Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Robert Anton Wilson: An influence on Dan Brown?
From SF book editor Jim Frenkel:
"I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Dan Brown, and movies like National Treasure were inspired by the Illuminatus! trilogy and other books that were inspired by some of the same earlier source material."
And Lance Bauscher, director of the "Maybe Logic" movie, says, "This whole DaVinci Code thing with Dan Brown, I mean, that's all Bob's material."
Some background: Dan Brown is of course the enormously successful author of The Da Vinci Code and other books. The Da Vinci Code, which came out in 2003, draws heavily on Holy Blood. Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Robert Anton Wilson referenced Holy Blood, Holy Grail long before The Da Vinci Code; for example, the book is quoted at the beginning of RAW's 1982 novel, The Earth Will Shake.
Brown's Angels and Demons includes the Illuminati in the plot. The Lost Symbol involves the freemasons. There is a general tone in Brown's works of dealing with secret societies.
Brown was sued for plagiarism by Baigent and Leigh, but not Lincoln. Brown, who had been quite open and honest about the influence of Holy Blood on his own book, won the suit. (The people who sued him can only be described as ingrates, because Brown's book gave a big boost to their own.) I would guess this experience would make it even less likely that Brown would acknowledge Robert Anton Wilson's influence, if there was one.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
13. “I shall show you, monks, the Teaching’s similitude to a raft: as having the purpose ofcrossing over, not the purpose of being clung to. Listen, monks, and heed well what I shallsay”—“Yes, Lord,” replied the monks. And the Blessed One spoke thus:
“Suppose, monks, there is a man journeying on a road and he sees a vast expanse of water, ofwhich this shore is perilous and fearful, while the other shore is safe and free from danger. Butthere is no boat for crossing nor is there a bridge for going over from this side to the other. Sothe man thinks: ‘This is a vast expanse of water; and this shore is perilous and fearful, but theother shore is safe and free from danger. There is, however, no boat here for crossing, nor abridge for going over from this side to the other. Suppose I gather reeds, sticks, branches andfoliage, and bind them into a raft.’ Now, that man collects reeds, sticks, branches and foliage,and binds them into a raft. Carried by that raft, laboring with hands and feet, he safely crossesover to the other shore. Having crossed and arrived at the other shore, he thinks: ‘This raft,indeed, has been very helpful to me. Carried by it, laboring with hands and feet, I got safelyacross to the other shore. Should I not lift this raft on my head or put it on my shoulders, and gowhere I like?’
“What do you think about it, O monks? Will this man by acting thus, do what should be donewith a raft?”—“No, Lord”—“How then, monks, would he be doing what should be done with araft? Here, monks, having got across and arrived at the other shore, the man thinks: ‘This raft,indeed, has been very helpful to me. Carried by it, and laboring with hands and feet, I got safelyacross to the other shore. Should I not pull it up now to the dry land or let it float in the water,and then go as I please?’ By acting thus, monks, would that man do what should be done with a raft?
“In the same way, monks, have I shown to you the Teaching’s similitude to a raft: as havingthe purpose of crossing over, not the purpose of being clung to."
Citation: Nyanaponika Thera's translation of the Alagaddūpama Sutta.
Monday, September 27, 2010
New Falcon Publications, which has done such a nice job of keeping Robert Anton Wilson and many of his allies in print, has a Facebook page. I've signed up as a follower, because I hope that will help me keep up with the publisher's announcements.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Ken MacLeod, the brilliant Scottish science fiction writer, posted about Robert Anton Wilson after Wilson died.
MacLeod wrote that when he first read ILLUMINATUS! 30 years ago, he couldn't put it down, and was surprised to find he couldn't get into it when he had tried to re-read it recently. (This has not been my experience; it always seems fresh to me.)
But what I mainly wanted to record here is MacLeod's observations about two of Wilson's concepts.
I've read bits and pieces of RAW's non-fiction, mainly the pamphlet Natural Law and the book Prometheus Rising. What stuck in my memory were two concepts: the reality tunnel, and the SNAFU principle. The 'reality tunnel' refers to the tendency to notice only what confirms our beliefs. The SNAFU principle points out that in a hierarchy, each person tends to tell their superior what the superior wants to hear, i.e. what confirms their beliefs. By the time information reaches the top of a hierarchy it may be degraded beyond recognition. These two ideas explain much that is otherwise incomprehensible. We tend to assume that, whatever else may be said about them, our leaders are better informed than we are. If RAW's insight is correct, they are likely to be far worse informed than the average citizen. (See? Suddenly, it all makes sense!)
Saturday, September 25, 2010
The other day as I was going through EMAIL TO THE UNIVERSE, I ran across this sentence:
Everything I write, in one way or another, is intended to undermine the metaphysical and linguistic systems which seem to justify some Authorities in limiting the freedom of the human mind or initiating coercion against the non-coercive.
As a one sentence summary of Wilson's political and philosophical beliefs, this seems hard to beat. (From "Left and Right: A Non-Euclidian Perspective," an essay which repays careful reading.) EMAIL TO THE UNIVERSE is one of my favorite RAW books
According to this posting from Dan Clore, the essay was first published in "Critique: A Journal of Conspiracies and Metaphysics, #27" in 1988. The original version of the essay says it was written after an invitation from the journal's editor, Bob Banner; for some reason, the reference to Banner is removed from the reprint in EMAIL TO THE UNIVERSE (perhaps to make the point that Wilson is writing for everyone, and not just the readers of one particular journal?)
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
"If I went through all eight encyclopedias, I’d find eight different answers. Like how old was Mozart when he wrote his first symphony? – he was either 7 or 8 depending on which encyclopedia you’re looking in. This is what provoked me to what I call “Wilson’s 22nd Law: Certitude belongs exclusively to those who only own one encyclopedia. If you own more than one you’d be thoroughly encountering a certain amount of doubt and a certainty about things in general.” There is no one reliable source; there are a dozen different sources all claiming to be reliable. You got to use your own ingenious mind, and your own talent for analysis and skepticism to try and figure out “Which one of these guys really sounds like he might know what he’s talking about?” or “Which one should I bet on?”
"Every act of perception should be regarded as a gamble. From the experiments I’ve done and the experiments I’ve led and in my workshops and seminars, that has become overwhelmingly obvious and true to me. Every perception is a gamble.The major problem with the US is that about fifty percent of the population who at least thinks The Bible has all the answers. And then there are libertarians who think Ludwig van Mises has all the answers—except for all the ones who thinks Ayn Rand has all the answers. If you think there’s one book that has the answers, you’re never really going to discover anything and you’re never going to think an original thought. If you find out there’s twelve books with different answers you’re almost forced to start thinking. So I feel the internet is forcing more and more people to do something they have never done in their lives before and just try to make an independent judgment and how to judge between alternatives."
The provenance of the quote unfortunately isn't clear, as you can see from the discussion in the comments between Anon and myself.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
At the Science Fiction Books site, ILLUMINATUS! sparks a discussion among several readers. I'm with Jennifer Kephart, who says, "It was this book that led me to other works by Wilson, which then led me to read literature on subjects ranging from quantum physics to mass psychology. Wilson in general, and The Illuminatus! Trilogy in particular, are in and of themselves singular methods of expanding one’s mind."
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Although Robert Anton Wilson's published statements on music mostly expressed interest in classical music and jazz, he once collaborated with a punk rock band in Ireland, the Golden Horde, on the band's second recording project. "The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy!" released in 1985, had six songs (or eight, depending on whether one bought the version with cassette bonus tracks), and is usually described as an "album," although to me it seems short enough to qualify as an EP.
Irishrock.org notes, "Co-credited to Robert Anton Wilson, who supplied both vocals and lyrics. The UK edition entered the UK indie charts on 12 April 1986 and spent four weeks on the charts, peaking at the highly appropriate number 23." The web site describes the band as "Dublin's leading garage/trash punk band."
Songs from the album may be downloaded here.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
"The Anatomy of Schlock" by A Nonymous Hack
This article was published the in _The Best of The Realist_ by RAW
without the pseudonym.
Also: a longer version of the Ellis interview by Wilson & Krassner:
From Ethan, the one who maintains The Realist Archive:
"JUMPING IMMEDIATELY to the rare RAW item: We're aware of the good
Robert Anton Wilson community interest in this archive. So here, for
you, is a complete scan off the very rare booklet: "An Impolite
Interview Interview with Albert Ellis" which expands the material
from Realist #16 into a full 32 page document, and was only
distributed via mail order. Also includes Alan Watts and Lenny Bruce
pages, and a surprising list of upcoming Realist interviews. Some of
these interviews happened, some did not. The list is interesting."
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Via the official Robert Shea web site, maintained by his son Mike Shea, comes the news that many of Shea's novels are available for Kindle from Amazon. (Follow the links from the site.) Note that many of Shea's novels are still available free (for private reading) from the Robert Shea site, under the Creative Commons novel. (I plan to read ALL THINGS ARE LIGHTS soon; I understand it is the Shea solo novel most closely connected to ILLUMINATUS!) And, by the way, I learned via the site that the Kindle version of ILLUMINATUS! is available for only $9.99. (Note that Kindle files can work on a variety of devices, not just the Kindle itself.)
Monday, September 13, 2010
Steve "Fly Agaric" 23 has announced a new online course, "email to the tribe," which will run from Sept. 20 through Nov. 5 and will feature weekly doses of multimedia; participants are asked to donate what they can.
Agaric explains, "Each week fly will provide a spread of multimedia for you to process, generally keeping in step with the program, encouraging a wide variety of conversation and focused feedback. Feel free to drop in and drop out, as you like."
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I am almost finished with PROMETHEUS RISING, and it's fascinating. While I am dubious about some of Wilson's theories, it's book that has a great deal of interesting material, and it seems to put a great many of Wilson's ideas together in one place. I would argue that if someone became interested in Wilson through his fiction, and wanted to know where to go next, it would be logical to read PROMETHEUS and the three "Cosmic Trigger" books.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I've never thought of myself as a pagan, or thought of Robert Anton Wilson as a pagan. But some Internet humor that's been making the rounds, "The Field Guide to Neo-Paganism," posted by The Mad Angry Pagan, name checks RAW.
The satiric guide attempts to describe different kinds of neo-pagans. This is the entry for "Discordian Neo-Anarchist":
"Argumentative. Infuriating. Goes on philosophical tangents for hours, only to lead the discussion into obsurdities that make your brain hurt to think about them. Smiles too much. Laughs too much, especially at things that are *NOT* funny. Makes fun of everyone's sacred cows, especially yours. Is iconoclastic to the point of cliche'. Rants and raves about huge conspiracies and secret centuries-old organizations.
Distinguishing Signs: Yin/yang pendant with a pentacle and big yellow apple inside. Carries around any books by Douglas Adams or Robert Anton Wilson. Refuses to take themselves - or anyone else - seriously."
A couple of the other categories also mention RAW and/or Discordianism. Hail Eris!
Friday, September 10, 2010
On their Synchonicity blog, Trish and Rob MacGregor post about a letter they received from a writer friend, Peter Levenda, who explains that he recently re-read the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy and then ran across a New York Times crossword puzzle which included an entry about Ingolstadt. Scroll down the comments for the blog postings to read the entries by "cj," who discusses Freemasonry and the Illuminati as a self-described "insider."
