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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wilson's "Cat" editor

The other day, as I was reading THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR, it dawned on me that the editor for the book could well have been David Hartwell. I checked the Wikipedia article and it seemed to line up.

This is a little bit like discovering that your favorite semi-obscure 1920s writer was edited by Maxwell Perkins. Writing about Hartwell's achievements would fill a long book, but here are a few bullet points: He is arguably the most important science fiction book editor alive, he was Robert Heinlein's last editor, he is Gene Wolfe's editor, he wrote AGE OF WONDER, he has for many years published "The New York Review of Science Fiction." Etc. etc. Hartwell also was the editor who "discovered" Dani and Eytan Kollin and published THE UNINCORPORATED MAN, which just won the Prometheus award.

I wrote to Hartwell and got confirmation. "I published several books at Pocket, including the Cat trilogy. and did meet Wilson in those days (he was associated with Phil Dick for a while)," Hartwell writes.

More on Wilson and his editors as information becomes available.

Friday, July 30, 2010

More on Wilson's insight into Beethoven

I have written about Beethoven before here (and if you look the post, be sure to read the comments so you don't miss Dan Clore's college anecdote) but I wanted to follow up.

In the previous post, I quoted Wilson are referring to Beethoven as "the mediator and comforter," and it dawned on me the other day that I knew exactly what Wilson meant, at least through the reality tunnel of my own experience.

Beethoven does seem like a mediator who gives the listener a connection to ultimate meaning. He once said, "Whoever gets to know and understand my music, will be freed from all the misery who drags down others." When I listen to Beethoven, I feel as if I am connected to something profound, an art that puts petty concerns into perspective.

Anyone who knows anything about Beethoven's life story also cannot help feeling a little ashamed over his own bouts of depression if he reflects upon what the composer had to overcome. Imagine being a composer who found the willpower to keep working even after he became deaf and could no longer hear his works performed! He did not hear the applause when his famous Ninth Symphony (referred to in the Michael Johnson interview) was performed. A famous story relates that during the premiere, one of the singers went over to the oblivious Beethoven, who was onstage, and turned him to face the audience so he could see the audience's repeated standing ovations.

As for "the comforter," I can only relate that when I am feeling stressed or concerned I have sometimes found Beethoven's music a calming influence. When I went into surgery a couple of years ago to fix a hernia, I was listening to some piano sonatas on a cheap MP3 player. Years ago, as I drove across Oklahoma for a blind date with a former flight attendant, very nervous about meeting someone I didn't really know, I listened to a Beethoven symphony.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jim Henley on the "low road" vs. the "high road"

I have tried to avoid linking to anything that doesn't have a direct bearing on learning more about Robert Anton Wilson.

However, I am breaking that rule today to link to this posting by blogger Jim Henley which is the best defense of the utility of nonviolence that I've seen in a long time. It's one of Henley's best posts, but I also link to it because I think RAW would have loved it. Do you agree, Wilson scholars?

Henley, along with Thoreau, blog for Unqualified Offerings. Henley is a disgruntled libertarian who has become a liberal; Thoreau still self-identifies as a libertarian, but is mostly interested in the "left" side of the movement (i.e., his main concerns are peace and civil liberties, including ending the war on drugs.) So the blog's stances are very close to the political views that Wilson expressed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Michael Johnson interview, Part Three

Q. I want to explore a few vexing questions for Wilsonians. Here's one: What do you think happened to the material that was cut from ILLUMINATUS! at Dell's insistence? Do you believe any of it survives?

A. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo-stick, I wish it would resurface, but I have strong doubts it will. I think if RAW could've recovered it he would've found a way to sculpt it — ideally working in tandem with Shea — into another genius tome and get it into our hands. I see no reason to doubt the official story (from him) that it's lost. 500 pages or so! Can you imagine a 1300 page version of Illuminatus! ??? The reel minds, or rind meals, or...see what I mean?

Q. Do you have any insight into how far Wilson got on BRIDE OF ILLUMINATUS, and why it was never finished?

A. Of this question I have almost no insight. I hope to tease out some more info before my book gets published. When I saw him give a talk after Cosmic Trigger III came out, in Santa Monica, he got that question about Bride. I recall him saying there will be a satire on the OJ Simpson fiasco, and Monica Lewinsky. He said very little about his upcoming book projects, which with hindsight seems like a "smart" thing to do.

Q. How much material was cut from SCHROEDINGER'S CAT when it was reduced from three separate books to one omnibus edition?

A. Quite a lot of really really RILLY cool stuff, to my eyes. I don't have the actual page count difference. I had read the omnibus edition four or five times before I finally scored all three of the originals via Ebay, and I was astonished and delighted there was so much "new" and Wilsonic-trippy stuff that got left out of the one-volume edition. Why? The ways of the publishing houses are inscrutable to me. I have the feeling that if I found out someone who knew the straight answer it would be something like, "Oh yeah. That was Joe 'Bottom Line' Smith who edited that. He took one look at it, said, 'Naw. Sorry. Too big. No one's buying fat books anymore,' then cut out a shitload of pages. He quit soon after that and became a broker on Wall Street."

Do I sound jaundiced?

On the other hand, RAW ended up with New Falcon because they wouldn't tamper-edit his books. The drag of it is: he could've used someone at least proofing his books there. They are filled with typos, and only two of his non-fiction books published by New Falcon have indexes. And I don't think they had any marketing budget to speak of. But I digress...

