Peter Lamborn Wilson

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Peter Lamborn Wilson
Born(1945-10-20)October 20, 1945
DiedMay 22, 2022(2022-05-22) (aged 76)
Other namesHakim Bey (pen name)
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Notable ideas

Peter Lamborn Wilson (October 20, 1945 – May 22, 2022) was an American anarchist author and poet, primarily known for his concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones, short-lived spaces which elude formal structures of control.[2] During the 1970s, Wilson lived in the Middle East, where he explored mysticism and translated Persian texts. Starting from the 1980s he wrote (under the pen name of Hakim Bey) numerous political writings, illustrating his theory of "ontological anarchy".

His style of anarchism has drawn criticism for its emphasis on individualism and mysticism, as did some of his writings about pederasty, which he later regretted.[3]


Wilson was born in Baltimore on October 20, 1945.[4] 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.

Appalled by the social and political climate, Wilson decided to leave the United States, and shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968 he flew to Lebanon, later reaching 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.[5]

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.[5]

Wilson then moved to Iran where 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, which Wilson edited from 1975 until 1978.[5]

Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Wilson lived in New York City, 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.[5]

In later life, Wilson lived in upstate New York in a state he termed "independently poor".[4] He has been described as "a subcultural monument".[6]

In 2020, in a personal letter to Wahid Azal of the Fatimiya Sufi Order, Wilson requested and was accepted as a Bayānī or Azali,[7][8] a fact which he obliquely alluded to in his two final books published in early 2022.[9][10]

Wilson died of heart failure on May 22, 2022, in Saugerties, New York.[4][11][12]

Hakim Bey[edit]

Wilson took an interest in the subculture of zines flourishing in Manhattan in the early 1980s, zines being tiny hand-made photocopied magazines published in small quantities concerning whatever the publishers found compelling. "He began writing essays, communiqués as he liked to call them, under the pen name Hakim Bey, which he mailed to friends and publishers of the 'zines' he liked. ... His mailouts were immediately popular, and regarded as copyright-free syndicated columns ready for anyone to paste into their photocopied 'zines'..."[13]

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.[14]

His Temporary Autonomous Zones work has been referenced in comparison to the "free party" or teknival scene of the rave subculture.[15] Wilson was 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."[16]

According to Gavin Grindon, in the 1990s, the British group Reclaim the Streets was heavily influenced by the ideas put forward in Hakim Bey's The Temporary Autonomous Zone. Their adoption of the carnivalesque into their form of protest evolved eventually into the first "global street party" held in cities across the world on 16 May 1998, the day of a G8 summit meeting in Birmingham. These "parties", explained Grindon, in turn developed into the Carnivals Against Capitalism, in London on June 18, 1999, organized by Reclaim the Streets in coordination with worldwide antiglobalization protests called by the international network People's Global Action during the G-8 summit meeting in Cologne, Germany.[17]

More recently, he has commented on the Occupy Movement in an interview with David Levi Strauss of The Brooklyn Rail:

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.[18]

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.[19]

Notable theories[edit]

Ontological anarchy[edit]

In the compilation of essays called "Immediatism"[20] Wilson explained his particular conception of anarchism and anarchy, which he called "ontological anarchy". In the same compilation he dealt with his view of the relationships of individuals with the exterior world as perceived by the senses and a theory of liberation which he called "immediatism".

Temporary autonomous zones[edit]

Wilson penned articles on three different types of what he called temporary autonomous zones (TAZ). Regarding his concept of TAZ, he said the following in an interview:

... 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.[21]

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.[22]

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,[23] published by Autonomedia in 1991.[4] At the time of his death the book had sold over 50,000 copies and was the publisher's perennial bestseller.[4]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Murray Bookchin included Wilson's work (as Bey) in what he called "lifestyle anarchism", where he criticized Wilson's writing for tendencies towards mysticism, occultism, and irrationalism.[24] Wilson did not respond publicly. Bob Black wrote a rejoinder to Bookchin in Anarchy after Leftism.

