Review: “Email To The Universe” By Robert Anton Wilson


“Some of us have become postmodern whether we like it or not.”
–Robert Anton Wilson

Email To The Universe is writer/philosopher/guerrilla ontologist Robert Anton Wilson’s final published work—a collection of essays concerned, in general, with “the relativity of reality.” The book covers about 45 years of Wilson’s writing career, spanning 1959-2003, and is—outside of The Cosmic Trigger I—the best way to start dipping your toes into Wilson’s work.

Topics here include magick, quantum theory, LSD, sexual alchemy, dream symbolism, James Joyce, Daoism, and Rennes-le-Chateau. There is also a considerable amount of politics in Email To The Universe, especially in his later writings. This is the first time I’ve had Wilson’s take on the Oklahoma City bombing, George W. Bush, 9/11, the Iraq War, and, well, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (whom Wilson calls “one of the greatest creations of literature”).

And then there’s just the idea that, as the title suggests, this is (at least in part) the Wilson of the Internet Age. And the format, in its collage of “posts,” poems, asides, quotes, and even recurring memes (such as the Professor Timothy Finnegan saga), reflects that aspect.

Throughout it all is the theme of individual freedom (True Will), about which Wilson so memorably writes in the essay “Left And Right: A Non-Euclidean Perspective”:

I do not claim this goal is demanded by some ghostly or metaphysical “Natural Law,” but merely that it is the goal that I, personally, have chosen—in the Existentialist sense of choice.

And I think of all the essays in Email To The Universe, I identify most with “Left and Right”—a brief history of Wilson’s path from dogma to agnosticism, rejecting both the Left and Right ideological extremes. He claims he cannot hew 100% to either position because he doesn’t, in his words, have a “Correct Answer Machine,” and because such ideologies are themselves just theories…”maps and models”:

What psychedelics taught me was that, just as theories and ideologies (maps and models) are human creations, not divine revelations, every perceptual grid or existential reality-tunnel is also a human creation—a work of art, consciously or unconsciously edited and organized by the individual brain.

It makes you wonder what type of reception Wilson would have in such a highly-polarized 2019. Reading Email To The Universe, I realized this would be a “difficult” book for some…a possibly “problematic” book, in which there is little reassuring partisan dogma to cling to other than an appeal for the supremacy of True Will.

And there is no better embodiment of this philosophy within the book than the “Guns And Dope Party” section, detailing his political platform (in 2002 he apparently ran for Governor of California). With Olga the Ostrich (“Fire 33% of the Congress…and replace them with full-grown adult ostriches”) as its mascot, the “Guns And Dope Party” claimed to bring together the Far Right (the Guns) and the Far Left (the Dope) in the pursuit of Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms:

Ergo, they have much to gain and nothing to lose in combining forces. We have NO Ideology, NO “theory” and NO arguments in favor of guns-n-dope people joining together—except this: TOGETHER WE CAN WIN

Again: I really wish Wilson was still with us in 2019, able to suss out on his website what the hell happened. Because it feels like to me, after 9/11 especially…it was the “death” of this type of bipartisan “fringe” political thought. A number of those influential writers and thinkers of Wilson’s generation passed on between 2001 and 2007…some by their own hand, some by the hand of others, and in Wilson’s case the result of post-polio syndrome.

Email To The Universe, then, reflects the end of an era…and yet Wilson, in one of the interviews that close out the book, insists on an optimistic view of the future (emphasis his):

So, by and large, the stupider the establishment is, the smarter the rebels become. Establishment stupidity is the greatest spur to creativity in evolutionary history.