As a philosopher and writer, Wilson has been keenly interested in consciousness-expansion, most passionately his own. In such books as The Cosmic Trigger and Prometheus Rising, he describes his own research with mind-expanding drugs, meditation, ESP, and magic. With his encyclopedic mind and mischievous sense of humor, Wilson attempts to correlate his inner, subjective experiences with the objective world of science. He seems as comfortable expounding on modern physics (his three-volume Schrödinger’s Cat is a comedy about quantum theory!) as in holding forth on more esoteric subjects — say, the Jewish mystical teachings known as cabala; or how the collective unconscious can be described mathematically; or the messages he’s received from entities residing on a planet near the double-star Sirius. His best-known work, the Illuminatus trilogy, documents the facts and legends about the Bavarian Illuminati, an alleged secret order believed by some conspiracy theorists to rule the world. At the conclusion of his research, Wilson said, “I no longer disbelieve in the Illuminati, but I don’t believe in them, either.” Not surprisingly, he’s also written several books of science fiction.
Among his less fanciful (and to me more absorbing) themes are that traditional linguistic habits — in religion, philosophy and politics — literally function as brainwashing devices, turning humans into programmed machines; that many of our so-called problems don’t exist, but are created by our habit of either/or thinking; that humanity, once it learns to change its mechanical habits, will evolve to a higher evolutionary order, and enjoy an unimaginably richer inner life.
Wilson is convinced that within the next decade or so, scientists will learn to retard dramatically or halt completely the biological process of aging, thus allowing people to live hundreds of years, if not forever. Death itself is a choice, he insists; having programmed ourselves that the body must die, we can reprogram ourselves to eliminate death. (When Wilson’s teenage daughter was brutally murdered in 1976, during a holdup in a store where she worked after school, he arranged to have her brain cryonically preserved — frozen — in the hope that scientists would one day be able to bring her back to life. He has written, “However you calculate the odds on cryonic preservation and whatever way you estimate scientific advances, you come out with a chance above zero. Burial or cremation gives you a chance of exactly zero.”)