Praise Be To Bob: My Favorite Robert Anton Wilson Concepts

4. Intelligence Squared

This is a good one and one that doesn’t come up nearly enough as far as I’m concerned. Fortunately for me, it’s pretty easy to explain. The idea is that our culture and upbringing imprint a personality on you, and the one thing I will say is that social psychology has in fact proven that people are alarmingly conformist. So you have this imprinted personality from both your environment and experience, like say, I’m Steve. I grew up a Yankees fan and became an auto mechanic. I like playing baseball on the weekends and hanging out with my wife and two kids. I have two parents, John and Martha, and like to vacation in Mexico in the winter. Now, when this same person has a mystical or what the psychology set likes to call a transpersonal experience, this shifts. Obviously, being a card carrying hippie, the implication in Wilson’s case is that these sort of mind blowing god experiences can be brought about by the likes of certain super hallucinogens, although that’s by no measure the only means of doing so.

What these cosmic mindgasms do is detach the experiencer from their mundane imprinting and make them start questioning the scope of their imprinted narrative more than a bit. Wait, I’m Steve, and I love the Yankees and my parents John and Martha, but I’m also something else looking at this Steve personae from a distance. I’m more than just the imprinting. I’m more than just Steve. Who the fuck is Steve anyway? I know I started asking myself these questions in greater detail pretty much immediately after having my mind obliterated by psilocybin as a teenager. According to Wilson, this act of the self profoundly questioning its conditioned plot structure has always been how intelligence increases exponentially. We need to harness this potentiality, but currently we suppress these states with a vengeance. We should probably work on that.

3. Relativity of Consciousness

Here’s the thing. I can’t fucking believe that the subjective nature of reality isn’t taught in every single school, in every single church, in every single philosophy class ever. It should be such an obvious accepted truth about the fundamental nature of human experience that its importance can’t really be overstated enough. Yet, it’s almost never mentioned because our entire philosophy is based on this mythical idea of objective truth, which only truly applies to repeatable external phenomenon. In fact, when you start talking about the subjective nature of reality, most people raised in western culture will just stare at you blankly and it’s not like you’re talking high level coding or some shit. I personally give R.A.W. credit for illuminating my young mind to the idea that our world is in fact experienced largely through subjective perception and internal narrative.

Of course, he talks in terms of “reality tunnels” (a term he borrowed from Leary) and I’m not a huge fan of that verbiage from purely an aesthetic standpoint. I like to use the word microverse or subjective microverse, and pointing out the subjectivity and relativity of consciousness is a topic that pervades my writing continually. Here’s a question: How can one thing be 2 things simultaneously? Easy, it’s perceived in different ways by different people. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all. I personally can’t stand hipster darlings Andrew W.K. or Die Antwoord (who both dabble in a “Stoopid is Kooool!” schtick that irks me on a fundamental level). But like, millions of people, even people I mostly respect love these acts. So, are they the worst musicians ever, or genius creative types? The answer is both. In fact, it gets more complicated than that. To many people, they’re generally mediocre. To others, they had one good album or one cool song but most of their other stuff sucks. So, they’re not two things, they’re a million different things because that’s how many people have experienced their “art”.

Again, on a mystical level, this reflects what I’ve been shown about the higher astral realms. Perception and experience are even more subjective there to the point that this world could be considered an exercise in fixed perception. If you’re going to understand things like dreams, understanding the subjective nature of reality is pretty much THE single most important concept you have to get a grasp on.

2. He Made the Occult Seem Non-Douchey

Earlier I mentioned the book Sex, Drugs, and Magick and how that was actually my first exposure to the Bob. How I somehow encountered the dude through one of his least known works is bit odd to say the least, but that’s the book my college roommate loaned me back in the day. The thesis of the book is fairly clear: while the Occult largely gets labeled as devil worship, this is really more a reflection of a history of sexual and pharmacological repression than anything else. It could more accurately be considered stoned orgasm worship, and is that evil really? Of course the answer is no. How could extreme pleasure be considered evil in a world where war is so heavily funded? More importantly, R.A.W. genuinely comes across as a smart hippie dude with a humorous no fucks given attitude that’s maybe inspired me more than anything else. In a way, I’d sort of consider him the father of what I’m now referring to as psych magick, which is basically the combination of hermetic philosophy, subjective sigil practice, and the ritualistic use of psychedelic drugs (i.e. shamanism). He’s obviously been a huge influence on both Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, who have sort of carried the torch of that philosophy and pushed it further than he ever did.

The problem is that currently, this sort of magick barely exists as far as I can tell. Bob was of course studying this stuff in relative isolation and experimenting solo (and with his wife). Maybe the Occult vibe was different back in the late 60’s/early 70’s. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that most of what passes for magick these days is some dark uber douche goth crap that I want exactly nothing to do with. Lord, if I unintentionally lead anyone to believe that the Occult is somehow cool with my writing, I want to formally apologize. Holy crap is it lame. Cool in theory, painfully embarrassing in execution. Religion’s slander campaign won and it really ends up being a bunch of cosplay “I want to be in a horror movie” creepiness more than anything else. Very little serious spiritual exploration going down from what I can tell, and you know what maybe my biggest complaint is (well, other than horrible people using it as a spiritual philosophy to justify being horrible people)? Wow is it boring. Puts me the fuck to sleep. Bob made it seem interesting, cool, and progressive, which it honestly isn’t (at least from my perspective). So Bob’s naivete in regards to magick ended up inspiring people like Morrison, Moore, and myself (although I was ultimately summoned into the practice),  to dabble in this stuff under the illusion that it was psychedelic hippie shit when in reality, it’s mostly goth as fuck. Remember when I was talking about F is for Fake. The reality didn’t really matter, the illusion Bob projected ultimately prevailed.

Thad McKraken

Thad McKraken

Thad McKraken is a psychedelic writer, musician, visual artist, filmmaker, Occultist, and pug enthusiast based out of Seattle. He is the author of the books The Galactic Dialogue: Occult Initiations and Transmissions From Outside of Time, both of which can be picked up on Amazon super cheap.
Thad McKraken