RAW Week: Everything I Need to Know I Learned From RAW, by David Jay Brown

Editor's note: I received so many wonderful essays about Robert Anton Wilson, that I've extended RAW Week for a few more days! -- Mark


Robert Anton Wilson departed from this world on January 11, 2007 at 4:50 am. He will be missed enormously by his many loving friends and devoted fans, and his powerful impact upon the world will continue to catalyze the evolution of the human species for many years to come. Bob was one of the most brilliant and conscious people to ever grace this wayward world, and he was always a man ahead of his time. I predict that his books will be far more popular in years to come than they are today. Future generations will cherish his books with the same reverence that scholars today hold for geniuses like James Joyce and Ezra Pound.

Bob had an uncanny ability to lead his readers, unsuspectingly, into a state of mind where they are playfully tricked into "aha" experiences that cause them to question their most basic assumptions. His books are the literary equivalent of a psychedelic experience and they can be every bit as mind-expanding as a couple a good swigs of Amazonian jungle juice. Many people attribute their initial psychological "awakening" to their reading of his psychoactive books -- myself included. It was Bob's book Cosmic Trigger that not only allowed me to understand the concept of "multiple realities," but also inspired me to become a writer when I was a teenager. It was also where I first discovered many of the fascinating individuals who would later become the subjects of my interview books.

I really owe a lot to Bob. After I completed writing my first book at the age of twenty-six, I approached Bob after a lecture that he gave and asked him if he would be willing to write me a promotional blurb for the back cover of the book. He said, "maybe." and didn't really leave me with the impression that he was too eager to do it. I got the feeling that young writers bugged him all the time for back cover blurbs.

But I had my publisher send him a copy of the book anyway. You can imagine my surprise -- and total radiant delight -- when I discovered that Bob had actually written an eleven page introduction for the book (Brainchild, which was published in 1988). Words simply can not describe what a thrilling experience this was for me! In 1989 I moved to Los Angeles, where Bob and Arlen were living at the time, and I became good friends with them. (I dedicated my book Virus to Bob's wife Arlen.)

I began going to regular weekly gatherings at Bob and Arlen's home where a small group would read and discuss mind-expanding ideas together. We read virtually everything that James Joyce had written, Ezra Pound's The Cantos, each other's writings, and Bob's books. We watched Orson Wells' films and talked about quantum physics and primate politics. I felt like I was living through a powerful historical moment--that future generations will surely fantasize about -- when I got to take part in the Illuminatus! readings and discussions with Bob.

I continued going to weekly gatherings at Bob's home right up until a few weeks before he died. He remained as sharp and witty as ever right up until the end. I saw Bob on average around once a week for seventeen years, during which time he played a huge role in my writing career. He was incredibly supportive of my writing. He wrote letters to cheer me up when I was down and even sent me money when I couldn't afford to pay my rent.

I interviewed Bob for my second book, Mavericks of the Mind, in 1989, and again for my fifth book, Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse, in 2004. Bob helped me to come up with the list of people that I interviewed for Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse and he even came up with some of the questions that I asked in the book. He wrote blurbs for the back covers of my other books as well, and he mentioned me in a few of his books -- which always gave me a thrill. Bob often gave me credit for coming up with the abbreviation of "B.S." for "belief system" in his books, but one of the happiest days in my writing career came a few years ago when Bob actually asked me to write a back cover blurb for his book, TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution. Wow. My book, Mavericks of Medicine is dedicated to Bob.

Bob had an uncanny ability to perceive things that few people notice, and he had an incredible memory. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of many different fields -- ranging from literature and psychology, to quantum physics and neuroscience. He was unusually creative in his use of language, and he had his own unique style of humor. Despite many personal challenges over the years, Bob always maintained a strongly upbeat perspective on life, and -- regardless of the circumstances -- he never failed to make me smile every time I saw him. Everyone who met him agrees; there was something truly magical about Robert Anton Wilson. He is missed by many. Thank the stars that he left behind so much of himself -- thirty-six books -- for us to learn from and enjoy for many, many years to come.

Editor's note: Here are two additional essays by David Jay Brown about RAW: Firing the Cosmic Trigger and Quantum Sociology and Neuropolitics: David Jay Brown Interviews Robert Anton Wilson.




  1. I will never forget reading the Illuminatus Trilogy in the 70’s. It was weird and wonderful. My mind became unstuck. I did not know a book could do that. It was the literary equivalent of LSD.

  2. I have just started reading the Illuminatus! Trilogy. It is nice to come across familiar friends first encountered in Foucault’s Pendulum. Joyce and especially Eco have the edge for me – a lot of tricky stuff on language, memory and linguistic repression, or the psychology of conspiracy theorists, which is useful for understanding group psychology and group think in general. Also Guattari and Deleuze.

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