My memorial to Pope Bob is posted here:
By Adam Gorightly
“And so it is that we, as men, do not exist until we do; and then it is that we play with our world of existent things, and order and disorder them, and so it shall be that non-existence shall take us back from existence and that nameless spirituality shall return to Void, like a tired child home from a very wild circus.” – Principia Discordia, pg 00058
I wouldn’t pretend to be among those who were part of Robert Anton Wilson’s inner circle–his closest friends and family members–there at his side, towards the end, when his body failed but his synapses were still firing with all the intensity of his words on the printed page. Just the same, Bob made everyone feel (inner circle or not) that we were all part of this Illuminati/Discordian Conspiracy; fellow passengers on a wild circus ride, whether you were an acne riddled fan-boy; or conversely a fellow traveler, seeking out his guidance and wisdom.
I felt like an equal measure of both; on the one hand a fawning fan-boy fumbling over my words in his presence, meanwhile profoundly influenced by Bob’s work, having taken his teachings and applied them to my own life and writing. No one living or dead has had such an effect on me, before or since, and I’m now long enough in the tooth that probably no one else will ever be of such influence again. Oh to be young and happen upon Cosmic Trigger or The Illuminatus Trilogy and have your mind blown in a particularly positive direction!
Like a lot of my contemporaries, RAW came into our lives at an important imprint juncture, and certainly saved more than a few of us from early ruin. These sentiments have been shared with me–on more than one occasion–by friends who were at a critical turning point when RAW miraculously appeared in their lives in the form of one of his great books, thus re-imprinting their perceptions of the world. Or more precisely, he provided them the tools and impetus to re-imprint and reprogram themselves. Bob was famous as being the guy you would call if someone was experiencing a bummer acid trip—Bob could talk them down in a matter of minutes, as he was not only hep to how the human brain functions, but he was also a very caring guy who wanted to leave the world a better place in his passing.
Fortunately, I had a chance to meet RAW in the spring of 2001 while researching The Prankster and the Conspiracy, my book about his friend, Kerry Thornley. In a way, he took me under his wing. But I think a lot of people felt that way, as just being in RAW’s presence was always stimulating, educating and filled with a fair share of laughs, which afterwards left you energized and inspired. There was also the feeling that you were in the company of some sort of western version modern Buddha, with his smiling beatific countenance and humble demeanor.
Of course, RAW was never one to deify himself. In fact, his primary mission–it seemed–was to get us all thinking for ourselves; to free us from the sway of governments and gurus; to be our own “Masters Who Make the Grass Green.”
At the time, RAW’s post-polio syndrome had again reared its troublesome head after many years lying dormant, and so getting around for him was a struggle. With great dignity, Bob made his way about his apartment using a walker, bound and determined not to be beaten by his old adversary polio, with the goal foremost in his mind to eventually walk again, unassisted. It really bugged the hell out of him (though he never stated it out loud to us) that he had to rely on others for the simplest things now. Nonetheless, he accomplished his goal (in time) of walking unaided, if but for a few brief steps, as demonstrated in the documentary Maybe Logic. Ever the optimist, if RAW was going to talk the talk, then you damn well knew he would literally walk the walk, as he was a firm “believer” in the ability of people to heal themselves with positive visualization.
Of course, Bob’s optimism might have been bolstered in part by an Irishman’s bullheadedness, when–several months ago while alone at his apartment–he took a debilitating fall. Unable to get up, he lay on the floor for 30 hours until discovered by his daughter, who had to break the door down to get in.
In 2003, I phoned RAW to ask some follow up questions regarding Kerry Thornley. While I had Bob on the phone, one thing I’d always wanted to ask him was how one went about becoming a member of the Bavarian Illuminati, since it’d long been rumored that he was the Secret Chief of this infernal and equally illustrious occult order of conniving supermen.
“Bob,” I queried, “Are you the Head of the Illuminati?”
“No,” he replied, in typical satiric fashion, “I’m the toe.”
Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but just the same I asked if he could appoint me as an Illuminati High Priest, to which he didn’t hesitate one second: “You are hereby appointed.” And although this lofty position hasn’t improved my sex life or finances to any measurable degree, you must admit its one hell of an honor belonging to a secret order associated with Robert Anton Wilson.
