Robert Anton Wilson, 74, Who Wrote Mind-Twisting Novels, Dies

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Published: January 13, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson, an author of “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” — a mind-twisting science-fiction series about a secret global society that has been a cult classic for more than 30 years — died on Thursday at his home in Capitola, Calif. He was 74.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Christina Pearson.

The author of 35 books on subjects like extrasensory perception, mental telepathy, metaphysics, paranormal experiences, conspiracy theory, sex, drugs and what he called quantum psychology, Mr. Wilson wrote the trilogy with his friend Robert J. Shea in the late 1960s, when both were editors at Playboy. The books — “The Eye in the Pyramid,” “The Golden Apple” and “Leviathan” — were all published in 1975 by Dell Science Fiction. They never hit the best-seller lists, but have never gone out of print. Mr. Shea died in 1994.

Inspired by a thick file of letters that the authors received from conspiracy buffs, the trilogy traces the conflict between the Illuminati and the Discordians. The Illuminati are elite authoritarians who pull the puppet strings of the world’s political establishment while seeking to become super-beings by sucking the souls from the masses. The Discordians resist through convoluted tactics that include a network of double agents.

“There are lots of drug references in the book,” said Mark Frauenfelder, a co-editor of boingboing.net, a pop culture Web site that started as a print magazine in the 1980s and for which Mr. Wilson wrote many articles. “In part because it dealt with conspiracies in a science-fiction way, the trilogy achieved a cult following among science fiction readers, hippies, the psychedelic crowd.”

Mr. Wilson was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 18, 1932. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnical College and New York University. He worked as an engineering aide, a salesman and a copywriter, and was an associate editor at Playboy from 1965 to 1971.

Besides his daughter Christina of Santa Cruz, Calif., Mr. Wilson is survived by another daughter, Alexandra Gardner of Eugene, Ore., and a son, Graham, of Watsonville, Calif. His wife of 39 years, the former Arlen Riley, died in 1999.

After completing the trilogy, Mr. Wilson began writing nonfiction books. Perhaps his most famous is “Cosmic Trigger” (Pocket Books, 1977), a bizarre autobiography in which, among many other tales, he describes episodes when he believed he had communicated with extraterrestrials — while admitting that he was experimenting with peyote and mescaline.

Mr. Wilson contended that people should never rule out any possibility, including that lasagna might fly. On Jan. 6, in his last post on his personal blog, he wrote: “I don’t see how to take death seriously. I look forward without dogmatic optimism, but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.”

Drug Busts

Glenn Greenwald, Salon – There are few things rarer than a major politician doing something that is genuinely courageous and principled, but Jim Webb’s impassioned commitment to fundamental prison reform is exactly that. Webb’s interest in the issue was prompted by his work as a journalist in 1984, when he wrote about an American citizen who was locked away in a Japanese prison for two years under extremely harsh conditions for nothing more than marijuana possession. After decades of mindless “tough-on-crime” hysteria, an increasingly irrational “drug war,” and a sprawling, privatized prison state as brutal as it is counter-productive, America has easily surpassed Japan — and virtually every other country in the world — to become what Brown University Professor Glenn Loury recently described as a “a nation of jailers” whose “prison system has grown into a leviathan unmatched in human history.” What’s most notable about Webb’s decision to champion this cause is how honest his advocacy is. He isn’t just attempting to chip away at the safe edges of America’s oppressive prison state. His critique of what we’re doing is fundamental, not incremental. And, most important of all, Webb is addressing head-on one of the principal causes of our insane imprisonment fixation: our aberrational insistence on criminalizing and imprisoning non-violent drug offenders (when we’re not doing worse to them).

Profound Statements

1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.
— John Adams

2. If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. — Mark Twain

3. Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. — Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. — Winston Churchill

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. — George Bernard Shaw

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. — G. Gordon Liddy

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. — James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. — Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. — P.J O’Rourke, Civil Libertarian

10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. — Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

11 Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. — Ronald Reagan (1986)

12. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. — Will Rogers

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free! — P.J. O’Rourke

14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. — Voltaire (1764)

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you! — Pericles (430 B.C.)

16. No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. — Mark Twain (1866)

17. Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it. — Anonymous

18. The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.  — Ronald Reagan

19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. —  Winston Churchill

20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. — Mark Twain

21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. — Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

22. There is no distinctly native American criminal class…save Congress. — Mark Twain

23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. — Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

Quotes to learn by….. Martin Luther King

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‘The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.’

Martin Luther King