The date was July 25, 2003. I was somewhat in denial of the fact
that I was about to sit down with Robert Anton Wilson, philosopher/magician/cantankerous
old codger, and conduct an interview with what felt like no prep at all–just a few notes scrawled into my notebook when I found out that I got the interview two hours
earlier. You see, originally
I was in town only to see a documentary about him entitled Maybe
Logic — which by the way was sharp as a tack — but then I decided to go for the gusto and see if I could
sit down with the man who warped my mind like a K-hole
when I read the Illuminatus! trilogy as a teenager.
The reality of the situation was that I could only stay in town
for three nights, as that was the maximum amount of time the International Youth Hostel of Santa
Cruz would allow me to sleep there. If I wanted to stay longer, I'd be forced to pay inflated summer rates for a motel
room or kick it with the hobos and homeless on the streets for
a couple of nights. Or worse, I might have
to head back east with nothing but the impression that Santa
Cruz was a strange, strange place.
The closer I got to RAW's apartment the more it dawned on me that
I was late, unprepared, and not sure if the tape recorder I just
bought at Radio Shack would pick up any of our conversation.
That's just how life is sometimes.
For those who don't know who RAW was, or seemed to be, perhaps the simplest way to put it is that the man was an icon for being an iconoclast. Throughout his forty some
odd years writing biting social commentary with a sly psychedelic
wit, he used the language of a street comedian rather than
a pundit on a soapbox. Reading his books gives you the feeling that
he has turned on the lights and discovered that ostentatious
intellectuals have been unknowingly fondling an elephant with
maladroit hands. He assessed the bullshit, or er, elephant
shit, and wisely stepped aside and acted as a fair warning system
to those of us venturing into the less illuminated parts of our
minds. If there is one phrase that echoes in those darkened
halls it must be, "Think for yourself."
I was nervous. It was trepidation mixed with a strong feeling
of joy that allowed me to make it up the three flights of stairs
to RAW's apartment door without being winded. To me, Bob seemed a
master raconteur, at ease winding yarns around
his audience's mind until you laugh yourself out of the skull
cap he just knit for you with his story.
Propaganda Anonymous: I'm sitting here talking with Mr. Robert Anton
Wilson. I originally came out here to see the world premiere
of his documentary entitled, Maybe Logic, premiering
on July 23rd, 2003.
Mr. Wilson, July 23rd, 2003 seemed like a special date on more
than one instance for that night.
Robert Anton Wilson: Well, it was Monica Lewinsky's 30th birthday. I
only blew the minds of a few people. She blew the minds of the
whole country….or she blew something.
Prop: And along with Monica Lewinsky's 30th birthday, it
was also a day that was named after you, for the city of Santa
Cruz, by the Mayor.
Wilson: Yeah, a friend of mine in Massachusetts is trying to
make it a national celebration among my fans, which would
be called Maybe Day. He asked me to suggest rituals. I
wrote back in e-mail just before you arrived. I
suggested he should invite Christians, Jews, and Moslems,
and have chanting of "Jesus is the only Son of God, maybe" "Hear
O Israel, the Lord thy God is one, maybe" and "There's no God
but Allah, maybe, and maybe Mohammed is his prophet." I think
this will do a great deal to restore sanity to this planet.
It depends if Jews and Moslems show up for this celebration.
Maybe it'll do their heads a lot of good.
Prop: And also on that day, as mentioned in Maybe Logic,
was the 30-year anniversary of when you first received communications
from what seemed to be an extra-terrestrial-higher intelligence.
Has there ever been any recurrences, small flashbacks, if you
will, since those 30 years past?
Wilson: Oh… um, it never really stopped. But my metaphor
for it changes. Now I prefer to regard it as an increase
in intuition and psychic abilities, rather than a separate entity
guiding me. But the experience takes different forms. Sometimes
I forget about it for weeks on end. I prefer to think of
it as a white rabbit from County Kerry, because there is no
chance anybody will take that literally, including me.
Prop: You were involved in a protest in September 2002 concerning
the issue of medical marijuana. What exactly has the federal
government impinged upon in crossing the rights of citizens in
California, concerning that issue?
Wilson: Well, the government kills people. Take Peter McWilliams,
the best-selling author. [And I'm not a best-selling author;
I'm a cult author. I have a small but passionate following.
It'd be nice to write a bestseller. I admire people who
have that skill. I wish I had it.] He was a best-selling
author, and one of the leading gay rights advocates. And
he had AIDS and Cancer. They took away his marijuana,
which controlled his nausea, and a few weeks later he choked
on his own vomit, and died.
Now, of course, there are thousands of people in pain all over
the country, because the government won't let them have medical
And then there was a case in Virginia. It was on 60 minutes.
On CBS news! Goddamnit. The truth even gets into the corporate
This doctor had his license suspended for three years
for giving an unnamed drug, they wouldn't name it –I
think it was heroin, but I'm guessing — to a patient who had
some condition I never heard of, it's very rare. This guy
was in horrible pain, all over his body, 24 hours a day. The
only relief he got was from this unknown drug this doctor gave
him. So the doctor's license was suspended, and this guy
committed suicide. He made a video of himself, shooting himself
in the head, denouncing the United States government. They showed
that on CBS.
The only possible rationale that can justify the behavior of the
federal government and the Tsarist bureaucracy, would be that,
no sick person in the country, nor their doctor and none of
their family in consultation, none of us, can judge what's best
for the patient. Only the Tsar knows what's best for the
patient. The only way this makes any sense is if we assume the
doctrine called Mystical Tsarism, which arose in the 19th century
in Russia as a defense against European rationalism.
Mystical Tsarism held that the Tsar is directly guided by God, and
therefore no one can understand his decision except him and God.
That's the same rationale as our government today — the Tsar
must be directed by God; how else could he know what medicine
is best for every patient? He must be guided by God, so they
revived mystical Tsarism, and incorporated it into
the Constitutional democracy we once had in this country…
and they're killing people, and they're hurting people
all the time, and they're doing this for reasons nobody
knows. Either they're mentally stark staring batshit crazy, and
they really do believe that some "god" is gonna to
run the whole system for us, or else they are so superstitious
and stupid that they should really be put in remedial reading
classes and start over in Kindergarten or something like that.
Or they're in conspiracy with the large pharmaceutical companies
to keep people from getting cheap effective medicine and
force the sick people to use the expensive and rather ineffective
medicine that the big drug companies keep pushing at us. "Let
them eat Celebrex."
Prop: I read in a previous interview that you considered yourself
an Anarchist earlier in your career.
Wilson: At one point I was calling myself an Anarchist, an Atheist,
and a Witch. Then when I reached my 40's I softened that. I
started to describe myself as a libertarian, a pantheist, and
a neopagan. And since then I moved on to a decentralist, a pragmatist, and
a proponent of maybe logic…. I got the idea from T.S. Eliot.
T.S. Eliot was the most popular poet of the 1920s, and suddenly
in the 1930s he announced he was a monarchist in politics, a
classicist in literature, and an Anglo-Catholic in religion.
It horrified most of his previous admirers, and it brought
him a whole new bunch of admirers from the other side
of the literary world.
Then Dylan Thomas declared himself an Anarchist in literature,
a Drunkard by religion, and a Welshman in politics.
Prop: Was he drunk when he said that?
Wilson: Well he usually was. He died of drink. Damn fool. People
who die of drink are all damn fools….In my judgment, I don't
mean they "are" damn fools. I mean, I judge them to
be damn fools, from my estimation, in my reality-tunnel.
Some of the people I admire most died of alcoholism. Malaclypse
the Younger, the founder of the Discordian Society, W.C. Fields,
William Faulkner, Hemingway….
Hemingway shot himself, because, as he told a friend "I can't
hunt, I can't write, and I can't even fuck. What's the
use of going on?" That was all because he put
too much booze into his body, ruined his liver and his brain.
Prop: He did LSD. Hemingway.
Wilson: Really? I never heard about that.
Prop: Well, I wouldn't call myself an expert researcher in
Hemingway, but I heard that he had done LSD once. I was
hoping you might verify that.
Wilson: Nah. Maybe he didn't have the right set and setting.
There's nothing magical in LSD by itself. You gotta have LSD
plus the right set and the right setting for really dramatic
why I got interested in Crowley. I was reading Magick
in Theory and Practice, trying to figure out what
the hell it's all about. Trying to make sense of his medieval
ravings and rantings. Then it suddenly struck me. This was the
best way to program an LSD trip. Do a Crowley ritual –
work it up, all the steps, then keep careful records afterwards.
Do the rituals, keep notes, keep notes for at least a year, then
see the results you're getting, and see if you need to change
the path and try a different set of rituals.
This is a science! This is as empirical as biology. This as
practical as…..(laughing) no, no, erase that. This is empirical
as the Stock Market anyway. You see, you try to see what
works for you, you know.
I prefer Las Vegas to the Stock Market, but I never go to Las Vegas,
and I never invest in Stocks. I am not inclined to gamble, though
I think I'd have better luck in Las Vegas. Everybody I
know who has tried to beat the Wall Street professionals has
ended up losing their investment. They come around telling me
how much money they made, and what a damn fool I am for not trading
on the computer all day. Then I see them a year later, and they're
flat on their ass broke, telling me they lost it all.
Just like Las Vegas. The more you win, the more you bet. The
more you bet, the more certain you're going to lose it all eventually.
Everything keeps doubling.
Like Baldy Bacon in Pound's Canto XII:
Also ran up
40,000 bones on his own
Once, but wanted
to "eat up the whole'r Wall Street"
it all three weeks later
40 thousand was a lot back then when Pound wrote that. In my
parent's first house they rented, the rent was 48 dollars a month.
Most of my money goes to my rent. I just like living here.
I love the view. I love the Buddha out on the balcony. I
like to sit out on the balcony, look at the Buddha, and think
of the sea.
Then those damn idiots next door put up an American Flag. I
gotta think about that now too. I can't just think of the Buddha
and the ocean…. All these domesticated primates who used to
charge into battle, waving the king's umbilical cord; then they
discovered the umbilical cord wore out, so they used a colored
piece of cloth, then they started putting designs on the colored
pieces of cloth, now they've got them hanging out their
windows to keep the terrorists away…or something. …. It's
more likely to attract the attention of the terrorists. If
I had to travel [thank god I don't] I would've learned
to do a good Irish dialect. I can't do an English accent
no matter how hard I try. I can almost barely do an Irish
one, at least if I'm not in Ireland. I wouldn't
want anybody to know I'm an American.
I'm sort of a half-time Harry Browne fan. You
know him? He's the Libertarian candidate for president last term.
He has a weekly column he sends out on e-mails. Well, I agree
with him on half and disagree with him on half. Like most libertarians,
we never agree with one another totally. The greatest
thing he ever wrote was in a recent e-mail, "America fears most
of the world and most of the world fears America." Everybody's
afraid of America, with good cause. In America you're afraid
of everybody else, with good cause. I get more reactionary all
the time. Jefferson and Adams and Washington, Madison, that whole
group seems so much smarter than the people who are running
the government today. Back in the 18th century we had people
smarter than me. Now we've got Bozo. See: every rebel becomes
Prop: In the Foreword of Quantum Psychology, you write about a
handful of philosophies. Two of which are Operationalism and
Existentialism. As an example, in academia, someone who is heavily
into Existentialism won't really think about looking at phenomena
in Operational terms. Could you explain?
