Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What kind of man (or woman) reads RAW?

Years ago, when "Playboy" magazine was in its heyday, the magazine used to run a house ad with the headline "What kind of man reads Playboy?" that featured a photo of a well-dressed man. The text explained that surveys had shown "Playboy" readers made a good income, were sophisticated consumers, etc. I assume the ad was aimed at advertisers. "Mad" magazine  once ran a parody ad, showing a well-dressed man walking by a car; you could see that there was someone underneath the car, apparently repairing something. It eventually emerged from the text that the guy under the car was the "Mad" reader.

I thought of Robert Anton Wilson's old employer when Jesse Walker sent me a link that shows which Wikipedia articles have a link to the "Robert Anton Wilson" article on Wikipedia.  It is a vivid illustration of the wide range of interests that RAW had, and the wide range of interests that his readers have. The list certainly suggests that quite a few RAW readers are active in writing articles for Wikipedia.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week 22



 The mythical island of Thule on the Carta Marina.

 (This week: Page 214, "In the distance, George could make out what appeared to be a mighty city rising on hills," to page 224, "Soon we must to Bavaria go. Ewige Blumenkraft!")

What do you get when you link Nazis, the occult and the Cthulhu mythos? A vivid few pages of Illuminatus!, for one. The political point is that the state is depicted as many-tentacled being, insatiable for slaughter.

Some of this is tied together in the form of Karl Haushofer. I have not had time yet to read The Morning of the Magicians, mentioned previously in this blog, which details the alleged links between the Nazis and the occult,  but the Wikipedia entry on Haushofer certainly shows that much of the odd stuff about him in Illuminatus! (pages 218-219) seems to have a basis in fact. The Thule Society was a real group, and some of the facts about them constitute a gift for SF and fantasy writers who want to be "out there." Apparently the actual influence of the group is disputed, but there seems to be general agreement that on many points, Thule Society ideology and Nazism coincide.

Some notes on the text: "And when the throne room was empty," page 216, completes the story of the hoax Hassan imposes  on his followers on page 141, the beginning of the Fourth Trip. A pretty good hint by the authors that not everything they write is meant to be taken seriously.

The Honest Book of Truth, written by Kerry Thornley and reprinted in Adam Gorightly's new book, Historia Discordia. Also quoted at the very beginning of Illuminatus!

Hermann Rauschning, a real person. While the authenticity of his Hitler memoir is disputed, apparently the odd anecdotes recorded by Wilson and Shea are in the book. More on Nazi occultism.

Willard Gibbs, page 220, important scientist, wrote about statistical mechanics earlier than Einstein.

"You don't have to believe in Santa Claus," H.P. Lovecraft explains, page 220. According to the L. Sprague de Camp biography of Lovecraft, Lovecraft gave up believing in Santa Claus at a very young age and also soon became an atheist.

"The pilot was another Captain Clark," I can't find anything to confirm this oft-repeated tale. The only New York to Miami Eastern airlines crash I can find has none of this stuff.

(Next week: Page 224, "Carlo put the gun on the table between us," to page 234, "six million people had died.")


Sunday, July 20, 2014

More on Robert Graves



 Robert Graves in 1920, from the National Portrait Gallery. Used under a Creative Commons license.


As I was preparing last Monday's latest post for the Illuminatus! online discussion, researching the Judgment of Paris (i.e., the "Original Snub," as the episode is referred to by Discordians), I pulled out my copy of Graves' The Greek Myths. 

My eye somehow fell on the Foreword to the 1960 Revised Edition, which is the one I got when I bought my Pelican paperbacks (two volumes) in the early 1980s. It's a startling rant, asserting that psychedelic mushrooms were the "ambrosia" central to Greek religion and that "ambrosia then became, it seems, the secret element of the Eleusinian, Orphic and other mysteries associated with Dionysus." Graves also devotes a paragraph connecting "Tlaloc, the Mushroom-god" in Oaxaca, Mexico, to this Greek tradition. The foreward is reproduced here, and there is apparently more about this in Graves' book, Food for Centaurs. While there have been other "sacred mushroom" writers, e.g. John Allegro, Graves apparently got there first, or at least ahead of other writers I am familiar with.

