Monday, November 30, 2020

Prometheus Rising reading/exercise group, Week Eight

Jim O'Shaughnessy (Twitter account portrait)

Jim O'Shaughnessy is a figure on the Wall Street investment scene. His Twitter bio says, "Founder, Chairman & Co-Chief Investment Officer, OSAM LLC.  Author, 'What Works on Wall Street,' Host 'Infinite Loops' podcast." He lists as his personal website his investment company's site, O'Shaughnessy Asset Management.  He has more than 111,000 followers on Twitter.

Not the sort of person I usually follow. I don't make much money, and my "investment strategy" consists of investing in index funds and other safe funds in IRAs and in my 401-K, largely using dollar cost averaging. 

But one other thing: O'Shaughnessy is a huge Robert Anton Wilson fan who often quotes RAW and writes about him. His Twitter following of more than 111,000 suggests he has a much bigger following than many other websites interested in RAW.

And he also has done three threads recently on "The Thinker and the Prover." Here are Parts One and Two. And here is Part Three. 

In the first thread, he discusses Dr. Leonard Orr's model of "The Thinker and the Prover" cited by RAW.

"This is a useful model that is technically 'wrong' because of its simplicity," O'Shaughnessy writes. " Yet, I also want to demonstrate that things that are objectively 'wrong' because they simplify things can nevertheless be extremely helpful. This underlines George Box's idea that 'all models are wrong, but some are useful'."

If you get interested in Jim O'Shaughnessy, here is a thread that collects many of his threads on various topics.

A couple of other Prometheus Rising resources: An episode devoted to the book on the "Live From Chapel Perilous" podcast. And here is a summary of the book on the Fluid Self website, which Jim O'Shaughnessy spotted and shared on Twitter. 

How are you doing on the exercises? I am still looking for my second quarter. 

UPDATE: I asked Jim O'Shaughnessy on Twitter if he ever met RAW. He answers, "I wish. No, I discovered him when my friend @Dan_Jeffries1 recommended him to me. Same with Jed McKenna. 

"I owe Dan, a lot."

Sunday, November 29, 2020

RAW on Beethoven

I have found during the pandemic that few things I do are as useful in keeping me in a good mood as listening to a great deal of classical music. Yesterday, after listening to a dose that included some Beethoven, I pulled my copy of The Illuminati Papers off the shelf and re-read one of my favorite short RAW pieces, "Beethoven as Information." I can't reproduce the whole thing without committing a copyright violation, but here is a paragraph:

Perhaps some mystics have achieved higher levels of consciousness than Beethoven (perhaps!), but if so, we cannot know of it. Aleister Crowley once astonished me by writing that the artist is greater than the mystic, an odd remark from a man who was only a mediocre artist himself (although a great mystic.) Listening to Ludwig, I have come to understand what Crowley meant. The mystic, unless he or she is also an artist, cannot communicate the higher states of awareness achieved by the fully turned-on brain; but the great artist can. Listening to Beethoven, one shares, somewhat, in his expanded perceptions; and the more one listens, the more one shares. Finally, one is able to believe his promise: if one listens to that music enough, one will never be unhappy. 

The Illuminati Papers is one of my favorite RAW anthologies. Probably not a coincidence that it apparently includes material cut from the appendices in  Illuminatus!  More on The Illuminati Papers here. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

RAW lived here

2510 College Avenue, Berkeley, California. Photo by Branka Tesla

2035 Channel Way, Berkeley. Photo by Branka Tesla

I recently heard from Branka Tesla for the first time in a little while:

"As you know, there are also a few of RAW letters published in The Starseed Signals which reveal two addresses where RAW used to live in Berkeley: 2510 College Avenue and 2035 Channing Way. Since I live in Berkeley I walked to both addresses recently and took pictures. I don't know about you but visuals are important to me. What's missing on both of these buildings, in my view, is the plaque attached to the outside wall stating: 'In this building in 1974 lived, wrote and smoked pot Robert Anton Wilson.' "

If you use Google Maps you can see where the houses are located,what is nearby, etc. 

Thanks, Branka!

