Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A word about reality tunnels

Makinde Adeagbo

The other day, I read a short piece by a software engineer named Makinde Adeagbo, on "Racial Fault Lines in Silicon Valley."  The whole thing is an interesting read, but really jumped out at me were the suggestions on how to bring different perspectives into a conversation. I particularly liked this:

Have a Learning Mindset. I have a different set of experiences than you. I am likely going to say things that aren’t supported by your experiences; your reality. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. Nor does it mean that you’re wrong. It means that you’re going to have to learn more about me to understand why I’m saying what I’m saying. Don’t try to figure out what’s right and wrong. Stay in a learning mindset.

"Stay in a learning mindset" seems like great advice for a lot of situations. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week Eight!

Wilhelm Reich with wife Ilse Ollendorf and son Peter 

Welcome to week 8 of the Cosmic Trigger Reading Group, in which our Author gets hip, discovers grass, and meets his principal Chapel Perilous partner-to-be.

In Multiple realities we meet another of Robert Anton Wilson’s Many Selves—the Hedonic Materialist, who has given up “all that mystical stuff” and determined that “weirdness was something that, like poverty, only happened to other people”—of course (Spoiler Alert!) this is all written about the guy who hadn’t yet entered Chapel Perilous by the guy who eventually arrived safely on the other side, which is one of the things I love about this book—the manner in which Bob can offer us so many different views of himself in terms of reality tunnels, time-frames, etc., all in service to an illustration of one of this books great themes—the birth and education of The Metaprogrammer (which rides heavy in these 2 chapters).

Our first chapter opens with the “urbane, sophisticated, successful Playboy Editor” essentially rolling his eyes at a fellow writer’s tale of LSD influenced “telepathic messages from outer space.” This little passage manages to revisit the developing theme of extraterrestrial communication while also revealing the limits of the Materialist and Hedonic Gratification world views and perhaps even softly hinting at the notion that some things follow after other things (which we will dig into deeper with 8 Circuit theory).

So Bob is living it up in Chicago, just another communications industry dude living a marijuana-fueled life of “sex, rapture, and doing-your-own-thing.” Then one evening he discovers another side of this goddess, Maria Juana—the manner in which she can replicate most of the phenomena of self-hypnosis (Hip Gnosis?)—and soon our author discovers the ability to “tune one’s nervous system like a combination microscope-TV set.”

I suspect that one reason Bob had such luck tuning his nervous system with the aid of cannabis is that he had already spent some time going through “the tedious training involved in ordinary hypnosis.” One not-so-tedious way to get some training in this area of by working with Christopher Hyatt’s Undoing Yourself With Energized Meditation, which includes an awesome introduction by Bob, in which he stresses the importance of Doing It Every Day (whatever your chosen “IT” is).

Over the course of the next few paragraphs “the shaken Materialist” gets first-hand experience with Freud’s notions of projection and censorship, as well as a fuller understanding of what the Buddha meant by maya, achieving Korzybski’s “consciousness of abstracting.”.As The Neurologician, he dives into yoga as a method of “freeing the nervous system from conditioned perception,” and finds this work especially fruitful with the aid of his hedonic ally marijuana.

In his role as The Author Who Has Passed Though Chapel Perilous, Bob informs us that “this is why pot-heads develop a certain inevitable alienation from society. They begin to feel like one-eyed-men in the Kingdom of the Blind.” This particular quote reminds me of a famous rap by Terence McKenna, whom we will meet 169 pages hence..

Our next chapter, The Murder of Christ: a Re-run, revisits some of the territory from The heresy hunt begins, i.e. governmental clampdown on consciousness exploration via LSD and the continued harassment and persecution of the most visible promulgator of that notion, Dr. Timothy Leary. The chapter title references both Leary’s current get-up as a “second-rate messiah” and Wilhelm Reich’s The Murder of Christ, an historical analysis of “the emotional plague of mankind.”

