Saturday, June 6, 2020

Saturday links

Composer David Lang on Hadrian's Wall last year. (Context).

Jesse Walker quotes Kerry Thornley (on police behavior).

What works in reducing police violence.

Adam Gorightly's movie, "The Hill and the Hole,"  now on Amazon. 

Erik Davis' June Blast.  Erik explains, " I just posted my latest round-up of news, links, and reviews at The Burning Shore, including a new analog synth comp, The Acid Diaries, and the film In Pursuit of Silence."

Timothy Leary documentary in the works.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Cosmic Trigger II audiobook released

Hilaritas Press has announced the release of a new audiobook: Cosmic Trigger II, narrated by Oliver Senton, who portrayed RAW in Daisy Campbell's production of the Cosmic Trigger Play.

While I welcome all Hilaritas Press announcements, Cosmic Trigger II is a book I'm particularly fond of. I know that most RAW fans would likely prefer the first Cosmic Trigger. If you like audiobooks, you don't have to choose, because there's an Oliver Senton-narrated audiobook for it, too.  (I now have both audiobooks on my phone.)

You will want to read the whole announcement, because as with many other such announcements, a particular highlight is Christina Pearson's contribution, which includes memories about what life on the farm was like, when her family tried going back to the land in Ohio:

On the homestead our family lived in an old ramshackle 2-room house, where we took our baths in a big tin tub (see picture!) that would get pulled out and put on the floor in the kitchen, and filled from the hose attached to the kitchen sink), and used the outhouse out back for going to the bathroom. (imagine telling your 6 year-old daughter she needs to go poop in the outhouse while it was 19 degrees out and icy! Yep . . . we just cried so us kids ended up getting a chamber-pot (read pot with lid) we could use inside the big house to keep from freezing our little rear-ends off that winter . . .)

Thursday, June 4, 2020

John Higgs to appear at online event Friday

John Higgs

Announcement from the Cockpit in London: "PESSIMISM IS FOR LIGHTWEIGHTS! #JourneyToNutopia presents more positivity in another open conversation about future narratives that challenge the inevitability of global dystopia. Fri 5th Jun 7 p.m. with special guests
John Higgs and Salena Godden."

Tickets are one pound and the event will be held over Zoom; more here.

Thanks to our British correspondent Nick Helweg-Larsen for the tip.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

News from fandom

"Uncle Hugo's, the long-established Minneapolis sf bookshop, was burnt down -- along with its next-door mystery sibling Uncle Edgar's -- in riots on the night of 29/30 May. DreamHaven, another specialist genre bookshop a mile away, was broken into and vandalized (several attempts to start fires failed) but defended and later boarded up by local fans."

Ansible, June 2020

More here. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Nature's God, Chapter Five, Part Two

Traditional depiction of Washington at Valley Forge

Week Five: Chapter 5 “The Light Sings Eternal” (pg. 59-70 Hilaritas edition) Part II

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

In Chapter Five we immediately encounter George Washington, toking peacefully in his tent. This has been brought up in the comments, previous posts, and in Eric’s Introduction to this volume but the other prominent example of a stoned Founding Father is found in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon. (Another pop culture reference to the patriotic pastime of pot smoking comes from The Firesign Theater’s Everything You Know is Wrong which RAW references at the beginning of Cosmic Trigger.)

In Pynchon’s novel Washington is not presented on the battlefield but in the years before at his home in Mt. Vernon- like Benjamin Franklin, who appears earlier, there is the typical Pynchonesque-shiftiness to the character, and his appearance is used to combine humor, drugs, and social dissection. It is Dixon, who had spent time in South Africa observing the Transit of Venus, who recognizes the scent after Washington has spoken to a slave churlishly, upsetting the surveyor. Washington, to smooth things over, begins to pass the pipe.

The character who makes this scene fascinating is Gershom, a black Jew enslaved by Washington. Although he is told to go prepare hog jowls for the white gentlemen’s oncoming munchies, he instead takes the pipe and joins in their conversation. As the foursome consume more cannabis, Gershom--whose name is perhaps a reference to that most impressive academic scholar of Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem--seems to take the reins of the conversation. The scene culminates with Martha, who “smelled the Smoak” and figured the boys would be hungry, bringing in a plate of desserts out of Scooby Doo.

