Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Friday, December 31, 2010

RAW's wolfish police captain

I've been reading The Widow's Son. The novel features a police captain, named Loup-Garou, who carries out all of his orders without questioning them. "He never wondered for a moment if this Signor Celine had done anything wrong, or deserved what was about to happen to him ... " (Chapter Eight.)

The character's name bothered me until I finally looked it up and discovered that it means "wolf." No doubt there are many other jokes in the text that I've missed.

Update: It actually means "werewolf." Thanks to Supergee for the correction in the comment below.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Michael Johnson on RAW's politics

My Tuesday blog post on RAW and libertarianism inspired an interesting comment from Michael Johnson in the comments on RAW politics, which I'll reprint here:

RAW once said he thought Rand turned around and invented Objectivism as an atheistic religion to compete with the atheistic religion that killed her family members.

For sombunall of what RAW thought of Austrian economics, see the New Libertarian interview from Sept 5, 1976.

RAW seems more radical in general that any of the acknowledged-by-the-likes-of New York mag's "libertarians." Chomsky has often accepted the term "libertarian socialist." RAW's politics seem much closer to Chomsky's (who is almost totally marginalized in mainstream US media, but NOT in the rest of the world); the right-libertarians had ideas that RAW thought needed more of a hearing in the mass marketplace of ideas in the US; however, he thought the right-libertarians could care less about the poor, and that their ideas about regulations protecting the commons and the poor and disenfranchised had been shown to be demonstrably wrong...RAW was so radical he thought land/rent/banks/money were questionable ideas. I don't see much of that in Rand/Rothbard/Hayek/Mises/Friedman...which is why comsumers of mainstream media get to read about THEM as "libertarians," I suspect.

I'm hoping to make the point that if you don't read the comments for this blog, you're missing a lot. If you go back to my Tuesday post, you can see some back and forth between Michael and I after I mention a point where I differ a bit from RAW's politics.

But to follow on Michael's original point: When I got involved with the Internet years ago, I found that it became much easier to read articles by other libertarians, and interact with them. More recently, it has made it easier to see that there are quite a few leftist libertarians and libertarian leftists out there — in addition to the people Michael mentions, I would suggest Glenn Greenwald (see Justin Raimondo's remarks), R.U. Sirius, Arthur Hlavaty (who, it should be said, doesn't self identify as a libertarian anymore), Jim Henley, and Will Wilkinson.

I feel closest ideologically to Wilkinson. I support a national health insurance program and an individual mandate (although I'd include the ability to opt into medical savings accounts) and a cash transfer social safety net, e.g. a negative income tax, expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit or something of that sort. On many other issues, I'm a conventional libertarian: I like free trade, a peaceful foreign policy, an end to import barriers and farm subsidies, immigration that's as free as politically possible, no government picking and choosing of winners and losers in the marketplace, an end to the war on drugs, etc. etc. This puts me in the position of being too "leftist" for the average libertarian, and too libertarian for everyone else.

Incidentally, Douglas Rushkoff has continued to work on many of the economic and political ideas that RAW was interested in.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pineal Gland on reality tunnels

Pineal Gland is a new blog written by the mysterious Dandelion ("It really does not matter who I am, where I am from, how old I am or what I have done throughout my years." Oh, really?). He or she has a good post here on the concept of reality tunnels, a term invented by Timothy Leary but popularized and explained by Robert Anton Wilson.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Um, who's missing here?

New York magazine has a long article out, "The Trouble With Liberty," which surveys the modern libertarian movement. It has some criticisms, but I thought the article generally did a pretty good job.

The author, Christopher Beam, explains where libertarians become illuminated to their brand of politics: "Ayn Rand has been called the “gateway drug” to libertarianism, but many converts keep toking well into adulthood. Her novels, including 1943’s The Fountainhead and 1957’s Atlas Shrugged, sell more than 800,000 copies a year. Other libertarians credit their conversion to Hayek, fellow Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (Ron Paul’s personal fave), American free-marketer Milton Friedman, or Austrian-influenced American anarcho-capitalist and father of modern libertarianism Murray Rothbard."

Those suggestions all seem useful, but when I went to college in the 1970s and discovered my political identity as (more or less) something called a "libertarian," ILLUMINATUS! had a bigger effect on me than anything else.

I'm guessing the book influenced other folks' political thoughts, too. Dan Clore, in his list of "Essential Science Fiction and Fantasy for Libertarians," writes that "Robert Anton Wilson probably ranks as the quintessential libertarian science fiction writer."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pratt on Wikileaks

Steven Pratt weighs in with a long post on his Tsogblogsphere that, among other thoughts, defends Wikileaks as an open process for providing information. In contrast to the trading in secrets of intelligence agencies, Pratt writes, "we have Wikileaks, a decentralized 'process' committed to sharing information, and running based upon donations and voluntary contributions.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

FYI: I'm on Twitter

For anyone who might be interested, I thought I would mention that I'm on Twitter (as jacksontom). I have picked up my posting on Twitter recently. Somebunall of my Twitter postings would likely interest some folks who drop by this blog, i.e. when I posted the Lewis Shiner interview with RAW I Tweeted it, and Thursday I posted a Retweet of Glenn Greenwald's post about a jury in Montana refusing to convict in a marijuana possession case.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

RAW on the pagan origins of Santa Claus

Via the energetic Steven Pratt's "Keep the Ravioli in Orbit" page on Facebook, I learned about this essay by Robert Anton Wilson, which traces the pagan origins of Santa Claus. (The reprint on the blog "10 Zen Monkeys" does not credit where the piece originally appeared.) Enjoy the essay, and Merry Christmas (or Happy Winter Solstice) to everyone.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jury nullification and RAW

Robert Anton Wilson has an essay in Chaos and Beyond which discusses the history of jury nullification and advocates for the practice to become better known, as a way of restricting the power of the state to repress individual liberties.

With that in mind, here is some news which I believe he would enjoyed: Dan Clore put up a posting at about a Montana judge noting the increasing difficulty in seating juries willing to convict in marijuana possession cases. Another article about the jury's "mutiny" in the same case is here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The fake book cited in The Widow's Son

I have been re-reading The Widow's Son, and as I read the footnotes I sensed that Wilson had mixed in a nonexistent book, Golden Hours by de Selby, amidst the real books he mentions. A few Internet searches established that not only is Golden Hours a fictional book, but it's a fictional book invented by another author, Flann O'Brien, in his novel The Third Policeman.

I asked Eric Wagner for more information, and he kindly replied. "De Selby shows up a character in two of Flann O'Brien's novels. Bob used the De Selby character in The Widow's Son and elsewhere, but he got scared the O'Brien estate might take action against him, so he changed the name to Timothy F. X. Finnegan in later works."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lewis Shiner interviews Robert Anton Wilson, Part II

(Part two of Lewis Shiner's interview with Robert Anton Wilson. Part one ran yesterday.)

How about politics?

I've gotten increasingly agnostic and I've gotten older, and increasingly wary of ideologies, including my own. So if you tied me to a lie detector, with a gun to my head, I would have to say, most of the time, I'm somewhere on the libertarian-anarchist continuum. But I distrust myself. I distrust being rigidified and getting dogmatic, so I keep challenging my own assumptions and looking at alternatives. Knowing how dumb I am, I don't want to become another dogmatist. I saw what happened to Ayn Rand and sweet Jesus forbid it should happen to me.

