Monday, April 22, 2019

The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week Nine


"Dante and Beatrice", by Henry Holiday. Beatrice is the young woman in the center. 

This week, please read page 169 ("Sigismundo did not sleep the rest of that night. He prayed, or tried to pray") to page 186 ("And Maria knew that, whomever Papa married her off to, whatever else happened in her life, her days would not be those of an ordinary Neapolitan contessa."

I thought that Part Four, "The Priestess," was particularly good.

I loved the blunt description of "crushes": "His obsession is annoying because you are intelligent enough to know that it is more or less accidental: if it wasn't you, he would have some other girl to be obsessed with." (Page 177.)

Notice that a famous obsession is referenced in the text: Page 183 mentions "the Portanari girl from Firenze" and on page 184, "Beatrice" is told to run to Via Dante and get the doctor.

Beatrice Portinari is the woman who enthralled Dante and is mentioned in Dante's works. She lived to only age 25 in Florence (e.g., "Firenze.") She is arguably the ancestor of the "Miss Portinari" in Illuminatus!

I have remarked elsewhere on how Wilson's female characters are strong in The Earth Will Shake, and I think the real women referenced on page 179 shows Wilson's explicitly feminist intent: Women such as Maria Gaetana Agnesi,  Anara Morandi Mazzolini and Laura Bassi. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Times publishes Gene Wolfe obituary

Gene Wolfe. 

The New York Times obituary for Gene Wolfe has finally run. The paper did a good job.

Everyone who likes to read should try The Book of the New Sun.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Why was Historical Illuminatus supposed to end in 1824?

The Theater am K√§rntnertor in 1830. It's in Vienna, and it's where the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven was first performed in 1824. 

We are currently reading The Earth Will Shake, the first of the three Robert Anton Wilson "Historical Illuminatus" books, the others being The Widow's Son and Nature's God.

But in fact RAW had been planning to write four such books; The World Turned Upside Down was announced but never appeared.

I've wondered what was planned to end the series and recently reached out to RAW expert Michael Johnson,  who kindly shared his insights.

Michael notes that in a 1988 interview with David Banton, RAW discussed his plans:

RAW: The Earth Will Shake, and The Widow’s Son.

DAB: Aren’t those two books part of a trilogy, too?

RAW: No, that’s part of a pentology.

DAB: A pentology?

RAW: Yes, that’s a series of five books.

DAB: And so far two of them have come out.

RAW: That’s right. I’m working on the third, which is called Nature’s God.

DAB: And what is the basic concept behind that series of books?

RAW: Well, that series deals with European, and to some extent, American history, between 1764 and 1824. That was a period in which all the rules changed, everything, the whole Western world went through a total change. We went from feudal, agricultural monarchy to capitalist democracy and industrialism. Everything changed, the style of music changed, we went from Baroque to Romantic, everything changed. Philosophy changed, it was in that period that David Hume’s books appeared, knocking the bottom out of all previous philosophy. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations appeared there, the Declaration of Independence, of course. I’m taking that as a model to show how revolutions work. They work on many levels besides violent revolutions, there are non-violent revolutions, but they’re all tied together. We’re going through a period like that right now, and what got my started writing those novels was to give an example of a previous period that was as revolutionary as the period we’re living through; to show some of the general laws of what happens when society goes through rapid transition. We’re going through a dozen revolutions at once right now, too.

Michael also noted that plans for The World Turned Upside Down were briefly discussed in this interview. 

So why 1824? I don't know.

But one fact jumps out at me: That was the year when Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was completed and first performed. Considering the role music plays in the other books, Beethoven's ties to the Illuminati, etc., that is a speculation that make sense to me -- although, as I said, I don't know.

Friday, April 19, 2019

C.J. Stone takes on Discordianism

C. J. Stone

British writer C. J. Stone (Fierce Dancing, The Trials of Arthur etc. and numerous newspaper columns) takes on Discordianism and the British Discordian scene (including last year's Catch 23 festival) in a new article, "Christopher J Stone discovers that the crazy world of discordian philosophy contains some useful and enlightening truths, as long as you don’t take it too seriously."

He's more influenced by British figures such as John Higgs than by Americans such as, say, Adam Gorightly, which obviously makes sense in terms of proximity, and quotes some of my favorite bits from Higgs' novel, The Brandy of the Damned.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Kerry Thornley's 'How to Live Your Life'

The Discordian documents which fall into Adam Gorightly's possession seem to be in good hands. 

Self-help books and advice from others on how you should live remains an important part of the culture, as witness the success of figures ranging from Jordan Peterson to Douglas Rushkoff, so why not listen to what Kerry Thornley has to say?

Adam Gorightly has posted a newly-uncovered document, "How to Live Your Life," by "Jesse Sump," one of Kerry Thornley's pen names. The document, written before Thornley's sad decline, can be approximately dated to the late 1980s, says Adam, whose opinion matters more than most, since he has written two biographies of Thornley, both of them worth reading.

Most of Thornley's advice seems pretty good to me. Relating to entry No. 1: I can't seem to figure out how to search LiveJournal, so I can't give you a link, but I loved Supergee's observation that his grandfather said he could stay busy minding his own business 24 hours a day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

On the road with Daisy

Daisy Campbell is hitting the road in a few days with her pilgrimage to CERN in Switzerland, and you can tune in starting April 19:

"...we journey to the very centre of the CERN collider (above ground!), which is the site of a ruined Appollonian temple and is - of course - guarded by The Chaos Killers Bikers Club (who we're still trying to make contact with - if you have any leads?)