Friday, November 27, 2020

Chad Nelson reviews 'Starseed'


At Counterpunch, Chad Nelson pens quite a comprehensive review of The Starseed Signals. Read the whole thing, but here's a bit:

"As a RAW aficionado, I study the Wilson oeuvre like Wilson studied Joyce’s. I pour over his fictional work in the most microscopic fashion, searching for the hidden gems Wilson camouflaged with his Zen-like prose, the way mystics do. Starseed helped me uncover a few more of his secrets that had eluded me. That alone was worth the price of admission. But Starseed was far more than that. It was optimistic, inspiring, and self-help-y in actionable ways. All qualities I have come to expect from the best of Wilson’s work. Starseed challenges you to aggressively interrogate the most unquestionable societal taboos, and identify your own robotic behaviors so that you may escape the socially-programmed reward-punishment matrix. Not for purely selfish reasons, but so that you may become a modern-day Bodhisattva, something the world desperately needs more of right now."

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Reasons to be grateful

Photo by Donna G from 

Whatever you think of Thanksgiving, it seems to be true that the ability to feel gratitude for one's life is a key part of happiness. 

I am certainly grateful for this blog, and for the friends I have made because of it.

Gwern, a smart freelance intellectual, has a good essay on all of the ways his ordinary day to day life has improved since the 1990s. 

I am perhaps most struck by a technological advance Gwern doesn't mention. In my youth, I had to spend a lot of money to listen to my favorite music, slowly acquiring various LPs. Nowadays, anyone can get unlimited music by spending $10 a month for a service such as Spotify. Not only that, but simply by using library cards, I can listen to an endless supply of music from services such as Freegal, Hoopla Digital and the Naxos Music Library without having to spend any money at all, a stupendous windfall. Freegal alone gives me access to a huge supply of classical music I can stream all day and dozens of albums by artists such as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. It's a big change from being curious about an old Bob Dylan album and having to actually hunt up a copy. Or being able to listen to all of Beethoven's piano sonatas without having to acquire an expensive boxed set. 

I spent decades building up a music collection. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that no one has to bother to do that anymore. 

Addendum: Supergee's annual post. 

Addendum II: Kevin Williamson on gratitude.  "Those of us lucky enough to know people raised during the Great Depression or the war years do well to note how easy they are not only to please but to delight. Ask an 85-year-old in Beaumont, Texas, or Tucumcari, N.M., about his air-conditioning, and he will sing you a hymn. That weird gelatin-based Eisenhower-era party food was haute cuisine to people who had spent the 1930s eating beans five times a week — or fought standing in blood half-starving at Hürtgen Forest. Their memories can, if we will pay attention, illuminate our present bliss. Every oldster who has ever bored you to death with a story of hardship beginning with the words “In my day” was offering you a gift, and you’d be smart to accept it."

Monday, November 23, 2020

Prometheus Rising discussion/exercise group, Week Seven


Prometheus Rising: Introduction by Israel Regardie

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger 

“Darling Alice, You really are a contemptible bitch!” -Israel Regardie to Aleister Crowley, 1937

A prime example of my hubris is that I am particularly proud of the authors who have influenced me; that I have, amongst all the race, have been blessed by Plan or chance to have been taught  by the greatest minds across the gulf of time. In my blinding pride, I often forget many of the ever-looming teachers who also held sway over my development. 

In many ways, I think of Regardie as someone who is a corollary to Crowley and Wilson rather than an influence in his own right. However, that is partially based on Regardie own subtle ingenuity: he appears at times to be an, admittedly invaluable, interpreter of the generally murky philosophies of the Ceremonial Magic, Thelema, and Reichian therapy. Thus he stands in the shadows, as a consigliere for these illustrious ideologies for young students. However, Regardie innovations in magic are as important to my development as any of the more “original” authors. 

I muddled through his One Year Manual in my dorm room in rural WV which was decorated solely by an Austin Osman Spare print and his A Garden of Pomegranates is the textbook on Qabalah that clear up many of my uncertainties and helped me understand the perfection of the scheme. The Tree of Life, The Middle Pillar, Roll Away the Stone, How to Make and Use Talismans have all been housed on my bookshelves across many moves. His The Golden Dawn and Gems From The Equinox preserved and made available teachings that otherwise could have easily been forgotten. (Although his criteria for what went into Gems can be bizarre in certain instances, to say the least.)  His biography of Crowley notably cottoned Wilson to the ideas of Uncle Al and he would later write an introduction for that book. One of Regardie’s most influential ideas is one of the most essential; before undertaking the serious study and practice of magic one should go through therapy.

