RAW Week: Cosmic Trigger helped me get out of Jehovah's Witnesses, by Angus Stocking


Written and first published (on my radio show) shortly after Bob’s death in 2007.

Robert Anton Wilson is dead, again, and I'm not feeling so good myself. Wilson -- or let's call him 'Bob', as he would have preferred -- was first reported dead on February 22nd, 1994. But the reports of his death turned out to be greatly exaggerated: fittingly, Bob had fallen prey to one of the first great Internet hoaxes. However, his second death, on January 11th, 2007, was all too real. Bob died at home, at 4:50 a.m., from complications due to post-polio syndrome.

Bob was, among other things, one of the last great '60s figures. He was a friend and collaborator of Timothy Leary, William Burroughs, and Buckminster Fuller, had a bit part in the JFK assassination, was a founding pope of Discordianism and the Church of the Sub Genius, coauthored the The Illuminatus! trilogy and, in his autobiography Cosmic Trigger, anticipated the sex, drugs and magick movements that started in the '60s and continue to this day. That he was also an editor at Playboy magazine for several years is a characteristic, but minor, footnote to his colorful life.

Bob was first, last and always a writer and his books, for the most part, remain in print. He wrote prolifically for his cult following and is probably best known for the the Illuminatus! trilogy, the book that made the Illuminati a feature of mass consciousness. But those of us who are, you know, in the cult are probably most affected by the first volume of his autobiography, Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati.

In Cosmic Trigger, Bob describes several decades of his experiments in what he called, "self-induced rapid brain change" -- that is, experiments with drugs, Sufism, ritual magick, yoga, meditation, tantra, quantum physics and anything else he could find that undermined that peculiar phantom known as, "the self". The results were intense: Bob experienced psychic flashes, the manifestation of a 6-foot-tall white rabbit and the peyote spirit, Illuminati contacts, guidance from the planet Sirius and all the other features of a well-lived psychedelic life. But he also raised a family, was happily married, made a good living writing, and stayed out of jail, mostly -- in other words, he was at least as sane as you and me. Actually, what am I saying... Bob was considerably saner than me.

Cosmic Trigger arrived in my life with perfect timing; I was negotiating my exit from a fundamentalist Christian cult, and his teachings helped me to do so with flair, not with the moping, clingy reluctance that I often observed in my fellow religious refugees. That I repeated many of the experiments described by Bob must go without saying, or at least without detail, but I will say that I am richer for them.

So thank you Bob, for gracing the world with your wit and wisdom these many years, for so fearlessly living a free life in a rigid society, and for setting an example of humor in the face of oppression that inspired many, and certainly changed my life for the better. Captain Clark welcomes you aboard.




  1. Deadhead, Witness, surveyor, . . . elephant dung mover? That’s a mighty pile of something in that shovel.

  2. I easily give JW’s the slip by mentioning that My grandmother is a Witness and that she passes along all the issues of Awake and The Watchtower that she thinks would interest me. I neglect to mention that my grandmother has been dead for a number of years as she was almost 40 when she had my dad and my dad was 29 when I was born.

    So they look at me in my early forties and think I might have a living grandmother and leave me alone. JW’s have a quota system and they don’t want to cut into my grandmother’s quota. They leave me alone.

    Works the same with the Hare Krishnas. I tell them I got my copy of The Higher Taste at a Krishna feast a few years ago and that some of the recipes are quite awesome. They leave me alone.

    1. I am a JW (in name only, for family’s sake.  I don’t go “door to door”.  I’m really an atheist).  The don’t have a quota system per se.  At least not in a manner that would prevent them talking to you or leaving you publications. In fact, the only thing that “matters” is # of hours in the ministry.

      They just leave you alone because there’s no reason to talk to you more if you’re already talking to someone.

      1. “for family’s sake.”

        That’s how it goes, doesn’t it? I look back at my own religious years as a socially-motivated crime of convenience.

