The world outlook is grim, very grim, says Peter Beter. What with the government's looting of the gold in Ft. Knox, the toll cancer is taking on Jimmy Carter's body, the murder-by-gun of Nelson Rockefeller and nefarious military, political and economic plots too numerous to detail, Beter holds out little hope for average folks in the United States.

"Americans don't move until the water gets up to their nostrils," says Beter, the 57-year-old son of a Lebanese immigrant who ran a grocery store in West Virginia. "People have never had so much money, so everything's all right."

But Beter thinks everyghing is far from all right-never mind that almost anyone who knows anything about some of Beter's more bizarre assertions considers them bunk. Each month he purports to explain what is really happening in the world to a network of subscribers who pay $60.50 every three months for "The Dr. Beter Audio Letter." Often quoting unnamed intelligence sources, Beter (the doctorate is in jurisprudence) has since 1974 compiled a list of stories that suggest the world press is duped daily.

Beter's recent revelations include the assertion that the Jonestown massacre was a hoax; the bodies discovered there were really American soldiers killed while on a secret mission to disarm a Soviet missile base in Guyana.

Then there's Nelson Rocke-feller who, like his brother John, was murdered, says Beter, in the decade that they expected would mark a Rocke-feller takeover of the world. Beter also brings news of various exotic battles between the U.S. and Russia, primarily space-age affairs such as the "Battle of the Harvest Moon" on September 27, 1977. That, says Beter, is when a crew of a secret American beam-weapons base in Copernicus Crater was killed by a Russian neutron particle beam-weapon "fired at the moon from earth orbit by Cosmos 954, a manned Cosmos Interceptor Killer Satellite."

Such bizarre reports might not raise an eyebrow if they emanated from an itinerant conspiratorialist hawking news of doomsday to make a buck. But Beter seems cut from a less predictable pattern. As a young lawyer in Washington between 1951 and 1961, he began practicing law in an unfashionable section of south-west Washington. He says his unusual name (his first and last names rhyme) helped clients remember him and some big cases against the government-including one involving the abuse of overtime payments to federal employes-made him rich.In 1961 John Kennedy appointed him counsel to the U.S. Export-Import Bank, thanks for Beter's efforts on behalf of the Kennedy campaign in West Virginia.

In 1968 Beter ran against Arch Moore for the governor-ship of his homestate.

"I ran as a Democrat, but about halfway through the campaign I found out that poor people in West Virginia had been taken advantage of by absentee multinational corporations," recalls Beter. "I found the Democratic Party was just an appendage. So I became a radical Republican, canvassing the state with my wife."

And the Peter Beter which fans of his tapes recognize began to emerge.

Says Beter of his campaign: "It opened my eyes to the fact that voting was a sham in my home state. Everybody was for sale: voters, newspapers, reporters . . . The machine called and said I'd have to pay to have my votes counted. I told them I didn't do things that way. I saw that corruption was the biggest business in West Virginia. And now I see it's the biggest business in the United States and the world-no one is looking out for the little guy."

After his defeat in West Virginia, Beter went to Zaire to form a development corporation. In the course of his travels in the late '60s and early '70s, Beter says he became friends with members of the international intelligence community. In 1971 he says a couple of British spies told him Ft. Knox had had been secretly emptied of gold.

That revelation would eventually form the foundation for Beter's perception of world events. In the mid-'70s he wrote a book, The Conspiracy Against the Dollar (Braziller), that led to lectures and media appearances during which he charged Ft. Knox had been looted through a series of complex international sales that benefited powerful interests. In 1974 the government took some congressmen and reporters on a limited tour of Ft. Knox to display at least some gold. Beter says when the government auctions gold these days, it's likely to have been obtained by the CIA in exchange for guns and drugs, the latter obtained by the agency from the poppy fields of Turkey. He urges the fixing of the world's gold price and interest rates lest the savings of the working class continue to evaporate as "the big boys" profit by the currency manipulation.

Beter's world seems one of dark plots and great, vague forces, and he acknowledges that he is on a lonely patrol. Several weeks out of every month he works alone at his K Street office or Bethesda home preparing his tape. Then he jets via the Concorde to Europe where, from an office in Monte Carlo, he dispenses investment advice.

He is a low-key and self-deprecating man who seems apologetic as he tells a luncheon companion all sorts of bad news, including word that the president has terminal cancer ("the nurses at Bethesda tell me what he checks in for"). Beter says he draws strength from "living well" with his wife and three children and daily meditation, sometimes on "our Lord," sometimes on Rama Krishna. For fun sometimes he says he flies up to Harvard to sit in on religion classes.

"Every time I make a tape, I pray and meditate for about an hour before," says Beter. "It's more than just words that go into the tapes-it's the spiritual vibration. People may say, 'I don't believe it, this man is way out,' but once the seed is planted . . . they come back to the tapes." CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Andras Goldinger