This is all without mentioning the direct influence he had on the modern occult scene that, for better or worse, propelled and legitimized Grady McMurtry, Lon Milo Duquette, Wilson, Parfitt, and various other writers I am forgetting to their luminary status. So Regardie was a great man who seemed content to, instead of striking out further into the shadow realm of the occult like Kenneth Grant, stayed behind to guide the next generation. 

Regardie’s talent is on full display as in the first three paragraphs of his introduction he makes you fall in love with Wilson all over again as he notes the breadth and depth of his mighty philosophy and his bubbling humor. I have been lucky to have such teachers. He manages to weave in some of his personal philosophical hobby-horses such as his extrapolation of Wilson’s “Third Mind” into the Qabalistic theory of balance, centered on the triad of Geburah, Chesed, and Tiphareth and eloquently ruminates over the unmatched metaphor of Indra’s Net. 

His incredulity toward Wilson’s optimism makes him look all the wiser as we read the book decades after its initial publication. (I do wonder though if anyone, like myself, was swept up by Wilson’s hopes and words to the point that when they read Prometheus Rising the first time, and also almost believed in Utopia.) Regardie also says the only wise thing to say about Wilson’s Utopia: “However, I sincerely hope that Wilson is right in this case.” Regardie also notes that transformative periods in society are rarely, if ever, peaceable. Like birth, there is always implicit trauma. I know I have a tendency to bemoan the state of our world, but at least I’m honest. I hope that the turmoil that seems to be set up against the 2020s like a bowling ball against pins leads to some better arrangement. We shall see, I guess. Like the monk in the Zen vignette that Wilson relates in The Starseed Signals, perhaps the best thing is to take everything with a placid “is that so?” 

So we proceed gently into the realm of "The Thinker and The Prover" which I’ll discuss in my next entry. I would suggest taking this time as we engage with Chapter One of PR to revisit Regardie’s writing. We are all lucky that he is one of the teachers in this book. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The story behind 'Citizen Kane'

Famous screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, only 55 when he died of alcoholism in 1953 (public domain photo.)

Herman Mankiewicz came up with the idea of making a movie about William Randolph Hearst and won an Oscar for co-writing the script  of "Citizen Kane" with Orson Welles, although he had to fight to get any credit at all. An article at the New Yorker discusses Mankiewicz' role in the film, and a new movie, "Mank," about the writer's Hollywood years. The piece also quotes part of a telegram Mankiewicz sent to Ben Hecht to lure Hecht to Hollywood: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.”

The piece by Richard Brody is called "Herman Mankiewicz, Pauline Kael, and the Battle Over
'Citizen Kane'." All of you Orson Welles fans should read it. 

Thanks to John Merritt for calling my attention to the piece. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

New book on psychedelics and religion

 A new book, The Immortality Key by Brian C. Muraresku, revives the theory that psychedelics played a large role in early religion, including the Eleusinian mysteries in ancient Greece and even the early days of Christianity. 

Andrew Sullivan wrote a piece about the book, highly recommending it. There is also discussion from the skeptic Jason Colavito. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

'Rock stars to undertakers' KLF movie out now


A new movie is out (and available for rental online) about how the KLF folks, Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty, have made a comeback as undertakers. More information here.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Joanna Harcourt-Smith documentary to air soon


The New York Times  finally publishes its obituary for Joanna Harcourt-Smith, and it has a bit of news that I had not seen anywhere else. After mentioning her memoir Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary, it says, "A documentary based on her book is scheduled to air on Nov. 29 on Showtime. The film is by Errol Morris, acclaimed for “The Thin Blue Line” (1988) and “The Fog of War” (2003)."

Here is information about the film, "My Psychedelic Love Story," including a trailer you can watch. Of course, Joanna (as "Joanna Leary") is mentioned repeatedly in The Starseed Signals, so I've put a tag for the book on this blog post. 

Oz Fritz read Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary when it came out and his long review is available at his blog. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Rasa talks about editing 'Starseed' and other 'lost' RAW titles

When I had finished reading The Starseed Signals, I wondered about other books that RAW apparently worked on at the time but never published. I also wanted to learn more about the work that was done in putting the book together. (I could tell it took a lot of work, but I was curious about the specifics of reconstructing the manuscript.) Hilaritas Press editor Rasa, with his usual generosity of spirit, agreed to take my questions about the matter, so here are my questions and his answers. -- The Management. 