Q. Did TALE OF THE TRIBE turn into EMAIL TO THE UNIVERSE, or was it never completed?

A. The way I understand it, RAW wanted to write the book that is delineated with tantalizing tidbits at the end of TSOG: The Thing That Ate The Constitution, pp.203-213. He ended up publishing Email To The Universe instead, and there's no bloody way that was what he was wanting for Tale of the Tribe. He ended up finding about half to a third of old pieces that Mike Gathers, Eric Wagner, Dan Clore, myself, and a few others had found in disparate old magazines that had never made it into RAW's published books. We had collected tons of stuff we'd bought on eBay or had stashed in old boxes somewhere, some of it from quite obscure little magazines. Gathers took the time and put it all up at I think he did a helluva job. One day, New Falcon asked Mike to take certain pieces off the site, and he did without complaint. Those pieces ended up in E to the U. Gathers got a free copy out of it.

There's a quote from RAW in an old entry for him in the reference set found in libraries, Contemporary Authors. He said he had, if I recall correctly, about 1500 articles in print before he made it as a writer. And those articles were in scholarly journals, porno mags, little literary mags, schlocky publications, everywhere. And in a circa 1980 interview with Dr. Jeffrey Eliot he told Eliot he'd rather be "rhino-gored" than to see some of those pieces re-surface. Methinks RAW saw quite a lot of stuff at up at and thought they weren't half-bad at all, at all. I'm glad he was able to put out that last book with our anonymous help. He was having a really tough time those last eight years or so, after Arlen died. His post-polio syndrome really did a number on him; cannabis was a godsend for him, but being stoned all the time definitely slowed his writing down. But I quite like E to the U, don't you?
I think it remains for one of his disciples to carry on and write a heavily-influenced by RAW Tale of the Tribe. The blueprints are on the pages I cited for TSOG, above. And he did an online course for his MaybeLogic Academy that was intensively "Tribe" oriented. There are many others more qualified than I to comment on this projected last book.

Q. Do you believe Wilson's fans will succeed in keeping interest in his writing alive?

A. Maybe it's just selective perception, but I see it, yeah. I think it's building, slowly. I do think Wilson was quasi-tragically ahead of his time. But if it was between dying out or growing interest, my money's on him getting bigger over the next decade or so. Let it ride, too! I hope to be some sort of influence on that, obviously.

Q. How aggressive do you believe Wilson's family will be in bringing his out of print books back into print and bringing new material into print?
A. That one scares me a bit. My impression is that (I will just say "they") they knew he was an author with a particularly devoted fan base; I don't get the impression they understand his work the way fans like you or I do. I hope I'm wrong. Wilson did leave his kids with debts. They may be jaded, I don't know. It's in their best interests — one would think — to maintain control of the rights and to keep him in print, but there are too many moving parts there for me to tell for sure.
If they do have unpublished material I wish they'd let someone like me edit it first! (Am I dreaming?)

Q. You have worked for years as a musician and guitar instructor. Do you have any particular insight into Wilson's writings on music?

A. I asked him why Beethoven, especially the Ninth Symphony, shows up so often and with such prominence in his work. I said, is it because he represents your highest ideas about Enlightenment? He bluntly said he'd had a peak experience while high on acid and listening to the 9th. Ahhh...why didn't I guess that? I asked him if he wrote with music on, and he said he listened to "light" classical sometimes while writing, but his favorites — esp. Ludwig van — were too engrossing; they demanded all of your attention.
He once listed favorite pieces in Usenet under the nym "Mark Chan." I remember they were all classical, maybe a jazz performer or two, and then last, "Iron Butterfly." I think Wilson's take on rock was ironic because he perceived it was the music of his fans, but he thought JS Bach wrote the "sexiest" music in history.
I have a section about RAW and music, so I don't wanna blow my wad here. I will say that I think the hotbed — or one of the hotbeds — for RAW's thinking about music is found in Sigismundo Celine's interior monologues as found within the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles.

Q. I've never noticed any reference to sports in Wilson's writings. Do you know if he had any interest in any sports?

A. I mentioned this to Eric Wagner years ago, and he said RAW had interest and knowledge of Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, and few others, if I recall with any accuracy that email exchange. But by and large, I'd say, comparatively speaking, RAW was not a big sports guy...and can you blame him? Having polio and being as cerebral as he was as a kid? He liked Mailer, I'll say that. Is that sports? He was also an acquaintance of the great Oakland/Berkeley-based writer Ishmael Reed, whose Mumbo Jumbo reminds some of us of Illuminatus! and Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 in tone and antic humor and secret society tropes. Reed says, "Writin' is fightin'!" From Hemingway to Mailer punching Gore Vidal: writers as boxers, trying to knock their fellow (Male? Oh let's let in Joyce Carol Oates for fairness...) writers out of the ring, writin' bein' fightin' 'n all, ya know...

Q. It's my impression that California is a particular hotbed of Wilson fans. Has that been your experience?

A. RAW and Leary had some things to say about the maverick genes lighting out for the territory, and ending up in California, the edge of the Pacific, the Granola State, filled with fruits and nuts. But they were also serious: they thought that genetic neophiles agglomerated in California, where you got Hollywood and Silicon Valley, CalTech and JPL and Berkeley, the progressive-liberalism of San Francisco, and all kinds of weirdo cults and inventors: their kinds of peeps! At times they identified parts of California as the avant garde of 5th circuit Hedonic Engineering: hot tubs and pot, fine wines and tantric cults, surfing and fucking on the beach, then going to a movie after a vegetarian meal. (This all fits more the coast of CA; the inland areas can be pretty conservative and pent-up-regressive, right wing, what have ya. Their point was generally: when there is enough Wealth, more people will activate the somatosensory circuit of "feeling good" floating, which usually leads to tolerance towards others doing their own things. It can happen anywhere.)