Now my political activity consists of making regular contributions to Amnesty International, which I regard as insurance, not as charity. Amnesty has a very simply policy, namely, "People should not be locked up for their ideas." I'm all for that. I figure anybody in jail for his or her ideas is depriving my brain of nourishment. If they could get out and publish their ideas it might inspire me; it might give me new ideas; it might cause brain growth. As long as one heretic is locked up, part of my brain is locked up and I'm not getting the nourishment I need. So that's the one thing I still contribute to regularly: Amnesty. My wife contributes to the American Friends Service Committee — I don't, because she's already doing it. That's about it. I'm very cynical about politics. I have a wan, nostalgic hope that Jesse Jackson will win, just because a black president would restore a balance. So would a woman president, of course.

Large parts of The Earth Will Shake are openly didactic —

I don't mind being didactic. It's unfashionable, but my favorite writers were all didactic — Dante was didactic, Shakespeare was didactic, Chaucer, Jonathan Swift, Ezra Pound.

Do you see a big distinction between your fiction and non-fiction?

No, because I can't tell the difference myself. I think it's entirely arbitrary which books are put in fiction and which are put in non-fiction. I'm a big fan of Charles Fort, and one of the things he said that I especially treasure is, "I frankly offer this as fiction, in the same sense that Genesisand The Origin of Species and Euclid's Geometry are fiction."

Strieber's Communion is entertaining, whether it was true or not.

It's a very clever work of art. He creates more terror in that "factual" book than most "fiction" writers. He knows how to build up the tension and get under your skin. I'm pretty skeptical about abductee stories, but there was a point about three quarters of the way through that book where I found myself looking around the room to see what damned thing might have gotten in in the last few minutes.

I'm not convinced Communion is fiction. I'm not convinced it's non-fiction. It's in a quantum "maybe" state as far as I'm concerned.

Were you a Lovecraft fan before you got into Illuminatus?

I was a Lovecraft fan since I was about 12. I think it was when I was 12 I heard "The Dunwich Horror" with Ronald Coleman as the narrator. It impressed the hell out of me. I started looking for Lovecraft and I couldn't find any Lovecraft books, but I found a few short stories by him in anthologies. Then when I was 14 I found a whole book of Lovecraft, edited by August Derleth. So Lovecraft has been a passion with me most of my life. I like the way he uses techniques that make you think, "Gee, maybe this isn't fiction." That fascinates me, because doubt lasts longer than faith and provokes thought rather than discouraging it.

Surrealism fascinates me, too. The first Surrealist show, people had to come in through a garden where there was a taxicab, and it was raining inside the taxicab but not outside. When the audience — or victims — got past that, the first thing they saw in the building was a big sign that Andre Breton had hung up that said, "Dada is not dead! Watch your overcoat!" At that point the distinction between art and life had been completely obliterated. I aim for that in all my books.

I like happenings, I like that game I was telling you about earlier. I like to blur the distinctions, because most of what we think is perception is actually projection anyway. I like to make people more aware that they are creating the reality they inhabit. Lovecraft taught me a lot about how to do that, in a literary way.

My favorite of all my books is The Widow's Son because I think I created uncertainty better there than anywhere else. I don't think there's anybody in the world who can tell how much of that book is real and how much is fiction. Including me. I don't absolutely know how much to trust my sources.

--- and how much you made up may have been true.

I've had that happen, too. In Illuminatus I made Beethoven a member of the Illuminati. That was a parody of the Christian Crusade in Oklahoma — they were claiming the Beatles were Communist agents. I decided to put it back 200 years and make Beethoven an Illuminati agent. And, my God, that was just a joke, but it's true! Beethoven either belonged to the Illuminati or was certainly a fellow traveler. He was very closely associated with them. I had no idea that was true when I wrote it.

What other SF writers have influenced you?

Robert Heinlein. Some people say Heinlein's later stuff isn't as good as his earlier stuff. There are weaknesses in his later books but there are good things in his later books too. In some ways I think he's gotten worse, and in some ways he's gotten better. But his books are all interesting. They're certainly provocative.

Some people regard books as a narcotic. I regard books as a stimulant. If they don't stimulate me, to hell with them. Same thing with movies. I don't want soothing, sedative movies. I want provocative, challenging movies.

The next science fiction writer who's been a major influence on me is Olaf Stapledon. I think he's the greatest science fiction writer who ever lived, and a greater philosopher than Bertrand Russell or Sartre.

Phil Dick is another of my favorites. In fact there's a lot of synchronicities between Phil and me. Phil and I had a lot of the same sort of paranormal experiences at around the same time. Phil was just as agnostic about it as I am. Cosmic Trigger and VALIS were statements for that time. I'm still mulling over a lot of those things, and Phil would be mulling too, if he were here.

What kind of a person is Timothy Leary?

That's a hard one. Tim says there are 24 Timothy Learys, and which one you contact is a measure of your own intelligence. I guess I've encountered about 18 of them. He continually astounds me. I find him admirable, at times. He's certainly brilliant. He's very funny. At times I find him annoying. He can be very cold and inhuman, and he can be very warm and sympathetic. There are so many facets to Leary that anything you say about him is untrue. He's just too complicated for anybody to summarize him briefly.

Visiting Tim in prison was a really major influence on me. Seeing how he kept himself high and cheerful under those conditions convinced me it can be done.

Have you done any short fiction?

I had a few short stories published, but I sort of stopped writing short fiction when I started getting books published.

Do you have a favorite of your own works?

I like all my books. [Laughs.] If you don't enjoy your work, you might as well give up. Frank Lloyd Wright was a witness in a court trial once, and he was asked, "What is your profession?" and he said, "Architect." The next question was, "What is your standing in your field?" and he said, "I am the world's greatest architect." His friends told him later, "Frank, you carry this arrogance too far sometimes." He said, "What could I do? I was under oath."

You must feel you've had some kind of growth.

I don't think I'm moving towards becoming a Platonic Ideal Writer. I think my style has improved over the years. I think I'm more versatile with certain types of dialog, styles of dialog for different types of characters. And the conversational tone--I'm getting better at that, without getting sloppy, or losing such intelligence as I possess. I think my style has developed, and I'd like to go on developing it.

I want to write a whole book about Joyce someday. I have a lot of ideas for books. One of them is The Truth About Sex. I probably will never do this one; that's why I talk about it so much. I'd like somebody to rip the idea off, so I don't have to do it. There was a book that was a bestseller, ten or 15 years ago, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But You Were Afraid To Ask Your Doctor, and it was in question and answer form. I thought the author was one of the stupidest people I'd ever read. I decided to do the book correctly. It'd be in question and answer form, but instead of one answer to each question there would be four or five, or maybe even a dozen, all from leading authorities, and all contradicting one another. The idea of the book was to show that the authorities don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's an area full of prejudice. There's no real science of sexology yet; it's all various people expressing their personal prejudices and disguising it as psychology or sociology. So I thought, take a question like, "What causes homosexuality?" and give twelve different answers just to show how much the scientific community really knows; they can't even agree about a simple thing like that. "What causes heterosexuality," for that matter? "What is the difference between vaginal and clitoral orgasm?" I'd get about 24 different opinions on that, in the literature.

The reason I'll probably never do that book is getting the permissions from all these authors is a Herculean task, which publishers always dump on the writer. And once they found out what they had agreed to, the experts would all be furious because they'd all look like idiots, because they're all overly dogmatic. They'd be very furious and god knows what they'd do about it. So I hope somebody else does that book and I don't have to do it.

I'd also like to write a book about Pearl Harbor. The revisionist historians have been thoroughly slandered and are mostly out of print. I wouldn't be adding much original; I think everything worth saying has been said by Charles Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes and James J. Martin and a few others. But their books are out of print or hard to find. My book would be just one more effort against what Barnes called "the historical blackout." One more effort to put the facts on record.

