Robert Anton Wilson

A number of Dopers have read Wilson’s books. Let’s have your book reviews, your thoughts on Wilson’s guerrilla ontology and how his stuff has affected your life.

I’ve been reading RAW for twenty years now. I’ve read Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati about 4 times, and I’m now rereading the Illuminatus! trilogy for the 4th time. I won’t quit until I make it 5 times! (Fünfwissenschaft – just kidding.) I’ve read most of his books, but of them all the one that’s had the profoundest effect on me was Ishtar Rising: Or, Why the Goddess Went to Hell and What to Expect Now That She’s Returning. This book truly revolutionized my life and started me on a thorough revitalization of my whole intellectual/spiritual/sexual odyssey.

The reason I onto my current RAW jag was that I’d been reading James Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake (at the same time!), and recognized so many writing techniques that Wilson had lifted directly from Joyce. I got an appreciation for how much homage Wilson has been paying to Joyce. Learning more about Joyce’s life, synchronous with reading Ulysses, helped me better appreciate Masks of the Illuminati when I reread it for the 3rd or 4th time – a book where Joyce and Einstein in Zürich, 1914 are major characters. IMHO, nobody should attempt Finnegans Wake without a copy of Wilson’s Coincidance ready to hand. He does a great job of elucidating a lot of the obscure allusions and symbolism, and shows their underlying structure.

I find myself disagreeing with about half of the things Wilson says. But then, he did recommend reading stuff you disagree with (to see what your reality tunnel has been filtering out) And “THINK FOR YOURSELF, SCHMUCK!” So by disagreeing with him I’m actually playing right into his trip. Clever dude. fnord

I just re-read IT for the 3rd time in 15 years. In addition to Joyce as a precursor, I’d like to add ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ as a (IMHO) superior succesor.

Cosmic Trigger:1 has probably had the most influence on the way I think. It bring’s to mind Thomas Disch’s title, “Fun with Your New Head.”

And, of course, the cabala should only be studied by married persons. Fnord.

The one great thing I learned from RAW is not to believe what I read.

And that took me a while…

First thing I read of his was the Illuminatus! trilogy, and it was goodly. I should get around to rereading it again. Of his other work, Prometheus Rising is probably my favorite, followed closely by the first volume of Cosmic Trigger. The rest is merely, for the most part, entertaining.

And while Wilson did get me to read Joyce, he’s at his best when not trying to ape Joyce’s style–Masks of the Illuminati I really enjoyed until the ending chapter, when everything got resolved by Wilson more or less going full-Joycean, and not doing it very well. I’d add an I and an M and O, but look at the forum name. :slight_smile:

I had an opportunity a few years back to sit in at a talk held by RAW … the main thing that caught my attention, beyond the very interesting things that he had to say, was the diversity of the crowd.

You had young scruffy looking guys, obvious students, middle age professionals, older types, a whole gambit of society in all shapes, sizes, color, ages, genders, etc. The guy in front of me was wearing a suit that probably cost an arm an a leg … but the guy at the entrance to my row looked like he barely had two nickels to rub together.

I just thought the wide range of age and apparent affluency (is that a word??) couple with the healthy gender mix was rare to see.

I have only read a few of his books. I intend to read more. I thought Prometheus Unbound was fantastic.

I first read Illuminatus in the 10th grade. It actually colored my thinking much more than I thought at the time. It was just completely different than anything I’ve ever read or seen. It also appealed to my own sense of weirdness.

I then began reading a lot of other Robert Anton Wilson, anything I could get my hands on. This coincided with my consumption of all sorts of new substances. Looking back, not the most subtle of mixes. The first nonfiction book I read was Prometheus Rising, and I liked the novelty of the ideas put together fairly straightforward, as opposed to the shaggy dog joke of Illuminatus.

Over the years I’ve amassed quite a collection of RAW, but I find that after reading some of his non-fic books, they all blend together. My favorite is actually his Historical Illuminatus books. If anybody knows where I can get a copy of Nature’s God let me know.

So Robert Anton Wilson is a thinker that has greatly influenced me, and I will always value him and his work. He’s one of the people I sincerely hope I meet before he dies. (That is if he’s not dead already. You never know. . .) At the very least he’s already exposed me to things I never would have considered otherwise.

Oh, one last thing. I was lying. Did anybody actually believe any of that?

Had I known that Nature’s God would be listed for $35 on Bibliofind today, I would have picked up another copy at Half Price Books five years ago. If I pick up a cheap copy, I’ll pass it on.

What I wonder is whether RAW is ever going to finish the “trilogy”, in which case someone will certainly reissue the other three. (Yeah, NG was supposed to end it, but it got too long.) Number four is supposed to be The World Turned Upside Down.

