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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The NSA likely has your emails

If you're anything like me, you've been suffering for the last few weeks from NSA fatigue. You know you ought to follow everything that Glenn Greenwald and Julian Sanchez link to, but you have a job, a wife, a dog, you try to sleep every night, and there's just not enough hours in the day to stay on top of everything.

So you miss a few stories. But here's one that's truly remarkable:

The NSA, which still has a few rules that ban it from collecting every email message in America, has figured out how to evade the rules by collecting the messages overseas.

This means that government officials very likely can collect your domestic messages, because Google and Yahoo back up their data and email messages on servers across four continents, according to this Washington Post story.

The Post story says that Google and Yahoo pay big bucks to transfer the data on supposedly private cables and that Google makes a considerable effort to encrypt their customers' data. Oh, well:

They had reason to think, insiders said, that their private, internal networks were safe from prying eyes.

In an NSA presentation slide on “Google Cloud Exploitation,” however, a sketch shows where the “Public Internet” meets the internal “Google Cloud” where their data resides. In hand-printed letters, the drawing notes that encryption is “added and removed here!” The artist adds a smiley face, a cheeky celebration of victory over Google security.

Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing. “I hope you publish this,” one of them said.

This sort of thing is sparking a backlash from the cypherpunk crowd. Slate reports that an automatic email encryption system is being developed that will make it easy for folks to keep their messages private.

In my experience, the chief obstacle to adoption of PGP is not that it's difficult to use, but that it's difficult to get people to use it. Even many libertarians who are more than computer literate simply won't bother. If the Dark Mail Alliance can make a dent in that, it would be a real breakthrough.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Today's links

My favorite historical novels. (Some familiar names.)

Michael Johnson makes the case for generalists (such as himself and RAW) after reading Bucky Fuller. Excerpt: "Because most of us in the West were educated to specialize, we tend to abandon personal responsibility for thinking of the Big Picture, and taking social action. We let others deal with the big stuff."

Jesse Walker on five myths about conspiracy theories.  And see that Lewis Shiner, who did one of the best RAW interviews ever (see the link on this page) likes Jesse's book.

A reasonable article on when liberals should make common cause with libertarians. On Twitter, Julian Sanchez, oddly channeling RAW, comments. "This is a great piece, but maybe leaves out the most important consideration. Maybe I have something to learn from you, even if I don't ultimately join your team. Maybe you have something to learn from me, even if you don't ultimately join my team. I know this rests on the crazy premise that possibly no current team has the Complete and Correct Picture of Reality, but… maybe, you know?"

Ted Gioia on 61 Things We've Learned About the NSA. A great list, but make that 62. He apparently missed the NSA listening in on phone sex calls made by U.S. troops. 

"History tells us we need to watch the watchers." Good short video on the NSA.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pulling the Cosmic Trigger

Apparently buoyed by the success of her London Fortean Society event, Daisy Eris Campbell has launched her effort to raise the necessary funds to stage her adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger.

The event featured professional actors performing snippets from the play. Here is one of the photos:

Oliver Senton, left, playing Robert Anton Wilson, and Nick Marcq, playing Alan Watts.

Daisy Campbell with the actors.

John Higgs, right, with Jonathan Harris (the money-burning fellow mentioned in the Sunday post.)

All of the photos from the Oct. 23 event at the Horse Hospital in London were posted on Facebook by Bongo Pete; I hope he does not mind that I reproduce them here.

Daisy Eris Campbell has begun soliciting donations of 23 pounds to get started on raising the necessary funds for the production. From her fund-raising letter:

Hello Everyone,  
Thanks so much to John Higgs, the London Fortean Society and The Horse Hospital for letting me come and talk about my Cosmic Trigger plans. It was a joy to see great old friends gathered, and to meet so many new and wonderful kooks! 

So, as for the show, it really is early days. And, as most of you are by now aware, the plan is to get it on the road with Crowd-funding (probably Kickstarter). But to even get to the point where I can get a crowd-funding campaign up and running takes money and some love-labour. 

We gotta: 
Form a theatre company - this takes some funds Get a website up and running - I have the domain, wordpress + DIY themes, but no time to learn how to put all that together - do you?   Snuffle out those Wilsonians where-ever they may be - so if you have access to mailing lists, know of good websites, or know of any other Discordian portals please let me know.  Sort out the rights with the Wilson Estate - they know I'm underway, but I need to buy the option - more funds... 
So to give your £23 (or any multiple thereof) here's the details: You'll need to have a PayPal account. If you would rather BACS the money, just email me and I'll send you the details.
Email is:

To be clear, when the Kickstarter campaign goes live,donors only actually contribute their money if the target  is raised. You Angels are in so early you have no such guarantee - just the warm glow of knowing you helped get this baby off the ground. But rest-assured,  whatever I end up offering as a reward for the £23 when the campaign starts, you guys will of course get in on - probably a place on the guest list to a Discordian grand opening night party...