Dixon’s discomfort with Washington mirrors his earlier disgust with the racist tyranny in South Africa and clearly links it to the depravity of the Colonies. The presence of Gershom gives a place in the circle with the three white dudes who are generally celebrated by history, further subverting the scene Pynchon has created.

While Pynchon may have read Nature’s God, RAW points out in the Appendix of Illuminatus! and in Sex, Drugs, and Magick that Washington’s enthusiasm for cannabis is on the historic record. And further study indicates that he was growing it for “medicinal” purposes and was influential in the spread of hemp across the Americas.

During their smoke sesh Washington gets a little spooky, as one is wont to do, and begins discussing plates with mysterious inscriptions, unearthed in the distant frontier. The narrator of the novel, Reverend Cherrycoke, steps in to note: “[t]here remains a residue of Belief, out to the Westward, that the mere presence of Glyphs and Signs can produce magickal Effects,- for the essence of Magic is the power of small Magickal Words, to work enormous physical Wonders.” This connection between mystery and the (then) West is present in both Mason & Dixon and Nature’s God and, as I noted earlier, ties into the traditional American theme of wilderness as the land of subconscious wonders/terrors.

James Moon is promoted to Colonel by Washington after he refuses to recant that he has witnessed a rock fall from the sky. Later, when he is transformed back to Seamus Muadhen after his out of body experience, Washington confides in him that he had encountered a strange man in a glowing craft who predicted the future in detail.

I could find no mention of this exact incident but it does sound similar to the encounters with sky people documented by writers such as John Keel and Jacques Vallee. I believe that this is an extrapolation of a story that I imagine many of us encountered in storybooks: Washington’s Vision at Valley Forge.

The general account goes that Washington was overheard by a young man telling an officer about praying in the woods near Valley Forge when an angel appeared before him and accurately predicted his success, presidency, and events of the country's first few decades. This is usually reduced to a “see big historical guy pray good have faith” gibberish but it actually began as a piece of Civil War propaganda. The tale was presented by “99 year old” Anthony Sherman who related it to a journalist, Charles Wesley Alexander, who published the story in 1861. Naturally, this is all bullshit and Alexander penned it himself to bolster the Union during the fledgling year of America’s bloodiest conflict.

I found an account from the Roswell Daily Register that recounted the story above along with another that claimed Washington would occasionally get advice and encouragement from “little green men” on the frontier during the Revolution. The story goes on to say that Washington believed them to be an advanced, eccentric Indigenous people. If anyone knows of other stories about Washington encountering the uncanny I would love to hear them or be pointed in the right direction.

Before Seamus meets with Washington he is convalescing with the wounded Marquis de Lafayette who is very bothered by the Quakers’ speech patterns. I have two things I’d like to say about the Marquis’ predicament: firstly, that his fear that he was in a British prison and that they were trying to drive him mad is a rather blatant reference to what had happened to Sigismundo at the hands of some nefarious parts of the Marquis’ own government. My second point isn’t so much of a point but a personal anecdote about why I was able to perfectly picture the look on Lafayette’s face. This is because of a Christmas dinner I had with my Uncle’s mother’s relatives who were from Germany and exclusively German. At the time my maternal grandmother, who was still alive but had Alzheimer’s, was under my care most of the time during weekends and holidays and was well enough to get out of the house. While my family talked to the relatives through my Uncle’s mother, I tried to be game by loudly mispronouncing German authors/beers and smiling and nodding with them when they would correct or repeat the name. After a while I looked across the table at my grandmother who was sitting, her first fork of food halfway to her mouth, in wide-eyed confusion at what I’m sure seemed like a moment when the world stopped making any sense. I did love her very much.