Some writers have been troubled by what they took to be Bey's endorsement of adults having sex with children,[25] but other writers defended him. Michael Muhammad Knight, a novelist and former friend of Wilson, stated that "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"[26] and disavowed his former mentor.[27] In a compilation of memorial tributes in The Brooklyn Rail published a few months after Wilson's death, many writers defended Wilson and rejected the accusation of pedophilia.[3] Raymond Foye called him "discreet and courteous, and in all the years I knew him I never heard him gossip or say an ill word against anyone" and reported that Wilson was a literary provocateur who "regretted things he had written".[3] Foye attributed the accusation that Wilson was a pedophile to "skillful manipulations of his writings in a hate website".[3] Kalan Sherrard wrote that after "meeting tons of young people who grew up with him / it became totally evident he had never hurt anyone / and people were just freaked out by his writing".[3] Charles Stein argued that what Wilson wrote on the subject made sense in relation to his oeuvre:

His writing on the subject of pederasty was totally principled in relation to his work. The fact that this is one of the things people are not allowed to think about was not something to deter Peter. Having encountered the subject, he wasn't not going to go there. And if one is so overwhelmed by the Jungian shadow of the topic, then you cannot make use of his work. Because the whole purpose of the work was to throw light on the shadow.

John Zerzan described Bey as a "postmodern liberal", possessing a "method" that was "as appalling as his claims to truthfulness, and essentially conforms to textbook postmodernism. Aestheticism plus knownothingism is the [...] formula; cynical as to the possibility of meaning, allergic to analysis, hooked on trendy word-play", and "basically reformist".[28]


