High Times Greats: Interview With Robert Anton Wilson

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74


Philip
H.
Farber
sat
down
with
counterculture
writer

Robert
Anton
Wilson

(1932

2007)
for
an
interview
originally
published
in
the
November,
1991
edition
of

High
Times

magazine.
In
honor
of
Robert
Anton
Wilson’s
birthday
January
18,
we’re
republishing
it
below.


Based
on
Robert
Anton
Wilson’s
incredible
and
varied
career,
it’s
hard
to
know
what
to
expect
when
you
meet
him.
This
is
a
guy
who
spent
five
years
in
the
’60s
as
an
editor
of

Playboy
,
then
went
on
to
coauthor
(with
Robert
Shea)
the
mind-boggling

Illuminatus!

(cut
into
a
trilogy
by
its
publisher),
got
his
PhD
in
psychology,
wrote
the
“new-age”
classic

Cosmic
Trigger
,
collaborated
on
two
books
with

Timothy
Leary
,
wrote
a
whole
bunch
more
on
his
own,
released
a
punk-rock
album,
and
toured
as
a
stand-up
comedian.
Robert
Anton
Wilson
has
expanded
as
many
minds
with
his
books
as
all
the
Sandoz
acid
ever
manufactured.
A
small
surprise,
then,
to
finally
see
this
white-bearded,
Buddha-like
man
dressed
in
the
same
casual
suit
that
your
college
physics
professor
wore—a
slightly
wacky
Buddha,
to
be
sure,
cracking
jokes
and
reciting
Monty
Python
routines
in
a
pleasantly
gruff
Brooklyn
accent.
Wilson’s
conversation
is
startlingly
like
his
books,
his
words
tying
together
an
amazing
diversity
of
facts,
theories
and
punchlines
in
a
way
that
gently
prods
at
your
sense
of
reality.
Oh
well,
as
Wilson’s
readers
know
well
enough,
it’s
always
fun
to
watch
as
your
preconceptions
are
blown
to
little,
tiny
bits.


HIGH
TIMES:
Who
do
you
think
is
responsible
for
the
“War
on
Drugs?”

Robert
Anton
Wilson:
I
suppose
the
Eli
Lilly
Company.


HT:
How
do
you
figure
that?

RAW:
The
War
on
Drugs
is
chiefly
a
war
on
pot,
according
to
Judge
Sweet.
Eighty-five
percent
of
the
drug
budget
is
going
into
pursuing
pot-smokers.
They’re
trying
to
drive
pot
off
the
market
because
the
CIA
is
a
making
a
big
profit
out
of
the
cocaine
business,
and
Eli
Lilly
provides
the
materials
that
the
Colombians
need
to
make
cocaine
out
of
the
coca.
So
they
want
to
keep
the
cocaine
business
going.
By
the
way,
do
you
know
who
owns
Eli
Lilly?


HT:
No,
I
don’t.

RAW:
The
Quayle
family
owns
a
large
part
and
George
Bush
owns
a
large
part.


HT:
How
much
do
you
think
the
US
government
is
involved
in
maintaining
that
supply
of
materials
from
Eli
Lilly
to
Colombia?

RAW:
Well,
the
government
isn’t
doing
anything
to
stop
Eli
Lilly
from
sending
those
materials
down
to
Colombia
and
there’s
lots
of
cases
where
the
CIA
has
been
caught
red-handed
laundering
drug
money.
They
were
running
a
bank
in
Florida
a
few
years
ago—the
World
Finance
Corporation—which
was
mainly
a
cocaine-money
laundromat.
And
then
there
was
a
bank
in
Australia
which
the
CIA
was
running,
which
was
laundering
heroin
money.
Most
of
their
banks
were
tied
in
with
the
Swiss
Alpine
Bank
in
the
Bahamas,
which
was
run
by
Roberto
Calvi,
and
Archbishop
Marcinkus,
so
they
could
run
the
money
through
the
Vatican
Bank,
where
it
leaves
no
record.


