Friday, June 27, 2014

Who is Robert Anton Wilson??? (A Timely Repost)

Strange that I can't quite remember how I first came across the
Illuminatus! trilogy (aka "Operation Mindfuck") by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, written between 1969 and 1971, but only published in 1975. Did a friend recommend them or did I stumble on these extraordinary books by "pure chance"?

I was delighted to learn many years later that the Illuminatus! trilogy had become a veritable cult classic, triggering quantum mutations amongst anarcho-punks... even inspiring the establishment of the bulldadaist and morealist Church of the SubGenius - whose pipe-smoking patron deity, Mr J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, rapidly became an underground icon in hip circles. (Pierce Brosnan's impeccable portrayal of Professor Donald Kessler, Scientific Advisor to the White House, in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! was a subtle acknowledgment of the unstoppable spread of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs's all-pervading influence.)

"Operation Mindfuck" was very well named - boy, was my growing mind well and truly fucked. I TOTALLY LOVED IT! Kept coming back for more. While Robert Shea subsequently vanished from the radar screen, his erstwhile collaborator began to loom larger and larger on my event horizon. I acquired almost every book I could find by Robert Anton Wilson - or RAW as his hardcore readers affectionately call him.

In the early 1990s I took a detour into experiential and metaphysical areas which would now be disparaged as "New Age Zones." One of the requirements of fully entering into any new belief system is the voluntary suspension of disbelief and the conscious renunciation of cynicism and skepticism. I set aside my admiration of RAW reality for a spell in order to experience aura cleansing and light body activation. That got me real high and it was fun floating around on Cloud Ninety-Nine... but eventually I realized it was time to ground myself and grow a root. Living amongst the Temuan tribe aided that process greatly and I am eternally grateful to all indigenous people everywhere for their remarkable stoicism in the face of relentless rapacity.

In recent years I find that I am becoming more and more comfortable with the metaconceptual framework Mr Bob Wilson aka RAW calls "guerrilla ontology." To embark on this adventure, the principal prerequisite is to forswear Deadly Seriousness in favor of Maybe Logic. I'm partial to fusion and weary of fission, though tolerant of confusion; therefore I can wholeheartedly endorse and embrace any life strategy that effectively blends the mystical with the scientific, the rigorously reasonable with the hilariously irrational. I'm extremely grateful for the magnificent memes and methodologies I've imbibed from Robert Anton Wilson who, like me, began blogging in December 2006... but he didn't have time to build it up and clutter it with nifty widgets, praise Bob, because he slipped out of his "hydrocarbon-protein spacesuit" on 11th January 2007.

Of all the colorful characters created by Robert Anton Wilson, the most fascinating must be Hagbard Celine (probably modeled after RAW himself and Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard). In the Illuminatus! trilogy, Celine is credited with authorship of a manifesto innocuously titled 'Never Whistle While You're Pissing' in which certain Discordian Laws are succinctly expressed:

Celine's First Law

Obsession with national security creates a surveillance state that is more a threat to the citizens than the threat it seeks to confront.

National Security is the chief cause of national insecurity

Reflecting the paranoia of the Neocon War on Terror, Celine's First Law focuses on the fact that to have national security, one must create a secret police. Since internal revolutionaries and external foes would make the secret police a prime target for infiltration, and because the secret police would by necessity have vast powers to blackmail and intimidate other members of the government, another higher set of secret police must be created to monitor the secret police. And even higher set of secret police must then be created to monitor the higher order of secret police. Repeat ad nauseam.

This seemingly infinite regress goes on until every person in the country is spying on another, or "the funding runs out." And since this paranoid and self-monitoring situation inherently makes targets of a nation's own citizens, the average person in the nation is more threatened by the massive secret police complex than by whatever foe they were seeking to protect themselves from. Wilson points out that the Soviet Union, which suffered from this in spades, got to the point that it was terrified of painters and poets who could do little harm to them in reality.

At the same time, given the limitation of funding and scale, the perfect security state never truly emerges, leaving the populace still vulnerable from the original threat while also being threatened by the vast and Orwellian secret police.

Celine's Second Law

Wilson uses the eye in the pyramid as a symbol of the dysfunction of hierarchies. Every level except the top is blind, but the eye can see only one way.

Accurate communication is possible only in a non-punishing situation.

Wilson rephrases this himself many times as "communication occurs only between equals" (echoing a classic Scientological dictum attributed to L. Ron Hubbard). Celine calls this law "a simple statement of the obvious" and refers to the fact that everyone who labors under an authority figure tends to lie to and flatter that authority figure in order to protect themselves either from violence or from deprivation of security (such as losing one's job). In essence, it is usually more in the interests of any worker to tell his boss what he wants to hear, not what is true.

In any hierarchy, every level below the highest carries a subtle burden to see the world in the way their superiors expect it to be seen and to provide feedback to their superiors that their superiors want to hear. In the end, any hierarchical organization supports what its leaders already think is true more than it challenges them to think differently. The levels below the leaders are more interested in keeping their jobs than telling the truth.

Wilson, in Prometheus Rising, uses the example of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Hoover saw communist infiltrators and spies everywhere, and he told his agents to hunt them down. Therefore, FBI agents began seeing and interpreting everything they could as parts of the communist conspiracy. Some even went as far as framing people as communists, making large baseless arrests and doing everything they could to satisfy Hoover's need to find and drive out the communist conspiracy. The problem is, such a conspiracy never existed in any form. Hoover thought it did, but any agent who dared point out the lack of evidence to Hoover would be at best denied promotions, and at worst labeled a communist himself and lose his job. Any agent who knew the truth would be very careful to hide the fact.

In the end, Celine states, any hierarchy acts more to conceal the truth from its leaders than it serves to find the truth.

Celine's Third Law

Citing Lenin and his successors as examples, Wilson argues that the most tyrannical and brutal regimes in history were created by honest politicians who believed in a good cause.

An honest politician is a national calamity.

Celine recognizes that the third law seems preposterous from the beginning. While a dishonest politician is interested only in bettering his own lot through abusing the public trust, an honest politician is far more dangerous since he is honestly interested in bettering society through political action, and that means writing and implementing more and more laws.

Celine argues that creating more laws simply creates more criminals. Laws inherently restrict individual freedom, and the explosive rate at which laws are being created means that every citizen in the course of his daily life does not have the research capacity to not violate at least one of the plethora of laws. It is only through honest politicians trying to change the world through laws that true tyranny can come into being through excessive legislation.

Corrupt politicians simply line their own pockets. Honest idealist politicians cripple the people's freedom through enormous amounts of laws. So corrupt politicians are preferable, according to Celine. (If you don't believe this, migrate to Singapore :-)



1995 interview with Robert Anton Wilson by a prototype cyberpunk.

Robert Anton Wilson's last interview, 12 September 2005.

Review of RAW's last book, TSOG: The Thing That Ate The Constitution.

Mindbending braincleansing video produced by the Church of the SubGenius. Guaranteed to make you laugh till you fart and praise Bob.

Keep the lasagna flying, folks.

[First posted 16 May 2007]

1 comment:

masterymistery said...

Why the Heck this post got / has gotten no comments is a mystery. Man, can you write! Entertaining and engrossing -- Thanks!