Bob offers a concise summary both of Reich’s basic view that sexual repression is the root cause of racism, sexism, rape, violence, and warfare, and of the persecution he faced as a result of trying to do something about that.

“I fully expect to live beyond the hysteria and persecution…” says Tim, which I feel he pretty much did, “till everything I’ve claimed is confirmed and accepted…”, and not so much (although some of US might live that long!).

Kerry Thornley

Wilson’s attitude in the next couple of pages, in which Leary and Reich are wrapped around one another like a double helix, reminds me of later works like TSOG and Guns and Dope Party. And then suddenly Bob strikes up a friendship by mail with Kerry Thornley and is introduced to Discordianism—“an exercise in guerrilla ontology—an attempt to make Nasrudin’s Donkey visible.” The quotations from a “Manual for Discordian Evangelists” are awesome, and Bob’s description of Operation Mindfuck offers many practical methods for discovering the metaprogrammer, and developing Neurological Relativism, such as “try to receive as many signals as possible from other humans, however wrong-headed their reality-map may seem,” (something easily accomplished in this internet-fueled campaign season).

And because Robert Anton Wilson is nothing if not a good student of Chekov, he concludes the chapter with the reminder that “Lady Eris…was just the Space Lady…in a different guise.”

That’s it for this week. Please gift us with your correspondences, correlations, and “coincidences”, your inside information and your outside the box realizations, or perhaps just the daily practices you have found to be most helpful at activating the metaprogrammer and making that damned donkey visible!

Next week we will dive into Jim Garrison and the Illuminati, Operation Mindfuck, and The Horrible Secrets of the Wicked Aleister Crowley. That’s pages 60-70 new, and 61-71 old. Until then, keep the lasagna flying!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review: 'Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time'

R.U. Sirius

I would describe R.U. Sirius' book Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time as an account that is sympathetic but not gullible. The book, written by someone who obviously has read many of Leary's books and who knew Leary personally, does a good job of presenting many of Leary's most interesting ideas and also chronicles his life. Significant excerpts from his writings give a flavor both of his ideas and of Leary's writing style.

Although the book was published by the Leary estate, Sirius apparently retained editorial control. He is obviously an admirer of Leary's work, but when Leary was full of blarney or put in a bad performance, Sirius says so. When there is a controversy, he acknowledges both sides. Sometimes he declines to take a side.

Here is a bit from the book, which I think illustrates its strengths. The heading for the section is "Was Leary Authentic or All Hype?"

There is this question, in many quarters, about the authenticity of Timothy’s enthusiasms. Was he a snake oil salesman or just an excitable boy? I would have to say that both those aspects of his character were inseparable. You couldn’t very well go out on tour touting Virtual Reality as the next great thing in mind expansion and then tell your audience that it would probably take another 30 years. So there is that. But if you actually read the materials he wrote about cyberculture and cyberspace (many of them published in his collection Chaos and Cyberculture), it becomes clear that his excitement was real and his thinking on the topic was not frivolous.

A little personal story may be in order here. One time in the mid- 90s, I was hanging out with Timothy. We’d gone to a party. This young woman came over to him and asked him if he’d looked at a video she’d sent him of her performance work. He became wildly enthusiastic, telling her that she was doing the most wonderful important work — the most contemporary, the most relevant and on and on. Later on, I ribbed him, implying that he had been blowing smoke up her ass. (Of course, if it’s Timothy Leary, you want him to blow some of that smoke into any of your orifices.) He got really peeved and ranted at me for an hour about the girls’ video. It was clear that he had watched that video obsessively and had meant what he’d said.

That incident sort of defines for me how I experienced Leary. I was attracted to his ideas but, before I met him, I basically assumed that he was going to be a full-on trickster who would be pushing out the blarney 24/7. So rather, the thing that impressed me was how genuine — how earnest he usually was… and even a bit naïve. He had a peculiar mix of sophistication and naïveté that I think sometimes got misinterpreted. Of course, there was some blarney, too. 

