Playing Kickball With Chaos

An Interview Robert Anton Wilson

by Faustin Bray

From Issue #48


Champion of the underdog and self-appointed caretaker of conspiracy theories, with a deep philanthropic twist, Robert Anton Wilson has amused, bemused and infused readers with his witticisms and ponderings for almost thirty years. He is that rarest of creatures - a futurist with a sense of humor. Cantankerous? Yes. Ornery? Certainly. But while others have fallen into jaded cynicism, Wilson's passion for learning has kept his wit razor sharp and ready to parry.

Chaos and Beyond is Robert Anton Wilson's latest book. A collection of essays and stories from the magazine, Trajectories, the cast of characters the book presents is pure Wilson: Dee Scott Appel, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Timothy Leary, Linus Pauling, Robert Newport, Edward Kellogg III, Peter Russel, George Carlin and even Ed McMahon.

A prolific writer who takes delight in turning a mirror on society so that it can, for a moment, see itself and hopefully learn something, Wilson detests political correctness as just another form of fascism. Refusing to pull his punches, he can be, as his initials indicate, RAW.


People seem quick to agree that the world is becoming more and more chaotic, but what they mean when they use the word is not always clear.

Robert Anton Wilson: What I'm talking about is the upsurge of the totally unpredictable, a system that may be determinist but still can't be predicted until after you see what it's done. A mathematician named Theodore Gordon did a paper about three years ago showing that chaos increases where information flow increases. This is something I've been writing about for years, the fact that information is increasing faster all the time. For example, in the 1,500 years between Christ and Leonardo da Vinci, we had one doubling. Now information is doubling every eighteen months. That means there is more and more chaos. Coming out of this chaos are some astounding things: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of South Africa, treaties being worked on between the Israelis and the PLO, and the IRA and the British government . All of these things were totally unpredictable before they happened.

Those represent the sunny side of chaos. What about the dark side?

Robert Anton Wilson: One example that I give is the McMartin pre-school satanism case, where over a hundred teachers and clergymen were accused of running a satanic, child pornography ring. After prolonged investigation, no evidence of a pornography ring was ever discovered, no evidence of satanism was discovered. Out of a hundred accused teachers, the police indicted seven, dropped charges against five and ultimately brought only two to trial. The jury refused to convict even those two. It seems to have been total hysteria, but there are still people down there who say "no smoke without fire, it couldn't all have been hysteria; somebody must have been guilty of something." But it's the classic case, just like Salem all over, and there have been thirty-three other cases, not as well publicized. I caught a sociologist in Chaos and Beyond who studied thirty-three of these panics of that sort coming out of nowhere, people just going nuts all at once. It happens. Look at Nazi Germany. It's incredible. You change society rapidly enough, and make people uncertain enough, and some of them will jump on to the craziest damn belief systems. That's part of the chaos we're going through, too. Beside the satanic hysteria, there's the UFO abductions. Thousands of people have claimed they have been abducted and sexually molested by little Grey buggers from outer space. The idea seems to be that these characters get into some particularly vicious neurochemicals every so often. Then, about the time they're really zonked on them, one of them says, "Hey, I got a great idea. Let's get in the flying saucer and zoom a couple of billion light years over to Earth and have another go at Whitley Strieber's ass. And there's poor Whitley suffering again, and nobody takes him seriously. I'm sorry, but I'm one of the guys who thinks he's having terrible experiences, but I don't take them literally. That's part of a sociological trajectory, too. There's more and more of these UFO abduction cases reported.

What are the signs of chaos and why do you think it's happening now?

Robert Anton Wilson: Information is doubling faster than ever before and the amount of available energy is higher than ever before. The social systems existing on the planet are all inadequate to manage the kind of technology and the kind of energy economy we've got now. Radical changes are needed. And naturally you've got a variety of people of varying degrees of sanity and rationality, with different programs about what needs to be done. But everybody knows that something needs to be done.

What do you think of your role in terms of gathering all of the information that you do? What is it you're serving in our culture at this time?

Robert Anton Wilson: I picked up the phrase "guerrilla ontology" from somebody in the physics/consciousness research group back in the seventies. I forget who invented it-Jack Sarfati, Nick Herbert, Fritjof Capra, Saul Paul- Sirag, Fred Wolf, Elizabeth Rausher I forget who the hell came up with the term "guerilla ontology," but I liked it a lot and I've been using it to describe my own activities. It has a distinct family resemblance to deconstructionism, except the deconstructionists only seem to want to deconstruct Western civilization. I'm interested in deconstructing the rigid thought patterns that keep us from achieving our full potential and unleashing the full creativity of the human race for solving it's problems, instead of just bitching about them.

A lot of people feel this is a crescendo moment, that we are on the threshold of a meta-jump. Colin Wilson talks about it, so does Barbara Marx Hubbard. It's the idea of co-evolution into a great expansion of evolutionary overmind. It's something that's going to step us up to another level. What do you think?

Robert Anton Wilson: I've always had a strong intuition that all of this that's been going on, from the first unicellular organisms up to the present, is not all a bad joke intended to end up in catastrophe. It's going to higher and higher levels.

What would be a good way for people to look at the chaos that's going on now in terms of information overload?

Robert Anton Wilson: What I try to get at in all of my books, and especially in this one, is the notion that we cannot solve our problems by looking around to find out who's to blame for them and punishing them. This has been tried throughout history, and it's never produced any worthwhile results. It's led to a lot of what subsequent generations regarded as senseless persecutions. A little while ago, before the tape started, you were wondering whether it was warm milk or cold milk that increases your tryptophan. This is the first generation in human history where a large percentage of the population have talked about how to change their brain chemistry to function better. It's no accident that we've got this incredibly brutal and stupid war on drugs, because obviously a lot of people are going to be experimenting with things the government doesn't think it's safe to let us experiment with. I'm sixty-two, and I keep waiting for the day when the government thinks I'm old enough to make up my own mind about issues like this. But I guess I'll have to keep waiting. They've already taken my tryptophan. Now they're trying to take away my vitamin C.

One of the things that strikes me about Chaos and Beyond is the sense of information overload it provokes.

Robert Anton Wilson: I would say the book contains as much information as I could pack into one volume. The idea was to hit the reader with so much information that they would experience, in reading the book, what information explosion and chaos mean. We haven't changed much genetically since the last Ice Age, but we are changing culturally. We have more and more information. We're creating all sorts of different types of cultures after a hundred thousand years or so of a hunter- gatherer society. We mutated into cities and then into the Industrial Revolution, and now we're going in a dozen different directions, including outer space. We're creating what Teilhard de Chardin called the "noosphere"-a mind world that's totally our own product. And yet the mind world does change the material world, because every time a part of the mind world is sufficiently accurate, it can be duplicated in the material world, and we've got a new tool, a new machine, a new technology that will do things we couldn't do before.