Saturday, January 13, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson (obituary)

From Mandrake Speaks (

Robert Anton Wilson was the secret agent of synchronicity.

It was his works I discovered when I began receiving weird vibes about Sirius, and his books I was guided towards soon after executing a gung-ho magickal operation to receive illumination about Truth. Uncle Bob blew my mind with a fierce wind of cross-cultural meta-narratives about mysticism and occultism. He made the broad connections between maps and phenomena which most brains only garner the vaguest hint towards, let alone full synthesis and processing into erudite, witty, funny and perpetually enlightening prose. I haven't met one person who wasn't changed in some way by reading Robert Anton Wilson's work – which could be a testament to a sheltered life, or a bona-fide indicator of just how important this man was: in bridging the gap between the 1960s counter-culture and the future of occultism; in filtering out the dogma and the bullshit that occultism often carried along with it, breaking down a wall that precipitated a flood of fresh occult thought that wasn't weighed down by the pseudo-religious and sometimes impenetrable jargon that hung over mid-20th century occultism from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

That he'd fallen ill late last year initiated a wave of concern all over the planet. He was pronounced dead 4:50am yesterday morning. He wrote about his experience of polio as a child, and his consistent sufferance of post-polio syndrome, with his trademark mixture of comic tragedy. That it should claim his life, despite his heroic advocacy of life-extension and virtual immortality, is a kick in the face to all optimism everywhere. But the anecdotal evidence that he maintained his humour throughout his final days on this earth, is further testament to just how switched on he was.

From his very early writings about drugs (republished as Sex, Drugs and Magick (New Falcon Press, in its sixth printing in 2000) Uncle Bob was an iconoclast. Picking away at the faults of the state and its systems and always championing the overlooked virtues of common sense. But it was the Illuminatus Trilogy, written with Robert Shea in 1975, that cemented him as a voice and mind to be taken seriously (or not, depending on your side of the fence), and his subsequent chronicles of the synchronicites and madness that led him to write that book, Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati, that secured his position as man deep in touch with his own genius.
In this book, Uncle Bob defied magickal convention by dropping LSD and listening to a tape-recording of The Bornless Ritual, thereby achieving Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. He blew the lid (for this reader at least) on the connections with extra-terrestrial intelligences and magick, and wrote with reference to the eight-circuit model of consciousness with more clarity and better explanation than its creator, Timothy Leary, ever did in his lifetime. Any self-proclaimed magician who actually practiced magick, would have recognised the initiatory journey Uncle Bob was chronicling in that book. And sympathised, perhaps even found a voice of reason where there was only a burgeoning concern of affliction with schizophrenia: I'm sure I couldn't have been the only person to read Cosmic Trigger and say “You too? Thank fuck. I thought I was going nuts...”

With Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology, arguably along with Cosmic Trigger his best and most rewarding books, he delved deeper into the exploration of human consciousness, and de-mystified mysticism into a post-modern practice of socio-cultural and neurological transcendence. Something that previously hadn't been done with such empathy, and an insight into just how stupid and prone to over-complication a human mind can be.

As I write this at 2230 I'm also reminded of Uncle Bob's fearless introduction of the 23 meme into popular consciousness. While the 23 Current has taken on a life all of its own, Bob's Most Marvelous Magi Trick may have been to let that one loose to plague a thousand minds, probably more. He almost single-handedly popularised Discordianism and edged it into the important magickal movement it is today. Without Uncle Bob, would there be Chaos Magick, or a wave of modern shaman's delivering human consciousness back from the brink of a potential over-scienced and under-psy-enced dark age?

At 2300 hours I'm reminded that while it's impossible to say too much about how great the man will be missed, it's easy to overstate it when a simple “Good Bye Uncle, Bob, we'll miss you!” would probably do.

As much as you'd probably hate to come back as anything, it would be a good idea. There's no business like show-business, and you've showed us so much. But a little more never hurt.

RIP Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007

Tristram Burden


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