Monday, May 22, 2017

Email to the Universe Discussion Group, Week 2!

The Santa Cruz shore during the Robert Anton Wilson memorial service; one of the boats is Wilson's family, preparing to scatter RAW's ashes as the same location off the boardwalk as his wife, Arlen. I am told the scene is similar to what RAW could see from his balcony in the scenes mentioned in the haiku. Photo by Branca Tesla. 

By Greg Arnott, guest blogger 

(Pages 1-37 of the Hilaritas Press edition, up to location 782 of the ebook).

Before saying anything else, I’d like to say that the “note” on page three is perhaps one of the most elegantly succinct statements of Robert Anton Wilson’s philosophy that captures his years of experience and wonderment. “I don’t believe in anything, but I have many suspicions.” Michael asks the reader to ruminate if RAW’s theory of “intelligent design” has any analogs; to my knowledge his proposition is similar in its operation to certain theories that point out that consciousness may be an emergent property of matter and the ponderings of Jacques Vallee and Charles Fort.


Claude Shannon,  mentioned in the "Note."  (Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia).

Michael’s introduction also asks us to consider the meta-models as a type of yoga. While I have very little hands on experience with any of systems that RAW says he is indebted to, I do remember thinking it was curious that he didn’t say anything about Crowley or Leary who had been in so much of his earlier works. Perhaps this acknowledgement is part of a shift away from those men and their influence.

Part One begins with three quotes. One of which is from my favorite television series, The Prisoner.
Considering the footnotes and the subject matter I believe that “The Passion of the Antichrist” was included by RAW in this volume because the threats to our civil liberties haven’t passed but simply changed. Sadly parts of this essay are still all too relevant as we still live in a de facto Christian nation. Anti-Islam rhetoric is at an all-time high in our nation as our Commander-in-Chief, who had called for a national ban on Muslim immigration (which was received with cheers by his supporters), currently on his Armageddon tour of the Middle East.

One part of the essay that isn’t as relative today is that atheism isn’t exactly the daring philosophy that it was for Madalyn Murray in the Fifties. Indeed the virulent rhetoric of typified by the New Atheists mention by Mr. Johnson in the Introduction had made atheists into something of a joke on the internet. Sam Harris is also a well-known bigot who proves that you don’t have to be Christian or Jewish to be prejudiced against Islamic people. If the bullying tactics of the New Atheists can be traced back to Murray does that make her a less sympathetic character? And does her character matter?

Netflix recently released a film based on Murray’s activism and her murder mentioned at the end of the essay. It, like Time and Newsweek, also steals the title “The Most Hated Woman in America.” I watched it this past week and enjoyed it myself. Much of the discussion about Murray centers on her personality and accusation of moral ambivalence. Elsewhere RAW even notes that Murray could be unpleasant and even mocked him on occasion for his beliefs.

But the essay isn’t about atheism or Ms. Murray, is it?


Madalyn Murray O'Hair in 1983. Creative Commons photo by Alan Light. 

After another haiku that ends with the sumptuous image of “buttermilk clouds” RAW introduces the reader to the one law of economics. I couldn’t think of any exceptions -- did anyone else have any luck?

“The Celtic Roots of Quantum Theory” is classic RAW that comes from roughly the same period as Cosmic Trigger II and Coincidance which is why its themes and material seem so familiar. I’ve been a fan of Bishop Berkeley ever since reading Borges’ "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" and becoming interested in the often mentioned “Berkeleyan idealism” that help explain the fantastical happenings in that story. I can attest that Berkeley helps one lose their grip on consensus reality.

One thing that RAW brings up a few times in the essay is the relationship between New Agers and Quantum physics that has led to so many terrible books and a widely accepted documentary that was actually made by a cult in Seattle that believes a middle aged woman is channeling an ascended master. ("What the Bleep Do We Know!?" –also available on Netflix) As someone who has spent too much time reading about occultism I try to avoid talking about Quantum physics. Everything I know about the subject is due to RAW or Alan Moore and both of them would probably ask me to do a little more reading before opening my mouth. So I’m happy to leave this open to the more scientifically minded among us.

The final quote by Dennis Kucinich (the true Democratic candidate of 2008) is reminiscent of John Higgs Stranger Than We Can Imagine which ends with a discussion of evolution of corporations into personhood and how this dooms all of us. The situation has degraded since 2005.

This post was brought to you by Netflix and pessimism. Let’s try for something more lively next week when we’ll get to discuss Black Magic and Paranoia.

(Next week: Pages 38 to 53 of the Hilaritas Press edition, e.g. to the end of the "Black Magic and Curses" essay.)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Daisy Campbell appeals for help selling tickets



Cosmic Trigger, the Play is getting many good reviews, but it needs to sell more tickets to break even, Daisy Campbell reports in her latest announcement. 

Perhaps a more positive way of putting it is that tickets are still available for all but the final show, despite all of the good reviews. I cannot afford to hop on a plane and go to Great Britain, but this is a great opportunity for many people.