This is a slender book, but anyone interested in Robert Anton Wilson would want to read it. Wilson is mentioned in the text, and the book holds one's attention throughout. It's not easy to find a copy, but the estate gave me permission to post a PDF.

My previous post on the book is here. You can also read my interview with Sirius. 

Perhaps the estate might consider making it easier for people to buy a copy, such as making it available on Amazon and other Internet sites.

Oz Fritz knows a great deal about Timothy Leary. Here is the review Oz wrote when the book came out.  See also Oz' discussion of Joanna Harcourt-Smith's memoir.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Prometheus Rising paperback released

Hilaritas Press has announced that the new RAW Trust paperback edition of Prometheus Rising has been released, taking its place alongside the ebook edition released earlier. The next book to be published as a new official edition will be Quantum Psychology.

As I mentioned earlier, the new edition has a piece by Richard Rasa which explores why Robert Anton Wilson used somewhat different versions of the Eight Circuit model of consciousness in different, switching the locations of circuits 6 and 7.

The full announcement is available here, and as in past announcements from Hilaritas, a highlight comes from an autobiographical piece from Christina Pearson, RAW's eldest daughter, who talks about what it was like to grow up in the Wilson household and about her own search for a meaningful life. (It turns out she is 59, as am I.)

Life could be difficult for a Wilson family teen:

During that last year in Chicago I saw kids flip out, have psychotic breakdowns, have transcendent life experiences and complete cognitive paradigm shifts. I saw knife fights in the alleys, dads pointing rifles at kids, Black Panthers coming over to dinner, and prayers for the Viet Nam War to end on the lawns. I felt old; way, way old, before my time. I had a boyfriend who said “you are an old soul, I look at you and see the eyes of a thirty year-old.” I dropped him like a hot potato because I yearned for him to acknowledge the Timeless within me… I was thirteen.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A couple of comments about Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel. (Creative Commons photo by Dan Taylor). 

I have written other blog posts about Peter Thiel, noting that the Silicon Valley zillionaire has funded a number of causes that were advocated by Robert Anton Wilson, such as life extension, space exploration and free speech; see for example my blog posting here.  Thiel has been much in the news lately, so I'll comment on his latest mentions in the press.

It was reported a few weeks ago that Thiel is a Donald Trump delegate. This is disappointing and surprising news in what has been a disappointing political year. Maybe in the next few weeks, everyone else I like will become a Donald Trump supporter, too, and I'll be the last holdout. I don't think my wife or Arthur Hlavaty or Jesse Walker will endorse Trump, but it's become harder and harder to be surprised by anything this year.

Then news came that Thiel secretly funded the Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker.  That didn't bother me.

I think a useful way to think about this is to compare two quotes from the New York Times story about Thiel's involvement. Here's Thiel:

“I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

And here is Gawker publisher Nick Denton:

“Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories including Hillary Clinton’s secret email account, Bill Cosby’s history with women, the mayor of Toronto as a crack smoker, Tom Cruise’s role within Scientology, the N.F.L. cover-up of domestic abuse by players and just this month the hidden power of Facebook to determine the news you see.”

(The whole Times article is worth reading). 

Can anyone doubt that Thiel is speaking honestly and from the heart, and that Nick Denton is giving us spin and deception? The Hogan case has nothing to do with Facebook. It has nothing to do with any of the stories Denton mentioned, which all strike me as legitimate news stories. It is not, for me, a freedom of the press issue.

It has everything to do with publishing a sex tape to make money, or outing someone as gay who doesn't want to be outed to make money.  Or the "outing" story on Gawker last year that inspired widespread criticism. I don't want to get too specific because doing so would compound what Gawker did, but if you follow news about Gawker you know what I mean. I'm sure Nick Denton does.

Tyler Cowen weighs in.