I think it's probably right that CA has more RAW readers than any other state, but hell, it's a big-assed state, and the neophilic gene thing was probably a rhetorical flourish not quite fully-baked. I know he has a substantial fan base in Germany. He said he thought it was the children (and their children in turn) who were particularly raised to Question Authority, after the unpleasantness of 1914-45. Anywhere there are freaks like us, we will find guys like RAW. Libertarians and anarchists of various stripe, Discordians and Sub Genii, futurists, New Agers with scientific educations, surrealists, particularly literary science fiction fans, entheogenic enthusiasts, and people who like dense, eccentric and difficult heretical ideas, writers and thinkers will gravitate towards Wilson, wherever they are. Anyone can find him, even right where they are sitting now.

Q. What did you think of Eric Wagner's "An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson"?

A. 1.) He knows more than he let on.
2.) Any first book on an author starts the conversation in a literal way, for me at least, and for that he's to be commended. Subsequent books on Wilson will have to answer some of what Wagner addressed, if only to take issue with him. I'm grateful he got the first book on RAW out there.
3.) There are some tremendous insights in there; there are some things that really opened my eyes, and we're all lucky he spend time with RAW and corresponded with him.
4.) He carries the E-Prime off really well. No mean feat!
5.) Wagner takes his epistemology very siriusly indeed, and that renders his book as at times wildly subjective, intensely personal...really pretty avant in approach, especially for a first book on the subject. I admire him, but I think he hurt his cause a bit by being so subjective (which seems in keeping with a certain strict reading of RAW and Korzybski regarding "what we can know").
6.) He definitely "knows" more than he lets on. (I know I already said that.) I wrote the first review of the book at the Amazon site.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sorry about that

Some days Blogger works better than others. Part Two of my interview with Michael Johnson was published as a huge blank, and it took quite a bit of work to fix it. I hope it's OK now.

Lots of interesting stuff in Part 3's conclusion, I promise.
Michael Johnson interview, Part Two

Q. Tell us about your upcoming book about RAW.

A. I've already ditched about 300 pages, because I'm trying to learn how to do this thing called, umm..."writing a book that would not be boring if I were the reader." Lemme see: I will try to show how RAW's oeuvre is similar to many of his contemporaries, but the interest lies in DIFFERENCE. I will trace the trajectory of his career as a particular kind of Artist-Intellectual. I have outlined his outstanding metaphors and recurring tropes as I have read his body of work, and I note that beneath all the deep play there's an urgency. RAW was very much like Buckminster Fuller, in that he wanted humankind to be "a success in universe." The Bomb seems always lurking behind Wilson's work.

I flesh out a minor bio, I have a long interview in there, and I go over each book, not in E-Prime like Eric Wagner's book The Insider's Guide To Robert Anton Wilson, because I find the E-Prime thing too difficult, although the spirit is there...I'm quite fascinated by RAW's sociology of knowledge and the deeper structures of it. I speculate, bullshit, pull legs, put-on...and try to situate RAW as a thinker, a hairy endeavor indeed for a damned eejit like myself.

Ya know? I just realized something profound. Yosemite Sam was right! Bugs Bunny was INDEED a "long-eared ijit-galoot"! Let that sink in a bit...

I recently realized, via Ed Sanders, via Charles Olson, that I'm trying to do my "Saturation Job." See p.420 of Sanders' book on the Manson group, The Family, 3rd edition. Oh? You don't have that on hand? Okay, here is the relevant passage, for any other writers in a similar quandary:

[Sanders is talking about trying to score ultra-elusive videos of
famous people fucking for who-knows why]:
"Then the meeting ended. During the next few days I strove to complete
the deal, to no avail. I couldn't devote full-time to it, since I had
begun writing my book, the biggest book of my life. My mentor, the
great bard Charles Olson, had written about a 'Saturation Job,' as a
rite of passage for a writer of substance. In a Saturation Job, Olson
pointed out, you studied one subject, whether a place or a person or
persons, 'until you yourself know more about that than is possible to
any other man. It doesn't matter whether it's Barbed Wire or Pemmican
or Paterson or Iowa. But EXHAUST IT, Saturate it. Beat it. And then U
KNOW everything very fast: one saturation job (it might take fourteen
years). And you're in, forever.'"

"Writer of substance." Aye, there's the rub!

Q. I hope you will finish the book, rather than spending years working on it. If you have second thoughts, you can always write another book!

Rudy Rucker, in a book called SEEK that collects his nonfiction, described RAW (at age 62) as an unpleasant person who was only easy to be around when he was inebriated on alcohol or pot. What was your experience with RAW, and what did you think of Rucker's account? Was RAW generally kind to fans?

A. I was disappointed in Rucker's aloofness towards RAW. It would've been easy to find out RAW's wife of 40+ years was dying — I either remember or suspect Rucker knew this yet was still kind of a dick writing about RAW — that his post-polio made long plane trips to places like Portugal (where they filmed) far more uncomfortable than any of us could imagine, and that RAW needed the money desperately, having bills and a brood. It was a dark and difficult time for Wilson, and Rucker seems so blase about Bob's pain. Rucker is freaking brilliant though; I love his books. He's distantly related to Hegel, or so I heard him say when he gave a talk in Berkeley three years ago. All of his books have stimulated me, but some of the math is over my head. He's prolific too. In that piece you cite of Rucker's, if I remember, he said he thought RAW was obviously a genius of some sort; I think the same of Rucker. [Editor’s note: The article, originally published in “bOING bOING” magazine, was about a 1994 movie made in Portugal called “The Manual of Evasion.” The Internet Movie Database lists nothing about the movie, but excerpts are posted on YouTube.]

