The Future Created:
An Interview with
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson has been amusing and confounding readers for over twenty years. From his philosophical forum (no byline) in Playboy magazine, he helped further the cause of liberty in the bedroom. He has probably had as much influence on the so-called “sexual revolution” as the famed Kinsey. From sex, he turned (naturally) to drugs. He was one of the first (and perhaps only) journalists to deal with Dr. Timothy Leary fairly and on scientific grounds, as the subject matter deserved.
In recent years, Wilson has turned to the topic of futurism, blending his expertise in scientific subjects—drugs, sex, quantum theory, neuro-logic— with his passion for libertarianism. The results have been fourteen books, countless articles, a stage version of Illuminatus! (a book of three volumes co-authored with Robert Shea), radio and television interviews, and goodness knows what else. Doc Wilson (he has his PhD in psychology) is definitely unconstipated when it comes to brainwork. His most recent book, The Illuminati Papers, is available from And/Or Press in Berkeley. They also published his very popular Cosmic Trigger, a book which blends all of Wilson’s concerns with a heap of humor, triggering enlightened laughs for miles around.
This interview was conducted at Wilson’s San Francisco home, over a period of weeks. Similar material can be found in the pages of the newsletter of the Institute for the Study of the Human Future, an organization he helped to create and continues to work with.
Do you really believe all that conspiracy shit you write about all the time?
Robert Anton Wilson: Absolutely. Adam Smith wrote over 200 years ago, that “men of the same profession never meet together except to conspire against the general public.” Every profession is a conspiracy. Every political party is a conspiracy. The oil companies conspire. The cliques who run the art world, the music world and the book world all conspire. I conspire every chance I can; that is, I write enthusiastic reviews of new books by my friends, and they write enthusiastic reviews of my books. There’s nothing sinister about all this, and it has a natural, sociobiological basis. Every gene-pool is a conspiracy. The lions conspire against the zebras. The sparrows conspire against the earthworms. It makes sense for groups with similar goals to work together, to synergize their efforts. It only becomes a bit nasty and kind of spooky when people start hiding bits of information (“top secret”—“your eyes only”). When they start spreading deliberate misinformation (lies), to gull their competitors, it becomes not only nasty and spooky, but comical in a bizarre way. Twenty groups hiding 10 facts each produce 200 bits of compound ignorance—holes in our perceptual field. And 10 groups circulating 10 non-facts, or lies, produce 100 bits of false information. This is very clever, from the point of view of each group doing it, but from the whole species point of view, it’s just plain dumb. A species needs adequate information flow to survive.
All of us, including the principal conspirators, are now living in a deluge of ignorance and misinformation. Nobody knows what the hell is going on any more. As a comic writer, I find the whole conspiratorial scene an endless source of material for farce and satire.
Do you know what a useful idiot is? That’s CIA jargon for somebody who’s working for them but doesn’t know it. The useful idiot may thing he’s working for the IRA, or the Quebec separatists or a corporation named, say, International Afterbirth and Placenta, Inc. I think every conspiracy has useful idiots who are working for them without knowing it. Every day I ask myself at least once, “Am I a useful idiot?” It keeps me from taking myself too seriously. I think the trouble with most conspiracy buffs is that they’re so grim and humorless. They never stop to wonder if they might be useful idiots.
Besides, “the future belongs to the creative mind,” as somebody or other once said. I think my conspiracy is the brightest, quickest, smartest gang on the planet and we have moved in on the future already, while most people are still living in the past, like the Moral Majority, or trying to get into the present, like the useful idiots in the consciousness movement, which is really a front for Darth Vader, you know. The past is dead and you can’t find the present because it vanishes while you look for it, but the future is uncontaminated, just waiting for consciousness to fill it and occupy it.
Two guys at MIT, among others, have developed a mathematical way of encoding information which makes it practically feasible for every human being on the planet, not to mention corporations, governments, etc. to have their very own unbreakable secret code. This means, in effect, that we CAN have secrets. The question then becomes, what can one do with that capability?
