Monday, May 11, 2015

Man Bites Dogma - A Conversation with Robert Anton Wilson about Politics, Religion, Drugs, and Quantum Mechanics



             He's been called a cult figure to various lunatic fringe groups, Tom Robbins calls him "a dazzling barker hawking tickets to the most thrilling tilt-a-whirls and daring loop-o-planes on the midway of higher consciousness," he calls himself an iconoclastic comedian, and whether Robert Anton Wilson is a philosopher or a public nuisance is now up to you. His books, The Illuminatus Trilogy, Schroedinger's Cat, and The Cosmic Trigger all fall somewhere in between non-fiction and pure fantasy, full of unquestionable facts and quotes that somehow always add up to utterly preposterous conclusions. This devotion to eccentricity and breaking down barriers reaches its zenith in The Illuminati Papers, a book seemingly written by characters from all his other books. It contains, among other esoterica, a whole page of Haiku by Raymond Chandler in which Wilson has simply taken short descriptive excerpts from Chandler's work and reformatted them into beautiful miniature poems.
             With all the passion of a religious crusader, Robert Anton Wilson is out to destroy all personal belief systems, to force every one of his readers to seriously question any and all thoughts they hold dear. His specialty is in analyzing systems that seem to contradict each other and trying to find the points at which they do agree. In Promethius Rising he synthesizes the works of Leary, Jung, Freud, Sagan, Gurdjieff, Berne, and several others into a general system that shows how much they have in common, where they disagree, and why. His newest work, Reality is What You Can Get Away With, reads like a screenplay by Picasso - it's cubist, outrageous, completely non-linear, constantly startling, and very funny. All of his books are part of a series; they're cinematic, full of cross cutting, montages, flashbacks, and flash forwards. But no one seems to be able to figure out if this new one is a movie or a book since it actively defies both definitions. He's raised the put-on to the highest art form.
             Wilson holds a Ph.D. in psychology, edited the Playboy Forum for six years, has made a comedy record (Secrets of Power) and a punk rock record (The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy), the stage version of his Illuminatus trilogy has been seen in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Seattle, Jerusalem, and was performed recently in Liverpool by the London National Theater in a 12 hour noon to midnight marathon. His latest play, Wilhelm Reich in Hell has only been seen in Ireland where Wilson has lived for the past five years. A screenwriting job brought him to Hollywood recently, where he has been delivering lectures and running fantasy role-playing encounter groups. These evenings are enlightening, self-contradictory, very funny, and hazardous to your dogma. We started out talking about one of his favorite subjects.

DARE
Do you see everything as a conspiracy?

WILSON
No. Somebody once accused me of claiming that everything is subjective, but I don't make statements about everything, I only make partial statements. I think conspiracy is very prevalent behavior on this planet. It even precedes humanity. Lions conspire - one lion will frighten a herd of antelope to get them running in a certain direction where the other lions will be waiting there to eat them. That's a conspiracy against antelopes, and I'm sure the antelopes are very bitter about it. Ants conspire, they seize territory and drive off interlopers, rats have very vigorous conspiracies, when a rat from a strange pack gets into a house they'll hunt him down and kill him. It's just like the mafia, "Don't do anything on our territory."

DARE
Is it possible for a conspiracy to be benign?

WILSON
It would have to be open. The difference between a conspiracy and an affinity group is that when me and my friends do it it's an affinity group and when someone we don't like does it it's a conspiracy. Conspiracies run the literary world, the art world, marijuana arrives here due to conspiracies. It's a conspiratorial world.
     People naturally form groups and to the extent that they're competing with each other, they try to hide what they're doing. The best explanation of conspiracy is in The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, a very thick mathematical treatise. It explains that it's very beneficial to have conspiracies in competitive situations - the bigger an alliance you form, the quicker you move ahead.
     The function of every alliance is to conceal information from the other alliance and to spread false information, just like in a poker game. You don't want them to know what hand you've got but you want them to think they know. Poker is the essence of conspiracy. Everybody's trying to deceive one another. A benevolent conspiracy would have to be open, without the factor of concealment, and everybody's invited in. That's the only kind of conspiracy that could really improve the world.

DARE
So you think that Summit Conferences should be broadcast live to everybody?

WILSON
Of course. People are so paranoid about the Bilderbergers because they're so secretive. For all we know they're only getting together to look at stag movies once a year. The Bilderbergers have a lot of members in common with the Tri-Lateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations and the Royal Institute of International Affairs. To a great extent they're financed by the Rockefellers and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. They're all part of one gang that meets once a year in secret. They're called the Bilderbergers because their first meeting was in Bilderberg. They get more coverage each time they meet because they're so secretive about what they're doing. They say they're meeting to discuss international harmony and the peaceful resolution of our problems, but no one's allowed to hear what they're talking about.