Wilson: Oh, yeah. The point is that Operationalism and Existentialism
have more in common than they realize. The only reason they don't
realize how much they have in common is because of this goddamn psychological
warfare going on between the Humanities department and the Science
department. If they would stop waving their dicks around yelling "Mine
is bigger than yours" and sit down and talk, essentially they'll
realize existentialism and operationalism are basically the same
method applied to two different areas.
Operationalism is your experience with instruments. Existentialism
is your experience without instruments. They're both dealing
with your experience; they're throwing out all the traditional
abstractions of the Western mind. They have more in common than
Prop: In the documentary, Maybe Logic, the subject of
Giordono Bruno came up, and how in his time mysticism and science
were studied in conjunction, both at the opposite end of the
spectrum as religion. It seemed as if Quantum Psychology might
be doing that as well. Do you feel that Quantum Psychology put
mysticism and science on the same playing field?
Wilson: Yeah, I guess I was trying to do that. I did that in
several of my books. I think. Yeah, Bruno is a really key figure.
Frances Yates, who wrote a couple of books, Giordono Bruno
Hermetic Tradition and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment,
made a pretty good argument that Bruno and John Dee and Johann
Kepler and a few others were all in communication with one another
and were plotting this scientific mystical overthrow of
the Theological systems in Europe.
This became the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, and later became Freemasonry.
It's a very plausible theory. And whether it's true or not, it
is certainly true that Bruno was burned on 18 counts, not just
for teaching Copernican astronomy, but also for practicing cabalistic
magic and teaching a mystical system of improving your memory.
And, oh yeah, planning secret societies to plot against the Vatican.
With him there was no difference between science and mysticism.
They were both ways to find out what's going on, and both of
them were in opposition to the bureaucrats of the Catholic Church
who had their own dogma, and who insisted that you agree with
them or keep your mouth shut. Even if you keep your mouth shut,
you might be accused of sick salacious thoughts if they found
the wrong books in your house.
Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600. And 1766 or 1765, there
was a guy who was beheaded in France for having Voltaire's books
in his house. And he was also suspected of throwing shit on the
altar of the local church, but they couldn't prove that. All
they could prove was that he had Voltaire's books.
Prop: Speaking of shit, could you talk about this in relation
to the 2nd circuit?
Wilson: Well, when you take your dog for a walk, your dog pees
in not one place but several places. The dog is marking her territory.
There's lots of evidence in the last 30 years by animal researchers
that human beings, like other animals, have territories. Just
walk around and see all the "no trespassing" signs around
your area of the country.
Humans are very territorial animals. That's why Timothy Leary
said, "The only intelligent way to discuss politics is
on all fours." Politics is all about territorial squabbles. Who's
in charge around this habitat? Who is the alpha-male or female?
Elephants are the only mammals I know that have Alpha females,
but most insects do.
With most mammals it's the Alpha males who are in charge. And
who's the Alpha Male? Who gives the orders? Another question
is could we hold this territory? Or would it be better
and expand it and knock off the next tribe and take their territory
And this is an Evolutionary Relative Success. Except that as technology
advances it's getting more and more dangerous for all
of us. So I believe the higher circuits should be evoked now
at this point in history because it's becoming, as Bucky Fuller
used to say, Omni-lethal. I don't know how many more world wars
we can tolerate. There's going to become a point where we're
going to wipe the human race out if we don't stop war before
So we got to learn to do something else with the territorial
squabbling. Well, we can squabble over ideological territories.
Let's make a deal we're not going to shoot each other over this,
we're going have a place like the UN, where everybody can
say "We have the best political system in the world, and the
rest of you guys suck. You don't know shit about politics." Just
so long as they're not shooting one another.
A lot of people get off on that, like New York intellectuals.
They spend all their time insulting one another. This
is known as witty conversation. …What it comes down
to is who can dominate the territory with the best verbalisms.
New York intellectuals are the most backward people in the country,
outside of Congress, so if they can learn it, then I think Congress
and diplomats at the UN can learn it. Just sit and argue and
insult each other. And if they learn to use Maybe Logic — that
might take 100 years or so — they might even make more progress.
Instead of just arguing they might even come to some agreements.
As long as they just agree to stop shooting at everybody. The
rest of us are just innocent bystanders — Don't shoot at us.
Prop: It seems that this level of communication is prevalent in
much of our culture.
Wilson: I detest the cruelty of most literary criticism. And this
is not, believe it or not, a personal vendetta. I have gotten,
I would say, about 90 good reviews for every 10 bad ones. Probably
even better than that. I got a lot of rave reviews on all my
books and advertisements and so on. And some of them from prestigious
places like New Scientist even.
So I'm not complaining for myself. When I read these bitchy, male
and females intellectuals, and the males are bitchier than the females….when
I read them denouncing one another, in such nasty terms
it reminds me of a bunch of nasty kids in the schoolyard. I
think, jeez, I gave that up when I was about 12 years old. What's
the matter with these people who are still doing it?
I kind of like Norman Mailer for punching Gore Vidal. At least
Mailer brought it down to the level where he made it visible
where it all comes from. It's all macho aggression. I think they
should punch one another more often, and spend less time being
Prop: You've listed Mailer as an influence on your writing
style, in his long sentences — which are phenomenal, the way
that he does it and the way you do it, as well..
Wilson: Well, both Mailer and I learned a lot from Faulkner,
and Faulkner learned a lot from Joseph Conrad, so let's give
everybody credit… I'm not putting Norman down. Norman
learned a lot from Faulkner, I learned a lot from both
Faulkner and Norman Mailer. I then, very late in life, discovered
Joseph Conrad, who was doing that type of word experiments with
long sentences back around the end of the last century, early
Joseph Conrad was born speaking Polish, he learned English very
late in life. He wrote all his novels in English. And They're
so beautifully written you can't believe this guy was using English
as a second language. And he was. So was Arthur Koestler, come
to think of it. He's not as great a writer as Conrad, but still
Arthur Koestler was damned eloquent.