HT:
I’ve
noticed
that
a
lot
of
the
so-called
antidrug
propaganda
is
phrased
in
a
strange,
negative
fashion—sort
of
reverse
suggestion.
For
instance,
“Keep
on
smoking
crack
and
you’ll
end
up
with
nothing,”
could
be
taken
as
a
suggestion
to
keep
smoking
crack.
Do
you
think
this
is
deliberate,
or
are
they
just
stupid?

RAW:
Never
underestimate
the
stupidity
of
the
establishment
in
this
country.
The
stupidity
of
the
establishment
approaches
to
infinity.


HT:
The
executive
branch
of
the
government,
the
CIA
and
the
Vatican
Bank
are
pretty
monolithic
institutions
to
be
working
against.
Do
you
think
there
is
much
chance
of
cannabis
being
legalized
in
America?

RAW:
Yes,
because
there
are
more
and
more
people
becoming
aware
of
the
valuable
properties
of
hemp,
thanks
to
Jack
Herer
and
a
lot
of
others—but
especially
Jack
Herer.
There
are
more
and
more
people
who
know
that
we
could
be
running
our
cars
on
hemp
oil
and
not
polluting
the
air
the
way
that
petroleum
pollutes
the
air.
A
lot
of
people
know
that
we
can
print
books
on
hemp
paper,
and
that
will
slow
down
the
destruction
of
the
forests.
A
lot
of
facts
like
that
are
becoming
more
widely
known.
It’s
an
uphill
battle
against
deception,
greed
and
ignorance—but
it’s
not
hopeless.


HT:
Are
there
some
ways
to
do
this
that
you
think
haven’t
been
fully
explored,
but
can
be?

RAW:
I
think
we
should
study
the
samizdat
methods
that
were
used
in
the
Soviet
Union
to
transmit
information
when
the
censorship
was
so
strict
there.
We’ve
got
computer
networks,
that’s
one
avenue
for
distributing
information.
Meanwhile,
we
do
have
alternative
radio.
We
have
Pacifica
and
National
Public
Radio,
where
a
lot
of
information
gets
out
that
can’t
get
into
the
major
media.
I
think
more
and
more
people
are
aware
of
that
while
listening
to
those
radio
stations.


HT:
We
’ve
been
talking
about
hemp
being
legalized.
What
do
you
think
is
the
possibility
of
any
psychedelic
being
legalized
or
even
just
accepted
by
the
public?

RAW:
I’m
beginning
to
think
that
there’s
a
real
chance
that
research
will
be
legalized
again.
There
are
more
and
more
people
in
the
psychotherapeutic
professions
who
are
speaking
out,
and
it
has
been
relegalized
for
research
purposes
in
several
countries
in
Europe:
in
Switzerland,
Germany
and
Holland,
among
others.
There
is
definitely
a
movement
toward,
at
least,
legalizing
research
again.
It
does
seem,
with
the
passing
of
time,
that
more
and
more
people
can
see
how
stupid
it
is
to
forbid
scientific
research
in
an
area
where
the
research
that
was
done
thirty
years
ago
was
so
promising.

There
was
evidence,
in
the
early
sixties
when
research
was
legal,
that
LSD
was
useful
in
the
treatment
of
alcoholism,
schizophrenia—all
sorts
of
psychological
problems.
Leary
took
a
bunch
of
convicts,
and
when
he
was
through
with
his
therapy,
the
overwhelming
majority
of
them
never
committed
another
crime
for
the
rest
of
their
lives.
And
for
as
far
as
the
followup
studies
followed
them,
they
were
still
law-abiding
citizens—the
most
astonishing
feat
in
the
history
of
behavioral
science!
There
was
all
the
evidence
that
people
learn
languages
faster
with
acid.
And
there
was
the
research
on
religious
experiences,
like
the
Good
Friday
Experiment.

All
of
that
was
so
promising
that
it’s
hard
to
believe
that
we
can
return
to
the
days
of
the
Holy
Inquisition,
and
that
promising
areas
of
scientific
research
can
be
forbidden
indefinitely.
Especially,
as
I
said,
when
it’s
beginning
to
open
up
in
Europe.


HT:
You
mentioned
the
Good
Friday
Experiment—what
was
that?

