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.)