It amazes me. I know bits and dabs of several languages. I never
learned any of them well enough to carry on an intelligent conversation,
much less write a goddamned book in it. People who can do that,
they really leave me flabbergasted. Like people who can play
the Apassionata on the piano. I think that they must have some
gene, I don't even have a cousin of that gene. I have an ear
to listen to it, but I can't envision myself actually
being able to perform it.
Prop: Speaking of writing, in the Illuminatus trilogy you
once described that novel as a journey from paranoia to
metanoia, where you first believe everything is connected but
it's in a bad way. And at the end of the book, you believe
that everything is connected, but it's joyous, like Beethoven's
I, for one, after reading that book as a teenager..I kind of
felt that journey from somewhat paranoia to metanoia. But it was
hypnotizing — the prose. And I came across one of your interviews
on the Internet, where you had once said that you meant for that
to happen. You wrote the book for that particular purpose, to
kind of hypnotize. I know that most writers try to do that, but
it seemed that the blueprint you set out to do was very successful.
Wilson: Yeah, I feel pretty happy with the results. There was
a woman in North Carolina who wrote for a science fiction fan
zine, who kept criticizing me on the grounds that Illuminatus! drove
several of her friends to commit suicide. She claimed that it
was not a journey from paranoia to metanoia, but that it was a
journey into further paranoia and absolute insanity. I never did
figure out what to say about that. Except that somebody had committed
a bunch of murders after reading Thomas Wolfe's, The Web
and the Rock.
His name was Harold Unrah. He lived in New Jersey. He
was reading The Web and the Rock , and he came out with
a gun and shot everybody he met on the street until the police
got him. He was the first of the modern spree killers,
as they call it. As distinguished from serial killers who pace
themselves between victims, thinking they are going to get away,
the spree killers are going to kill as many as they can, knowing
they are going to get killed themselves. You can't do a spree
killing and expect to walk away from it.
So, even if I did have a bad affect on some of them, it's not
my fault, any more than it was Thomas Wolfe's fault. And
besides, most serial killers when asked to name their favorite
book, all say the Book of Revelations. Not all of them, but that's
the most popular book with serial killers. You can see why. You
read that stuff… Just try getting stoned and reading the Book
of Revelations. You'll have the most paranoid delusions and
hallucinations. No. Don't try it out. Don't try it out
until you are over 60; otherwise you might really flip out
entirely. It's not in the Lutheran Bible, you know. Martin
Luther considered it dangerous lunacy, or something like that;
he cut it out of the Holy Scripture. He thought the Church in
Rome wrote it to drive the suckers crazy…. In spite of
that woman in Carolina, I do think Illuminatus! has
helped most of its readers. I get so much positive feedback,
…….of course those that did commit suicide have no time to
write back and ask why you drove us to suicide. Let's hope they're
really very few and far between. Let's hope she really
just had a grudge against me, and made it all up. Let's hope….
Prop: Timothy Leary was in jail with Charles Manson, or so he
wrote in a few of his books; and their cells were actually
adjoining, only a wall between them. Do you know of his impressions
of Charles Manson?
Wilson: I don't know if this is one of his books, but he told
me that, "Charlie was the shortest guy in the prison." He
wasn't a midget, but he was 5'2 or 5 foot or something,
very short. At some point in his career — he was in and out
of prison all his life, you know, — at some point in his career
he realized, that the only way he could survive with that much
disadvantage in lethal combat was to make everybody think you're
so damn crazy they wouldn't want to mess with you. You had to
be so crazy, you were terrifying. So Manson developed
that talent to an extraordinary degree.
I was staying at a really nice hotel in Los Angeles a few years
ago. I was a guest speaker at a Neuro-Linguistic
Programming workshop. I invited Paul Krassner and his wife
over and have lunch on me, in my room. Room service at my expense.
And, oh wow man. Putting on the dog. Paul used to pay me
$15 an article when the Realist was first started.
And, anyway, Paul told me that hotel was strange cause Charlie
Manson worked as a pimp in the lobby for a couple of years
in between his various prison terms. It made the whole
hotel seem darker and more sinister. And the hotel was
supposedly haunted by the ghost of Clifton Webb.
Prop: Did you ever harbor any thoughts about maybe becoming an
Wilson: No, but I've often thought I became an actor without
intending to. All my life I've had this fantasy of directing
a movie. The fantasy is stronger now than it used to be.
I never thought of myself as an actor until I saw a video of
a stand-up comedy act I did at a nightclub in San Francisco.
And I thought, "Hey, I'm an actor." Every comedian is an actor
in a sense. That's a role I put on to keep the audience laughing.
So I'm being an actor without even working at it. I don't know
if I can do another role.
Like Woody Allen: he's one of the most innovative people around
as a director and as a writer, but as an actor, he's afraid
to play any role except for the role he played the first time
out, but it was a success. Why is he so afraid to experiment
as an actor? When he's so experimental as a writer and director?
I don't know.
The only role I play is Robert Anton Wilson, the comic philosopher.
Prop: You once said that the law is based on precedents and the
past. With technology rapidly increasing, there seems to be no
real map for the territory that is coming upon us. If there
is going to be some kind of change, socially, how do you
think it is going to occur?
Wilson: I don't know how change is going to occur. In a
rational world there would be enough politicians on this planet,
in each country, that, two or three of them would eventually
stumble upon the World Game Center in Philadelphia, founded
by Buckminster Fuller, and they would study it intelligently,
or assign a team to study it intelligently, and they would take
out a few suggestions that seems useful to them. If this happened
often enough, the world would keep changing in a way that would
be satisfactory to everybody on the planet and hurt nobody.