Daisy says:

Look, I'll come to the point. We're at squeaky bum time. We need to sell 323 more tickets (or near enough) in order to break even.

The show's been a critical success, and audience feedback has been incredible - but we do need to Find The Others to be in the black. 

The final show on Saturday 27th is sold out - please help us to sell out the rest! 

If you know even just one more person who really ought to see this show, then please - march them to the nearest online device, go to www.thecockpit.org.uk/cosmictrigger and book now!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another British event


John Higgs comments, "Will be part of Chapel Perilous at the Willowman fest in Yorkshire mid-June, should be a wild few days."

Friday, May 19, 2017

The bad news about the Soundgarden singer


Chris Cornell. Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia. 

Yesterday when I woke up and turned on my computer, I saw a report that Chris Cornell, 52, lead singer of Soundgarden, had died. He was only 52. Could it be fake news? I checked credible news sources, and it was true.

I don't own any Soundgarden albums, but I checked out the Down on the Upside album from the Hoopla Digital library service and downloaded it to my cell phone, mainly on the strength of the fact that it has my favorite Soundgarden song, "Blow Up the Outside World," and I listened to the tune as I drove to my first errands. I had never paid much attention to the words, but this time I noticed the opening lyric: "Nothing seems to kill me no matter how hard I try." I usually enjoy synchronicities, but this time, not so much.

 I'm not a Chris Cornell expert and I don't know what his issues/problems were. I always liked Robert Anton Wilson's life-affirming philosophy. I like the quote from this interview: "It is a great privilege to be conscious in this universe. Those who understand, shine like stars."

Here is the Butterfly Language blog on Cornell. 

You can also read Carolyn Contillo's piece, written for this blog, on how reading Quantum Psychology helped her deal with depression.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

PropAnon and Grant Morrison discuss RAW


Grant Morrison at the 2006 ComiCon (Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia). 

Although I try to keep an eye on Boing Boing, here is something that I am afraid I missed at the time: A long interview of comics heavyweight Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, etc.) by Propaganda Anonymous, e.g, Gabriel Kennedy, who is hard at work on a new biography of Robert Anton Wilson, due out from Tarcher next year. When I finally saw it, I was impressed by how long it was, and how much of it was devoted to RAW. (There's also plenty about what's new with Morrison, including the TV shows he's been writing for TV, such as his adaption of his graphic novel Happy, and his adaptation of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.)

Here's a bit of the interview:

You previously mentioned to me that Masks of the Illuminati is your favorite Robert Anton Wilson book. Why is that?

The characters are great – and the way he brings them to life with research and details, Joyce and Einstein, each using his special talents to solve this quintessential modernist occult mystery. There's the gripping, twisting plotline that also doubles as a magical initiation. It's operating on so many levels. It's so brilliant, too, I think because it's self-contained, unlike Wilson's epic trilogies. It would make a great film. David Fincher should do it. The other one I really like is The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles - that's when I came back to reading Wilson in a big way but he never finished that series -

Much more here. 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is this our guy? Probably not



Martin Wagner, the Austrian RAW fan who has been digging up RAW rarities in much the same fashion as the RAW fans mentioned in yesterday's post, wrote to me recently to tell me that the Jan. 19, 1981, issue of Asimov's SF Magazine had a rare work of short fiction by Robert Anton Wilson, "Island Man," attributed to one R.A. Wilson.

Martin wrote, "Island Man is a very unusual piece of work from RAW. I really would doubt that it's his if it wouldn't be listed at The Internet Speculative Fiction Database  and other sources. I guess that's why he has published it as R. A. Wilson."

Excited by the idea that RAW had published a story in a SF magazine that made the cover, with cover art by well-known SF artist David Mattingly, I immediately bought my own copy off Amazon, and it arrived in the mail Monday. I took the above photo from my kitchen table. But I was disappointed when I opened the package and looked the yellowing pages, once the property of Mr. W.E. Harrison of Dallas, Texas.

My own opinion is that Martin was correct to doubt that it's RAW. It doesn't read like RAW's writing, and the biographical note attached to the story in the magazine attributes it to a writer living in a place where RAW never lived: "The author tells us he's a college graduate of scanty means whose time is mostly absorbed by writing. He has neither potted plants nor pets, although there is a cat who visits occasionally, and lives in a small Indiana town. This story is his first sale."

The issue dates from the earlier days of the magazine, when George Scithers was the editor. Scithers died in 2010.

My own theory is that the story was written by a guy from Indiana who never developed much of a career, and that Scithers carelessly published a byline that too closely resembled one of a better-known writer.

I looked more closely at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, wondering who to blame, and found this, under "Disclaimer":

"The ISFDB is an online open-content collaborative bibliographic database, that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups who are developing a common resource of human knowledge. The structure of the project allows anyone with an account, an Internet connection, and World Wide Web browser to alter its content. Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by professionals with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate, or reliable information."