“Robert Anton Wilson (born Robert Edward Wilson; January 18, 1932 – January 11, 2007) was an American author, novelist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, and self-described agnostic mystic. Recognized as an Episkopos[dead link], Pope, and saint of Discordianism, Wilson helped publicize the group through his writings and interviews.
Wilson described his work as an “attempt to break down conditioned associations, to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models or maps, and no one model elevated to the truth”. His goal being “to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone but agnosticism about everything.
“Is”, “is.” “is”—the idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don’t know what anything “is”; I only know how it seems to me at this moment.
— Robert Anton Wilson, The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, as spoken by Sigismundo Celine.
Born Robert Edward Wilson in Methodist Hospital, in Brooklyn, New York, he spent his first years in Flatbush, and moved with his family to lower middle class Gerritsen Beach around the age of four or five, where they stayed until relocating to the steadfastly middle-class neighborhood of Bay Ridge when Wilson was thirteen. He suffered from polio as a child, and found generally effective treatment with the Kenny Method (created by Elizabeth Kenny) which the American Medical Association repudiated at that time. Polio’s effects remained with Wilson throughout his life, usually manifesting as minor muscle spasms causing him to use a cane occasionally until 2000, when he experienced a major bout with post-polio syndrome that would continue until his death.
Wilson attended Catholic grammar school, likely the school associated with Gerritsen Beach’s Resurrection Church, and attended Brooklyn Technical High School (a selective public institution) to remove himself from the Catholic influence; at “Brooklyn Tech,” Wilson was influenced by literary modernism (particularly Ezra Pound and James Joyce), the Western philosophical tradition, then-innovative historians such as Charles A. Beard, science fiction (including the works of Olaf Stapledon, Robert A. Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon) and Alfred Korzybski’s interdisciplinary theory of general semantics. He would later recall that the family was “living so well… compared to the Depression” during this period “that I imagined we were lace-curtain Irish at last.”
Following his graduation in 1950, Wilson was employed in a succession of jobs (including ambulance driver, engineering aide, salesman and medical orderly) and absorbed various philosophers & cultural practices (including bebop, psychoanalysis, Bertrand Russell, Carl Jung, Wilhelm Reich, Leon Trotsky and Ayn Rand, whom he later repudiated) while writing in his spare time. He also studied electrical engineering and mathematics at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute from 1952 to 1957 and English education at New York University from 1957 to 1958 without getting a degree from either institution.
After smoking marijuana for nearly a decade, he first experimented with mescaline in Yellow Springs, Ohio on December 28, 1961. Wilson began to work as a freelance journalist and advertising copywriter in the late 1950s. He adopted his maternal grandfather’s name, Anton, for his writings, telling himself that he would save the “Edward” for when he wrote the Great American Novel and later finding that “Robert Anton Wilson” had become an established identity.
He assumed co-editorship of the School for Living’s Brookville, Ohio-based Balanced Living magazine in 1962 and briefly returned to New York as associate editor of Ralph Ginzburg’s quarterly fact: before leaving for Playboy, where he served as an associate editor from 1965 to 1971. According to Wilson, Playboy “paid me a higher salary than any other magazine at which I had worked and never expected me to become a conformist or sell my soul in return. I enjoyed my years in the Bunny Empire. I only resigned when I reached 40 and felt I could not live with myself if I didn’t make an effort to write full-time at last.” Along with frequent collaborator Robert Shea, Wilson edited the magazine’s Playboy Forum advice column. During this period, he covered Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s Millbrook, New York-based Castalia Foundation at the instigation of Alan Watts in The Realist, cultivated important friendships with William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, and lectured at the Free University of New York on ‘Anarchist and Synergetic Politics’ in 1965.
He received a B.A., M.A. (1978) and Ph.D. (1981) in psychology from Paideia University, an unaccredited institution that has since closed. Wilson reworked his dissertation, and it found publication in 1983 as Prometheus Rising.
Wilson married freelance writer and poet Arlen Riley in 1958. They had four children, including Christiana Wilson Pearson and Patricia Luna Wilson. Luna was beaten to death in an apparent robbery in the store where she worked in 1976 at the age of 15, and became the first person to have her brain preserved by the Bay Area Cryonics Society. Arlen Riley Wilson died in 1999 following a series of strokes.” (Wikipedia)