Rucker once said he liked the IDEA of people doing psychedelic drugs; he himself wasn't interested. Maybe there's a bit of a wedge there? And then again he and Terence McKenna (TM was also in that same Portuguese film with RAW and RR) were born in 1946, while RAW was 14 years older. So there was a generation gap? Who knows? (See my bit about Writin' 'N Fightin' below.)

I could speculate too much about the Rucker perspective on Wilson as depicted in that piece in Rucker's Seek! Selected Nonfiction. I don't want to misrepresent Rucker. Wilson is an object of interest by many a writer/artist/musician, and this picture of RAW by Rucker represents an anomaly, in my experience. I have heard numerous accounts of RAW being incredibly sweet with his fans. When I asked for an interview, he invited me and my wife into his home, and made me feel very comfortable. He seemed like a Buddhist sage with otherworldly intelligence, spoke in complete paragraphs from questions I had not given him beforehand, quoted passages of Pound from memory, had limitless jokes. I had the feeling that interviews were a sort of performance for him, but he was also genuine and warm. I've heard similar stories from others.

At the same time I couldn't help but feel this guy doesn't suffer fools gladly, and was so trying not to be one. The documentarians doing the film about him called Maybe Logic were there when I got there, all their equipment set up, so he was warmed up and I was nervous and he made me feel relaxed. By the end of the interview we were discussing things more as equals, and he was extremely open-minded and listened attentively. He complained that it was hard to keep up on everything; he felt like he'd fallen behind. When I asked him if he'd read this or that book and he hadn't, he said there were a lot of books he had not read! (I admitted to thinking it seemed like he'd read EVERYTHING.) His apartment was filled with gifts from friends and fans, books piled up everywhere.

As far as pleasantness and inebriation, one writer who knew RAW since the 1970s said — and I'm quoting this second hand, so maybe I have it right — that he never saw RAW not stoned! (Let us chalk this up as "lore"?)

Wednesday: Vexing questions for Wilson fans

Monday, July 26, 2010

Michael Johnson answers my questions about Robert Anton Wilson


Few people on Earth know as much about writer Robert Anton Wilson as Michael Johnson, a former Aldous Huxley devotee who walked into a bookstore the day after Christmas in 1992 and became a dedicated Wilson fan almost instantly.

Johnson had never heard of Wilson, but bought a copy of RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW

“I bought it, and stayed up all night reading it before going to work in the library at Palos Verdes, CA, all bleary-eyed. I finished it, then started again from the beginning,” Johnson says. “Within a year I'd read everything that was in print by him, being particularly blown away by Illuminatus! and the SCT.”

Since then, Johnson has intensively read and re-read everything everything he can find that Wilson wrote or cited as an influence. He also seems to have read just about every book that mentions Wilson.

To inaugurate the series of interviews and articles I plan to publish on this site, I asked Johnson if he would agree to let me interview him by e-mail. He agreed, and the interview was conducted in July 2010. Although I told him he could reject any questions he didn’t like, he answered all of them.

Johnson, 49, has worked as a rock music guitarist, a music teacher and a library employee. He and his wife live in Berkeley California.

Johnson posts comments at and other sites devoted to Wilson, but he doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account or a blog of his own. “I'm glad other people do that and find it helpful; I'm far more stodgy than most, it seems. I'm committed to books. (And in turn some people think I should be committed, but that's another kettle of fish.)”

Q. What are your favorite RAW books?

A. Over the years it has changed; I vacillate. The Widow's Son seems uber-RAW to me because he's working all (mostbunall?) of his favorite late 20th c. ideas into a novel set in the late 18th century. At the same time he's also doing his "historical novel" with a bit of Bildungsroman added in, PLUS he's got that whole other footnote-world counter-narrative, which captures the mad acidhead postmodernist-cum-surrealist Erisian Wilson. I love that book. He did too. He said when he wrote it — circa 1985 — he was "really hot." He wrote that one in Ireland.
I could go on about other favorite books by Bob, but I'll let it stand there. The easy answers would be either Illuminatus! or Schrodinger's Cat, because I've had endless hours of joy — as I bet your readers have too — and they are practically inexhaustible. "Inexhaustibility" was a very high value for RAW himself as far as his own literary tastes went, witness his 50-plus-year mania for Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, and Pound's Cantos, amongst other weighty wiggy tomes.
I'm also crazy about Cosmic Trigger Vol III: My Life After Death. So much so that I wrote an index for it. In that book I think RAW got deeper into the issues of "mask/reality" that he often hovered around and played with in the past; he had a lot more to say on the topic and that book fleshed it out, I thought was really well integrated. I think it's one of the great books about postmodernism — his take on pomo — and it also highlights him as a non-academic intellectual in a particularly brilliant way.

Q. You discovered RAW when you stumbled on a copy of RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW in a bookstore in 1992. Do you think your perspective on RAW is any different from the vast majority of us, who came to him via ILLUMINATUS!, or is that irrelevant?

A. Wow. Okay, I confess I've been asked when I started reading RAW many times and I always winged the answer because I didn't really know until now. Your question prompted me to look back in my old journals and try and find the exact day I found RWYASN. I have written in a journal (usually just a log of the day's events) almost every day since September of 1989. It's compulsive, really.