Or, I'd like to do a book of eight essays on eight things that everybody believes about history that can be clearly proven to be dubious at best and probably untrue. That the arrack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise. Or the common image of Christopher Columbus. It's pretty well documented that he was a Jewish homosexual, but that's not what we're taught in school. And the genocide of the American Indians. Americans all assume genocide was invented by Hitler. I'd like to document that. Hitler was just copying the example of this country.

I'd like to do an essay on the case against Earl Warren. I remember getting into an argument with Ralph Ginsberg, and he said "I believe the Warren Report, because I believe Earl Warren was a great liberal and an honest man." So I'd like to do a whole review on Warren's record, beginning with putting' the Japanese in concentration camps during World War II, and show what a great liberal Warren really was.

Another book that I am doing, as a matter of fact, when I get the time--I've already discussed it with Falcon press--is New Age, Sewage. I just did a book, The New Inquisition, which was on the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. As usual, when you start writing a polemic, you get carried away by your own rhetoric. I figure I gave them such a drubbing that people are going to think I'm entirely on the opposite side--this being an Aristotelian culture where people think in either/or terms. So I figure I ought to give the New Age a drubbing too, to show what my true position is: agnostic, against all dumb dogma. I especially want to do a chapter on Ramtha, demonstrating that you can be dead 40,000 years and still be a bore.

Have you ever been tempted to pull an L. Ron Hubbard, and start your own religion?

Oddly enough, I've never been seriously tempted, although I think I could get away with it. It reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my daughters recently. She asked if she could borrow some money to pay her auto insurance, and I said, "Sure," and I sent her the money. She called back a few days later to say she got the money and thank me, and I said, "Would you agree there are 20 million cars in California, at least?" And she said, "Oh, at least 20 million." I said, "The lowest insurance you can get is $400." She said, "Yeah." So that's eight billion dollars a year the insurance companies are making, in one state. Eighty billion in ten years. So that was worth spending at least ten million on bribing legislators--maybe a hundred million--to get a law like that through. So I said, "Why don't we start our own insurance company." And she said, "I'm afraid that would be bad karma." And that's why I haven't started my own religion. It's bad karma to swindle people.

What's your opinion on pornography?

I agree with Magnus Magnusson. He's the host of an English quiz show called Mastermind, that's a very--not intellectual, but erudite quiz show. The contestants are all experts in some rare field of knowledge, like German history from 1872 to 1886, or Irish poetry of the 7th and 8th centuries--things like that. The winner is the person who can answer the most questions in one minute.

Anyway, Magnus Magnusson was on an Irish television show and somehow the subject of pornography came up and he said, "I'm absolutely against all censorship." And the host said, "That's on the usual Libertarian grounds?" And Magnusson said, "Of course. But I also like pornography." And I thought, my god, that's the first time I ever I heard that. Everybody else who defends it, they argue on these abstract things, the First Amendment or whatever--in England they quote John Stewart Mill. Magnusson was the first person honest enough to say, "I like it, you know." I like a lot of it. I'm not only against censorship, but I feel the damn people who want to ban it are interfering with my right to enjoy myself.

Kiddie porn is a different issue--that's nothing to do with censorship, that has to do with abusing children.

There's a lot of bad pornography around, but there's a lot of bad detective stories, a lot of bad science fiction. One of the things that fascinates me is, the best pornography I've seen recently is by women, and it's on the Playboy channel. There's a company called Femme Productions. They make very good soft-core porn, very artistic and very sensitive.

The issue that bothers me, where my libertarianism starts to break down, is not pornography, but the exploitation of violence in films. There's growing clinical evidence that it does tend to produce more violence, and that scares the hell out of me. It's caused me a long, painful reexamination of my principles, from which I have not yet emerged; I'm still working on it.

It was right up in the center of my attention in the last few weeks in LA because of this movie Colors, in which Hopper used the actual jackets of actual LA gangs. I can see why he did it, artistically, it makes the film more vivid and real. But the upshot is a lot of the community is in hysterics that this will inspire the gangs and it has already. There's been one shooting, The guy was waiting on line to see the film.

That is a hard one. Hopper is a serious artist, there's no doubt about that. But that's a very hard one and I don't have the answer. I don't believe it's necessary to have the answer all the time. It's better to think a while.

People need to use their creativity to come up with nonviolent solutions.

You know who's urging that? Colonel Jim Channon. He's retired, but he's still a consultant for the Pentagon. He keeps writing proposals for non-violent solutions to problems. He suggested we need a class of Buddhist soldiers. He's a really far-out guy and so far he's had no major influence on American policy.

Has he published?

He has, and he's been widely interviewed. His proposals on hijackers have been used a couple of times. His proposal is they should be given maximum media coverage and allowed to talk to television as much as they want--hours and hours on end if they want to. He says what motivates terrorists is their feeling that nobody in the world is listening. If they feel that everybody is listening, then it's easier to negotiate with them. Where that has been tried, it has tended to work. He's got a lot of other ideas, about the Army going into third world nations where there are anti-Capitalist revolutions brewing and instead of trying to kill the anti-Capitalists, go in and build dams and bring modern technology in, and give the people a better life.

The Sandanistas originally wanted help from the US and we wouldn't give it.

Ho Chi Minh's constitution for North Vietnam , began, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men ... " It begins like the Declaration of Independence. He was very influenced by Jefferson. But this country supported the French against them, and when the French couldn't fight anymore, JFK sent American troops in, so Ho became more and more anti-American.

While we're on this subject--I was saying some favorable things about Heinlein a while ago. The thing that irritates me most about Heinlein is his constant pro-war propaganda. What irritates me is not only that I disagree with him, but that it's inconsistent with his basic position. Heinlein's basic position is "never trust the government." They're a bunch of thieves, liars, and looters, they're out to rob us and deceive us and gull us and abuse us all the time, except when they say, "Hey, we want you to go kill a bunch of people on another continent." Then we must believe them, and we're traitors if we have any doubts whatsoever. That is such a thumping, enormous contradiction. How do these crooked, stupid bureaucrats suddenly become honest people we should believe once they declare war?

The only people who are pro-war who make sense are the people who believe the government is divine all the time. I wanted to get this into some science fiction magazine--thank you for giving me the opportunity. I hope Heinlein sees it. [In fact Heinlein died before this interview was transcribed.] Oh, well, if a few people who've been influenced by Heinlein notice this, and notice that contradiction in his thinking, then it's worth saying.

Any final thoughts?

I'd like to see people get a lot smarter, a lot kinder, a lot less gullible, a lot more skeptical, and a lot less paranoid, and a lot more optimistic. I'd follow Leary's basic rule: TFYQA. Think for yourself, question authority.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson: The Lewis Shiner interview

[Editor's note: I think I have something special here. This is one of the best interviews with Robert Anton Wilson I've ever read, and it's one that hasn't been reprinted on the Internet, until now.

It was published in issue No. 5 of Trajectories. This is NOT the magazine of the same name that Robert Anton Wilson published, but a journal published in the 1980s in Austin, Texas.

"In fact, I didn't know at the time RAW published a mag of that name, and believe that curiosity on his part is one reason he granted the interview. We determined they were different enough in scope to not worry about the name, and in fact, mine actually started publication first," says Richard Shannon, who published the Texas Trajectories. Susan Sneller was the editor.

"As best I remember (and Rick probably has a better memory than I do), this all started with him. He found out Bob was going to be in town, and he knew that I was a HUGE fan of the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy. So he set up the interview, the three of us met for dinner (I think Rick picked up the check), and we had a tape recorder going the whole time. Rick even has a couple of photos of the occasion," Shiner says.

