Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Interviews with Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna in 1999. Creative Commons photo by Jon Hanna. 

Anyone out there interested in Terence McKenna?

Spotted on Twitter: "1985 Ad for High Frontiers (predecessor to @2000_mondo) from Issue #1 of Psychedelic Monographs and Essays. Read the first issue of High Frontiers, incl. two excellent and early interviews with Terence McKenna."

Available here.  Via @advantardeodus.

Sentence about McKenna from the Wikipedia bio, in light of yesterday's blog post: "McKenna also expressed admiration for the works of writers including Aldous Huxley,[3] James Joyce, whose book Finnegans Wake he called "the quintessential work of art, or at least work of literature of the 20th century," science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, who he described as an "incredible genius,"fabulist Jorge Luis Borges, with whom McKenna shared the belief that "scattered through the ordinary world there are books and artifacts and perhaps people who are like doorways into impossible realms, of impossible and contradictory truth" and Vladimir Nabokov; McKenna once said that he would have become a Nabokov lecturer if he had never encountered psychedelics."

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week One

Vladimir Nabokov in the 1960s. Via Wikipedia, described as being in the public domain in Italy. 

Pale Fire is a Jack-in-the-box, a Faberge gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, a do-it-yourself kit ... This centaur-work of Nabokov's, half-poem, half-prose, this merman of the deep, is a creature of perfect beauty, symmetry, strangeness, originality and moral truth.

-- Mary McCarthy's review of Pale Fire, quoted in Nabokov's Pale Fire by Brian Boyd.

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov's 1962, was published seven years after Nabokov's best-known work, Lolita, a best seller that allowed Nabokov to retire from his job as a college professor at Cornell University in Ithaca. Pale Fire is a personal favorite of many Nabokov fans,  including me. Brian Boyd, arguably the world's most important Nabokov scholar, calls it Nabokov's finest novel.

For the first week of the discussion, please read the Foreword. It's only 12 pages of text in my paperback copy of the book.

Pale Fire has an unusual format for a novel. It consists of a poem, "Pale Fire," a poem in four cangtoes ostensibly written by American poet John Shade, that takes up about 25 pages of text. The rest of the book is a discussion of the book by a college professor and friend of Shade's, Charles Kinbote, who evidently, like Nabokov was, is a literature professor from Eastern Europe who has come to America and taken a job at an American university. Pale Fire has a Foreword, the poem itself, a long Commentary section, and in Index.

The Foreward is a good introduction to the book as a whole, and whether you find portions of it funny and interesting is a good clue to whether you should go on with the rest of the book.

The first paragraph is a precise and careful discussion of the physical manuscript of the poem, just as you would expect from an English professor from an upper tier American university, but it's not long until the professor begins to inject himself into the manuscript in inappropriate (and hilarious) ways. In the third paragraph, Kinbote suddenly writes, "There is a very loud amusement park right in front of my present lodgings."

The rest of the Foreword mixes appropriate discussion of the matter at hand with personal anecdotes that introduce the reader to Kinbote and his situation and to his friend and late colleague, Shade. There's soon an indication that the book involves much more than an academic monograph on a poem: "...I was forced to leave New Wye after my last interview with the jailed killer." (Page 4. All of my page numbers are from an old Berkley mass market paperback; I hope the page numbers will be at least close to whatever edition you are reading.)

A few notes on the text:

Page 4: Note that Kinbote refers to having to find "a new incognito." He writes the Foreword from a motel in Cedarn, Utana, a fictitious Midwestern state.

Page 7: The Foreward has totally inappropriate references to Kinbote's sexual interest in young men: A girl student is "pulpous," but a boy is "delicate" and "rather wonderful." When the department chairman on Page 9 calls him in to discuss a complaint by a boy to the student's advisor, Kinbote laughs "in sheer relief" to find out it's only about Kinbote's disparagement of another professor.

Page 10: Another premonition of what's to come: A woman in a grocery store tells Kinbote, "What's more, you are insane."

I enjoyed the passages which highlight Nabokov's gift for vivid description, as in the view from a New York skyscraper, "in the midst of a vast sunset (we sat in a cell of walnut and glass fifty stories above the progression of scarabs)" Page 4.

"... the suburban house (rented for my use from Judge Goldsworth who had gone on his Sabbatical to England" (page 5). Nabokov himself never owned a house, but instead stayed in the homes of absent college professors and in other temporary lodgings. He lived from 1961 until his death in 1977 in a hotel in Montreaux, Switzerland.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Still more on the reputed 'lost' RAW book about Crowley

Aleister Crowley

If you tuned in recently, you may have noticed my recent blog post about references in RAW's letters to a book about Aleister Crowley that he apparently finished and was apparently about to publish in the 1970s, although in fact it never appeared.

In the comments, Van Scott adds, "Way back when I first discovered RAW I went to the library and looked him up in a massive volume that I believe was called “Books in Print. “ I showed that he had published a book called “Do What though Wilt.” I don’t remember what year that was. Also, RAW mentions the Crowley book somewhere in Cosmic Trigger I."

And Adam Gorightly, also in the comments, writes:

"In my files I have a print out of a long Crowley article by RAW, which I believe I downloaded from the old RAW Fans website when Joe Matheny was running it. I don't think the article is online anymore, although I haven't looked recently. It probably could be considered a short book, I guess.

"I'd have to pull it out to tell you exactly, but I think it was around 40-50 pages and was some of the same material that appeared in an article RAW wrote on Crowley for The Realist, although I think this printout contains more material than was in The Realist article. Not certain, though, it would take a little research to figure that out.

"The Revisionist Press is an interesting connection because Revisionist Press published a very rare hard copy edition of Principia Discordia in or around 1976, and it now seems pretty clear that it was RAW who arranged this publication. This makes sense because during that period RAW was holding on to The Discordian Archives for Greg Hill, and so RAW would have had the original copies of PD that could be used for duplication. According to letters I've seen between RAW and Hill, RAW had the Discordian Archives in his possession between the years '74-'75."

I did a quick look and did not see a long article about Crowley in the essays section at RAWilsonfans.org, although I did find this article on The Law Is For All, originally published in Gnostica and reprinted online at this blog. Finally, Jesse Walker, in the comments in the recent post, helpfully points to the article about Crowley in The Realist, published in 1971. 

What to make of all this? I wrote to Richard Rasa, co-publisher of Hilaritas Press and essentially the "CEO" of the RAW Trust's enterprises. (Christina Pearson, executor of the estate, is in my analogy the "chairman of the board.") Here is Rasa's reply:

Interesting post. Sadly, I think your comment sums up what we might know:

RAW did a poor job of archiving his papers, so I don't know how much is available.

I’m cc’ing Christina, but I don’t think any more RAW writings exist in his papers, aside from letters, but I don’t really know.

I’m also not sure of the ownership status of what Adam might have. A 40-50 page article would certainly be interesting to see, and probably of interest to the Crowley community especially.

Sorry I don’t know anything further.

Perhaps there are enough Crowley writings in RAW's uncollected articles and interviews to put together a book, with editing and commentary from an expert such as Oz Fritz. By coincidence, Oz has just posted a new article at his blog, on the occult transmissions of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.  and if you read the post and others, you can see Oz's familiarity with Crowley's work.

Friday, January 12, 2018

John Higgs begins email newsletter

An announcement from one of my favorite writers, John Higgs: "Social media being what it is, I'm starting a newsletter. The first one doesn't go out until Feb 2nd, but if you're a keen bean you can sign up now." I've signed up; the rest of you lot can sign up here. It's supposed to go out once every six weeks.

My wife gave me a copy of Watling Street, John's latest, so know I can finally read it. It's a history of an old street in England and was never published in the U.S., apparently on the grounds that nobody in the U.S. is interested in anything from England. This seems strange to me, as it is hard to avoid hearing news about Prince What's His Name's engagement to the American woman, What's Her Name, but any case I can finally read the book now when I get time.

Higgs' official website is currently down, but a new and improved version will rise from the ashes in a few days.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Antero Alli Eight Circuit news roundup

Antero Alli (from his Twitter account)

Antero Alli has rolled out his annual course on the Eight Circuit model written about by Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson and himself. Details here. 

Also, in case you missed it, Alli recently posted interesting new comments on my Nov. 15 blog post on the latest book on the Eight Circuit systemThe Eight Circuits of Consciousness, by James A. Hefferman. 

Alli wrote: "Listening to Jimmy discuss the 8CB model reminds me of the confusion many have who study this system. And that would be how these 8 circuits don't actually exist in the body/brain per se. The 8-circuit model posits a system representing various states of consciousness and functions of Intelligence in the body/brain feedback loop. The chakras, which the 8-circuits have often been erroneously associated with, refers to a biological network of energy centers linked with specific glands and bio-systems innate to the physical body and energetic bodies; the chakras don't refer to a symbolic system.

"My main point here would be how the 8-circuit model posits a SYMBOLIC system, not a biological nor a neurological one."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Country star warns about the nefarious Illuminati

Charlie Daniels (Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia) 

As I blogged earlier, I thought the Taco Bell commercials about the Illuminati were funny, but country and western star Charlie Daniels warns that the secret society is no laughing matter. (Many American readers of this blog will remember Mr. Daniels' biggest hit, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," in which the Devil plays a more interesting solo but is defeated by Mr. Daniels, anyway, in a fiddling competition).

Mr. Daniels, a college football fan to judge from his Twitter feed, was watching Monday's championship football game between Alabama and Georgia when he apparently saw a Taco Bell commercial. He Tweeted, "Hey Taco Bell The Illuminati is not a frivolous subject."

As of Tuesday afternoon, he had 11,507 retweets and 32,380 likes. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

More on RAW's mysterious unpublished Crowley book

Aleister Crowley

Saturday's blog post, about letters from RAW to Timothy Leary, mentioned a book about Aleister Crowley that RAW apparently wrote but never got published. I also published in 2013 a letter to Green Egg from RAW, referring to his "forthcoming book on Crowley."

After Saturday's post published, Jesse Walker wrote to me to share a little bit more information:

"From one of the Leary letters:

'The second enclosure, an intro to Crowley, is due for publication this Fall from Revisionist Press in Brooklyn, maybe right in them middle of the ILLUMINATUS! volumes. I think you will find much of this quite provocative of new perspectives.'


"Revisionist Press was Herbert Roseman's project. In the late 1960s, according to an item in *The Libertarian Connection*, it was going to publish three Wilson books; they never appeared. I think one was claled something like *Authority and Submission* and one was called something like *The Light in the Cave*; I can't remember the third. I once asked Wilson about those books. He said they didn't materialize because Roseman never paid him.

"I don't think they were ever written in full. It sounds from Leary letter like the Crowley book was. I'm gonna guess the material was eventually recycled in some other volume(s), but who knows? Maybe there's another unpublished Wilson book out there."

Jesse sent a followup email: "Correction: In the '60s, *Roseman* was going to publish those books; at that point I don't think Revisionist Press was a thing yet."

The Green Egg letter referring to the "forthcoming" Crowley book was published Feb. 1, 1974.

The "Dear Mr. Brown" letter Jesse quotes above would also seem to indicate planned publication in the mid-1970s.

I'm not sure what else is know about the Crowley book. RAW did a poor job of archiving his papers, so I don't know how much is available.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group begins Jan. 15

Vladimir Nabokov in 1973

When I was a high school senior, back in the 1970s, the teacher in my creative writing class assigned us to read Vladimir Nabokov's early novel, Despair.

My high school teachers back in Tulsa must have been a pretty funky bunch -- some of my other assigned reading in high school included Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

In any event, I really liked Despair, and it got me interested in reading Nabokov. Over the next few years, I read more Nabokov novels, such as Lolita and Pale Fire, and more obscure ones such as King, Queen, Knave and Glory.

Nabokov has to overcome many dangers in order to become the mature novelist who wrote Lolita and Pale Fire. He was born into a wealthy family in Russia, but his family fled in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution. At first, he lived in Berlin. Eventually, he married a Jewish Russian woman and had a son. Germany became an unsafe place for a family with Jews, and even moving to France could not keep Nabokov's family safe.

As the Germans began to overrun France in 1940, Nabokov finally managed to secure an exit to America. Andrea Pitzer writes in The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov: "The Nabokovs' American visas were finally issued on April 23."

Once in the U.S., Nabokov led a financially precarious existence for years, cobbling together a modest income from part time teaching jobs and freelance writing. He finally obtained a full time job as a college professor at Cornell University. Lolita, published in 1955, was a best seller, and allowed Nabokov to become a full time writer.

Although Lolita is Nabokov's best known novel, Pale Fire, published in 1962, is my personal favorite, and also influenced Robert Anton Wilson's use of footnotes in The Widow's Son, according to Eric Wagner. We'll begin the exploration of the book on Jan. 15.

Nabokov never owned a home anywhere. On 1961, he and his wife moved into a hotel in Montreaux, Switzerland, and he lived there until his death in 1977.

Nabokov was born in Russia and wrote in both Russian and English. (The earlier novels such as Glory and Despair were written in Russian and later translated into English.) In his 1964 interview with Playboy magazine, Nabokov said, "I am an American writer, born in Russia and educated in England where I studied French literature, before spending 15 years in Germany. I came to America in 1940 and decided to become an American citizen, and make America my home. It so happened that I was immediately exposed to the very best in America, to its rich intellectual life and to its easygoing, good-natured atmosphere. I immersed myself in its great libraries and its Grand Canyon. I worked in the laboratories of its zoological museums. I acquired more friends than I ever had in Europe. My books — old books and new ones — found some admirable readers."