Daisy's new Twitter account is here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Coincidance, Week Seven

"The Married Catholic Priests' Convention"

"Self-Reflexive Surrealist Haiku"

"The Godfathers and the Goddess"

As Robert Anton Wilson remarks, the material in "The Married Catholic Priests' Convention" and "The Godfathers and the Goddess" overlaps quite a bit.  I must confess I had different reactions to the two pieces.  The humor in the "Priests" article mostly did not work for me and the satire seemed to me heavy-handed and mean spirited.

"The Godfathers and the Goddess," on the other hand, seemed very sharp and well-written to me, very fair minded and carefully observed. It illustrates one of the points Jesse Walker makes in his new book: That many of the wildest conspiracy theories can in fact be true. Wilson, perhaps out of caution, does not even mention the "strategy of tension" theory that many terrorist bombings in Italy in the 1970s  were carried out by right-wingers who hoped that they would be blamed on the left. If you look up Licio Gelli on Wikipedia, you find a heavily-footnoted article that repeats many of the most interesting allegations made by Wilson. An interesting sentence from the Wikipedia piece: "In 1996, Gelli was nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature."

So many good sentences in the Marilyn Monroe piece. "Nobody had warned her that History is a blood sport, and the only one in which innocent bystanders are the principle victims." And then the next one: "She was as beautiful as the Parthenon by moonlight, as goofy as a surrealist painting and as hard to ignore or forget as a kangaroo in a symphony orchestra."

If you enjoy Wilson's haiku, such as this one, I have a suggestion: Follow Pipzi Williams on Twitter, a RAW fan who is very good at haiku. 


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Burning money at the Fortean Society event

Last week's London Fortean Society John Higgs/Daisy Eris Campbell event also featured a guy named Jonathan Harris who burned a 20-pound note (about $32 in U.S. money.) (More after the video)

Mr. Harris has a blog post up in which he attempts to explain why he carried out the ritual. He also remarks that the Oct. 23 event was his first night out since he and his wife separated in May; they had been together for 28 years.

Elsewhere, Mr. Harris explains that he has ritually burned cash every Oct. 23 for several years. He studied at the London School of Economics and writes quite a bit about money.

His background is interesting. He was a tour manager for various British music acts, although apparently he has a less romantic job now. He also has experience burning through money the Internet way -- he ran an Internet sex site that featured his wife.  The site went bankrupt.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New effort to annotate Illuminatus!

Nick Helweg-Larsen, hoping to supplement the Illuminatus! information area at Maybe Logic Academy put together by Bogus Magus, has begun an effort to put together detailed annotations of the text. He's being assisted by Andrew Crawshaw in the effort. They've done quite a bit of work so far.

Nick would like some help, but he is wary of posting his email address publicly. So if you would like to assist, email me (my contact address is posted at the "About" area of this blog) and I will forward your missive to Nick.

Friday, October 25, 2013

New book on Timothy Leary

I'm looking forward to hearing what the Timothy Leary scholars have to say, but this seems like it would be important: Timothy Leary's lover for much of the 1970s, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, has published a book about Leary, Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary: My Psychedelic Love Story.

Here is the Amazon blurb: "Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary is a scathingly honest and breathless autobiographical memoir by Joanna Harcourt-Smith, the British Jet-Set "hippie heiress" scapegoat for Timothy Leary, the Harvard psychologist "Pied Piper" of the Sixties generation. Between 1972 and 1977, Joanna was his lover and voice to the outside world while he was in prison for three-and-a-half of those years. Tripping the Bardo is a missing piece of the Sixties puzzle. Joanna Harcourt-Smith knows. As an eyewitness, she was right at the heart of it. From the Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol to the relentless FBI harassment of the political Left, Tripping the Bardo moves at the fast pace of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll that the Sixties were known for. The author's voice is that of a spoiled and damaged socialite but with an unrelenting sense of humor and ability to bring to life an outrageous set of characters – aristocrats and drug dealers, rockers and poets, crime lords and double agents. As Hermann Hesse said: I'm beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn't pleasant, it's not sweet and harmonious like invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves."

Her "Future Primitive" podcasting site (it looks interesting) is here.   Her official biography is here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

John Higgs and Daisy Campbell show in London

The John Higgs/Daisy Campbell show has taken place. So far, all I have to report are Tweets, but apparently videos will become available at some point.

Toby Philpott (aka Jabba the Hutt -- no, really) reports on Twitter: "@johnhiggs gave a lucid exposition of the beloved RAW, to a mixed crowd of Forteans and Bob fans - good to put a face to a Tweet contact. Daisy Eris Campbell gave a terrific presentation about plans to stage Cosmic Trigger - and her actors gave us a glimpse of the project."

