Monday, January 15, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson

Been offline the last couple of weeks and now I come back on to find that Robert Anton Wilson has died.

Wilson wrote weird SF (for want of a better term) novels and weird non-fiction books. His non-fiction covered magic, cryptrozoology, language, conspiracy theories, James Joyce, sex, drugs, evolution, reality tunnels, quantum psychology and umpteen other subjects. Come to think of it so did his novels.

The first Wilson book I read was Cosmic Trigger , the first volume of his autobiography. Although it was first published in 1977 I read it in 2000 so his predictions of humanity migrating to space and becoming immortal by the 1990s were even more laughable than when he first made them. Still, dodgy predictions aside, his ideas about the way people get trapped in reality tunnels created by their own preconceptions sounded interesting and so I decided to give his theories a chance. Consequently I moved from being a sceptic to being an open-minded sceptic. Granted, on occasion I fall into the trap warned of in the old saying and I become so open-minded that my brains fall out but I do my best to keep my gullibility in check.

After reading Wilson my other non-fiction reading expanded to include popular science, magic and spirituality. Out of those three science makes most sense to me as a model of reality but dabbling in the other stuff reminds me that what at the time seems a sensible guide to the workings of the universe can later be seen as laughable nonsense. Something that some modern scientists would do well to remember.

Not that I'm particularly convinced by Wilson's idea of a quantum non-local self. Lots of his ideas come across as drug-fuelled hippy wish-fulfilment. (This is one hell of a eulogy, isn't it?) But he encouraged people to step outside their preconceptions. For white people to try and see things from the viewpoint of black people. For men to see things from the viewpoint of women. For liberals to see things from the viewpoint of conservatives. For everyone to just try and understand everyone else.

And for that I remember his work fondly.

No comments: