Jan 12 2007

Robert Anton Wilson: Post-Modern Shaman

Published by at 9:18 am under Interview,Spirituality

Author, Playwright and Mystic
Talks about the Nature of Reality

by Sander R Wolff
The Union
Published 12/10/90

He’s written countless books, both fiction and nonfiction. Personal change, quantum physics, mysticism, conspiracy and James Joyce are reoccurring themes in many of his works. Robert Anton Wilson, armed with humor, soft-spoken enthusiasm and a keen mind, has carved out a place in literature that really didn’t exist before. His fiction doesn’t fit easily into any category.

Wilson’s first historical novel, Masks of the Illuminati, is set In England in the late 1800’s. It’s the tale of Sir John Babcock who demonstrates that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. By claiming to have an understanding of the occult information coded into Clouds Without Water, a privately printed book of sonnets, he unknowingly enters into an initiation process.

“Initiation is always the attempt, sometimes more successful sometimes less, but always an attempt to create a new Imprint,” Wilson said. “Primitive initiations, by and large, are more effective than the ones in the modern world because so-called primitives are willing to go a little bit further with those things. If you read up on the initiation rites of African tribes or native American tribes you’ll see the attempt is to create a powerful shock that will create a new imprint, to create the same chemical releasers in the brain that a near-death experience would create.”

In Masks, Babcock believes he is being initiated into a Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, an ancient fraternal organization. Little does he know that he’s being manipulated by The Beast, Master Therion, 666, the drug-crazed sex fiend Aleister Crowley. Wilson has studied Crowley’s work in depth and had a few observations.

“There are essays and letters by Aleister Crowley that make it quite clear that he was trying to come up with a technique of initiation that would be a lot stronger than what Freemasons were currently using, and one of the things that Crowley wrote about was [that] it’s hard, in the modern world, because the candidate is pretty clear in his head that you’re not going to murder him, whereas in primitive conditions they think, ‘Jesus, maybe they are going to kill me. ’”

The near-death experience is reenacted in almost all of his fictional writings. In The Illuminatus! Trilogy it’s George Dorn, hippie journalist for Confrontation Magazine who gets blown up while locked up in the Mad Dog, Texas jail. In The Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy, however, a different kind of shock is employed.

Using complex theories found in the field of quantum physics, Wilson creates a tapestry of eigen-states, or alternate realities, that all exist simultaneously. It flings the characters, and the reader, into alternate universes that are mostly similar, but always with differences that challenge the understanding of objective reality.

“Like Ulysses, it’s a parallel to Homer’s Odyssey but it’s all from the point of view of quantum mechanics; there isn’t one universe, but many,” Wilson said. “Schrodinger said that the only way to understand quantum physics is in terms of the Upanishads, with the concept of unity, that everything, no matter how different it seems, it’s all aspects of one hidden thing we don’t see.

“I think the dominant tendency in physics is to say that we shouldn’t ask questions about the objective universe. All we can talk meaningfully about is the experimental universe, which involves us. Any method of observing imposes upon the thing the structure you’re observing It through; your eye, your microscope, whatever. You can’t leave the observer out.”

I asked Wilson why so many people are fearful of in-depth analysis of human existence, and shy away from philosophy and ethics.

“People are afraid of anything that makes them aware of the game element in human behavior. They don’t want to know it’s a game. It’s like the old Sufi legend about Allah. He decided to drive everybody crazy so he changed the water so that everybody who drank it would go crazy. And then he decided there was one man he liked a lot so he told him ‘Don’t drink the water for the next month!’ And after the first couple of days of living among all these lunatics the guy couldn’t stand it any more and he went and drank the water too. It happens every day. Every day people become aware we’re living in a crazy world and then they realize they can’t live with that insight so they go crazy themselves so they can fit into that world.”

Another element common to many of Wilson’s writings are UFOs. In his autobiography, Cosmic Trigger, he speaks of having a first hand experience.

“That whole book is an account of self-induced brain change. I often think about ‘Wild Kingdom’ on television. There was a show there about these scientists who were going around planting radio transmitters inside the fur of grizzly bears. They shoot the bear with a tranquilizer dart and, while he’s knocked out, they implant the radio transmitter in him and then they can keep track of the migrations and movements of the grizzly bear population. Well, on this show they showed this bear going down and these guys busy implanting the radio transmitter and the bear started to wake up and they had to finish really quickly and take off.

