Monday, January 22, 2007

The Obituary You've Been Waiting For

He wouldn't want me to be sad, nor would he want me to deny sadness if I truly felt it. I do feel the world is poorer without Robert Anton Wilson. You can read an excellent tribute here...or you can go to and read the bad reviews of Cosmic Trigger, Wilson's spiritual autobiography that I mention a lot (including right before his death--Wilson would say synchronicitously, or whatever the adverb form of that would be). And you might read that Wilson, at one point in his life, was super gung-ho about Uri Geller and the pseudoscience of life extension, and you might go--"Great, Kalibhakta, another New Age wacko."

And I'd agree--every time I've read Cosmic Trigger I've cringed when I got to the stuff about living to be 500...but then again, every time I've read it I've cried when Wilson's daughter gets murdered. I wonder if the two have anything to do with one another--and I have to admire the sheer hubris of a guy who thinks he's bad enough not just
to play chess with Death, but to kick Death's ass.

Wilson also bugged me when, in later years, he would go on about being "Dr. Wilson." I have what I consider a real doctorate compared to his Ph.D. from some unaccredited granola academy in California...but as a commenter on 10 Zen Monkeys pointed out, Wilson "had to do a lot of hack work just to survive" as a free-lance writer. When he was near death, though he had been a cultural icon for years, he was broke and only got by because some good people took up an online collection for him. My family could afford to help me out when I was a grad student, and I was young and had no family of my own, as Wilson did. He bootstrapped himself up from Depression-era Brooklyn, while I strolled in from the suburbs. And--ouch--he published his dissertation. I didn't. So who has the "real doctorate"?

What I'm trying to say is, Wilson was very good, and for some of us so good as to be a goddam shaman--at shattering what he called "reality tunnels." The world is this way and I know it is this way because people I respect and my own experience all indicate that it is this way and no one could seriously think it is not this way...and Wilson comes along and pulls the thread and unravels your sweater and suddenly the world is not this way but several other ways all at once. I owe him a good chunk of whatever evolution I've undergone; he is one of my great teachers, along with my mom, my guru, Nietzsche, Ramakrishna, Laura, of course, and a professor I had who looked like a petite Barbra Streisand and who scared the living hell out of me and who force-fed me the entire Western philosophical tradition and tore my essays into confetti (along with my brain) and who by the end of the semester actually succeeded in teaching me how to think.

Here's an excerpt of an email grigorss, my long-time pal on the Journey to the East, sent me right after Wilson died:

How bizarre...that you mentioned R.A.W. in your last blog entry -- I ran across a copy of "Cosmic Trigger" in a New Agey bookstore about a week and a half ago and thought to myself "I should read that again" -- not to mention "The Illuminatus Trilogy"....

Oh, by the way, I have a DVD of a R.A.W. documentary called "Maybe Logic" in my Netflix queue (again by peculiar coincidence I moved this to the top of my queue just recently...

It is due to Wilson's influence that I am blessed to be able to interpret these coincidences in several ways: as synchronicity, as blind chance, and as completely non-coincidental, since people who are interested in weird lit are going to blog about it or go to bookstores and see it there, and especially see stuff by very popular weird lit writers. I remember that when I was first introduced to Wilson's forking-paths style of thinking, it was quite a challenge to slip in and out of belief systems and to confront my own biases...but now it's second-nature. My Barbra Streisand professor gave me a brain, and Wilson gave me a couple more brains. Thanks, Bob...and Ewige Blumenkraft!


  1. Somewhere around 1980 I read The Illuminatus Trilogy & highly enjoyed it. Haven't looked at Cosmic Trigger yet. (Writes note to self....)

    (Third attempt to leave a comment here -- in case Blogger's being silly and posting redundancies.)

  2. Blogger has been in a state of quantum indeterminacy of late [end new age sci-babble :) ] and it's really frosting my ass. well, maybe it's the fact that it's 20 degrees outside...