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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Were some of the Illuminatus! appendices saved?

When I looked at the Robert Anton Wilson interview in the D. Scott Apel book I blogged about a couple of days ago, I noticed something interesting.

In the interview, conducted in January 1977, Wilson states that 500 pages were cut out of the published version of the work, including eight appendices that were cut out of Illuminatus! by the publisher, Dell. This is what comes next:

Apel: Will those ever be published?

Wilson: Yeah, I think so.

[Note: This prediction turned out to be accurate; in 1980, Berkeley's And/Or Press published The Illuminati Papers, which included much of the 500 pages of material cut from the original manuscript of the Illuminatus trilogy.]

I've never seen it asserted anywhere else that The Illuminati Papers is largely material cut out of Illuminatus! I always thought the lost appendices were, in fact, lost. That's what I thought Wilson said in other interviews. Can  you guys weigh in?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday links

Interview with Arlen Riley. (Via John Merritt)

(On whether she ever regrets marrying RAW: "I'm happy that I married him. I haven't regretted it, except for the briefest seconds, when he just can't lie. This man just doesn't lie, and flubs when he tries. He can't do it.

"If I ask him to say I'm not in when the phone rings, he can't do it convincingly. He hates to be put in a position where he's supposed to be dishonest. So I guess I've become more truthful since knowing him. I'm not saying he's a saint, or has never lied, but it's so rare. Usually, when he tries to do it, his eyes bug out, his face gets red, and he can not, absolutely can not, dissimulate with cool and calm.")

Does anyone know what happened to the novel she was working on?

Dylan Matthews argues on Vox for a guaranteed income.  Via John Merritt, again. Updated on July 23.

Switching to Duck Duck Go to avoid being tracked when you run Internet searches.

Ulysses to be adapted as a virtual reality video game. Via Scott in Wisconsin, who comments, "I read the book and enjoyed it but I think I am out of the demographic for a video game."

Margot Adler has died. She was an NPR journalist, but also wrote Drawing Down the Moon, a survey of paganism which included information about Discordianism.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

D. Scott Apel, are you out there?

The explosion of electronic books that are put out by small companies or simply self-published by the author has had many positive effects, but there is a big negative: When you buy an ebook that isn't put out by a well-established publisher, you never know if it will be formatted correctly.

I ran into this, again, when I bought Science Fiction: An Oral History by D. Scott Apel. It only cost me 99 cents. It consists of interviews with science fiction authors; the writers in the book are C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick, Fritz Leiber, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad and Robert Anton Wilson. The RAW interview may be one that was not previously available. (It's harder to check that when remains down.) The RAW interview has a lot of discussion about Illuminatus! Roger Zelazny also is one of the my favorite writers.

So what's not to like?

Well, when I opened the book I noticed that the formatting obviously was wrong -- the typeface was not the Amazon standard look and size -- but I decided I could live with that. 

But when I browsed toward the last page of the book -- I was reading Apel's piece explaining why he didn't have interviews with Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein or Ray Bradbury -- I suddenly got an error message and I couldn't go anywhere else. The error message told me to delete the book and download another copy from the cloud. But each time, I got the same error message and couldn't read the book.

A very long tech support chat session with Amazon (more than an hour) apparently fixed the problem, but I'd like Apel to know about it, and also raise a couple of other issues. But he's apparently one of these guys who makes a point of being hard to find -- no official website, no Twitter account, etc. 

So if anybody out there knows this guy, can you please send me his contact information, or tell  him there's apparently something wrong with his book?

I guess this is one of those ebook things. I'd never be able to get a book on paper for 99 cents. But I've never had to get an hour of technical support to read an ordinary book. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week 23

Illustration for RAW's "Serpent Power" article.

(This week: Page 224, "Carlo put the gun on the table between us," to page 234, "six million people had died.")

Apparently it is easier to murder people if you dehumanize them. That applies to armies killing whole groups of people, but also to individuals, as Shea and Wilson show.

When George Dorn, stung by the accusation that he is not a real revolutionary, follows the police officer, intending to kill him, he reminds himself that the officer is not a real human being. "I  followed the cop -- the pig, I corrected myself -- out the cafeteria .... I let the cop -- the pig -- get half a block ahead, and reached in my pocket for the revolver." (page 228.)

But did you remember who the police officer was? Shea and Wilson already have identified him: "and George Dorn, who once wanted to shoot him, is still screaming" (page 13.) And Shea and  Wilson, on the same page, had taken care to humanize him: "His name is James Patrick Hennessy and he's been on the Force for three years. He doesn't come back into this story at all. He 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."

Note that the God's Lightning folks in this passage are not capable of seeing the demonstrators as human beings. (They also know nothing about their supposed religion. A more darkly ironic method of killing and injuring people cannot be imagined than using crosses; the incident with the money changers excepted, Jesus is usually described in the New Testament as a pacifist.)

Along with violence in this 10-page section of the novel, there is also sex, or rather sex  magick, the Illuminati secret that RAW discusses in Cosmic Trigger I. "And the real symbolism of the pyramid is alchemical of course," Simon says on page 226, explaining the matter to Joe Malik. The passage refers to "eternal serpent power." For more on serpent power, see this PDF of RAW's article for Chicago Seed.  (I am still very pleased that I tracked that down back in 2011 and bought a digital copy to share with you; it's one of RAW's better articles.) For more on the symbolism of the eye in the triangle, see page 778 in the appendix.

A few notes:

"Don't you read your  Mao, George? Enemy attacks, we retreat." (Page 228). Mao Tse Tung's famous description of how to fight guerilla warfare: "The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue."