"It was kind of a weird interview. At the time, I felt like Bob was not really listening to me, kind of talking over me and delivering somewhat prefab responses. Yet when I listened back to the tape, it was a really good interview, and he sounded very compassionate and wise.. "

The interview is reprinted with Shiner and Shannon's permission. In fact, when I wrote to them, Shannon mailed a copy of the zine from Texas to Shiner (now a resident of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina referenced in my recent reprint of Arthur Hlavaty's article) and Shiner kindly scanned the interview TWICE, one as a jpeg so I could see what it looked like, and once as text so I could reproduce it.

The interview is pretty long, so I am publishing it here in two parts, and then will link to a copy of the full interview under Feature Articles and Interviews, as I've done with other long pieces.]

Conducted by Lewis Shiner, Susan Sneller, and Rick Shannon

We met Robert Anton Wilson in the lobby of the Marriott. It was April 28, 1988, and he was in Austin for a lecture and a workshop. He was dressed casually, his receding white hair combed straight back, his neatly trimmed beard slightly worn just under his lower lip, where he habitually rubs it while talking. He was only a little reserved, considering he'd committed himself to an evening with total strangers. We had a relaxed interview over dinner in the hotel. His answers were slow and well considered, delivered in a somewhat gruff voice that still has the accent of his New York upbringing.

Are you involved with computers?

I know a lot of people in Silicon Gulch. I know a lot of the gossip and shoptalk, but I don't do anything with my computer except write. I know I've got this enormous machine there that will do a million other things, but I'm so busy writing, writing, writing. Overproduction is the only way for a writer of minority appeal to survive.

I'm always trying new things to supplement my income. I did a new type of seminar in Boulder a few weeks ago, which I co-created with a friend named Liz Freeman. Instead of a regular seminar it was a game. Everybody who came in — we had about 40 people — was taken to a little room, and told who they were playing and what their goal was, and nothing else. And then the party began. There were five levels of deception, which we thought would be a lot of fun. The party ran from 3 in the afternoon to 9 at night, and by 9 most people had only got to the second level. We had made it too bloody complicated. Nobody found out how complicated it was. It was all based on competing conspiracies. I've been thinking that could be adapted for a computer game, for networking. If people had enough time they could get back on, in a week, you know, after they've thought it over, and figure out the deceptions.

Do you know about Steve Jackson's Illuminati game?

Everybody I meet thinks it's based on my Illuminatus! novels and I'm getting royalties on it. He claim it's not based on the novels, so I'm not getting royalties on it. Different lawyers give me different opinions. Decide for yourself.

Are you married?

Very. We're going to be celebrating our 30th anniversary soon. 30 years.

That's impressive.

I don't know if it's wonderful, but it's sure unusual. Especially in the circles we travel in. The average California marriage lasts about 6 months.

You grew up in New York, then moved to Ohio. Why Ohio?

I was offered a job editing a magazine for a place called the School for Living, which later moved to Maryland. The School for Living had a very interesting philosophy, which was "back to nature, live on the land, eat health food" — and a bit of anarchism and Wilhelm Reich. I agreed with about half of that and thought the over half was kind of flakey, but it was interesting. I thought it would be a great idea to live on a farm and see how I did at it.

I enjoyed it. We were there for two years.

Were you influenced by your years on the farm?

Yeah, I think so. My children were very young then. I guess the oldest was about eight when we left Ohio. I used to look at the grass and crops and trees and goats and cows and at my children and my wife and myself and think about evolution — all these different types of intelligence. I got fascinated by the intelligence of insects. It turned me into a pantheist. No, pantheist is not correct. The technical word is pan-psych-ist. I became more and more convinced that everything was intelligent.

Recently I read a Sufi philosopher of the 14th century who said, "Within every atom are a thousand rational beings." That's just what I've suspected for years.

How did you encounter Aleister Crowley?

I was having lunch with Alan Watts in 1969 and I told him I was writing a book. He asked me what it was about so I told him a bit about the Illuminatus trilogy, including the eye in the pyramid, and he said, "That reminds me of the most wonderful book I've read all year, called the Eye in the Triangle, by Israel Regardie." So I made a note of that. I was working for Playboy at the time — I went back to the office after lunch and I told the Playboy library to order the book. Editors had that privilege at Playboy; you could order any book you wanted and the library would get it in. So I read it and it got me fascinated, and that's how I got involved with Crowley.

So you came into Illuminatus through the conspiracy angle rather than the occult angle.

That's right. I was educated to believe that there are no conspiracies, or if there are we shouldn't talk about them. To think about conspiracies was somehow uncouth or lower class or might cause you to turn into a Nazi in your sleep or something. You should never think about conspiracies or talk about them. But then with the Kennedy assassination ... I just couldn't believe the Warren Commission. I started studying a lot of the different conspiracy theories and then I started running into the really kooky ones. Bob Shea and I used to go out for drinks every Friday evening after work and solve all of the problems of the world over a few Bloody Marys. We were talking about all of these kooky conspiracy theories and Shea said, "Why don't we write a book about all the craziest conspiracy theories." And eventually the Illuminatus trilogy developed out of that.

What have you been reading lately?

The book that impressed me most, recently, is The Psychobiology of Mind/Body Healing by Eugene Lawrence Rossi. It's a book about the neuropeptide system, and how the ideas in the cortex affect the hypothalamus, which affects the neuropeptide system. He explains how people can die of black magic curses and how they can get better if they have faith in something, like Christian Science, or Vitamin C — like Norman Cousins, who had an allegedly fatal disease. Cousins just took massive doses of Vitamin C and looked at comedies on television, and cured himself. I've known these things were possible for many years; Rossi's book gives the best, up-to-date, scientific explanation of how it works, how the neuropeptide system controls the immune system, how the immune system fights off disease or doesn't fight off disease. For instance, we all get cancer eventually, and most of us fight it off. The immune system is strong enough to fight it off. It's when the immune system fails that the disease kills you.

I'm a model of good health considering all my vices. Tim Leary said that recently, he said, "Bob is walking proof of the neurosomatic circuit — he has all the bad habits they warn us against and he's still healthy."

You've often said that we can't trust history — so how do you go about getting accurate historical research?

I don't know how accuracy is to be found in history, given the amount of prejudice and coverup. I don't have any faith in my historical research. I use what seems .... usable. I'm not entirely arbitrary; I can tell the difference between a real whacko and somebody who's fairly intelligent and rational. But even the people who are fairly intelligent and rational have their prejudices, so I don't trust them completely. Sometimes the whackos maybe were accurate.

You feel you've developed a nose for political agendas?

There's a certain style that warns you. There's a paranoid style of writing. When you see that you know you have to take everything very skeptically.

Are there any plans to restore the pages Dell ordered cut from Illuminatus?

No, all that got lost. Dell had the book for five years before they published it. They kept announcing they'd publish it next year, and then the editor would get fired, or quit to take a better job, and the new editor wouldn't know anything about it. The thing dragged on for five years. Finally we got a definite announcement they were going to publish it, but they wanted us to cut 500 pages, and they'd then divide it up into three volumes, which we'd never intended. Shea and I were so worn down, after five years of struggle, we said, "Okay, we'll cut 500 pages." So I said to Shea, "Let's cut it like Godard cut Breathless, totally at random. They're buying it by the pound, they have no concept of literary structure or anything like that, so let's give them a literary structure that's totally original, a stochastic structure." Shea agreed with me, so we just made our cuts at random. We didn't use any principle at all — there are cuts in the middle of dialog, people talking about one subject and suddenly they're talking about another. It's just like Godard did it with Breathless, even ten minutes he made a cut of a few feet of film. It kept the audience off balance. It seemed to work with Illuminatus, too.