RAW:
That
was
an
experiment
in
the
early
sixties
where
twenty
theology
students
were
in
a
chapel
on
Good
Friday
and
ten
of
them
got
psilocybin
and
ten
of
them
got
placebos.
The
ten
who
got
psilocybin
all
had
mystical
experiences
of
the
highest
quality.


HT:
What
kind
of
research
is
being
done
in
Europe,
that
you
know
of?

RAW:
Mostly,
it’s
clinical.
All
that
I’ve
read
about
is
just
that
therapists
are
allowed
to
use
it
in
the
treatment
of
their
patients.


HT:
Is
there
a
way
that
you’d
like
to
see
psychedelics
used
by
this
society?

RAW:
My
personal
opinion,
based
on
what
was
done
in
the
sixties,
and
what
has
been
done
underground—in
a
clandestine
way
since—is
that
it’s
probably
the
wonder
drug
of
the
twentieth
century,
much
more
than
penicillin.
Intelligently
used,
acid
has
nearly
infinite
potential.


HT:
Do
you
think
that
a
resurgence
in
psychedelic
use
now
would
produce
the
same
kind
of
cultural
ferment
that
it
did
in
the
sixties—bringing
ideas
up
to
the
surface?

RAW:
Undoubtedly.
The
main
effect
of
psychedelics
is
to
break
down
conditioned
and
imprinted
circuits
in
the
brain.
You
start
using
your
brain
in
new
ways,
which
means
new
impressions,
new
perceptions
and
new
ideas.


HT:
How
can
clandestine
experimenters
with
psychedelics
approach
these
experiences?

RAW:
It
should
be
approached
seriously,
with
a
religious
attitude
or
an
attitude
of
philosophical
inquiry.


HT:
What
do
you
mean
by
a
religious
attitude?

RAW:
An
expectation
that
your
whole
world
is
going
to
collapse
and
that
you’re
going
to
be
reborn.
If
you
don’t
expect
that,
if
you
think
you’re
just
having
fun,
you’re
likely
to
have
a
terrible
shock
which
can
frighten
you.


HT:
That
kind
of
experience
might
be
frightening
to
a
lot
of
people.

RAW:
It
is.
It
causes
acute
paranoia
in
politicians
who’ve
never
used
it,
and
it’s
done
some
damage
to
people
who
have
tried
it.
If
they’re
not
prepared
properly.


HT:
Do
you
think
electronic
highs—light
and
sound
machines,
or
electromagnetic
headsets—can
fulfill
some
of
the
same
uses?

RAW:
Not
yet,
but
I
think
we’re
getting
closer
to
that
all
the
time.
I
expect
within
two
or
three
years
we
will
have
electronic
equivalents.
There
are
different
machines
that
are
approaching
it
from
different
angles,
I
don’t
know
where
the
breakthrough
will
occur.
There
are
so
many
different
types
of
brain-altering
machines
that
someone
is
going
to
come
up
with
one
that
acts
just
like
LSD.


HT:
You
sometimes
talk
about
the
evolutionary
value
of
stupidity
in
connection
with
the
development
of
these
machines….

RAW:
Yeah,
I’ve
often
wondered
why
there’s
so
much
stupidity
in
the
world.
It’s
got
to
be
serving
some
function.
Nothing
survives
a
long-term
evolution
unless
it
has
a
function.
And
I
finally
decided
that
the
function
of
stupidity
is
to
force
the
intelligent
to
become
more
intelligent.
The
Inquisition
vastly
accelerated
science,
and
I
think
that
the
New
Inquisition
that
we’re
currently
living
through
has
inspired
all
sorts
of
creative
work
that
wouldn’t
have
happened
if
LSD
had
remained
legal.
People
wouldn’t
have
been
searching
into
so
many
alternatives
if
they’d
had
LSD
available
for
legal
research.


HT:
In
your
recent
novel,



Nature’s
God
,
you’ve
got
these
great
scenes
with
George
Washington
smoking
some
herb
in
his
campaign
tent.
Is
this
purely
fiction,
or
do
you
think
that
cannabis
really
was
influential
in
the
founding
of
the
United
States?

