(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of
Is the Antidote for Paranoia)
me remind you who you really are: You're an immortal freedom fighter who
longs to liberate all sentient creatures from their suffering. You're a
fun-loving messiah who devoutly wants to help all of your fellow messiahs
claim the ecstatic awareness that is their birthright.
Try to remember. You're a vortex of fluidic light that has temporarily
taken on the form of a human being, suffering amnesia about your true
origins. And why did you do that? Because it was the best way to forge the
identity that would make you such an elemental force in our
14-billion-year campaign to bring heaven all the way down
I'm not speaking metaphorically here. You are a mutant deity in disguise
-- not a Buddha or a Christ exactly, but of the same lineage and conjured
from the same fire. You have been around since the beginning of time and
will be here after the end. Every day and in every way, you're getting
better at playing the preposterously amusing master game we all dreamed up
together before the Big Bang bloomed.
Lately, I must admit, our work has seemed almost comically impossible.
Many of us have given in to the temptation to believe that everything is
upside-down and inside-out. Ignorance and inertia, partially camouflaged
as time-honored morality, seem to surround us. Pessimism is enshrined as a
hallmark of worldliness. Compulsive skepticism masquerades as
perceptiveness. Mean-spirited irony is chic. Stories about treachery and
degradation provoke a visceral thrill in millions of people who think of
themselves as reasonable and smart. Beautiful truths are suspect and ugly
truths are readily believed.
So no, at this peculiar turning point in the evolution of our
14-billion-year-old master game, it's not easy to carry out our mission.
We've got to be both wrathful insurrectionaries and exuberant lovers of
life. We've got to cultivate cheerful buoyancy even as we resist the
temptation to swallow thousands of delusions that have been carefully
crafted and seductively packaged by those messiahs among us who bravely
volunteered to play the role of know-it-all deceivers.
We have to learn how to stay in a good yet unruly mood as we overthrow the
sour, puckered mass hallucination that is mistakenly referred to as
Maybe most importantly, we have to be ferociously and single-mindedly
dedicated to the cause of beauty and truth and love even as we keep our
imaginations wild and hungry and free. We have to be both disciplined and
What can we do to help each other in this work?
First, we can create safe houses to shelter everyone who's devoted to the
slow-motion awakening of humanity. These sanctuaries might take the form
of temporary autonomous zones like festivals and parties and workshops,
where we can ritually explore and potentiate the evolving mysteries of
pronoia. Or they might be more enduring autonomous zones like homes and
cafes and businesses where we can get regular practice in freeing
ourselves from the slavery of hatred in all of its many guises.
What else can we do to help each other? We can conspire together to carry
out the agenda that futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard names: to hospice what's
dying and midwife what's being born. We need the trigger of each other's
rebel glee as we kill off every reflex within us that resonates in harmony
with the putrefaction. We need each other's dauntless cunning as we goad
and foment the blooming life forces within us.
Here's a third way we can collaborate: We can inspire each other to
perpetrate healing mischief, friendly shocks, compassionate tricks,
irreverent devotion, holy pranks, playful experiments, and crazy wisdom.
Huh? What do tricks and mischief and jokes have to do with our quest?
Isn't America in a permanent state of war? Isn't it the most militarized
empire in the history of the world? Hasn't the paranoia about terrorism
decimated our civil liberties? Isn't it our duty to grow more serious and
weighty than ever before?
On the contrary: I say this is the perfect moment to take everything less
seriously and less personally and less literally.
Permanent war and the loss of civil liberties are immediate dangers. But
they are only symptoms of an even larger, long-term threat to the fate of
the earth: the genocide of the imagination.
Elsewhere, on pages 184-186 of my book, I have identified pop-nihilist
storytellers as the vanguard perpetrators of this genocide of the
imagination. But there is another culprit as well: fundamentalism.
The fundamentalist takes everything way too seriously and way too
personally and way too literally. He divides the world into two camps,
those who agree with him and those who don't. There is only one right way
to interpret the world, and a million wrong ways. Correct belief is the
To the fundamentalist, the liberated imagination is a sinful taboo. He not
only enslaves his own imagination to his ideology, but wants to enslave
our imaginations, too.