  • The Winter Calligraphy of Ustad Selim, & Other Poems (1975) (Ipswich, England) ISBN 0-903880-05-9
  • Science and Technology in Islam (1976) (with Leonard Harrow)
  • Traditional Modes of Contemplation & Action (1977) (editor, with Yusuf Ibish)
  • Nasir-I Khusraw: 40 Poems from the Divan (1977) (translator and editor, with Gholamreza Aavani) ISBN 0-87773-730-4
  • DIVAN (1978) (poems, London/Tehran)
  • Kings of Love: The Poetry and History of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order of Iran (1978) (translator and editor, with Nasrollah Pourjavady; Tehran)
  • Angels (1980, 1994) ISBN 0-500-11017-4 (abridged edition: ISBN 0-500-81044-3)
  • Weaver of Tales: Persian Picture Rugs (1980) (with Karl Schlamminger)
  • Divine Flashes (1982) (by Fakhruddin 'Iraqi, translated and introduced with William C. Chittick; Paulist Press (Mahwah, New Jersey)) ISBN 0-8091-2372-X
  • Crowstone: The Chronicles of Qamar (1983) (as Hakim)
  • CHAOS: The Broadsheets of Ontological Anarchism (1985) (as Hakim Bey; Grim Reaper Press (Weehawken, New Jersey))
  • Semiotext(e) USA (1987) (co-editor, with Jim Fleming)
  • Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy (1988) (Autonomedia (Brooklyn, New York)) ISBN 0-936756-15-2
  • The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry (1988) (translator and editor, with Nasrollah Pourjavady) ISBN 0-933999-65-8
  • Semiotext(e) SF (1989) (co-editor, with Rudy Rucker and Robert Anton Wilson)
  • The Universe: A Mirror of Itself (1992?) (Xexoxial Editions (La Farge, Wisconsin))
  • Aimless Wanderings: Chuang Tzu's Chaos Linguistics (1993) (as Hakim Bey; Xexoxial Editions (La Farge, Wisconsin))
  • Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam (1993) (City Lights Books (San Francisco)) ISBN 0-87286-275-5
  • The Little Book of Angel Wisdom (1993, 1997) ISBN 1-85230-436-7 ISBN 1-86204-048-6
  • O Tribe That Loves Boys: The Poetry of Abu Nuwas (1993) (translator and editor, as Hakim Bey) ISBN 90-800857-3-1
  • Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs and European Renegadoes (1995, 2003) (Autonomedia (Brooklyn, New York)) ISBN 1-57027-158-5
  • Millennium (1996) (as Hakim Bey; Autonomedia (Brooklyn, New York) and Garden of Delight (Dublin, Ireland)) ISBN 1-57027-045-7
  • "Shower of Stars" Dream & Book: The Initiatic Dream in Sufism and Taoism (1996) (Autonomedia (Brooklyn, New York)) ISBN 1-57027-036-8
  • Escape from the Nineteenth Century and Other Essays (1998) (Autonomedia (Brooklyn, New York)) ISBN 1-57027-073-2
  • Wild Children (1998) (co-editor, with Dave Mandl)
  • Avant Gardening: Ecological Struggle in the City & the World (1999) (co-editor, with Bill Weinberg) ISBN 1-57027-092-9
  • Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma (1999) ISBN 0-87286-326-3
  • TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, Second Edition (2003) (as Hakim Bey; incorporates full text of CHAOS and Aimless Wanderings; Autonomedia (Brooklyn, New York)) ISBN 1-57027-151-8
  • Orgies of the Hemp Eaters (2004) (co-editor as Hakim Bey with Abel Zug) ISBN 1-57027-143-7
  • rain queer (2005) (Farfalla Press (Brooklyn, New York)) ISBN 0-9766341-1-2
  • Cross-Dressing in the Anti-Rent War (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs chapbook, 2005)
  • Gothick Institutions (2005) ISBN 0-9770049-0-2
  • Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology; (with Christopher Bamford and Kevin Townley, Lindisfarne (2007)) ISBN 1-58420-049-9
  • Black Fez Manifesto as Hakim Bey (2008) ISBN 978-1-57027-187-8
  • Atlantis Manifesto (2nd edition, 2009) Shivastan Publishing limited edition
  • Abecedarium (2010) ISBN 978-0977004980
  • Ec(o)logues (Station Hill of Barrytown, 2011) ISBN 978-1-58177-115-2
  • Nostalgia/Utopia with Francesco Clemente (Hirmer Publishers, Mary Boone Gallery, 2012) ISBN 978-3-7774-5321-7
  • Spiritual Destinations of an Anarchist (2014) ISBN 978-1620490563
  • Spiritual Journeys of an Anarchist (2014) ISBN 978-1620490549
  • Riverpeople (2014) ISBN 978-1570272608
  • Opium Dens I Have Known with Chris Martin (2014) Shivastan Publishing limited edition
  • Anarchist Ephemera (2016) ISBN 978-1620490709
  • False Documents (Barrytown/Station Hill Press, Inc., 2016) ISBN 978-1581771404
  • Heresies: Anarchist Memoirs, Anarchist Art (2016) ISBN 978-1570273001
  • School of Nite with Nancy Goldring (2016) ISBN 978-1941550823
  • Night Market Noodles and Other Tales (2017) ISBN 978-1570273162
  • The Temple of Perseus at Panopolis (2017) ISBN 978-1570272875
  • Vanished Signs (2018) ISBN 978-0999783115
  • Lucky Shadows (2018) ISBN 978-1936687435
  • The New Nihilism (Bottle of Smoke Press, 2018) ISBN 978-1937073725
  • Utopian Trace: An Oral Presentation (2019) ISBN 978-0578491103
  • The American Revolution as a Gigantic Real Estate Scam: And Other Essays in Lost/Found History (2019) ISBN 978-1570273575
  • Cauda Pavonis: Esoteric Antinomianism in the Yezidi Tradition (2019) ISBN 978-1945147401
  • Hoodoo Metaphysics with Tamara Gonzales (Bearpuff Press, 2019) ISBN 978-0-9829039-5-7
  • False Messiah: Crypto-Xtian Tracts and Fragments (2022) ISBN 978-1735043210
  • Peacock Angel: The Esoteric Tradition of the Yezidis (2022) ISBN 978-1644114124