Higgs reports, "For those who couldn't get tickets the whole thing was filmed and will be online at some point."

Of course,  if you want to learn some of what Higgs has to say about Robert Anton Wilson, you can hunt up the KLF book.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Who reads this thing?

I like to check this blog's stats on Blogger every once  in awhile. On good days, I've recently hit a bit more than 1,000 pageviews a day. That  won't get BoingBoing or Dangerous  Minds looking over their shoulders, but I think it does say something about the persistent interest in Robert Anton Wilson's writings.

I've assumed all along that most of my traffic comes from the United States and the United Kingdom, but if Google's traffic tallies are to be believed, the reality is more interesting than that. According to Google, here is the ranking today for my sources of traffic:

1. United States

2. China

3. Ukraine

4. United Kingdom

5. France

6. Norway

7. Germany

8. Russia

9. Canada

10. Poland

Now, I know that there are RAW readers around the world -- check out the folks who participate in Dan Clore's Facebook group for RAW fans. I've been emailing back and forth this week with an Italian editor, Fausto Marcon. But am I really getting that many readers in China, or the Ukraine? If you're reading this blog from someplace more exotic than Ohio, please say hello in the comments. Or say hello, anyway. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Time to do a group read of Illuminatus?

We're about halfway through Coincidance, and I've been thinking about what the next target for a group read should be. How about Illuminatus! ?

That would take up a large part of 2014, but it seems to me we ought to consider taking it on. The books were published about 40 years ago, and people who could contribute memories (such as "Neil in Chicago," a couple of days ago on this blog) are not getting any younger. (That's pretty obvious, considering that both of the authors are dead.) If we are going to jar some valuable memories loose, it seems to me we should do it sooner rather than later.

Then, too, as John Merritt has suggested, there is much to be done in tracing all of the references in the book.

What do you think?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Coincidance, Week Six

"Introduction to Three Articles from the Realist"

This is one of Wilson's longest discussions of his antiwar philosophy. He also talks about sadism and masochism, and says that anxiety over the apparent desire of the masses to suffer "run through all my novels and even haunt the one play I have written." Wilson's antiwar beliefs also run through many of his works. That's why I have links to, Come Home America and Peace Exchange Bulletin up on the right side of the page; it seems like a continuation of RAW's efforts to support antiwar movements.

"The Doctor With the Frightened Eyes"

Wilson's article about the "sharkishness" of reality seems like the key to the end of Illuminatus!, the attempt by the American Medical Association to immanentize the eschaton. It also reminded me of the policeman at the beginning of the book, the expert on Egyptian mouth-breeding fish, James Patrick Hennessy, who "had a five-year-old retarded son whom he loved helplessly; you see a thousand faces like his on the street every day and never guess how well they are carrying their tragedies."

I suppose it doesn't make any difference to the rave review of the "Suddenly Last Summer" film Wilson's essay, but the Wikipedia article on the film notes that many people associated with it attacked it: "Several people involved with Suddenly, Last Summer later went on to denounce the film. Despite being credited for the screenplay, Tennessee Williams denied having any part in writing it. He thought Elizabeth Taylor was miscast as Catherine, telling Life magazine in 1961, 'It stretched my credulity to believe such a 'hip' doll as our Liz wouldn't know at once in the film that she was 'being used for something evil'.'Williams also told The Village Voice in 1973 that Suddenly, Last Summer went too far afield from his original play and "made [him] throw up". Gore Vidal criticized the ending which had been altered by director Joseph Mankiewicz, adding, 'We were also not helped by ... those overweight ushers from the Roxy Theatre on Fire Island pretending to be small ravenous boys.' Mankiewicz himself blamed the source material, describing the play as 'badly constructed ... based on the most elementary Freudian psychology'."

The article goes on to note that the film was a box office hit and garnered two Academy Award nominations. It didn't win, but Liz Taylor picked up a couple of Golden Globes.

"Thirteen Choruses For the Divine Marquis"

Wilson's thesis that many Americans are devoted to sadism would seem to track well with the success of Fifty Shades of Gray and the lack of success of the antiwar movement in convincing anyone that it's a problem when America keeps killing innocent people with drones.

Ninth Chorus -- This would seem to be another way to discussing the SNAFU principle from Illuminatus!, e.g. communication is possible only between equals.

Eric Frank Russell, mentioned in the Fifth Chorus, was a science fiction writer who penned a classic work of libertarian SF, "And Then There Were None." It's part of a novel, The Great Explosion, which won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society (the same award won by Illuminatus!)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Neil in Chicago on the early days of the Illuminatus! crowd

(This is a "promoted from the comments" blog post. It's a comment posted to my Fred Feldman interview, my interview  with the editor who worked on Illuminatus! Neil in Chicago didn't respond to my invitation to get in touch, so I don't know any more about him, or what he knows, than what I reproduce here. -- The Mgt.)

