MAYBE LOGIC: THE LIVES AND IDEAS OF ROBERT ANTON WILSON -- ILLUSTRATED INTERVIEW
by Robert Anton
Table of Contents:
[transcribed from the movie by Tara Carreon]
82 minute documentary
Everybody abstracts a different reality. When you come through a room, you abstract the reality you're prepared to abstract. You pick up the signals that interest you. Your brain records them and organizes them.
We all have our own reality tunnel, and in our reality tunnel we pick out some things and ignore other things. And we got 10 billion cells in our brain receiving hundreds and hundreds of millions of signals all the time. We just pick out the ones that fit into the established grooves in our brain, the reality tunnel that's been laid down by past experience. We all have our own belief system, and the signals that fit our belief system get in. The signals that don't fit our belief system get ignored, or if they keep coming back we go to a psychiatrist to get cured and make them go away.
Once you get used to thinking in terms of whether we're tuned in or not tuned in, then all of the problems in philosophy about being and non-being and so on, seem absolutely nonsensical. We don't know what is or what isn't, all we know is what we tuned in or what we didn't tune in. If you keep track of what you tuned in, that's what you can talk about meaningfully; what you didn't tune in, you can only make guesses about, or noises or garbles, or frantic hand gestures, but you can't really know anything about them, you only know what you've tuned in.
What you haven't tuned in isn't necessarily nonexistent, it's just not tuned in. That takes care of the whole problem of being and non-being, which philosophers have been debating for the last 2,500 years. We don't know anything about being or non-being, all you know is what you've tuned in.
Well, to quote Bucky Fuller, I can't seem to find any constant Robert Anton Wilson. It seems to be a process of change all the time. I'm certainly not the guy I was at 40, and I certainly am not the kid I was in Catholic School at 7 or 8.
I started out in a little tiny Irish Catholic ghetto in Brooklyn or Long Island, I'm not sure which, and somehow I have traveled from Maui in the East to Berlin in the West, which is half of the time zones on the planet. And I feel like as I've expanded my travel in space, I've expanded my travel through the world of ideas also. And I can't believe I started out a good Catholic school boy.
There must have been some good times, but when I think of my childhood, I just remember how frightened I was of the nuns in the school I went to, how sadistic they were.
There is so much mystery and ambiguity about everything, maybe that's why there's so much in my novels. But why else does no one give a straight answer to a child about anything? Everything was lies, hypocrisy, evasion. I knew there was something going on they were hiding from me, and it used to scare me. I wasn't quite sure what it was. It might have something to do with the wolf man, or Frankenstein monster -- I didn't know what the hell it was. And I didn't trust them at all. At one point, somewhere around 7 or 8, they admitted there was no Santa Claus, and as soon as I recovered from the shock my next thought was, "When are they going to admit there's no God?" They never did. And I went back to believing in God under the hammering and pounding of the nuns, up until I was about 13, I guess.
I was a very obedient child. Everybody agrees to that. Everybody I can remember from my childhood. I started rebelling in my teens, and I'm rebelling more every year. I remember, I don't know how old I was, 14, 15, another unbeliever and myself at Brooklyn Tech got into an argument with a student who was still a Catholic, and he said, "If you really believe what you say, you would have the courage to ask God to strike you dead right now to prove that you believe he doesn't exist." And I got scared for a minute, but then I went ahead and did it and nothing happened. And I felt totally liberated. "Fuck you, you're not there after all!" That was a great moment of liberation which I hardly ever recalled until tonight. My God, a very important turning point in my life. Here's to the good nuns for telling me what books not to read.
Interacting, processing. Interacting, processing. Interacting, processing!
REVEREND IVAN STANG
"Friends! Everything Pope Bob does puts things into a perspective, and not just a unique perspective, BUT THE CORRECT PERSPECTIVE! WHICH DOES INCLUDE ALL OTHER PERSPECTIVES! And so, my friends, I am very happy and proud to present the Carl Sagan of religion, the Jerry Falwell of quantum physics, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of feminism, the Helen Keller of art and music, the Nelson Mandela of White Supremacists, the James Joyce of Swing Set Assembly Manuals, the Lenny Bruce of Funerals, the Salvador Dali of Assembly Line Workers, and folks, the Robert Anton Wilson of Humanity."
ROBERT ANTON WILSON:
Spectacles, testicles, brandy, cigars -- you're all popes! You're all absolutely infallible. I have the authority to appoint anyone a Discordian Pope, because I'm a Discordian Pope. The first rule after you become a Discordian Pope is to excommunicate every Discordian Pope you meet. This is based on the basic Discordian principle that we Discordians must stick apart.
