"People's belief in their own local reality-tunnels keep us all far stupider than we ought to be . . . " – Robert Anton Wilson
Writer and philosopher Robert Anton Wilson has died. His books include Prometheus Rising and The Illuminatus Trilogy.
RAW was a mental monkeywrencher whose purpose was to shake us up, blow our minds, make us question our rigid beliefs. His words expanded my mind time and time again. He wrote something that has remained a touchstone in my life ever since I read it:
"Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence." -- Dave Farnell
Robert Anton Wilson was one of those people who wrote, thought, and flat-out did what he wanted to do, despite what everyone else said he should do. This gave him an honesty that was refreshing and a viewpoint that was singular and unique. He will be missed. Fnord, man. -- Mark Finn
There are few people that are genuine legends. Robert Anton Wilson is one of them. Starting with The Eye in the Pyramid, the first book in The Illuminatus! Trilogy, he and Robert Shea brought a mind-blowing gonzo view of paranoia to life. I still remember the first time I read these books, and it was like someone taking a hammer and chisel to my world view, showing me how much stranger life can be, when you look at it the right way.
This is a book series where we swap character points of view from paragraph to paragraph, with no warning. We see that anything can be connected into a web of overlapping conspiracies, if you look hard enough. It's also through this book series that most people, until Steve Jackson came along, got their first look at Discordianism.
Which brings me to RAW's influence on the geek world. No RAW, no Discordians, as it might have stayed an underground movement, and that would be a crime. Not to mention his influence on the SubGenius set. No RAW, no Illuminati game by Steve Jackson, and possibly no Steve Jackson Games. At least, not one as much fun as we have now.
No RAW, and there probably wouldn't be as many cool conspiracy theories out there. There have always been raving paranoids who were sure that there were secret masters controlling everything. RAW showed us how it could actually be done, and made it amusing to read about. And if there was no RAW, there would be no FNORD.
Not only did he write about grand (and not so grand) conspiracies, he also explored Sufism, Zen Buddhism, Crowley and just about every other philosophy under the sun. RAW wanted everyone to not only see their internal rule-sets and blinders, but to blast them to dust. As he saw it, the biggest impediment to your advancing mentally and spiritually is your own belief system.
"When dogma enters the brain" he said, "all intellectual activity ceases."
RAW left us on 01/11, and I'm glad that I got to meet him, if only for a minute, back at Dragon*Con 2000. I got to watch him hold court in the patio by the bar, and it was fascinating to see him talking and hanging out with fans. He was approachable, friendly, wise, funny and will be missed. -- Gary Mitchel