robert anton wilson has entered the infinite beyond, all hail eris

Having been ill for some time now, the author Robert Anton Wilson died today. It’s been at least 15 years since I’ve read a word that he’s written, so I’m going to make some time tonight to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and the “Principia Discordia.”

[I don’t have any plans to similarly commemorate the death of Yvonne “Lilly Munster” De Carlo (slightly NSFW). I do have Munsters comic book around here somewhere that I could read, if I wanted to, but I don’t feel the same impulse. No Munster ever fucked with my head they way RAW did.]

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  1. mark
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    The one good thing about his illness, if anything about it could be called good, is that he got to see how much his fans cared about him. I found that really touching

  2. mark
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    A dozen years ago, this post would have been a great post, chocked full of “Illuminatus” references. Today, however, all you get is a single, “Hail Eris.” (My memory is my worst feature, and that’s saying a lot.)

  3. It's Skinner Again
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Sad news — although it’s good he’s no longer suffering.

    I had a lot of fun recently reading the “Cosmic Trigger” series. He was good.

  4. stevarino
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    I read “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” in two days when I worked at the plumbing company. I remember hearing him talk to Rev. Ivan Stang on Bob’s Slacktime Funhouse just a couple years ago.

  5. It's Skinner Again
    Posted January 12, 2007 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    He devoted himself to spreading intelligence and optimism — not an easy thing to do, given some of the awful things that happened to him — and he did it with style and humor. What a loss.

    In his memory, I hope we all remember to refer to “belief system” by its initials now and then.

  6. t.d. glass
    Posted January 12, 2007 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    For those of you unfamiliar with Wilson, here is part of his Wikipedia entry-

    His best-known work, The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975), co-authored with Robert Shea and advertised as “a fairy tale for paranoids,” humorously examined American paranoia about conspiracies. Much of the odder material derived from letters sent to Playboy magazine while Shea and Wilson worked as editors of the Playboy Forum.[7] The books mixed true information with imaginative fiction to engage the reader in what Wilson called “Operation Mindfuck”; the trilogy also outlined a set of libertarian and anarchist axioms known as Celine’s Laws, concepts Wilson has revisited several times in other writings. Although Shea and Wilson never partnered on such a scale again, Wilson continued to expand upon the themes of the Illuminatus! books throughout his writing career.

    In Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977) and other works, he examined Discordianism, Sufism, Futurology, Zen Buddhism, Dennis and Terence McKenna, the occult practices of Aleister Crowley and G.I. Gurdjieff, the Illuminati and Freemasons, Yoga, and other esoteric or counterculture philosophies. He advocated Timothy Leary’s eight circuit model of consciousness and neurosomatic/linguistic engineering, which he also wrote about in Prometheus Rising (1983, revised 1997) and Quantum Psychology (1990), books containing practical techniques for breaking free of one’s “reality tunnels”.[citation needed] With Leary, he helped promote the futurist ideas of space migration, intelligence increase, and life extension (SMI2LE).

    Wilson also supported many of the utopian theories of Buckminster Fuller and the Fortean theories of Charles Fort (he was a friend of Loren Coleman), as well as those of media theorist Marshall McLuhan and Neuro Linguistic Programming co-founder Richard Bandler, with whom he had taught workshops. He also admired James Joyce, and had written commentary on Finnegans Wake and Ulysses.[8]

    Ironically, considering Wilson long lampooned and criticized new age beliefs, his books can often be found in bookstores specializing in new age material. He claimed to have perceived encounters with magical “entities”, and when asked whether these entities were “real”, he answered they were “real enough”, although “not as real as the IRS” since they were “easier to get rid of”. He warned against beginners using occult practice, since to rush into such practices and the resulting “energies” they unleash can lead people to go “quite nuts”. Instead, he recommends beginners start with NLP, Zen Buddhism, basic meditation, etc., before progressing to more potentially disturbing activities.[citation needed]

  7. schutzman
    Posted January 13, 2007 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    The whole situation is very sad, especially when you think about all the struggles (as Skinner alludes to above) that RAW went through in his life, and the positive attitude he managed to maintain in spite of it all.

    Since I heard the news, it’s made me very self-conscious of my own mortality, but specifically in regards to my mortality as an American citizen. This is a truly amazing country, where a person can touch the lives of millions, inspire several generations of readers, and still end up virtually destitute as a result of our ‘Bootstrap’ mentality (Bucky Fuller once observed similarly that the concept of “Earning a Living” is ridiculous, since it’s basically saying you have no right to be alive if you don’t have a steady job your entire life, regardless of its benefit to society. Not to get all biblical, here, but the Jesus line about “every bird has a nest, but only man can be homeless” also comes to mind).

    Sorry for the digression, but this whole situation has me feeling very disgusted with our system’s treatment of RAW, especially as I know that in most other ‘civilized’ nations a 74 year old man bedridden with polio would be provided at least the security to cover his rent and basic expenses, regardless of what he did earlier in his life.

    Anyway, I started re-reading the ‘cosmic trigger’ books, and as I’ve been re-experiencing the high weirdness of coincidences in my own life resulting from this reading, it does occur to me that some good will come of all this, as maybe his death was the only way that people like me (and mark) would pick up his works again, and people who never heard of him would start reading him for the first time, and our society certainly needs a good injection of discordian thought at this juncture.

    And yes, with the exception of a few of Grandpa’s one-liners, the Munsters weren’t much of a mindfuck, although I did always like DeCarlo’s faithful performance as the show’s “Straight (wo)Man”, which was the only element that made it even approach the quality of its rival the Addams Family (not that I liked her nearly as much as Carolyn Jones, mind you, but I thought I should say something positive).

  8. mark
    Posted January 13, 2007 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    For those of you who didn’t follow the earlier links, RAW was, a few months ago, going to be thrown out of his house, even though, at the time, he’d been given little time to live. It was a money thing. Fortunately, someone got the idea to spead word over the internet. And, before you knew it, his bills had been paid. He was, as you might expect, blown away by the act of kindness. I suspect that he knew his works were of vital importance to a great many of us, but I don’t think he knew just how much they meant. Anyway, I think he probably died a very happy man, having gotten to experience that. Given the story lines that run through his books, and the way synchronicity always plays such a role, it’s a kind of fitting end. It just kind of organicly came about… But he’s not typical. Another man in his circumstances would have been evicted, left to die in a homeless shelter, and it’s not right. The system needs to change. And I don’t mean that we need a welfare state. People who can work, should work. But clearly 74 year old men and women shouldn’t be put on the streets to die.

  9. It's Skinner Again
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    The “NY Times” gave RAW a snotty little obit. His work was pretty much dismissed as all drug-related. It was a shameful little obit, and more than a little bizarre.

    Older artists aren’t valued in the US. I remember that Martha Graham was turned down for an NEA grant because she was too old. Any other country would have honored her as a cultural icon.

    As for Yvonne de Carlo, she had a long career before the “Munsters.” She should be remembered for more than that!

  10. mark
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I heard Tony Curtis once brag to David Letterman about Yvonne De Carlo being the first starlet that he’d bedded in LA… Let this be a lesson to all of you folks out there, men or women, who would like to have my respect. The quickest way to lose it is by rutting with Tony Curtis…

    As for the “New York Times” obit, you’re right. It did seem to trivialize his work… Here it is, for those of you who haven’t seen it.

    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, 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.”

  11. Anonymatt
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if his daughter’s head is still frozen.

  12. schutzman
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I’d wondered the same. I thought it was just her brain, though.

  13. schutzman
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    This site talks about the matter, and since they don’t say otherwise, it would seem that she’s still being kept someplace.

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