October 3rd, 2006

Discordian

Interruption: God(dess) is an Iron, Again

The man who wrote the following:
According to William F. Buckley, Jr., and various other philosophers who have never been poor, this kind of thing is supposed to build character and keep America strong. The Poor Fool saw a lot of people on welfare in those months -- if you live in a poor neighborhood, you meet poor people -- and I made a detailed study of the kind of character that this experience builds. In my experience, they would all have been less paranoid if, instead of being poor seven days a week, they were allowed to be comfortable six days a week and were subjected to Chinese Water Torture on the seventh.

The Poor Fool continued his Sufi heart-chakra exercises, concentrating on loving people like Nixon, Buckley and Rockefeller. Meanwhile, he attacked his anxiety symptoms with pranayama, a yogic breathing method which Crowley (among others) promises will banish any negative emotion. After a month of doing the pranayama exercises 30 minutes every morning, the anxiety symptoms went away. The heart chakra also became more active and I began falling in love with everybody I met.
[1]
... and this ...
The American, deprived of money, lurches about like a frenzied lunatic. "Anxiety," "anomie," "alienation," etc., increase exponentially, reinforced by real security deprivations. The poor in less abstracted societies share a pack bond and "love" each other (on a village level). The poor in America, lacking the pack bond, hooked only on money itself, hate each other. This explains the paradoxical observation of many commentators that poverty remains dignity and even some pride in traditional societies, but appears dishonorable and shameful here. Indeed, the American poor not only hate each other; often, perhaps usually, they hate themselves.

These facts of neuroeconomics have been so charged with pain and embarrassment that most Americans will not discuss them at all. The sexual prudery of the nineteenth century has become money prudery. People will talk, in the avant third of the population anyway, quite explicitly about the fetishistic aspects of their sex imprints ("I get off on wearing my wife's underwear during the foreplay," or whatnot), but equal frankness about money needs freezes the conversation and may empty the room.
[2]
... ironically, really needs money help and is himself emotionally unable to ask for it. It took close friends of his to bring the problem to our attention, and word is still only spreading slowly despite the fact that the man who wrote those things and many other just as meaningful and thoughtful and clever touched many millions of lives, many of whom would, I suspect, count themselves proud to help him at the end of his life when his need is great.

The man in question, for those of you unfamiliar with those quotes, is Robert Anton Wilson, prolific lecturer, the last surviving co-author of the famous Illuminatus! trilogy, a contributor to Principia Discordia, and the author of dozens of other fiction and non-fiction books, perhaps the best of which were the semi-autobiographical Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati and the collection of essays The Illuminati Papers, from which the two quotes above were taken. Those of you familiar with his life story as told in Cosmic Trigger know that, as a child, he was very nearly killed by polio (this being before the vaccine was available, when childhood polio was a near-certain death sentence) and miraculously restored to near-full-health by a Catholic more-or-less "faith healer." Complications of childhood polio have always bothered him, but according to something Paul Krassner wrote back in June, the polio virus in his system has finally caught up with and outrun the attentions of that faith healer and Wilson's own lifetime of spiritual practice. In June, he was admitted to a hospice, almost certainly never to rise from his bed under his own power ever again. Science fiction writers seldom have comprehensive health insurance; he is no exception. Having spent down every dollar he ever saved and earned, he spent the intervening months since then selling off his life's possessions, including his library, on eBay. Now, according to Douglas Rushkoff, he's out of stuff to sell ... and this month's rent took the last of his money with it.

If nobody comes through for the man, this last bout of biosurvival anxiety will be the one that kills him, perhaps alone in the street, a fate the possibility of which he last faced in with the courage documented above back in 1974 before some of you were born. Having met Dr. Wilson myself a couple of times, I have no doubt he would at least pretend to face it with courage and grace and wit. But if everybody who was ever touched by this man's life were to Paypal him a small donation, like the symbolically appropriate $23.00 I just sent him, at the Paypal address that Douglas Rushkoff confirmed is his (olgaceline@gmail.com) or mailed a check payable to Robert Anton Wilson to Dennis Berry c/o Futique Trust, PO Box 3561, Santa Cruz CA 95063 USA, then maybe he can also die with some well-deserved peace and dignity and comfort. It may take a lot; the creeping paralysis may take a long time to wipe out his central nervous system. But there are millions of us who loved his books and the voyage of personal exploration he shared with us; maybe we can do it. And in the profoundly unlikely event that more money is raised than his final living and medical expenses will consume, I have a great deal of faith that the man will find something interesting for the remainder to do after he dies.

And passing this along feels like the least I can do, karmically. You know how so many of you felt about letting me go, when I was wiped out and despairing of any permanent rescue and ready to go, how far you were willing to go to the wall to save me because of what I meant to you? That's how I feel about him, and for a lot of the same reasons.

[1] Robert Anton Wilson, Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati. New York: Pocket Books, 1977. p 150.
[2] Robert Anton Wilson (writing as Hagbard Celine), "Neuroeconomics," The Illuminati Papers. Berkeley, California: And/Or Press, 1980. pp 26-27.
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