RAW:
Oh,
George
was
a
pothead!
That
was
documented
by
Dr.
Michael
Aldrich
back
in
the
sixties.
I
quote
a
lot
of
the
documentation
in
two
of
my
previous
books,
in
one
of
the
appendices
to

Illuminatus!
,
and
in

Sex
and
Drugs

[Playboy
Press,
’73].


HT:
Is
there
something
inherent
in
cannabis
that
had
people
thinking
about
independence?

RAW:
You
know,
the
first
hemp
law
we
had
in
this
country
obliged
farmers
to

grow

it.
Hemp
was
considered
so
valuable
that
they
wanted
everybody
who
owned
a
farm
to
grow
some.
Yeah,
hemp
played
a
major
role
in
American
history.
The
Constitution
was
written
on
hemp
paper.
The
Declaration
of
Independence
was
written
on
hemp.
All
of
our
early
ships
were
built
largely
out
of
hemp.


HT:
What
about
the
buzz
itself?
Did
that
altered
state
affect
the
thought
and
events
that
were
going
on
at
that
time?

RAW:
Yeah.
Pancho
Villa
was
another
pothead.
I
think
if
you
compare
the
military
campaigns
of
Washington
and
Villa,
you’ll
see
that
they
were
both
influenced
by
marijuana.
They
were
very
nonlinear,
that’s
why
they
kept
going
so
long
against
such
impossible
odds.
The
British
were
thinking
in
a
linear,
Aristotelian
way,
and
Washington
was
thinking
in
a
nonlinear
way.
That’s
how
he
wore
them
down
over
six
years.


HT:
Do
you
think
there
is
a
way
to
approach
the
headspace
of
George
Washington
for
the
purpose
of
gaining
individual
autonomy,
which
seems
to
be
the
present
battle?

RAW:
There’s
a
Sufi
word,
that
I
don’t
remember,
for
the
man
who
drinks
wine
in
secret
and
doesn’t
get
caught.
Jesus
said,
“Be
as
harmless
as
doves
and
as
subtle
as
serpents.”
In
a
mad
world,
one
has
to
pretend
to
be
at
least
partly
mad
in
order
to
pass
as
normal.
Or,
as
J.R.
“Bob”
Dobbs
says—Praise
“Bob”—“Act
like
a
dumb
shit
and
they’ll
treat
you
like
an
equal.”


HT:
Do
you
think
that
the
rise
of
strange
new
religions—like
the
Church
of
the
SubGenius
[who
“worship”
J.R.
“Bob”
Dobbs]—is
having
some
effect
on
the
culture?

RAW:
When
I
first
started
talking
about
these
deliberately
surrealist
religions
ten
years
ago,
most
people
had
never
heard
of
them.
Now
when
I
talk
about
them,
people
in
the
audience
have
already
heard
of
them,
and
they
yell
“Praise
‘Bob’”
and
“Hail
Eris”
and
things
like
that.
I
was
at
MIT
recently
and
I
saw
in
one
of
the
men’s
rooms,
written
on
the
wall,
“‘Bob’
is
the
only
hope
now.”
So,
definitely,
these
religions
are
impacting
all
over
our
culture.
There
was
an
Atari
computer
a
while
back
that,
when
you
first
tried
to
use
the
printer,
it
printed
out
a
hundred
“Bob”
heads
before
it
would
do
anything
else.


HT:
Was
that
intentional
or
a
virus?

RAW:
That
was
somebody
at
Atari.
Atari
gave
up
trying
to
find
out
who
did
it
and
just
sent
a
letter
of
explanation
to
people
who
complained.
People
were
writing
in
and
saying,
“Why
is
my
computer
printing
out
pictures
of
Hugh
Hefner?”
I
never
realized
“Bob”
looked
like
Hugh
Hefner
until
I
read
that.


HT:
Is
the
Discordian
Church,
such
as
it
ever
was,
still
at
large?

RAW:
Oh,
it’s
very
active.


HT:
What’s
the
evidence
of
that?

RAW:
The
Chaos
Computer
Club
in
Germany—they
infiltrated
the
whole
American
defense
[computer] system.


HT:
Are
there
Discordians
active
to
that
extent
in
the
USA?

RAW:
One
hears
rumors.

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