DARE
Would giving away the Bilderberger's secrets make them more benign?

WILSON
No, it would just make them more paranoid, more devious. My business is not to expose but to collect comparative exposes so that the readers can see that conspiracy is normal behavior and that there's no one big conspiracy that runs everything.
     In the '30s, the Nazis were very much into the theory that the Jewish bankers controlled everything, and that led to such horror that it became forbidden to think about conspiracies at all for decades thereafter. The first people who said there was a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination were all denounced as obstinate nut cases and wandering loonies. My attitude, after looking at the evidence for a long time, is that there is no one big conspiracy, that the historians who refuse to admit conspiracy as a factor in history are just over-reacting to stupid conspiracy theories.
     There really are conspiracies of varying sizes, but they're so busy fighting each other that they have nothing to do with us. Most of them are for monetary reasons. There are conspiracies to decide whose book is going to be reviewed on page one of the New York Times or the Herald Tribune. Often it's the same book in both, more often than coincidence or even synchronicity can account for. There are commercial conspiracies to fix prices. Some have ideology or mysticism behind them. I don't think you can understand history until you understand the element of poetic whimsy and sheer irrationality in the minds of so called practical people.
     In WW2, both Churchill and Hitler thought they were in direct communication with God. So did MacArthur and Patton. Hitler and Mussolini both outlawed Freemasonry in Germany and Italy. The leaders of the war against them were Roosevelt, a 33rd degree Freemason, Churchill, another high ranking Freemason, Hoover, the head of the secret police in America was a 33rd degree Freemason

DARE
What exactly to those degrees stand for?

WILSON
They indicate how many initiations you've gone through. Actually, any Freemason who is nominated to the presidency of the United States gets elevated to the 32nd degree right away. Then if he's elected, he's given the 33rd degree, which is only honorary. The 32nd degree in mainly concerned with the Knights of Malta, who are the enemies of Freemasonry.
     The Freemasons claim that the Knights of Malta have sworn an oath to stamp out liberalism, free thought, and restore the total reign of tyranny and superstition that existed in the dark ages. It's a secret society within the Catholic Church that doesn't seek publicity at all. Very little is known about it. William Casey of the CIA was a Knight of Malta, Alexander Haig is a Knight of Malta. According to Gordon Thomas, an English journalist, the Knights of Malta now act as couriers between the Vatican and the CIA. His theory is very complicated, but it illustrates how conspiracies operate in the real world as distinguished from paranoid fantasy.
     The Gray Wolves are a Muslim fundamentalist group who deal heroin to get money to buy arms to carry on their campaign to exterminate Israel. They've been very involved in gunrunning because they have a link with the Bulgarian secret police, who are very much into selling munitions underground. The KGB uses the Gray Wolves for operations that, if they're ever blown, can't be traced back to Russia. Roberto Calvi of Banco Abrosiano was taking a great deal of this heroin money from the Gray Wolves and the mafia and running it through the Vatican Bank, which doesn't have to show records to anybody. The Italian government can't examine their records, it belongs to the government of the state of the Vatican, so they're the only ones who can look at their own books. If you can get illicit money into the Vatican Bank, it disappears forever, nobody can find any trace of it.
     The Gray Wolves had a grudge against the Pope because of his involvement with Calvi, who embezzled so much money that everybody got swindled. He was found hanging from a bridge in London, his secretary was pushed from a window at Banco Abrosiano the same day, a few more executives have died mysteriously since then. Calvi's partner in the swindles, Michele Sindona, was convicted in this country of 65 counts of stock and currency fraud and faking his own kidnapping to escape prosecution. Back in Italy, he was convicted of the murder of the examiner hired to investigate his bank. After that they were going to put him on trial for conspiracy in 80 murders, but he was poisoned in his cell. All of this is part of how the Bulgarian secret police hired a killer from the Gray Wolves to get the Pope.

DARE
Isn't the Pope just a figurehead without much power, sort of the Gerald Ford of the Vatican?