“I imagined the bear going back and telling the other bears, ‘I was just minding my own business and suddenly I was paralyzed and these unursine creatures started doing experiments on me and then when the paralysis wore off they all got into a mysterious craft and disappeared.’ The others would appoint an ursine committee to investigate reports, and they’d pronounce him crazy.”

While living in Dublin, Wilson wrote Wilhelm Reich in Hell, an amusing yet deeply disturbing play about Man’s right to be wrong. Reich was a scientist of sorts, and developed theories about energies which become trapped inside the body, causing physical and mental impairment.

In the mid 50’s, after being chased out of Europe, Reich came to America, the Land of the Free, to pursue his research. He was arrested, most of his papers and books were seized and burned, and he eventually died in prison. In the play, he is in a mock trial, with Satan judge and jury. Bound, not allowed to call witnesses or to testify on his own behalf, the trial escalates into a three ring circus.

I asked Wilson, based on current trends, what he thinks the future holds for us.

“I see more rapid transformations of the world. I think things are moving faster, and I think this part of the world will go through the same kind of flip-flop and transformation that the Eastern Bloc nations have gone through. I think we’ll get Glasnost here, at last. Lord knows we need it.

“I think that, when the body bags start coming back from the Persian Gulf, people will discover that solar power really is easy to obtain. All these ads telling us that it would take forty years to develop solar power, those ads are all put in by the atomic energy companies who don’t want us to close down the nuclear plants, and by the oil companies who want us to go on fighting for oil. I think we’re going to give up on oil and nuclear and switch over to solar much faster than anybody expects, once people realize how expensive it is to keep up these nasty habits, like oil and radiation.

“[The U.S. energy companies] are not nearly as entrenched as the dictatorships were in Romania and East Germany, for instance, and look how fast they collapsed. The 90’s are going to be the 60’s standing on their head- it shows that Gurdjieff was right. If people were awake, truly awake, they wouldn’t be able to ship a half million people over there to die for the oil companies.”

Wilson’s current series, The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, is probably his most complex and subtle work to date, but has been plagued with problems. Actually, only one problem, but it keeps popping up. When first published by Bluejay Books, the first two books, The Earth Will Shake and The Widow’s Son were released. Before the third book, Nature’s God, could be printed Bluejay went bankrupt. Not to be deterred, he found Lynx Books in New York. Again, after the first two were released, Lynx goes bankrupt, and Nature’s God, already printed and sitting in a warehouse, gets destroyed because of the legal proceedings.

“Well, I think anybody would find it discouraging to have two publishers in a row go bankrupt on the same series of books. A lot of people, when they hear what happened ask me, ‘Does it make you believe in some of the conspiracy theories in the novel?’ and oddly enough it doesn’t. I’m just too skeptical. I suppose, if you told anybody, here I am writing this series on conspiratorial groups fighting over the world and two publishers in a row have gone bankrupt trying to publish it. But right now the whole series is due to be [published] by New American Libraries. If they go bankrupt, they’re very well established you know, if they go bankrupt too then I’ll start to worry.”

In doing research for the Chronicles, he relied somewhat on encyclopedias for the historical details. He made an interesting discovery in the process.

“One won’t do. Well, one is the best way. That’s my 24th law: Certitude is possible for those who only own one encyclopedia. If you look at two, you’re going to get confused again, believe me. I looked up the height of the Bastille in three encyclopedias and got three different figures. So then I decided that, for the historical novels, I’ll only consult one encyclopedia so I won’t be confused all the time.

“You have to have a sense of humor to go on writing. The things that happen, not just to me but to writers in general, are so absolutely incredible that you have a sense of humor to continue, or at least that’s the rationalization. I suspect writers are addicted to writing and they can’t give it up. It’s like having a word jones on your back.”


Hear A Brief Audio Clip From The Interview

Robert Anton Wilson’s Own Site

17 responses so far

17 Responses to “Robert Anton Wilson: Post-Modern Shaman”

  1. Timon 11 Mar 2010 at 4:34 pm

    I absolutely loved your post and just wanted to thank you for spreading the word of RAW.

