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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

1939 magazine article on Aleister Crowley

A scan of an article from the November 1939 issue of Sensation: The New Tabloid Magazine: "Astounding Secrets of the Devil Worshippers' Mystic Love Cult," about Aleister Crowley. Via hagbard celine @amoebadesign on Twitter.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Leary archive will make RAW letters available

The Timothy Leary Archives project at the New York Public Library has a Web site, and Robert Anton Wilson's name pops up in a couple of places on the site.

A description of the papers being made available eventually says that they include "Thousands of letters to Leary, many from luminaries of the 1960s era, including Aldous and Laura Huxley, Gerald Heard, Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Peter Orlovsky, Charles Olson, Arthur Koestler, Huston Smith, Walter Houston Clark, Walter Pahnke, Humphry Osmond, Al Hubbard, Oscar Janiger, Cary Grant, Charles Mingus, Maynard Ferguson, Michael Hollingshead , Robert Anton Wilson, Gordon Wasson, Ken Kesey and Augustus Owsley Stanley."

And here's an excerpt from an interview with Joi Ito, Timothy Leary's godson:

Q: In this video, he calls you his godson? What’s the story behind that?

A: I met Tim on the evening of my birthday when I was turning 24 in Tokyo, in Roppongi, through a mutual friend, David Kubiak. I remember, because I asked him about the number “23″ and the whole Cosmic Trigger book story by Robert Anton Wilson, and asked Tim if he had really talked to aliens. Tim said all that was a big joke. The whole 23 thing and alien thing. We laughed and laughed.

We became close friends after that, and started collaborating on a book. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but somewhere along the line, we decided I would be his Godson. Tim had this thing. He would adopt god children.

One more thing I remember, was when I asked him what it meant to be his Godson. He told me that it was my duty as a godson to teach him – that he adopted godchildren to be his teachers.

The archives recently released a transcript of Leary talking with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Keeping up with reality isn't easy

A couple of news bits. As far as I can tell, they are real, although they read like satire.

The Texas Republican Party has come out with its new platform, and it includes a plank that opposes teaching of "critical thinking skills" because it is wrong to teach anything that might "have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs." (The full passage is, "Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.") Hat tip: Dangerous Minds.

A CNN columnist named LZ Granderson has written a column advising everyone not to be "nosy" about what the U.S. government is doing. Because "in the political arena, there are things that should be and need to be kept quiet." 

"We do not want to open Pandora's Box, not about this and certainly not about a bunch of other potentially scandalous things the federal government has been involved with," Granderson writes. CNN helpfully explains that he was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Kind of makes you wonder who the runner up was. (Via Kevin Carson on Twitter, @KevinCarson1, and Glenn Greenwald.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

James Joyce bits

Here is a diagram that John Merritt send to me on Twitter, with the comment, "This is so great."

This seems as good a place to mention as any that Project Gutenberg makes available downloads of Ulysses, Dubliners and Chamber Music.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'Illuminati Papers' -- OK, what else?

Although I apparently did not notice it at the time, The Illuminati Papers was released as a ebook in January of this year -- making it the first RAW nonfiction book to be available on Kindle, aside from Everything is Under Control.

There needs to be more of this. John Higgs asked me recently on Twitter if more of RAW's books will be released as electronic books, and I answered that I have no inside information but that I have been told more are on the way. Higgs replied that releasing more RAW ebooks would make his work much more available in Great Britain, where his print books are hard to find.

Isn't that true of the U.S., as well? The biggest book chain, Borders, disappeared last year, but even when there were more physical bookstores, ILLUMINATUS! was just about the only book you could expect to find on a shelf. Whether people like it or not, the market is moving toward ebooks, and Robert Anton Wilson's work needs to be made widely available in that medium.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quantum Psychology group discussion -- Chapter 1

Today begins the weekly discussion of a chapter from Robert Anton Wilson's Quantum Psychology. As you'll recall, I recently posted about the book and invited everyone to join me in reading it and posting about the chapters in the comments.

In the Introductory Note to the book, RAW writes, "Ideally, the book should serve as a study manual for a group which meets once a week to perform the exercizes and discuss the daily-life implications of the lessons learned."

Eric Wagner suggested that we could attempt to come close to that group experience on the Internet, so let's give it a try, meeting once a week at this blog.