Perhaps  it's a coincidence that Illuminatus! name-checks Tlaloc on page 9 and perhaps elsewhere and that the Atlantis myth used in Illuminatus! could explain the link between Tlaloc and Dionysus.

In any event, this interview shows that Robert Anton Wilson was reading Robert  Graves as far back as his high school days. And here is a blog written by Alec Nevala-Lee, a novelist who is interested in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Graves. I am going to have to try one of his novels soon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The mythology behind the Judgment of Paris



The Garden of the Hesperides by Frederic Leighton, exhibited in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, part of the National Museums of Liverpool. A rock band from Liverpool later adopted the apple as the name of its record company. 

During Monday's online Illuminatus! discussion, I went into considerable detail about the Judgment of Paris. It looks like I may not have had the full scoop.

In The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, the author has an Introduction in which he discusses the Great Goddess, which is represented as the the three phases of the Moon: "The moon's three phases of new, full, and old recalled the matriarch's three phases of maiden, nymph (nubile woman) and crone."

I mention this because it relates to Graves' explanation of the "real story" behind Paris, the three goddesses, etc. Later in the Introduction, Graves mentions the Judgment of Paris as an example of "iconotropy," in which an earlier myth has been "accidentally or deliberately" misinterpreted. Graves then writes,

"Again, the so-called 'Judgment of Paris,' where a hero is called upon to decide between the rival charms of three goddesses and awards his apple to the fairest, records an ancient ritual situation, outgrown by the time of Homer and Hesiod. These three goddesses are one goddess in triad: Athene and maiden, Aphrodite the nymph, and Hera the crone — and Aphrodite is presenting Paris with the apple, rather than receiving it from him. This apple, symbolizing her love bought at the price of his life, will be Paris's passport to the Elysian Fields, the apple orchards of the west, to which only the souls of heroes are admitted. A similar gift is frequently made in Irish and Welsh myth; as well as by the Three Hesperides, to Heracles; and by Eve, 'the Mother of All Living,' to Adam. Thus Nemesis, goddess of the sacred grove who, in late myth, became the symbol of divine vengeance on proud kings, carries an apple-hung branch, her gift to heroes. All neolithic and Bronze Age were orchard-islands; paradise itself means 'orchard'."

Could the ceremony of Stellar Maris with George Dorn be a re-enactment of that old myth, or an allusion to it? Compare Graves, with the apple of Aphrodite, "her love, bought at the price of his life," with Hagbard Celine's explanation of the ritual to George, which I quoted Monday: "If there were no death, there would be no sex. If there were no sex, there would be no death. And without sex, there would be no evolution toward intelligence, no human race. Therefore, death is necessary. Death is the price of orgasm."


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The real woman behind 'Mama Sutra' ?

Tuesday's blog post on the Prometheus Award winners drew a response from Jesse Walker on Twitter, who noted that he was interested in the special award being given to famed science fiction filker Leslie Fish. To explain why, he posted a link to a 2005 Reason article about Mary Frohman, an American anarchist who lived in Chicago. To my surprise, Walker's piece includes a connection to Illuminatus! and to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea:

The IWW hall also hosted an anarchist discussion group. The participants included Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, two Playboy staffers who were writing the comic cult novel Illuminatus! Mary, for whatever it's worth, believed she was the basis for the book's fortune-telling character Mama Sutra. Shea, alas, isn't alive to confirm or deny that, and Wilson tells me he doesn't remember Mary; Fish doubts that the story is true. Oh, well.

Walker's piece is interesting on its own terms, but Illuminatus! fans and science fiction fans in particular (along with anarchists and libertarians) will want to read it. Here is another sentence from the piece: "The great radicalizing experience of her life was the Chicago Democratic convention of 1968, where she worked as a medic; she always insisted that eight protestors had died in the police riot and that the authorities had covered this up."