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.
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
Fuller and examined the theories of Charles Fort, as well as
the works of H. P. Lovecraft and the "great beast" Aleister
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
McKenna, Wilson defined the genre that has fast become
the prevailing, noö paradigm, typified as:
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Throughout his writing
career, Wilson was a champion of
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
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:
Like the 11:11 transmission, the
number 23 appears as an indicator of
meaningful coincidence to those who have been
introduced to the enigma.
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
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
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.
conclusion, there is no conclusion.
Things will go on as they always have, getting weirder all
- 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
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."