Peter Lamborn Wilson

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Peter Lamborn Wilson
Born 1945 (age 71–72)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Post-anarchism, individualist anarchism[1]
Main interests
refusal of work, post-industrial society, mysticism, utopianism
Notable ideas
Temporary Autonomous Zones

Peter Lamborn Wilson (pseudonym Hakim Bey; born 1945) is an American anarchist author, primarily known for advocating the concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones.


Wilson is the son of Douglas Emory Wilson, an editor at Harvard University Press and Ralph Waldo Emerson scholar, and Margaret Packwood.[2] His parents divorced when he was thirteen.[3]

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."[4]

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.[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 the anarchist in him.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

Wilson currently lives in upstate New York. A family trust fund enables him to live in a state he terms "independently poor".[5] He has been described as "a subcultural monument".[6]

Hakim Bey[edit]

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.[7]


In addition to his writings on ontological anarchy (termed lifestyle anarchism by detractors such as Murray Bookchin) and Temporary Autonomous Zones, Wilson has written essays on other topics such as Tong traditions, the utopian Charles Fourier, the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, alleged connections between Sufism and ancient Celtic culture, technology and Luddism, Amanita muscaria use in ancient Ireland, and sacred pederasty in the Sufi tradition.[8]

Wilson's freeform poetry, as Hakim Bey, has appeared in Exquisite Corpse, the Panthology and Acolyte Reader anthologies, Gayme, P.A.N., NAMBLA Bulletin, Ganymede, and various samizdat zines. Many of the poems were collected in an unpublished volume DogStar, praised by Burroughs and Ginsberg. Currently his works can be found regularly in publications like Fifth Estate and the NYC-based First of the Month.

He has also published at least one novel, The Chronicles of Qamar: Crowstone.[9]

Particularly because of his TAZ work, Wilson has often been embraced by rave subculture, as ravers have identified the experience and occasions of raves as part of the tradition of "Temporary Autonomous Zones" that Bey outlines, particularly the "free party" or teknival scene.[citation needed] 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."[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Wilson has even taken up commentary on the ontology of quantum physics, interpreting Nick Herbert's Quantum Reality in terms of the social paradigms from which quantum mechanics may draw its metaphors.[13]

Notable theories[edit]

Ontological anarchy[edit]

In the compilation of essays called "Immediatism"[14] 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".

Temporary Autonomous Zones[edit]

Wilson has written articles on three different types of what he calls "autonomous zones". Regarding his concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) he said in an interview that

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Lifestyle anarchism[edit]

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.[18] Wilson did not respond publicly. Bob Black wrote a rejoinder to Bookchin in Anarchy after Leftism.

Pedophilia advocacy[edit]

Some writers have been troubled by Bey's endorsement of children's sexuality, and its ability to be expressed without the restriction of age.[19]

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".[20] As Anthony Fiscella summarises the situation, "Knight has disavowed his former mentor due to Wilson's advocacy of paedophilia/pederasty".[21]

