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Robert Anton Wilson Archives


Robert Anton Wilson (Jan. 18, 1932 – Jan. 11, 2007) is an American author, philosopher, futurist, reality tunnel excavator, Discordian Pope (but who isn't?), and world renown mystic-agnostic. Born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Wilson attended Catholic grammar schools, finally landing at the elite NYC public magnet high school: Brooklyn Tech.

While attending Brooklyn Tech, Wilson was "turned on" to  literary modernism, particularly Ezra Pound and James Joyce... as well as science fiction, including the works of  Olaf Stapledon and Robert A. Heinlein. Wilson admired the works and utopian theories of Buckminster Fuller and examined the theories of Charles Fort, as well as the works of H. P. Lovecraft and the "great beast" Aleister Crowley.

Following a journalistic career that culminated at Playboy magazine, Wilson emerged as a major countercultural figure in the 1970s. Along with cohorts Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna, Wilson defined the genre that has fast become the  prevailing, noö paradigm, typified as: High Strangeness. Although a prolific writer, Wilson  is perhaps best-known for his early, 1975 cult classic,  The Illuminatus! Trilogy, co-authored with Robert Shea.

The three books... The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan, re-examined and re-imagined our popular understanding of the occult, magical symbolism as it appears throughout history, the 60s counterculture, secret societies, and contemporary American paranoia surrounding conspiracies and conspiracy theories.

Much of Wilson and Shea's most outrageous inspiration came from all the weird letters to the editor, sent to Playboy magazine while they worked as editors for its Forum. The trilogy mixed true information with imaginative fiction to engage the reader in what Wilson called "guerrilla ontology," which he notoriously referred to as "operation mindfuck" in Illuminatus! This culturally defining concept has quite a strange history...

Operation mindfuck (OM!) allegedly began as a Discordian prank, instigated by a beatnik named Kerry Wendell Thornley, in his many letters to Wilson. The gist of the prank was to start a rumor, in the “letters to the editor” page at Playboy, that a vast conspiracy existed, and controlled much of the nefarious happenings of the 1960’s and beyond. The perpetrators of this conspiracy, were none-other than the rascally Illuminati.

Wilson and Shea promptly incorporated OM! (as part of the prank) in their grand, conspiracy infused, ontological masterpiece. It was with the publication of this trilogy that the OM! mindvirus was exposed to a wider audience. Heads and Hackers alike, were turned on to the OM! culture-jamming concept during the 70’s and early 80’s.

But the thing is, no one is immune from the effects of operation mindfuck. Wilson was pulled into the high strangeness of illuminati plots, extra-terrestrial mind control, and other fortean phantasms. Wilson’s bemused objectivity, slowly but steadily gave way to his own paranoia. As the inevitable synchronicities accumulated, he began to believe his own fictions. This transformation was chronicled in Wilson's The Cosmic Trigger, which rivals Illuminatus! as one of his most influential works.

In fact, Wilson spent much of his later career attempting to figure out just what was real and what was a product of his own vivid imagination.

It was in his semi-autobiographical material that Wilson identified and labeled the descent into existential paranoia as: "Chapel Perilous." Borrowed from Arthurian legend, this occult term refers to a psychological state in which an individual cannot be certain whether they have been aided or hindered by some force outside the realm of the natural world, or whether what appeared to be supernatural interference was a product of their own vivid imagination. In Cosmic Trigger, Wilson acknowledges that being in this state leads the subject to become either stone paranoid or an agnostic... there is no third way.

Reality Tunnels

Wilson, along with Leary, was an avid proponent of the "Reality Tunnel" psychological roadmap. The reality tunnel theory suggests that, being encumbered with a subconscious set of mental filters, formed from beliefs and experiences, every individual interprets the same world differently... per the old saying: "Truth is in the eye of the beholder." The idea does not necessarily imply that there is no objective truth... rather that our access to it is mediated through our senses, experience, conditioning, prior beliefs, and other non-objective factors.