How do you interpret Kafka's parable, and the Zen master's response?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Baum's 'American Book of the Dead' free on Kindle

Henry Baum's The American Book of the Dead currently is being offered free for Kindle; the novel has been compared to the the work of Philip K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson. It's recommended by Tessa Dick, one of Dick's ex-wives.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The libertarian future that wasn't

Will Wilkinson, one of my favorite writers, works in a wry reference to Robert Anton Wilson in a recent blog post :

An early-90s collaborative hypertext fiction listserv to which I belonged envisioned our future on the borderless virtual frontier as a disembodied anarchy of infinite freedom and endless innovation in which the laws of conventional economics would be suspended. The American state would become a minor protective-services franchise, as envisioned in "Snow Crash", since income would become untraceable and untaxable, thanks to Peter Thiel. Also, for some reason or other, we would have access to unlimited quantities of LSD, and Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson would stop by our temporary autonomous zone and regale us with tales of worlds beyond the world as a roaring bonfire of discarded Douglas Coupland novels licked the smudged night sky like the forked tongues of a million lizards. This did not come to pass.

Wilkinson, by the way, once granted me an interview for this blog, then never answered the questions I emailed to him. Maybe I should try again?

Friday, June 22, 2012

RAW-inspired science fiction novel

Joe Tripician, an American author who lives in Brazil,  has written to me to tell me about his Robert Anton Wilson-inspired science fiction novel, Immortality Wars. I plan to read it soon, once I finish my current immersion in sixth century Byzantine history, but in the meantime, here is a description that Mr. Tripician provided me:

Private Detective Harry Tidbit is hired to save the State from terrorist attacks when he learns that his employers have plans to kill him, along with an entire generation of new immortals.

With help from an emergent intelligence, Harry repels the assaults, and perfects mind upload as a cure for his brother's terminal illness. But when competing factions vie to claim his discovery, Harry becomes their prime target.

Harry eventually receives help from a renegade Native American named "Bobby Ann Wilson", a character directly inspired by RAW, with whom the author shared many pleasant memories.

"Immortality Wars" paints a wicked portrait of the near-future, one where technology’s goals require wars to bring them to creation. In this world human ingenuity is a saving grace, and immortality is not necessarily forever.

Here is  Mr. Tripician's  rather interesting Amazon biography:

Joe Tripician is an award-winning Producer/Writer/Director and Playwright. His work has been broadcast on Network and Cable television across America, Europe and Japan, and has shown at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Joe received his first EMMY award for the documentary "Metaphoria" broadcast in the US on PBS in 1991.

Joe's humor book, "The Official Alien Abductee's Handbook", was published by Andrews and McMeel in 1997. Author and Futurist Robert Anton Wilson called it: "The funniest book I've read since the Warren Report." Famed scientist John C. Lilly said: "Joe Tripician has achieved the impossible: a truly funny book on alien abductions." 

In 1996 Joe wrote, recorded and performed an alien song ("Ozark Melody") with the legendary Jeff Buckley along with musical partner Frederick Reed.

In May of 2002, Joe performed in his one-man play, "Balkanized at Sunrise", based on his 1997 trip to the Balkans. His Balkan journey began when the Croatian government hired him to write an official biography of their president. Much hilarity ensured. 

Joe spends his time between New York and Brazil with his wife and two daughters, who do most of the translating for him. 

Connect with Joe Tripician:


Get "Balkanized at Sunrise" on Amazon Kindle:

NOTE: I originally called Mr. Tripician a Brazlian author, and he has clarified for me that he is an American who lives in Brazil. I therefore corrected the original posting.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

No Governor No. 8

I've posted issue number 8 of Robert Shea's anarchist fanzine, "No Governor." See the link on the right side of the page to the place where I've posted all of the PDFs for the issues I've obtained so far.

The new issue includes one of my favorite RAW essays, "How to Read/How to Think," which is reprinted in Coincidance. Some familiar names pop up in the lettercolumn.

My very sincere thanks to the Special Collections Library in the library of the University of Michigan for making these publications available.  The official Robert Shea site is here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New RAW article published

Quackenbush unearths and publishes a major Robert Anton Wilson essay from 1971, "Even a Man Who is Pure of Heart," from the Journal of Human Relations. It is now available to everyone, at the rejuvenated

The piece argues that American horror films reflect fear and loathing of American militarism. "The history of the horror film, then, is the record of the American public’s uneasy groping toward an understanding of the repressed and unconscious forces which have made America the most feared nation in the world." Much else is asserted in this provocative essay.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Joyce articles

Bloomsday has just passed. Here are two articles on one of RAW's favorite writers, maybe his all-time favorite.