Lafayette also muses on Voltaire’s Micromegas, an excellent short story that is often pointed to as an early example of science fiction. Micromegas is about a giant being from a planet orbiting Sirius who travels about the galaxy until he comes to Saturn. There he meets another gigantic being, although smaller than Micromegas, with whom he is able to converse about many subjects. Eventually the two come to Earth where they wade in our Oceans and decide the planet must be uninhabited before meeting a boatful of scientists and philosophers to whom Micromegas promises a book answering all of mankind’s questions. The book is found to be blank after his departure. Fitting and quite like some “real” encounters people have claimed to have had with space beings.

To return to James, he’s shot and split into a trinity of selves: a body, James Moon, and the old Seamus Muadhen. The truth of masks is transcended and James is cast aside as an imposter to please the British. Oppression runs deep and, aside from nationality/race, this dialogue could be replaced with a variety of characters from a variety of backgrounds during a variety of times. In light of yesterday’s first part of this post I will close with the following:

“Once we were all stars and we’ve been making Punch and Judy puppets of ourselves.” 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter 5

Chicago 1968 (But does the year actually matter?)

Week Five: Chapter 5 “The Light Sings Eternal” (pg. 59-70 Hilaritas edition) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Prologue: An Editorial 

When one’s friends hate each other
            how can there be peace in the world?
Their asperities diverted me in my green time.
A blown husk that is finished
            but the light sings eternal
a pale flare over marshes
                where the salt hay whispers to tide’s change
Time, space,
          neither life nor death is the answer.
And of man seeking good,
            doing evil.
In meiner Heimat
                   where the dead walked
                              and the living were made of cardboard.- from Canto CXV by Ezra Pound 

The excerpt from which this chapter’s title is taken from seems appropriate. Canto CXV was the penultimate complete canto written by Pound -- it was authored with the final group of cantos after he had been released from the mental asylum to live with his daughter. It dwells, like most of the post-asylum cantos, on hatred and homecoming -- according to Wikipedia these cantos are heavily influenced by Voltaire, who appears indirectly in the chapter at hand, bon mot about one of his critics, Freron- “I hate no one, even Freron.” I think that themes of homecoming and hatred are especially relevant after the past week. When we consider these lines were inscribed by a fascist--who told Ginsberg (a gay Jew that loved everything, even him, despite his puerile actions) that he regretted his “stupid, suburban prejudice” of anti-Semitism, the convolution reflects today. 

What the fuck are we to make of all this? Yesterday I cried as I watched humans take off again from Cape Canaveral in a mission that begins our push to return to the stars. At the same time the country from which they took off heaved with pain and anger after four policemen were caught on video shamelessly lynching a black man. I cried very different tears when I saw that video. 

100,000 dead from COVID-19 in the United States and now the streets of many cities are crowded with shouting protestors. Perhaps, like Trump’s beloved hydroxychloroquine/bleach cocktail, pepper spray can prevent the spread of the virus. (That would at least explain why a police officer pulled down the medical mask of a stationary protestor and sprayed some into his face.) The blood of the past turns to action as it comes back in a desperate homecoming, beaten back by those who spilled it; as parts of the country are engulfed in flames, another America looks to the stars. So many chickens, so many roosts. 

Haven’t we done this before? I mean, this script seems to be straight out of 1969 when Wilson and Shea were typing up fragments of the Playboy Forum’s rejected letters into Illuminatus!. A year earlier Wilson had been in the streets and had to run and duck from fascists poorly disguised as the law dispensing generous amounts of tear gas and blunt force trauma to the people. We landed a man on the Moon. But did we learn anything? 

Personally, I don’t like the fact that goofy, anti-union billionaires and the current administration are leading the push into Earth’s orbit and beyond- I also don’t like that the initial NASA program was riddled with Nazis. Now the country is riddled with them. Jesus Christ- this is a mess. But I cried tears of joy and grinned when the rocket successfully landed on a drone ship named after one of the AI “minds” in Iain Banks’ Culture series. 

