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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

'Serpent Power' slims down

One bummer of the 1973 Robert Anton Wilson article I posted yesterday, "Serpent Power," is that it consists of four very large TIFF files. Bobby Campbell has taken those and put them together into one much smaller PDF, about 15 MB -- much easier to download and to deal with. The new and improved download link is here, and I've also changed the link under "Feature Articles and Interviews." (Right click the link to download.) Thanks, Bobby!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tracking down the 'Serpent'

In the "Starseed" chapter of Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, Robert Anton Wilson mentions an article on "Tantric Yoga" that he published in September 1973 in Chicago Seed, an underground newspaper. A footnote explains that the piece is available at Northwestern University's collection of underground newspapers.

When I read that, I wondered if, in the age of the Internet, I could read the piece without having to travel to Chicago.

So I emailed Susan Lewis, a library assistant in the university's Special Collections section, and asked if it would be possible to obtain a PDF.

I got an answer back that the article ran in two issues of Chicago Seed, and for $25, the four pages could be scanned and made available to me.

So I bought them, and I'm making them available to the rest of you. The files (very large TIFF files) are here. I thought it was a good article; what do you think?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A RAW quote from 1973

Here is a quote from Robert Anton Wilson that you quite possibly have never seen before, because it comes from an article in a 1973 underground newspaper, Chicago Seed, and was never reprinted in any of his books:

People believe the damndest things. The average American, for instance, will tell you that torture was used as punishment in the middle ages, but has been abolished since then. He will then walk past a jail without any mental activity or rumination or any variety of dawning awareness that he has been talking nonsense. Locking people in cages is not torture, in the popular estimation. Why? Because only cruel nations in the dim past practiced torture; what we do, today, is by definition not torture. The demand that prisons be abolished only arises from a few eccentric and anarchist thinkers and is regarded as absurd. "But what will we do without jails?" people ask -- just as they once asked other reformers, "But what will we do without thumbscrews and iron boots?"

Or: consider the right to live on the planet. It is popularly believed that feudalism has been abolished; the people who believe it pay their monthly tribute (rent) to the lord-of-the-land, now abbreviated as landlord, just as if feudalism still existed. When really pissed off, they will have a "rent strike," and withhold the rent for a short time, until some "reform" is grudgingly granted. The idea that we have as much right to live on this planet as horses or birds or monkeys do, and don't have to pay anybody anything for that right, does not percolate.

And some even believe that slavery has been abolished. It has -- until the government decides to reinstitute the draft again, which it might at any time.

Tomorrow I will explain how I tracked the article down -- it's called "Serpent Power" -- and post links to download a copy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

R. Michael Johnson on ILLUMINATUS!

R. Michael Johnson has a typically erudite article on ILLUMINATUS! and Robert Anton Wilson's "Guerilla Ontology" at Suite 101. It's a short article written for general readers, but you're likely to learn something, anyway. (I didn't know that Edward Abbott's Flatland influenced the structure of ILLUMINATUS!) Don't forget to do the social media thing (e.g., "liking" it on Facebook) so that the piece can find a few more readers.

Michael also has a piece on Ezra Pound in case you need to brush up on the key RAW influence.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Philosopher Robert Nozick

I don't know whether Robert Anton Wilson and noted libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick knew each other's work; the only item I could find on the Internet pairing them together was a blog post by Julian Sanchez, mourning Nozick's death, one year after Nozick died on Jan. 23, 2002.

Recalling when he heard the news, Sanchez wrote, "A co-worker over at Laissez Faire Books, where I worked then, emailed me from the West Coast office assuming I’d heard, which I hadn’t. My first thought, after sitting stunned for a minute or two, was of Robert Anton Wilson, who has a character in The Illuminatus! Trilogy explain that 'all the great anarchists died on the 23rd day of some month or other…' "

When I recent read an interview with Nozick — conducted, as it happens, by the same Julian Sanchez — I couldn't help but think RAW and Nozick might have had an interesting conversation.

I thought, for example, that Nozick's criticism of Ayn Rand was interesting:

JS: Most of Invariances is asking, in one way or another, “What is truth?” In exploring how we come to know truth, and what sorts of truth we have access to, you seem to make relatively modest claims about the kinds of knowledge, and the kind of certainty, we can hope for.

RN: Evolution plays a large role in my discussion of necessary truths and metaphysical truths, and I ask “why would evolution have endowed us with such powerful cognitive capacities to know about all possibilities?” Maybe evolution just gives us ‘good enough’ theories like Euclidean geometry that are approximately true and able to get us around the world, but when we probe further we discover that they’re not strictly speaking accurate. That question about cognitive capacity connects up with one segment of the libertarian movement: that influenced greatly by Ayn Rand, that has axioms like the law of identity, “A is A” and all that, from which they think conclusions follow that most people, elsewhere in philosophy, don’t think follow from these logical truths.

I take evolution very seriously, and think that the capacities we have, including of apprehending a truth, have been strongly shaped, not to mention created, by evolution. So you could ask: “Why, then, do we have such powerful capacities as to give us these necessary truths, rather than truths that hold roughly and approximately at the actual world, and in similar worlds. The followers of Rand, for example, treat “A is A” not just as “everything is identical to itself” but as a kind of statement about essences and the limits of things. “A is A, and it can’t be anything else, and once it’s A today, it can’t change its spots tomorrow.” Now, that doesn’t follow. I mean, from the law of identity, nothing follows about limitations on change. The weather is identical to itself but it’s changing all the time. The use that’s made by people in the Randian tradition of this principle of logic that everything is identical to itself to place limits on what the future behavior of things can be, or on the future nature of current things, is completely unjustified so far as I can see; it’s illegitimate.

I was also struck by Nozick's distinction between two types of libertarians:

JS: So even if they have good politics, you don’t care much for the Objectivist approach?

RN: I’m going to alienate a number of your book orderers, if I didn’t already with what I said about Rand, but there was something startling about the attraction to non-initiation of force principles that the Randians had, at the same time that they were diligently acting as thought police. Bold entrepreneurs? Yes. But bold exploration of ideas? No.

JS: Why do you think it is that people of generally illiberal temperament would pick up classical liberal ideas? The combination seems mysterious.

