Peter Lamborn Wilson
|Born||1945 (age 74–75)|
|School||Post-anarchism, individualist anarchism|
|Refusal of work, post-industrial society, mysticism, utopianism, pederasty|
|Temporary autonomous zones|
While undertaking a classics major at Columbia University, Wilson met Warren Tartaglia, then introducing Islam to students as the leader of a group called the Noble Moors. Attracted by the philosophy, Wilson was initiated into the group, but later joined a group of breakaway members who founded the Moorish Orthodox Church. The Church maintained a presence at the League for Spiritual Discovery, the group established by Timothy Leary, and it is alleged Wilson would visit it for supplies of LSD.
Appalled by the social and political climate, Wilson had also decided to leave America, and shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 he flew to Lebanon. In the words of Michael Muhammad Knight, "The emerging postcolonial world was crowded with American hippies blowing their trust funds on mystical quests ... and [Wilson] was one of them."
Wilson travelled to India with the intention of studying Sufism, but became fascinated by Tantra, tracking down Ganesh Baba. He spent a month in a Kathmandu missionary hospital being treated for hepatitis, and practised meditation techniques in a cave above the east bank of the Ganges. He also allegedly ingested significant quantities of cannabis.
Wilson travelled on to Pakistan. There he lived in several places, mixing with princes, Sufis, and gutter dwellers, and moving from teahouses to opium dens. In Quetta he found "a total disregard of all government", with people reliant on family, clans or tribes, which appealed to him.
Wilson then moved to Iran. It was here that he developed his scholarship. He translated classical Persian texts with French scholar Henry Corbin, and also worked as a journalist at the Tehran Journal. In 1974, Farah Pahlavi Empress of Iran commissioned her personal secretary, scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, to establish the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy. Nasr offered Wilson the position of director of its English language publications, and editorship of its journal Sophia Perennis. This Wilson edited from 1975 until 1978.
Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Wilson lived in New York, sharing a brownstone townhouse with William Burroughs, with whom he bonded over their shared interests. Burroughs acknowledged Wilson for providing material on Hassan-i Sabbah which he used for his novel The Western Lands.
Wilson's occasional pen name of Hakim Bey is derived from il-Hakim, the alchemist-king, with 'Bey' a further nod to Moorish Science. Wilson's two personas, as himself and Bey, are facilitated by his publishers who provide separate author biographies even when both appear in the same publication.
His Temporary Autonomous Zones work has been referenced in comparison to the "free party" or teknival scene of the rave subculture. Wilson has been supportive of the rave connection, while remarking in an interview, "The ravers were among my biggest readers ... I wish they would rethink all this techno stuff -- they didn't get that part of my writing."
I was beginning to feel that there would never be another American uprising, that the energy was gone, and I have some reasons to think that might be true. I like to point out that the crime rate in America has been declining for a long time, and in my opinion it's because Americans don't even have enough gumption to commit crimes anymore: the creative aspect of crime has fallen into decay. As for the uprising that takes a principled stand against violence, hats off to them, I admire the idealism, but I don't think it's going to accomplish much.
In another interview with David Levi Strauss and Christopher Bamford in The Brooklyn Rail, Bey has discussed his views on what he calls "Green Hermeticism":
We all agreed that there is not a sufficient spiritual focus for the environmental movement. And without a spiritual focus, a movement like this doesn't generate the kind of emotional energy that it needs to battle against global capitalism--that for which there is no other reality, according to most people. It should be a rallying call of the spirit for the environmental movement, or for as many parts of that movement as could be open to it.
In the compilation of essays called "Immediatism" Wilson explains his particular conception of anarchism and anarchy which he calls "ontological anarchy". In the same compilation he deals with his view of the relationships of individuals with the exterior world as perceived by the senses and a theory of liberation which he calls "immediatism".
Wilson has written articles on three different types of what he calls temporary autonomous zones (TAZ). Regarding his concept of TAZ, he said in an interview the following:
... the real genesis was my connection to the communal movement in America, my experiences in the 1960s in places like Timothy Leary's commune in Millbrook ... Usually only the religious ones last longer than a generation--and usually at the expense of becoming quite authoritarian, and probably dismal and boring as well. I've noticed that the exciting ones tend to disappear, and as I began to further study this phenomenon, I found that they tend to disappear in a year or a year and a half.
In an article on obsessive love, Wilson posited a utopia based on generosity as well as obsession and wrote:
I have dreamed this (I remember it suddenly, as if it were literally a dream) -- and it has taken on a tantalizing reality and filtered into my life--in certain Temporary Autonomous Zones--an "impossible" time and space ... and on this brief hint, all my theory is based.