Before the launch I remembered those who I did admire who had fought against Impossibility itself to transform fiction into reality: Sergei Korolev-Chief Designer and death defier, Katherine Johnson- West Virginian, black woman, and genius, and Jack Parsons- the Thelemite magician, counter-culture revolutionary who insisted that his boarding house be inhabited only with “atheists and communists” during the 40s. Before the launch I read Crowley’s Hymn to Pan aloud with eleven seconds to spare and felt some of the excitement, an infinitesimally small amount comparatively, that Parsons must have felt when he stomped and recited the poem before rocket launches. 

You’ll forgive me if this seems out of place- it isn’t and these are matters that need to be discussed in connection with a chapter about the struggle to begin the American Experiment and oppressed people forced apart into two souls. A chapter where inoculation, the forerunner of vaccination, is brought up and a fabricated vision with a curious history pops up, further fictionalized by our gnomic author. A chapter about a massive, mythical man who was a goddamn slave owner and knew what he was doing enough to be goddamned ashamed of it and didn’t stop owning humans during his lifetime. And now we’re here, yet again. I’ll try to explain what I see as Robert Anton Wilson’s Magic Pop-Up Theatre of the Moment presently; it unfolds In meiner Heimat, my own country. 

“"I grant all you say," said Cacambo, "but we have still two sheep remaining, with more treasure than the King of Spain will ever have; and I see a town which I take to be Surinam, belonging to the Dutch. We are at the end of all our troubles, and at the beginning of happiness."

As they drew near the town, they saw a negro stretched upon the ground, with only one moiety of his clothes, that is, of his blue linen drawers; the poor man had lost his left leg and his right hand.

"Good God!" said Candide in Dutch, "what art thou doing there, friend, in that shocking condition?"

"I am waiting for my master, Mynheer Vanderdendur, the famous merchant," answered the negro.

"Was it Mynheer Vanderdendur," said Candide, "that treated thee thus?"

"Yes, sir," said the negro, "it is the custom. They give us a pair of linen drawers for our whole garment twice a year. When we work at the sugar-canes, and the mill snatches hold of a finger, they cut off the hand; and when we attempt to run away, they cut off the leg; both cases have happened to me. This is the price at which you eat sugar in Europe. Yet when my mother sold me for ten patagons[20] on the coast of Guinea, she said to me: 'My dear child, bless our fetiches, adore them for ever; they will make thee live happily; thou hast the honour of being[Pg 91] the slave of our lords, the whites, which is making the fortune of thy father and mother.' Alas! I know not whether I have made their fortunes; this I know, that they have not made mine. Dogs, monkeys, and parrots are a thousand times less wretched than I. The Dutch fetiches, who have converted me, declare every Sunday that we are all of us children of Adam—blacks as well as whites. I am not a genealogist, but if these preachers tell truth, we are all second cousins. Now, you must agree, that it is impossible to treat one's relations in a more barbarous manner."

"Oh, Pangloss!" cried Candide, "thou hadst not guessed at this abomination; it is the end. I must at last renounce thy optimism."

"What is this optimism?" said Cacambo.

"Alas!" said Candide, "it is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong."

Looking at the negro, he shed tears, and weeping, he entered Surinam.” -Francois Marie Arouet, Candide; or, Optimism  (1759) 

“I can’t breathe.” George Floyd (2020)

From Eric Wagner: "This week’s reading refers to Sirius, so I have chosen one of my favorite albums, Dogon A. D. by Julius Hemphill."

Sunday, May 31, 2020

RAW 'worst' book? Fans weigh in!

[My initial posting on the new release of The New Inquisition prompted an unusual discussion of what Robert Anton Wilson's worst book is. I'll repost Supergee's comment that began the discussion, post excerpts of other comments and then weigh in myself -- the Management.]

Supergee: To me this is RAW’s worst book: hectoring, clanking with pig irony, unselective in its examples, giving aid & comfort to those who say that when Dr. Fauci discusses viruses, that’s just his eddication talking. But it finishes with a marvelous discussion of how we perceive.

Eric Wagner: I love this book. Bob loved science, but he wanted to apply the scientific method to science itself.