Robert Anton Wilson: To me it’s a dead-end. I think secrecy is a form of behavior that will gradually get phased-out as evolution proceeds. Nothing that is important can be hidden for long. The whole thing about the United States having a monopoly on nuclear weapons and then the Russians stole the secret, which was how the whole national security hysteria got started … that was all nonsense. You can’t keep a law of nature secret. Anything as big and as obvious as a law of nature, or a sociological fact, for that matter … nothing like that can be kept secret. The whole emphasis on secrecy, which really goes back to the ancient priesthoods who kept all their techniques secret to hoodwink the general public … the Egyptian priests kept writing a secret so no one else would know about it … so did the Mayan priests. The Egyptian priests kept secret how they made that statue hoot at sunrise every morning … that was all exploitative … and the secrets most corporations keep are secrets that will allow them more ways of exploiting the consumer. Patents and so on eventually wear out no matter what the law says. People find ways of doing things just differently enough to get around the patent laws. I think all secrecy basically goes back to the scarcity economy and the idea that you’re always in competition, there’s not enough to go around, you gotta get an edge, you gotta get an advantage, so they start hoarding information units the way food is hoarded and the way money is hoarded in bank vaults, and so forth. All those types of behavior are, I think, very primitive and mammalian and they’re getting phased-out as we become more intelligent and realize that the prosperity of the whole human race depends upon transmitting all information units as rapidly as possible to as many people as possible. The more we all know, the more successful we can all be. The more that’s being hidden, the stupider we’ll all be.
What, if anything, is the relationship between secrecy and privacy? Would it be all right with you, since you don’t believe in secrets, if I stationed myself at your front door and read your mail every day?
Robert Anton Wilson: Well, ideally. I think that’s the way it should be some day. People shouldn’t have any secrets at all. For instance, the whole gay pride movement is a breaking down of a vast, tremendous blackmail racket that police forces of various kinds have been involve din for the last hundred years or so, at least.
So the police agents are probably pissed that we are removing one of their sources of income and power??
Robert Anton Wilson: Sure. I remember in 1957 hearing Allen Ginsberg being interviewed, and the interviewer asking “Why are there so many references to homosexuality in your poetry, Mr. Ginsberg?” and he said “That’s cause I’m queer.” And I thought “My god, we’ve entered a new historical epoch … I’ve never heard anybody say that on the radio before.” I think that took a lot more courage in 1957 than it takes now. Ideally, I think everybody should come out of the closet, about everything. Let it all hang out. I think that’s the magic of an EST seminar, when everybody realizes that the people they’re afraid of are afraid of them. Everybody’s trying to make a good impression, and worried that the other person is thinking “Gee, what a shmuck, he is, what a clown, what a toad,” and while they’re worrying about that, the other person is thinking the same thing. The whole group encounter movement is probably one of the healthiest things in our society.
But what if they did, in fact, tell all? Wouldn’t people still have differences and wouldn’t those differences still create differences in our informational or perceptual fields?
Robert Anton Wilson: No. They would be enriching. Differences are created, I think by the DNA code because they serve an evolutionary function. I think that one of the great things about the United States is the diversity of the genetic and cultural pools. There are certain differences that are probably going to disappear over time, but there are a lot of differences that are tremendously valuable. Everybody in the United States, for instance, would become considerably more intelligent if they were to spend two days discussing basic philosophy with, say, a Russian chemist who was a strict dialectical materialist, and a Japanese businessman who’s out for a profit like any American businessman but does Zen meditation, or the Arab sheik who is convinced that women are animals. You wouldn’t necessarily agree with all the views you heard, but being submerged in these differences makes you more aware that your own reality island is highly arbitrary and crazy. And the more reality islands you allow to impinge on yours, the bigger your reality island becomes and the more of reality you can see and sense and feel and apprehend.
