Robert Anton Wilson dies

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POSTED: January 14, 2007

While I was on holiday at the New Year I reread the Illuminatus! trilogy. I had last read it about ten or twelve years ago and I approached it suspecting that it might be sadly dated. (I had glanced through an old book of Timoth Leary’s recently and boy was that dated. It was like reading a Victorian novel in the sense that it seemed to be from a completely different time and space.) To my surprise it felt like a new novel both in its style and its range of concerns.

It was also more coherent than I remember from previous readings, and I am now committed to exploring some of the material in the appendices – partly in an effort to find out which references are “real”, and partly because some of the items are worth following up from a research perspective, whether they are “real” or not.

Today I learned that RAW had finally died after a long illness brought on by his childhood polio. Briefly:

Robert Anton Wilson, writer: born New York 18 January 1932; married 1958 Arlen Riley (died 1999; one son, two daughters, and one daughter deceased); died Capitola, California 11 January 2007.

His website is an amusing source of information and contains excerpts from many of his books. All of them are illuminating and entertaining but Quantum Psychology is (in my opinion) indispensable


Meanwhile, a few days later

from The Guardian (18.01.2007):

John Higgs writes: When I visited Robert Anton Wilson in December 2004, he looked frail. From photographs I was expecting a stocky, round-faced man, but the Bob I met was thinner in the face, which gave his ever-smiling eyes more prominence. […]

In conversation, you realised how liberating his brand of agnosticism is. By not believing in anything he was free to examine everything. To Bob, everything was interesting. This openness was life-affirming because he did not shut himself off from the good and the humour in things. His pleasure in wild ideas may have sidelined him as a contemporary thinker, but his approach was an antidote to fundamentalism. For Bob, fixed belief was intellectual suicide, and the framing of an argument into only two competing sides was absurd.