Iain Spence: Once again Hilaritas Press have managed to collapse the price of an old RAW title down to 12 pounds. Some people were coughing up 30+ quid for old dog eared copies of these in the UK. Thank you once again to the dedicated team.
I think Mr Wilson had a bee in his bonnet about the worst excesses of scientific materialism rather than science itself. So it seems like he gets a bit carried away in this volume? I'm intrigued by the comments here...and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Inigo Montoya: I don't think it is his worst book. Among the nonfiction, both Coincidance and Email to the Universe are worse, a mishmash of b-grade and c-grade stuff. (And Moore's intro to the former is dreadful in my view -- and it is clear he never read Korzybski, or if he did, he didn't understand what he was reading. That's the only way I can explain the line "Count Alfred Korzybski’s work implies that almost all human experience is linguistic in its nature..." Whaa? Anyway...)

Among his nonfiction, the Cosmic Trigger books, Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology are his best, I'd say. I would rank this book after those, but above the Coincidance and Email... I think the first chapter is terrific -- it's RAW in all his agnostic glory. The book gets tedious though as it goes on... and RAW piles up example after example (often not persuasive) a la some kind of modern Charles Fort... but I find I skim over those and still find little RAW gems throughout... The tone it's also a bit shrill for him, which may contribute to the negative vibe around the book.

I think the book ends well, the chapter Creative Agnosticism is strong.

I have the New Falcon edition... and I have just bought the Hilaritas edition. I will reread it and see if I think differently on a second reading.

Rarebit Fiend: @Inigo- I love Coincidance- The Finnegans Wake material is worth the entire book. I do agree that "email to the universe" is a bit of a patch up job and would have rather RAW have completed "Tale of the Tribe."

I am incredibly prejudiced to favor Alan Moore and enjoyed the introduction. However Moore definitely has his own intellectual biases and agendas- however RAW's interpretations of information could be heavily influenced by his own expectations. For all our agnosticism we all still have definite biases.

My comments: 

1. It seems to me that in any discussion of Robert Anton Wilson's "worst book," the obvious front runner would be The Sex Magicians, which was published as a pornographic book. I have never seen it listed anywhere in Wilson's own official list of his works, and Hilaritas Press has not announced plans to republish it, so it seems to me it's never been considered part of the canon, even though it was published under Wilson's name.

2. I'm still reading The New Inquisition, but I thought the first chapter of the book was indeed very good, as Inigo Montoya says. It's as good as any nonfiction RAW ever wrote. I did not like one sentence referencing Carl Sagan and there seems to be a consensus portions of the book may be a bit weaker.

But I have to respectfully beg to differ with Inigo on Coincidance and Email to the Universe, which I thought were both very strong collections (and Hilaritas has beefed up the latter by adding a long interview with RAW, otherwise unavailable.)  Both of these books have some of my favorite RAW essays and the overall quality to me seemed strong.  It is true they don't really have a unified theme, although there is a lot of unified Joyce material in Coincidance. 

The only RAW book which has disappointed me so far is TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution. Certainly entertaining and worth a read, but not really as strong as any other book I've read so far. I'm pretty sure Eric disagrees with me on this, but I would have expected RAW writing about the war on drugs to write a better book.

3. Iain Spence raises another point, and it's something Hilaritas Press deserves a lot of credit for, so I want to amplify it. Robert Anton Wilson fans in Great Britain have found it's very difficult and expensive to obtain many titles in Robert Anton Wilson's back catalog. Hilaritas of course is publishing definitive editions for everyone, but they are also making it possible for our British friends, who have done so much to keep Wilson's legacy alive,  to obtain these titles easily and at a reasonable price, and to aid Wilson's family, to boot.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

New Inquisition sentences

As mentioned previously, I have been reading my copy of the new Hilaritas edition of The New Inquisition. (I bought the ebook, but it's also out in trade paper).

I'll reserve judgment on the book until I can finish it, but I enjoyed the first chapter. Here are some sentences from it I particularly liked:

Civil liberties are profoundly counter-intuitive. It takes an effort of imagination and good will to remember that those we despise deserve the same legal rights as those who agree with us.

At least a partial agnosticism is necessary before we can sincerely and consistently pursue the goal of "equal justice for all."