"I pull the trigger and fall, with the explosion, into blackness." (Page 229.) Reminiscent of RAW's attempted suicide on the Brooklyn Bridge, described in Cosmic Trigger II, in which he is saved by a different fluke -- he pauses to read an incription and realizes the mistake he is making.

"An author, Ben  Hecht, then placed an ad." page 233. He actually did a series of ads; more  here.

(Next week: "That's what we call a Bavarian fire drill," page 234, to "We'll show you how to pilot the second stage," page 242.) 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rushkoff, 28 others call for NSA reform

This is the photo of Douglas Rushkoff I posted with my 2011 interview of him. 

Douglas Rushkoff and more than two dozen other writers and artists have signed an open letter asking the Senate to move forward on NSA reform. (The House has passed reform measures, but so far the Senate has done nothing.) Some of the 28 other letter signers are more famous than Rushkoff, but obviously none of them is cooler.

The letter has good suggestions on what reform would consist of. Here's the text of the letter:

Dear Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa); and Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.);

As writers and artists, we join PEN American Center in urging Congress to act to end mass surveillance.  We recognize the need for strong protections for U.S. national security, and acknowledge that such measures will sometimes entail difficult tradeoffs. However, the NSA’s shockingly broad and indiscriminate surveillance programs threaten our most cherished democratic ideals and violate our constitutional and international human rights to free expression and privacy. The Washington Post’s recent report that nine out of 10 individuals whose communications are being intercepted are not the intended targets of investigation underscores the total lack of proportionality of NSA mass surveillance, and the need for reform. 

It has been more than a year since the public first learned of the vast scope of the NSA’s surveillance regime. Immediate reform is necessary to restore our historic and treasured balance between government protections and individual freedom. 
Mass surveillance invades our private thoughts and lives, chilling speech and spreading fear and mistrust throughout a society. Mass surveillance is censorship: An October 2013 survey of U.S. PEN members, the majority of them writers, indicated that one in six are self-censoring—refraining from writing or speaking on particular topics—due to concerns over NSA surveillance. As over 500 of our fellow writers noted in an open letter published in the Guardian in December 2013, “In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.” Writers and all citizens need privacy to explore controversial ideas, conceive challenges to conventional wisdom, and to enter into open dialogue with counterparts around the globe who may enlighten our worldview through their very different beliefs.

NSA mass surveillance poses a grave threat to the United States’ proud tradition as a champion of free expression. Congress must act now to protect our freedom to speak, think, write, and create freely—and in private.

Congress’ failure to enact meaningful surveillance reform this year will risk enshrining the NSA’s unchecked and overreaching programs as a permanent fixture that will jeopardize the free society we all treasure.  We urge Congress to begin the process of reforming the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs by enacting reform, through the USA FREEDOM Act or another legislative vehicle, that achieves the following four essential goals:

·       Clearly and definitively ends bulk collection of all communications metadata; 

·       Creates an independent special advocate for the FISA Court to press for the protection of civil liberties during the Court’s proceedings;

·       Ends dragnet collection of international communications, and respects the privacy rights of non-U.S. citizens; and

·       Strengthens transparency provisions allowing private companies to disclose information about government orders received.  

There is much more to be done, but enacting strong legislation on these four points would send a clear message that Congress recognizes the need for reform and is committed to ending mass surveillance. We call upon Congress to take immediate action to protect the rights of all to privacy and free expression.

Thank you for your consideration,

Edward Albee; Anthony Appiah; John Ashbery; Paul Auster; Roz Chast; Don DeLilo; E.L. Doctorow; Ariel Dorfman; Dave Eggers; Jeffrey Eugenides; Nikki Giovanni; Peter Godwin; John Green; Ha Jin; Tony Kushner; Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket); Siri Hustvedt; John Irving; Rachel Kushner; Jonathan Lethem; John Lithgow; Maaza Mengiste; Francine Prose; Douglas Rushkoff; George Saunders; Wallace Shawn; Gary Shteyngart; Andrew Solomon; and Eliot Weinberger

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Searching for RAW archives [Updated]

Timothy Leary archivist Michael Horowitz

Michael Johnson has a blog post up on archives of famous writers and artists, and as usual, his post was interesting.

His topic this time raised once again in my mind something that I've blogged about repeatedly (for example here): where are Robert Anton Wilson's archives? Where are his papers, his unpublished manuscripts? For me, the Holy Grail is the long correspondence he carried out with Robert Shea. In Cosmic Trigger III, he said he hoped it would collected together and published someday. So where is it?

Robert Shea's survivors have answered my emails and told me that he didn't leave much in the way of papers behind, certainly not boxes and boxes of RAW correspondence.

I've had less luck communicating with RAW's people, but Discordian historian Adam Gorightly apparently communicates them and is the maintainer of the Discordian Archive so I thought I'd ask him.  Adam, who had mentioned in an earlier email that RAW was not very good about maintaining his papers, replied to me (April 10 this year), "No idea about Shea RAW correspondence. Like I said it doesn't seem that RAW did a good job of saving a lot of stuff. Greg Hill was unique because he saved not only the letters he received, but also made copies on the letters he sent."

Maybe that ends the matter.

In his post, however, Michael links to an article about the struggle to preserve the Timothy Leary archives,  which at one point had been seized by the federal government. (Michael Horowitz, pictured above, worked hard to save it.) In a comment below his original blog post, Michael then talks about RAW's papers (or lack of them) and suggests that RAW's behavior might have been informed by his close friendship with Leary and knowing what had happened to his friend:

The Leary/Horowitz story I linked to may have made RAW extremely guarded about his archives, to whatever extent they existed: the idea of gvt thugs trumping up some reason to confiscate his personal papers may have been too much, so whatever archives there are were a big secret while he lived; I don't know. I may be projecting here.

