Peter Lamborn Wilson

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Peter Lamborn Wilson
Born1945 (age 75–76)
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolPost-anarchism, individualist anarchism[1]
Main interests
Refusal of work, post-industrial society, mysticism, utopianism
Notable ideas
Temporary autonomous zones
Pirate Utopias, autographed.jpg

Peter Lamborn Wilson (born 1945) is 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 "onthological anarchy". His style of anarchism has drawn criticism for its emphasis on individualism and mysticism, as did some writings where he defended pederasty.


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 had also decided to leave America, and shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 he flew to Lebanon, eventually 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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

Wilson currently lives in upstate New York. A family trust fund enables him to live in a state he terms "independently poor".[3] He has been described as "a subcultural monument".[4]

Hakim Bey[edit]

Wilson took an interest in the 'zines' subculture flourishing in Manhattan in the early 1980s, 'zines' being tiny hand-made xeroxed 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 xeroxed 'zines'..."[5]

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.[6]

His Temporary Autonomous Zones work has been referenced in comparison to the "free party" or teknival scene of the rave subculture.[7] 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."[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Notable theories[edit]

Ontological anarchy[edit]

In the compilation of essays called "Immediatism"[11] 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 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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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"[17] and disavowed his former mentor.[18]


  • 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)
  • Loving Boys: Semiotext(e) Special (1980) (editor as Hakim Bey; Semiotext(e) (New York))
  • 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 [Bey])
  • 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
  • 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


  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. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e Knight, Michael M. William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an, Soft Skull Press, Berkley 2012, pp11-78
  4. ^ Jarrett, Earnest Living Under Sick Machines: Peter Lamborn Wilson / Hakim Bey, The Brooklyn Rail, 5 June 2014;
  5. ^ Rabinowitz, Jacob Blame It On Blake: A Memoir of Dead Languages, Gender Vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr (2019),ISBN 1095139053, pages 163-165
  6. ^ Knight, Michael M. William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur'an, Soft Skull Press, Berkley 2012, p74
  7. ^ Maas, Sander van (2015). Thresholds of Listening: Sound, Technics, Space. Fordham University Press. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-8232-6439-1.
  8. ^ "An Anarchist in the Hudson Valley". Brooklyn Rail. July 2004.
  9. ^ Levi Strauss, David (October 2012). "In Conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson". The Brooklyn Rail.
  10. ^ Levi Strauss, David (January 2008). "Green Hermeticism: David Levi Strauss in conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson and Christopher Bamford". The Brooklyn Rail.
  11. ^ Immediatism by Hakim Bey. AK Press. 1994.
  12. ^ Hans Ulrich Obrist. "In Conversation with Hakim Bey" at e-flux
  13. ^ "Obsessive Love — Hakim Bey". Hermetic Library. Retrieved 2016-08-26.
  14. ^ Hakim Bey. TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Autonomedia. August 1991
  15. ^ Bookchin, Murray. Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism (1995). AK Press: Stirling. ISBN 978-1-873176-83-2. (pp. 20-26)
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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. 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.

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.

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