Neil_in_Chicago said...
I've had a version of the story of the cutting for so long that I'm not sure who (or how many) I got it from.
((In the early 1970s there was a social circle of anarchists on Chicago's North Side which, for lack of a name agreeable to everyone, was sort of called The Nameless Anarchist Horde. This included the Wilson family, and Bob Shea, and chronologically overlapped the writing of Illuminatus! Many of the people in the group, including some kittens, are in the book, and in subsequent things like Schroedinger's Cat.))
I'll call this note a memoir, because it's an honest recounting of my memory.
Illuminatus! was set in 1976 to give it a slightly future feel, so it's ironic that it didn't come out until late 1975. The way I remember the acquisition story is that some junior editor would read it and say WOW! We've gotta have this. And a senior editor would say what?? And the junior editor would burn out, because that's what they're there for, and the succeeding junior editor would say WOW!! etc.
So it took several years to get bought, and then it had 500 pages cut, and was cut into a "trilogy". There were stories about the cutting getting done; eventually, Shea and Wilson were pulling out pages at semi-random, which sort of fit into the Brion Gysin "cut up" style anyway. Originally, the appendices were the full alphabet.
Those cut pages were probably lost early on. I had heard that one of the Horde had them, but I asked him years later, and he said no.

Those two Japanese books of Shea's were Shike: Time of the Dragons and Shike: Last of the Ziinja. He wrote half a dozen historical novels, and I recommend them all.

Here's a typical bit of minuscule trivia. There was a street gang (much less toxic than the current sorts) called the Thorndale Jag Offs, who graffitied their TJO logo all the hell over the place. In the huge list of bands at the rock festival at the climax of Illuminatus!, they're in the list.
And for the synchronicity freaks – Shea once pointed out to me that the two great crises in Illuminatus! Were the secret one of anthrax leprosy pi and the open one of Fernando Poo. When 1976, the two great crises which fizzled were Angola and swine flu . . .
September 27, 2013 at 6:41 PM

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fritz Leiber, author and Illuminatus! critic

Michael Johnson has a particularly good post on books up that starts out with a recommendation to read Fritz Leiber's Our Lady of Darkness and ends up discussing Illuminatus! (among other books.) He suggests reading the Leiber for Halloween. I wish I had read his post a few days ago; I've already begun reading Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly for my Halloween read (vampires by gaslight in England -- it's pretty good so far.)

Leiber was a prolific writer who authored a wide variety of science fiction and fantasy, although as it happens, I still haven't gotten around to reading his most famous books. But here's a footnote for all of you RAW fans: He once reviewed Illuminatus! -- and panned it. It was in the February 1977 issue of Fantastic Science Fiction, a second-tier SF magazine edited by Ted White. (Now, I loved White's second-tier magazines, Amazing and Fantastic, but they didn't seem to have a huge number of readers.)  I don't have the review, but I seem to remember that Leiber claimed Wilson and Shea made too many mistakes. One of the examples he cited was the spelling of "Fernando Poo" (he thought it should have been "Po.") If I can get my hands on a copy of the review, I will post it. Does anyone happen to have a copy?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is the NSA using blackmail against American politicians?

California U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, recently penned an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal defending the National Security Administration's habit of collecting telephone calls records for everyone in America. Her statement that "The NSA call-records program is working and contributing to our safety. It is legal and it is subject to strict oversight and thorough judicial review" struck me as an obvious lie that hardly needs refuting in the light of the all of the news coverage that's been published in the last few months, but if you want to read a rebuttal, check out Hamilton Nolan at Gawker and Julian Sanchez at Cato. (Sanchez is less strident than Nolan but in my mind is more persuasive.)

A more interesting question is why Feinstein would bother to publish a piece that contains what many of us would regard as obvious untruths. Here is an interesting conspiracy theory: the NSA is using blackmail to force officials to justify NSA programs. As Reason's J.D. Tuccille points out, the suggestion is not as ridiculous and "out there" as it might seem.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Switzerland to vote on basic income guarantee proposal

Voters in Switzerland will be voting on on a basic income guarantee proposal, deciding whether to actually adopt a proposal made by the likes of Robert Anton Wilson, Charles Murray and others. The best article I was able to find on the proposal is here.  Salon has an interview with an economist about the proposal.

At first blush, the proposal sounds rather generous; more than $30,000 a year per adult certainly sounds like more than proponents have suggested for the U.S. I wondered when I read the news accounts if the cost of health insurance would be deducted from the income; I can't tell from any of the accounts I've read. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Checking in with Michael and Oz

The usual suspects have once again been putting up interesting blog posts. Michael Johnson has a piece on Euclidean Quotidian: 90 Degree Angles and the Semantic Unconscious, with a section on Robert Anton Wilson and how Euclidian space relates to the first three circuits of the Eight Circuit Model.