Let us hope that Nabokov would consider us "admirable readers."

Sunday, January 7, 2018

When writers connect

Cover of one of Charles Henri Ford's books. 

As you can probably tell, I have a soft spot for writers who seem great but who have not, in my opinion, found the audience that they deserve.

One of the writers I like, besides Robert Anton Wilson, is Charles Henri Ford, a now-obscure (probably always pretty obscure) writer who was in Paris after World War I and spent the 1960s associated with Andy Warhol's circle in New  York City. I like Ford primarily for his surrealist verse of the 1930s and 1940s, anthologized in the collection Flag of Ecstasy: Selected Poems. And as you might guess from the fact that we're about to begin an online reading group for Vladimir Nabokov, I'm a longtime fan of Nabokov, although you can hardly say Nabokov is a neglected writer.

Reading The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov by Andrea Pitzer, I realized that although Ford is not mentioned in the text, it seems likely that Nabokov and Ford had met, or at least been in the same room on occasion. Pavel Tchelitchew, a Russian surrealist painter, was the longtime companion of Charles Henri Ford. He also was the Paris roommate of Sergei Nabokov, Vladimir Nabokov's brother. Tchelitchew also was a friend of Edmund Wilson, Nabokov's friend, and may have seen Tchelitchew when Tchelitchew visited Wilson.

I don't know how many of my favorite writers Robert Anton Wilson knew. I do know from RAWilsonfans.org that Wilson and science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer knew each other, or at least liked each other's work.  I enjoy Alan Watts, and he and Wilson were friends, something Daisy Campbell depicts in her Cosmic Trigger play.

Did Robert Anton Wilson ever meet Vladimir Nabokov, or have any connection to him? When I though about this, I did come up with one possible connection: Playboy magazine, where Wilson worked from 1965 to 1971.  Nabokov was interviewed by Playboy in 1964 and his writing often appeared in the magazine, so it seems like that both RAW and Nabokov both knew one of Playboy's editors.

I know that RAW was interested in surrealism, but if he ever read Ford, that would be news to me.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Letters from RAW to Timothy Leary [UPDATED]

Start the new year off right by reading the Robert Anton Wilson letters to Timothy Leary that Austrian RAW scholar Martin Wagner has posted to his new website.

Very interesting.

A couple of bits:

In a letter dated May Day 1974, noted as the "198th anniversary of the founding of the Illuminati," RAW gives the full original title of Illuminatus! as llluminatus! or Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus Productions Presents or Swift-Kick Inc. or Telemachus Sneezed or The Untidy Ape: A Head Test. 

The same letter also has a good restatement of the SNAFU principle:

 "The SNAFU Principle holds that 1. Communication is only possible between equals. 2. In any relationship based on inequality, miscommunication steadily exceeds communication. 3 Progressive disorientation of all parties then results. (This is the cybernetic foundation of libertarian politics.)
You will readily see how the Bateson-Szasz communlcatlon-Jam theory of "mental illness" fits in here; most eccentricities are attempts to communicate outside the authoritarian game those messages which are taboo within the game."

Something for you Eight Circuit fans, from the undated "I believe in Higher Intelligence" letter: "A major discovery: Kazansakis's modern sequel to the Odyssey has the closest correlation with the first seven circuits of any book I've ever read, mystic or scientific."

There are also references to a mysterious "introduction to Crowley" book that RAW completed and thought was going to be published, and to Devil's Masquerade, apparently the original title of Masks of the Illuminati. 

You'll make your own discoveries, based upon your own interests.

UPDATE: Martin says his source was this area of the Internet archive. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Bobby Campbell's new comic

Amid the news of the release of Bobby Campbell's RAW Art by Hilaritas Press — the first release of a publication by Hilaritas by someone not named "Robert Anton Wilson" — I did not want it to get lost that Bobby has released a new comic, EITHER/OR: Psychonaut Comix in Black and White.

It's a collection of single panel cartoons, and as the title says, they are all black and white drawings, allowing the art to display equally well on any screen. The cartoons (visual koans? inspirational mandalas?) draw heavily from Robert Anton Wilson, and the figures that inspired him, so in addition to RAW, James Joyce, Timothy Leary, Aleister Crowley and others are quoted, although there are cartoons that for me did not have an obvious RAW connection — even Angela Davis pops up. I have it on my smartphone to provide positive moments.

I got my copy from Amazon, but it's also available straight from Bobby for "pay what you will" (suggested price, only a dollar).