When we were doing the cutting I was in Mexico and Shea was in Chicago and Dell was in New York, so in the process of these pages flowing back and forth through this loop, what got cut was lost permanently. I decided to accept it in the Zen way as a lucky accident. It turned out to be an even weirder book than we had planned. And the people at Dell were totally uninterested in literary qualities — they just thought it had enough sex and violence so it might succeed, and had no concept of literature at all. Nobody commented, "Hey you turned your book into total chaos." They were weighing it by the pound. If you've got a big name like Michener you can get a fat book published because everything he writes is a bestseller, but if you're unknown they divide it up into three books, cut it down to a size they can afford to lose in case it doesn't succeed.

Every chapter is based on a Sephiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. You can still find that in there if you look hard enough. It was very carefully planned originally. For instance, Simon Moon's first words in the book are "Crown Point," which turns out to refer to the jail Dillinger escaped from, but it also refers to Kether, the title of the first chapter, and Kether means "crown" in Hebrew and is symbolized by a point. That cabalistic symbolism runs all through the book, every page has parallels with the Tree of Life. There were 22 appendixes, which were the 22 paths on the Tree of Life, and that got cut to eight. I finally just decided to regard it as a joke. That's the way you have to regard capitalism or you either go crazy or become a socialist and I didn't want to do either.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The coolness that is Austin

Austin, Texas, has been a very cool place for science fiction fans and weirdo nerds for a long time. There was a colony of hot SF writers associated with the place such as Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner. For many years, my favorite SF writers were Sterling and Kim Stanley Robinson; Sterling published a fanzine of literary commentary for awhile, and for many years, Robinson refused to read anything Sterling wrote because he resented some of the criticism in that commentary. Everything connects.

Long before I started a blog devoted to Robert Anton Wilson, my wife, then my girlfriend, had an early clue that she was involved with a weirdo when we journeyed to Austin, Texas, to attend a Dec. 31, 2000, New Year's Eve party at Bruce Sterling's house. At the time, Sterling published an email list, the Viridian list, which aimed to make "going green" a cool fashion statement, and he invited everyone on the list to attend his party. I could not resist entering 2001 at a party given by a cool SF writer, so we drove to Austin from Texas. It was a little awkward when people who actually knew Sterling would ask me, "So, how do you know Bruce?"

My favorite catalog in all of the world came from FringeWare Review; I wish I could buy more of their phony "Area 51" windshield stickers, the ones that would supposedly get you "waved right through" the gate of the government's secret base.

Anyway, this is all by way of explaining how excited I was when I recently learned about an interview with Robert Anton Wilson that took place in Austin, Texas. It's not available on, and I believe I am the first person to reprint it on the Internet. It starts tomorrow.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last minute gift suggestions

If you read the newspaper or spend much time on the Internet, you've no doubt seen some of the articles providing ideas on gifting for the holidays.

David Jay Brown has contributed his bit to the genre with a piece that seems unlikely to be duplicated by the style section of the New York Times or Washington Post: "Holiday Shopping for Stoners and Trippers."

Mr. Brown is vulnerable, though, to accusations of a conflict of interest, as he concludes: "Finally, a little shameless self-promotion is necessary here. MAPS just published the second edition of my book Mavericks of the Mind, which is loaded with new material. This stimulating collection of in-depth interviews that I did with accomplished psychedelic thinkers—such as Terence McKenna, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, John Lilly and Robert Anton Wilson—would make a wonderful gift for anyone interested in the far-flung frontiers of consciousness exploration. Copies of the book are available online from Amazon."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Wikileaks update

Over at Reason's Hit and Run blog, Jesse Walker writes about the absurdity of the military trying to block its personnel from reading stories about Wikileaks published in the world's newspapers.
"All those papers, of course, are easily available to civilians," writes Walker, who remarks that the situation is "so absurd it feels like a Robert Anton Wilson satire."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Michael Johnson and Eric Wagner on Beethoven and RAW

Robert Anton Wilson loved Beethoven, as I've written before in this space (see label below), so I was surprised and delighted to see RAW specialists Michael Johnson and Eric Wagner discuss the topic Thursday at

Michael Johnson

[Posted under topic: Beethoven rolls over, Tchaikovsky the news that he's 240 today)

I recently checked out Maynard Solomon's bio on LvB; I found the
information surrounding him and the Illuminati fairly convincing. Was
he a member of the Illuminati? I don't know. Was he influenced by
their ideas? I'm about 90% sure he was, after reading what Solomon has
to say. (RAW posited LvB as a member of the Illuminati as a fanciful
lark, one of his reductio ad absurdum moves to satirize Beatles-as-
satanists he'd read about in the late 1960s/early 70s. It was yet
another "satirical prophecy." (see also _Everything Is Under Control_,
pp. 63-64)

I just read Mencken's essay on LvB, first pub on April 24th, 1922, in
the Baltimore Evening Sun. I liked these lines:

"His most complicated structures retained the overwhelming clarity of
the Parthenon. And into them he got a kind of feeling that even the
Greeks could not match; he was preeminently a modern man, with all the
trace of the barbarian vanished. Into his gorgeous music there went
all of the high skepticism that was of the essence of the Eighteenth
Century, but into it there also went the new enthusiasm, the new
determination to challenge and beat the gods, that dawned with the
Nineteenth." - from _A Mencken Chrestomathy_

Meanwhile, in another universe - a Trick Top Hat one - a female Leary/
RAW/Bucky Fuller-ish-type thinker is President, and Things are quite
different than in "this" universe, although there seem some strong
similarities, and music critic Justin Case is pleased: "It appeared
that the administration was the first government in history to take
Beethoven seriously. To him, Hubbard's whole philosophy was obviously
derived from the last movement of the Ninth."

I love the description of the Hammerklavier that "Ezra Pound" of the
"Fair Play for Fernando Poo Committee" sends Dr. Dashwood in _The
Homing Pigeons_, pp.374-375 of the SCT omnibus ed.

O! Sizeism seems a horrible thing!

PKD's last, unfinished novel, IIRC titled _The Owl in Daylight_, had a
main character based on LvB and Faust. PKD wondered where Beethoven
would've gone to try to transcend himself if he'd lived longer.
Beethoven only lived to 56? The idea of LvB going "further" than those
late string quartets, or the 9th, seems to me like pondering what
Joyce would've done after Finnegans Wake.

"Anyone who understands my music will never be unhappy again." -
that's LvB, as translated into English. We read such a quote and say
ahhh yesss. But what does it mean to "understand" any text, much less
something as abstract as music? If I consider "understand" as
metaphor, it seems related to a rational geometrical relationship
between subject/object, and I'm not sure I understand music in the
same way I understand, say, Euclid's axioms and demonstrated proofs.
Rather, I think a more apt metaphor would be tuning, or resonance. I
feel attuned to some music or other, or some piece of music resonates
with me. But I digress...

He's 240 today. May we all live as long, at least in dove sta memoria.

Eric Wagner

I did not finish the Solomon biography. I read about the first half
back in the 90's, up to the Eroica. I keep telling myself to go back
and read the whole thing. I have not read Mencken's essay. I haven't
read much by Mencken, except his translation of Nietzsche. I love the
Beethoven material in Schroedinger's Cat. I like the idea of the 7th,
8th and 9th Symphonies as a map of future evolution and the idea of
the 7th and 8th as successful tantric sex. (I saw part of a Seinfeld
last night where Kramer mentions tantric sex.)