Somehow or other we are going to stagger blindly until we reach
that point. I just feel that…. Just yesterday, my son
sent me a clipping from Space News about life that lives in
rocks and eats rocks. I've often used that as an argument against
Vegetarians, "If you don't want to kill anything, then eat rocks," but
there are organisms that eat rocks it seems. I heard on t.v.,
about two years ago, on the science channel, they found life
in the volcanic ash in the ocean in Krakatoa which is not based
on DNA, it is entirely different form of life, which apparently
arose after the eruption of Krakatoa.
As for the DNA form of life, it has gotten to the top of the
Himalyas, it has gotten to the South Pole, it's all over the
tropics, it's swarming, it takes so many forms. One day
I saw, on the sidewalk in Chicago, a leave of grass poking up
between a crack in the concrete. And, I had acid the night before,
so I was especially sensitive. That leaf of grass suddenly said
to me, "Life is Unconquerable." We always find a way.
And I just feel, somehow or other, life finds a way. I'll
quote Bucky Fuller one more time, "People always do the most
intelligent thing, after they've tried every stupid alternatives
and none of them have worked." That's the cause of my optimism.
Nothing will work except an intelligent program. So eventually,
somehow or other, even people like George Bush — not George
even George Bush — might eventually, if they appoint him to
a second term, or if he wins an election fairly, and has
a second term, even George Bush might — by 2008 — he may be
forced to have an original thought. Some of his closest advisors
may force him to consider an original thought. I mean, it could
In Ezra Pound's Cantos, Canto 85 or 86, somewhere around there,
Pound has the line: "Ike driven to the edge almost of a thought"
If Eisenhower was driven almost to the edge of a thought, maybe
George Bush can be driven there too.
Now this whole thing about being ruled by precedents, I don't
agree. Many flaws in this country come from the fact that we've
got more lawyers in Congress than any other professional group.
We'd be better with a Congress mostly of dentists. All these
dentists read the latest dentistry. They're up to date in at
least one science. I think the whole damn Congress should
be made up entirely of engineers and researchers. But I don't
expect anybody to accept that idea very soon.
We have a government run almost entirely by lawyers. What do
lawyers do? They look up precedent. That means the government
is always governed by the past, never by the present, much less
the possibilities of the future. They're always looking backwards.
A government made up of lawyers is by definition reactionary.
Looking backwards, all the time looking backwards. So I think
we should shoot a couple hundred lawyers every year. Whittle
off the population of lawyers, so that Congress will have to
recruit from other areas or professions.
A couple of astronauts have gotten into Congress. They'll have
to recruit a couple of physicists, a couple of engineers, a
couple of economists who know something….. there are a few
economists who actually know something…. a biologist
or two might be very useful. But as long as we're governed by
Every July 4th I invite a bunch of friends over and show them
1776. This time, I dug out my edition of the Letters and Writings
of John Adams and John Quincy Adams to read them a few selections.
Towards the end of their correspondence, just before they died,
John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, "The problem, as I see
it, is how to prevent freedom from allowing intelligence and
ambition to accumulate great wealth. And how to keep great wealth
from corrupting Congress." Nobody has solved that. Great wealth
has corrupted the Congress since about the 1890s. It's corrupted
the whole goddamned government by now.
Prop: What was it about the 1890's that caused the change?
Wilson: I think it was the 1890s with the Spanish/American War.
It was the beginning of the American Empire. And also it was
in the 1890s that the Supreme Court ruled a rebuttal in the
jury nullification case. The jury did have the right to nullify,
but the judge had the right to prevent the jury from knowing
that they could nullify. The judge had the right to lie to the
jury if he wanted to. And the judge could even prevent the defense
counsel from telling them they could nullify.
This was in the case involving somebody whom committed the heinous
crime of forming a labor union, which was illegal in those days.
You know, most people don't realize where jury nullification
comes from. That's how they started modifying it, by saying the
judge could hide it from the jury that they had the right to
nullify, it was over labor unions.
The biggest case in this country was the Peter Zenger case.
30 Years before the American Revolution Zenger committed the
crime of criticizing the government. It was a crime then. And
the jury nullified the law, and let him go. And in England in
1692, William Penn committed the unspeakable atrocious blasphemous
obscene crime of preaching a religion not that of the Anglican
Church, which was then against the law in England. The ancestors
of our Protestant Fundamentalists in this country were called
dissidents then. The Anglicans didn't want any of the dissidents
or the Roman Catholics preaching in public. William Penn disobeyed
that law, and the jury nullified. That's where religious freedom
starts in the modern world.
Jury nullification has done so much good. And it's getting more
and more on television, on all legal shows. The more and more
they keep bringing the topic up. The more people who know about
it the better, because if you don't know about it going into
court, you're not going to find out about it when you're
Prop: On your website you have a links page, and one of the links
was for a site called The Molecular Biology of Paradise. That
site definitely goes into the realm of neuroscience and biotechnology. Do
you know any good introductions, besides your books, for people
who want to learn about themselves in the molecular sense?
Wilson: Well, I'm no expert in that field, but the best book
I can think of to get an overview of, say, understanding
how the basic principles of the so called "mind" and the
so called "body" interrelate is Ernest Lawerence Rossi's Psychobiology
of Mind-Body Healing. He doesn't go into the chemistry, but
he goes into the names of the chemicals anyway, and neuropeptides
and so on.
Peptides are fascinating. They're just like particles in
quantum mechanics, which act like waves part of the time. Peptides
act like neurotransmitters part of the time, and like hormones
part of the time. That's why they affect both the so-called "mind" and
the so-called "body." Yeah, Rossi's book and the references
in that book make a very good place to start.
Prop: Cool. In your book The New Inquisition, you considered
matter as a metaphor. If you could just kind of elaborate on
that, that would be great.