      2. You should read some (more) Robert Anton Wilson books. I think of them as instruments for calibrating my BS detector.

        1. Oh, I don’t have any issues with my BS meter.  I’m completely aware of what’s going on here.  
          (Which isn’t to say I’m happy with the state of affairs, but unlike Angus Stocking, I’m not at the point where I’m willing to abandon contact with my child.)

          In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a better BS meter than RAW did because I understand modern cognitive science and Bayesian reasoning and have access to the internet.  None of which RAW had access to.

          1. Thermopyle, I did lose contact eventually, with my daughter, but on the other hand my son eventually left, at 17, and was glad to have a place to turn to. He moved in with me and got on with life, and that would have been a lot harder without me having gone through the pain of quitting.

    2. You can also just ask them to put you on their ‘do not call list.’ They have one, and it will give you some relief. I wish more people knew about the list, and would ask to be on it. JWs already have a problem with over-saturation in some areas, and this would further raise the JW-to-knockable-door ratio.

  3. That must have been a REAL bad trip at that Dead show, if it turned you into a Jehovah’s Witness. If the government had said that something like THAT would happen if I took LSD, instead of stuff like chromosome damage, schizophrenia, insanity, suicide and shit that didn’t bother me, I never would have touched the stuff.

    1. It was pretty bad! Included naked freeway running, 4-point restraint, etc. More details here: http://www.otherbs.com/2011/06/05/miracles-creating-miracles/

      Scroll down (or read).

  4. There is clearly a lot of ridicule  spinning around the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is of course exactly what they expect it’s been prophesied. Convenient that a systematized culture of insularity, sexual discrimination, legal manipulation, child abuse and isolation, and brainwashing tends to bring that up in people.Presto!–self-fulfilling prophecy, made to order.
    –Danny Haszard *apostate with an attitude*

    1. JW modus operandi. Jehovah’s Witnesses are schooled in ‘finding common ground’,if you like pink elephants they will become experts on pink elephants. That’s the beauty of religion and superstition, it has no limits.Religion is the most profitable legal business because religions can misquote, misrepresent, and use unethical practices without fear of punishment. It’s the absolute best way to scam people I have yet seen

  5. This is great, I also discovered the Illuminatus Trilogy as I was in the process of leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was mind blowing, irreverent and provoking. Basically the perfect catalyst for making one embrace change.

    1. Agreed – I really dove into rapid brain change, and wouldn’t have gone that direction without Bob’s influence. And I am doing far better than many ex-JWs, as far as I can tell.

  6. Thanks all – great to hear from all the ex-JWs. When I quit I ended up changing religions, wives, careers, and states in about a ten-month time period. Stressful, exhilarating. I got lucky in Paonia, Colorado, and was asked to do a radio show. So, I got to have my therapy in public, as it were, and have continued with the blog.

    1. Ah yes, the “clingy reluctance”. Know it all too well. During my exit I think I qualified as being temporarily insane.

      But there is one thing I still give JWs credit for. Where else could you go on a Tuesday night, anywhere in the country, and find a bunch of people reading poorly illustrated books line by line, discussing how the corporation that published the book was selected by a divine spirit 100 years ago to leads gods people into the promised new world.

      I mean, i feel stupid for believing it at one point, but at the same time, I still am impressed that people continue to show up and engage in that stuff…..

      1. Eh, smart people are good at coming up with reasons for believing dumb things. Don’t feel bad, just move on.

  7. Word!  It is nice seeing others who have left the “fold”  ROFL!  I left the “truth” several years ago.  My family is still very active.  They don’t bother me much these days.  If they do, I tell them to fuck off and mind their own biz.  

    My wife (who was never a witness) can’t believe I used to pioneer and go door to door.  I will say that the ministry school did help me with public speaking and did cultivate a my wonderful outgoing personality (LOL).  

    1. Yeah, I got better at speaking, and also sales – going door to door is brutal, effective training.

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