  1. ^ Bey, Hakim (1991). "An esoteric interpretation of the I.W.W. preamble". The International Review: 2–3. Archived from the original on 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2011-09-23.
  2. ^ Marcus, Ezra (2020-07-01). "In the Autonomous Zones". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2021-06-30. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e "In Memoriam: A Tribute to Peter Lamborn Wilson (1945–2022) Edited by Raymond Foye". The Brooklyn Rail. October 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e Green, Penelope (June 11, 2022). "Peter Lamborn Wilson, Advocate of 'Poetic Terrorism,' Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d Knight, Michael M. William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an, Soft Skull Press, Berkley 2012, pp11-78
  6. ^ Jarrett, Earnest. "Living Under Sick Machines: Peter Lamborn Wilson / Hakim Bey" Archived 2016-08-25 at the Wayback Machine, The Brooklyn Rail, 5 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Peter Lamborn Wilson to Wahid Azal"
  8. ^ "Wahid Azal response to Peter Lamborn Wilson 2020"
  9. ^ Wilson, Peter Lamborn."False Messiah: Crypto-Xtian Tracts and Fragments" Archived 2022-06-07 at the Wayback Machine, Autonomedia/Logosophia; First edition, 17 February 2022, pp.76-77.
  10. ^ Wilson, Peter Lamborn."Peacock Angel: The Esoteric Tradition of the Yezidis" Archived 2022-05-15 at the Wayback Machine, Inner Traditions, 8 March 2022, pp.15, 17, 113, 235n4
  11. ^ "Hakim Bey, una delle figure di spicco della cultura Cyberpunk, è morto". 24 May 2022. Archived from the original on 31 May 2022. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  12. ^ "Morreu Peter Lamborn Wilson, o último pirata". Archived from the original on 2022-05-31. Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  13. ^ Rabinowitz, Jacob Blame It On Blake: A Memoir of Dead Languages, Gender Vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr (2019),ISBN 1095139053, pages 163-165
  14. ^ Knight, Michael M. William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an, Soft Skull Press, Berkley 2012, p74
  15. ^ Maas, Sander van (2015). Thresholds of Listening: Sound, Technics, Space. Fordham University Press. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-8232-6439-1. Archived from the original on 2021-04-27. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
  16. ^ "An Anarchist in the Hudson Valley". Brooklyn Rail. July 2004. Archived from the original on 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
  17. ^ Gavin, Grindon (January 2020). "Carnival against the Capital of Capital: Carnivalesque Protest in Occupy Wall Street". Journal of Festive Studies. 2 (1): 147–148. doi:10.33823/jfs.2019.2.1.TK – via ResearchGate.
  18. ^ Levi Strauss, David (October 2012). "In Conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson". The Brooklyn Rail. Archived from the original on 2013-09-17. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
  19. ^ Levi Strauss, David (January 2008). "Green Hermeticism: David Levi Strauss in conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson and Christopher Bamford". The Brooklyn Rail. Archived from the original on 2012-08-04. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  20. ^ Immediatism by Hakim Bey. AK Press. 1994.
  21. ^ "Hans Ulrich Obrist. "In Conversation with Hakim Bey" at e-flux". Archived from the original on 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  22. ^ Bey, Hakim. "Obsessive Love". The Anarchist Library. Retrieved 2022-12-05.
  23. ^ Hakim Bey. TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Autonomedia. August 1991
  24. ^ Bookchin, Murray. Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism (1995). AK Press: Stirling. ISBN 978-1-873176-83-2. (pp. 20-26)
  25. ^ Marcus, Richard (2 May 2012). "Book Review: William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an by Michael Muhammad Knight". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Communications. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  26. ^ Michael Knight (17 April 2012). William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an. Soft Skull Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-1-59376-415-9. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 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.
  27. ^ Fiscella, Anthony (2 October 2009). "Imagining an Islamic anarchism: a new field of study is ploughed". In Alexandre J. M. E. Christoyannopoulos (ed.). Religious Anarchism: New Perspectives. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 301. ISBN 978-1-4438-1503-1. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 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.
  28. ^ Zerzan, John. ""Hakim Bey," postmodern "anarchist"". Archived from the original on 2001-04-26.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rabinowitz, Jacob "Blame It On Blake: A Memoir of Dead Languages, Gender Vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr" (2019), ISBN 1095139053. Section 6 (comprising 4 chapters, pages 155–179) concerns Peter Lamborn Wilson / Hakim Bey
  • Greer, Joseph Christian. "Occult Origins: Hakim Bey's Ontological Post-Anarchism." Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies 2 (2014).
  • Sellars, Simon. "Hakim Bey: repopulating the temporary autonomous zone." Journal for the Study of Radicalism 4.2 (2010): 83–108.
  • Armitage, John. "Ontological anarchy, the temporary autonomous zone, and the politics of cyberculture a critique of hakim bey." Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 4.2 (1999): 115–128.
  • Ward, Colin. "Temporary Autonomous Zones." Freedom, (1997).
  • Bookchin, Murray. Social anarchism or lifestyle anarchism: an unbridgeable chasm. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1995.
  • Shantz, Jeff. "Hakim Bey's Millenium." Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research 15 (1999).
  • Rousselle, Duane, and Süreyya Evren, eds. Post-anarchism: a reader. Pluto Press, 2011.
  • Williams, Leonard (2010). "Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchism". Journal for the Study of Radicalism. 4 (2): 109–137. doi:10.1353/jsr.2010.0009. ISSN 1930-1189. JSTOR 41887660. S2CID 143304524.

External links[edit]