The "implied" individual world each human occupies, is thus described as their reality tunnel. The term can also apply to groups of people united by beliefs. Theological examples of this include a fundamentalist Christian reality tunnel vs an ontological naturalist reality tunnel. Socio-political examples include: a liberal-progressive reality tunnel vs an Alt-Right reality tunnel.

In Wilson's reality tunnel model, a fully functioning human ought to be aware of their reality tunnel, and be able to keep it flexible enough to accommodate, and to some degree sympathize with, different reality tunnels, different (in Leary's parlance) "game rules." They should accordingly recognize specific, predominant reality tunnels that influence different cultures....

Wilson further explained this fully functioning human's ability in the 1977 book Neuropolitics... "The gene-pool politics which monitor power struggles among terrestrial humanity are transcended in this info-world, i.e. seen as static, artificial charades. One is neither coercively manipulated into another's territorial reality nor forced to struggle against it with reciprocal game-playing (the usual soap opera dramatics). One simply elects, consciously, whether or not to share the other's reality tunnel."

Wilson, like John C. Lilly and many others, maintained that through various techniques, one can break down old reality tunnels and impose new reality tunnels by removing old filters and replacing them with new ones... new perspectives on reality... at will. This is achieved through various processes of intelligence engineering, ie: using self-hypnosis, biofeedback devices, meditation, and controlled use of hallucinogens. Thus, it is believed one's reality tunnel can be widened to take full advantage of human potential and experience reality on more positive levels. Wilson's Prometheus Rising, a psychonautic guidebook for the exploration of various reality tunnels, examines such possibilities.

Intelligence Engineering

Throughout his writing career, Wilson was a champion of Timothy Leary's 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness. He wrote and expanded upon the system in many books including The Illuminati Papers, Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology, which contain practical techniques intended to help the reader break free of one's reality tunnels.  He argued that whatever reality is conceived as... it actually is much weirder than we commonly imagine.

Wilson collaborated with Leary on promoting the 8-ciruit model of consciousness, perhaps overshadowing Leary in his enthusiasm. Leary and Wilson co-authored  The Game of Life which was published in 1979. Wilson also had a hand in the 1988 revised edition: Neuropolitique where critics said that the work: presents some of Dr. Leary’s best ideas... his reflections on the past and his hope for the future.

Intelligence is the capacity to receive, decode and transmit information efficiently. Stupidity is blockage of this process at any point. Bigotry, ideologies etc. block the ability to receive; robotic reality-tunnels block the ability to decode or integrate new signals; censorship blocks transmission.

- Robert Anton Wilson

The 23 Enigma

As we all know, the 23 enigma is a belief in the synchronistic significance of the number 23. While the number 7 is thought of as a lucky number, and 13 is believed to be unlucky... the number 23 is often described as the number of incident... or more precisely: coincidence.

Like the 11:11 transmission, the number 23 appears as an indicator of meaningful coincidence to those who have been introduced to the enigma. Beware as you read these words dear reader, for once having seen the 23 enigma, it cannot be unseen... and now virally infests your consciousness, too!

Wilson was no stranger to the 23 enigma, where it first appeared in Illuminatus! Wilson cites William S. Burroughs as the first person to believe in the 23 enigma. In an article in Fortean Times, Wilson related the following anecdote...

I first heard of the 23 enigma from William S Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, Nova Express, etc. According to Burroughs, he had known a certain Captain Clark, around 1960 in Tangier, who once bragged that he had been sailing 23 years without an accident. That very day, Clark’s ship had an accident that killed him and everybody else aboard. Furthermore, while Burroughs was thinking about this crude example of the irony of the gods that evening, a bulletin on the radio announced the crash of an airliner in Florida, USA. The pilot was another Captain Clark and the flight was Flight 23.

