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Friday, July 15, 2011

Hlavaty the Horrible (Example)

One of the favorites around these parts, Supergee, writes about the time Robert Anton Wilson used him as a "horrible example."

The reference was in Wilson's Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy. Wilson wrote, "Although I do not agree with the almost Manichean attitude of critic Arthur Hlavaty, who regards nature as a combination of slaughterhouse and madhouse against which, by great effort, a few human beings have created a few enclaves of reason and decency, I do agree with, e.g., Nietszche, La0-Tse, and the authors of the Upanishads, all of whom held that nature or existence combines so many diverse elements that we cannot judge or measure or compare it with anything, and cannot describe it as a whole except in contraditions." (Toward the beginning of the section entitled "Why Not 'Violate' Nature?")

Arthur writes, on rocket science vs. brain surgery "I greatly prefer the intelligence of rocket science. I think we became really human when we figured out verbal and mathematical systems and structures to deal at a safe distance with a material existence that I find simultaneously too boring and too exciting,

"Robert Anton Wilson didn't agree. In fact, in one of his books (Natural Law, or Never Put a Rubber on Your Willy) he used me as a horrible example of the sort of person who doesn't love the material world enough. He later recommended Leonard Shlain's book, The Alphabet vs. the Goddess, for its view of the approaches.

"I could not make it through the book. It featured a form of gender essentialism so extreme that it probably would have offended Robert Heinlein. Men are verbal and violent (which always go together); women are neither, and that's it."

You should really read the whole thing.

By the way, calling Hlavaty a "critic" is a nice, economical touch. Calling him a "prominent fan writer" likely would have confused many of Wilson's readers.


michael said...

RAW also mentioned Hlavaty the Horrible on p.22 of the rev ed of CT3, re: RAW's supposed death in the mid-1990s: "I have contacted Wilson and he tells me he's alive, but I'm pretty gullible."

I can see the "gender determinism" in Shlain's book, but I loved it as a work of speculative history by one of the great polymaths of the 2nd half of the 20th century; I think RAW could look past the gender stuff for the sheer number of interesting ideas in the book, and because of the McLuhan-like extension into Tale of the Tribe-ish area that The Alphabet vs.The Goddess brought/wrought. (Shlain was a neurosurgeon by trade, and not a rocket scientist, so maybe factor that in?)

Anonymous said...

Shlain's profession was one of the inspirations for my post. He seemed to use words about as well as I would use a scalpel, but of course I wouldn't generalize to all surgeons.

Eric Wagner said...

I enjoyed The Alphabet vs. the Goddess mildly. It seemed a bit hard on Confucius.

Bobby Campbell said...

I actually find the view of nature as slaughterhouse/madhouse w/ enclaves of reason/decency very comforting and uplifting! I use that model when pep talking pessimists... I mean it really is miraculous that we have it as good as we do, even presupposing the most cynical interpretations of current events as true.