During this period, whenever Bob emailed anyone, he’d cc it to John Poindexter, then head of the notorious Information Awareness Office, a defense agency overseeing the government’s domestic surveillance program, which was ramped up in the aftermath of 9/11 hysteria. To this end, Bob figured that by sending his email messages directly to Poindexter it would, in turn, eliminate the need for anyone to maintain surveillance on him, thus eliminating a paid position and cutting down on government waste and maybe even lowering our taxes. “Besides,” Bob added, “It amuses me to think of Poindexter reading my emails.”
In this regard, I asked Bob if “they” had lifted the idea of the Information Awareness Office (IAO) logo from the cover of his Illuminatus Trilogy. Like Illuminatus, the IAO logo featured the all-seeing eye in the triangle, in addition to an ominous death ray shooting out from the eye and focusing its malevolent beam over the planet, suggesting an Orwellian nightmare come true, wrapped up in symbolic Masonic imagery so blatant it seemed absurd.
“I don’t know what the hell’s going on,” Bob replied. “I think we’re being taken over by a bunch of surrealists.”
Although Bob’s health had rapidly deteriorated in recent years, this in no way slowed down his anti-authoritarian antics–card-carrying Discordian, that he was. During the California recall election of 2003, Bob tossed his name into the hat, running for Governor on the Guns and Dope Party ticket, whose libertarian platform advocated replacing one third of Congress with ostriches. Another example of this was his participation at a rally in his home town of Santa Cruz, California, on September 17th, 2002. At this event, Bob was among a group of medical marijuana patients who–in defiance of a federal court order–picked up their medicinal herb from care providers at a rally that received national attention.
Of course, this was a cause that hit close to home with Bob, as he was openly defiant of the Bush Regime and what he termed the TSOG [Tsarist Occupation Government] and its stranglehold on the rights of citizens to receive the medical care of their choosing. I must admit, I was a bit taken aback by Bob’s physical appearance at the time. He had changed dramatically since last I’d seen him, a mere year and a half earlier, having lost a considerable amount of weight, and appearing much frailer.
Along with his book royalties, a major part of Bob’s income came from lectures. But–as it became apparent that traveling was now too much of a burden–he and some other entrepeners launched a novel way to earn money and still provide him a forum for interacting with his fans. This was the concept behind the Maybe Logic Academy, where a couple years back Bob started conducting online courses on such subjects as quantum physics, consciousness expansion and the strange life of Aleister Crowley. It was here that I had my last interactions with Bob during the Quantum Psychology course. One of the reasons I enrolled was because I feared Bob wasn’t going to be around much longer, and so I felt I should take advantage of any opportunity to dialogue with him. And though the subject of quantum physics was one I feared I’d never really be able to wrap my head around, I gave it a go anyway. Much to my surprise and delight, Bob opened my eyes once again, as–after the course’s completion–the subject no longer seemed quite so unfathomable. For this gift, and so many others, I remain eternally grateful to Robert Anton Wilson.
Even though the Maybe Logic Academy appeared to be a successful endeavor, Bob’s medical costs escalated dramatically after his fall. He was bedridden thereafter, having to pay for in-home care, which apparently drained Bob’s resources to the extent that he began auctioning off rare books and collectibles on ebay to pay his bills. Such are the vagaries of a freelance writer, even one as successful as Bob Wilson.
Unfortunately, along with the freedom being your own boss affords, it also leaves you at the mercy of the american health care system, which toward the end drained Bob of his savings, and left him on the brink of being evicted from his apartment. It was at this point that his friends put out the word, calling for donations via pay pal to help Bob pay his rent and live comfortably during his last days. As soon as I saw the message, I forwarded it to my own email list and sent in what I could afford, hoping that at least a couple dozen more people would step up to the plate for this wonderful fellow who had illuminated so many minds. Shortly afterwards I got word that over the course of a couple days over 68,000 dollars had been raised! This outpouring of love totally blew away Bob and his family and brought much needed comfort at a very critical time.
A couple weeks before Bob’s death, a blog for him was started, which now appears as a swan song; his way to say farewell to all the people who had come to his aid during those final days.
Bob’s last blog entry read: “Please pardon my levity, I don’t see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd…I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.”
Hail Eris. All Hail Bob!
(aka The Wrong Reverend Houdini Kundalini of the Church of Unwavering Indifference)
Reporting from parts unknown