Oz Fritz's latest post is on Wilson, Pynchon and Crowley. He's also been writing a lot lately about the Holy Guardian Angel, a topic that RAW highlighted in the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy. Timothy Leary Futique Tweeted Oz's blog post and a couple of us reTweeted it, a good example of how Twitter is used to get the word out. (Update). (Michael, despite his well-known Twitter aversion, also gets Tweeted sometimes.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Coincidance, Week Five

This week is a discussion of the essay, "Death and Absence in James Joyce." And so here we are, discussing a book by a writer who is absent, dead now for more than six years and unknown to most of the literary world, talking about an essay about a writer who has been dead for more than 72 years but who lives on in endless literary discussions.

"Joyce, a man of timid courage, has seized the keys of hell [and] of death, by showing that the Ego dies more continually than we realize .... " page 103. Wilson is dead and we can't invite him to participate in this discussion but he is alive in all of our minds.

Dubliners, page 88, it's worth a quick reminder, perhaps, that anyone who wants to read the two stories Wilson mentions doesn't have to hunt up a copy in the bookstore or the library; it's on Project Gutenberg (as is Ulysses.)

"We are Hyperboreans" page 93, I think it is a fair observation that almost everyone participating in this blog discussion would be considered "far out" in the eyes of most people. Welcome, fellow Hyperboreans!

Page 99, thank heavens someone has finally explained the concept of "void" and "no-mind" in a way that I can understand. It is quite interesting to me how often Buddhism and quantum mechanics is invoked to explain Wilson's ideas; Wilson's interest in Buddhism helps explain why his Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth is one of my favorite RAW books. (From Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson,  the entry for CT2 in the "Books by Robert Anton Wilson" chapter: "Wilson has called this a Buddhist book which presents different sides of her personality.")

A particularly powerful moment in Wilson's essay points out that a  pivotal point of Ulysses seems to be when Bloom takes a drunken and unhappy Stephen Dedalus home and feeds him (pages 93-94.) Nearly all cultures recognize the power of feeding someone as an act of friendship or love, as Robert Shea captures in his excellent novel, All Things Are Lights, in a scene in which the hero, Roland, and King Louis IX, are taken as captives before Baibars, a Muslim warlord:

“Before we speak of serious matters, please join me in a morning repast,” said Baibars. He clapped his hands and the blond boy Roland had seen waiting on Baibars at Mansura entered, bringing sliced melons, a plate of oranges and dates, and cups of cool, clean water. There was a small bowl holding ground-up salt and a tray of flat, round loaves of bread. The sight of the tray raised Roland’s hopes.

“He offers you bread and salt,” said Roland in French. “That means you are his guest. Once you have eaten his bread and salt, he is obliged by the Muslim law of hospitality not to harm you.”

“I shall eat at once,” said Louis with a smile, salting a slice of melon and biting off a chunk of bread. Baibars watched with a knowing grin, apparently amused that Louis so quickly ate the bread and salt. It relieved Roland to see both men in good humor.

I also liked the way Wilson invokes both Mozart and Bach in this essay, linking music to literature in a way that Wilson also liked to do.

As for HCE, I'll point out again the Hagbard Celine uses the initials.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Robert Anton Wilson gifts at Cafe Press

I was surprised by the selection of Robert Anton Wilson gifts and merchandise at Cafe Press. This is the place to obtain your "Got Fnord? Maternity T-shirt," for example. (Via Chris Tarkington on Facebook.)

Various other searches will turn up stuff that didn't show in this search.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Was Jesus an invention of Roman writers?

Here is a provocative conspiracy theory: Jesus was an invention of Roman writers seeking to subvert Jewish resistance. He never existed. Or as Bible theorist Joseph Atwill suggests, Jesus "may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there's simply nothing left." You can read a press release explaining the theory here.

The problem with Atwill's theory (other than the fact that it ruins another provocative conspiracy theory, Holy Blood, Holy Grail) is that there are more convincing, less sensational explanations for the resemblances between the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the writings of the Roman historian Josephus. Or so argues Robert M. Price, in his review.

Price points out that many other authors have offered theories similar to Atwell's, writing that "...somewhat similar theories of a Roman origin of Christianity and of Jesus have been proposed by Abelard Reuchlin (whose notorious 1979 booklet The True Authorship of the New Testament strikingly anticipates Atwill’s at several points), Margaret Morrison (Jesus Augustus), Cliff Carrington (who also ascribes the gospels to the Flavians), and Stephan Hermann Huller (Marcus Agrippa, etc.). We might find that one of these alternative theories of Roman origins explains many of the same things Atwill’s does, and without the disadvantages."