Well, let’s see If I can build another case for secrecy on different grounds. Let us say you are conceptualizing something, and you’re taking Barbara Marx Hubbard’s phrase about the future beginning in the imagination, then in will, and then in reality. At the level of imagination, if you want something to happen on a group level, you may want the freedom to conceptualize and examine alternate ideas without those messages going out and altering the reality external to the group or self … for the time being. You wish to contain that process, because, if you don’t contain the process, then such premature messages, as it were, could prejudice the outcome of your plans, and the probabilities of a coherent outcome may decline.
Robert Anton Wilson: That’s a matter of prudence. There’s nothing I say that is meant to contradict the virtues of prudence, discretion, plain common sense. One doesn’t want to carry anything to an idiotic extreme.
Or an ideological extreme … anyway, my point is that, when you are planning something, a certain amount of “closed-mouthedness,” secrecy, privacy, whatever, is prudent, and takes into account the differences we are submerged in. Although in principle, I agree with the “no secrets” policy because, in the long run, it seems to lead to evolutionary dead ends. However, the government, through NSA, at this very moment, is trying to see to it that if there are secrets to be kept that the only people who will be able to keep secrets will be national governments. They are attempting to do this by limiting or confining our capacity to create and refine secret codes and encryption algorithms. In view of that, what should be the appropriate response?
Robert Anton Wilson: Well, in the long run, as I say. I’m against secrets. Intelligence is based on the ability to apprehend whole systems, and the more that’s hidden, the less intelligence can do. It’s actually been proven, in experiments that a lot of psychologists have conducted in the last fifteen years—since LSD mutated them. There’s been an awful lot of experiments done on what people do when things are hidden from them: they invent extravagant metaphysical theories to account for what they can’t find out any other way. The more disinformation students are fed in these experiments, the more elaborate their metaphysical theories become. And the more like the mentations of clinical lunatics their speculations become. This is an attempt to account for reality when you’re being deliberately kept from seeing parts of it, or are being shown things that aren’t part of it in the guise that they are. That’s why I’m against secrecy, and the politics of lying and deception and hiding things and so on. That’s the long-run perspective. On the other hand, while it’s going on, I think it’s delightful that secret codes have been invented that the government itself cannot penetrate. And I do not believe that the government can establish a monopoly on secrets. They can do it de jure … they can write laws and claim they’ve got a monopoly on secret codes, but de facto they can’t make it work. I know enough people in the business to know that there are all sorts of ways things can be hidden using trap door codes, and the government CAN’T get at them, even if they pass laws they can’t.
True. The essential information on how to construct these codes is already out.
Robert Anton Wilson: There is also a device (I hate to mention something and not identify it fully, but I can’t remember who makes it or where it comes from, exactly) that was the subject of legislation in the last couple of years. This fellow in Seattle invented a device which you attach to your computer, which allows you to code data in a such a way that you’re the only one who can get at it, so all sorts of information can be stored and the government can never get at it. So I think it’s sort of comical that the government could even think it could enforce its claim to a monopoly on secrets, anyway. Anybody can have secrets now. And in the short run, I guess that’s healthy. If the government is doing it, other people should be allowed to compete with them and do it too. But in the long run I think the game has to be abolished, and everything has to be open.
With missiles blowing up in silos, atomic plants going critical, acid rains falling, snipers shooting bus drivers, Ronnie Raygun having his hands on The Button, inflation eating us out of house and home, Richard Vigurie stirring up the Christians, war in the Middle East with its hostages, dope busts continuing, the space program a washout, the computer revolution going to middle management, and us getting older every day, can you really say we have a future?
Robert Anton Wilson: We don’t HAVE a future, we CREATE a future. As I said earlier, the future is uncontaminated void and without form. The creative mind will fill it. My conspiracy (Negative Entropy, Inc.) is always working to fill every void with more creativity and to frustrate Darth Vader and the Death Dwarfs in the Vatican, who represent entropy or incoherence.
The present is no worse than the past, anyway. The local galaxy was actually built by Swift Kick Company, the shoddiest contractors in the space-time continuum. They are real bandits—experts at cost-cutting, shady dealing and all the arts of increasing the profit margin by decreasing quality of the final product. As soon as they collected their fee, the whole system started falling apart. Comets smashing into planets, ice ages, cosmic catastrophes, black holes—lousy workmanship all the way down the line. Probably, they were secretly in league with Darth Vader, as the gnostics suspected.