RAWIllumination: The Starseed Signals apparently is not the only "lost" RAW book. The text and the supplementary correspondence make it clear that RAW at about the same time as he worked on The Starseed Signals was working on a couple of other books, one about Aleister Crowley and the other about the science of trying to obtain life extension. Do we know how far he got, and are there any traces of these manuscripts?

Are there any other "lost" books known to exist, and does Hilaritas have any other "lost" RAW books in preparation, as opposed to putting together new collections of all of the various short pieces he published over the years?

Rasa: Sadly, as we’ve noted, RAW was not very good in keeping his papers intact. Add to that that the family moved some 20 times, and we are afraid that a lot may have been lost. There are no traces of any other books other than The Tale of the Tribe. In looking through RAW’s last computer, I found a manuscript for Tribe that RAW had started, but he didn’t get very far. We assembled a small team of experts to pore over the document and try to figure out if it is worth publishing. We are still working on that project, but I’m afraid that there is not a lot to work with. Finding The Starseed Signals was a case of lucky coincidances. In my dream list of future coincidances, I would love to find books four and five of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles – if I had a choice in what serendipity may hold. We are not holding our breaths on that. We are relatively certain those books never got written. I want books four and five of Historical Illuminatus!  too, but my particular obsession is the years of "lost" correspondence  between RAW and Robert Shea. RAW even wrote in CT3 that he'd like to see it collected in a book someday, but (as far as I can tell) neither man actually bothered to save it in a  useful way. 

Rasa: Yeah, that’s what I get from Christina. What we’ve got now is what we’ve got.

RAWIllumination: In your "A note from the publisher" in The Starseed Signals, you mention a discovery that RVP, which earlier was supposed to be the publisher of the book, left out parts that were "too hard to decipher." In what way did the manuscript have parts that were hard to decipher? And were there any parts that even Hilaritas Press could not decipher?

Rasa: There were a couple of sections of The Starseed Signals that were simply too hard to read without a LOT of effort. In one case, we simply put the effort in and were able to figure out the entire passage. In another case, we found a section that was very hard to read (In these cases, RVP simply put in the book, “Original text indecipherable”), but after some research, we figured out those couple of paragraphs were used in Cosmic Trigger, nearly verbatim. That was the only place in the book where RAW didn’t totally rewrite a passage that later found its way into Cosmic Trigger. We were really lucky that passage, largely impossible to fully read in the type written manuscript, seemed largely the same in Cosmic Trigger. In a couple of other places, RAW had put articles into the book from other sources, and a couple of those were simply left out because RAW’s photocopies were too hard to read. With a bit of research, we were able to track down the original articles. In other cases, RVP simply pasted in the poor photocopies. We transcribed all the articles so they would be easy to read. How were RAW's original drawings redone to make them legible? Did you do the tables yourself, Rasa?

Rasa: All of the charts and drawings were done by RAW by hand, and so they mostly looked very rough, and even a bit hard to read. What I called the “Kether” chart, had a nice flow to its spiral line, and I thought that rough drawing would still work. I did replace much of the text in that drawing, but I used a font that was similar to the typewriter font RAW originally used, so the whole chart, now easy to read, looks a lot like RAW’s original. I redesigned all the other tables and charts. I’m fairly certain that was RAW’s practice – to draw what he wanted and then have his publisher reconstruct it so it would be legible. 

I think what is simultaneously both satisfying and mildly frustrating is that we are finally able to create versions of RAW’s books that we think he would have loved. We are even taking any typos readers may still find, and updating our editions, so that we can finally clean up those tiny, but irritating issues that RAW often complained about. He even wrote in the Fore-word for Quantum Psychology about how “amusing” it was to have a name in one of his books continually misspelled. In The New Inquisition, New Falcon changed the name of philosopher/physicist Mario Bunge, to “Munge” – throughout the entire book! RAW claims it may have been his mistake, but we are guessing he was being polite in not publicly blaming New Falcon. One of our amazingly well-educated proofreaders, Alfonso Montuori, in this case, discovered that error, and I later found that interview where RAW joked about it – using it as an example of chaos getting the better of him. He was amused by that, but we know from personal conversations that he hated any errors in his books, and that was one of his major complaints about his previous publishers – that those corrections were seldom, if at all, fixed in edition after edition. We are thrilled to take the time necessary to make these new editions RAW-worthy, but we are mildly frustrated that RAW never got to see what he so often desired. 

Lots of other Starseed coverage here.