I had not heard of that Phil Dick book. In The Transmigration of
Timothy Archer (I think) he suggests the new ending for the quartet
Op. 130 suggested a new period for Beethoven. I had tended to favor
the original ending, the Grosse Fugue, but when I hear the new ending
now I think of Phil and wonder what the Big B might have written
next. He had planned a piece using Hebrew modes. People often divide
Beethoven's work into three periods. At the end of each the influence
of Haydn shows up more than it usually does in his work. I think of
the Second Symphony near the end of the first period and the Eighth
Symphony near the end of the second period. Parts of the quartet op.
135 and the new ending to 130 have a Haydn feel, as Beethoven Z up
another period.

Joyce talked about writing a novel of the sea after Finnegans Wake.
For years I've imagined it called One Piece Bikini.

(Eric also appended some reviews of Beethoven recordings by Rafi Zabor on Amazon. I have
left them out for space reasons, but you can read them here.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A particularly cool quote

Maryland Libertarians reprints one of my favorite RAW quotes: "To me, it doesn't matter if your scapegoats are the Jews, the homosexuals, the male sex, the Masons, the Jesuits, the Welfare Parasites, the Power Elite, the female sex, the vegetarians, or the Communist Party. To the extent that you need a scapegoat, you simply have not got your brain programmed to work as an efficient problem-solving machine."

I liked the illustration, so I stole that, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy birthday, Michael Johnson

Belated birthday greetings to Michael Johnson, aka RMJon23, a true friend to Wilson fans and scholars everywhere (the event was actually the past weekend.) You can celebrate by re-reading my interview. How's the book coming along, Michael?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson on The Widow's Son

[This is excerpted from an interview many of you have never read, from an interview of Wilson conducted by writer Lewis Shiner in Austin, Texas, on April 28, 1988. I will reprint the entire interview very soon.]

Were you a Lovecraft fan before you got into Illuminatus?

I was a Lovecraft fan since I was about 12. I think it was when I was 12 I heard "The Dunwich Horror" with Ronald Coleman as the narrator. It impressed the hell out of me. I started looking for Lovecraft and I couldn't find any Lovecraft books, but I found a few short stories by him in anthologies. Then when I was 14 I found a whole book of Lovecraft, edited by August Derleth. So Lovecraft has been a passion with me most of my life. I like the way he uses techniques that make you think, "Gee, maybe this isn't fiction." That fascinates me, because doubt lasts longer than faith and provokes thought rather than discouraging it.

Surrealism fascinates me, too. The first Surrealist show, people had to come in through a garden where there was a taxicab, and it was raining inside the taxicab but not outside. When the audience — or victims — got past that, the first thing they saw in the building was a big sign that Andre Breton had hung up that said, "Dada is not dead! Watch your overcoat!" At that point the distinction between art and life had been completely obliterated. I aim for that in all my books.

I like happenings, I like that game I was telling you about earlier. I like to blur the distinctions, because most of what we think is perception is actually projection anyway. I like to make people more aware that they are creating the reality they inhabit. Lovecraft taught me a lot about how to do that, in a literary way.

My favorite of all my books is The Widow's Son because I think I created uncertainty better there than anywhere else. I don't think there's anybody in the world who can tell how much of that book is real and how much is fiction. Including me. I don't absolutely know how much to trust my sources.

--- and how much you made up may have been true.

I've had that happen, too. In Illuminatus I made Beethoven a member of the Illuminati. That was a parody of the Christian Crusade in Oklahoma — they were claiming the Beatles were Communist agents. I decided to put it back 200 years and make Beethoven an Illuminati agent. And, my God, that was just a joke, but it's true! Beethoven either belonged to the Illuminati or was certainly a fellow traveler. He was very closely associated with them. I had no idea that was true when I wrote it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

John Lennon and Robert Anton Wilson

Oz Fritz, writing on the anniversary of John Lennon's death, makes a connection between Lennon and RAW. In my mind, the connection is that Lennon and his writing partner wrote a song about a yellow submarine, and Wilson and his writing partner put the yellow submarine in a novel. Oz Fritz has a more serious take.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Martin Gardner and RAW

I have lately been corresponding with Edward Babinski, the author of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists; he blogs here.

Mr. Babinski corresponded with both Robert Anton Wilson and Martin Gardner, and I thought I would share observations about the two men that Mr. Babinski shared with me in an e-mail:

Wilson and Gardner had much in common, laid back intellectuals that could both instruct and entertain. Neither was Gardner an atheist. Gardner defended belief in God, prayer, miracles, and free will in The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener. And like Wilson, Gardner criticized fundamentalist religion. Where they differed was when it came to testing "psychic" or other weird claims. Gardner was skeptical of claims that he thought were based on pseudoscience, including Reich's experiments and hypotheses. Wilson on the other hand, didn't seem to mind if a thousand quacks had their day, because he was confident that in the end the truth will out. Wilson was also a self-experimentalist, dabbling in everything from magic to hallucinogens, mental imagery techniques, and even the latest brain frequency synchronizers. Wilson would have loved to have been invited (as was Shermer of The Skeptic Society), to sit in that recently developed machine that sends massive waves of magnetism into one's temporal lobes and often generates the feeling that one is out of one's body, or that someone is behind you. Gardner was raised in Oral Roberts country and after leaving the fold in college (see The Flight of Peter Fromm, a semi-autobiographical novel Gardner wrote) he was probably repelled by all sorts of hucksterism and gullibile behaviors. Yet as I said Gardner never could give up on the possibility of God, miracles, etc., being true.

Interestingly, elements of both Wilson (his openness to weirdness and love of writing novels to expand people's minds) and Gardner (his love of astounding mathematical ideas and curious philosophical ones as well) are combined in the work of Clifford Pickover:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A RAW visit to North Carolina's Triangle region

[Editor's note: Today's posting is an account by Arthur Hlavaty of Robert Anton Wilson's visit to the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, comprised of the universities of Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State. It contains a substantial portion of the state's liberals, science fiction fans and other troublemakers, and thus was ripe territory for a visit from Mr. Wilson. Mr. Hlavaty's dispatch was written in 1987. — Tom]

Robert Anton Wilson has been visiting the Triangle area. While he lives in Ireland these days, he spends several months out of each year touring the United States, making speeches and giving seminars. A short while ago, a man named Philip Moon, who lives in Chapel Hill, had the idea of inviting Wilson to speak around here. He got together an ad hoc sponsoring group of local libertarians, futurists, and others, which took the name Carolina Illuminati Associates, partly for its sinister initials.

Bernadette and I have been part of the group, and we offered to let Bob stay at the Nuts' Lab while he was in town, which he has been doing for the past few days. Friday evening, there was a party in his honor, with a mixture of science-fiction fans,libertarians, Duke grad students, and assorted miscellaneous in attendance. The party went quite well. I saw Bob in conversation with Stanley Fish and Jane Tompkins, two of the leading lights of Duke's star-studded English Dept., and apparently they found that there were intellectual connections between some of the current ideas in academic literary theory and some of the work Bob has been doing.

Yesterday evening Bob delivered a speech at a small building on the University of North Carolina campus which had once been a church. He talked about his optimistic view of the future, based on space migration, increased intelligence, and life extension. While many people cling to a grim and depressing view of the world around them, and have evidence to support them in the acts of governments, among others, Bob suggests that the really important changes are being made by people working in such fields as computers, consciousness change, nutrition, and others, and that they are making breakthroughs that will give us a world so good that even the politicians can't mess it up.