  2. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:07 pm

    my everyday and that´s why i can never be amoung but only within….

    bummer role but hey i c it out cuz somedays there are whatcan i say “rest msses of energy that makes me laugh so deeply with calmness i never had tried before not even once… so thoose small peaks of some kind of machinery spinning makes me keep well going to c the next “package of nova´s words” i saw crowley with the same and ref to RAW and lol i am not smart or overegoseized but some i the text posted here well it ain´t a revo to me but thought over time comming into process.

    or whatever. Beast machinery

  3. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:10 pm

    but yeah not fear but hate actually cuz of other scheemes to “work” monkey hours….andf yes in that (me fit in me fit in me fit in memememememememememememememememememememem

    and then you might die before time oner day… hey we are all just stars…



  4. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:28 pm

    you c the edges to the folsom of yours…. there is no escape nor in yoga, nor in sport not even in family full grown, it is a bug in your head you all yes alone invited in, digged from to meet, sweat with, you are only lucky if you weren´t the mixture of Crowley´s fiends and rationalism of yours would prevail as an everlasting memory or observer, watchdog well then hell stars, cuz i tell you, of that fitting in 🙂

    people can in some sick maniac way feel where you have been =

    you wouldn´t make that fit in not as you think and imagine of… yes you said it yourself to c deeper love, (COSTS) ofc. found your dark swirling monastary inside hehehehehehe

    oh this is so sweet…. i have been into the storms for about 5 years.

    so what´s next Neuro subjects? you think such is on the board next?



    @ lol

    we will be handled and put in space lol….

    that freaking LUX or LUXOR

  5. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:37 pm

    i can´t tell you in full HOW SICK AND TIRED I AM OF THAT TONE….

    lol…. you wanna be superman then look at him today in mechanical wheels… what you think he thinks of Superman i mean, in some longer and longer lasting waves? to walk maybe hehehehe

    you don´t have to read books anymore but also never get the chooice anymore mungro think about that. is that freedom?

    I c BS from here to Andromeda

    I say sissy wankers YOU AIN´T GONNA SLIDE THAT EASY AWAY G



    try that out for real and you c…

    it moves into meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    so you cryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!

    lalalalalalaaaaaaaaaaaa la

    let me burn you down burn burn you down. buurn you down…..

    think you know th song meistro.

  6. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:40 pm

    i will resist the bombs from BILDENBERG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    cuz i have the cloud maker of EDEN inside my doors.

    blood in blood out….. “PHEW”


  7. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:42 pm

    we can romantiseize copy emotions to disks, yet? we can never escape ourselves… cuz we run from all the things we need. right?


    noob knowledge.

  8. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I know.

    nice weekend.

    CHILL it out.

  9. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:45 pm

    I liked and loved RAW only cuz he walked with… the true and friendly gathering of mother earth.. he had done it anyways and anyhow…

    what a elk.

  10. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:48 pm

    i know i am Jan… all else i “can´t hear”

    no matter what cuz it gets close… that miror/mirror.

    lalalalalal lalalalalal

    i never hear it 🙂

    cuz i am going for barbados and not the office disks…

    or agenda of mine would be at max to keep my garden nice and clean.


  11. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 7:50 pm

    sagi born after 8 months arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh i kill that next one….

  12. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 8:03 pm

    What gives a black hole such destructing force?

    🙂 is it the prison of not jah, jar but arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! robert actually says fuck it fuck it.

    that cat, i knew while i read that yes technic book i understood the man, ofc i didn´t saw myself as what can i say in light to understand it but hehe human today lol….

    nah we just wanna c a gold nest and subatomic beams of pure wellness lol… ofc all found from within… in the start the universe was black but then “father left his mercy seat and electricity was released to? HEADs of buble buble… boerring game some are having. right down the right corner…

    so what is the title “thoose men have” heheeh just kidding

    Astronomeer/psychics/Numberologist/priest/painter/ or just RAW chaotic of madness…


    yes you were on that team too all by you. yet you felt the vibe.

    hello sunnyboy…

  13. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 8:04 pm


    watch your Glands Gentlemen

  14. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 8:29 pm

    RAW VS CROWLEY no matter what they claim… yet none of them could overwhelm eachother… wanna dance?

    kenetic around and around and around like talking of men LOL


  15. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 8:32 pm

    then moderate me lol…. you allready know it will never help or be so…

  16. Tachyonon 11 Jun 2010 at 8:53 pm

    we are terrorized but not by muslims, come on you still haven´t icy bound that awful Stalin dream, you think some can have that without all have?

    earth and nature have never had problems they only arose with us.

    the silly slackers yet they understood WTF?????????????????????

    who makes such equations.

  17. Tachyonon 12 Jun 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Tachyon is a lumb nut fool so is the universe itself…

    universe in a nut shell hehehehehe

    mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine

    come and get it 🙂


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