At A Building Roam, PQ reprints his earlier posting, "16 Reasons Why James Joyce is the Greatest Writer Ever." I thought I had linked to it before, but I checked, and I don't find a posting, so I'm glad to link to it now. I like these sentences, "His books (aside from Finnegans Wake) are highly detailed descriptions of the events of everyday life even down to minutely recording the flow of a character's thoughts. But at the same time there's always a sort of mythic, cosmic backdrop to everything brought about by the heavy use of symbolism and mythic correspondences and what this achieves (for me at least) is an experience such that the reader clearly sees their own everyday life as a mythic journey. Richard Aldington once wrote of Ulysses that it "made realism mystic."

Follow PQ on Twitter (@PQuadrino).

Meanwhile, Michael Johnson gazes into his navel (and everybody else's) as he reads Ulysses.

UPDATE: Happy Bloomsday from Bobby Campbell.

Monday, June 18, 2012

'The Brandy of the Damned'

The Brandy of the Damned, JMR Higgs' new novel, is a short,  breezy read with plenty of humor, easy to start and easy to finish. Yet it manages to pack  quite a bit of interest into the narrative.

The three main characters  in  Brandy are former members of a rock band who have reunited, not to play together but to take a quixotic journey along the shores of England in  the band's old former touring van. The prose is straightforward enough, but the reader who thought he was standing on a solid floor often finds instead that he's feet are planted on a rug, and Higgs is tugging on it. Why does the bass player carry a shovel with her everywhere she goes? What about  those jokey scriptures the drummer keeps finding in blue bottles along the shore?

I thought I detected quite a bit of Robert Anton Wilson's influence. Perhaps because of my immersion in RAW, I  am seeing a few things that aren't there.

On  the other hand, a review of the book by C.J. Stone, part of the group of authors at The Big Hand whom I wrote about a couple of days ago,includes this sentence, "It is a fictional representation of Robert Anton Wilson's model agnosticism but without the drugs." I  note also that there is an offstage character named "Celine."

Stone's review includes an excerpt from one of the scriptures mentioned above, which suggests that it's best for a person to have three religions. One religion suggests narrow-mindedness, while a dozen suggests you'll fall for anything. It doesn't have to be exactly three; "between two and five, something like that."

I chuckled, then realized that perhaps I have followed the strategy. I  list myself as a Buddhist agnostic on my Facebook page. That's two, isn't it? And I was confirmed as a teenager as a Unitarian Universalist in a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That's a denomination formed as a merger of two groups, the  Unitarians and the Universalists. So depending on how you keep score, I guess have three or four religions.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nick Herbert's list of immortal poets

Physicist and poet Nick Herbert notes that the Post Office is offering stamps for 20th century poets (which was news to me, and shows how little attention I pay to stamps) and then offers his own nominations for who ought to be honored in such fashion. Many of Herbert's nominations were RAW favorites. I'm sure my favorite obscure poet, Charles Henri Ford, will never get a stamp. But where's Robert Frost?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Down the rabbit hole with JMR Higgs!

Author J.M.R. Higgs, aka John Higgs, seems to be quite the guerilla ontologist.

I recently read (and very much enjoyed) Higgs' new short novel, The Brandy of the Damned, available as a cheap ebook on Kindle. So when Higgs' Tweeted that he'd been interviewed about the book, I dutifully read the interview.

I'll post about the book soon, but for the purpose of this blog post you need to know that there is a character in the book named Orlando Monk, who is both a fictional character dreamed up by one of the characters and a man who pops up in "real life" (in the pages of the novel) to mess with the main characters. Orlando Monk apparently will return in an upcoming Higgs book.

Anyway, after I read the Higgs interview I noticed that the Web site where it appeared, The Big Hand, had a link labeled "Free Books," so naturally I clicked on it. One of the free books is The Trials of Arthur, co-authored by one "Arthur Pendragon." The credits for the book say it was "uploaded by Orlando Monk." The other free book, The Nabob of Bombasta, is listed as "Produced and Designed by Orlando Monk."

At this point, I began to wonder if all of the people listed at The Big Hand are fictional creations of Mr. Higgs, or whether Mr. Higgs is a fictional creation of one of the other people listed at the site. I'm fairly certain that most of the people listed as "Authors" at the site are real people (although I'm a little worried about "Arthur Pendragon") but how can one be sure?

I clicked "About" at the site, which helpfully explains, "The Big Hand is a publishing company that explores the boundary between the extraordinary and the bat-shit crazy." Orlando Monk is listed as the proprietor of the publishing company.