Friday, October 11, 2013

RAW at the New York Public Library's Timothy Leary archive

I have been trying to figure out how much Robert Anton Wilson material is available in the new Timothy Leary archives section of the New York Public Library. I have a pretty good answer to that question now: A lot.

Thomas Lannon, assistant curator, kindly responded to my inquiry and sent me a list of materials, noting that his itemization represents only part of the RAW material that is available. Below is from his email to me; more on this as it becomes available.

From Thomas Lannon's email to

Here are few areas where Wilson appears in the collection.

  • Robert Anton Wilson and Leary began a correspondence while Leary was in Jail circa 1974. They then corresponded throughout the 1980s and 1990s until Leary's death. I have not found the earliest piece of correspondence, but it might be around 1974.
  • In addition to the paper correspondence (1970s-1990s), staff at the Library have preserved digital disks in the Leary papers. There are over 100 electronic documents indexed with the name "Robert Anton Wilson." These include mostly writings, but are also drafts of material sent via fax between Leary and Wilson.
  • While Leary was in jail, Wilson was co-founder of the "DNA Society" in December 16, 1974 along with Robert Reid Newport and Carol Frances Tickner. The DNA Society’s purpose was to promote scientific research in life extension, space exploration, and neurological studies.
  • 1975, Wilson co-wrote "Periodic Table of Energy" published in the Berkeley Barb, original manuscript still owned by Joanna Harcourt-Smith
  • 1976, Wilson wrote the preface to "What Does WoMan Want?"
  • 1976, "Leary Trades Drugs for Space Colonies" Wilson interviews Leary in the Berkeley Barb. There are few other pieces Wilson did about Leary in the Barb.
  • 1977 Wilson co-wrote "Neuropolitics: The Sociobiology of Human Metamorphosis" with Leary and George A. Koopman. Wilson co-authored Chapters 13, 16 and 17.
  • Virtual reality projects. In the 1980s and early 1990s Leary was interested in virtual reality. R. A. Wilson shared this interest and the two worked together on unrealized projects. There is material from the early 1990 documenting a demonstration of the Nintendo Power Glove with Robert Anton Wilson.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New RAW Tumblr

Bobby Campbell has found a new way to keep the lasagna flying: He has launched New Trajectories, a Tumblr that displays a great deal of art inspired by or honoring Robert Anton Wilson. Lot of great stuff to look at. I've added it to this blog's "Sangha" section. (The name of the blog is "a play on RAW's newsletter and the aspirations of flying lasagna," Bobby explains.)

In his Maybe Logic blog posting announcing the site, Bobby mentions the two RAW Twitter accounts which are worth following (one of which is his own); I follow them both, too. I don't follow a third that he refers to as "Huffington Post blog spam;" I gave up on it when I noticed it never had any actual RAW material.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Nick Mennuti's "Weaponized"

I finally got around to reading Nick Mennuti and David Guggenheim's thriller, Weaponized. (I interviewed Nick about the book a few weeks ago; you can read my interview here.) As usual, I had more books I wanted to read than time to read them, so it took me a few weeks to get to it.

I can report that it's a good thriller, well worth reading. It started a bit slow, in the first few pages, but soon the protagonist is in big trouble. The book got better as I went along.

As Mennuti describes in my interview with him, the book is set largely in Cambodia and features a protagonist who is on the run from the U.S. government.

The hero, Kyle West, is a computer whiz but otherwise is not a James Bond type of person. That heightens the suspense, as he has many terrifying moments when he is in over his head, dealing with trained killers and trying to somehow remain alive. As I got further into the book, it became more urgent to finish it and find out what would happen, and what West's fate would be.

I noticed that the authors had done a lot of homework. The protagonist's parents were involved in the Baader-Meinhof Gang (referred to here as the Red Army Faction). The characters in the novel obviously are invented, but the incidents described in the book are real.

Mennuti's interest in Robert Anton Wilson is not obvious in the novel, but I noticed that West's best friend is described as a "Zen anarchist" and that there is a shadowy, dangerous conspiracy in the book that lies behind the National Security State.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cloud and Owl release 'R.A.W'

Cloud and Owl, a "soundscaping DJ and production duo based in the U.K." has released its first EP, R.A.W. It's an electronic music album with four tracks: "R.A.W," "Antithesis," "Antithesis (Ben Glass Mix)" and "R.A.W" (Bioni Samp Remix." As you've probably guessed, the EP and the title track are a tribute to Robert Anton Wilson. It came out Monday. I dutifully bought it on Amazon yesterday, paying $8.99 for it. $9 seems a little high for four tracks, although on the other hand, the EP does have 35 minutes of music. I gave it a first listen last night and liked it well enough that I'll keep listening.