WILSON
That's not true, the Pope does have a lot of power. Consider the case of Pope John Paul I. He was a rebel who didn't like the way the church was being run, and in 1978 he announced that he would be going through a complete overhaul, throwing out a lot of the old crowd and bringing in new people. Observatori Politico sent him a list of 115 Freemasons in the Vatican, including members of P2, who had infiltrated 900 members into the Italian Government, including the secret police. John Paul ordered an investigation, and within a few days he was mysteriously found dead.
     The Vatican has never shown a death certificate and no autopsy was performed. They told two different stories about who found him dead, things disappeared out of his bedroom that have never been accounted for, including his will, his medicine bottle, and his glasses. Pecorelli, the editor of Observatori Politico who sent him the list of P2 and other Freemason members in the Vatican, was shot to death through the mouth, Mafia fashion, on the streets of Rome a few weeks later. You can't explain that in terms of one big conspiracy, there are obviously interlocking and feuding conspiracies - the Mafia, P2, the Freemasons, the Bulgarian secret police, the CIA, and God knows who else.
     Liccio Gelli, the grandmaster of the P2 Lodge, was on the payroll of the CIA and the KGB. He was that kind of operator. He disappeared from Italy, which shows how many friends he had in the police. He showed up in Switzerland a few months later to take some money out of a bank account, and he was recognized and arrested. The Swiss put him in a maximum security prison but he was out within two days. One guard claimed he was hypnotized. The fascinating thing is that if you look at pictures of Reagan's second inaugural, you'll see Liccio Gelli right next to Reagan.
     Most of this information can be found in two books, In God's Name by David Yallop, and In Banks We Trust by Penny Lernoux, which explains how the whole international banking system interlinks with the heroin and cocaine laundering business that the Vatican has been running.

DARE
Are you saying the Pope is a drug dealer?

WILSON
The biggest drug laundromat ever busted in this country was the World Finance Corporation in Miami. The president and several other senior executives were convicted. Two directors of the bank were allegedly former CIA agents, but the prosecutors were blocked in Washington when they tried to investigate the connections between the bank and the CIA.
     In any case, the WFC had all this money going into it from South American countries that are in the cocaine business, and they sent it to the CIS Alpine Bank in the Bahamas, which is owned by Archbishop Marcinkus who runs the Vatican Bank, which is where the money ended up. After that it's in a black hole, it disappears from human vision forever, most likely ending up in Swiss bank accounts. The profits from this go towards keeping those dictators in power, maintaining the secret police and the death squads.
     After the second world war, Liccio Gelli was shrewd enough to start an escape route for Nazi war criminals, getting them to South America for a fee, giving them new identities, and complete cover. He kept in touch with them as they found jobs as organizers of the death squads, doing the same sort of things they did in the '40s, only now they're doing it for Ronald Reagan and the money is going into the Vatican Bank. Obviously you can't run a church on just Hail Marys.
     The only reason cocaine is illegal is because there's so much money to be made out of it while it's illegal. If it were legal, the prices would go way down.

DARE
So Nancy Reagan's whole JUST SAY NO campaign is just a ploy to keep the prices up?

WILSON
Or sheer stupidity. There's so much money in the cocaine business that a lot of Latin American governments depend on it for their survival. The CIA has been in the cocaine business for 20 or 30 years now, and it's very useful for them to keep it illegal. That way they can use it as a form of currency that doesn't leave any records. When you hear about big cocaine busts, those are just renegades, the entrepreneurs who were trying to work outside of the system.

DARE
You've painted a rather bleak picture of a conspiratorial world. Are there any positive actions we can take to change things?

WILSON
In my books, I'm trying to show people how to free their own minds. I think that's the first step. People have got to become less mechanical and more aware. My books are all constructed as mindfucks, to get the readers to open their brains up, receive new signals, and come out of their conditioned patterns of thought and perceptions.
     There are a lot of Utopian ideas in my books that I don't think are impractical at all. I call them Utopian because they're beyond anything the human race has achieved in the past, but we're moving incredibly fast. I think there are changes right ahead of us that are even bigger than the industrial revolution. The human life span will be doubled by the year 2000 and quadrupled by 2010. One man flew the Atlantic in 1928, 200 million flew the Atlantic in 1978. Taking that fifty year time span as a model, people started going into space in the 1960s so by 2010 we should have 200 million going into space every year.

DARE
Are there any existing political systems you admire?

WILSON
Scandinavian socialism. I found the Scandinavians to be about the most admirable people in Europe. clean streets, a low crime rate, a general air of high civilization - luxuries for all and a total absence of slums, poverty, and ugliness. They seem very happy and productive, with one of the most way out futurist movements in the world. They're the California of Europe.
     I hate to sound like a Marxist, which I'm not, but the reason you haven't heard about Scandinavian Socialism is because the media of this country is controlled by rich people who are scared shitless of socialism. They want Americans to think there's only one type of socialism, Soviet Communism, which is the kind of place where dissident scientists get thrown in lunatic asylums, all of which is true. Americans are paranoid about Russians but Scandinavians regard them with amusement; they're those backwards people who think that you can only have socialism by putting all the poets and painters in jail. The Scandinavians reward their poets and they don't put anyone in jail for dissident political opinions.