Incidentally, Youth is listed as the illustrator for The Nabob of Bombasta. There have been a series of ambient and rock music albums credited at first to the pseudonym The Fireman. It was eventually revealed that The Fireman is Youth and musician Paul McCartney.

So it appears that at least one of the listed authors is a real person, albeit one who apparently has used a pseudonym for years, then used ANOTHER pseudonym, so that he can retard his musical career by hiding the fact that he was working with the most famous living musician on Earth. That's clear, isn't it?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Libertarian science fiction zine now online

The folks who award the Prometheus Award and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, the Libertarian Futurist Society, have a newsletter that publishes book reviews, interviews with authors and so on.

Those zines used to be available only to members of the LFS (such as me), but now they are being digitized and posted online. Not all issues are available yet; the volunteers doing this still have some work to do.

As one might expect, there is some Robert Anton Wilson related material. This includes Jesse Walker's tribute to RAW (a reprint of an article also posted on Reason's Web site.) There is also "Robert Anton Wilson on the Illuminatus Saga" (Spring 1995, not yet posted), Robert Shea and RAW responding to the Hall of Fame Award being given to ILLUMINATUS! (Fall 1986, not yet posted, but see my reprint), a review of RAW's Natural Law (Summer 1987, not yet posted) and a review of RAW's The Earth Will Shake (Spring 1985, not yet posted.)

There are also articles which might interest many science fiction fans, not just libertarians. For example, William Stoddard is a consistently thoughtful reviewer. You can read his review of Jo Walton's Among Others, which just won the Nebula.

Jesse Walker weighs in.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Steve 'Fly' Pratt in the New York Times

I am currently interviewing noted Robert Anton Wilson scholar and Amsterdam DJ Steven Pratt, aka Fly Agaric 23. I am pleased with how it is going so far and believe I will be able to reward loyal followers of this blog with an interesting read.

In the meantime, here is a New York Times article from April 2 that I missed at the time, about a planned right wing crackdown on the marijuana trade in coffee shops in the Netherlands. Check out the photo caption for the piece, "Law Could Hamper Drug Tourism in the Netherlands."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When RAW met Ayn Rand

Dangerous Minds, the popular lefty/pop culture blog, unearths this encounter between Robert Anton Wilson and Ayn Rand from the pages of Cosmic Trigger Volume II.

I like Jesse Walker's observation about followers of the two writers: " I've joked that the great invisible divide in the libertarian movement is between the people who were transformed by reading ATLAS SHRUGGED in high school and people who were transformed by reading ILLUMINATUS! I never went through a Rand phase, so you can put me firmly in the ILLUMINATUS! camp."

Also, I'm always glad to slip in a reference to Cosmic Trigger, Volume II: Down to Earth, as I think it is an underrated gem. The first Cosmic Trigger book has many fans, but I think the second one is as good a book as RAW ever wrote.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Illuminati -- are they everywhere?

A newspaper in Nigeria, the National Mirror, reports — or should I say "reports," it's kind of hard to tell — that a controversial entertainer named Charly Boy had announced he is gay.

"Even as he made other disclosures about himself, he didn’t forget to add that he is the head of the Illuminati in Nigeria, the same Illuminati that people accuse Jay-Z, D’Banj and Don Jazzy of being members and they keep denying membership. While his audacious revelations might seem like a publicity stunt on his part, let’s not forget the popular saying ‘there’s no smoke with-out fire’. For Charly Boy to say all these things about himself there must be an element of truth in them."

A follow-up story, however, says that "the weird one" is denying the report and threatening to sue. There may be some confusion in Nigeria about who the Illuminati are -- the secondl story says he is denying being a member of the "musical cult group, illumination."

Hat tip, Jesse Walker.

When Jesse sent me this, I thought, "Man, Jesse manages to find the Illuminati everywhere."

I have other interests besides the topics covered in this blog.

Lately, for example, I have been immersing myself in early Byzantine history, by reading the The Wars of Justinian by Procopius. After I got Jesse's email,  I ran across this review of a book about Procopius by Anthony Kaldellis, a classics professor at The Ohio State University.

I haven't read the book yet, but it is apparently Kaldellis' opinion that Procopius was secretly a pagan (a dangerous opinion by the sixth century) and that there are hidden messages in his writing.