He spoke for an hour, then threw the floor open to questions, which he fielded adroitly. When someone said that moral progress has not kept pace with scientific progress, Bob challenged that bit of conventional wisdom, pointing out that in the last 30 years, racial bigotry has gone from an almost universally accepted belief, supported by the force of law in much of the country, to something shameful and déclassé. In answer to another question, he suggested that the AIDS epidemic may lead to scientific breakthroughs. In a sense, he pointed out, we all have AIDS, inasmuch as everyone's immune system breaks down with age, and the disease merely speeds up the process to a catastrophic rate. Research on AIDS is likely to lead to greater understanding of, and perhaps the possibility of reversing, the "normal" version of that process.

He mentioned that while the government continues its blind opposition to consciousness change by chemical means, there is now available a machine (costing about $300)which electrically induces anyone of the known brain-wave states. I've tried various forms of meditation and similar activities, from a guided-Visualization program to the group-meditation sessions Bernadette and I used to attend. It seems unlikely that I never managed to attain a meditative state, but I remember an awful lot of unedifying thoughts like, "Gee, I wish I could meditate," "Are all these other people doing it?" and "When will this be over?" Thus the idea of a machine that will put me in a meditative state without drugs sounds too good to be true, but I certainly intend to look into it.

I left the speech with a feeling of optimism. It is certainly true that the politicians and generals could blow up the world tomorrow, but this speech gave me the feeling that if they don't hurry, it may be too late for them to do too much real damage.

The Nuts' Lab is somewhat small for three inhabitants (the guest room and the study are one and the same), but despite that, we've found Bob's stay most enjoyable. In person, he is as intelligent and witty as his books would lead one to expect, and his idea of proper host behavior coincides with ours: show guests where things are, and encourage them to help themselves.

We've had some interesting discussions. I mentioned that a friend told me about a short-lived ad campaign for soft drinks; out of ignorance or malice, the agency had come up with the slogan, "When you're drinking Hires, you're drinking Number One." Bob replied that in the 50s, when the meaning of certain words was not as well known as now, Del Monte Fruit Cocktail was advertised as "Five fruits in sweet cahoots-the gay dessert." We also decided that the antisex forces are missing an opportunity. In North Carolina and other jurisdictions, it is legal to sell paraphernalia that could be used for smoking marijuana, as long as it might also be used for tobacco. The State legislature, however, has made it a crime to admit that the stuff might be used for unlawful purposes. So the stores have signs saying that the papers and bongs are not to be used with anything illegal, and undercover agents are sent out to entrap the store proprietors. perhaps the smut stompers could demand a similar law against sexual paraphernalia. Vibrators would be sold only for relief of muscle tension, and undercover policewomen could purchase the things with hints about how lonely and frustrated they were, in the hopes that the vendors would be tricked into admitting what the devices really were for.
[2010: This last happened at least once in Texas]

Friday, December 10, 2010

We add links

Via his comment to my Jack Parsons posting, I followed Oz Fritz back to his blog, and so I have duly added his blog to my links collection. I believe sombunall of the folks who read this blog will find his blog interesting, for reasons that will be obvious if you follow the link.

While I don't want this blog to be particularly political, Robert Anton Wilson always spoke up for peace and for liberty, while trying very hard to avoid being sectarian. That's kind of where I'm at these days, so I have added links to another peace site, Tom Hayden's Peace Exchange Bulletin site, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (I recommended the Hayden site and my other peace link,, when I wrote this Op Ed peace piece.)

I'll note that all three of the political sites I link to have stood up to defend Wikileaks, as I suspect Robert Anton Wilson would have done. For more on the EFF link, see this.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

RAW and Wikileaks

I often wish that Robert Anton Wilson were alive today, for all of the obvious reasons, but these days I also wish he was available to comment on the controversy over Wikileaks. My instinct is that he would take the side of Wilileaks and its leader, Julian Assange. Perhaps a clue to what RAW would say is offered in this excerpt from Prometheus Rising, in which he wrote that "National Security is the chief cause of national insecurity" and quoted with approval Timothy Leary's comment that "Secrecy is the original sin."

Commenting on the case, Alexander Cockburn notes, that Assange is "wanted for questioning in Sweden for two alleged sexual assaults, one of which seems to boil down to a case of unsafe sex and failure to phone his date the following day."

Cockburn also writes that it "It's certainly not conspiracism to suspect that the CIA has been at work in fomenting these Swedish accusations. As [journalist Israel] Shamir reports, 'The moment Julian sought the protection of Swedish media law, the CIA immediately threatened to discontinue intelligence sharing with SEPO, the Swedish Secret Service."

Feminist Amanda Marcotte says the rape accusations should be taken serious. (Via Supergee.)

It's important to listen to feminists -- and I agree with Arthur Hlavaty that RAW tended to be too dismissive of feminism -- but I have to admit I'm inclined to agree with Justin Raimondo's piece at that the charges seem awfully strange.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sex and rockets and RAW

Via this blog post, I discovered Jack Parsons, a key figure in the development of the American space program who also was an occultist with a particularly keen interest in Aleister Crowley. He participated in a sex magick ritual with a red headed woman who he related to a character in the classic Jack Williamson novel, Darker Than You Think, and was friends with L. Ron Hubbard for awhile, until Hubbard turned out to be less than a loyal friend. Parsons was killed by an explosion in his home laboratory. All this took place in California. Kind of a surprise, I know, but there you go. Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons by John Carter features a long introduction by Robert Anton Wilson.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Famous comedian likes RAW

Sue Howard points out on that a famous UK comedian, Scotland's Frankie Boyle, praises Robert Anton Wilson in a memoir, My Shit Life So Far.

Quoting from Page 143 of the book: "Robert Anton Wilson is a writer who wrote a bunch of great books about freeing your mind. One of his exercises is a little list of dogmas you should try to challenge yourself with. One of them is 'a cop is a cop is a cop'. It was hard to get my head around at first because as kids we were terrified of the police."

American comedian George Carlin, famous at least on this side of the pond, and RAW were mutual admirers. The proof is in Chaos and Beyond, which reprints a letter Wilson wrote to "Trajectories."

Monday, December 6, 2010

A couple of places They may be hiding

If you have a moment, to to You'll wind up at Steve Jackson games in Austin, an island of coolness in Texas. They are cool people who are fans of ILLUMINATUS! Either that, or the Illuminati are smart enough to know that hiding as "just gamers" is a good way to throw everyone off track.

If you spell Illuminati backwards, you get Itanimulli. If you go to, you can go to another pretty good place for the Illuminati to be hanging out. Apparently the guy who owns the domain has a sense of humor. More here. Of course, that might be what They want you to believe.

Hat tip to Michael Johnson, one of our favorite Discordians.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chaos and Beyond

I've just finished reading Robert Anton Wilson's Chaos and Beyond: The Best of Trajectories, a collection that's unique among his work.

For one thing, it's one of the few RAW books that has gone out of print -- I had to order it from a secondhand bookshop on the Internet. It also has lots of material from other writers, including Timothy Leary and Arlen Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson's wife.

It doesn't seem quite as essential as some of Wilson's other books, but I enjoyed it and thought it had some really good material. Much of the best stuff is in the back of the book, including Wilson's review of Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone and a book review that discussed Philip K. Dick, which I would reprint here if I could figure out how to obtain permission.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 9

(Last in a series of letters reprinted from the fanzine the Diagonal Relationship. A short letter from Robert Shea also is included.)

The Diagonal Relationship 20, 1982

My apologies to Mr. David Palter. His original letter attacking the Thoth exercise sounded dogmatic and intolerant to me, and I thought it was funny for someone to sound so certain about an experiment which he admitted he had never tried. Due to this misunderstanding, I wrote a short rebuttal which be quite correctly describes as "baroque sarcasm"; be also says that he was not dogmatic about the experiment, but only tentative. Well, everybody has a right to form tentative opinions (pro and con) about experiments they haven' t tried, so there is no real argument between Pa1ter and me. I merely misunderstood his style of expression.