So I took about 35 minutes today and found this entry from December 26, 1992 - I was WAY off!:

"On to Borders, where I blew $41 of Noble's (my future father-in-law) $50 gift certificate. on Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade (in the Women's Studies section), and Robert Anton Wilson's Right Where You Are Sitting Now. I have been leafing through Wilson and am rapidly falling in love...he's so hip and intelligent! UFOs, drugs, conspiracies, semantics, strange loops, Teilhard, games, humor, Bucky Fuller, entropy, evolution, witches, consciousness, Wm. S. Burroughs, on and on and on. I could easily get hooked on this stuff. Like eating potato chips."

So first off: thank you, Jackson, for forcing me to nail exactly when I stumbled onto RAW.
I think my perspective must differ from every other RAW reader — and each reader from all the others — if only because I take Korzybski seriously: No two experiences are identical, for a welter of reasons — age, genes, previous education, unconscious habits, imprints, the phenomenon of time and a person's place in space and perspective, whether they're having a bad day, etc, etc, etc.

On another level of abstraction, I've met many a RAW reader and it's almost always like I've found someone from my Tribe. Most of the RAWphiles I've met strike me as scary-smart but not really thinking they're all that brilliant. They do like to smoke dope and laff, aye! state the obvious.

I think you're probably right in that Illuminatus! was the entre for many a Wilsoniac, but then again I think Cosmic Trigger Vol 1 was also a tremendous first reading of RAW for a lot of my fellow weirdos.

So to answer your Q: yes, it's irrelevant.

AND: better than eating potato chips, turns out.

Q. Why did that book have such an effect on you? What elements of RAW's philosophy made you determined to find out everything you can about him?

A. Well, what I didn't write about in that first journal entry (Which I thought no one would ever read; I always write in my journal asking myself "Why would anyone wanna read this shit?" and then, "Well, they won't. I'll die and someone will look through this mound of bound-spiral notebooks and just dump them in the round file." Then again, "Then why are you writing? Ego? Lack of serotonin leading to some mild form of hypergraphia? What, asshole?") Anyway...What I didn't write about in that...what was the question? Oh...

Later, after seriously delving into RAW and his ideas about information and structure, his influences — especially Burroughs and Pound and McLuhan for RWYASN — I think he knew the structure of that book was a large part of the info-dense character of it. (It's dedicated to Burroughs and Philip K. Dick, "pioneers.") There's a bit in there where he says the book is a machine for living in, or something like that, and he invokes Le Corbusier's name. It was cut-up/experimental enough to not be "too much" for me at the time, as WSB's Nova Express and Joyce'sFinnegans Wake were when in my first delvings. I found that book and RAW at just the right time, maybe?

I told RAW that RWYASN was where I found him, and that I still dearly love that book after many re-readings, and he seemed a little surprised. I don't think he'd heard that very often.
The crux of my interest in his philosophy lies in the matrix of model agnosticism/perception/language/"reality." For RAW, epistemology seems to be the handmaiden of ontology, but maybe I'm just full of shit.

Tuesday: Johnson's upcoming RAW book.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Prometheus Awards announced

The Prometheus Awards for this year have been announced. (It's an award that go to works of science fiction of interest to libertarians. I'm a member of the group that gives the awards and I serve on the two nominating committees.)

The UNINCORPORATED MAN by Dani and Eytan Kollin won for Best Novel. The Hall of Fame award went to Poul Anderson's novella "No Truce With Kings," which also is a Hugo Award winner.

The RAW tie-in: As far as I know, the only literary award Robert Anton Wilson ever received was his Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1986 for ILLUMINATUS!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maybe Logic blog

The Maybe Logic blog, Only Maybe, provides periodic announcements of interest to RAW fans (disclosure: it links to this blog) but is also interesting for the huge collection of links to oddball and RAW-related sites. I followed a link to the Ubuweb, which seems to be an archive of avante-garde material. No RAW stuff there, as far as I can tell, but I watched some videos made by surrealist Man Ray.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Robert Anton Wilson Day!

Apparently the alternate name for this day is Maybe Day, as in RAW's "maybe logic." That's the preferred name for today from Wilson scholar Eric Wagner.

In 2003, however, July 23 was proclaimed "Robert Anton Wilson Day" for the city of Santa Cruz, Calif.

The proclamation was issued July 22, 2003, by Santa Cruz mayor Emily Reilly. The full text of the mayor's proclamation is here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Birth of the Illuminati'

bOING bOING, a popular blog founded by Robert Anton Wilson fan Mark Frauenfelder, posts about an article from a new book, DARKLORE VOL. II, "an anthology of writings on high weirdness and secret history," explains bOING bOING blogger David Pescovitz. The article is about a 1797 book by David Robison, "Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe," that attributed the French Revolution to to the Illuminati.

Pescovitz doesn't mention ILLUMINATUS!, but the commenters are quick to make the connection. One of them helpfully included a link to a scanned copy of Robison's book.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RAW and Beethoven

Robert Anton Wilson loved classical music. Here is a sample quote, from "Credo" RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW: "I believe in Bach, the creator of heaven and earth, and in Mozart, his only begotten son, and in Beethoven the mediator and comforter; and inasmuch as their gods have manifested also in Vivaldi and Ravel and Stravinsky and many another I believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of error, and Mind everlasting."

He seems to have particularly liked Beethoven, one of my own favorites, and thanks to the Internet plenty of Beethoven is available at no cost. Musopen has free, public domain downloads available, including plenty of Beethoven. I have not examined every recording on the site, but Michael Hawley is obviously a good piano player. Obviously, some of the performances on the site are better than others.