Thursday, May 28, 2020

How RAW helped Eric Wagner

[ Mike Gathers recently asked on Facebook how Robert Anton Wilson's books discussing the Eight Circuit model helped people and how they changed their lives; here is Eric Wagner's answer, reprinted by permission. 

In other "Eric Wagner news," the new and updated edition of his Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson apparently will be released soon; I will have a full announcement on this blog when I know more. -- The Management.]

Eric Wagner: I bought Prometheus Rising in 1985. My roommate Jai said, "This book seems perfect for you." I started looking for quarters and did some of the exercises in the book. Around 1988 I did most of the exercises I hadn't already done. Some I repeated many times. I spent a few years focusing on chapters from the associated day on the first 19 days of each month. (On the fifth of the month I would work on chapter five, etc.) I have found these exercises and the book in general very useful in understanding myself and my world and in changing my behavior. In the late 90's I started to translate the book into E-Prime, but just after I started I got a copy of Bob's revision of the text. He didn't put the whole thing into E-Prime, but I think he did radically improve the text. I struggled with Exo-Psychology when I first tried to read it around 1982. I came to love it, and I loved the revision Info-Psychology even more. I loved how WIlliam Gibson, etc., helped Leary's thought to evolve. I did a lot of the exercises in "Game of Life" and I found it very useful. I loved Neuropolitics and its revision Neuropolitque. I enjoyed Antero's books and I did a number of the exercises in them.

When Quantum Psychology came out, I formed a group which started the book. Then I started another group that did the whole book, and then a few years later I formed another group that worked through the whole book. I started an online group with Bob Wilson that worked through the first few chapters, and then Tom Jackson formed a group I participated in which did the whole book online. I found the exercises useful especially in seeing how differently Bob's readers interpret his ideas and how to implement them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Help with the RAW mixtape

As one of his projects for the planned Maybe Day events, Bobby Campbell is is making a RAW Mixtape.  He is asking for suggestions on what to include. He wants "songs inspired by the lives and ideas of Robert Anton Wilson."

Here is a favorite of mine, one of my suggestions:

Zongamin - AZZAZZA from T.A.M. Corp. on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

RAW Semantics on the new RAW edition

RAW Semantics, the Twitter account for the blog, on the new Hilaritas Press edition of The New Inquisition:

"To me, chapter 1 alone seems worth the price of entry - and that's just the beginning. A must-read, must-acquire book, if you don't already have it. (Douglas  @rushkoff

 seems an inspired choice for the introduction to this new edition)"


I bought the new edition a couple of days ago and started it Monday night. (It's one of the few RAW titles I have not read.) Enjoying it so far, although the comment about Carl Sagan in the first chapter seemed a bit gratuitous. I will share my impressions at some point.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter Four

Kindred Spirits, County Cork

Week Four: Chapter 4 “A Reverser of Laws” (pg. 49-58 Hilaritas edition)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Before beginning to discuss this chapter I should point out that I am not a scholar of American Indian society or beliefs. (Neither was RAW for that matter.)  I do believe that Western interpretations of Native peoples have been overly-cavalier and fetishistic. Currently the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are dealing with two of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States: I am going to make a small donation and I would encourage others to consider making a donation as well. Considering that this is the 75th anniversary of V-E and V-J days it should be pointed out how valuable the Navajo Code Talkers were to establish effective, secure communications in the Pacific Theatre.

Interestingly, since we have spent so much of the early novel considering Ireland I should point out that the Irish have been donating to the American Indian groups in small amounts as a show of solidarity. This is because of the generosity of the Choctaw people during the Potato Famine when they sent a donation for the Irish people. Considering that the survivors of a forced relocation by the US Government made this donation, it is one of the more noble moments in history. Some of the Irish didn’t forget. In County Cork there stands a monument called “Kindred Spirits” to commemorate the unique bond between the two peoples. In many ways “Kindred Spirits” would have been a good alternative title to this chapter. (Incidentally, Eric’s music selection this week contains a Navajo chant called “Potato Song.”)