Then at 2.23pm (CERN time) on April 23rd we Immanentise the Eschaton. Please help by going to your local sacred site and vibrating. 

And if you want to know what all this means (like we have a Scooby-Doo), then you'd better tune in to Pilgrim Radio...

More here. 

All of this will be broadcast live on Pilgrim Radio, starting at 19th April Bicycle Day 18:23 BST / 19:23 CEST.

Daisy says listeners can expect a  "mind-bending mix of music, pre-recorded gems & live Pilgrim News and interviews."

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday links

Julian Assange's cat.

Philosopher Agnes Callard on "51 Tips For a Successful Life." I emailed and asked if the censored sex tips are available privately and she said no.

Gene Wolfe has died. You can read my 2015 interview. 

Special edition of Erik Davis' upcoming High Weirdness.

Free course on Dante's Divine Comedy.   Thinking of reading the translation the professor recommends and listening to this as a podcast.

David Brion Davis was an important scholar on conspiracy theories. Says Jesse Walker.

Wikileaks confirms safety of Julian Assange's cat.

Ilhan Omar and the "outrage exhibitionists."

51 Tips For a Successful Life

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Earth Will Shake online reading group, Week Eight

Casanova. "An astonishing reputation as magician, spy, musician, seducer, alchemist, novelist, cardsharp, and master of conspiracies" (page 157.)

This week, please read from page 146 ("The crisp but sun-bright season of winter in Napoli was now upon them") to page 168 ("I will always hear that voice, my true father's voice, telling me to kill every aristocrat in Europe.") This for me is the most shocking passage in the book, and I did not look forward to returning to it.

Robert Anton Wilson shows off his knowledge of history, and not just in the passages about Casanova. (Beyond Chaos and Beyond has these sentences: "In later years what drove RAW to distraction was young editors who had no clue about the numerous historical references peppered throughout his books, particularly the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles. 'I don't have time to be their history tutor,' he growled in exasperation on more than one occasion.")

"the self-lacerating sincerity of St. Kevin..." (page 147.) An Irish saint, referenced in Finnegans Wake. 

"blue-eyed Normans," page 152. The Normans are famous for conquering England in 1066, but they also conquered southern Italy and Sicily, ending the Muslim Arab conquest of Sicily.

The Chapel Perilous of Cosmic Trigger returns (page 167-168). "It is very lonely, and very frightening."

Sunday, April 14, 2019

RAW letter to 'Hustler' magazine

A letter to the editor to "Hustler" magazine might seen like an unpromising way to find wisdom. Unless the letter writer is Robert Anton Wilson. Via Martin Wagner. (Larry Flynt was shot on March 6, 1978.)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Welcome in the spring with Nick Herbert

It's spring, and "hippie physicist" and friend of RAW Nick Herbert (mentioned in Cosmic Trigger I and elsewhere) has responded with haiku:


Rexroth, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti
Without these
Frisco's just spaghetti.


Fresh morning coffee
Birds singing in the trees
Taste of sperm on my lips.


Nick's whole life has been
One long out-of-body experience.
Now this.

More here. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

A good 'new' RAW interview

Martin Wagner recently published a Dean Gengle interview with RAW, "The Future Created:
An Interview with Robert Anton Wilson," and it's quite good, not the same old things you've seen Wilson say elsewhere. Here is one moment:

Do you think of yourself as a “successful writer”?
Robert Anton Wilson: I have to. After all, if I don’t, who will? I have discovered that if one’s opinions of one’s powers and talents is too low, nobody will bother to correct it. They will say. “Oh. he’s one of the toads,” and walk all over you. On the other hand, if your opinion of yourself is too high, the universe will eventually hammer you down to a more reasonable estimate. So I never accept any limits until they are forced upon me and then I only accept them for today. I expect to be smarter tomorrow. Those who miss this point, or deny it, are by definition toads.
What is a toad, again?
Robert Anton Wilson: A toad is somebody who thinks somebody else is in charge. In other words, a toad says “I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” I always define myself and my friends as the Power Elite and assume we can make it all the way to Watership Down, or Big Rock Candy Mountain, or the Heavenly City, or whatever you want to call the next step in evolution.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Quote I liked

All great art has about it an element of infinity and lives on in one's memory like a personal wound or a personal triumph.

-- Robert Anton Wilson
from "Fearful Symmetry: Reflections on The Silence of the Lambs," reprinted in Beyond Chaos and Beyond. 

Also, some news. And some comments from Glenn Greenwald. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday links

Ralph Metzner (Creative Commons photo by Jon R. Hanna).

The New York Times has now published a nice obituary of Ralph Metzner.   Not sure if its accessible for non-subscribers, but the Robert Anton Wilson obit from 2007 also is available.

Best Fan Writer nominee for the Hugo Award James Davis Nicoll on the Prometheus Award.

Radical cleric issues fatwa supporting assassination of foreign leader.

New catalogue of illustrated Finnegans Wake pages. 

Peanuts on the Law of Fives.