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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

New Tyler Cowen book

I have been reading the new book by Tyler Cowen, Average Is Over, about how "machine intelligence" will change life in the near future. (Apparently, he uses the term because he wants to refer to a category of machines that includes computers but is broader.) Robert Anton Wilson wrote about the effect of automation eliminating jobs; Cowen's book has a lot about that but also tackles other effects. His book is full of striking passages:

It's already the case that 60 percent of U.S. employers check credit scores before making a hire -- this is a reality, not some dystopian science fiction world of the distant future. 

Cowen says that the ability of chess players is closely and accurately rated and predicts that similar ratings will be publicly available soon for professionals. We're about to discover, he says, that most doctors are on a C or B- level.

Cowen's blog is here. It's consistently interesting, although in his books Cowen makes more of an effort to write for people who don't have a degree in economics. His recent posts today include one on reverse shoplifting as a form of art in Japan. He also has a post on a Turing test for social media, which he says he covers in the book; I haven't come to it yet.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Alan Watts -- A key RAW influence

Suddenly, Alan Watts is coming at me from all directions. The "Shrapnel" chapter in Coincidance (the second one) quotes Watts (about how the Roman Empire never fell.) The work-in-progress Daisy Eris Campbell play about RAW dramatizes the influence Watts had on Wilson. 

There's a new film about Watts. The creators of "South Park" have animated some of his lectures.

Michael Johnson, the Overweening Generalist guy, wrote to me this week to talk about the impact Watts had on RAW.

"In RAW's online Tale of the Tribe course, he credits Watts with turning him on to zen, Leary and Crowley. I think maybe this makes Watts the most influential living mentor in RAW's life, or at least in the Top 3," Michael wrote.

"RAW was introduced to Watts by Arlen. RAW introduced Watts to one of his later wives, Jano. And the two visited in Yellow Springs. Jano had a notion about synchronicities or what Lilly called Cosmic Coincidence Control Center, but Jano called it The Net. This was around 1962. Watts's riffs on the Roman Empire never falling had an impact on RAW. Watts told RAW he'd read a new book on Crowley by Israel Regardie and he thought it was amazing. RAW said any time Watts recommended a book it was something like a Sure Thing," Michael wrote.

(From RAW's intro to Eye In The Triangle: "It was recommended to me by Alan Watts, who said, 'It's the best book on mysticism that I've read in ten years or more.' I had been reading Alan's books for a decade and had known Alan for almost as long, and my Hemingway bullshit-detector had not yet found a sentence anywhere in his books containing BOVINE EXCRETA. If he recommended a book, I immediately trotted off to buy a copy. He knew what good writing was, even in the area of mysticism, where the author is, by definition, trying to unscrew the inscrutable and eff the ineffable.' (p.x)")

Michael explained that in those pre-Internet days, when "find the others" meant face to face relationships, Watts was a catalyst for intellectuals such as Robert Anton Wilson because Watts knew so many interesting people. Michael gave me some examples:

"Watts owned a houseboat in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco, and it was there that the gurus of the New Left, Gary Snyder, Leary, Ginsberg, Kesey, to figure out if they should be activists or to drop out ala Leary. In Markoff's What The Dormouse Said, he writes that est 'was most closely derived from the version of zen taught by Alan Watts from a Sausalito houseboat during the 1960s.' (p.209) Ginsberg confronted Leary over his sloganeering for LSD there, on the houseboat. If you read Conners's The White Hand Society, it's basically Leary and Ginsberg spending most of their free time on the East Coast going around turning poets, painters, musicians and big-money-types onto LSD. So, within five years, there was some sort of schism between Tim and Allen.

"Watts was part of psychedelic inspired intellectual sessions in the mid-1950s with Oscar Janiger, the LSD psychotherapist who turned Cary Grant's life around, and who was a cousin to Ginsberg. In Sex Drugs and Magick RAW considers Watts, Aldous and WSB as the psychedelic sophisticates. All three had problems with Leary's media advocacy for LSD. All three were captured in artwork at Millbrook.

"When Watts traveled south to LA, he was in the matrix with Aldous, Isherwood, Gerald Heard, and Swami Prahavananda: big influence on Hollywood types. (see Don Lattin's Distilled Spirits, pp.131-135)."

Here is a Zen Pencils adaptation of Watts. You can also visit the official Alan Watts website, maintained by his son.

Shrapnel from Michael: "RAW thought Watts's biggest influence on others was 'mystical christianity.' Watts championed Bucky Fuller and McLuhan in 1967. I think Watts has been given short schrift by Aldous Huxley-ites: their infl has been complementary. The LaRouchites have long been paranoid about Watts and Huxley as Brit agents sent to the US to weaken its children through mysticism and drugs. Throw in Beatles there too...

"Tom Robbins said Watts was an influence on his first book, Another Roadside Attraction, and later quotes Watts within the context of the post-9/11 world: "When you become truly convinced the human condition is hopeless, you enter the Zen state." (Conversations With Tom Robbins, p.38 and p.125)

"By 1959 Watts was not smoking pot. Around then he started calling himself a 'philosophical entertainer,' 'in show biz,' "a genuine fake,' and 'an irreducible rascal.' When he took off with Jano he left former wife Dorothy and four kids. He was always hustling for money to pay his debts. He drank a LOT. Why did he quit psychedelics? He said (I paraphrase from memory): 'Because when one has picked up the telephone and gotten the message, one hangs up.' "


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone

If you are an American, you are likely sitting down to a meal of turkey (or tofu) today,  and if you are not an American,  you may know that people in the U.S. are celebrating a holiday known as "Thanksgiving."

Gratitude is an important part of happiness. (If you are having happiness issues, or want more information about the relationship of gratitude to happiness, please see Eric Barker's "What 10 Things Should You Do Every Day to Improve Your Life?" His blog is useful.)

