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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do RAW fans frown on dissent?

Ted Hand, mentioned in Friday's blog post, Tweeted on July 19, "Sometimes I marvel at how many really embarrassing things Robert Anton Wilson said, or RAW-fan defensiveness/But maybe it's a real deep game." (@t3dy, a really interesting Twitter feed.)

Naturally, I wondered what he was referring to, so I asked. He explained, "Every so often I get flamed for some criticism I make of RAW's less valuable writings. Ironic that RAWfans get so smug about his skepticism!" (Hand is a fan of many of RAW's writings, as his Tweets make clear).

I have no information about what any of the disagreements were, so I can't take sides, but one of the most appealing aspects of Robert Anton Wilson's writings and philosophy is that he didn't behave like the Pope, or Ayn Rand, or L. Ron Hubbard — he didn't insist that anybody had to swallow all of his pronouncements. It's a delicious irony that when I disagree with RAW, I am agreeing with his "system" for evaluating the opinions of others.

One example of that system (dozens of examples could be cited) comes from the chapter, "Important! Read This Carefully" from Cosmic Trigger Vol. 2 (which I'm reading now):

What I have been saying — the important lesson of this book — can be put into two simple imperatives:

1. Never believe totally in anybody else's BS.

2. Never believe totally in your own BS.

(The boldface is in the original. Besides the obvious, BS stands for "Belief System.")

And isn't this one the main lessons of ILLUMINATUS! ? The characters in the novel can never be sure they have the real story ...


Anonymous said...

Any one who writes interesting ideas is going to attract "followers" who are just along for the ride. (One of the appendices to Illuminatus! has a nasty blast at Ayn Rand for just that problem.) RAW kept insisting that a person should do their own thinking and that he was there just to stir the pot lest it become stagnant. The first three circuits are awfully hard to overcome, though.

Ewan said...

Indeed. I think (maybe) that he would not have liked people to believe what he said without rigorous scrutiny. Maybe.

otterdisaster said...

Having just finished Illuminatus! again recently, I am reminded of Hagbard's misgivings about being a guru, and RAW certainly didn't want to be one.

He wanted to teach you how to be your own guru, and if you've missed that lesson then you've missed the point of a lot of his writings.

Illiaminated said...

I'm a massive fan of RAW but years ago on a newsgroup I was flamed for pointing out what seemed to me to be a couple of dogmatic or contradictory positions held by the great man himself.