The reviewer, William Edmund Fahey, complains, "Too often, one has the impression that the final hermeneutic for reading a text remains rather arcane; as Kaldellis explains, 'Hidden truths can be safely discovered by future readers or by those who know how to look past the 'plaster' that lies on the surface' (25; cf., 37). This is a milieu where traditional historians will not be found among the illuminati."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Latest Vatican bank scandal news

"Hagbard Celine" on Twitter (@amoebadesign) has been tracking the latest weirdness involving the Vatican bank. Here are some links he has tweeted, along with his comments:

"Robert Anton Wilson SNAFU feedback loop €23million+the Vatican+GodsBank+double agent butler+NEW TWIST"

"Saturday's evidence of living inside a Novel, Ex-head of Vatican bank 'planned to give dossier to Pope' "

"The empire never ended, hassan I sabbath is still fighting the crusaders, and the popes a corrupt, money laundering mafia don. #illuminatus" [No link, just a comment]

Saturday, June 9, 2012

'Thoughts on Conspiracy Gnosticism'

Writing for Hydra Magazine, Edward Garcia explains why Robert Anton Wilson may be "good food for your mind." (Garcia is completing a Ph.D. in American literature at Yale University.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Quantum Psychology group reading

I've decided to take up Eric Wagner's suggestion to have a group read of Quantum Psychology, with participants working on the exercises by making comments on the Internet. (See the comments for this posting.) 

As Eric suggests, I'll do a chapter a week, over 23 weeks. I'll start June 25, which should give everyone who wants to take part plenty of time to hunt up a copy at the local library, or buy one, or whatever.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Brian Eno, John Cage and RAW

How can you tie together Brian Eno, John Cage and Robert Anton Wilson? I wouldn't be able to do it, but fortunately Oz Fritz can, and he has a particularly good blog post that shows you how.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'Can you love a fake piece of art?'

A BBC article raises a question: Are genuine fakes in the art world underrated?

Nick Helweg-Larsen sent me the link, commenting, "I thought you might like this link as RAW loved the film F for Fake and often mentioned Elmyr." Thanks, Nick!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My latest venture

Be careful about following a Twitter account. You might wind up taking it over.

Apparently I did not have enough quixotic literary crusades on the Internet, so now I have taken up another one. The guy running @surrealpoems on Twitter, Ethan Yang, who had inherited it from founder Brooks Lampe, got tired of it and wanted to concentrate on his other Twitter accounts.

I had been following @surrealpoems for awhile (I have liked Surrealist poetry for many years), and when Ethan asked for people willing to adopt it, I was the only one who expressed interest. He handed it over to me before I had time to come to my senses.

I intend to take this task seriously and use @surrealpoems to promote interest in contemporary poetry in general and Surrealist poetry in particular. (I am still trying to figure out how to do that. It may take awhile, but I'm working on it.) I won't neglect this blog, but I may have to reduce the amount of time I spend on the Prometheus Award.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review of new James Joyce biography

The Wall Street Journal's Saturday book review section (an excellent resource) runs a review by Joseph O'Connor of a new James Joyce biography, James Joyce: A  New Biography by Gordon Bowker.

The nut graph of O'Connor's review: "This is a well-researched, accessible book for the interested amateur reader of Joyce, not for the academic specialist. It is refreshingly free of the jargon of literary-critical theory, which has done Joyce no favors at all. Surely no author in history has been so beslobbered with postgraduate drivel. Mr. Bowker's book contains no sentence that is hard to understand: more than can be said of the work of some Joycean critics and more, for that matter, than can be said of its subject's fictions, increasingly baffling as they became."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Michael Johnson on the new David Talbot book

Michael Johnson reviews David Talbot's new cultural history of San Francisco, Season of the Witch.  Says Michael, "For anyone who loves San Francisco, this is a must-read book. For anyone who is interested in the epicenter of the "culture wars" in Unistat, this book is essential. For anyone who loves to read well-researched history with a gripping narrative voice, this may be one you'll want to get to over the coming long hot summer nights."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

'Atlas Shrugged' vs. 'ILLUMINATUS!'

The comparison chart you didn't realize you were waiting for is here. Eric Wagner pops up in the comments.

A short autobiography of the author of the post, Mr. John Higgs: "Students of bias may wish to note that, whilst at least one review of my novel The Brandy of the Damned noted the influence of Robert Anton Wilson, no review of any of my books has yet mentioned influence from Ayn Rand."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Maldonado and Quantum Psychology

The other day, working on a newspaper story, I interviewed a lady whose last name is Maldonado. Her name made me smile, but I didn't say why and didn't ask if anyone in her family happened to be named "Banana Nose."

On another note: A few weeks ago, I purchased a copy of Quantum  Psychology. I notice that the book has exercises that are supposed to be done in a group. I don't have a group to join, and I suppose I should just go ahead and read the book, but does anyone have any thoughts?