm treated like a child by the TSOG -- and so is my doctor, a fully qualified M.D. Only the Tsar knows what's best for me, medically, and he knows without doing a medical examination even, just by consulting some faith-based organizations... To quote George Carlin "stunningly, STUNNINGLY, full of shit." If you'd like the view of research-based organizations see

[MB] You recently founded the Guns & Dope Party to combat the excesses of Tsarism. What are some of the central tenets of your party's platform?

[RAW] Guns for those who want them; no guns forced on those who don't want them [Quakers, Amish, pacifists in general etc.]

Drugs for those who want them; no drugs forced on those who don't want them [Christian Scientists, herbalists, homeopaths etc]

Bipedal unity -- equal rights for ostriches

Voluntary taxation: you pay for government programs you want; you don't pay a penny for any programs you don't want.

[MB] Do you feel that Temporary Autonomous Zones or Pirate Utopias have the potential to be free havens from the TSOG?

[RAW] Temporarily. Only Internet creates the real possibility of a Global Autonomous Zone. I think all problems have gotten solved and will get solved by [a] more information and [b] more rapid and ubiquitous transmission of information

[MB] The concept of Conspiracy has loomed large in your writings for decades. What fascinates you most about the concept of conspiracy theory?

[RAW] My major interest remains, as I said, in the area of non-Aristotelian logics, and around 1969 Bob Shea and I got the idea of writing a funny novel applying Maybe Logic to the arena of conspiriology. The result, ILLUMINATUS. went so far outside consensus reality-tunnels that it took us five years to get it published, and now, for 30 years, I keep receiving feedback from two groups who cannot handle the concept of "maybe" at all, at all. The first group believes fervently, beyond all doubt, that I endorsed the craziest ideas I've discussed and hence regards me as a dangerous nut. The second group has an equally ardent belief that I work for the CIA's disinformation bureau and want to make all conspiracy theories look equally crazy. I've written dozens of books on other subjects, but those two gangs continually provoke my stoned-out sense of humor, so I continually surrender to the temptation to have a little more fun with them......

[MB] Conspiriology is really big these days. Why do you feel people are so drawn to leftfield speculative ideas?

[RAW] As an admitted Cosmic Schmuck, I don't claim to "know" the answer to that -- or anything else -- but I do have certain persistent suspicions. I suspect, for instance, that "the Establishment" -- i.e. the TSOG and the corporate media -- have told so many outrageous lies that nobody really fully trusts them anymore. The weapons of mass destruction in Iraq still remain hidden from human perception. After that lie collapsed, the TSOG did not merely appear full of shit; it appeared, to quote Carlin again, that seems STUNNINGLY full of shit. So naturally a market has grown for explanations of what the hell really motivates Bozo and his gang. I regard my job as applying the same scathing criticism to all models that try to imply the model-maker really knows more than me and doesn't just guess, and speculate, and grope in the dark, like I admit I do.

[MB] You are well known for your work exploring speculative theories and esoterica. In books like Sex and Drugs and the Cosmic Trigger series, you wrote of experimentation with occult magick. Reflecting upon your numerous forays into these strange worlds where Science fears to tread, what are the most interesting "secrets" you discovered?

[RAW] The same that I simultaneously discovered in Buddhism and quantum physics: namely, the alleged "wall" between "me" and "the world" does not exist at all. Clearing thought and language of that fictitious split adds immeasurably to clarity. Oh, yes, and it improves your sense of humor, too!

[MB] Let's wrap it up with a little humor. Can you tell me a good joke?

[RAW] Three guys are drinking and arguing in a bar. "I tell you it should be spelled W-O-O-O-M," the first says dogmatically. "And I still say W-H-O-O-M sounds right," the second counters. "No, no, no," says the third. 'It's definitely W-H-O-M-B-B." "You've all got it wrong," offers a gynecologist at the next table. "It's W-O-M-B." They stare at her coldly. "Madam," the first says, "it's obvious that you've never heard an elephant fart."


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