RN: It is mysterious. Perhaps it has to do with the two sides of libertarian ideas. There is the boldness and excitement of libertarian ideas, the new possibilities for thinking, and for life in society that they open up, and there also are the sharp, and sharply reasoned, weapons they provide for attacking and even crushing other ideas. So perhaps it is not surprising that libertarianism has attracted two distinct types of temperaments, each one resonating to one of libertarianism’s two different aspects.

It seems to me that Robert Anton Wilson was a good example of the first type of temperament.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Aleister Crowley in 2012

This mock campaign Web site makes the case that despite certain handicaps (he's dead, he's English and he's not running for office) Aleister Crowley deserves your support in the U.S. 2012 election. I like the write-in campaign for Jimmy Page for vice president. And I learned how to pronounce "Crowley." Hat tip: Eva David at

Friday, June 24, 2011

When the Music's Over

When the Music's Over, a science fiction anthology edited by Lewis Shiner, has a good short story by Robert Anton Wilson, "Von Neumann's Second Catastrophe," which as far as I know has never appeared anywhere else.

But that's not the only reason to hunt up a copy. It's a science fiction anthology, mostly originals, devoted to advancing peace and nonviolence. (Shiner donated his proceeds to Greenpeace). Many of the authors from the 1991 book are still major authors in the field -- I'm current reading Cowboy Angels, written by one of the writers here, Paul McAuley. I particularly liked the Bruce Sterling's and Pat Cadigan's stories, but the overall quality is quite good.

One oddity of the book, which I obtained from an Internet used book swapping site, is that many of the authors autographed my copy to "Ed." The autographs were inscribed in May 1991 in Austin. Who is Ed, and how did I wind up with his book?

All of Lewis Shiner's novels are available again, in definitive editions, from Subterranean Press. Shiner's interview with RAW is one of my favorites, and he went out of his way to be helpful when I asked to reprint it here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ezra Pound home for sale

This would make a good museum: A home in Rapallo, Italy, where Ezra Pound once lived is for sale.

Bonus oddball link: Indians infielder Orlando Cabrera is using an Ayn Rand novel to get psyched up for playing a new position. So who in the Tribe lineup reads Noam Chomsky?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The virtue of blood-sucking selfishness

Science fiction writer L. Neil Smith, who has made it clear he was influenced by ILLUMINATUS!, has announced the imminent publication of Sweeter Than Wine, his new "romantic novel of a ethical vampire." If you've been waiting for a novel about a vampire influenced by Ayn Rand, your wait may be over. Information here (scroll down.) To be honest, I find Smith a little strident and ideological, but your mileage may vary.

The announcement of the new novel came from Smith's email list, Group 523.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A few words on Cosmic Trigger

I've been re-reading Cosmic Trigger I, which I think is one of Robert Anton Wilson's best books.

I confess that I've never been a big fan of RAW's crusade against CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal. It seems to me that over the years, CSICOP has fared rather well, and the folks who seek to prove ESP exists haven't made their case. It there really is psychic phenomena, it ought to be able to withstand a little criticism.

So I might not seem to be the right audience for Cosmic Trigger I, which certainly has its share of the paranormal. But instead, I think it is a relentlessly fascinating book. And I think other folks who are a bit skeptical would like it, too.

The physicists mentioned in Sunday's blog post are prominently featured in Cosmic Trigger.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Michael Johnson annotates the new book

[If you missed it, Michael Johnson posted a long comment to Sunday's blog post about How the Hippies Saved Physics, which is literally all about the offbeat physicists in the Bay Area who greatly influenced RAW's thinking. Michael's comment is a useful annotation to the must-read book of the summer, so I am reposting it here everyone will see it -- Tom]

The Physics-Consciousness Research Group. See:

Illuminati Papers: 32 (diagram of "context-dependent language model of Nick Herbert); 56 ( Sarfatti on ETI contactees); pp.94-103

Leary's Info-Psychology: 33 (and 8th circuit); 49 (note Sarfatti in context); 129-131 (written by Nick Herbert)

Cosmic Trigger 2: 257 (Back To The Future best artistic expression of quantum logic: Sarfatti model fro Chris Lloyd); 267-268

Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy: 242 & 314, 426-427 (Herbert's QUIP); 274 (Capra's Tao of Physics); 343-344 (Sarfatti); 345-346 (Sirag's General Field Theory); 540-545

Trajectories May 1982 and Fall 1984: Nick Herbert and Bell's Theorem

Gnosis, Winter 1988-89:(Sarfatti and Faster-Than-Light ideas FTL); Edwin Harris Walker

Coincidance: 153-155 (Walker, Honegger, Sarfatti)

Semiotext(E) SF: 70-72 (Nick Herbert's wild particle physics story that includes RU Sirius)

Omni, Dec, 1979, "UFO Update" (Sirag's conjecture about time travellers)

Prometheus Rising: acknowledgment page: Sirag, Sarfatti, Herbert, who "clarified (RAW's) whole comprehension of epistemology;" 41 (and 8CB model); 183 (Barbara Honegger: cave paintings & 5th circuit yogic/shamanic brain: 30K yrs ago); 204 (Honegger's theory of synchroncity); 267-269 (Bell's Theorem and Sarfatti,

Mavericks of the Mind: 67-88 (Nick Herbert); 124 (Honegger); 125 (Walker)

Chaos and Beyond: 232-235 (review of Fred Alan Wolf's Eagle's Quest)

Everything Is Under Control: 138 (Sarfatti)

New Libertarian magazine Interview, 4/10-77: two pages on magick and quantum mechanics. Sarfatti as the head of the PCRG. RAW recommends Space-Time and Beyond, by Bob Toben, but Sarfatti says the ideas are his?

for another view of Sarfatti, see him as a North Beach denizen (San Francisco) in Herbert Gold's book on Behemia

Email To The Universe: 41 (Capra and Herbert); 244 (group mentioned); 223 (Mishlove might have been PCRG)

Michael Hollingshead interview (High Times?): RAW says he's the PCRG's "chief literary spokesman;" RAW talks about physicists who've used LSD

Wilhelm Reich In Hell: 33 (Capra and "fundamental holism")

see Sarfatti in Imaginary Weapons, pp.11-14

see Kripal's book on Esalen: 291-314 (Capra, Stapp, Sarfatti, F.A. Wolf, Nick Hergbert, Gary Zukav)

New Libertarian mag, RAW interview, 9/5/76: RAW recommends recent issue of Spit In The Ocean, for Sirag and Sarfatti on quantum consciousness Sarfatti as a "skeptical contactee"

Eight Circuit Brain by Antero Alli: 293-294 (mentions Saraffti and Sirag at RAW's salons in Berkeley hills, 1979)

I could list more if anyone's innarested.