Wilson: Well in the first place, as Alfred North Whitehead pointed
out — Alfred North Fucking Whitehead, one of our most prestigious
philosophers in the last century, and a great mathematician
too — he pointed out that you couldn't give anybody a piece
of matter. Just like you can't give them a piece of time or
a piece of space. All you can give them is a piece of matter
on a certain time at a certain space. So space-time-matter can't
be split up into parts.
Korzybski incorporated that into Science and Sanity .
Obviously, you can't leave mind out either, because how
do you know the space-time-matter are there at all unless there
is a mind to observe them. So space-time-matter and mind
make up the four parts of any transaction. So where does that
Prop: It's good for me.
Wilson: Oh, yeah also, I object to Fundamentalist Materialism.
Although, in some ways I lean very closely to what I'd call a
liberal materialism as a working hypothesis that's safe
most of the time. As long as you're not directed into a
goddamn dogma or an idol. The Fundamentalist Materialists
is what I call these people, this mindset, that takes the materialist model
and revere it as passionately as a religious conviction. Like
some these goddamn Darwinians I see on television. To
me, they're as embarrassing as the Fundamentalist Christians
they're arguing with. All these Fundamentalist Christians are
yelling, "God created the world in six days." All the Fundamentalist
Materialists as yelling back, "Evolution is not a theory,
it's a proven fact." Well, it's not a proven fact. It's
a hypothesis. It's a very plausible hypothesis, seems
to me the most plausible hypothesis. But you can't confuse
it with a fact. In the first place it can't be tested
in the laboratory, so it can't be refuted.
According to Karl Popper, any theory that can't be refuted is
not part of science. I think evolution did occur. I mean I "believe" in
it. But, jesus, some of these people are so fanatical about
it they sound just like the Christians. It's like the
same guy arguing with his own reflection in the mirror. Or her
I coined the term spokesentities, because I was in a
restaurant in Boulder, and they gave me a card, to evaluate
the food, the service, this that and the other, and they asked
me to evaluate the waitperson. And it asks for comments.
So I wrote in the comments, I wrote, "Waitperson stinks
of human chauvinism. Change it to waitentity at once!" And I
signed it "animal
And then I started using that, then, and my wife, Arlen,
changed it to waitcritter.. Waitcritter, Congresscritter;
clergycritter… I wouldn't want a clergy-critter getting
into my house. And it changes the whole abortion debate.
Now all they can argue about is what point after
the penetration of the ovum by the sperm does the resultant
become a critter? And when does it attain critterhood?
Prop: Your comment about the suggestion that you left for the
restaurant in Bolder reminded me of a character in a few of
called Markoff Chaney. And the way he messed around with the
signs of stores, in his little Anarchist sprees. How did you
come up with that character?
Wilson: Well, believe it or not, the first sign that appeared
in the Illuminatus! is the sign that Simon Moon sees
in a second-hand clothing store. Not second hand, a bargain,
wait, I don't know what the hell kind of clothing…anyway
a cheap clothing store in North Clark Street, Chicago. And the
sign said, "No employee may punch the time clock of any other
employee. Any deviation will result in termination. The
And I really saw that sign. And I liked the line, "Any deviation
can result in termination" Made me think, you can make
a song out of that. "I got the any deviation can result
in termination blues….Baaa-By" And, somehow the midget
began to appear more and more real in my imagination. Then
he got the name Markoff Chaney, because for years I have been
fascinated by Claude Shannon's mathematical theory of
communication, and the mathematical function called the Markoff
Chain, which played a very crucial role in his equations. So
somehow Markoff Chain became Markoff Chaney, and I started thinking
of Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney Jr., so Markoff Chaney emerged
out of my memories of Lon Chaney, Lon Chaney Jr., and the
Prop: I heard in a previous interview of yours called "In Defense of
Anarchism," in which you spoke of how Cybernetics will be the
technology, when applied to Industry, that will bring about the
ideas that Anarchists cherish.
Wilson: Most people think Anarchism means throwing bombs at people
you don't like. That's one school of European Anarchism.
There are a dozen other types of Anarchist thought. And,
it seems to me, the most intelligent type of Anarchism is based
upon the idea that Control and Communication should be decentralized
as much as possible.
So imagine my excitement when I read the first book on
Cybernetics by Norbert Weiner, a mathematician at MIT.
It was called Cybernetics: Control and Communication in
the Animal and the Machine. And the whole book adds up
to: the more control and communication are decentralized,
the more intelligent the thing will behave whether it's
a machine, an animal, a herd of animals or a society of
I regard that as the mathematical proof of Anarchist Theory.
I see us heading there more and more, in spite of the
fact that we seem to be going more and more towards fascism
as a system, as a state. I think as a society, the Internet
is pushing us more and more towards Anarchy with control and communication
getting more and more decentralized. When Internet covers
the whole planet, and everybody is in not in six-degrees of
separation, but is one degree separated from everybody
else on this planet by cyberspace, I think then we will begin
to act intelligently as a species, but as long as we got these
damn hierarchies where communication comes from the top-down,
never goes up again, we're going to continue to act like the
Frankenstein monster, staggering around killing people by
You know the nicest thing my wife ever said to me?
Wilson: "If all men were like you, there would be no need
for Feminism." Every time I think of that, I feel
such a warm glow. She knew me pretty well. She had to,
after 42 years.
Prop: That's quite a complement.
Wilson: The greatest complement I've ever received.
Prop: Well what are your views on Feminism these days?
Wilson: Well, there was a point where the most widely publicized
of the feminists was the nut fringe, and they were talking about
men the way Hitler talked about Jews. I was not at all reticent
or shy about expressing that opinion, and continually pointing
out the similarity there.
They're still around, but they're not as influential as
they used to be. I've always supported Feminism, except for
what the mass media projected in the 60s, 70s.
My wife was a feminist, her mother was a feminist, her
grandmother was a feminist, we raised our daughters
to be feminists. I am a feminist, as far as anybody with
a willy can consider himself a feminist. I enthusiastically
support all the goals of Feminism, except for that dingbat
wing who really does want to get rid of men entirely.