He’ll be giving a speech at some seminar in NY this march. Err, this month.

Great read. Much more coherent that the Principia Discordia as far as discordianism goes, if we can say that discordianism goes anywhere anyway. Only read IT though, and I am currently working on Schrodinger’s cat mess. Not very enjoyable, though. I think he should co-author a book with Douglas Adams, ha.

Focault’s Pendulum, indeed! :smiley:

Yes, this. I remembered seeing Steve Jackson’s Illuminatus! game around the comic shop, so I picked up the book on a whim that year when my Grandmother took me out shopping for my birthday. Its effects on me were less subtle than for Mofo Rising, though. More like, “Oh, shit, yeah. This is what I’ve been trying to say all this time.” I’ve reread it fiddy million times since then (okay, more like seven or eight), and discover something new each time (last time I finally got the scene where Joe Malik’s trying to figure out how to get the goose out of the bottle. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law). I had Schroedinger’s Cat for a while, but lent it to a friend, and that was that.

Haven’t read anything else by the man, but I imagine I’ll get around to it at some point. Illuminatus! basically laid the foundation for my personal epistemology, though, so yeah, I’m a big fan.

It’s all part of the Plan, as you’ll realize soon. Keep reading.

¿ ?

Info from the site on upcoming appearances–

May 18-20, 2001
Prophets Conference
New York City
For details:

17-19 August, 2001
Prophets Conference
Victoria, BC, Canada
For details:

2-7 November, 2001
International Conference on Consciousness
Albuquerque, NM
For details:

Can anyone tell me how to pronounce Illuminati?

I love Robert Anton Wilson. I’d put him right up there with Swift and Twain for razoring through the Bullshit of the era.

The Illuminatus trilogy was a gift to me by a dear wild friend who thought the book would behoove my mind, and it certainly did, at a fine clippety-clop. I read it in four daze, and then was pissed that it ended so soon. It was the laughingest four days of my life! I love the way that one conspiracy rolls out into another, and then ya find that it’s all a bunch of horseshit from the git-go anyhoo.(Or maybe not…)

Coincidentally, I was making a half-assed first pass through Joyce’s Ulysses , but the combination pretty much altered the ol’ brainpan for good.

I’ve also tremendously enjoyed Quantum Psychology. A nice explosion of one’s Reality Tunnel, leaving ya a bit shaky, but in a good way. I still can only see the tail of that Damned Cat, though.

RAW icepicks through delusion with a gleeful laugh that invites you in to his own reality tunnel. Best part is, if ya pay attention, he gives you a mighty fine icepick (and breathing tube) to then holler out your own way through the maze.

In addition to alla this, the man truly admires the asthetics of a good jumpsuit. All Hail Discordia!

I pronounce it “Ill-oo-min-ott-i”, to rhyme with “Gian Carlo Menotti”, second and fourth syllables a little stressed but fairly even on all five. (Not to stress on all five; that is the Law. Are we not men?)

I’m still waiting on Illuminati!: The Musical.

Cheapo, sorry you missed it. It already was produced as a ten-hour musical play in Liverpool, England, in 1975.

Under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

I am not making this up.

RAW himself acted in it. Nude.

I am just now beginning to realize that the 1970s were weirder than we ever gave them credit for.

Ah yes, the final three pages of Schrodinger’s Cat. Quite a wild coming-together of what seemed like a thousand unrelated ideas. I don’t want to get more specific, for the benefit of those who are still working on it, but I found it quite a rush.

In addition to the other titles here, I’ve also read The New Inquisition, which is about RAW’s take on “the tyranny of establishment science.” As with the majority of RAW’s stuff, a lot of it is pretty wild and unsupported, but there’s enough generally thought-provoking material to make it worth the read, even if less of it sticks to the wall than in his other books.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, the notion of the “reality tunnel” is by far the most valuable thing I’ve taken from RAW’s writings.

I find RAW’s philosophy fairly bankrupt. I’d trust Cecil any day more than RAW. The whole notion of not to believe anything is ridiculous, and is itself a belief system. RAW is pretty interesting, though. I really enjoyed Illumunati, although later I came to view it as mostly a hodge-podge of borrowed ideas. But great writing, and, at the time, mind-expanding. It was his most solid book I think, because of Robert Shea. I’ll never forget the Midget.

Avumede: I think that the point of the Illuminatus! books was to hodge-podge all the various conspiracy theories and have a good Tilt-A-Whirl ride on it all.

RAW’s encouragement of not believing institutions is hinged on believing something automatically. I take him as saying to always think for yourself, with each and every construct you encounter, because each person encompasses a distinct set of values. To believe without individual thought at every turn is useless, and downright dangerous.