Lots more free classical music, including Beethoven, is available here, as ogg files. (To play them, download the VLC music player, available for Windows, Macintosh and Linux).

There are also obviously many commercial recordings, and many are quite cheap. I particularly like pianist Alfred Brendel for the sonatas (the Vox recordings are a bargain), and George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra for the symphonies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Comic pays tribute to RAW

Manic Doodling is a comic strip that is posted to a blog by its creator, Steve Bellitt.

Can you guess who his favorite author is? Here's a clue: He describes himself as a "Janitor for the Illuminati."

His Monday strip, "A Meeting With Robert Anton Wilson, or WWRAWD?" is an affectionate tribute. Click twice to obtain a maximum size for viewing, printing, etc.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wilson didn't drive

The liner notes for the spoken word recording "Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Session," has a bit of biographical information about RAW that I haven't seen anywhere: He didn't drive.

Joseph Matheny writes, "I first met Bob in 1988, in Santa Cruz, California, when I produced some shows with him. I was a fan of his work from an early age and wanted to introduce the world to him. Later, when he moved to Santa Cruz, we were both part of a writer’s salon, known as The Formless Ocean Group or The F.O.G. I became his unofficial driver and bodyguard for a while, since he didn’t drive (but he owned a car), and I have never shied away from physical confrontation with over-exuberant (and sometimes mentally misguided) fans. Nothing violent, just some misdirection and strategic placement of my body between the person 'on a mission' and Bob."

Matheny adds, "Anyway, I will go more in depth about this period of time in an upcoming audio book I am producing for Falcon Press, with other 'friends of Bob.' Watch for it."

When I see more about that audiobook, I'll post the news here.

What is it about writers and learning to drive? I noticed the obituaries for science fiction writer Octavia Estelle Butler said she didn't drive. Libertarian science fiction writer L. Neil Smith does not drive.

On the other hand, perhaps some writers should never have learned. The brilliant science fiction writer Roger Zelazny apparently was better at daydreaming about his next story then he was at concentrating on the task at hand. Biographical material written by Dr. Christopher Kovacs in the excellent Roger Zelazny Project, a six-volume collection of Zelazny's short fiction, poetry and nonfiction, make it clear that Zelazny was a menace any time he got behind the wheel.

Does anybody know whether RAW read Zelazny? I feel sure RAW would have enjoyed "He Who Shapes," a novella later published in book form as THE DREAM MASTER.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The 'timid courage' of Malik and Dorn in ILLUMINATUS!

As I noted in an earlier post, the two protagonists in ILLUMINATUS! are Hagbard Celine and Simon Moon. They are the characters who serve as stand-ins for the authors, delivering lectures to the other characters (and the reader) about politics and other topics.

It seems to me one of the keys to the structure of ILLUMINATUS! is found in "Death and Absence in James Joyce," part two of a series of our essays on Joyce found in Wilson's COINCIDANCE. Much of the essay is on the theme of "timid courage" in Joyce's works. Writing about Leopold Bloom in ULYSSES, Wilson says, "Joyce announced that he did not believe in heroes, and Blood is no hero: just an ordinary decent man."

Don't George Dorn and Joe Malik in ILLUMINATUS! fit that description? They are ordinary people, trying to figure out what's going on. They show courage in being willing to have their preconceptions challenged, but they aren't superhuman heroes. And because every teacher (or shaman) needs an audience, their role in ILLUMINATUS! is to serve as the audience for Hagbard or Moon’s teachings.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pop group cites Wilson as influence

Robert Anton Wilson's influence on other creative artists is still popping up all over.

Music site Pop in Stereo reports that a Southern California band, Jesus Makes the Shotgun Sound, was "formed in 2004 with multi-instrumentalist Ramiro Zapata and drum machine Adrian Laguna. They cite their influences as radio host Art Bell, Robert Anton Wilson, Teddy and Terry Riley."

If you follow my link, you can download a copy of the band's single.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wilson on karma

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of Robert Anton Wilson’s areas of expertise that doesn’t get mentioned very often is Buddhism. To me, it seems quite obvious that he must have read many books on the subject, as he seems quite conversant with the various strains of Buddhism thought (and not just the trendy schools such as Zen.)

For example, here is Wilson discussing the Buddhist concept of karma:

“We should all try to give out as much good energy to other human beings as we possibly can. I honestly believe that every bit of bad energy we put out has adverse effects that go on forever. This is the Buddhist doctrine of karma. The Buddhists believe that every bit of anger, resentment, hate, and so on that goes out passes from one person to another, without stopping. The same is true of good energy: every bit of good energy one puts out makes someone else feel a little bit better. I think if people were really conscious of this psychological fact, they would try very, very hard to put out nothing but good energy, no matter what happened to them. They would certainly not be so casual about passing on bad energy. All the bad energy in the world builds up like a giant snowfall, until we have a huge war. Nowadays, it can mean a total nuclear Armageddon. This is traditional Buddhism, as I say, but I think it's materialistic common sense, too. One only needs to study human behavior to realize it. I regard those people who make a career out of being nasty as emotional plague carriers.”

This is from one of the many interviews collected at the excellent Robert Anton Wilson Fans site.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

'Why I Voted for Michael Dukakis'

One of the newly-available RAW articles from "The Realist," referenced below, includes a RAW article, "Why I Voted for Michael Dukakis."

The article supplies context to the frequent assertion that Robert Anton Wilson was a libertarian. Yes, he was, but he certainly came from the "left" part of the movement.