Anyway, the smart people who have interacted with me and shared their insights with me is the best thing about this blog. Whether you have communicated with me in one of the comments here, or emailed me, or talked to me on Twitter or Facebook or Google+, or written about this blog on your blog, or even just visited and quietly lurked (raising the profile of this blog by adding another "hit,") I wish you a happy Thanksgiving and a joyful Christmas/winter solstice/Feast of St. Dagobert.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Who are RAW's famous admirers?

At the Robert Anton Wilson Fans group on Facebook, Nadia Luijten asked, 

"I'm hoping you guys can help me compile a list of famous/high-profile fans or friends of RAW that are still alive. I'll get the ball rolling:

Bill Nighy
Alex Grey
Bill Drummond
Alan Moore
Mixmaster Morris"

Others added Grant Morrison, Tom Robbins, JMR Higgs, Paul Krassner, Douglas Rushkoff, R.U. Sirius, John Gribbin, Jesse Walker, Rudy Rucker, Nick Herbert. Luijten then suggested Bill Maher and Tool. I arrived late and suggested L. Neil Smith, Mark Frauenfelder, Lewis Shiner and Arthur Hlavaty.

Another poster nominated Umberto Eco, and Dan Clore (the group's moderator) asked for a citation, which was kind of my reaction, too.

Whom did we miss?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Adam Gorightly's Discordian history [UPDATED]

Adam Gorightly, author of a Kerry Thornley bio, has a new book in the works on the history of Discordianism. He has created a new website devoted to Discordianism to promote the book.

In fact, he has several new books in the works, including a "Starseed Signals by Robert Anton Wilson with foreword and afterword by Adam Gorightly." I don't know more about the new RAW book than what's in the preceding sentence, but as I get more news, I'll pass it on.

I don't know Mr. Gorightly really well, but judging from this blog, he likes bongo drums, old LP album covers for gospel music bands,  uncovered  human female breasts, UFOS and go go dancers. Well, who doesn't?

Update: Mr. Gorightly shared more information about Starseed Signals with me; it's an early work from the 1970s, a book project that was never published, based on RAW's association with Timothy Leary. I'm really looking forward to it.

See the article, "Starseed Rises, Like the Phoenix, From Its Ashes," which I uncovered for this blog.

Mr. Gorightly wants you to know that his other Discordian projects announced on the website contain RAW material, too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Coincidance, Week 11

"No Waters in Cherry Valley by the Testicles"


Fans of Robert Anton Wilson's  "Historical Illuminatus" books will recognize "No Waters in Cherry Valley by the Testicles" as a remix of some of the more arresting passages in the novel Nature's God, intermingled with quotes from the movie  "Casablanca" and other bits that I didn't recognize. The piece would seem to have something in common with the remix culture that we've seen in electronic music for years.

The other day, a few hours after I walked in a small Ohio park, I picked up my copy of Coincidance, opened it at random, and read the sentence, "Sigismundo Celine, in the woods of Ohio, meditated."

The sentences in Nature's God about Celine finding himself in the woods of Ohio are reminiscent of the opening sentences of Dante's Inferno, "Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost."

When Wilson lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he lived in one of the older states, one that had been settled for a couple of centuries. But during the Revolutionary War, Ohio was the western wilderness, and a man in the woods there was very far from Europe, indeed.

Isn't Wilson's "Cosmic Schmuck" principle a recognition that we should stop, every once in awhile, to consider whether we have found ourselves in a dark forest? 


By coincidence, I have been reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail, one of the books mentioned by Wilson. Isn't "Dagobert" a wonderful name? The first "Dilbert" comic strip, featuring a character named Dogbert,  was published in 1989, after Coincidance was published. I am confused about why Scott Adams has never been able to work Dagobert II into the strip. A couple of years ago, I listened to Yale professor Paul Freedman's posted online lectures on the early Middle Ages; the professor neglected to mention the theory that the Merovingian kings of France were descended from Jesus, but he did tell his students that the Merovingians had wonderful names that make good names for cats.

Update: Scott Adams answers my email:

Dear Scott,
I am curious  whether Christmas is the most important holiday in the Adams household next month, or whether you place more emphasis on the feast day of St. Dagobert, which of course is celebrated on Dec. 23.
I enjoy the "Dilbert" comic strip very much, although frankly it's a little disappointing you haven't worked in any reference by now to Dagobert II, the last important Merovingian monarch. No doubt you are biding your time, waiting for a chance to unleash the perfect Dagobert joke upon the world.

I have heard of that holiday. But they keep spelling it wrong.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Michael Johnson on RAW, Oswald, Simon Moon University and Six Degrees of Separatation

Michael Johnson has a particularly brilliant post up which is drawing more attention than usual (it was Tweeted by R.U. Sirius) which puts together some of the odd connections in the Kennedy Assassination.

There were two connections between RAW and Oswald. In addition, there are connections to Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where RAW lived. Antioch University is of course "Simon Moon University," the place where Moon studied math in Illuminatus! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

John Higgs on reasons for burning money

British author John Higgs, perhaps the world's leading expert on the public burning of money, has a new blog post up on "Ten Reasons for Burning Money."

The first reason is "To Frighten," and Higgs writes, "This is also the reason why Hagbard Celine burns money in Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy - although Hagbard Celine is considerably more gentlemanly about it."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday links

The Amoeba Design guy is in the U.S. right now. He visited Dealey Plaza this week and told CNBC in an interview that his name is "Hagbard Celine." For 5 Star TV, he was "Kerry Thornley."

10 Books That Wouldn't Exist Without Flann O'Brien. The Widow's Son by Robert Anton Wilson isn't included in the ten, but it is mentioned in a paragraph mentioning other books. Hat tips, Roman Tsivkin and Michael Johnson.

Austin is talking about limiting fast food restaurants (hat tip, John Merritt).

Supergee's Kennedy conspiracy theory.

17 ads you couldn't do now. (Hat tip Arthur Hlavaty/Supergee.)

F is for Fake is on YouTube, at least for now. 

Erik Davis: "This weekend: I'll give 2 talks, on Lovecraft and Robert Anton Wilson, at the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore. Eventually these will appear as texts. I'll let folks know."

Adam Gorightly on JFK assassination and Discordianism.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ted Gioia on Illuminatus!

Ted Gioia. He grew up in a Mexican-Italian family in Hawthorne, California, so he probably got to eat spicy food from an early age and hung out with the Beach Boys and George Harrison's second wife when he was a small child. No wonder he's cool.

Back in 2011, I came up with a bright idea for advancing Robert Anton Wilson's place in the literary canon -- send copies of Illuminatus! to influential critics and authors.

I still haven't sent copies of the work to Michael Dirda or Harold Bloom or Neil Gaiman. But I knew Ted Gioia a little bit (only in the sense of having exchanged a couple of short emails with him) and after asking his permission I bought a copy of Illuminatus! from Amazon in 2011 and had it shipped to him. He promised to get around to reading it sometime, and I promised not to pester him about it. (I didn't name him in the 2011 post I've linked to, above, because I didn't want anyone else to pester him, either.)

Gioia is an interesting guy, a kind of Deion Sanders* of arts criticism. He is almost certainly best known as a jazz expert. His The History of Jazz, Second Edition, is arguably the definitive history; I read it a couple of years ago. He's also written well-received books on blues and on jazz standards, founded, has recorded jazz music, has been a producer on jazz recordings and on and on and on. You get the idea. I forgot to tell him that Robert Anton Wilson loved jazz.

This would be enough for most people, but his ambitions as a literary critic are equally impressive. He wrote a wonderful "The Nobel Prize in Literature from an Alternative Universe" and the piece fixes a lot of mistakes (my take on his list is here.) He's been writing a lot about James Joyce lately, but in fact he seems determined to write about just about every interesting writer who ever lived. See his Great Books guide, and follow the links to other Web sites that list the 100 best novels of all time, great science fiction books, postmodern mysteries, modern conceptual fiction ... it would be great, I thought, if he actually read Illuminatus! and enjoyed it, but a bit of a bummer if he hated it and denounced it on the Internet.

So imagine my pleasure when he actually did read it a few weeks ago. He's just posted a review at his Conceptual Fiction review site (although I would argue the review also would have fit nicely at his Fractious Fiction site, where you can find his stuff on Joyce, William Burroughs, etc.) Oh, and he liked it.

Notice how Ted zeroes in on two of the most important points about Illuminatus! -- the way that Wilson and Shea blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, and the way that Illuminatus! seems to forecast many of the government abuses such as NSA spying that are in the headlines today. Ted also spots how Illuminatus! was a postmodern novel, mixing "high" and "low" culture, long before such hybrids became fashionable.

Please read the whole review, but here's a taste:

When you reach the final pages of this work, you will find that your greatest challenge
as a reader is not evaluating the literary merits of the trilogy, but determining
how much of it the authors themselves actually believe—and, by extension,
how much credence you ought to give to their claims.

At a minimum, grant these audacious authors credit for uncanny predictions
about their future (and our present).  When forced to specify the goals of the
dominant conspirators, they offer this wish list:

"Universal electronic surveillance.  No-knock laws.  Stop and frisk laws.
Government inspection of first-class mail.  Automatic fingerprinting, blood
tests and urinanalysis of any person arrested before he is charged with a
crime.  A law making it unlawful to resist even unlawful arrest.  Laws
establishing detention camps for potential subversives  Gun control laws.
Restrictions on travel…."

This list was published in 1975, but could show up in a current-day editorial,
and none of the items would seem out-of-place.  Of course, many items on
this wish list are no longer wishes, having come true during the intervening

Incidentally, Ted's Twitter feed is a must-follow for folks interested in music or books.

His brother is Dana Gioia. 

* This is arguably a poor analogy because only Americans will understand a reference to an American sports star, but I kept it in because I like it. Hey, it's my blog! Explanation: Deion Sanders was a star American football player in the NFL, and also was a starter for the New York Yankees baseball team. This kind of mastery of two popular American professional sports is pretty much unheard of. From the Wikipedia bio: "During the 1989 season, he hit a major league home run and scored a touchdown in the NFL in the same week, the only player ever to do so. Sanders is also the only man to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oz Fritz on the new Joanna Harcourt-Smith book

When the new Joanna Harcourt-Smith book on her relationship with Timothy Leary came out, I wondered if it had anything about Robert Anton Wilson in it. Oz Fritz has answered my question with his carefully-written review of the book: 

"Fans of Robert Anton Wilson will note that Leary reread Illuminatus! toward the end of his prison years.  That's the only appearance of Wilson in this tale.  Other books Leary requested get mentioned, as well as how many times he read Gravity's Rainbow."

On Twitter, Leary biographer John Higgs commented: "Presumably that would be pre-publication (Leary was released in Feb 75), so it might well have been the unedited version."

In any event, Oz's review makes it clear that Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary is well-worth reading ("This book profoundly move me") and an effective reply to the sometimes harsh criticism that's been piled on Harcourt-Smith. "Joanna Harcourt-Smith has endured unfair criticism at times that she was riding on Timothy Leary's coattails.  After reading her book, this criticism seems ridiculous, quite the opposite," he writes.

See also Oz's post on the most recent Leary biography; note that Oz has carefully read all of the Leary biographies. He's also read many of Leary's books. Nobody is better qualified to review Joanna's book.

Joanna pops up on the comments.

And when I wrote to her, asking if there will be a version for Kindle, she replied that it will be out in about two weeks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guest post: Caroline Contillo on 'Quantum Psychology'


 Caroline Contillo is a meditation teacher associated with  The Interdependence Project, a nonprofit Buddhist meditation center in Brooklyn, N.Y. She teaches mindfulness meditation, a form of Buddist meditation also known as Insight Meditation and Vipassana. She is also a stand-up comedian, artist, writer, political activist and probably a few other things I've missed. Apparently she has a reputation for  being fashionable as well as enlightened. Oh, and she's also influenced by Robert Anton Wilson. Here is a description of Caroline in her own words, "I'm a multidisciplinary artist, perfomer & writer based in Greenpoint Brooklyn.  I'm also a queer feminist and practicing Buddhist, interested in social change via decentralized movements like Occupy. I'm also interested in making the tools of Buddhist mindfulness meditation accessible to anyone who is interested." Her clear and useful instructions for getting started in mindfulness meditation are here.
I ran into Caroline on Twitter; somebody I follow had retweeted her Tweet advising everyone to read Quantum Psychology, which she said had helped her overcome depression. I tracked down Caroline via her official website and asked if she could tell me something more about her interest in QP, and she responded by sitting down and writing the following piece. I deeply appreciate her generosity in writing this. -- The Mgt. 

How Quantum Psychology changed my life

By Caroline Contillo

 In my early twenties I was, like many people in their early twenties, teetering on the edge of nihilism. I'd been disillusioned by my Catholic upbringing. So many questions about the nature of belief and the human mind were squelched in Bible study classes. I'd been a politically active teenager, but I'd even grown disillusioned with the efficacy of direct action in the face of George W. Bush and his war. I'd left college and was working in a freelance capacity for a major finance website. I drank heavily and sought solace in film. I was lucky to have a friend who was quite interested in what I'd call cognitive liberty. It seemed like there was a thread in some modes of thought, some philosophies, a thread of liberation from ignorance. We'd discuss this over drinks, late into the night. And then he lent me Robert Anton Wilson's Quantum Psychology, and everything changed for me.

What first interested me in RAW's nonfiction work was his take on what he would call "creative agnosticism." Belief was almost beside the point. In fact, why had I always taken it for granted that I should believe my thoughts? It could be much more interesting to learn to learn, as in mindfulness meditation, to observe them and then let them go, with judgment-free ear for what was interesting about them. As much as I was interested in science fiction, performance art, mystical and shamanistic traditions, it never really sunk in with me that my experience of reality was not the only way a person could experience it. That my perspective was not me, and that I could easily begin to set feedback loops into motion that would help me shift my perspective intentionally towards a more open relationship with things as they are.

Robert Anton Wilson's Quantum Psychology didn't merely lay out the principles of cognitive liberation, it provided exercises I could easily use in order to realize these things for myself. One of the early exercises in the book really struck me. I could take a large number of small objects and categorize them in several different ways. These are objects that cost more than ten dollars, and here are the objects that cost less than ten dollars. These objects have plastic in them, these objects don't. These objects have names that begin with a vowel, these objects have a name that begins with consonant. I could go beyond boundaries, too: these objects are utilities, these ones are for play, but here's a third category for objects that don't entirely fit into one or the other. I played around with this idea, first using the categories proscribed in the exercise, then making up my own, and then inviting another person to participate. This really drove the experience home. Adding another person showed that he might enter into the situation with an entirely different set of cognitive filters, informed by his past experiences and memories, and come up with categories I hadn't even thought of. And this was all from a single exercise!

Another key aspect of the book, for me, was RAW's use of Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics to point out the flaw in our notion of 'being.' That's a very heady way of saying that removing the word "is" from our language actually puts us more in synch with our experience of the world. RAW asks the reader to experiment with E-Prime, a version of the English language that excludes all versions of  "to be." In using this language, the thought "I am worthless" becomes "Today I exhibit what might commonly be referred to as feelings of worthlessness.” This of course forces the experiencer of the feelings to dig deeper. Instead of identifying and objectifying the self as a solid and static worthless being, might this curious observer instead dig deep and find the roots of these feelings? This new version of the though actually leaves the door open for change and transformation. And that, my friends, is magic.

Late in life, as I came to Buddhism, I'd notice a lot of themes from RAW's book come up in my exploration of mindfulness meditation. I began to see all of the various models we use to describe our experience as just that: models. I began to see that I have agency in choosing which model I might make use of. I can evaluate the models instead of identifying with them. I can notice thoughts, acknowledge them, and then let them go, really feeling the ephemerality and transience of these thoughts. The thoughts aren't me! The models aren't the world! There is something else, the actual naked experience of the present moment. I might only glimpse it every so often, but it's there beneath all my narratives, models, extrapolations, and editorializations.

The human mind is a story-telling machine. It's one of the beautiful aspects of being human. This is present in RAW's science-fiction work, which he uses artfully and with humor in an effort to underscore some of the very heady ideas mentioned above. How does a science – fiction author come up with a world from scratch and populate it with fantastical scenarios and characters? I'd say the same cognitive openness that RAW illustrates in Quantum Psychology, the openness that allowed me to begin to emerge from a deep depression, is the same mental flexibility that makes a fantastic science – fiction writer. RAW wrote about, demonstrated and in fact EMBODIED a form of mental syntax like E-Prime which puts one more in accord with things as they are, rather than a rigid thought grammar that solidifies and objectifies things as we wish them to be, or as we fear they are. The mind is a beautiful storyteller but the key is in noticing when we are mistaking the story for our experience. And knowing that we can use some gentle intention to change the story. RAW was a magician in that way, and his lessons of magic could transform the mundane into a gonzo conspiracy caper, or it could transform a person experiencing depression into an acolyte cognitive activist. I have incredible gratitude to the man for making quantum connections across disciplines. I am a changed person for it. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Coincidance Week Ten

"Religion for the Hell of It."

Readers who are interested in the topic of recent invented religions might perhaps read my blog post on the book Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith by Carole M.  Cusack. As I wrote in the earlier post, the book covers Discordianism, the Church of All Worlds, the Church of the Subgenius and other groups touched upon in Wilson's "Religion for the Hell of It" article.

I've just finished Lawrence Wright's excellent book on the Church of Scientology, Going Clear. As I read RAW's essay, I realized that in some ways, the Church of the Subgenius can be understood as a satire on Scientology. The Secret of Power sounds like what Scientologists are after, and the absurd claim that the Church of the Subgenius has "10,000,000 members" parodies the Scientologists' claim to have millions of members worldwide.

"Comix and Cut-Ups"

When I was in high school, before the publication of Illuminatus!, I read about Tristan Tzara's method of writing poetry -- cutting words out of a newspaper, putting them in a hat, shaking the hat and then drawing out the words -- and I experimented with the technique for my creative writing class.

Although RAW does not mention it, introducing elements of chance has been an element in the composition of modern classical music for decades. John Cage was a famous exponent of the practice. I am a fan of a John Cage disciple, William Duckworth, who used elements of chance in composing his best-known work, a piano composition called "The Time Curve Preludes." (I own three recordings of the work.)

I  love this sentence: "I am not interested in lazy readers, however, but in the attentive and awake."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Links and housekeeping

Anonymous hacktivist gets 10 years in prison.

Interview with John Higgs (click photo of the guy next to the moon at top left.)

Who killed Michael Hastings? (The author believes it was an accident.)

NFL player reads Noam Chomsky, quits football.

I have posted links, "Under Feature Articles and Interviews," to the videos of John Higgs lecturing at the London Forteans event, and Daisy Campbell and her actor friends presenting Daisy's adaptation in progress of RAW's Cosmic Trigger. I also put up a link for Saturday's post on musical tributes to RAW. I've already added a couple of things to the original post, and will continue to update it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Music notes

1. In the course of working on yesterday's blog post (thanks for the suggestions of material to add -- I'll have more stuff up soon), I sat down and listened to Cloud and Owl's "R.A.W" EP again. It's quite good. It's still priced at about $9 on Amazon for U.S. customers, but it's less than $3 for 35 minutes of music (in a variety of download formats) here.

2. Thanks to Eric Wagner, we know that RAW once sat up all night listening to Beethoven's nine symphonies, one after the other.  

I recently discovered that Freegal, the music downloading service offered by libraries, has recordings of all nine symphonies by conductor George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. You could do worse. If you have a library card, check also to see if your library has the new Hoopla music streaming service. (Hoopla also offers movies and audiobooks.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Musical tributes to RAW

There are quite a few artists who have released songs that are explicitly endorsements of Robert Anton Wilson's philosophy or tributes to him. I thought I'd do a post that tries to collect some of this material. Most of it could be classified as electronic music. Let me know what I've missed. [Updated with George Dorn Screams and other stuff -- The Mgt.]

First up is a music video for "Azzazza" by the artist Zongamin. Although a video I earlier featured on this blog was posted to the Internet, the song was never released commercially. I like the song, and the video:

Zongamin - AZZAZZA from T.A.M. Corp. on Vimeo.

I'd better get to the hit soon: "Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs)" by the KLF and Tammy Wynette. Just another rhythm and blues hit, from England, featuring the queen of country music, about the Illuminatus! trilogy.

Here's another interesting video/song, from Benny Zen:

Here is "R.A.W" by Cloud and Owl:

The EP this is from was released a few weeks ago. It's about 35 minutes of music, available cheap from CD Baby.

And here is "Colonisation of Space" by E-Rection:

The Golden Horde was an Irish punk rock band that collaborated with Robert Anton Wilson on an album (or at least an EP) "The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy." Here is the track "Black Flag," which feature's RAW's lyrics:

Here is some weird dub stuff, using RAW spoken word, from theestateovcreation, aka hagbard celine on Twitter. 

Speaking of hagbard, he pointed me to "We Discordians (Must Stick Apart)" by Two Lone Swordsmen:


George Dorn Screams is a rather good band from Poland. Can't find anything that links the band to RAW, but I have to think the name comes from Illuminatus!

Interesting artist suggested to me by pHLOgiestone on Twitter:

Rapper Noah23 cites Robert Anton Wilson as an influence. Here's his "I'm RAW (Based Freestyle)"

A video for an artist called Mr. S, performing "The Universe Right Here (Song for Robert Anton Wilson).

Ultraviolet Hippopotamus got its name from the list of bands toward the end of the Illuminatus! trilogy. I don't actually know how much interest they have in Robert Anton Wilson. The band's official websites links to (authorized) recordings of the band in concert at the Internet Archive.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Did Obama spy on Romney?

That's the question that's posed by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution; his answer is, in a sense, almost certainly yes. His reasoning goes as follows:

Did Mitt Romney ever speak with Angela Merkel, whose phone the NSA bugged, or any one of the dozens of her advisers that the NSA was also bugging? Did Romney exchange emails with Mexican President Felipe Calderon? Were any of Romney’s emails, photos, texts or other metadata hoovered up by the NSA’s break-in to the Google and Yahoo communications links? Almost certainly the answer is yes.

Did the NSA use the information they gathered on Mitt Romney and other political candidates for political purposes? Probably not. Will the next president or the one after that be so virtuous so as to not use this kind of power? I have grave doubts. Men are not angels.

The entire entry is not terrible long and well worth reading.

Related: An interesting article on why email encryption is so little used. The piece, by a computer science professor named Matthew Green, asserts, "More than ninety-five per cent of all e-mail flowing over the Internet today does so in a vulnerable, unencrypted form." If my own experience is any guide (perhaps it isn't, but I know many libertarians), the correct figure is closer to more than 99 percent. Green explains why the Dark Mail Alliance has the potential to make encryption more common.

There's also an interesting email initiative in Iceland called Mailpile. Disappointingly, Green doesn't weigh in; I would have liked seeing what he thinks of that effort.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When Bob met Ayn

Robert Anton Wilson recounts in Cosmic Trigger 2 that he went through an Objectivist phase, and once actually met Ayn Rand. The episode is recounted here. I blogged about the episode here. 

Daisy Eric Campbell asked on Twitter is there was any other documentation about the encounter. I ran a couple of quick searches, couldn't find anything, and then checked a couple of reliable databases -- Michael Johnson and Eric Wagner.

After wishing me a happy 11/12/13, Eric passed this on:

I remember hearing Bob talking about “being summoned into the presence” (meeting Ayn Rand) in a talk in Dallas in 1987. He said he started to write some equations on a chalkboard to prove a point and she said (Bob did a Russian accent), “I do not approve of modern mathematics.” Bob said this led him to his theory that Princess Anastasia had come to America, changed her name to Ayn Rand, and created a new religion to combat communism. He said her degree of imperiousness must have come from her royal background. (Yes, of course I think he intended this in jest.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Kennedy conspiracy theories

With the 50th anniversary of the John Kennedy assassination approaching, there are plenty of new books and articles about who killed the U.S. president. Here are a couple of relatively conservative pieces I noticed.

Fresh Air interviewed journalist Philip Shenon about his book, A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination. Shenon's thesis, apparently well backed up by the evidence, is that the Warren Commission thoroughly botched its investigation. Many investigators were blocked from pursuing promising leads by Earl Warren, he says. Shenon wonders why contacts between Oswald and others weren't pursued more thoroughly. He doubts the theory about a second gunman on the grassy knoll, however. There were other people there, and it's odd that they didn't notice anyone firing a rifle, he says. The podcast and interview highlights are here. 

In a related vein, John Kerry also wonders why those contacts betwee n Oswald and others weren't pursued more thoroughly. (Hat tip, Daily Grail's very useful daily links.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coincidance, Week Nine

I recently gained some insight into the nature of my political opinions when Justin Raimondo posted a Tweet denouncing "sellout apostate libertarians" such as F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman; not only do I like those two apostates better than I like many other libertarians, but I think "apostate libertarian" is a pretty good description of my political views. I have perfectly mainstream libertarian opinions on peace and civil liberties, two-thirds of the traditional libertarian platform, but I am rather more flexible on economic matters. While I tend to lean free market, arguments between economists confuse me. (If it's a science, how come they don't agree on anything?) I felt a kinship to the political platform Vladimir Nabokov outlined in his "Playboy" interview:

Nabokov: The fact that since my youth—I was 19 when I left Russia—my political outlook has remained as bleak and changeless as an old gray rock. It is classical to the point of triteness. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of art. The social or economic structure of the ideal state is of little concern to me. My desires are modest. Portraits of the head of the government should not exceed a postage stamp in size. No torture and no executions. No music, except coming through earphones, or played in theaters.

Well, OK, except maybe the music part. (And see how V.N. sounds like a bit like RAW in this bit: "A work of art has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual, and only the individual reader is important to me. I don’t give a damn for the group, the community, the masses, and so forth.")

Anyway, although I would imagine that Sean MacBride would have defined himself as a "progressive," his views on peace and civil liberties are in that place where liberals, progressives, libertarians and anyone else with a conscience is going to have to make common cause if the world is going to continue to become more peaceful and more free. There is rather little for a libertarian to quarrel with. The interview was one of my favorite parts of the book when I read it for the first time a few years ago, and I have re-read it again and again.

A couple of points, maybe or not they are relevant: New Falcon Press didn't bother, when it edited the book, to tell us when the original interview with MacBride was published, but in the text RAW writes, "At the age of 90, Sean MacBride ... " MacBride (1904-1988) turned 80 in 1984.

Although only a minority of readers will know what I'm talking about, but when I re-read the interview with Sean MacBride, I wondered if he was any relation to Roger MacBride,  who in 1976 was only the second nominee of the still-young Libertarian Party. When I was a student at the University of Oklahoma in the 1976, and a nascent libertarian, he came to our campus.

When I read the introduction, I wondered what it was that was so taboo about MacBride that RAW was unable to publish his interview in the U.S.; I would guess it was his membership in the IRA. Growing up in Tulsa, I remember my sister remarking that the local radio station broadcasting a Top 40 radio show had refused to play the latest Paul McCarney single. Almost surely, it was "Give Ireland Back to the Irish."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday links

Richard Cabut article on the London Fortean Society event. A bit from it: "I myself met Wilson in the early 80s, when he was living in Dublin. He told me the city suited him because the four faces of the town hall clock each presented a different time. People called it the Four Liars. This chimed with Bob’s sense of humour and philosophical outlook. ‘I do not believe in anything but I have my suspicions,’ he once said."

Latest Steve "Fly" Pratt radio show. Includes a bit of RAW and features music RAW liked.

New Ken Campbell biography.

The FBI spied on Isaac Asimov. 

PQ discusses a new Finnegans Wake blog.

Michael Johnson's getting lots of comments for his post on "Rise of the Robots and Technological Unemployment."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

'Going Clear' provides some clarity about Scientology

I have been listening to an audiobook of Lawrence Wright's Going Clear, his history of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. It's a subject I thought I knew quite a bit about, so I have been surprised so far at how much I have been learning, and how much light the book sheds on Robert Anton Wilson's intellectual milieu (though he is not mentioned in the book, at least so far.)

I knew something about the relationship between Hubbard and Jack Parsons, for example, but I did not know that Hubbard believed he had a Guardian Angel (described as a woman with red hair) who dictated much of  his writings to him; Aleister Crowley apparently was an influence on L. Ron. I also did not know that the writings of Alfred Korzybski were a Hubbard influence.

The book has details on Operation Snow White, a massive espionage operation by Scientologists against the U.S. government and other governments, and Operation Freakout, a campaign of harassment and attempted murder directed against Paulette Cooper, who had written a book critical of Scientology. (The book, The Scandal of Scientology, has been allowed to go out of print.) Given the cult's treatment of Cooper, Wright showed considerable courage coming out with his own expose.

One sobering aspect of the book is the way that otherwise apparent intelligent Americans such as John Campell and Robert A. Heinlein fell for many of Hubbard's lies and outlandish claims; I've always had decidedly mixed feelings about RAW's crusade against skeptics and Wright's book isn't doing much to change my mind. I'm all for skepticism about skepticism, but Wright's book implies that people in the U.S. suffer not from too much skepticism, but from too little. (Many American SF fans apparently were less easy to take in.  I read years ago about the "Elron Awards" given at a science fiction convention — a bronze lemon on a plywood base for the worst in SF.)

RAW had little good to say about Hubbard. If you think RAW's comments are extreme, I suggest checking out Wright's book.

RAW, discussing L. Ron Hubbard:

Did L. Ron Hubbard ever get interviewed by you, while you were working for Playboy, Robert Anton Wilson? Did you ever make contact, you and L. Ron Hubbard?
No, thank God, I've never had any contact with him and I've had as little contact as possible with any member of Scientology.

From another interview:

9. What do you think of the works of L. R. Hubbard?
What do you think of Stalin and Hitler?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Daisy Eric Campbell & Co. at the London Fortean Society

I'm so glad videos of the London Fortean Society's Robert Anton Wilson event are available. Part One is the lecture by John Higgs. Here is part two, with Daisy Eris Campbell and several British actors performing bits from her "Cosmic Trigger" play:

Daisy continues to see 23 pound donations to advance her efforts to stage the play. In her latest email bulletin, she writes, "Many thanks to those of you who've donated... So far I have used your cash to:

"Set up a theatre company
Book myself on a crowd-funding masterclass
Partake of a hotdog (bunless, of course)
Start getting the fundraising film off the ground

"The remaining money will go to the Wilson Estate to secure an option on the rights, so I really do need just a few more of your hard-earned bio-survival tickets to get the official crowdfunding campaign launched, complete with kick-ass fundraising film.

"So I'm confiscating your Popedom until you cough up. "

The link for donations is in the emails; to get on her email list, write to

Nick Helweg-Larsen, who is helping with publicity for Daisy's efforts, writes:

"She said for those stateside, it's up to them to decide whether they donate £23 or $23.

"She wanted me to make it clear they are raising funds in part to get the rights from the estate as she doesn't want to upset Christina by seeming presumptuous.

"And anyone who donates £23 pre-official campaign will be on the guest list for the Grand Discordian opening night party (there will be one in the UK and one in the States)."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A bit more on the John Higgs video

Tomorrow I plan to post on the Daisy Eris part of last month's London Fortean Society event, but today a footnote on the video I posted Tuesday: The sharp-eyed Grey Taylor (of Daily Grail) spots an Easter Egg:  "At 23 minutes (exactly) in, a near-subliminal image of Bob pops up with the caption 'If you can read this you are a pope!' "

Taylor also has a good post on the video which transcribes a key portion of the talk.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Documentary, "Zen: The Best of Alan Watts."  (Hat tip, Timothy Leary Futique).

New York art museums put more than 400 art catalogs online. 

Sounds like an Illuminatus! bit: Did Hitler escape to Argentina? (Via Daily Grail.)

Blog post on Prometheus Rising.

Ten steps you can take against Internet surveillance (from the Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Edward Snowden's letter of appeal to Washington. 

"Sex as an institution, sex as a general notion, sex as a problem, sex as a platitude—all this is something I find too tedious for words. Let us skip sex." Go on, admit you -- you want to read the Playboy interview with Vladimir Nabokov.  "Art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

John Higgs on RAW at the London Fortean event

The John Higgs lecture on Robert Anton Wilson at the London Fortean Society's event last month has been posted on YouTube. (The Daisy Campbell segment still is not up, but I'll do a follow-up post when it becomes available.)

The Higgs segment is about 47 minutes long. John talks for about 25-30 minutes to explain why RAW is still relevant, discoursing on model agnosticism and reality tunnels, and making the case for RAW in a calm, rational, witty manner. He then takes questions. His segment ends when he calls up Jonathan Harris onstage for a money-burning moment. (I blogged about that segment on Oct. 27.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Coincidance, Week Eight

"The Physics of Synchronicity"

"Semper as  Oxhousehumper"

Although I had to work had to follow all of Wilson's arguments in the synchronicity essay and the Joyce piece, I was very interested because I keep noticing synchronicities in my own life.

None of them are earth-shattering, but they seem interesting to me. For example, on Twitter, I follow a guy named Ted Hand, who also follows me. What we mainly seem to have in common is an interest in Robert Anton Wilson, although Hand is particularly a Philip K. Dick expert.

Late on the night of Oct. 17, I  Tweeted (in a Tweet addressed to Roman Tsivkin, "Iain Banks is the best Anglo-American SF writer I can think of who never won a major award." Hand retweeted my Tweet. I had no idea he was interested in Banks, and he could not even have seen my Tweet unless he followed both Roman and myself.

Meanwhile, Hand sent out a Tweet linking to a posting on the Io9 website about astronomers discovering a big asteroid that might hit the Earth -- and at almost the same time he was retweeting my Banks Tweet, I retweeted his asteroid Tweet.

Speaking of Mr. Tsivkin, he recently put a literary coincidence into my reading life. A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a blog posting here that maybe I ought to recommend that he read George Alec Effinger, a cult science fiction writer I'm fond of, and he went out and read some Effinger books. So I thought maybe I ought to let Roman recommend a book to me, and he suggested I read Too Loud a Solitude by the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. I'm reading it now.

I've been an avid reader for decades, but I never heard of this apparently world-famous Czech writer. Which seems strange. For years, I corresponded with a very literary Czech man named Vaclav Kriz, who lived in Brno. When I looked up Hrabal's biography, I saw he was born in Brno.

But just a few days after Roman told me about Hrabal, I opened up the Wall Street Journal's Saturday books page, and read a recommendation of Hrabal's novel Closely Watched Trains.

I looked up Hrabal on Wikipedia, and his life is the tiresomely familiar sad story of an Eastern European artist abused by the regime; several of his books were allowed to be published after he gave a self-critical interview in which he supposedly said things like "as a Czech writer I feel connected to the Czech people, with its Socialist past and future." Laughably insincere, but fortunately, Communist bureaucrats don't have any more of a sense of humor than capitalist ones. But see how Hrabal died:

"He died when he fell from a window on the fifth floor of the Bulovka hospital in Prague where he was apparently trying to feed pigeons. It was noted that Hrabal lived on the fifth floor of his apartment building and that suicides by leaping from a fifth-floor window were mentioned in several of his books."

Wilson refers to Arthur Koestler's book The Roots of Coincidence more than once, so I looked it up. Wikipedia says this about it: "The Roots of Coincidence, written by Arthur Koestler, is an accessible introduction to theories of parapsychology, including extra-sensory perception and psychokinesis. It postulates links between elements of quantum mechanics, such as the behaviour of neutrinos and their interaction with time, and these paranormal phenomena. It is influenced by Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity." It would appear the book influenced Wilson's thoughts.

I liked the way Wilson tied the I Ching with the 1's and 0's of computers. This is something he does with Illuminatus!, of course, with the computer programmed to use the I Ching. The dots and dashes of Morse code transmitted on telegraph wires arguably kicked off the telecommunications revolution.

As an American blogger, I feel connected to the American people, with its Socialist past and future.  No, wait, that's not current. I think James Clapper is a great American, and I wish the liberal media would leave him alone.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Groupname for Grapejuice on RAW's theories on conspiracies

Groupname for Grapejuice is a blog that covers the occult, James Joyce, conspiracies and other topics that might be of interest to RAW fans. It typically runs long, well-crafted, erudite essays with many illustrations. I would guess that sombunall RAW fans would enjoy it — probably many. PQ has called it his favorite blog. It is written by "znore," about whom I know nothing. The name of the blog comes from a passage in Finnegans Wake.

As I alluded to yesterday, the latest post takes a Robert Anton Wilson essay as its starting point, and is named "Retangling the Spaghetti Theory of Conspiracy 1," implying that the post might have a sequel. It argues against the proposition that there is a single conspiracy controlling everything and also argues against the idea that there aren't many conspiracies out there, instead arguing a middle way that there are many conspiracies hatched by the power elite.

znore draws from several books in discussing the Power Elite; I wondered if he had run across a book by Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010, which is purportedly about the working class but which also offers much information about what Murray terms the new elite, one that is based upon obtaining university educations at elite institutions. In Murray's telling, the elite are not so much about power, although that's part of it, but leading the good life apart from the hoi polloi.  Murray posits a small elite in American society; znore seems to be talking about an even smaller international elite.

The most interesting part of znore's essay, for me, was his theory that one motivation for the leaks of government secrets by Julian Assange and Edward Snowden is to accelerate the SNAFU effect — to make communication between functionaries in the elite's agencies of control even more difficult because paranoia over the leaks prompts a clampdown that impedes communication even further.

Hat tip, Manic Doodlings on Twitter.

Unconnected to the above, I really liked znore's piece on the Holy Grail.

Here's what PQ wrote about Groupname for Grapejuice: "I've got a new favorite blog and, as you can probably ascertain from reading this space, it's a weird one. Entitled Groupname for Grapejuice (a phrase from Finnegans Wake), this blog uses a mix of comparative mythology, occult knowledge, numerology, and some subjective free association to engage in what I can only call synchronicity detective work. The process might rankle the corduroys of the average skeptical rational materialists, but for me, having often indulged in this kind creative associative detective work myself, it's a delight to read. If you any interest in Finnegans Wake, synchronicity, numerology, Kabbalah, or conspiracy theories, then I can't recommend this blog highly enough. While the synchro-knots revealed can be a little scary sometimes, it's a good kind of scary, the kind that shakes up your world view, forcing you to reorganize your reality tunnel. Healthy mental exercise. Robert Anton Wilson would've loved it."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Spaghetti Theory of Conspiracy

Via the blog Groupname for Grapejuice, I ran across an essay by Robert Anton Wilson that I had not seen before, "The Spaghetti Theory of Conspiracy." It does not seem to be at, but was the introduction to a book. Tomorrow I'll post about the GfG blog, but today I just wanted to link to the essay, on the theory that many of you likely have not see it, either.

You'll see a lot in the essay that you've red elsewhere, but there are lovely bits new to me, including a longer anecdote than I've been elsewhere on the time he was working for Playboy and discovered that the police were spying on him, and these sentences:


In CIA jargon, a "useful idiot" means somebody who is working for them but doesn't know it.

My involvements with controversial politics have left me with one lasting legacy. Whenever I suspect that I am taking myself or my theories too seriously, I stop and ask myself, "Have I become a useful idiot yet?"

Friday, November 1, 2013

PQ book review roundup

PQ  has a roundup of various books that I have read or wish that I had read, including books we've recently discussed here. I was particularly interested in his review of Neuropolitique by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, which I haven't gotten to yet. He writes, ". My favorite aspect of Leary's spiel tends to be his view of DNA and evolution and I love the way he ties space migration into this. He likens space migration to "the movement from marine to amphibian life or from reptile to mammalian." Why don't people say this kind of stuff anymore?"