It wouldn’t be a Historical Illuminatus novel without someone trying to kill Sigismundo; instead of inept assassins hired by overly-competent conspirators Sigismundo encounters an opponent who is equal to him in strength as well as mystery. My searching couldn’t find anything about the Maheema tribe so I am going to presume that they are fictional. Because of indications later in the novel and because Sigismundo is in the then “Northwest Territory” we can assume that the Maheema people live in Ohio- Miskasquamish indicates that the Maheema and Chickasaw people were sometimes familiar. From my understanding he would probably have encountered Chickasaw peoples south of the Ohio territory in what is today Tennessee. The Chickasaw inhabited the areas that are modern day Mississippi and Tennessee- “Father of the Waters” is a translation of the name of the Mississippi River.  Because of a reveal later in the book we also know that Miskasquamish’s perspective on the land and time is different than Sigismundo’s.

Let’s talk about funny names. Miskasquamish is an obvious Wilsonian pun on H.P. Lovecraft’s Miskatonic River/University which is another fictional name that comes from a mashup of Algonquin language sounds. This is possibly an allusion to the fact that the Maheema people are also a fictional creation. The Squamish are a First Nations’ people from British Columbia. Another Lovecraftian connection is when Miskasquamish thinks: “A man of medicine can look straight at a Sky Demon, He who Walks on the Wind, and not show his fear.” I believe this is a reference to one of August Derleth’s, sometimes regrettable, contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. Ithaqua is often called “the Wind-Walker” and one of Derleth’s stories is titled “The Thing that Walked on the Wind.” I’m not a huge Derleth fan but Ithaqua is based on Algernon Blackwood’s excellent, subtle tale of ineffable horror in the wilderness, “The Wendigo.” (With some homoerotic subtext to boot!) It’s a longer short story but many of us have time on our hands: give it a read. The Wendigo itself is a “real” evil spirit spoken of by the Algonquin people of Eastern Canada. Finally, my favorite name in this chapter is Miskasquamish’s misapprehension of Sigismundo: Sackymondo. For some reason this mistranslation reminded me of an older cartoon, by my estimation, called Rugrats which I watched as a child: in one episode the children are very afraid of Sasquatch who they call “Satchmo” throughout.

Miskasquamish’s beliefs and practices seem to be derived more from Wilson’s own imagination and the relatively-lurid descriptions of psychedelic use in Native cultures propagated during the mid to later twentieth century. (This is not to say that these accounts were entirely untrue or of no value.) Mainly, Miskasquamish’s use of drug blends and his talk of animal spirits reminds me of the novels of Carlos Castaneda. (The bear-people though are a reflection of RAW’s interest in early bear gods and ideation.) In Cosmic Trigger Wilson discusses Castaneda frequently, and to this reader, his influence is clear. Castaneda’s books have received a great deal of scrutiny from Academia and his later “Tensegrity” cult activities mars an already complicated legacy. That said, I didn’t read Castaneda until pressured to by one of my teachers - I considered it nonsensical trash until then - and found that his works make a great deal of sense as far as magical philosophy goes. Indeed, I find the teachings of Don Juan resemble those of Aleister Crowley to a great degree. Who am I to refuse nonsensical fiction as a path to the “truth?”

Miskasquamish’s other unique belief, and the one that drives much of his activities throughout the novel, is that Sigismundo is a “Reverser of Laws.” My searching didn’t find anything quite like what Miskasquamish describes but there was the concept of “contraries” or “reverse warriors” among the Plains Indians. The idea was that these people would deliberately act opposite from the rest of the tribe and sometimes formed “cults” of similar people. It’s an interesting idea.

Naturally, Sigismundo’s attempts to dissuade Miskasquamish’s enmity doesn’t pan out. There is a series of breakdowns in communication that strengthens the medicine man’s convictions. We may meet again next week as we revisit James Moon and the Man from Mt. Vernon.

From Eric: “ I don’t know the tribe of the shaman in the novel, but I play a Navajo song for my music history students in our unit on Gregorian chant and other religious chant traditions. I couldn’t find the exact recording I usually use, but I like this one: .”