Author, futurist, and agnostic mystic Robert Anton Wilson died 10 years ago today. Carla and I interviewed him for the first issue of bOING bOING in 1987. In fact, one of the main reasons we started Boing Boing was to have an excuse to interview him.
Here's what I wrote on the 5th anniversary of Bob's death:
“I regard belief as a form of brain damage.”
― Robert Anton Wilson
Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson's death. Bob was a writer of fiction and non-fiction, most notably the Illuminatus! trilogy (co-written with Robert Shea) and the non-fiction memoir Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati. In all, he wrote 35 books, countless articles and essays, and a couple of plays and screenplays.
Bob was an intensely curious, intellectually playful, and profoundly insightful person and his writing and talks influenced my world view more than any other writer. He wrote about conspiracy theories, government nuttiness, the future, Freemasonry, quantum physics, magick, occult and paranormal phenomena, human behavior, mental models, psychedelic drugs, cult psychology, and the nature of reality. He had a knack for giving straightforward explanations of hard-to-grok concepts without stripping them of their power or complexity. Before I read RAW's books, the world was confusing and mysterious. After I read his books, the world became much more confusing and mysterious -- but in a good way! Bob converted me from atheism to agnosticism (which, in his words, means "never regarding any model or map of the universe with total 100% belief or total 100% denial").
One of my favorite things about Wilson was his skepticism towards skeptics. From Wikipedia:
Wilson also criticized scientific types with overly rigid belief systems, equating them with religious fundamentalists in their fanaticism. In a 1988 interview, when asked about his newly-published book The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science, Wilson commented: "I coined the term irrational rationalism because those people claim to be rationalists, but they're governed by such a heavy body of taboos. They're so fearful, and so hostile, and so narrow, and frightened, and uptight and dogmatic... I wrote this book because I got tired satirizing fundamentalist Christianity... I decided to satirize fundamentalist materialism for a change, because the two are equally comical... The materialist fundamentalists are funnier than the Christian fundamentalists, because they think they're rational! ...They're never skeptical about anything except the things they have a prejudice against. None of them ever says anything skeptical about the AMA, or about anything in establishment science or any entrenched dogma. They're only skeptical about new ideas that frighten them. They're actually dogmatically committed to what they were taught when they were in college..."
Philip K. Dick spoke for many RAW readers when he said, "Wilson managed to reverse every mental polarity in me, as if I had been pulled through infinity. I was astonished and delighted."
In 2012, Boing Boing posted a series of remembrances, interviews, videos, and other material about Robert Anton Wilson. Here they are:
Keep the Lasagna Flying, by Paul Krassner
Mindfucking Since 1976, by Gareth Branwyn
A letter from Robert Anton Wilson (1991), by Mark Frauenfelder
The Cosmic Trigger Effect, by Antero Alli
The Gnosis magazine interview, by Jay Kinney
"Hello, fellow tripper," by R.U. Sirius
My Strange Evening with Robert Anton Wilson, By Lewis Shiner
My Weirdest Summer Ever, by Erik Davis
Pope Bob Remembrance, by Rev. Ivan Stang
Wilson and I, by Richard Metzger
Giant mind-map of Discordianism, by Gwendal Uguen
Everything I Need to Know I Learned From RAW, by David Jay Brown
23 Skidoo + 5 -- Robert Anton Wilson Again, by Loren Coleman
"Some of this stuff might be bullshit," by Peter Bebergal
Trickster Santa and the Real Revolution, by Tiffany Lee Brown
RAWing in the Rain, by Maja D'aoust