As such, it may be said that it is part of the eternal vision of an arcadia where desires are fulfilled without reference to the world, and the search for a means of realising it.
The concept of TAZ was presented in a long elaboration in the book TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism.
In Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm, Murray Bookchin included Wilson's work (as Bey) in what he called "lifestyle anarchism", which he criticized Wilson's writing for tendencies towards mysticism, occultism, and irrationalism. Wilson did not respond publicly. Bob Black wrote a rejoinder to Bookchin in Anarchy after Leftism.
Some writers have been troubled by Bey's endorsement of adults having sex with children.
In his book William S. Burroughs vs. the Qur'an, Michael Muhammad Knight describes his experiences with Peter Lamborn Wilson. Knight befriends Wilson, and is invited to stay at his house; he begins writing a biography of Wilson, on which he hopes Wilson might bestow the label "official". However, as he learns more about Wilson/Bey's writings on pederasty, his view of Wilson sours, and with that their friendship. Knight says "writing for NAMBLA amounts to activism in real life. As Hakim Bey, Peter creates a child molester's liberation theology and then publishes it for an audience of potential offenders". As Anthony Fiscella summarises the situation, "Knight has disavowed his former mentor due to Wilson's advocacy of paedophilia/pederasty".
However, Joseph Christian Greer criticises Knight's account of his friendship with Wilson, considering it to be unreliable: "Half way through the text Knight claims to have become suddenly aware that Wilson promoted and espoused man-boy love as a viable sexuality and immediately lost interest in recording his subject's life ... His description of realizing Wilson's sexuality, though, rings particularly bogus on account of the fact that Wilson is quite open about his sexuality, even to the point of devoting numerous texts to intergenerational relationships. It seems certain that Knight would have been well aware of Wilson's sexuality long before starting to write his biography, and simply used it as an excuse to present his own work as superseding that of his former guru".:182
Robert Helms has criticised Wilson for pedophilia, writing that Wilson "uses anarchism in an ethically warped, opportunistic way by pretending that adult-child sex is a natural freedom. It isn't, and not only would almost any anarchist disagree with him, but they'd also dispute a child-rapist's right to a non-violent remedy in many cases." Helms accuses Wilson of using the concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones to advocate for pedophilia, citing a previous zine he had created named Wild Children "for contributors 17 and under", and criticises him as a misogynist for his stance against abortion in "Communique #9" of TAZ, stating, "the ethical idiocy of both [Wilson's pedophilic advocacy and misogyny] are self-evident, and neither is part of anything that should be considered an anarchist idea." Helms has also criticised the broader anarchist community for its silence on the subject, writing: "I am left with the impression that they are not taking responsibility for what they know. This does not speak well of the anarchists of the United States. I feel that with anarchism becoming ever more popular, the greater portion of new anarchists are just consumers of anarchist stuff. Since such people can't deal with a new ethical problem, they probably would not know what to do with that new, real revolutionary opportunity for which they pine so passionately."
He doesn't know that I've read the NAMBLA poems or Crowstone or that I would have a problem with it. I'm not a liar yet, because at least I'm trying to work this out for myself. But it doesn't look good. I try to see it as Sufi allegory, a hidden parable somewhere in all the porn, like Ibn 'Arabi's poems about Nizam or Rumi's donkey-sex story. Does anyone accuse Rumi of bestiality? Apart from the ugly zahir meaning, the surface-level interpretation, there could be a secret batin meaning, and the boys aren't really boys but personifications of Divine Names. It almost settles things for me, but writing for NAMBLA amounts to activism in real life. As Hakim Bey, Peter creates a child molester's liberation theology and then publishes it for an audience of potential offenders. The historical settings that he uses for validation, whether Mediterranean pirates or medieval fringe Sufis, relate less to homosexuality than to prison rape: heterosexual males with physical and/or material power but no access to women, claiming whatever warm holes are available. What Hakim Bey calls "alternative sexuality" is in fact only old patriarchy-the man with the beard expressing his power through penetration. His supporters might dismiss "childhood" as a mere construction of the post-industrial age, but Hakim Bey forces me to consider that once in a while, I have to side with the awful modern world.
Though still indebted to Wilson for publishing The Taqwacores, Knight has disavowed his former mentor due to Wilson's advocacy of paedophilia/pederasty. While standing up for an Islam that embraces all sorts of heresies, Knight has felt compelled to draw boundaries of his own.