And who are the fundamentalists? Let's not remain under the delusion that
they are only the usual suspects -- the religious fanatics of Islam and
Christianity and Judaism and Hinduism.
There are many other kinds of fundamentalists, and some of them have
gotten away with practicing their tragic magic in a stealth mode. Among
the most successful are those who believe in what Robert Anton Wilson
calls fundamentalist materialism. This is the faith-based dogma that
swears physical matter is the only reality and that nothing exists unless
it can be detected by our five senses or by technologies that humans have
Life has no transcendent meaning or purpose, the fundamentalist
materialists proclaim. There is no such thing as a divine intelligence.
The universe is a dumb accidental machine that grinds on endlessly out of
I see spread out before me in every direction a staggeringly sublime
miracle lovingly crafted by a supernal consciousness that oversees the
evolution of 500 billion galaxies, yet is also available as an intimate
companion and daily advisor to every one of us. But to the fundamentalist
materialists, my perceptions are indisputably wrong and idiotic.
Many other varieties of fundamentalism thrive and propagate. Every
ideology, even some of the ones I like, has its share of true believers --
fanatics who judge all other ideologies as inferior, flawed, and foolish.
I know astrologers who insist there's only one way to do astrology right.
I know Buddhists who adamantly decree that the inherent nature of life on
Earth is suffering. I know progressive activists who sincerely believe
that every single Republican is either stupid or evil or both. I know
college administrators who would excommunicate any psychology professor
who dared to discuss the teachings of Carl Jung, who was in my opinion one
of the greatest minds of the 20th century. I know pagans who refuse to
consider any other version of Jesus Christ beyond the sick parody the
Christian right has fabricated.
None of the true believers like to hear that there are at least three
sides to every story. They don't want to consider the hypothesis that
everyone has a piece of the truth.
And here's the really bad news: We all have our own share of the
fundamentalist virus. Each of us is fanatical, rigid, and intolerant about
products of the imagination that we don't like. We wish that certain
people would not imagine the things they do, and we allow ourselves to
beam hateful, war-like thoughts in their direction.
We even wage war against our own imaginations, commanding ourselves,
sometimes half-consciously, to ignore possibilities that don't fit into
our neatly constructed theories. Each of us sets aside certain precious
beliefs and symbols that we give ourselves permission to take very
seriously and personally and literally.
Our fundamentalism, yours and mine, may not be as dangerous to the
collective welfare as, say, the fundamentalism of Islamic terrorists and
right-wing Christian politicians. It may not be as destructive as that of
the CEOs who worship financial profit as the supreme measure of value, and
the scientists who ignore and deny every mystery that can't be measured,
and the journalists, filmmakers, novelists, musicians, and pundits who
relentlessly generate rotten visions of the human condition.
But still: We are all infected, you and I. We are fueling the war against
the imagination. What's your version of the virus?
Try to remember. We are reverent insurgents . . . convulsive beautifiers .
. . rowdy avatars. We have more mojo at our disposal than we realize. But
if we hope to navigate our way through this peculiar turning point in the
evolution of our 14-billion-year-old master game, we will have to summon
previously untapped reserves of that mojo. We will have to keep our
imaginations wild and hungry and free, and make sure that all of our
fellow messiahs, even those who volunteered to play the roles of ignorant
deceivers, have the chance to keep their imaginations wild and hungry and
How might we start curing ourselves of the fundamentalist virus and move
in the direction of becoming more festive and relentless champions of the
For starters, we can take everything less seriously and less personally
and less literally.
We can laugh at ourselves at least as much as we laugh at other people. We
can blaspheme our own gods and burn our own flags and mock our own
hypocrisy and satirize our own fads and fixations.
And we can enjoy and share the tonic pleasures of healing mischief,
friendly shocks, compassionate tricks, irreverent devotion, holy pranks,
playful experiments, and crazy wisdom. ■
Pronoia Is the Antidote for
How the Whole World Is
Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings