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.