Wilson writes, "Usually I don't vote — on the anarchist principle that it only encourages the bastards — or else I vote Libertarian, to annoy the bastards." (The Libertarian candidate in 1988 was Ron Paul, who Wilson does not mention in his article.)

Related post here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Wilson material uncovered

Robert Anton Wilson published many articles in "The Realist " before becoming a full time freelance writer, as I (and my learned commenters) discussed here.

'bandito' has now published a more complete list of links to articles from that magazine, in a posting at, and says many of the links have not been posted before. Apparently the list eventually will be reproduced at, but I also will post them here.

Here's is bandito's posting:

I have been fairly diligent at tracking The Realist Archive and
posting links to Wilsonian articles as they come out. Due to me
being busy with other things, and having handed over the hosting of
the site to Matheny's gPod/Alterati/Hukilau consortium, I have been
lax in updating the website with these links.

However, after some brief correspondence with the owner/creator of the
Realist Archive I realize I have missed many new articles. Anyhow,
here is the complete list of links not yet updated to rawilsonfans.
Many of the triple digit issues are articles that have not been posted
here before as I just discovered their existence today.

# (Ellis interview by Krassner and

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Death of a Fug

Tuli Kupferberg, one of the founding members of The Fugs, is dead at age 86.

I haven't heard the band's music, but I've been curious about The Fugs for years because the band is mentioned in ILLUMINATUS! (e.g. in this passage "Simon [Moon] began humming as he drove; Joe [Malik] recognized the tune as 'Ramses II Is Dead, My Love'." Page 124). The same song also is mentioned in the THE HOMING PIGEONS.

Here is the Wikipedia and Kupferberg, and here is Wikipedia on The Fugs. Robert Christgau's "Consumer Guide" reviews are here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

RAW and Zelenka

Robert Anton Wilson loved classical music -- one of the many things I like about him -- and particularly championed the music of Ludvig van Beethoven. But he also made a point in his writings to call attention to a much more obscure composer, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745).

The THE HOMING PIGEONS (third in the SCHROEDINGER'S CAT trilogy), Frank Dashwood hears Zelenka's Concerto for Harp on the radio in the first chapter and notes that it sounds "like Bach" and comes from the Baroque period. In the "No Limits Allowed" chapter towards the end, Dashwood reads about Zelenka when Dr. Hugh Crane hands him a book called THE ANSWER.

Wilson's THE ILLUMINATI PAPERS describes Justin Case (at the end of "Beethoven as Information") as a music critic who likes Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Zelenka.

After I saw that, I looked up Zelenka in the Wikipedia (the above link). See also the Discover Zelenka Web site, which asserts, "Most musicologists dealing with music of this period [e.g, the Baroque] agree that the compositions of this long-forgotten musical giant approach or equal those of his contemporaries Bach, Händel, Vivaldi and Telemann in their advanced use of counterpoint, their extreme demands on the players and singers, their ingenuity and resourcefulness, and their overall beauty. "

I plan to check out some of Zelenka's music from the local library.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Where are the papers?

Robert Anton Wilson is not the first writer I have become very interested in. Years ago, I became fascinated with offbeat science fiction writer R.A. Lafferty, to the point where I went to the University of Tulsa, where his papers are deposited, and read some of his correspondence and unpublished fiction. Years later, after I had gotten interested in surrealistic poet Charles Henri Ford, I read some of his papers at the University of Texas at Austin.

So where do I go to read Wilson's literary papers? I have not been able to obtain an answer to this question. In a way, this seems like a greedy question, because in addition to his fiction, there are many volumes of nonfiction in which Wilson discusses his ideas at great length. There's plenty of material in print for the Wilson fan and scholar to read. Not to mention the wonderful archive at Robert Anton Wilson Fans.

But there's more out there that hasn't become available. For example, much of his correspondence cannot be read. In COSMIC TRIGGER III, MY LIFE AFTER DEATH, in Chapter 4, about Robert Shea, Wilson writes about his correspondence with Shea, "for 23 years we wrote about every important idea in the world and filled enough paper for several volumes. I hope some of that will get published some day."

I'd like to read it, preferably in a book, but I don't know even know where it is, or if it's been preserved. Mike Shea, who has done an admirable job making his father's work available at the official Robert Shea page, has not come up with any leads about where this correspondence is. I will keep asking people who might know.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

But wait! What about Beethoven?

STARSHIP: Does writing come easily to you? Do the words flow smoothly and effortlessly?

WILSON: Oh, yes. It comes as easily to me as tennis comes to a professional tennis player. It's my game. To me, it's the third best thing in the world, after sex and Chinese food.

(From a particularly good interview, archived here.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

RAW's 'lost' books

In the comment section for my July 3 post, sage RAW scholar Royal Academy of Reality 1132 says, "I keep waiting for the Library of Dreams to get in my copy of THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. I've had it on reserve for weeks."

Haven't we all. RAW had originally intended to write five "Historical Illuminatus" novels, but the fourth, THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN, was never written, or at least never completed.

We're also in for a long wait for BRIDE OF ILLUMINATUS, the sequel to ILLUMINATUS!, although according to this Wikipedia article, an excerpt was published in Wilson's magazine, Trajectories. (PDF is here.)