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".[22]:182

Simon Sellars recounts how Robert Helms has led a public campaign, mainly on the Internet, against Wilson/Bey, accusing Wilson of pedophilia. Sellars quotes Helms, "the pedophile writings of Hakim Bey indicate a general deceit in his philosophy, and are evidence that his concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone is inspired by opportunism, not by good will. He presents arguments for human freedom while actually wishing to create situations where he is free to put his deranged sexuality into practice". Sellars concludes that Helms' claims are unfounded and unfair to Wilson: "It is clearly farfetched to suggest that Wilson/Bey is advocating sex with prepubescent children, as there is nothing in the texts to suggest this". Sellars suggests that Helms campaign against Wilson is a form of "institutionalized homophobia".[23]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bey, Hakim (1991). "An esoteric interpretation of the I.W.W. preamble". The International Review: 2–3. 
  2. ^ "Douglas Emory Wilson". Retrieved 2016-08-26. 
  3. ^ "Douglas Emory Wilson". Retrieved 2016-08-26. 
  4. ^ Knight, Michael M. William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an, Soft Skull Press, Berkley 2012, p6
  5. ^ a b c d e 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, The Brooklyn Rail, 5 June 2014;
  7. ^ Knight, Michael M. William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an, Soft Skull Press, Berkley 2012, p74
  8. ^ Wilson, Peter Lambourn. Contemplation of the Unbearded - The Rubaiyyat of Awhadoddin Kermani. Paidika, Vol.3, No.4, 1995.
  9. ^ OCLC 16810252
  10. ^ "An Anarchist in the Hudson Valley". Brooklyn Rail. July 2004. 
  11. ^ Levi Strauss, David (October 2012). "In Conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  12. ^ Levi Strauss, David (January 2008). "Green Hermeticism: David Levi Strauss in conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson and Christopher Bamford". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  13. ^ Bey, Hakim. "Quantum Mechanics & Chaos Theory: Anarchist Meditations on N. Herbert's Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics". Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  14. ^ Immediatism by Hakim Bey. AK Press. 1994.
  15. ^ Hans Ulrich Obrist. "In Conversation with Hakim Bey" at e-flux
  16. ^ "Obsessive Love — Hakim Bey". Hermetic Library. Retrieved 2016-08-26. 
  17. ^ Hakim Bey. TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Autonomedia. August 1991
  18. ^ Bookchin, Murray. Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism (1995). AK Press: Stirling. ISBN 978-1-873176-83-2. (pp. 20-26)
  19. ^ Marcus, Richard (2 May 2012). "Book Review: William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an by Michael Muhammad Knight". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Communications. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  20. ^ Michael Knight (17 April 2012). William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an. Soft Skull Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-1-59376-415-9. 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. 

  21. ^ Fiscella, Anthony (2 October 2009). "Imagining an Islamic anarchism: a new field of study is ploughed". In Alexandre J. M. E. Christoyannopoulos. Religious Anarchism: New Perspectives. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 301. ISBN 978-1-4438-1503-1. 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. 
  22. ^ Greer, Joseph Christian (2013). "Occult Origins: Hakim Bey's Ontological Post-Anarchism" (PDF). Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. 2013 (2): 166–187. hdl:11245/1.409610. ISSN 1923-5615. Retrieved 2017-03-19. 
  23. ^ Sellars, Simon (2010). "Hakim Bey: Repopulating the Temporary Autonomous Zone". Journal for the Study of Radicalism. 4 (2): 83–108. doi:10.1353/jsr.2010.0007. ISSN 1930-1197. Hakim Bey remains a deeply divisive figure, no less controversial now than he was then. Much of this recent resentment, highly visible online, arises from accusations leveled against Wilson’s private life, especially in Robert P. Helms’s widely circulated series of articles. Helms asserts that Wilson’s earliest writings appeared in publications released by NAMBLA and other “man-boy love” organizations (including, he claims, an early version of the TAZ). For Helms, “the pedophile writings of Hakim Bey indicate a general deceit in his philosophy, and are evidence that his concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone is inspired by opportunism, not by good will. He presents arguments for human freedom while actually wishing to create situations where he is free to put his deranged sexuality into practice.” This, in turn, has inspired a new backlash against the TAZ, in which it is claimed that Wilson’s version of anarchism serves to justify pedophilia. Much of the opprobrium directed toward him stems from a perception of pedophilia as solely concerned with the grooming of prepubescent children for sexual purposes, and even rape (also from a muddling of the distinction between pederasty and pedophilia)...

    It is clearly farfetched to suggest that Wilson/Bey is advocating sex with prepubescent children, as there is nothing in the texts to suggest this. Regarding pederasty, and regardless of one’s own views on the moral legitimacy of such sexual desire, it should also be recognized that Bey is not the first high-profile writer to admit to a sexual attraction toward adolescent boys. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg made no secret of it, yet by and large their readers do not seem to have trouble separating this from their consumption of the work...

    Thus, the reactions to Wilson’s supposed sexual attitudes seem more to do with institutionalized homophobia brought to a head by Bey’s satirical intervention than they are to do with reasoned objections to a taboo subject that, historically, by many accounts, has not always been so. This intervention raises an important implication, one that a purely academic discourse could not to the same degree: if the TAZ, and any kind of alternative politics, can serve to reassess questions of race, disability, nationhood, and gender, why can it not be used to reassess sexuality? Inevitably, the reactions of Helms and his supporters do not bode well for a movement seeking to overturn government and society on the grounds of historical irrelevance. 

External links[edit]

Articles and interviews