Discordians don't have dogmas, which are absolute beliefs; we have catmas which are relative meta-beliefs. And the central discordian catma is, as I said before, any affirmation is true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense. And if you repeat this 666 times, you will achieve supreme enlightenment -- IN SOME SENSE!
There are approximately 12 million discordian popes now. Originally, Malaclypse the Younger, founder of Discordianism, had cards printed and he'd just hand them out to everybody he met making them popes. And then I printed the Pope Card in the Illuminatus! Trilogy, but then I was living in Ireland and the Pope came to the Phoenix Bar, and announced -- the guy who thinks he's the only pope -- he announced that bishops could give indulgences over television, which was a new thing in Catholic doctrine, and I got the idea, "Well, if they can do indulgences on television, I can do pontifications." And so, instead of giving out cards, every time I got on radio or television, then I made the whole audience popes. Eventually, we'll make every man, woman and child on this planet a pope.
Most religious people take themselves too damn seriously, which is why they act like such damn fools. I'm using the word damn for the paradoxical effect.
REMEMBER: KING KONG DIED FOR YOUR SINS.
I'm also a Buddhist, a Taoist, and a Confucian as well as a Discordian, a Subgenius, and a Witch.
I will officially announce that everyone in this room is now a Discordian Pope, just like me.
Spectacles, testicles, brandy, cigars. You are all absolutely infallible. And don't take crap from anybody. Okay.
Well, I'm an ordained pope in the Church of the Subgenius, which means I'm absolutely infallible. So don't dare contradict anything I say. As for my relationship with Einstein, I deny all the rumors.
You're only infallible about your own nervous system. You know what's going on in your own nervous system. Whatever realities you're creating out of the infinite flux of being, you don't know anything about anybody else's reality unless they tell you about it. You gotta listen very sympathetically in order to understand them. So it's a limited infallibility.
Q. She wants to know what quantum physics is? Quantum physics. Explain it simply.
A. Explain quantum physics simply? When I moved from Los Angeles, I moved into what I thought was Santa Cruz. Then we had something stolen from our car, and we called the police, and I found out we didn't live in Santa Cruz, we lived in a town called Capitola. The Post Office thought we lived in Santa Cruz, but the police thought we lived in Capitola. I started investigating this, and a reporter on the local newspaper told me we lived in neither Santa Cruz or Capitola, we lived in an unincorporated area called Live Oak.
Now, quantum mechanics is just like that, except that in the case of Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Live Oak, we don't get too confused, because, remember, we invented the lines on the map. Quantum physics seems confusing because a lot of people believe we didn't invent the lines, so it seems hard to understand how a particle can be in three places at the same time without being anywhere at all. But when you remember that we invented all of the boundaries, borders and lines, just like the Berlin Wall, then quantum mechanics is no more mysterious than the fact that I live in three places at the same time.
No Chinese raised on I Ching has ever found quantum mechanics puzzling. It's only puzzling to people raised on Aristotelian logic where things are either A or not A. In the I Ching, things are A and not A at the same time.
With quantum mechanics, you can prove that light is made out of particles experimentally. You can build up a whole mathematical theory of light traveling in little particles called photons, and you can do experiments, and the experiments will give you a pattern showing that light is traveling like particles. We've also got a whole mathematical theory built up showing that light travels as waves, and we've got experiments that will show you that light travels as waves. As one physicist in the 1920s said, "It looks as if the damn light is waiting to see how we're going to do the experiment and then deciding which way it's going to travel. Schroedinger said, "I wish I never got mixed up with this radomptoquantumschringereit. This goddamned quantum jumping." The modified Copenhagen view is light is neither waves nor particles until we look, and then it adjusts itself depending on what we're looking at it with. An electron is not anywhere until we look, and when we look, the electron decides to be somewhere as long as we're looking. As soon as we stop looking, the electron is everywhere again.
Every model we make tells us how our mind works as much as it tells about the universe. These are just human symbolic games. The universe itself is bigger than any of our models.
According to Zen Buddhism, and most forms of Buddhism, and quantum mechanics, any description of the universe which leaves you out is inaccurate, because any description of the universe, and the description of the instrument that you use to take your reading of the universe -- if the only instrument you use is your own nervous system, you gotta include your own nervous system in your description of the universe.
So, ergo, any model we make does not describe the universe, it describes what our brains are capable of seeing at this time.
Long before quantum mechanics, the German philosopher Husserl said that all perception is gamble. Every type of bigotry, every type of racism, sexism, prejudice, every dogmatic ideology that allows people to kill other people with a clear conscience, every stupid cult, every superstition-ridden religion, every kind of ignorance in the world, are all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see, and then we believe our interpretation of it, but we don't even know we're making an interpretation most of the time.