TALE OF THE TRIBE, which concerned the Internet and no doubt other topics, also never came out. I would love to have read it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

RAW instructs blogger on precise speech

In a posting about "better living through improved diction," blogger Zachary Burt writes about how his study of RAW's QUANTUM PSYCHOLOGY convinced him to try to be more precise in his speech. He concludes, "I'm going to experiment with removing the word 'is' as much as possible from my prose."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not a bad prediction for 1982

"The major battle of the 1980s will be over the control of microprocessors. The techno-managerial elite, the American Civil Liberties Union and those scientists who are true to the spirit of science will unite to attempt to accelerate the flow of information with these marvelous new tools. All conspiracies, and all scientists working for conspiracies, will attempt censorship, blockage, legal restrictions. Marshall McLuhan long ago predicted that we are entering the age of information; it is now happening. How much freedom of electronic 'speech' we are allowed in the next ten years will determine whether conspiracy or the Bill of Rights is going to dominate our future."

That's the last paragraph of the article "Neurogeography of Conspiracy" in RAW's book, RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW.

Nowadays, it's a commonplace to talk about the Internet's importance in the free flow of information, how it provides a refuge from government repression, etc., but I wanted to point out that RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW was published in 1982, before the rise of the Internet. Cory Doctorow, the well-known science fiction writer and Internet freedom activist, was 11 when the book was published.

Of course, these days there is an ACLU of cyberspace, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, founded in 1990.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Download “the most beautiful book in English”

Eric Wagner’s AN INSIDERS’S GUIDE TO ROBERT ANTON WILSON mentions that Ovid’s METAMORPHOSES is one of the books that RAW recommended in his “Brain Books” list in Wilson’s magazine “Trajectories.” Wagner then notes that Ezra Pound called METAMORPHOSES a “holy book” and that Pound considered Arthur Golding’s translation of it “the most beautiful book in English.”

An online version of Golding’s translation into Elizabethan English is here. Downloadable copies (in various formats) are available here.

In the “Brain Books” article, Wilson wrote, “I wish everybody would read Ovid. The great myths of our particular culture - the Greek and Roman myths - can't be found in any one book, except Bullfinch or Ovid, and Ovid has a much better style than Bullfinch. So read Ovid and get the whole panorama of classical myth. Classical myth has so much meaning that it permeates every bit of modern psychology. The myths of other cultures have much to offer, but we still need our myths. So we might as well face up to them. It's our culture; let's not lose it. And let's find out something that happened before 1970.”

I should note that metamorphosis is hardly an alien element in Wilson’s fiction. Many of the characters in the SCHROEDINGERS’S CAT trilogy undergo radical changes -- Epicene Wildebloode from a man to a woman, Simon Moon in THE HOMING PIGEONS changing from a gay man (the “Sincerity in Spelvins“ chapter) to a straight man who likes redheaded women (the “Symposium” chapter), and so on. (Note: All references in this blog to SCHROEDINGER’S CAT refer to the three original separately-published novels. I don’t even have the truncated omnibus edition.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wilson: The 'next Philip K. Dick'?

I would like to think that the strong interest that persists in Robert Anton Wilson could lead to a wider acceptance of his writing.

The model I am thinking of is science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. When I first began reading Dick, his readership was pretty much limited to science fiction fanatics. The titles were largely published as mass market, original paperbacks -- much as Wilson's early fiction was published.

Now, there's a Library of America edition of Dick. You can actually buy a three-volume Library of America boxed set, which collects 13 novels, including some of those little paperbacks I used to read as a teenager. Could mainstream acceptance be possible for Wilson?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A book about RAW

There are many ways to learn more about Robert Anton Wilson once you become interested in his work, but here is one: There's actually a book about him, written by someone who knows him well.

AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO ROBERT ANTON WILSON by Eric Wagner, was put out in 2004 by New Falcon Publications, the small press publishing house which continues to do a good job of keeping much of Wilson's work in print. Wagner's book is still in print; my son gave me a copy for Father's Day. Thank you, Richard.

The back cover says that Wagner "has traveled from Ingolstadt, Bavaria, to Aswan, Egypt, from Country Kerry, Ireland, to Honolulu, Hawaii, attempting to understand the ideas behind Wilson's works." This is impressive, but it is also relevant to point out that Wagner corresponded with Wilson for many years and spoke to him many times.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

If you love Wilson, check him out

Here is a way to support Robert Anton Wilson's writings, even if you have no money and little time: Check his books out of the public libraries you patronize.

All libraries have a limited amount of space, and even the most poorly-funded ones add new materials this year. This means that every library has a weeding process to get rid of books on the shelf. It might have a policy, for instance, to get rid of every book that hasn't been checked out in the last 18 months. When you check out a book by RAW, you are increasing the chance it will remain on the shelf to be discovered by other readers.

Friday, July 2, 2010

No. 23 for the Cleveland Cavaliers

I've never noticed any indication in his writings that Robert Anton Wilson was a sports fan, but RAW's Boswell, Eric Wagner, loves basketball. That will have to suffice as an excuse for mentioning that LeBron James wears number 23 on his uniform, but plans to switch to 6, out of respect to Michael Jordan, who wore no. 23.

Michael Jordan's father, James R. Jordan Sr., was murdered on July 23, 1993.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The folks at New Falcon

Run a search for Robert Anton Wilson's name on Amazon and you'll get a bunch of hits for books that are still in print and still available.

But it also can be fun to shop, or at least browse, at the Web site of Wilson's main publisher in later life, New Falcon Publications. The publisher has put out or reprinted many of Wilson's books, enjoyed a good relationship with Wilson when he was alive, and since his death has worked to keep his books in print. The site features an online catalog and often has specials on certain titles.

There was some kind of schism in the New Falcon world a couple of years ago, and so there is now a rival company called Original Falcon Press. I have no obligation to take sides, and I like them both. Original Falcon is the publisher of the new Robert Anton Wilson audiobook I mentioned recently. I bought it from iTunes and have enjoyed listening to it.