Were they related to the SRI group with Targ and Puhoff: Scientologists? Who funded them? What role might Werner Erhard have played? How close was Ira Einhorn to the group?

How influential was Stapp? How did Barbara Honegger make it into the Reagan Administration? She wrote the first book titled October Surprise.

RAW had mentioned a few times that he sometimes played with the idea that he had been a "useful idiot" to the CIA or some other group.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

RAW's friends, the hippie physicists

Today's New York Times Book Review prints a review of a new book, How the Hippies Saved Physics, a book by David Kaiser about "Science, Counterculture and the Quantum Revival."

The review is accompanied by a photograph of Jack Sarfatti, Saul-Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert and Fred Wolf. Anyone who has read Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger and some of RAW's other works will recognize some of these names. [Update: I checked, and all of the people in the photograph are mentioned in Cosmic Trigger. Saul-Paul Sirag, in fact, wrote an Afterword for the book.]

The reviewer in the Times, George Johnson, finds the book a very entertaining read but says none of these physicists contributed very much to science.

Can't wait to read the book. Thanks to Supergee for pointing it out to me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Canadian rapper

Canadian rapper Noah23, on his influences: " “But yeah, William Burroughs and Ginsberg, Wu-Tang, Robert Anton Wilson, Bob Dylan, LSD, mushrooms, reggae, Bud­dhism, anarchy and alchemy are my favourite influences, ha ha.”

More here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Library buys Timothy Leary papers

The New York Times reports that the New York Public LIbrary has paid $900,000 for Timothy Leary's papers. (Some of the money is being donated back to cover the cost of organizing them.) People wanting to look at them (for example, to see what light they shed on his friend Robert Anton Wilson) will have to wait 18 to 24 months, the piece says.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

RAW on Aleister Crowley

[This essay/book review is one element in a group of documents that Mike Gathers sent to me and gave me permission to reprint on this blog. It appeared in Gnostica, Vol. 5, No. 4 (#40) in 1976 -- Tom]

THE LORD OF FORCE AND FIRE: A Review of "The Law is For All."

By Aleister Crowley
Llewellyn Books, 360 pp., $7.95

A physicist named Saul Paul Sirag recently told me a somewhat thought-provoking anecdote about Uri Geller. Saul Paul, who was involved peripherally in the investigation of Geller at Stanford Research Institute, went to see Geller one evening in an expanded-consciousness state. He asked Uri, "While I'm in this state, can I see SPECTRA?"

(SPECTRA, of course, is the alleged extraterrestrial intelligence communicating through Geller.)

"Look into my eyes and wait," said Uri.

Saul Paul looked -- and Uri's whole head turned into the head of a hawk.

I draw no moral from this episode and I certainly do not think that it proves anything. Saul Paul, a very skeptical scientist, would certainly howl with rage if anybody claimed such an anecdote is "proof" of anything.

Nontheless, something is certainly suggested, and the unconscious senses a resonance. The suggestion grows more interesting when one learns that Dr. Andrija Pujarich also encountered SPECTRA in the form of a hawk while visiting Uri Geller in Israel. Dr. Pujarich's account of these encounters (there were several) is in his book, Uri. It is impossible that Saul Paul Sirag' s experience was the result of auto-suggestion brought on by reading Pujarich's similar experience. Saul Paul did not read about Pujarich's SPECTRA-hawk until months after his own vision.

Of course, every parapsychological investigation turns up a few similarly bizarre episodes; but scientists do not generally write them up. They are "anecdotal, not statistical, and not under laboratory control," and therefore prove nothing. The trouble is that (as Jung knew) they haunt the people involved, sometime for years, and often key off abrupt "spiritual" or behavioral mutations. Like UFO "contactees" or LSD users, people who've had this type of archetypal encounter often feel that they have been touched by a higher intelligence.

It happened to Aleister Crowley in Cairo in 1904 when "the world was destroyed by fire," as he said later. On the tangible level, Crowley came out of the experience with a book which most people think was written by him but which he always insisted was dictated to him.

The book, Liber Al vel Legis or The Book of the Law, announces that the Equinox of the Gods has come, that the age of the Dying God, Osiris, is over, and that we are entering the age of Horus, the Hawk-headed Lord of Force and Fire.


Worse (or better). Horus himself speaks in the last chapter of Liber Al and tells us, in no uncertain terms:

Now let it first be understood that I am a god of War and Vengeance. I shall deal hardly with them ...

I will give you a war-engine ...

Sacrifice cattle, little and big, after a child ...

Deem not too eagerly to catch the promises; fear not to undergo the curses. Ye, even ye, know not this meaning all ...

I am the Warrior Lord of the Forties; the Eighties cower before me and are abased ...

Even the most resolute skeptic must grant that this is not bad as prophecy of the twentieth century, for a manuscript produced in 1904. When one learns further that the book is full of Cabalistic cryptograms built on the number 93, one may be more impressed, for the ninety-third element, plutonium, is the trigger of the mightiest war-engine of all, the hydrogen bomb. It is not far-fetched to think that some people, over-given to what the Sufis call "the vice of literalness" may be following the instruction to "sacrifice cattle, little and big" in order to prepare for the apotheosis of the Hawk-headed God in the Eighties.

The Law Is for All is a collection of all of Crowley's commentaries on The Book of the Law, together with a long and determinedly commonsense introduction by Dr. Israel Regardie, certainly the sanest and most scientific of Crowley's expositors. (I'm not sure it would be accurate to call him a "disciple.")

Dr. Regardie is most concerned with demonstrating the extent to which the book was produced by Crowley's "unconscious," or by an aspect of his unconscious. He is careful not to deny that some other, more esoteric entity might have influenced or "inspired" Crowley's unconscious; but the tendency of his interpretation remains "reductionist" or, at least, psychogenic. He emphatically rejects the interpretation of Mr. Kenneth Grant, self-declared successor to Crowley as Outer Head of the Ordo Templi Orientis, who holds that the book was actually transmitted to Crowley by an extraterrestrial from the system of the dog star, Sirius.

I have been so presumptuous as to dissent from Dr. Regardie's emphasis, in correspondence with him. Both his view and Grant's are equally true, I suggested: that is, the aspect of Crowley's unconscious through which the book was given to us might be "extraterrestrial," if we accept the thought that part of the Terran unconscious is itself extraterrestrial. (The "extraterrestrial unconscious" is described, under that name, in the recent writings of Dr. Kenneth Ring. It also appears, called "the metaphysical circuit," in the neuropsychology of Dr. Timothy Leary, and as the "+3" mental state in the works of Dr. John Lilly. If the DNA itself is of extraterrestrial origin, as suggested by DNA's co-discoverer, Sir Francis Crick, Terran physiology, neurology and psychology would all have latent components of a cosmic, unearthly aspect.)

Dr. Regardie replied to this argument with a sentence only a high adept could write: "All explanations are true simultaneously."

Crowley's own commentary approaches this mystery in typically hermetic and elusive language, defining the communicating entity as "the 'Babe in the Egg of Blue' ... not merely the God of Silence in a conventional sense. He represents the Higher Self, the Holy Guardian Angel ... Almost identical symbols are those of the secret God of the Templars, the bisexual Baphomet, and of Zeus Arrhenothelus, equally bisexual, the Father-Mother of All in One Person ... But the 'small person' of Hindu mysticism, the dwarf insane yet crafty of many legends in many lands, is also this same 'Holy Ghost' or Silent Self of a man, or his Holy Guardian Angel." Is that quite clear, class?

Modern neurology, of course, recognizes a Silent Self, a "bisexual" Higher Self, in a sense. This is associated with the usually silent right lobe of the brain, called the Silent Lobe, which becomes mysteriously active in yogis, LSD-users, persons who score high on ESP tests and (oddly) musicians. It is associated with the idea of "polymorphous perverse," in the stilted language of Freud and Norman O. Brown; that of "hedonistic," "Tantric" and "rapture-prone," in less Teutonic definitions; "childish" and "playful" in Taoist descriptions; "just like ordinary life, but one foot above the ground" in the famous Zen metaphor; and it is evidently highly active whenever magick (i.e., ESP or PK) is being done.

(Readers interested in more details about the Silent Lobe should consult Robert Ornstein's Psychology of Consciousness and Timothy Leary's Neurologic.)

The paradox is that the Silent Lobe is both more "spiritual" and more "animalistic" than the usually-dominant left lobe, where our linear-logical processes occur. It both turns one on to "subtle" energies ("astral" bodies, "auras" etc.) and also tunes one in to abnormal awareness of one's own body, the bodies of others and our evolutionary (animal) heritage. With the Silent Lobe speaking, one does not need to read Darwin to understand that one is the descendant of three-and-a-half billion years of mammals, reptiles and fish. Indeed, it was almost certainly this Silent Lobe experience which gave Sufis and yogis their marvelous insights into evolutionary process 1,000 or 2,000 years before Darwin.

If the cataclysm of Cairo, 1904, was this turning on of the Silent Lobe of Aleister Crowley, his subsequent identification as The Great Beast is no huge mystery. The Great Beast is the end product of evolution, the mind that knows itself to stand midway between animal and divinity, ready to leap from Earth to the stars. Or, to say it another way, the Great Beast is the DNA code become conscious through a human being, the only Earth-creature who thus far can become conscious of it.

Crowley, indeed, points directly to the DNA as the source of his inspiration, using the best language available to him before the work of Crick and Watson. He calls is "the talisman," the secret Lord of Force and Fire within the spermatozoa, and he insists on its immortality: "It stands plain, even to skeptical reason -- indeed, most of all to the skeptic -- that our talisman, one microscopic serpent of which can build for itself such a house as to rule men's bodies for a generation like Alexander, or their minds for an epoch like Plato, cannot be destroyed or diminished by any conceivable force." In his Magical Diaries, the same thought is expressed even more strikingly: "The subconscious mind is aware of its own immortality." The subconscious, the DNA mind, Jung's "collective unconscious," Leary's "neurogenetic archives," -- the Great Beast, the Lord of Force and Fire, the "dwarf insane but crafty," Pan, and all of Crowley's other poetic metaphors for the intelligence communicating through him.

The Book of the Law communicates this sexual-evolutionary secret in its very structure. The three chapters are image-glyphs of 0, 1 and 2. Zero, speaking in the first chapter, is Nuit, or Naught, or Night, namely Samadhi, the obliteration of normal consciousness by the DNA-mind: the highest peak of human awareness. One, speaking in the second chapter, is Hadit, the serpent, kundalini, the trance of unity, or dhyana, midway between normal consciousness and Samadhi.

Two, speaking (and not speaking) in the third chapter, is the Horus twins: Ra-Hoor-Khuit (the active, or yang, left lobe) and Hoor-Pa-Kraat (the silent, or yin, right lobe): normal, dualistic conciousness.

But, as the similar symbolism of Crowley's Book of Lies makes overt, 0 is also the vagina, 1 the penis, and 2 the testicles, and the great magick number 012 is a glyph of coitus. Only when ordinary consciousness explodes in the shock of orgasm does the normal primate, Homo Sapiens, catch a glimpse of the DNA-mind, the Holy Guardian Angel, Shiva Dancing. (The notorious "secret" of the IXth degree of the Ordo Templi Orientis was that the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel is most likely to be successful if performed during actual coitus.) That this is already coded into The Book of the Law, 1904, and that Crowley only consciously learned the secret from the O.T.O. in 1912, are just other spooky things that happen when the Silent Lobe begins to "speak."

Of course, all of this is quite traditional and ordinary -- the trans-time perspectives of the Silent Lobe were well-explored in India and the Near East millennia ago, and even the sex-magick techniques which made Crowley so controversial in his own time are merely a revival of ancient lore, as can be seen in Payne-Knight's History of the Worship of Priapus and Thomas Wright's Worship of the Generative Organs, two anthropological classics which Crowley always recommended to his students.

What is new, and alarming, about The Book of the Law, and most central to Crowley's commentaries, is the Law of Thelema -- "Do what thou wilt." "Thou has no right but to do thy will." "There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt." Even this is hardly astonishing; is is the way most aristocracies and ruling elites have always acted, while preaching humility and submission to the masses. What is new and what is stressed in the title Dr. Regardie set upon these commentaries is the universalization of this Herrenmoral. "The law is for all," not just the elite. That is the shocker.

What the book seems to advocate goes beyond Nietzsche's intellectualized Social Darwinism, beyond the philosophical egotism of Max Stirner and Ayn Rand, beyond even the wildest flights of de Sade. It is not necessarily advocating the Hobbesian "war of all against all" (see below) but it is definitely a total, complete, unmitigated renunciation of all morality.

Now, I for one have never found this particularly frightening. It is an open secret, carefully hidden from the young but easily discoverable if one peeks into postgraduate texts on social science, that there is no rational basis for preferring any tribe's morality to any other tribe's morality. All are equally arbitrary, capricious and, at least partially, absurd. The morality of Roman Catholics or Fijians or communists or academic humanists or vegetarians is precisely as sensible, and as silly, as the morality of Confucians or snake-worshippers or Samoans or fascists. People will accept any one of these moralities if they have been conditioned to accept it since childhood, and can immediately see how absurd each taboo-system is if they have not been conditioned to it. To be truly educated, in the twentieth century, is to understand this central fact of anthropology, however one chooses to cope with it.

Of course, few have fully adapted to this shocking revelation (just as few have adapted yet to the 100-year-old Darwinian discovery that we are all mammals.) It is particularly amusing that Marxists and liberal humanists -- whose philosophies of dialectical materialism and scientific relativism leave no room at all for absolute morality in the old sense -- are still quite indignant whenever their own value-system is violated. Most intellectuals, indeed, recoil from the facts of cultural relativism as vehemently as any hard-shell Baptist; they cling to some traditional morality, usually the one in which they were raised by their parents, as if to say, "If reason leads us to amorality, to hell with reason!" In view of Buchenwald and Hiroshima, Vietnam and Watergate, there is certainly something to be said for that position.

Nonetheless, we can certainly not be very intelligent, and possibly we cannot even be sane, if we refuse to accept what we know is the truth. However fearful we may be, it might be wise to try facing up to a post-relativistic universe and seeing what we can do about living with the facts. This, evidently, is what The Book of the Law urges and what Crowley bravely attempted to do in the various commentaries collected in The Law Is for All.

In the first place, if there is no absolute morality, mankind yet needs some kind of code to regulate its interactions. (Without rules of the game, we cannot play together, as Alan Watts so charmingly said.) The Book of the Law gives us a possible standard for negotiation, a new basis for judgment: the individual will. "Thou has no right but to do thy will. Do this, and no other shall say nay. For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect."

As Crowley comments, "In practise it is found that those who are willing to fight for their rights are respected, and let alone. The slave-spirit invites oppression." This is a hard doctrine, certainly, but history seems to bear it out. As Robert Heinlein once pointed out, when men fought duels at the slightest affront, there was a much higher standard of courtesy than at present. This is not to invite an elite of alleged supermen to exploit all and sundry, as Nietzsche's system does (or is alleged to do.) "The law is for all." If The Book of the Law does not check A's mammalian tendency to exploit or abuse B by frightening A with a bogey called Morality, it must certainly check A by encouraging B to defend his turf, "by any means necessary," as Chairman Mao used to say.

And does this mean that all conflicts of interest (or opinion) are to be settled by force, by the mightiest "war-engine"? Here we enter the center of the Crowleyan dialectic and confront the paradox of Thelema. I propose that general acceptance of the Thelemic standard would lead to much less violence, not to more.

Is is possible? Or am I just engaging in complicated sophistry? Let us see.

Outside of Machiavelli and the Klingons on Star Trek, one is hard put to name any predators who justified themselves on the blunt grounds, "It is my Will to conquer and exploit you." On the contrary, the most vicious and murderous behavior is virtually always "justified" by some form of tribal morality -- spreading the True Religion, or maintaining Racial Purity, or defending National Security, or some such pompous rationalization. This hypocrisy may be more necessary than we generally realize. It may be impossible to organize even so small a crime as a lynching without some such moralistic balderdash. Certainly it is hard to see how you could get a million men into an army, and march them off to a place where they will attempt to kill another million, who will meanwhile be trying to kill them, on the grounds that "It is my will to have a war next Tuesday." It always seems necessary to tell them "That gang over there needs to be punished for its sins" -- for being Moslems, or Communists, or something foreign.

Certainly, if everybody who was starting a great enterprise, whether a war or something else, were to announce, "It is my will to start such-and-such a project; come along now, you guys," the natural tendency would be to ask, "Is it my will to go along with this -- or would I rather stay where I am and carry out my own will?" Run your eye back over the worst wars, crusades and inquisitions of history, and ask if they could have been organized and carried out among people who accepted the Law of Thelema. It does seem that most of them required a population brainwashed into believing they had a "duty" to obey certain "moral" demands laid upon them by leaders allegedly inspired by God or by history or by some resonant abstraction of that sort.

It is even hard to see how the Law of Thelema, universally applied, would lead to more homicides on an individual basis than we have at present. It can never be A's true will to see B dead; only false ethical teachings and hypocrisy can make it seem that way to A. If A is a true Thelemite, he will know, long before any homicidal thought can enter his head, that he wants B to cease certain behaviors that oppress or annoy him. If A is a true Thelemite, B will not have to guess that A is harboring such thoughts; B will know in no uncertain terms. As in the days of duello, this can only lead to a higher general standard of courtesy and more consideration all around. People only abuse one another as they do nowadays because they think they can get away with it.

Of course, it still remains that it might be A's will to steal B's car. What of it? As de Sade pointed out in his remorselessly logical way, general acceptance of this philosophy may be the best way to ensure an equitable distribution of property. Some of us -- as Max Stirner argued -- would certainly find this preferable to the tyranny and bureaucracy of a socialist state.

In terms of personal mental hygiene, Thelemic thinking is undoubtedly healthier than all traditional morality. If you recognize that your latest problem is totally without "moral" significance -- for instance, you have a disease which you can't, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, blame on anybody -- then it's just a question of coping with the situation as best you can. When you finally realize that people are on the same natural evolutionary continuum with bacteria and wild animals, then you can begin to deal with hostile humans the same way you deal with infections or four-legged predators -- rationally, without claiming you're "right" or they're "wrong." This discourages cruel fanaticism, and encourages sane horse-trading. It is then that one fully appreciates the great liberation implicit in Crowley's "Do What Thou Wilt" and becomes free, really free, instead of being an unwilling actor in a soap opera written by the superstitious barbarians who created morality 30,000 years ago. You are also free of anger, hatred and resentment -- which are great burdens to drop. They live happiest who have understood and forgiven all.

It is in the sexual area, of course, that Crowley's teachings are most beneficial. Almost all the sexual misery and impotence on this backward planet results from sexual morality -- except for the small fraction caused by war wounds (and even war may be the result of sexual frustration caused by stupid morality, as Wilhelm Reich argued.) Surely, the aeon-old exploitation of women would have been impossible without morality, as Crowley argues in some of the bitterest and funniest passages in these commentaries. Just as surely, every idiocy that has grafted itself onto the Women's Liberation movement is another form of morality.

It is in the sexual area that we can most clearly see that the main effect of morality has been to make people more cruel and stupid. Read up on the persecution of any sexual minority -- the homosexuals, the fetishists or whoever -- and you will find it hard to attribute sanity to the human race any longer. Crowley, who sees this with a deadly accuracy, also sees that any minority, if armed with morality and a sense of its own "righteousness," can become as vicious as any majority. His warnings against the excesses of Gay Pride, although written in the 1920s, seem prophetic of some of the idiocies currently infesting avante-garde life in America.

Crowley interprets the Law of Thelema literally, logically, consistently. The gay have the right to be gay; the straight, to be straight; the promiscuous, to be promiscuous; the monogamous, to be monogamous; the virgin, to be virgin. "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." It is hard to find another sexual revolutionary who isn't pushing one preferred mode at the expense of the others, and thus bringing in the cruel "old morality" again in a new guise.

But all this is the sociological, surface aspect of the Book of the Law. More crucial, as we approach the apotheosis of the eighties, is the growing manifestation of the forces that Crowley either transmitted or created. Just to make a list of Aleister Crowley's major teachings or obsessions, all of them linked to the prophecies in the Book, is to describe the major cultural and intellectual revolutions of our time.

He sought to revive Paganism, as the native Western mystical tradition equivalent to yoga; and the new Paganism is everywhere. He opposed Christianity in general and Christian sexual morality in particular; and Christianity, especially its sexual morality, is everywhere in contemptible decline. He rediscovered the use of psychedelic drugs for consciousness expansion; and these drugs played the major, acknowledged role in the artistic innovations of the sixties and are now playing a major, but unacknowledged, role in the scientific breakthroughs of the seventies. He favored the Tarot and I Ching as divinatory methods, and these are the most popular divinations around these days, although the Tarot was practically forgotten in his day and the I Ching nearly unknown in the West. He brilliantly anticipated the liberation of women (despite his own ambiguous attitudes on the subject, the result of negative female imprints from his Fundamentalist mother); and the liberation of women is now re-making everything from the sciences to business. He predicted that contact with nonhuman intelligences would soon revolutionize all our thinking; and several sober scientists are now claiming communication with dolphins, with plants, with extraterrestrials and with a variety of "entities" impossible to categorize in our traditional terms.

Crowley also foreshadowed the revolution in epistemology -- the decline of Aristotelian logic, the coming of quantum theory, Cantor's transfinite numbers, Goedel's proof, relativity, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Bohr's complimentarity, even Bell's theorem. He predicted repeatedly that the fear of death would cease by the end of the twentieth century, and geneticists are now talking about biological immortality, parapsychologists of survival beyond the body. (My own estimate, based on conversations with some of the brightest young researchers, is that by 1990 we will have either longevity and the first step toward biological immortality, or proof of survival after the death of the body, or, quite likely, both. What will people find to worry about after that?)

All of this is implicit in the symbolism of Crowley's Equinox of the Gods -- the change-over from the Aeon of Osiris, the dying God, to the Aeon of Horus, the Lord of Force and Fire who dies not. Remember the explanation of those mysterious hawks associated with Uri Geller (and Dr. Pujarich, although he never mentions Crowley's prophecies, appropriately called the hawk that visited him in Israel "Horus.") The powers that Crowley transmitted and aided are quite clearly more powerful on this planet today than they were when Crowley himself died, in poverty and obscurity, in 1947.

Nobody who wants to understand the mutation occurring among the domesticated primates of Terra can afford to ignore the prophecies and visions, the wit and logic, of The Law Is for All.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Remembering RAW

I finally got a chance to listen to Robert Anton Wilson Remembered, the new spoken word audio recording that Joseph Matheny put together and has just released.

It's rather short for an audiobook — one hour and 17 minutes — but it only set me back $4. I thought I got my $4 worth. I enjoyed the pieces by Douglas Rushkoff, Antero Alli, Tiffany Lee Brown and David Brown. I guess I'm not on Zac Odin's wavelength. The Joseph Matheny piece was pleasant, but I already knew the good parts from reading what he wrote on the Internet when he released the liner notes for Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Session, which I also enjoyed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bloomsday on Twitter

June 16 is Bloomsday, celebrated by fans of Ulysses by James Joyce.

This year, the event is being celebrated by a "performance" on Twitter. Information here and here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reading 'Gulliver's Travels'

Just finished re-reading Gulliver's Travels. Not sure I'll follow Robert Anton Wilson's example of reading all of Swift's works, but I like Gulliver very much.

