Over at Boing Boing, they are doing a week-long tribute to Robert Anton Wilson. Pope Bob had a fairly big influence on me by way of a dog eared copy of Illuminatus! I found in a mildly-creepy used and odd book store north of the OSU campus in Columbus. I was 19 at the time, out of work and dropped out of college. Just the perfect receptacle for the odd flavor of conspiracy, mumbo-jumbo, mind-hacking and fantasy Wilson and his co-author Robert Shea served up.
The other day, Boing Boing posted this quote from Part One of Illuminatus. (Published 1975.)
More stringent security measures. Universal electronic surveillance. No-knock laws. Stop and frisk laws. Government inspection of first-class mail. Automatic fingerprinting, photographing, blood tests, and urinalysis of any person arrested before he is charged with a crime. A law making it unlawful to resist even unlawful arrest. Laws establishing detention camps for potential subversives. Gun control laws. Restrictions on travel. The assassinations, you see, establish the need for such laws in the public mind. Instead of realizing that there is a conspiracy, conducted by a handful of men, the people reason — or are manipulated into reasoning — that the entire population must have its freedom restricted in order to protect the leaders. The people agree that they themselves can’t be trusted.
When Wilson was near death, some of his friends got together to raise money to settle his debt, pay rent and medical bills and generally make his last days free from any financial worries. One of the means was selling tshirts. I still have mine, though it is getting rather worn. This was the logo:
That slogan caused no end of confusion amongst the more straitlaced in my family. Which is to say, most of them. Still, it was the least I could do to help someone who had provided me with a vast amount of good things to read, and much to think about.
And, my lifelong fascination with conspiracy theories.
I still believe, though, that one of the best openings to a book is this, from Schroedinger’s Cat:
Don’t Look Back
The majority of Terrans were six-legged. They had territorial squabbles and politics and wars and a caste system. They also had sufficient intelligence to survive on that barren boondocks planet for several billions of years.
We are not concerned here with the majority of Terrans. We are concerned with a tiny minority-the domesticated primates who built cities and wrote symphonies and invented things like tic-tac-toe and integral calculus. At the time of our story, these primates regarded themselves as the Terrans. The six-legged majority and other life-forms on that planet hardly entered into their thinking at all, most of the time.
The domesticated primates of Terra referred to the six-legged majority by an insulting name. They called them “bugs.”
There was one species on Terra that lived in very close symbiosis with the domesticated primates. This was a variety of domesticated canines called dogs.
The dogs had learned to achieve a rough simulation of guilt and remorse and worry and other domesticated primate characteristics.
The domesticated primates had learned how to achieve simulations of loyalty and dignity and cheerfulness and other canine characteristics.
The primates claimed that they loved the dogs as much as the dogs loved them. Still, the primates kept the best food for themselves. The dogs noticed this, you can be sure, but they loved the primates so much that they forgave them.