The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

RAW Musings by Alan Lee

Posted by invizweb on July 23, 2008

Original .doc format:

Robert Anton Wilson left this life January 11, 2007, at 04:50 AM Pacific Time. During his brief 75-year journey on the Third Rock from the Sun, Robert Anton Wilson (RAW), or Bob, was akin to a Renaissance man. He was many things to many different people. While of this Earth, Bob was a Polio survivor, Crowley and Lovecraft reader, Playboy editor, bibliophile, husband, licensed psychologist, father, science fiction writer, conspiracy theory researcher, consciousness explorer, possible alien contactee, literary theorist, Neo-Pagan movement pioneer, guerilla ontologist, Zen Buddhist, Reich and Leary student, candidate for California Governor, founder of the Guns and Dope political Party, advocate for the decriminalization of some drugs, Chaos and Sex Magickian, Burning Man correspondent, futurologist, Subgenius Reverend, Discordian Pope, Agnostic (he was a major proponent of what he would later term “Maybe Logic”), and the inspiration for many.

Born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY, January 18, 1932, RAW who was then Robert Edward Wilson, was stricken with polio at a young age, but was treated with the Sister Elizabeth Kenny Method (which consisted of massage therapy and visualization) in 1934. Because Sister Kenny was not a board certified doctor, she like many of the persons Bob would write about during his lifetime, would be shunned despite the positive results of the afflicted patients (many of whom lived long lives such as Bob himself). After this ordeal, he moved to Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn. The ‘faith healing” episode however, was not the only Fortean experience in his childhood; at the age of four, Bob believed he had a sighting of a spider the size of an Australian Shepherd (dog).

He attended the prestigious Brooklyn Technical High School after a number of his educational years at Catholic schools due to wanting to experience Atheism. In 1950, he experienced his first hallucination, in which he “felt like he became unstuck in time.” It was also during this time that he found books in his school library of writers who would have profound influences in his life namely, James Joyce (a writer who experimented with the English language in his works), and Alfred Korzybski, the father of General Semantics, an educational discipline. By 1956, he would have enrolled as an English Education Major at New York University, while working with the ambulance. In that year, he also had his second hallucination, in which he entered a state of gnosis and found the divinity in all things. In 1958, Bob would marry the love of his life, Arlen Riley, whom he met while lecturing on General Semantics, after he was inspired by the futurist, Buckminster Fuller (designer of the geodesic dome), who would be influential on RAW’s views of the sciences. In 1959, Bob began to contribute to counterculture writer Paul Krassner’s Realist. Sometime after he began his writing career, he adopted the pseudonym Robert Anton Wilson, with the middle name coming from his maternal grandfather. It was also at the time that he began to explore marijuana and other entheogenic substances.

In 1975, the Eye in the Pyramid, the first book in what would later be collectively, the Illuminatus Trilogy! was released. In collaboration with fellow Playboy Editor, Robert Shea, Bob compiled all the letters of conspiracy theorists who sent in mail to the adult magazine, and drafted a plot from it. The idea came to them when they were tear-gassed at the 1968 Democratic Convention with Beat writer, Allen Ginsberg. The trilogy dealt with a rag tag band, consisting of newsletter journalists and NYPD cops, fighting against “a Great Conspiracy” and determining what the Illuminati was, as well as question the popular perception of reality. Along the way, such concepts as sex magic, the Olympian Goddess Eris, dolphins with missiles, pimps with anthrax, multiple John Dillingers, the JFK Assassination, Atlantis, and the Eschaton were touched upon.

Cosmic Trigger (Volume I): The Final Secret of the Illuminati, another of his popular books was released in 1979. The book chronicled the period in which he felt he had the greatest shift in his “reality tunnels,” or world views. In 1962, during one of his 40 psychedelic trips on Peyote, he had visions of the plant’s patron deity, Mescalito, the Green Man (whom he compared to a verdant elf or Mr. Spock from Star Trek). That year, Mary Jane “Jano” Watts, then-wife of American Zen pioneer, Alan Watts, introduced to Bob, the concept of the “Net,” a “web” of synchronicities or coincidences that connect all together. In 1964, while under assignment from Krassner, and goaded by Watts, Bob met with Dr. Timothy Leary, the prominent advocate of psychedelics for psychological use, who would become his lifelong friend. Soon thereafter, he believed his family was contacted by aliens from Sirius, whom manifested as a UFO in his back yard. In 1966, he finally met one of his favorite writers: William S. Burroughs, whom introduced him to the synchronicities of 23. From 1966 to 1971, Bob worked as an associate editor for Playboy. It was during this time that he corresponded with Kerry Thornley, former confidant of Lee Harvey Oswald, and founder of the Discordian Society, a mock religion, of which Bob would add to, and become a Pope of. The title of the book not only regards the process of his change in consciousness, but also to its conclusion when he grieves the death of one of his children and makes an important decision over the one who ended his child’s life. Of Wilson’s books, this was the first I read, and I felt it truly made an impact upon my life.

In 2003, the mayor of Santa Cruz, California declared that July 23 is officially Robert Anton Wilson Day. Between 1975 and 2003, Bob wrote 35 books (including the seminal Prometheus Rising and sequels to Cosmic Trigger and the Illuminatus!) and performed on many records (and other audio mediums). It was during the late 1970s, that Bob became a member of the Neo-Pagan spiritual movement. Sometime after Reverend Ivan Stang found the Church of the Subgenius, RAW was decreed a Reverend of the mock-religious organization. On May 23, 1995, Bob appeared on an episode of Politically Incorrect hosted by Bill Maher. In 2003, RAW ran for Governor of California during the recall election as the candidate for the Guns and Dope Party (his lifetime use of Marijuana was both an inspiration and later a therapeutic treatment of his Post-Polio Syndrome). In 2000, Bob returned to New York and gave a lecture at the Disinfo Con event hosted by his protégé Richard Metzger. It was during this conference that Grant Morrison, writer of the New X-Men, Doom Patrol, and the Invisibles, thanked Bob for his inspiration. After Bob passed away January 11, 2007, 4:50 AM Pacific Time, Grant’s mentor Alan Moore, writer of V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, HellBlazer, and the WatchMen, went to deliver a memorial for Bob during a tribute show held March 18, 2007, a month after Bob’s ashes were scattered in the same spot off the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as his wife Arlen was eight years earlier.

I never had the chance to correspond with Robert Anton Wilson. But without the writings of Bob, I would not have worked on the Invisible Web; if an account of ufonauts bearing gifts of pancakes (maybe the Rock was visited before by these entities) does not give one a bolt of inspiration I don’t know what will. Cosmic Trigger and the Illuminatus! in particular have not only brought me hours of entertainment but have given me new perspectives on the concept of “reality”. Although I am amazed at the many things I would agree with Bob, I also feel more learned by reading of where we would diverge. Hail Discordia, and All Praise Bob ~!!


Robert Anton Wilson (and Family). The Robert Anton Wilson Website.

Robert Anton Wilson (and Family). RAW Data.

RAWilson Fans. “Woefully Truncated Biographical Sketch.”

Paul Krassner. The Huffington Post. “Literary Loss.”

Jeff Diehl. 10 Zen Monkeys. “A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays.”

Alan Lee is a freelance journalist currently residing in New York City. His website is

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