But the point is that life thrives, despite all that. Read Watership Down. The smartest rabbits always survive, even on a planet as brutal and punishing as this one. The moral is obvious: Get smart. Despite its tremendous popularity with all political parties and organized religions, stupidity is not a survival asset.
What motivates you?
Robert Anton Wilson: I want to be smarter next week than I am today. I want to get off the Planet of the Apes and join other pioneers in creating better worlds in outer space. I want to live forever. I want to see the universe next door. As Dogen Zengi said, “Time is three eyes and eight elbows.” Is that clear?
No. It sounds like horseshit.
Robert Anton Wilson: Well, let me put it this way … Genesis is war propaganda, written by Darth Vader and the Empire’s P.R. men. In the gnostic gospels, which are war propaganda written by the Rebels, the real true honest uncensored story is told. Darth Vader has seduced humanity with the dark side of the force. We were never thrown out of paradise. All you know is what registers on your brain. Take over the Reality Studio, and get rid of Darth Vader and the Vatican Insect Zombies. Write your own script. The universe—that is, the future—emerges out of pure quantum chaos by acts of Will every nanosecond.
I learned all this from a great Christian scientist and zen master named Hugh Hefner. I worked for Hef for five years. One day I realized that he literally lived in an island of expensive stereo equipment, unlimited luxuries and hot running Playboy Bunnies. And I realized that he had dreamed up that reality as a young college boy in the 1950s, and then he manifested it. I decided to dream up my own reality and then manifest it. If you don’t create your own reality, Darth Vader is still confronting you; you’re just a robot manipulated by the dark side of the force.
You really get into all that Darth Vader crap, too, don’t you?
Robert Anton Wilson: Certainly. Oh, there are primitive systems like quantum physics, in which he’s personified as entropy, or Christianity, in which he’s called the devil, but under any name he is the spirit that says “No. You can’t do that.” YOU CAN’T INVENT YOUR OWN REALITY. YOU CAN’T ABOLISH POVERTY. YOU CAN’T ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES. YOU CAN’T YOU CAN’T YOU CAN’T … fuck him, I say! According to an old gnostic tradition I just invented, his real name is Loudmouth and the way to get rid of him is to refuse to believe in any limits whatsofuckingever on your freedom, your creativity, your consciousness and your intelligence.
Do you think of yourself as a “successful writer”?
Robert Anton Wilson: I have to. After all, if I don’t, who will? I have discovered that if one’s opinions of one’s powers and talents is too low, nobody will bother to correct it. They will say. “Oh. he’s one of the toads,” and walk all over you. On the other hand, if your opinion of yourself is too high, the universe will eventually hammer you down to a more reasonable estimate. So I never accept any limits until they are forced upon me and then I only accept them for today. I expect to be smarter tomorrow. Those who miss this point, or deny it, are by definition toads.
What is a toad, again?
Robert Anton Wilson: A toad is somebody who thinks somebody else is in charge. In other words, a toad says “I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” I always define myself and my friends as the Power Elite and assume we can make it all the way to Watership Down, or Big Rock Candy Mountain, or the Heavenly City, or whatever you want to call the next step in evolution.
Why should anyone read your crap, anyway? Better yet, why should anyone READ, period? Aren’t readers becoming an extinct species??
Robert Anton Wilson: My books are not interrupted every ten minutes by commercials for tampons and Datsuns. Many people claim they’re as funny as or funnier than Laverne and Shirley. Some have been kind enough to say they’re even funnier than Archie Bunker’s Place. And they tell you how to get smarter and live forever, which nobody on television will tell you right now. As for reading in general: the more arts and sciences and skills you’ve mastered, the easier It is to see alternatives and not get trapped by Darth Vader’s Fog Machine. If you have kung fu, and can read and write, and can solve a quadratic equation, and program a computer, and get a bone in an emergency, and keep learning new skills every year, nobody will ever convince you you’re one of the toads.