There's a lot more to Michael's comments; he notes a mysterious RAW interview which hints of a possible secret RAW archive. So go read his post.

Even if no stockpile of RAW papers ever turns up, I should note that the situation is not hopeless. He published many books, wrote many articles that remain uncollected in his books, gave many published interviews and wrote many letters, more of which will likely turn up and become available. The Discordian Archives contain quite a bit of RAW material (some of it reprinted in Gorightly's new Historia Discordia book.) And there likely is good stuff buried somewhere in the Leary papers, now safely housed at the New York Public Library. It would also be nice if someone could share as much as possible of RAW's email correspondence, and if RAW's online postings for Maybe Logic Academy could be compiled.

[UPDATE: Speaking of archives, when I was researching a blog post on an unrelated matter today, I noticed that the Robert Anton Wilson Fans website was down. I contacted the guy who hosts it, Joseph Matheny, who told me he had noticed it, too, and it should be fixed soon.]

Friday, July 25, 2014

The goddess of the month club

Robert Anton Wilson's former employer, "Playboy" magazine, rather famously features a centerfold model every month, a large photograph that readers can examine, presumably to decide whether she could have competed in the Judgment of Paris in days of yore. It seems to be an enduring idea; "Cat Fancy" magazine features a large cat photo in the center of the magazine every month,

Adam Gorightly has now embraced a variation that is safe for work, unless you worry about your co-workers deciding you are a weirdo. (I've decided to give up worrying about that, but your mileage may vary). Adam has launched the Eris of the Month Club, featuring a different rendition of the goddess of chaos and discord every month. It will be posted on the 23rd of each month, and Adam invites submissions to keep the feature going. "Please obtain permissions and provide credit to the artists featured in your submissions."

With Adam's permission, I have posted the first Eris artwork he featured, by Michelle Witchipoo. A charming photo of Ms. Witchipoo on her way to a Devo concert is here. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Adam Gorightly — neither gonzo nor crockpot

The Discordian historian answers our questions

Robert Newport and Adam Gorightly, right, examine the Discordian Archives at Robert Anton Wilson's apartment. Photo courtesy Adam Gorightly.

Self-described "crackpot historian" Adam Gorightly (as you can see, I got that wrong in my first question) has pursued various off-the-beaten track interests in at least eight books, including Happy Trails to High Weirdness, A Who's Who of the Manson Family and The Prankster and the Conspiracy, his biography of Kerry Thornley. 

He's now in the middle of a new burst of activity, inspired by his recovery of extensive Discordian archives, documents written by Thornley, Greg Hill, Robert Anton Wilson and other prominent Discordian figures.

Historia Discordia has just been released. Another new book, Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Oswald and Garrison's JFK Investigation, will be out soon, and more books are expected to follow.

Historia Discordia collects many of the best items in the Discordian Archive. Adam also posts about Discordianism at the Historia Discordia website.  He agreed to take a bunch of my questions and answered all of them. -- The Mgt.
Would you tell my readers a few things about yourself? How long have you called yourself a "gonzo historian"?

I’ve never referred to myself as a “gonzo historian” — you must be confusing that with “crackpot historian,” which I’ve used in my bios over the years,  mainly because I enjoy writing about colorful people, like Kerry Thornley, who some would deem crackpots — which of course doesn’t exempt me from being a crackpot, either!

I spoke at a UFO convention several years ago, and had a table set up to sell books with a little sign that said “Crackpot Historian” — and one fellow misread it and came up and started quizzing me about crockpots! BTW, I’m a strong advocate of crockpots and make one hell of a split pea soup in one.

As far as a few things about myself, well, when I’m not cooking split pea soup in my crockpot, I’m either playing with my cats or napping these days. I had a traditional 9-5 job for nearly 30 years but as of the beginning of 2012 I’m able to write full time now, and spend most mornings doing just that…until early afternoon. That’s when the nap comes in. But I’m a pretty regular guy….married almost 25 years now to the same lovely lady, live up in the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas in California, cut my own firewood, enjoy a nice hoppy beer or two in the evening…oh, and I never graduated from high school, so let that be a cautionary tale for the kids in your audience to stay in school and color inside the lines or you’ll become a card carrying Discordian just like me, Hail Eris!

"Illuminatus!" begins with an amusing quotation from "The Honest Book of Truth" by Kerry Thornley. Is your discovery and publication of this lost document one of the important components of "Historia Discordia"?

Well, yes, “The Honest Book of Truth” is indeed one key component of many strange components you’ll find in Historia Discordia. Who knows if it is the final version of “The Honest Book of Truth,” but it’s the only complete version I’ve ever seen, and like a lot of people who saw references to it in Illuminatus!,  I wasn’t sure it actually even existed — at least not as a complete work — but was just little snippets placed in the Illuminatus! narrative that pretended to be a real book.

Evidently  RAW had a copy of “The Honest Book of Truth” at some point, but I’ve heard that he wasn’t real good at saving stuff like this — let alone a lot of his own material. That’s why we’re missing, and will probably never see, all those lost pages of Illuminatus!, for instance, which is a tragedy…

Do you believe your new book will attract more scholarly attention than your previous books? You have assembled quite a collection of primary source materials, and Discordianism is getting more and more attention in serious books.

