Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007

Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson enjoyed his first death so much; he decided to try it again. As Wilson himself wrote in his 1995 book, Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death:
According to reliable sources, I died on February 22, 1994 — George Washington's birthday. I felt nothing special or shocking at the time, and believed that I still sat at my word processor working on a novel called Bride of Illuminatus. At lunch-time, however, when I checked my voice mail, I found that Tim Leary and a dozen other friends had already called to ask to speak to me, or — if they still believed in Reliable Sources — to offer support and condolences to my grieving family. I quickly gathered that news of my tragic end had appeared on the Internet in the form of an obituary from the Los Angeles Times: "Noted science-fiction author Robert Anton Wilson was found dead in his home yesterday, apparently the victim of a heart attack. Mr. Wilson, 63, was discovered by his wife, Arlen.

"Mr. Wilson was the author of numerous books... He was noted for his libertarian viewpoints, love of technology and off the wall humor. Mr. Wilson is survived by his wife and two children."

This time around, it appears that Mr. Wilson has actually left corporeality, appropriately on 1/11 (at 4:50 am — you hardcore number freaks can get to work on the meaning of that one... I do see a five in there!).

For this cosmic cub scout, Bob Wilson was the motherload. Books like The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Cosmic Trigger, and Coincidance killed most of what little dogmatism I had left in me, and opened me up to a world of possibilities as large as space travel and as small as quantum physics. He also had a razor sharp wit that he skillfully aimed at those who abuse power and wealth. And he was a delightful story teller, whose love of language was evidenced not only by his own novels, but by his ability to quote virtually everything James Joyce and Ezra Pound ever wrote — backwards, while explaining what evolutionary level of primate behavior the author was elucidating.

I had the great pleasure to know Robert Anton Wilson and our intersections were sometimes strange — his Mondo 2000 check hadn't arrived; or I weirded him out by kneeling down before him like he was the pope and kissing his ring (I thought it was funny.) I also have great memories of sitting with him while he expounded expansively on everything from the rights of the Irish to the genius of Orson Welles. Over the past several years, as his polio returned, and as death started to hover nearby, Wilson sent out funny email messages of the "not dead yet" variety to those of us on his mailing list. There was never a trace of self-pity in any of his messages.

As the result of medical expenses and problems with the IRS, Wilson found himself in a financial squeeze towards the end of his life. Word went out and the internet community responded by sending him $68,000 within the first couple of days (and undoubtedly some more after that). This allowed RAW to die with the comfort, grace and dignity that he deserved. Special props go to Douglas Rushkoff and the folks at Boing Boing (and to all the individuals who contributed) for making that happen.

Robert Anton Wilson taught us all that "the universe contains a maybe." So maybe there is an afterlife, and maybe Bob's consciousness is hovering around all of us who were touched by his words and his presence all these years. And if that's the case, I'm sure he'd like to see you do something strange and irreverent — and yet beautiful — in his honor.

See Also:
A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays
Robert Anton Wilson Tribute Show
Robert Anton Wilson Website
Is The Net Good For Writers?
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

66 thoughts to “Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007”

  1. You know, I was just thinking about this a couple of minutes ago. Isn’t that strange? I knew he’d been given between two days and two months from his RAW Data blog. He seemed quite chipper about the whole thing but it’s still very sad.

    Bye bye, Bob. You left quite a footprint.

  2. The Discordian Discommunity mourns (except the splitters, of course).

    RAW’s influence will be deep, it will be wide, and it will endure.


  3. Now there was a man! And a mind. And one’s whose influence will spread farther and wider in the decades to come, should humanity begin to come to its senses.

    The Higher Intelligence Agency salutes your life, RAW, and trusts the new levels will please and stimulate you as much as we will miss your scathing, loving insight.

  4. As I have said in other places, I am sure Eris will save a hotdog for you when you arrive. But then I am sure he knows this, they probably had a long standing bit of interaction over the years… both houses (the Hodge and the Podge) remarkably are silent for a moment in reverence.

  5. A truly incredible man, capable of changing the paradigms of all those
    who encountered his work. I can only offer thanks that he was around in
    our lifetime. A unique man, an astounding mind. Thank you, and may
    his family get through this with love in their hearts.

  6. Thank you RU for your kind words on “Bob”. Happy 101st birthday Dr. Hoffman, a much cooler day than Washington’s.

  7. There’s a real sense of loss in my heart, looking at the various images and reading textual recordings of interviews with you.

    Did your books ever bowl me over! Bob, thank you for your works, especially Cosmic Trigger, which gave me more than just a good read. Yeah, I think I can go do something funny, strange, and irreverent.