I read Gulliver for the first time in the 1980s, when I belonged to a book club for couples back in Oklahoma. We would all agree to read a book and then discuss it the next month. I remember I talked them into reading Gulliver's Travels, and I loved it, and I was very excited looking forward to the discussion. To my chagrin, when we assembled, I discovered nobody else had bothered to finish it. There wasn't much of a discussion.

Re-reading it this time turned inadvertently into an experiment on the best way to read a public domain book if you don't have a dedicated electronic book reader. I started out reading it on my cell phone, in QiOO format. Then I read it on a Web browser, on Google Books. Finally, I finished it as an EPUB downloaded from Project Gutenberg, read on my laptop. That was the best -- big, easy to read type and good bookmarking.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I hear from 'Alien Code'

I have been re-reading Cosmic Trigger I, one of my favorites, which as you'll recall is largely about possible contacts with alien intelligences. (RAW is careful not to provide any absolute answers. This didn't save him from being an object of fun in Charles Platt's Dream Makers, but really,I think it's an awesome fun.

Anyway, I'm struck by the fact that I'm more than 100 pages into the book, and my Twitter account (@jacksontom) is now being followed by @Alien_Code_2020, who explains in the profile, "After a near death experience on 22 Jan 2010 and huge Supernatural encounter on May 1, 2010, I have been receiving messages about the truth. Please Re-tweet :)" (Aliens are going to contact Earth on July 1, 2020. You'll learn other stuff, too.)

Coincidence, you say? Alien Code begs to differ. "There are NO co-incidences... TIMING is Everything." (May 8).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Douglas Rushkoff book available free

Author Douglas Rushkoff reports that his audiobook, "Rushkoff Live: A Talk Based on Life Inc." normally $10, is available free "for a limited time." He doesn't say what the limit is, but if you want a copy, I'd go here pretty quickly.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Basic income enters political discussion in Germany

Over at, Sue Howard notes that there is a best-selling book in Germany titled (in English translation) "1,000 Euro for everyone. Freedom. Equality. Basic income." (The German title is "1.000 Euro für Jeden: Freiheit. Gleichheit. Grundeinkommen", by Götz W Werner and Adrienne Goehler.) Sue links this to Robert Anton Wilson's advocacy of basic income, for example in "The RICH Economy" in The Illuminati Papers.

Sue links to an article in Spiked about the proposal, commenting, "The first half of the review I go along with, pretty much. The second half seems, to me, a sort of logical travesty. Non sequitur in great abundance. But worth a read to see the weird forms that reactions to Basic Income take."

R. Michael Johnson, in reply, says this group "also seem resonant to RAW's economics."

In the U.S., to the extant that this is discussed at all, the proposal is linked to Milton Friedman's proposed negative income tax. The negative income tax recently has been advocated by Will Wilkinson, the liberaltarian commentator. I asked Wilkinson for an interview via e-mail, and he agreed, but alas I never succeeded in getting him to actually answer my questions.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

RAW vs. the Velvet Underground

There's an old joke that only a few thousand people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but that all of them went out and started their own rock and roll bands.

I sometimes think that Robert Anton Wilson has the same effect on readers. Not everyone who reads him becomes a published novelist, of course, but all of the RAW-fans that I can think of are writers in some fashion or another. (And indeed, RAW was a writer for years before he became a "novelist.) Eric Wager is a poet and an author, R. Michael Johnson is an essayist ("blogger" doesn't really capture it), many SF writers such as L. Neil Smith cite him as an influence, etc. etc. Rumor has it that there's even an obsessive-compulsive nut out there who does a blog devoted entirely to RAW.

Latest example: Here is an article about a new "zombie apocalypse novel" from Jean-Paul Corriveau. "His interest in literature started around the same time he read "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and some of H.P. Lovecraft's writings. Later in high school, he found spiritual fraternity in Robert Anton Wilson's quantum psychology philosophies."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why 'Email to the Universe' is so good

Robert Anton Wilson's last book, 2005's Email to the Universe, is a very strong collection of essays and short pieces. It's a great exit.

The quality of the work might count as a bit of a surprise. The last novel, Nature's God, has many fine passages but is not his best work of fiction, and the penultimate book, 2002's TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, likewise is a fun read but not at the level of, say, the Cosmic Trigger books. Wilson had serious health issues the last years of a life, and although he heroically kept writing, his best work came earlier.

It seems likely that one reason why Email to the Universe is strong is because it drew from, the site put together by the efforts of Mike Gathers.

Gathers explains, “RMJon [R. Michael Johnson] and I always assumed that Wilson got many of the essays for _eMail_ from the fans website, but that's just speculation our parts - although it scores pretty high on my MaybeLogic scale... Over half of the essays in the book were ones that we had converted from print to digital and put up on the website, a couple were already posted on the MLA site, and a couple more were ones I found out in the remote corners of the internet and linked into the fans site.”

He adds, “I built the fan site based on the old FAQAFUQ that Marc ’elmyr’ Lutter developed in collaboration with the regulars at back around 1999. Using that as a base, I added the “A/V lounge” section with several tracks from _The Chocolate Biscuit Consipracy_ found on Napster. regulars Clore, Wagner, RMJon, and BS have all contributed paper copies of essays and/or digitizing articles collected here and there, and I’ve received contributions from a wide variety of folks who found the site and wanted to add to the collection. In 2009, Alterati/Hukilau graciously began hosting the site and I’ve fallen seriously behind on updates, but one of these days I will refresh the links and someday even give it a makeover so it doesn’t look like such a relic from the early 90s.”
Temple Illuminatus

Via Twitter, I discovered an outfit called Temple Illuminatus, who say they are the home of the "Neo-Illuminati." I don't know much about these folk, but there's lot of Robert Anton Wilson material there. On Twitter, they tend to send out inspirational quotes, e.g. on Tuesday it was, "There is no right path. Only the one that allows you to sleep soundly and wake up excited." -- Jennifer Louden.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ivan Stang's blog

I moved to the Cleveland area in 2003, so I'm sorry to report that I only discovered a few months ago that Cleveland is the world headquarters of the Church of the Subgenius.

The Rev. Ivan Stang, founder and leader of the group, has a blog.