I hope it receives some scholarly attention, and I hope the website will, as well.  My work has been cited in a couple academic papers, as well as sourced in a number of books — but the fact is that so much of the history of The Discordian Society was still very much a mystery until the publication of The Prankster and the Conspiracy. RAW did write a little bit about Greg in Cosmic Trigger 1, but it was just a short passage, and nothing really biographical. So The Prankster was the first to provide any real background material on Greg. Yet, I still come across people on the web asking if Greg Hill really ever existed — but people are slowly becoming more aware of who he was, and his influence on Discordianism and Illuminatus!

While I’m not a professional scholar by any stretch — or have any real archivist training — I do my best to present the material in as historically accurate manner as possible, and try to put it into proper context … but I have to catch myself sometimes — when I make jokes or such related to material — sometimes people may not understand my humor. But still, it’s essential that the History of Discordianism is presented in a light hearted manner, because humor was such a large part of what it was all about.

When I reviewed your Kerry Thornley bio, I wrote, "Adam plays fair with the reader, often expressing his opinion on how much credence to put into an assertion. While the book is not heavily footnoted, he lists his sources in the back, so for the most part, it's easy to tell what the source of an assertion is. One of the more incredible claims — that Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone' is about actress Grace Zabriskie, a friend of Thornley's, and that 'Napoleon in rags' is Thornley, is attributed to 'rumor has it,' which I took it to mean 'very possibly is not true but is a little too juicy to leave out completely.' Does this strike you as an accurate description of your technique?

Exactly — no way I could leave out that little tidbit about Grace being the model for “Like A Rolling Stone” — which was shared with me by a buddy of Kerry’s in Little Five Points, John Paccasassi. I interviewed Grace for The Prankster and the Conspiracy, and have even been in touch semi-recently, but somehow it never occurred to me to ask her about that (laughs).

“Like a Rolling Stone” appeared on Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. Highway 61 — it so happens is the road that runs from Dylan’s boyhood home in Minnesota to New Orleans, which was part of the early musical course that Dylan charted — and he was no stranger to the New Orleans French Quarter scene — and in particular during the period when Kerry and Grace were fixtures there. Kerry and Grace were both aspiring poets, and hung out at various bohemian hangouts and music joints that you figure Dylan would have sought out. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if all of their paths crossed during that period.

But the rumor that Grace was the inspiration for “Like A Rolling Stone” — and that Kerry was a character in the song, “Napoleon in rags”  might just have been Kerry’s own interpretation of events. He wouldn’t have been the first person to interpret a Dylan song to fit his own perception of reality!

When I read "The Prankster and the Conspiracy," your Kerry Thornley biography, one of the highlights was all the weirdness connecting Thornley to Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK assassination theories. Will you have a lot of new material about that in your upcoming book, "Caught in the Crossfire"?

In the Discordian Archives I discovered a large box of material related to Thornley, Oswald, the JFK assassination and the Garrison investigation, including a lot of Thornley’s writings on the subject that had never been previously published — in addition to letters from the Garrison investigation period, and letters in the years to follow to and from the likes of RAW, Bob Shea, Greg Hill and others. In these letters and articles, Thornley continued to evolve his own theories as to what’d gone down in Dealey Plaza, as well as his alleged role in relation to the assassination. Greg Hill actually compiled a lot of this material into an early manuscript called Thornley/Oswald in 1975 that he helped put together in as cohesive a manner as possible to present Kerry’s JFK assassination related theories and experiences. And so all of this prompted me write this latest book, Caught in the Crossfire, which will be released in October. Had I not come across all this new material, I’d have never gone back down the rabbit hole. But here we are. And RAW was very much a part of this whole roller coaster ride; first as an early defender of Thornley and critic of the Garrison investigation, and then later as someone Thornley grew to believe was a part of some grand conspiracy to mess with his mind.

On your personal website, instead of a "Reviews" section consisting of testimonials to your genius, as many other author sites have, you have a "Critics" section consisting of very mean things people said about you. Why did you post that?

My warped sense of humor, I guess. I find it amusing when people go off like that, and I think in this age of immediate back and forth venting that can go on — with Twitter, Facebook, Internet forums and the like — I usually try to take a step back when people go into attack mode, mainly because that’s what they’re looking for, a reaction of some kind … it’s healthier just to chuckle and move on and not get caught up in a lot of the nonsense that goes on … and I guess one of my responses to that type of behavior is the “Critics” section.

Anyway, I’ll have a few more “Critics” testimonials to add, at some pointbut I’ll let the dust settle first.

Excepting the new book that we are publicizing with this interview, do you have a favorite among your previous books?

Probably Happy Trails To High Weirdness, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s my best, as it’s hard to have a perspective some time about one’s own work. The Prankster and the Conspiracy had its moments, but with a book like that — as soon as you’ve finished it — you start discovering more things you could have added. That’s a big reason for, and the Historia Discordia book, as well as the forthcoming Caught In The Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Oswald and the Garrison Investigation. Because there was more of the story to tell.

However, I’m best known for my Manson book, and that has been far and away the most successful of my titles, although it’s a subject I don’t have much interest in these days — but that’s the way it goes once you become identified with something.

You obtained the full Discordian Archives in 2009, and your new book consists of highlights from that archive, along with explanatory pieces that you wrote. You have also been posting portions of the archives at your website. How much is left? Will it help spawn additional books?
Well, there’s a lot left, is the short answer. And yes, I foresee additional books in the years to come. One project in the early stages is what we’re calling the Paste Up Discordiaor PUD for shortwhich is the original Paste-ups of the 4th edition The Principia Discordia. And these are exactly that: the original paste-ups that Greg Hill put together to create the 4th ed.  Principia, an example of which I’m sharing with you here exclusively at!

Another potential project on the back burner is a book of letters between the early Discordians, which I think will eventually happen — it’s just going to take a lot of time and coordination to pull it all together because we’re talking about several hundred letters over the course of a couple decades…And I expect that will have a long life, and will continue to post fresh (old) material well into the foreseeable future. So stay tuned!
The pieces reproduced in your book include a rarity, a reproduction of one of the only five complete copies made of the first edition of Principia Discordia. How does this early version differ from the later versions?
Well, it differs drastically — the 1st edition was really a whole different beast than subsequent editions of the PD and is in many ways like a formal tract that outlines the structure and inner workings of a religion dedicated to the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Discord. It’s basically a parody of similar documents — poking fun at organized religious structure and dogma (the Discordians have katma) — although at the same time creating this crazy structure for the early days of the Discordian Society, such as outlining how new popes would be ordained and other internal affairs of that sort.
As the Erisian Movement evolved, Greg Hill decided, at some point, that the religious structure outlined in the 1st edition — which granted he and Kerry sole authority to ordain Episkipos (or Popes) — was BS, and that every man and woman should be able to ordain themselves Popes or Momes as they see fit — simply by declaring themselves such. This shift in philosophic focus was first shared to the world in a letter Greg dictated in November of 1969, which we share here with you now exclusively at!

This shift in focus, in turn, caused a restructuring of The Principia Discordia. So, in a sense, Greg basically blew up the old Principia Discordia paradigm and started anew making it more of an art project of sorts, and a collaboration with other Discordians who had emerged on the scene such as RAW, Camden Benares, Bob McElroy. This new concept included a hodge podge of images, and excerpts from the Discordian holy tracts, along with other assorted witticisms and aphorisms that were ultimately intended to activate the human pineal gland and illuminate mankind.
I would encourage folks to check out this video I did some time back where I display the different versions of The Principia Discordia, which will give your readers a better idea of what they looked like and how it all evolved over the course of time.

My wife says she does not understand my Robert Anton Wilson blog, and she seldom reads it. One of the people I interviewed for my blog did not show it to his wife, because she would think it was "silly." Does "Mrs. Crackpot Historian" share your interests?

I wouldn’t bother showing this interview to my wife, although I think you’re doing a swell job, aside from calling me a “gonzo historian.”

I do a lot of interviews and so much posting to the web, and she doesn’t pay much attention to most of it … I spend more time sharing cute cat photos with her, that type of thing. However, she’s an avid reader, probably has read 30 books for every one I’ve read, and she likes some of my stuff, certainly the more humorous things. But I get into some very esoteric shit, and I can understand why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, some of the arcane subjects I write about.

As today, July 23, is Robert Anton Wilson Day, can you tell us something amusing or interesting about him, something nobody would know simply from reading his writings?

Well, there’s been a lot written about Bob — and Goddess knows I haven’t read everything — so I don’t know how much of a scoop this is, but from what I’ve heard from some of those who knew Bob more intimately than me, was that he was deeply in love with Arlen—which should come as no surprise — but also that she was a tremendous influence on his thinking, and that she was as brilliant— or even more so — than Bob himself. I also get the impression that her passing left a great void in Bob that he was never able to fill—not that he necessarily wanted to. So I don’t think it was really evident in his writings — or in his public persona—how deeply her passing affected him; but that’s the impression I have, this based on one of the last phone conversations I had with him. But Bob being Bob he did his best to project a positive presence and attitude about life, even toward the end when things got a bit rough for him, with his health and all.

I also want to mention something his friend Scott Apel mentioned to me at The Robert Anton Wilson Cosmic Meme-Orial — and sorry if this sounds like a personal plug, but Scott’s comments meant a lot to me at the time — when he told me that Bob had handed him a copy of The Prankster and the Conspiracy and said, “If you want to know what really went on with the Discordian Society, read this book!”

I also told Scott what a great guy I thought Bob was and he gave me a wry look like: “He can have his moments.” It’s my understanding that Scott spent a good amount of time with Bob during his last days, and when Bob’s health started failing him, he could get a bit grumpy at times —which could be expected — and I think that’s what Scott was alluding to. So besides being the humorous and positive guy we all knew him to be, there were other sides that people normally never had the chance to see, such as the deep pain he felt from Arlen’s passing and the sometimes grumpy old man part, which was no doubt on account of the health problems he experienced towards the end.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What kind of man (or woman) reads RAW?

Years ago, when "Playboy" magazine was in its heyday, the magazine used to run a house ad with the headline "What kind of man reads Playboy?" that featured a photo of a well-dressed man. The text explained that surveys had shown "Playboy" readers made a good income, were sophisticated consumers, etc. I assume the ad was aimed at advertisers. "Mad" magazine  once ran a parody ad, showing a well-dressed man walking by a car; you could see that there was someone underneath the car, apparently repairing something. It eventually emerged from the text that the guy under the car was the "Mad" reader.

I thought of Robert Anton Wilson's old employer when Jesse Walker sent me a link that shows which Wikipedia articles have a link to the "Robert Anton Wilson" article on Wikipedia.  It is a vivid illustration of the wide range of interests that RAW had, and the wide range of interests that his readers have. The list certainly suggests that quite a few RAW readers are active in writing articles for Wikipedia.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week 22

 The mythical island of Thule on the Carta Marina.

 (This week: Page 214, "In the distance, George could make out what appeared to be a mighty city rising on hills," to page 224, "Soon we must to Bavaria go. Ewige Blumenkraft!")

What do you get when you link Nazis, the occult and the Cthulhu mythos? A vivid few pages of Illuminatus!, for one. The political point is that the state is depicted as many-tentacled being, insatiable for slaughter.

Some of this is tied together in the form of Karl Haushofer. I have not had time yet to read The Morning of the Magicians, mentioned previously in this blog, which details the alleged links between the Nazis and the occult,  but the Wikipedia entry on Haushofer certainly shows that much of the odd stuff about him in Illuminatus! (pages 218-219) seems to have a basis in fact. The Thule Society was a real group, and some of the facts about them constitute a gift for SF and fantasy writers who want to be "out there." Apparently the actual influence of the group is disputed, but there seems to be general agreement that on many points, Thule Society ideology and Nazism coincide.

Some notes on the text: "And when the throne room was empty," page 216, completes the story of the hoax Hassan imposes  on his followers on page 141, the beginning of the Fourth Trip. A pretty good hint by the authors that not everything they write is meant to be taken seriously.

The Honest Book of Truth, written by Kerry Thornley and reprinted in Adam Gorightly's new book, Historia Discordia. Also quoted at the very beginning of Illuminatus!

Hermann Rauschning, a real person. While the authenticity of his Hitler memoir is disputed, apparently the odd anecdotes recorded by Wilson and Shea are in the book. More on Nazi occultism.

Willard Gibbs, page 220, important scientist, wrote about statistical mechanics earlier than Einstein.

"You don't have to believe in Santa Claus," H.P. Lovecraft explains, page 220. According to the L. Sprague de Camp biography of Lovecraft, Lovecraft gave up believing in Santa Claus at a very young age and also soon became an atheist.

"The pilot was another Captain Clark," I can't find anything to confirm this oft-repeated tale. The only New York to Miami Eastern airlines crash I can find has none of this stuff.

(Next week: Page 224, "Carlo put the gun on the table between us," to page 234, "six million people had died.")

Sunday, July 20, 2014

More on Robert Graves

 Robert Graves in 1920, from the National Portrait Gallery. Used under a Creative Commons license.

As I was preparing last Monday's latest post for the Illuminatus! online discussion, researching the Judgment of Paris (i.e., the "Original Snub," as the episode is referred to by Discordians), I pulled out my copy of Graves' The Greek Myths. 

My eye somehow fell on the Foreword to the 1960 Revised Edition, which is the one I got when I bought my Pelican paperbacks (two volumes) in the early 1980s. It's a startling rant, asserting that psychedelic mushrooms were the "ambrosia" central to Greek religion and that "ambrosia then became, it seems, the secret element of the Eleusinian, Orphic and other mysteries associated with Dionysus." Graves also devotes a paragraph connecting "Tlaloc, the Mushroom-god" in Oaxaca, Mexico, to this Greek tradition. The foreward is reproduced here, and there is apparently more about this in Graves' book, Food for Centaurs. While there have been other "sacred mushroom" writers, e.g. John Allegro, Graves apparently got there first, or at least ahead of other writers I am familiar with.

Perhaps  it's a coincidence that Illuminatus! name-checks Tlaloc on page 9 and perhaps elsewhere and that the Atlantis myth used in Illuminatus! could explain the link between Tlaloc and Dionysus.

In any event, this interview shows that Robert Anton Wilson was reading Robert  Graves as far back as his high school days. And here is a blog written by Alec Nevala-Lee, a novelist who is interested in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Graves. I am going to have to try one of his novels soon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The mythology behind the Judgment of Paris

The Garden of the Hesperides by Frederic Leighton, exhibited in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, part of the National Museums of Liverpool. A rock band from Liverpool later adopted the apple as the name of its record company. 

During Monday's online Illuminatus! discussion, I went into considerable detail about the Judgment of Paris. It looks like I may not have had the full scoop.

In The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, the author has an Introduction in which he discusses the Great Goddess, which is represented as the the three phases of the Moon: "The moon's three phases of new, full, and old recalled the matriarch's three phases of maiden, nymph (nubile woman) and crone."

I mention this because it relates to Graves' explanation of the "real story" behind Paris, the three goddesses, etc. Later in the Introduction, Graves mentions the Judgment of Paris as an example of "iconotropy," in which an earlier myth has been "accidentally or deliberately" misinterpreted. Graves then writes,

"Again, the so-called 'Judgment of Paris,' where a hero is called upon to decide between the rival charms of three goddesses and awards his apple to the fairest, records an ancient ritual situation, outgrown by the time of Homer and Hesiod. These three goddesses are one goddess in triad: Athene and maiden, Aphrodite the nymph, and Hera the crone — and Aphrodite is presenting Paris with the apple, rather than receiving it from him. This apple, symbolizing her love bought at the price of his life, will be Paris's passport to the Elysian Fields, the apple orchards of the west, to which only the souls of heroes are admitted. A similar gift is frequently made in Irish and Welsh myth; as well as by the Three Hesperides, to Heracles; and by Eve, 'the Mother of All Living,' to Adam. Thus Nemesis, goddess of the sacred grove who, in late myth, became the symbol of divine vengeance on proud kings, carries an apple-hung branch, her gift to heroes. All neolithic and Bronze Age were orchard-islands; paradise itself means 'orchard'."

Could the ceremony of Stellar Maris with George Dorn be a re-enactment of that old myth, or an allusion to it? Compare Graves, with the apple of Aphrodite, "her love, bought at the price of his life," with Hagbard Celine's explanation of the ritual to George, which I quoted Monday: "If there were no death, there would be no sex. If there were no sex, there would be no death. And without sex, there would be no evolution toward intelligence, no human race. Therefore, death is necessary. Death is the price of orgasm."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The real woman behind 'Mama Sutra' ?

Tuesday's blog post on the Prometheus Award winners drew a response from Jesse Walker on Twitter, who noted that he was interested in the special award being given to famed science fiction filker Leslie Fish. To explain why, he posted a link to a 2005 Reason article about Mary Frohman, an American anarchist who lived in Chicago. To my surprise, Walker's piece includes a connection to Illuminatus! and to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea:

The IWW hall also hosted an anarchist discussion group. The participants included Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, two Playboy staffers who were writing the comic cult novel Illuminatus! Mary, for whatever it's worth, believed she was the basis for the book's fortune-telling character Mama Sutra. Shea, alas, isn't alive to confirm or deny that, and Wilson tells me he doesn't remember Mary; Fish doubts that the story is true. Oh, well.

Walker's piece is interesting on its own terms, but Illuminatus! fans and science fiction fans in particular (along with anarchists and libertarians) will want to read it. Here is another sentence from the piece: "The great radicalizing experience of her life was the Chicago Democratic convention of 1968, where she worked as a medic; she always insisted that eight protestors had died in the police riot and that the authorities had covered this up."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Prometheus Award winners announced

This year's Prometheus Awards have been announced, with the award going (in a tie) to two quite good books: Homeland by Cory Doctorow and Nexus by Ramez Naam, two books that I liked very much. My Reason review of Homeland is here, while my blog post on Nexus is here. The Hall of Fame award this year goes to Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold.

In related news, Marcon 50, a science fiction convention run by some of the same folks who are involved with the Prometheus Award, will be held May 8-10 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. The guest list has a decided libertarian tinge, with writers that include L. Neil Smith, F. Paul Wilson and Vernor Vinge.

Here's most of the official Libertarian Futurist Society press release on this year's Prometheus Awards:

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced its Prometheus Award winners for 2014 – including a tie for Best Novel, our annual Hall of Fame entry for Best Classic Fiction and a rare Special Award, the first by the LFS’  to a filksinger-storyteller.

Awards for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) plus a Special Award will be presented at 8 p.m. Aug. 16 during the Special Awards ceremony at Loncon 3, the 72nd annual World Science Fiction Convention, which will be held August 14-18, 2014 in London.

In a separate awards ceremony, four-time-Prometheus-winning author Vernor Vinge will receive a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented during Conjecture/ConChord Oct. 10-12, 2014 in San Diego, California.

Doctorow, Naam tie for Best Novel
There was a tie for Best Novel: The winners are Homeland (TOR Books) by Cory Doctorow and Nexus (Angry Robot Books) by Ramez Naam.

Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s Prometheus winner Little Brother, follows the continuing adventures of a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers who must decide whether to release an incendiary Wikileaks-style exposé of massive government abuse and corruption as part of a struggle against the invasive national-security state.

Nexus offers a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.

The other Prometheus finalists for best pro-freedom novel of 2013 were Sarah Hoyt’s A Few Good Men (Baen Books); Naam’s Crux, the sequel to Nexus (Angry Robot Books); and Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance (Thomas & Mercer).

Lois McMaster Bujold wins Hall of Fame for Falling Free
The Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) winner is Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold ‘s 1988 novel that explores free will and self-ownership by considering the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

The other 2014 Hall of Fame finalists: "As Easy as A.B.C.," a 1912 short story by Rudyard Kipling;  "Sam Hall," a 1953 short story by Poul Anderson; “ 'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," a 1965 short story by Harlan Ellison; and Courtship Rite, a 1982 novel by Donald M. Kingsbury.

The Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction honors novels, novellas, stories, graphic novels, anthologies, films, TV shows/series, plays, poems, music recordings and other works of fiction first published or broadcast more than five years ago.

Leslie Fish wins Special Award
Author-filksinger Leslie Fish, perhaps the most popular filk song writer of the past three decades and one who often includes pro-freedom themes in her songs, will receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 for the combination of her 2013 novella, “Tower of Horses” and her filk song, The Horsetamer’s Daughter.
Fish’s novella (published in the anthology Music of Darkover edited by Elisabeth Waters) faithfully tells the same story as her Pegasus-winning filk song. The story’s characters (especially the 12-year-old title character of the song) resist control of a wizard-backed government that wants to regulate, tax, and conscript them.

This Darkover story thus sheds new light and fresh libertarian perspective on the world of Darkover by focusing on the peaceful voluntary cooperative lives of farmers and small-town traders struggling to preserve their freedom and independence – rather than the usual Darkover focus on the planet’s leaders or ruling elite, some well-intentioned but some abusing power.

About the awards
The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners.

For more than three decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

More information is available at

Monday, July 14, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week Twenty One [Updated]

"The Judgment of Paris" by Enrique Simonet. He's checking out Aphrodite, as Hera and Athena stand to the side.

(This week: Page 204, "Behind the golden door stood the lovely black receptionist," to page 214, "And speaking of war, the enemy lies ahead.")

After George Dorn undergoes the ceremony initiating him into the Legion of Dynamic Discord, Hagbard explains the meaning: "If there were no death, there would be no sex. If there were no sex, there would be no death. And without sex, there would be no evolution toward intelligence, no human race. Therefore, death is necessary. Death is the price of orgasm." (Pages 210-211).

And when the ceremony is finished, George has a question: "What the blazes does Kallisti mean?" (Page 210).

Let's answer George's question, and go into some detail about the origins of the Trojan War and how the golden apple played into it. It's a story that has plenty of sex and death.

It's a story that begins in the mythical days of ancient Greece, before the classical age of Athens and Sparta and Plato and Herodotus and Sophocles, before the Trojan War, when gods and legendary heroes mingled together.

The story of the golden apple and the Trojan War involves the goddess Eris, patron goddess of Discordianism, and begins at the wedding of the Greek hero Peleus and the goddess Thetis,  the parents of the mighty but all-too-mortal Greek hero of the Trojan War, Achilles. (For my account, I am relying mainly on Robert Graves' wonderful The Greek Myths.)

Their wedding was the social event of the season, and all of the important Greek gods were there, but Eris, the goddess of discord and chaos, was left off the guest list, for fear that she would cause trouble. In Discordianism, this is known as the "original snub."

Eris reacted, however, by causing trouble. She crashed the event, tossing a golden apple at the feet of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite that was inscribed "Kallisti," "to the most beautiful one") (Graves, chapter 81).

Well, this was embarrassing. All three of the goddesses, as Eris intended, assumed that the apple was intended for her, and they began an  argument about who the apple belonged to. This put Zeus in the no-win position of having to decide who was the best-looking goddess: His wife, Hera, his daughter, Athena (as some say) or his daughter (as some say) Aphrodite. He needed a fall guy for a decision that would make two out of three goddesses unhappy.

Fortunately one was at hand (Graves, chapter 159): Paris, son of Priam, the king of Troy. When Paris was born, it was prophesied that any royal Trojan who gave birth that day, and the baby also, must be killed, to spare Troy from utter destruction. Hecabe, who gave birth the fateful day, was asked to at least kill her baby, but couldn't bring herself to do it, and gave the job to a herdsman, who didn't get the job done and raised the kid as his own out in the country, far away from big city life.

Paris, already famous the fairness of his judgments after he had grown up, was picked to decide who should get the apple. Each goddess agreed to accept his decision. One by one, each took off her clothes so that Paris could inspect her charms. As each goddess approached Paris to be objectified, she whispered an offered bribe. Hera said she would make Paris lord of Asia, and the richest man alive. Athena offered to make him victorious in war, and the best looking and wisest man on earth. Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman on Earth as his lover. As it happened, Helen was already married to Menelaus, brother of King Agamennon, but Aphrodite explained that her divine powers as a matchmaker could overcome such trifling problems.

Either because Aphrodite knew what Paris really wanted, or because she deserved to win, Paris awarded her the golden apple. In due course, Aphrodite helped Paris steal Helen away. When Agamemnon's envoy to Troy demanding Helen's return came back empty-handed, the incident provided an excuse to lead a mighty Greek army against Troy, to sack the wealthy city.

Whatever his merits as a judge of beauty, Paris was not a very good politician: His decision earned the enmity of the two most powerful goddesses in the trio. They took the side of the Greeks in the ensuing Trojan War.

In a way, the story of the golden apple provides a mythological underpinning for centuries of classical civilization, pagan Greco-Roman civilization that only went away several centuries after Christ, when Germanic tribes overran the western Roman Empire and Christianity took over the entire Mediterranean basin, supplanting the previous culture. Following the Trojan War, Greeks became the dominant people in the eastern Mediterranean. They were able to win a kind of reverse Trojan War, when armies from the east, from the Persian Empire, sought to conquer Greece but failed. (John Stuart Mills called the battle of Marathon an important event in English history). And in the Roman national myth, chronicled in Virgil's Aeneid, refugees from Troy migrated to Italy and were connected to the founding of Rome, which of course eventually took over the entire Mediterranean, turning it into a Roman lake, and much of Europe and Asia, including England.

Joseph Hauber's rendition of Paris' fateful choice.

George Dorn undergoes an initiation in this section of the book that is pleasurable but also frightening. But in a sense, he is constantly going through an initiation in the book, being scared and angered and trying to figure out what is doing on.

"Beyond a certain point, the whole universe becomes a continuous process of initiation." Robert Anton Wilson, from The Widow's Son. 

Update: Please see this followup post. 

(Next week: Page 214, "In the distance, George could make out what appeared to be a mighty city rising on hills," to page 224, "Soon we must to Bavaria go. Ewige Blumenkraft!")

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sean Gabb: Book offering and self-publishing

Sean Gabb is offering "free" signed copies of his first novel, The Column of Phocas. You do have to pay the postage, which from the UK to the U.S. is not cheap, but still. This is the self-published version of the book, but please note it is the same book as Conspiracies of Rome by Richard Blake. (Perhaps wisely, when he got a commercial publisher for the work, his publisher did not think most people would know who Phocas was.) Anyway, it's a good beginning for his Richard Blake historical novels set in the Byzantine Empire.

Sean's blog post also gives good advice on how to become a successful self-published writer. See also John Higgs' blog post on self publishing. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Michael Johnson on Tom Robbins

Michael Johnson has a blog post up about Tom Robbins and David Foster Wallace. I still haven't gotten around to trying DFW, but I did read Robbins, although it was something like 30 years ago! But I remembered liking him.

Michael writes,

TR put in with unalloyed Tibetan-tinged "crazy wisdom" long ago, even before he met Joseph Campbell and toured Mexico and Central America and later even more far-flung regions of the globe. He still celebrates July 26, 1963 - the day he first did LSD - as the most important day of his life, so much so that it actuated him to quit his job by "calling in well" and saying he was staying home, and that prior to that day he had been ill.

I am holding back on willy-nilly speculations about naivete, "belief" and especially, the albatross of Ego...

Don't hold back Michael! But he writes enough to make me wish I still read Robbins.

Here is Tom Robbins talking about Robert Anton Wilson:

And there's a RAW mention in this interview, suggest that TR and RAW were friends. "Robert Anton Wilson has mentioned to me that he thinks the Illuminati were behind the scenes in 'Still Life with Woodpecker.' He thinks that the Illuminati has historically been engaged in maintaining and circulating the pyramid symbol through both the dollar bill and the Camel pack design. Thomas Jefferson and a nameless lithographer were two redheads selected in carrying out the tasks.