Since this subject has aroused debate by others as well as Palter, I would like to add something. The Thoth exercise is in four parts. These are (1) the traditional assumption of god-forms, out of gnosticism and Tibetan Buddhism; (2) experiments in self-hypnosis with tape recorder; (:3) experiments in self-hypnosis adding marijuana to tape recorder; (4) reading books by Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Aleister Crowley, G. 1. Gurdjieff, Israel Regardie, and Mary Baker Eddy. These books will provide six contrasting "maps" (or models, or paradigms) to interpret the results obtained in steps 1, 2, and 3. Seeing that each of these "maps" fits the results to some degree leads to the last, synthesizing step of forming one's own conclusions about what such exercises offer and show many neurological programs they can be extended to reprogram. These books also suggest many other, more advanced exercises to accomplish more radical reprogramming and reimprinting.

Anybody who shares Palter's dread of such matters should emphatically emulate him in avoiding such experiments. "Fear is failure and the forerunner of failure"; or in Freudian terms, those who fear have reason to fear. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in Mr. Palter's philosophy, and one should not gaze into them if one is not prepared to have them gaze back at one.

And one from Shea (1980)

We have a lot to be thankful for. Many of us were too young to experience the Scopes trial, the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, the days when books like Ulysses had to be smuggled into the country, the McCarthy era and the judicial murder of the Rosenbergs. Now, as a consequence of election day 1980 we have a chance to live through a replay of those great days. Let us gird our loins, because if the New Christian Right has its way it will soon be illegal to have loins at all.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 8

(Another of a series of letters Robert Anton Wilson wrote to the fanzine the Diagonal Relationship. Roy Tackett, mentioned here, was a famous science fiction fan; I used to get fanzines from him years ago. His Wikipedia biography says Tackett "was a rifleman with the United States Marine Corps during Wolrd War II who was credited with the introduction of science fiction to Japan following the war when he was stationed in that nation as part of the American occupation.")

The Diagonal Relationship 18, 1981

In answer to Roy Tackett's question, "How many of these professed believers in the ancient gods have even the slightest knowledge of the ancient gods?" I would say: Having met with hundreds of neopagans in all parts of the country, I have been astonished at the abundant erudition they generally possess and their extensive and sometimes scholarly or pedantic knowledge of minute details about the old religions. If Mr. Tackett's question was rhetorical and he assumed the answer would be that most neopagans know little about their historical origins, then either he has met a different sampling than I have, or he has met few or none and formed his opinions without data. In any case, Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon is the most complete sociological study of neopaganism thus far, and it confirms my own impression of the generally high level of erudition among neopagans.

I assume that Tackett's sentence, "A superstition is a superstition is a superstition is a superstition is a superstition," is some kind of incantation. Certainly, he could not intend it as argument, since it is only a tautology. Perhaps there is a missing first term and we are to understand it as meaning "paganism is a superstition" etc. In that case, it is not a tautology, but a mere assertion, and still does not qualify as an argument. It is not clear to me whether Mr. Tackett will not argue his position or does not know how to argue it. Or perhaps his letter was a clever piece of satire, intended to illustrate the axiom that ignorance is the origin of intolerance.

As a lover of the past as well as the present and the future, I was delighted with David Palter's letter, in which he frankly stipulated that he did not try the Thoth exercise before passing judgment on it. I think all archaic ideas should be revived periodically, so that we may look at them anew and reevaluate them; and it is refreshing to have the classical antiexperimentalist dogma reasserted in our time. I had thought that position vanished around the time the Inquisition refused to look through Galileo's telescope before condemning what he saw through it. I hope Mr. Palter will continue to enlighten us about experiments he hasn't tried and Mr. Tackett to inform us about groups he scarcely knows.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 7

(Seventh in a series of letters reprinted from the Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 17, 1981

I was delighted to read of your oceanic experience at the Samhain festival.

The first "satori" is a turning point; the second is much easier. After a while, it becomes fairly regular and even deeper....One discovers gradations in the oceanic, more and more comes through....(See Maslow on what he calls "the Peak Experience.")

Encouragement: it tends to happen after 35, as documented by Bucke in Cosmic Consciousness. If this is the fifth neurological circuit, as Leary sez, it may be genetically programmed. Bio-survival circuit turns on at birth, emotional-territorial circuit at about 8 months (walking), semantic circuit between one and two years, sociosexual circuit at puberty, between 11 and 13. Neurosomatic (oceanic) may be more and more likely to open up (if one is not rigidly armored against it) the more years one lives after about 35 or 40....Maybe it is becoming more common because people are living longer than they used to.

Further encouragement: in many cases, after neurosomatic circuit begins to work, conditions like asthma "miraculously" disappear. (That's why Mary Baker Eddy invented Christian Science after her fifth circuit opened....)

I don't share Michael Shoemaker's disdain for those who think they have found something new, or for those who think they are important. Everybody I admire in history (a) thought they found something new and (b) thought they were important. E.g. Beethoven, Shakespeare, Joyce, Michelangelo, Galileo, Leonardo, Jefferson, Newton, Blake, Frank Lloyd Wright, etc. etc. etc. As Wright said, give me honest arrogance rather than hypocritical humility any day. And as Mark Twain said, it is dangerous to associate with the depressed, because they will make you depressed, whereas those who expect to accomplish great things will make you think you can do great things yourself.

All my friends believe they are geniuses or damned close to it; that's why they're fun to have around. You can find all the humility you ever care to see at a mental health clinic, but that scene is very dreary indeed.

I also disagree with Shoemaker's Ecclesiastes-like insistence that "there is nothing new under the sun." Evolution being a stochastic process, there is newness appearing every second; one has only to open one's eyes and LOOK for it. Besides, as Picasso or somebody else of that school said once, Art always shows heredity but never shows identity. Many are children or grandchildren of Pirandello, as Shoemaker would have it, but all are new voices nonetheless.

I hope that Shoemaker soon comes to feel that he is so damned COSMICALLY important that he will enjoy rather than deprecate the possibility that others are important, too.

(A) Anybody who speaks English probably has, somewhere, a signal that I can learn from; (B) The more important they think they are, the more likely they are to utter that signal.

In this connection, I also dissent from Mary Frey's expressed wish that people stop discussing religion in your pages. I had no desire to write anything about religion for you when 1 saw that letter, but after seeing it I nonetheless felt constrained, repressed, mildly annoyed, and somewhat (in the jargon of the day) "dehumanized." I think the desire to communicate is very strong in third-circuited (symbol-using) critters and all repressions of it are unhealthy. It is, in general, much better for humanity if those who wish to avoid certain signals (political, religious, pornographic or whatever) simply AVOID them, i.e., avert their eyes, go elsewhere, etc., rather than trying to shut up those who wish to communicate. That is, I think it is more in keeping with our humanity for people to walk away from communication than to stifle the communicator. (This is a generalization but not an absolute. In some cases, seeing real distress, I am willing to stifle myself until an unhappy person leaves the scene. Courtesy and tact are real factors even if one can't include them in a legal definition of civil liberties....)

Since I believe that ONLY immediate sense impressions are given to us by the universe (and even they are edited by our previous imprints and ideas), all maps and models and theories are projections of the mind that creates them. Thus, the Atheist creates an Atheist universe, the Theist creates a Theist universe...and both are too modest to take credit for such marvelous artistic-philosophical organizing and information making skill! (They don't even take credit, generally, for making roses red....) Perhaps they both need more sense of self-importance.