DARE
Aren't you scared of getting in trouble, of finally saying the one thing you shouldn't have said?

WILSON
We're all living in a world in which one cannot apply one's highest ideals without getting into a lot of trouble. I've gotten in trouble, but I haven't gone to jail, which shows I may have more common sense than Tim Leary. I certainly don't claim to be more intelligent than him. He's the most intelligent human being I've ever encountered.

DARE
Do you share his conclusions about LSD?

WILSON
LSD breaks up habitual circuits of the brain. It opens new circuits, breaks down old circuits, and there's no evidence whatsoever that it destroys brain cells. LSD is very much a metaprogramming device, it changes the basic programs, that's why it's dangerous. It creates acute paranoid states in bureaucrats who've never used it.
     To get the best out of it needs a scientific or religious approach, one or the other. People who are just tripping for the fun of it are more likely to imprint a whole new reality tunnel or personality on themselves that they weren't looking for. If you're going to do LSD, you should decide the changes you're aiming at and structure the trip to lead to that kind of change.
     There's no doubt that you can change every part of your personality with LSD, that's why Leary calls it a reimprinting drug. It changes basic imprints which are much more rigid than conditioning. There's no doubt that I am a different person than I am before I took it.
     I was a statistical materialist before I started experimenting with LSD, that is I didn't believe the laws of the universe were absolutely deterministic because I knew enough quantum mechanics to know that it broke them down. But I was still a statistical materialist, everything could be explained by the accidental permutations of little hunks of energy that solidify into matter. I was perfectly satisfied with that explanation of the universe, and I never realized that I was as dogmatic about it as any Catholic was about their faith. After LSD impacted on me, I became a total agnostic, and I'm not dogmatic about anything any more. I know that every system I make up is my own brain making up a system. None of the systems is big enough to include the whole universe, so all of my beliefs are only relatively true. Some are undoubtedly wrong because I'm not that brilliant that I never make a mistake.
     There are a lot of people who don't realize how conceited they are. By asserting with such certitude the things they believe in, they don't realize that they're saying "I'm the smartest person in the world, I can answer all the questions." People like Carl Sagan. I just don't know how he can be so sure of everything when, by and large, the more intelligent you get, the more you realize you can't be sure of anything.

DARE
Since Newtonian physics don't apply to sub-atomic particles, how can you apply logic on the quantum level to objective reality?

WILSON
There's a lot of disagreement among quantum physicists on that subject, but I am very interested in, and almost believe, the school that includes David Boem, who was driven out of the United States during the McCarthy era, and considered the most brilliant pupil of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
     There is a non-locality principal in quantum mechanics, which means that things are correlated even if they're not connected mechanically or by energy transmissions. Up until this was discovered, everything in physics could be explained by energy transfers. You hear me because sound waves move from my voice to your ear, and so on.
     Then they discovered that there were things that were moving in harmony with each other, and that there was no way that energy could be getting between them. Energy can't move faster than speed of light, and yet these actions were instantaneously correlated. There are several approaches towards understanding non-locality, but, as Schroedinger put it, the sum total of all minds is one. The appearance of separate egos is only a hallucination, like that of the flatness of the earth or the movement of the sun around the earth. These ideas have all been corrected, and the idea that we're different from the animals has created mass hysteria. The appearance of separate egos is a hallucination. We are all facets of one mind.

DARE
But it's a necessary hallucination. You can't play chess with yourself.

WILSON
It's necessary for the game on this planet that every organism have a sense of self and a sense of the hive, the pack, it's us against the rest of them out there. Antland Uber Alles is the song the ants sing in T.H. White's Merlin stories, and every gene pool has that basic philosophy, just as every individual has its "self". You can go through consciousness alterations by means of yoga, certain types of shamanic magic, and various drugs that teach you how to identify with the gene pool instead of your private ego. You can get beyond that and identify with the whole biosphere.

DARE
Can you actually affect your own genetic structure so that these structural changes can be passed on to other generations?