  8. I wanted to relate a personal story about RAW.

    Around 1996, I was attempting to get Bob to speak at our Company holiday party. I called the number listed on his web site and left a message for Bob saying that I had read all of his non-fiction works and especially liked Quantum Psychology”.

    A few hours later, I received a call from a man identifying himself as Bob Wilson. He said he had to talk to the guy who read his non-fiction. “I didn’t think anyone read that stuff”. I told him how I had solved the old riddle:

    “If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does is make a sound”

    My solution was, “I guess it does”. He laughed and congratulated me for my application of e-prime and quantum psychology.

    It is one of my proudest moments.

    Bon Voyage to a Cyber Hero,
    Max Quasar

  9. I read Cosmic Trigger I about 5 years ago and recently (we’re talking days ago) picked it up again. I stumbled across his blog (we’re talking minutes ago) and, oh my Goddess, the guy died! Another schincronicity? Me thinks so. RIP, RAW.

  10. One of the few men on the planet that knew more about the nature of reality than most whilst maintaning the ability to relate it to a western audience. What an incredible seeker of truth, prepared to blaze the trail of self sacrificial lab rat brain experimentation extrordinaire allied to a vast and phenomenal literary and scientific mind. WIth a warm heart and a voice that truly sounded like the common sense of humanity, he could not have done more, it is simply up to those of us that love his work to help spread his ideas and help to tear away the bullshit in this world and reveal what is possible to those people that never stop to wonder “life…whats going on?”. Today his picture is going in a frame on my wall out of love and respect and to serve as a daily reminder that in as much as whatever we can do, each of us should try to continue the spirit of his work, for so many reasons. THIS GUYS MAPS WILL TAKE YOU TO THE VERY EDGE OF WHAT IS, AND THEN INTO WHAT ISN’T. Thankyou so much Robert xxx

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  12. Rest in peace man.. Though I’m thoroughly assured that the universe has more in store for you! =)


  13. Well I just made my little pilgrimage to the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. Bob wrote about it in one of his books, which one, who knows, it’s all a bit trancey with Bob. The interesting thing he wrote of, was the Black Madonna in this church, as always the stories of the Black Madonna’s gets spun into the larger conspiracy web. But I have lived in Dublin for 10 years and decided that today was the day I would trace Bobs steps in the church and seek out the Black Feminine Goddess.

    My first thing was to buy a Mass card, a first for me, but quite a tradition in the Irish Catholic church. Basically a card, signed by the priest to be sent to the family. When you purchase one, the deceased’s name is written into a book and their name is invoked at the next mass by the priest. It was fun to see his name printed into the big book and held in the annuls of the church. Maybe it might bring a wry smile to someone when they hear his name read out on Sunday.

    After seeking advice about the “Black Madonna”, or the Madonna of Dublin as it has been renamed, I light 2 + 3 candles and stepped to the alter. There under the black bitch herself was a Lectionary, a calendar for upcoming weeks, giving “Gods words of the Day”. Today’s was as follows…
    Bob got himself a cracker…

    Revelation 20 (King James Version)
    King James Version (KJV)

    Public Domain
    [A Public Domain Bible] [KJV at Zondervan] [Zondervan]

    Revelation 20

    1And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

    2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

    3And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

    4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

    5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

    6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

    7And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

    8And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

    9And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

    10And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

    11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

    12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

    13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

    14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

    15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

    I dont go to church much, but I did this for Bob. It was fun, on the way out, I noticed someone had graffited on the side on the building
    “We are Everywhere”.

    So I thought I would adjourn to the The Swan, which is a old mans pub across the way and sup on a pint of Guinness and take it all in. It was here that I smiled and giggled at it all. Thanks Bob, Gods speed.

  14. A giant has scampered off. All these years later, RAW’s writing still stretches what I’ve got left of higher cortical funtions.


  15. Maybe the most intelligent entity in the known information supra cosmos. With an eternal perpetual interneting “tech-support” and information system – “a series of time-machine’s”, “Scriptures”, no less, given to humanity as a gift [his writing and life’s experience to communicate] to wake up humanity! Wake up! As Bob sleeps through a Bardo Fnordo we awaken from history. To re-configure our reality, re-configure courtesy and social skills, communication. and on… ad finitum. And Bob’s balls out tsog research and brave bold daring confrontations with utterly fowl monsters, corporate, government, religious, semantical Illuminati! Faith based monsters slaughtered with wit and wisdom. And next with a finishing glossy touch of Dali and/or Coltrane. The spirit of uprisings, as Finnegan as Prometheus as Jesus as Pheonix as Hannibal! Li Sao
    Li Sao for sorrow.

    Immortalists and poets and jazz heads and weed heads,
    Party like He’d want you to!

