If I had to pick a single author who has influenced me more than any other it would be the counterculture godfather Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007) whose books, speeches, and ideas have influenced generations of oddball individualists since the 1970s.

I discovered Wilson — or RAW as he is known by his followers — around 2003 when I was an undergraduate and his approach of “agnostic mysticism” has reverberated in me ever since. RAW advocated for not just agnosticism about God but agnosticism about everything. For many years that was my religion of sorts. Now I’ve returned to a more Judeo-Christian worldview, albeit still informed by mystical and occult  interpretations of the Bible, however I still think Wilson’s approach is tremendously valuable. In this day and age of even more polarized politics than back in 2003 Wilson’s urging for agnosticism about ideology is just what American culture needs.

So here’s a brief tour of my RAW books and media collection. It is not yet complete and there are a number of older and newer editions of his books that I want to acquire eventually, but this is probably about 85% of the way there:

I discovered RAW on the second disc of Disinformation: The Series, which featured speakers from a counterculture convention in 2000. It was here that I was also introduced to the ideas and books of Douglas Rushkoff, Grant Morrison, and the films of Kenneth Anger. Here’s his whole speech:

Soon thereafter I acquired Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson, which lays out Wilson’s main ideas and offers a bit of his biography.

You can now view the entire Maybe Logic documentary on YouTube:

The reason why I’m writing about RAW today is because July 23 is a kind of holiday for his fans. In Cosmic Trigger he writes about how on this day in 1973 he experienced some kind of contact with an entity. He explains how over the years he’s held many hypotheses about what it may have been, ranging from aliens to spirits to dead people, to just being a bit crazy and hallucinating. Taking an agnostic approach to the experience is akin to what he advocated throughout his books and talks; that we should be skeptical about both our own BS and other people’s. He was fond of noting that “BS” was a good shortening for “belief system.”

Prometheus Rising sort of offers a “how-to” for changing oneself and escaping into different worldviews, or as RAW called them “reality tunnels.”

RAW wrote a whole lot about various conspiracy theories because he regarded them as a useful teaching tool to help people learn to see things not in absolute true or false but to learn how to weigh degrees of truth and false. Which conspiracy theories may have some grains of truth behind them and where do they exaggerate and wildly speculate?

Politically Wilson was often difficult to pin down on either Left or Right. It’s generally fair to characterize him as libertarian, though. At different times and through different characters he sometimes leaned toward libertarian-anarchism and other times toward libertarian-socialism. Libertarian individualist — whatever that might mean — is probably the best label.

Where I part ways with Wilson these days is that I notice his Paganism much more, an example of which is his joking religion Discordianism which worships Eris, goddess of chaos and confusion.

Here’s an audio interview with RAW in which he discusses Crowley:

Anyway, I hope you’ve found this a useful introduction to my favorite author. Start with the first Cosmic Trigger and then explore around and see what you like. RAW’s wikipedia page is also especially good. And check out the new publishing imprint Hilaritas founded by his daughter to revise and republish 19 of the books pictured above now that they have the rights again.

RAW was really a buffet of an author and he offers a little something for everyone. So I very much encourage you to dig in when you’re ready to have your mind blown!

*****

Photo by cdrummbks