Here is the group's discussion of the album:

Here are a few notes about our debut EP, out now on MMR Recordings and available through most major online retailers. The 4-track EP contains 2 original productions, plus two of London’s most talented electronic musicians, Bioni Samp and Ben Glass, on remix duties.

The release opens with R.A.W, a trance-state inducing 10 minute tribute to Robert Anton Wilson, the discordian philosopher. The track is an hypnotic blend of synthetic textures, found sound (yes, that is a fishing reel you hear) and a vocal taken from the little known comedy record Secrets Of Power. It’s techno, folks, but not as you know it.

The next track is the Antithesis, in name and theme. Beginning with the impression of dimensional travel, the track transports the listener to stillness, via the sounds of nature, alongside soft dubstep beats, minimal hats and an insistent sequencer line. It’s become deeply unfashionable to describe music as a “journey” but this track is unashamedly that. After the void, digital patterns take over and lead to an emotionally resonant conclusion.

Bioni Samp’s been making waves on Aconito Records with his unique brand of minimal techno. His hive synthesis techniques create a distinctive sound world and his remix of R.A.W is something else: deep, cerebral and trippy. Clocking in at over 9 minutes, the track features a rare vocal appearance from Owlin not heard on the original.

Ben Glass came to prominence in his Kraut/post-punk group Glass, before setting out on an interesting solo project combining a shoegaze aesthetic and experimental electronica. His version of Antithesis is blistering, high octane and almost a cover version, rather than a remix; a perfect alternative interpretation of the theme. New Order-esque drums are offset against Ben’s trademark guitar style in a motorik finalé that’s full of drive and verve.

You can listen to the title track here. More information on the group here. 

In response to the an announcement, hagbard celine reposted links to some of his own tracks. His stuff is worth a separate blog post, which I'll have up soon. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Coincidance, Week Four

"How to Read/How to Think"

Much of this is reminiscent of a rather famous recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman writes that actually thinking is a great deal of work, so most of the time, we avoid it by calling up quick associations.

"If a writer tries to provoke thinking .... is it an attempt to liberate readers from the mechanical repetition of dead thoughts?" (Page 71). Much of Wilson's writing is an attempt to liberate readers in this way.

Wilson's observations on the virtue of paying attention has implications for everyday life. Most traffic accidents are caused by a driver's momentary lapse of attention. The best books require a reader to pay attention to every sentence.

"How to Read/How to Think (Afterwords)"

"One of the irritations that provoked this piece in the first place was certain neo-pagans in California who regularly speak about Christians in the way that Hitler used to speak about Jews." (Page 73).

Perhaps it is an interesting exercise for the reader to think of examples of when he/she is tempted to do the same thing, to speak about "Republicans" as a group (or "liberals" or "conservatives" or "libertarians.") Anyone who identifies as a libertarian (or is labelled as such) will be assured that he "is" a racist. I know I have to struggle against putting simple labels on Republicans.

"Why do you live in Ireland, Dr. Wilson?"

Swift "served human liberty" (line 5)

Swift wrote his own epitaph, which said, "Go forth, Voyager,
and copy, if you can,
this vigorous (to the best of his ability)
Champion of Liberty." (Wikipedia article here.)

"The Poet as Defense Early Warning Radar System"

"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" -- Percy Bysshe Shelley. Perhaps in the 20th century, novelists and filmmakers took over that role?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Encryption for emails

Inspired by a Tweet from Julian Sanchez, the Cato Institute's Internet freedom expert, I decided to see if I could use encryption for some of my emails.

I experimented with various programs on a couple of computers and on my portable device. What I finally arrived at was that using Thunderbird (an email client program) with Enigmail (an add-on) and GnuPG (an open source version of PGP, or "Pretty Good Privacy") was the best way to enable PGP for an email account. (I tried Mailvelope for Gmail, which didn't work so well.) My thanks to Mr. Gary Acord for helping me with my tests.

If you have decent computer skills, you should be able to figure out how to do this by (1) Downloading Thunderbird and setting it up for your email account), (2) Installing Enigmail as an add-on and (3) Installing GnuPG. The software pretty well walks you through it, but Lifehacker also has a tutorial.

The email address I'm using as my "secure communications channel" is, so if you want to try PGP (using the Thunderbird/Enigmail/GnuPG combo, or any other PGP implementation), feel free to send me a message. I'll post my public key block at the end of this blog post.

PGP is public key encryption system. So to send a message, you obtain a public key (which your correspondent will give to you, or which you can obtain from public repositories such as this one), encrypt the message and then send it. Your correspondent then decrypts it with his private key, which only he or she is supposed to have.

As I implied yesterday, a do-it-yourself approach to email probably is safer than using a cloud encryption service that can be accessed by the government.

A word about encryption. In a sense, using it is a political statement to the NSA and the National Security State that individual citizens deserve privacy. But using encryption also has practical uses.