    The motherload, that’s for sure…
    Thanks R.U

    My fav. bit of Raw Genius….
    How to Live Eleven Days in 24 Hours

  16. R.U. this is the nicest thing I’ve seen written about Mr Wilson regarding his death. I never knew him but through his books. I tried to get him to the Edinburgh Book Festival a few years ago but they wouldn’t listen and New Falcon couldn’t afford to send him and he wasn’t really able to travel as far by then anyway.

    All I can say is I’ll miss him and his wonderful writing, I’m so sad he’s gone. He’s been the single biggest influence on my life and how I live it.

    I did contribute when he needed it, it was the least I could do after all he’s done for me.

  17. I met Bob Wilson in all kinds of whacky places over a long period of time. He’d seen me do a Gnostic Mass, and we’d shared the podium at a conspiracy-oriented convention, but he always called me “the UFO guy”. He was very, very, kind to my work in “Everything is Under Control”, and way too kind to my former social club, the OTO, but you can forgive him that one; he met it in another era, when a very, very drunk Grady McMurtry didn’t take the whaky universe of High Weirdness with the Rotarian seriousness one sees today.

    He will be missed by many, myself included.

  18. Robert Anton Wilson’s dead will be a sign for some people on the planet, I am one of them. Peace Bob.

  19. This is indeed sad news. Having read several of RAW’s books, and really finding them very thought-provoking and challenging, it is sad to know there will be no more. He left quite a mark, and I am disappointed that I was never able to meet him.

    Ron Tobin
    Philosophers Guild

  20. Just a meaningless coincidence I though I’d share…

    RAW shed his mortal coil at age 74, on January 11, 2007 (01/11/2007).

    Which, when rendered thusly,




    Thanks Bob!

  21. Excuse me folks, but is’nt RU Sirius one of Wilson’s pen names? So is he really gone or is this another joke? And is everybody here in on it? I dunno, maybe Genesis P-Orridge has be RU Sirius all these years.

  22. Too many wiser than I have already posted here for me to have much to add. I discovered the original paperback editions of the Illuminatus Trilogy in a bookstore in Oakland in 1987 and must have read everything he published since. Like others I cherish Cosmic Trigger, Prometheus Rising, and Quantum Psychology. I wasn’t even aware of the last two until I saw them on the Extropian reading list – thanks, Natasha. He had to do a lot of hack work just to survive but he was brilliant even in that. I don’t ever expect to see him collected in elegant volumes of The Library of America (though look what happened to Lovecraft) but I do hope he stays in print.
    So far I haven’t seen a single obit in the straight news media.

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  24. R.U. Sirius wrote:

    I am Robert Anton Wilson & Genesis P. Orridge but the walrus was Paul…

    Funny you should say that – I recounted this to a friend, a huge Beatles fan, and she told me that John was lying, that the walrus was really John himself. I’ll have to get back with her about exactly why she thought that…

  25. I was introduced to The Schrodinger’s Cat Triology right after college by a friend of mine and I was awestruck by it. I remember thinking that quite possibly RAW was, like myself, interested in science without having a substantial aptitude for it. Through the passing 12 years since then, I have always enjoyed reading him and I will definitely miss him.

  26. Ah, yes, I cried bucketloads when I heard, even though I doubt that was that Bob would have wanted, it just happened. My eyes leaked, and there it was.

    Bob likewise was a great inspiration and teacher, and although I didn’t ever get to say ‘hello and thank you’ personally, I’m sure he heard my sobbing, from wherever he is, and he probably laughed his ass off. Good for him.
    I know I probably woulnd’t be here today, and still somewhat vaguely sane, if it weren’t for him.

  27. PS, John says he’s the walrus in one if his later songs, I forget which. But you can buy it at Starbucks right now, for $13.95. ;-)

  28. My friend justifies her opinion this way: She says that in Magical Mystery Tour there is a scene where the band is playing “I Am The Walrus” while dressed as animals. The bassist is playing left handed(as she says Paul would have) and the one dressed as the walrus is playing the piano, ergo the walrus was John. It’s possible I am not relating her story correctly if this is all wrong.

  29. There are things like iTunes…and MySpace which are *definitively* mainstream.

    Then there’s Discordianism and SubGen which are *not*.

    In this era of ever increased interconnectivity(the eEra), Bob was Man enough to encompass *all* the possibilities and modes.

    (Burning Man is similar)

    We are perpetually…his students.

    I don’t think that we could endure his energy and…

  30. Just found this site looks amazing:

    # ooddaa Says:
    January 11th, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Hail Eris!

    Thanks, Bob, for all those handy DIY guides to rewiring my brain.

    Can anyone point me to this info?

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