Robert Anton Wilson, author of the Illuminati trilogy and 32+ other great books on thought, existence, hallucinogens, conspiracy, epistemology, being, etc. died a few days ago from post-polio syndrome. After G. Ford and J. Brown, I was wondering who would complete the triad (don’t great people often die in threes?)
Read a lot of RAW in my early 20s, and he had a big effect on me – he was the anti-philosopher foil to the academic stuff I was immersed in back then. Malcolm points to a fairly obscure piece of his on the difference between religions and cults, In Doubt We Trust. Reading his piece on Doubt reminds me why I liked him, though it feels fresh now.
The function of religions and cults, including the political or ideological ones, is to short-circuit the normal “common sense” process of doubt, investigation, further doubt, further investigation, further doubt, etc. The person with BS* knows the “right answer” at all times and knows it immediately. This makes them very happy, and very annoying since most of their “right answers” don’t make sense to the rest of us. Common sense and/or science require investigation and revision, etc. BS only requires a Rule Book — sacred scripture, Das Kapital or whatever — and a good memory.
* BS = Belief Systems
I’ve been asking people over the past year what they think is the difference between a religion and a cult – turns out to be one of those questions everyone thinks they know the answer to until pressed, at which point definitions crumble to dust. Wilson attaches the notion of religion to money and politics, which make religions part of the social game. Without money or politics, a group remains an out-lier, too formless in the eyes of society to be considered a religion.
Hail Eris, Goddess of Discordianism!