They don't bother me anymore, because the world's going
to get rid of me pretty soon anyway, so I don't care.
But I do think men have certain qualities that should be preserved.
In zoos at least.
Prop: You made an album with a punk group back in the 80's…
Wilson: Two punk groups. One in Ireland, one in Germany. The
one in Ireland was called the Golden Horde; the one Germany was
called The Klingons.
Prop: Did you ever listen to them before you recorded with
Wilson: Yeah. I just listened to a CD a week or so ago
that somebody sent me; to write a jacket blurb for, and
I think it was punk rock. I don't know, I don't know all
these… maybe it was trash rock, they have all these
different sub-divisions. I didn't like it much, but I
liked parts of it. I gave them a good review anyway for
their jacket. I know how hard it is for young artists.
It's a hard enough struggle, you help where you can.
Prop: Do you ever listen to Hip-hop?
Wilson: Well, some of it is amusing, but I don't think much
of it as music. But as poetry, some of it is pretty good. I
like the lyrics to some of it. Especially the deliberate irregularity
of the meter, I like that. There is nothing more boring than
Tennyson walking up and down 5 steps this way, 5 steps back,
5 steps this way and 5 steps back. Oh my God, stop it man, do
something different for once.
Prop: Speaking about being unconventional by choice, or
marginalized by a center. Your books, most of your books,
it seems, have been published by a small publisher, New
Falcon. And somewhat outside of the academic and mainstream
publishing. What are your views on the publishing Industry?
Wilson: (small titter…Long silence) That's the longest
pause you've produced so far. Shall I say what I really
think? WHY NOT? I Don't know, I just feel. If I say what
I really think, I feel I'm violating my Buddhist principles.
Well, let me put it this way, at the age of 70, I'm 71
now, I decided I was not submitting anymore of my books to the
major publishers. All my books now go to New Falcon, despite
the fact that the the major publishers give me bigger advances,
they give me more promotion, I can get bigger pay earnings — but
they insist on rewriting my books, and they insist on
five different editors each, each having a hand in it.
"An editor," Gene Fowler said, "is a person who
is convinced the soup doesn't taste right until they've personally
pissed in it."
And I just don't want to go through that again. And I don't
have to. Between what I make from my New York publishers, on
my previous works, and what I make from New Falcon I can
survive. I don't have a family to support anymore. I've
only got to support myself, and pay the rent on this place.
Why should I put up with that crap anymore?
Everything goes to New Falcon, because they print it just the
way I wrote it. If they find a mistake they send me an e-mail
and say this looks like a mistake. And if it is a mistake, I
say, yeah, let's change that. They don't try to
improve my prose. You see I'm a fanatic, I'm an obsessive-compulsive,
about my writing. Everything goes through several drafts, and
I put so much time and attention into it. And to have some person,
whom I consider a bumbling amateur come in with like a butchers
cleaver and start chopping things up to suit their weird tastes.
I can't stand it. I won't put up with it. I don't have to
put up with it, so I won't put up with it. That's a simple
answer without animosity in it, I don't mean any animosity.
If you want to make a lot of money, you gotta learn to
write how the New York publishers want, which means committee
writing. You gotta learn to do it. If you want to be a
writer in Hollywood you gotta learn to work with a committee.
I don't work well with committees. Besides, I spent 20
years of my life working for corporations to support a
large family. A large family by American standards, a
wife, four kids, 9 dogs, I forget how many cats, you know,
and 25 chickens and a pony at one point.
And I had enough of working in a hierarchy. I like my relationship
with New Falcon. I like the books they publish, and that's all
there is to it.
And then there's the lawyers. You know what I
think of lawyers. You heard me on the subject of lawyers already.
Before Everything is Under Control was published, I
spent 3 days on the phone — not 24 hours a day, but 3, 5 hour
phone conferences with their lawyers. And it took me most
of the third day to understand that they were not interested
in winning libel suits. They were interested in preventing
libel suits. Which would mean that everything that can
possibly be construed as lible would have to come out.
For a book about conspiracy theory's it instills kind
of a bland flavor to it. Conspiracy theories don't make
sense unless you mention somebody's name. It's like
John Adams says in 1776, "We're having a revolution, goddamnit.
We got to offend somebody." You can't write a book about
conspiracy theories, published by a New York publisher,
if you are going to offend somebody.
Anyway, I don't mean to complain. I'm making enough money
out of that book that it was worth the time and effort. If
I get my energy up, after finishing my current book I'd like
to do a book on conspiracy theories for New Falcon, in
which I wouldn't have to worry about that.
Prop: What book are you working on right now?
Wilson: The Tale of the Tribe. It's about how Joyce
and Pound anticipated Internet. And it's also about how
Fenollosa's theory's about the Chinese language
influenced Pound and made him a prophet of the Internet.
And how Vico's theory about the Latin language influenced
Joyce and made him a prophet of the Internet. And Marshall
Mcluhan, who knew Pound and read Joyce like a maniac. How
Marshall Mcluhan almost brought it all together.
There's no mystery about the Cantos, they are
the tale of the tribe. And the tribe is the whole globe.
It's even more true in Finnegans Wake. Pound
only covers the high lights from the low points. Joyce tries
to cover goddamn near everything. He has a sense of
infinity that beats Escher.
Prop: Have you read Charles Bukowski? What are your impressions
of Charles Bukowski both as a poet and a writer?
Wilson: No I have not read Charles Bukowski.
Prop: Never came across any of his books?
Wilson: No. I have lived 71 years, in which there are
365 days in each year, and only 24 hours in each day.
My areas of ignorance are absolutely staggering. And I'm
more and more aware of that, because my knowledge of most
of the subjects I've written about is either 5 years or
20 years out of date now. So if I ever did another lecture
tour, I'd have to spend a month before the tour doing
research on-line to try to figure out what is scientific
matter that is still accepted.