Burroughs wrote a short story in 1967 called "23 Skidoo." The term "23 skidoo" was popularized in the early 1920s and means “it's time to leave while the getting is good.” This expression appeared in newspapers as early as 1906.

For his part, Burroughs considered the synchronous occurrence of 23 to be a harbinger of some impending calamity. His association of the appearance of 23 with disasters also corresponds with hexagram 23 of the "I Ching", P'o, translated as "Splitting Apart." The hexagram pictures a time in which the brazen forces of "inferior" thinking (action), surreptitiously overthrows the calmative, "superior" thinking (contemplation).

Skeptics claim that the 23 enigma can be viewed as an example of apophenia. In interviews, Wilson himself has acknowledged the self-fulfilling nature of the 23 enigma, implying that the real value of the Laws of Fives and Twenty-threes lies in their demonstration of the mind's power to perceive "truth" in nearly anything. Ultimately, the power of the 23 signal is as powerful as the individual's powers of manifestation, akin to the law of attraction.

In bringing the 23 enigma to a wide pop-cultural audience, Wilson single-handedly installed "23 consciousness" within our modern zeitgeist.

Did you really think we weren't watching?

In conclusion, there is no conclusion.
Things will go on as they always have, getting weirder all the time.

- Robert Anton Wilson

One of the most profound and important scientific philosophers of this century, Wilson has written many very important works of fiction and non-fiction. His vast intelligence and sharp wit are sufficient to shock and enlighten even the the most heavily imprinted domesticated primates nervous system. His works continue to influence our culture, as the High Strangeness of our modern world continues to morph into an ever-expanding reality-tunnel of post-truth, post-consensual reality.

Like a black hole, our culture seems to be caught in Wilson's vortex of strangeness... spiraling towards... dog knows what. From Wilson's written and lectured perspective, this is as it should be, for in Wilson's words... "Reality is what you can get away with."



Links to R.A.W. Reality Tunnels


Join the HEAD Revolution


Beyond Theology! - excerpt from the Illuminati Papers

Wilson's Eightfold Model of Human Consciousness




The Official Robert Anton Wilson Website

Robert Anton Wilson - archive from the Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension



Did you really think we weren't watching?


The Sex Magicians (1973)
The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975) (with Robert Shea)...
1) The Eye in the Pyramid
2) The Golden Apple
3) Leviathan
Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy (1979–1981)...
1) The Universe Next Door
2) The Trick Top Hat
3) The Homing Pigeons
Masks of the Illuminati (1981)
The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles...
The Earth Will Shake (1982)
The Widow's Son (1985)
Nature's God (1988)

Autobiographical and philosophical trilogy
Cosmic Trigger Trilogy
Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977)
Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth (1991)
Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death (1995)

Plays and screenplays
Wilhelm Reich in Hell (1987)
Reality Is What You Can Get Away With (1992; revised edition - new introduction added - 1996)
The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1997)

Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words (1972)
Sex and Drugs: A Journey Beyond Limits (1973)
The Book of the Breast (1974)
Revised as Ishtar Rising (1989)
Neuropolitics (1978) (with Timothy Leary and George Koopman)
Revised as Neuropolitique (1988)
The Game of Life (1979) (with Timothy Leary)
Prometheus Rising (1983)
The New Inquisition (1986)
Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy (1987)
Sex, Drugs and Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits (1988) revision, with new introduction, of Sex and Drugs: A Journey Beyond Limits
Quantum Psychology (1990)
Everything Is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults and Cover-ups (1998) (with Miriam Joan Hill)
TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution (2002)

Essay collections
The Illuminati Papers (1980) collection of essays and new material.
Right Where You Are Sitting Now (1983) collection of essays and new material.
Coincidance: A Head Test (1988) collection of essays and new material.
Email to the universe and other alterations of consciousness (2005)...
collection of essays and new material.
More Chaos and Beyond (2019)...
posthumous anthology of previously uncollected material.


The above was inspired by the great...
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