In his Oct. 3, 2006, entry, "Time to Repay RA Wilson for All the Slack," Stang wrote, "I have said many times to interviewers that were it not for Robert Anton Wilson (and the late great Robert Shea, who co-wrote Illuminatus), there would be no Church of the SubGenius."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Context for RAW's Dylan diss

In an earlier post, I remarked on RAW's amusing, wrongheaded criticism of one of my favorite musicians, Bob Dylan. (From the 1976 "New Libertarian Notes" interview, one of RAW's best interviews: "Dylan seems to me a totally pernicious influence -- the nasal whine of death and masochism. Certainly, this would be a more cheerful world if there were no Dylan records in it. But Dylan and his audience mirror each other, and deserve each other; as Marx said, a morbid society creates its own morbid grave-diggers."

Who knew that I'm a "morbid grave digger?" Do I have to put away my copies of Bringing It All Back Home and Nashville Skyline? But it gets better.

On May 24, Bob Dylan's 70th birthday (a world-historical event, obviously), I sent friendly greetings to various fellow Bobby Zimmerman fans, including Jesse Walker. My Twitter-note to Walker said, "Happy Bob Dylan's birthday! I thought RAW's diss of him was surprising, but funny."

Walker replied, "He was echoing Timothy Leary's attack on Dylan in National Review, which Leary later repudiated. I wonder if RAW changed his mind too."

Who knew that Timothy Leary wrote for "National Review"?

I searched on Google for more information on the article, and found a review in 2006, in "The American Conservative," of Robert Greenfield's Leary biography, written by one Jesse Walker.

The whole piece is worth reading, and it does supply an explanation for Leary's piece. It turns out that Leary needed to get out of jail and show that he was "rehabilitated," so he wrote the article to prove that he wasn't a dangerous hippie anymore.

Walker says of the Leary piece, "Pages of bile were directed at Bob Dylan and his 'snarling, whining, scorning, mocking' songs. At one point Leary declared, 'Squeaky Fromme stands in a Sacramento courtroom … for believing exactly what [Dylan] told her in the Sixties' and blamed her attempted assassination of Gerald Ford on the fact that 'she was unlucky enough to have owned a record player in her vulnerable adolescence.' "

Lord, Lord, so she shot Gerald Ford down.

It seems likely that RAW read the "National Review" piece by his buddy Leary shortly before the "New Libertarian Notes" interview. Does anyone know if RAW ever warmed to Dylan?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bobby Campbell connects the dots

Bobby Campbell's comment to my recent Grant Morrison posting is so interesting I want to turn it into a blog posting, in case anyone missed it:

Here's a fun little game of connect the dots I like to play...

"Illuminatus!" seems to have obviously influenced "The Invisibles," and "The Invisibles" seems to have obviously influenced "The Matrix."

"It's really simple. The truth of that one is that design staff on The Matrix were given Invisibles collections and told to make the movie look like my books. This is a reported fact." - Grant Morrison

He elucidates further:

An interesting exercise in iteration!

Friday, June 3, 2011

New RAW audiobook

But not by Robert Anton Wilson, but about him.
Robert Anton Wilson Remembered, published by the folks at Hukilau, features Douglas Rushkoff, Antero Alli, Tiffany Brown, David Brown, Zac Odin, Joseph Matheny and Alan Meridian. The list price is $6.99, but it's $3.99 via Amazon. Length, 1 hour and 17 minutes. I haven't had a chance to hear it yet.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Some housekeeping notes

The "Feature Articles and Interviews" section of the blog, probably the best part, had a couple of broken links; I have gone through and tested them all and fixed the two that were broken. They should all be working now. (Again, the idea is to provide useful material that hasn't been reprinted at yet.)

I know I probably have some broken links in the other blog entries; if you notice one, email me (with a link to the offending entry) and I will fix it.

For that matter, I also welcome emails with news tips, information on unpublished RAW material, etc.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Christian Crusade

Although I was born in California and have lived in Ohio for years, I consider myself an Oklahoman, because I lived in Oklahoma for most of my life. I think of Tulsa as my hometown, because I grew up there. I've yet to talk about the glancing mention that ILLUMINATUS! gives to the Sooner State, but I'll do so now.

On page 128, ILLUMINATUS! mentions publications such as Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles and Rhythm, Riots and Revolution, put out by "the Christian Crusade in Tulsa, Okla." The novel says these are books put out after the anti-Illuminati folks feed information to the Christian Crusade through "third parties" about the Illuminati's nefarious use of pop music.

The publications mentioned in ILLUMINATUS! may sound like satire, but they are real, and so was the Christian Crusade; I once went to a service as part of a religious studies class at my Unitarian church, and I knew a kid in junior high who went there. The church, explicitly anti-Communist, was led by an evangelist named Billy James Hargis. An excerpt from the Wikipedia biography: "He preached on the evils of sex education and Communism, and urged the return of prayer and Bible reading to public schools long before the modern Religious Right. He accused the government, media and pop culture figures — among whom he included the Beatles — of promoting (directly or indirectly) Communism. (A subordinate, Rev. David Noebel, was the author of the 1965 work Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles, which he expanded into Rhythm, Riots and Revolution the following year. Both pamphlets were published by Christian Crusade.)"

Hargis' career was undone by a sex scandal; one young couple, on their wedding night, allegedly realized that Hargis had slept with both of them.

More true Oklahoma facts: the Legislature for years had a Democratic member named John Monks, who warned that when Communists take over a country, the first thing they do is outlaw cockfighting.

Cockfighting was finally outlawed in Oklahoma a few years ago, so perhaps the Communists finally won. Then again, it seems unlikely that the Republican majority in the Legislature and the Republican governor would look the other way if radicals took over. Years ago, when I was a political reporter, the Legislature approved a bill to make Woody Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills" the official state folk song. The great folk singer was an Oklahoma native, and the bill was requested by the small town of Okemah, where Guthrie was born.

The idea, in other words, was to aid tourism -- Okemah has an annual Woody Guthrie folk festival -- but many Republicans in the Oklahoma House voted against the bill, because they could not bring themselves to vote for a "Red" like Woody Guthrie.