WILSON
I tend to believe in Sheldrake's morpho-genetic field, in which he proposes that there's a non-local connection in biology too. Biologists are denouncing him as a nut and a heretic. Though the first two experiments to check Sheldrake have tended to very strongly support him, they've been ruthlessly criticized.
     It makes sense that if you've got non-local connections in physics that you could have them in biology too. Freud and Jung and Leary have all tried to account for racial memory or our ability to remember past lives. They've had to posit that somehow genes are carrying information from one organism to its descendents, but this part of modern psychology has always been rejected by biologists because there's lots of evidence that genes can't do that. Freud had racial memory, Jung had the collective unconscious, Leary has the neurogenetic circuit, but there's no way any of it can work mechanically, and that's why biologists reject it. The only way it can work is with Sheldrake's non-local morpho-genetic field, which, if it exists, would let me send signals that will be able to effect the genes of future generations, and not just those directly descended from me. I can control the direction of evolution through thought forms I'm putting out, and so can everybody else.
     People can't stay in their old reality tunnels any longer, they've got to start accelerating their brain activity. Very specifically, a world full of Islamic fundamentalists, Protestant fundamentalists, dogmatic Marxists, and Reaganite chauvinist Americans is moving us closer and closer to World War III, and the only thing that's going to head that off is if people stop being midwestern methodist bankers or Shuto computer executives or Muslim heroin smugglers and develop a bigger identity. They've got to get out of these narrow little trips. Buckminster Fuller used to say that one of the consequences of the traditional game is nationalism. Planet earth is a spaceship with 150 independent and sovereign admirals all steering in different directions.

DARE
What is the next stage in evolution?

WILSON
The model I use is adapted from Leary. The oral-bio-survival circuit is what the amoebas operate on - taste everything. Babies operate on that too. That's the circuit we go back to whenever we're in danger, and depending on what we imprinted there, we will either attack or run away.
     Then there's Freud's anal circuit, which has to do with claiming territory and status within it. That's when we go through the mammalian rituals concerning who runs the family, outsmarting our brothers and sisters and trying to run the whole show, imprinting our domination and submission reflexes. It's why people can hold jobs; their boss becomes a father substitute and they attach all their reflexes to him.
     Next there's the rational circuit in which we do our abstract reasoning with words and mathematics, and the sociosexual circuit where we imprint the pattern of how we relate to people; with what degree of amity or sexuality. Everybody has a different imprint, and society has only one general set of rules, so everybody is a heretic as far as that circuit is concerned. Those four circuits are the natural child, the adoptive child, the adult, and the parent in Berne's system.
     Beyond that is the neurosomatic circuit, where, through yoga or drugs or body work like Rolfing, one gimmick or another, you are able to turn on to your own body in a new way, and instead of just reacting to the conditioned and imprinted programs on the first four circuits, you are able to relax and go with the flow and enjoy life.
     The sixth circuit is the neurogenetic circuit, which has to do with morpho-genetic resonances, coming in contact with the experience and religious symbols of your ancestors, learning that they've been controlling you below the level of consciousness all your life. This is what Shamanism traditionally deals with. Jungian psychology was the first attempt to deal with it scientifically, now we've got dozens of others trying to bring people into harmony with archetypes of the collective unconscious or genetic heritage.
     The next is the metaprogramming circuit, which is learning how the brain can work on the brain, how you can imprint different identities and reality tunnels as you go along. Before you get to that circuit, you have no idea what true freedom really is, you're being manipulated all the time whether you know it or not. It's the circuit where you develop true choice.

DARE
How do you get there?

WILSON
If you do a lot of work on the 5th and 6th circuits, the 7th tends to click on. First you get a lot of synchronicities, meaningful coincidences, accidental reinforcement from your environment, like someone coming by to loan you a book that's exactly the one you were looking for. Jung found that his patient's dreams had more and more symbols out of Greek and Egyptian and Hindu mythology as they progressed into that circuit, even without studying them consciously. They pulled them out of the collective unconscious, which I think is actually the morphogenetic field.
     Above that there's the non-local quantum circuit, which is the circuit in which we get true out of body experiences, cosmic identification with the whole of existence.
     We're learning so much about the latter four circuits, which Leary calls the extraterrestrial circuits, that we're moving into a new stage of evolution. More people are on the fifth circuit than ever before in history, and there are growing sixth and seventh circuit minorities. It's not an accident. We're changing just as we have to change. These circuits were there, ready to be used, when we got to this point in evolution. Earlier, mankind could just coast along on the first four circuits, and only visionaries and mystics and poets ever turned on the higher circuits. Now everyone does it.

DARE
How to you teach people to turn on their higher circuits?

WILSON
You've got to teach with humor to make the pill palatable. Besides, humor is the essence of realizing our true situation in space and time. We are these tiny fallible beings crawling around on a relatively small planet, and anybody who pontificates dogmatically about anything is giving evidence that they are an idiot, even if you agree with them. They shouldn't sound that certain. We think we're so damn smart and we know so fucking little.


Years later, I remember one of the most important 
things Robert Anton Wilson Taught me