Prop: Bukowski seems to have a large influence on younger generations.
Being a writer from LA, and writing a movie called Barfly,
he seems to be, what some people would call the voice of LA.
may have a different opinion than that.
Wilson: Well, when I lived in Dublin, I thought, "This is
great. This is a James Joyce theme park." When I moved to
Los Angeles, I began to feel it was a Raymond Chandler theme
park. I never read Bukowski, but if I read Bukowski I might
of it as a Bukowski theme park. Right now LA is still, in
my head, a Raymond Chandelier theme park. And everything from
Boston to Providence is a George V. Higgins theme park. Have
you ever read any of George V. Higgins?
Wilson: You should.
Prop: What's one of his books?
Wilson: The best one to start with is Outlaws . It's
about revolutionaries, the CIA, cops, lawyers, prosecutors,
and he does them all very well. He, himself, was for 15
years a prosecutor on the staff of the Attorney General
of Massachusetts. Then he spent 15 years as a criminal
defense attorney. He spent 15 years putting them away,
then 15 years trying to keep the state from putting them
away. He knows it from all angles. And he knows a lot
about Massachusetts politics, and New England politics. And
a lot about the Banking Industry. He is not only a very funny
writer, with the greatest ear for dialogue of any American writer
I've ever read, but he's also…he's a better critic of
corporatism than Noam Chomsky. He brings it down to the daily
life level, you know.
Prop: Speaking about a great mind, switch gears to Fuller.
He invented the World Game. Suppose he said that, the
knowledge is the most important thing about our resources,
and that you can starve in a cornfield. If you don't know
how to use the corn.
Wilson: He said that? He certainly said things like that. I
know I've said that. I thought I invented phrasing it that
way, maybe I was quoting Fuller and didn't even realize it.
That happens sometimes.
Every time one of my books came out, my wife would get slightly
indignant on reading and finding phrases of hers in there without
credit. Sometimes I forget where I hear things, you know.
Prop: For myself, just to clarify what Fuller spoke of in terms
of utilizing natural resources, Fuller said both Marxism and
Capitalism was based on the theory of economics put forth by
Malthus. How does Fuller get beyond that viewpoint of economics?
Wilson: Well it's very simple. Malthus assumed — he
was an employee of the British East India Company — he
observed that population was increasing faster than known
resources. So he assumed that there would be perpetual
warfare over the resources, and most of the population
would perish by starvation or other means, because they
weren't smart enough or cunning enough or ruthless enough
to get their share or more than their share. Then Fuller
pointed out that resources do not exist apart from us.
Resources exist when the human mind sees how to use something.
Resources accepted by statisticians and the economists have increased
steadily since the time of Malthus. Resources are increasing
faster than population actually. This fact is hidden from us
by the goddamn banking system, which has inserted a bookkeeping
system into the process, whereby every exchange has a interest charge
on it, whether you know it or not. And most of the profits are
going to the banks, where as they should be going to the whole
population at large, because the credit is not created by
the banks, it is created by everybody who's working.
Even me — even people who are just working at putting
words on paper are creating value. And banks aren't creating
a damn thing. They're just charging usury at every
step of the way.
Fuller agreed a lot with Ezra Pound A lot of people think
Pound was an Anti-Semitic fascist, period, and that
sums up Ezra Pound, but it doesn't. That's one cranky
part of Ezra Pound, part time. There's a lot more to Pound
Prop: Virtual Reality. In one of your interviews that I
read, you mentioned how the possibility for Virtual Reality
to experience non-Euclidean space. Do you recommend any
books on the subject, in terms of becoming more acquainted
with Virtual Reality?
Wilson: The Age of Spiritual Machines,
by Ray Kurzweil
The interview was winding down. Wilson had expressed earlier
that he had company coming over, and he wanted to rest up before
they arrived. I was satisfied with what I had, and was ready,
but not completely willing wrap it up. Bob had worked his magic
yet again. In the course of two hours I'd sat and
listened to a man who has truly attained deep wisdom about life
and all of us circus freaks in it. Many times throughout our
chat, I was convinced that this is the smartest man in
America. His thread of logical discourse was just as adroit
as anything I had heard in any college philosophy course. The
only difference was that this guy was as funny as George Carlin.
I was beginning to think to myself that I was in the presence
I was sitting across from someone like Confucius or Lao Tzu,
when not so suddenly, Bob leans disproportionately on one side
of his couch cushion and performs what Carlin termed
"the one-cheek sneak". I'm not sure if he thought, some other
object in his apartment might have momentarily distracted me,
allowing him to believe that he could let one by without my noticing.
Or whether he just didn't care if I might be offended by this
organic punctuation mark endowed within our bodies by Nature's
God. Either way he seemed slightly bemused when I looked over
at him after his fart.
"Oh, You heard that?" the old man said to me.
Coming from a fart friendly family myself, I tend not to get squeamish
by such expulsions of methane from another's buttcheeks,
occasionally I find it hilarious. Especially, when the
dealer of the contaminated air molecules is able to play it
off with wry dry surprise or feigned innocence. So I was not
offended, it actually sparked a new conversation. He told a
joke about a man farting in a doctor's office, which reminded
me of a book Benjamin Franklin wrote called Fart Proudly. Being that
he just did, Wilson commented that he read the book.
He continued," Mark Twain wrote a book about farting
too, called 1602 or 1600, I forget which date. It was about a
bunch of Elizabethan writers having a meeting and one of them
farts. Then they all start arguing about who let that fart? And
they all describe it in terms of their own vocabulary. Twain
has a great skill at imitating styles. Shakespeare sounds like
Shakespeare. Bacon sounds like Bacon. Raleigh sounds like Raleigh.