I had never heard of Trish and Rob MacGregor until I ran across their blog, but they are quite successful writers (each of them has won an Edgar award). Their Synchronicity blog is tied to their latest book, THE SEVEN SECRETS OF SYNCHRONICITY. A few hours after spotting their blog posting, my wife and I visited Quarter Moon Books and Gifts, a small bookstore on Topsail Island, N.C., with a small selection of books, and I almost immediately found their book. After I glanced at it, I put it back on the shelf. Then I thought for some reason that I ought to look at it again, so I opened it up and looked at the acknowledgements, which thank their agent, Al Zuckerman. Zuckerman was also Robert Anton Wilson's literary agent; I tried to call him last week to ask for an interview and left him a message on his voicemail.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Over at alt.fan.wilson, Michael Johnson has started a thread about the late science writer Martin Gardner, who died this year, and what Robert Anton Wilson thought of him. Johnson reposts a tribute to Gardner by Howard Schneider, which includes this paragraph:
While Gardner could be very funny in print, I don't recall his ever
cracking a joke in any of my conversations with him. Nevertheless, he
had what I think of as a heartland earnestness (he was born and raised
in Oklahoma) that I found endearing. He once, very kindly, agreed to
read part of a novel I was working on. (He praised what I showed him,
which I'm still proud of.) To tease him, I situated one of the book's
more outre episodes in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where he was
then living. He wrote back and resolutely explained why Hendersonville
was the wrong site for the shenanigans I depicted because it was a
really nice, sophisticated place inhabited by many intelligent
Northerners. Another time, when I was chatting with Gardner on the
phone, I said that I had recently been present at a lecture by Robert
Anton Wilson (the writer and somewhat eccentric science and societal
pundit) and when I had asked a question and mentioned Gardner's name,
Wilson had drubbed him with some snarlingly bilious remarks. "He hates
me!" Gardner exclaimed, but he seemed more upset that I had to endure
Wilson's bad manners than with his petulant comments.
There follows a discussion by various Wilson scholars. "Psmith" writes, "I don't think Bob Wilson hated Gardner. Bob wrote positive comments about Gardner's intellectual puzzles. Bob disliked Gardner's advocacy of censorship and Gardner's unscientific attitudes towards Reich and
other unconvential thinkers."
The name of the novelist "Marvin Gardens" in the "Cat" trilogy seems pretty similar to Gardner's name.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I'm on vacation in North Carolina, and I've been spending part of my time reading PROMETHEUS RISING, a fascinating book (I'd never read it before).
In his "Preface to the Second Edition," Wilson writes that the book began as a Ph.D. dissertation for Paideia University. "I decided to rewrite the manuscript in a more commercial form," he says. "The first change consisted of removing all of the footnotes (about two of them per sentence) which gave the original a truly academic stink but would annoy the average reader."
The final version of the book, or at least my copy, lacks any sort of notes at all. Isn't that a missed opportunity? I get the point of removing the footnotes, but many of the nonfiction books I read (such as THE INHERITANCE OF ROME by Chris Wickam, one of the other books I brought along on vacation) have no footnotes, but detailed notes in the back, tied to page numbers. That way a reader has an uninterrupted text but can explore more deeply if he bothers to turn to the back of the book. An index for PROMETHEUS RISING would have been nice, too.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Can anyone give me some context for the dedications of the individual volumes of the "Cat" trilogy?
"The Homing Pigeons" is dedicated "to Harold Garfinkle, Carlos Casteneda and Richard de Mille. 'Greetings on all three points of the triangle' " A couple of notes: RAW gets Harold Garfinkel's name wrong, de Mille wrote a book alleging that Casteneda was a charlatan and a plagiarist, Garfinkel is an important sociologist. But why is the book dedicated to them?
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
More on Wilson the "science fiction writer"
ILLUMINATUS! became labeled as a work of science fiction very early, apparently when it was acquired by Dell. How this label affected reception of the work, for good and ill, is an interesting question. Neither Robert Anton Wilson nor Robert Shea thought of ILLUMINATUS! as a science fiction novel when they were working on it. (See Wilson's article, here.) Was Kurt Vonnegut Jr. a "science fiction writer"?
See also my interview with former Dell editor David Harris, where Harris says that Wilson resisted dividing the book into three volumes, because Wilson apparently did not understand how works of genre science fiction and fantasy, such as trilogies by Jack Vance or Lin Carter, normally are published. Shea gave a speech at the World Science Fiction Convention in Atlanta, while accepting the Prometheus Hall of Fame award, which is only given to works of science fiction. I met Shea once at another worldcon, one that was held in Boston. Wilson also attended at least some science fiction conventions. According to copyeditor Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Wilson once was booked to serve as the guest of honor for a science fiction convention in San Francisco. The event had to be cancelled because of difficulties with the hotel.