It can be pretty easy to send a message to the wrong person by mistake. I have a rather common name, and I've been a relatively early adopter for services such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail, which means that I can simply use my name for the email address and don't have to include a number.

As a result, I often get email messages meant for some other "Tom Jackson" or "Thomas Jackson." Once, a psychiatrist emailed me a case file for a patient. Another time, a well known author and pundit included me in her discussion about her history of abuse. I got rid of the messages and informed the sender that something went wrong, but encryption would ensure that messages that go awry cannot be read.

That said, there are disadvantages to encrypting emails. It can be a little more trouble (though the Thunderbird combo mentioned above works rather well, and rather easily). You can lose messages permanently if you forget your encryption password, or if something else goes wrong.

Also, you should not assume that encryption is a magic bullet that will protect you if the U.S. government takes an interest in you. The NSA can defeat just about anything an amateur would deploy.

Here is the public key for my email address:

Version: SKS 1.1.0


Friday, October 4, 2013

'You don't need to bug an entire city to bug one guy's phone calls'

I read an interesting story yesterday, and it seems particularly interesting when paired with the news articles I wrote about Tuesday.

There were news reports a few weeks ago that Lavabit, a secure email service apparently similar to Hushmail, had suddenly shut down rather than comply with a federal government order.  The news stories at the time did not make it clear what the dispute was about.

Now, however, with the unsealing of court documents, news organizations can report what happened: the FBI wanted to read the messages of one of the company's customers, Edward Snowden. But not just Snowden's messages:

Mr. Levison was willing to allow investigators with a court order to tap Mr. Snowden’s e-mail account; he had complied with similar narrowly targeted requests involving other customers about two dozen times.

But they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much.

“You don’t need to bug an entire city to bug one guy’s phone calls,” Mr. Levison, 32, said in a recent interview. “In my case, they wanted to break open the entire box just to get to one connection.”

On Aug. 8, Mr. Levison closed Lavabit rather than, in his view, betray his promise of secure e-mail to his customers. 

Full New York Times article here. 

What I'm struck by is how reasonable Levison was and how unreasonable the government was. He was perfectly willing, apparently, to comply with court orders for probes into individual customers. The National Security State apparently wants to be able to spy on anybody, anytime, anywhere, and destroy anyone who stands in its way.

Notice how this takes place in the administration of a "liberal," rather than the right wing George W. Bush administration.  Do elections matter very much for the National Security State?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Illuminatus artwork

Leif Ericson and Leviathan, 12" by 16" acrylic and ballpoint pen,  finished version of an Illuminatus! painting by Sarah Sturgeon. She is a mixed media artist who lives in Pittsburgh; for more information, check out the URLs on the bottom of the graphic. In one of her postings, she asks, "Any RAW fans out there?" I believe so. Hat tip, Bobby Campbell.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Today's Timothy Leary roundup

Very good "Wired" magazine article on Timothy Leary and his research. 

Thomas Lannon, assistant curator at the New York Public Library (quoted in the above article) tells me on Twitter, "There's a lot of R.A. Wilson in the Leary archives."

Wired piece on Leary's video games. 

New York Times piece on same subject. 

Timothy Leary sound recording, about six minutes, "Think for Yourself." (On Ubuweb.)

Twitter account I follow. (Source of much of the above.)

As I'm working on this blog post, I get an email from Eric Wagner: "I enjoyed the new Pynchon.  I suspect he may not write another book.  He turned 76 this year.  He mentioned Tim Leary on the second to last page of the book.  I think Tim would have liked that.  He sure loved Gravity's Rainbow."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Department of Coincidences, U.S. government edition

Have  you heard of a guy named Joseph Nacchio? Wish I could say I knew the name before Monday, but I didn't.

When the NSA asked telecommunications companies in 2001 to allow the agency to spy on phone customers, only one company said no. Mr. Nacchio was the CEO of the company, Qwest. The company's lawyers told Nacchio that the NSA spying was illegal, and alone among telephone executives, he stood up to the NSA.

Qwest immediately began losing government contracts. And by an amazing coincidence, the government discovered that Mr. Nacchio was a dangerous criminal, guilty of insider training.

Mr. Nacchio's defense was that he was the victim of a political prosecution, retaliation for not giving in when the NSA said, "Nice little phone company you've got there. Be a shame if something happened to it."

Maybe Mr. Nacchio WAS a dangerous criminal, and was offering a weak defense. Then again, it's hard to judge, since the federal judge refused to allow him to present any evidence in support of his allegations.

Of course, only a crazy conspiracy theorist would think the federal government uses its vast power to punish people who make themselves inconvenient. Nothing to see here, folks, move along. How about those crazy Kardashians?

More here, and here.

Hat tip: Timothy Lee.