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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 32, Iluminatus! online reading group

A sculpture from the British Museum, depicting the death of the Buddha. Shortly before he died, the Buddha advised his followers, as Timothy Leary paraphrased it, to think for themselves.

(Page 309, "There is no god but man," to page 323 "Do-da, -do-da, do-da-do-da-day")

As the Golden Apple begins, many of the plot elements of Illuminatus! are tied together with the last words of mobster Dutch Schultz, who as Illuminatus! says was killed on orders of the Mob because Schultz wanted to kill prosecutor (later presidential candidate) Tom Dewey. As police attempted to question the dying, incoherent mobster, a police stenographer wrote down many of his words, which in Wilson and Shea's telling contain many references to the Illuminati and their relationship with the Mafia and with others.

There is one slight alteration in the novel, which has the Dutchman saying, "They did it. Come on, Illuminati" (page 317). What he really said, according to this transcript, was "They did it. Come on. (A name, not clear)." So, if you like, you can believe that Illuminatus! is set in a parallel world not quite our own, or that They made sure the reference to Them was taken out of the transcript.

Other portions of the Dutchman's words can be read to match plot elements of Illuminatus!, for example, "Please crack down on the Chinaman's friends and Hitler's commander," a reference to the occult creatures mentioned by Lovecraft and others. There is more on this in the next section for the online discussion, when Robert Putney Drake chats with Hermann Hesse.

Meanwhile, some notes on the text of this section:

Page 311, "Mordecai Malignatus," Robert Anton Wilson.

Mendy Weiss, page 313. one of the assassins of the Dutchman. Executed on the electric chair in 1944.

"I am a pretty good pretzler, Winifred," page 318, another quote from the Dutchman. Winifred is a leader in the Illuminati.

"Camp-town racetrack five miles long," page 319. Famous Stephen Foster song about horse racing track, though I don't understand why is it is quoted here and on page 323.

Malaclypse the Elder, page 320,  not to be confused with Malaclypse the Younger, e.g. Greg Hill.

"Communication is possible only between equals," page 322. Hagbard Celine's rant on the subject reminds me of Neal Stephenson's point in Cryptonomicon, that the American armed forces, more egalitarian than the Japanese, did a better job of correcting mistakes and allowing the communication of ideas.

"To receive light you must be receptive," Hagbard said curtly. "Work that out for yourself." Pages 322-333. A reference to the last words of the Buddha, who in the Mahaparinibbana Suttanta told his followers to rely upon themselves when seeking enlightenment. His words are translated in various ways, but here is one translation:

"Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves, and do not rely on external help.

"Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation along in the truth. Look not for assistance to any one besides yourselves."

(Translation quoted from "Buddha's Farewell Address," in The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha, edited by E.A. Burtt)

Translation also available here. 

"Never Whistle While  You're Pissing," page 323. More Buddhism, a reference to mindfulness. "Hagbard Celine, H.M., S.H." Holy Man, Shit Head. From a famous Discordian parable by Camden Benares; see this post by noted Discordian Pope Guilty I. 

(Next week:  Page 324 (And Semper Cuni Linctus, the very night he reamed his subaltern for taking native superstitions seriously" to page 334 "and tellers turned to stare at him.")

Sunday, September 28, 2014

New webcomic 'Dadtown' from Adrian Reynolds

Writer and RAW fan Adrian Reynolds has launched a new science fiction webcomic, Dadtown, which is being serialized on the web, with new episodes added every Wednesday. I just finished reading what's posted so far, and it's in the middle of exciting events. Very colorful, with good art and an interesting story (drawings by Raben White, coloring by Jess Parry).

If you missed Adrian's "Press When Illuminated" video, you should certainly check it out. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An easy option for email encryption

ProtonMail, an encrypted webmail service, has apparently opened up its beta to the general public; I had signed up to try it months ago and finally got an email inviting me to set up an account.

It's a webmail service such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc., but messages between ProtonMail users are automatically encrypted. The encryption is done in the browser, and ProtonMail says it does not have access to a user's encryption password. (The site requires two passwords, a login password and an encryption password.)

ProtonMail would seems to be a simple option for people who are interested in trying email encryption.

Note that probably the most secure approach is to keep control over your own keys and encryption.  That can be done using Thunderbird as your email client with Enigmail as an add-on. That can also be done using Mailpile, which probably will be the best program to use once the development finishes.

The Mailpile beta has been released. It's very promising and I have been testing it, but it does still have some bugs.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Boing Boing article revisits RAW and Leary's 1970s technological optimism

Jason Louv

On Boing Boing, writer Jason Louv re-reads Cosmic Trigger I and pens an article, "Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger, and the psychedelic interstellar future we need," which argues that many of the proposals that Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary argued for -- space migration, intelligence increase, life extension and so on -- are coming to pass, and perhaps they were not as wildly overoptimistic as they appear. A lively discussion has followed, with many arguing that economics argue against space migration.

I have been thinking along somewhat the same lines, if only to point that out two former business partners, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, have been advancing much of that old "Starseed" agenda. Thiel has funded research into life extension, while Musk has been working to bring the cost of space exploration down via SpaceX. (Among the causes Thiel has funded: anti-aging research, research into machine intelligence, and grants for radical research into the frontiers of science. Musk also has invested heavily in solar energy.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Week 30 of the Illuminatus online reading group

Adam Gorightly weighs on on Week 30 of the Illuminatus! online reading group. 

He traces the origin of the word "Fnord" to the fourth edition of the Prinkipia Discordia and publishes more Discordian documents from his apparently very large stash.

My favorite document this time was a Gnostica newsletter which offers a bio on Robert Anton Wilson, explaining that he describes himself as either a Transcendental Agnostic or an Experimental Theologian. I like this bit:

"All I know is that I know nothing," he says. "My value, such as it is, lies in the capacity to transfer this Negative knowledge to others very powerfully and directly, so that all may become aware that the Universe and the Mind (which may be identical) are, as biologist J.B.S. Haldane finally admitted, 'not only queerer than we think, but queerer than we can think.' In this queerness or spookiness, directly known, is the key to liberation from all dogma, all despair and all fashionable doom-mongering." 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cosmic Trigger play news roundup

Tickets have gone on sale for Daisy Eris Campbell's Cosmic Trigger play.  The play will be staged in late November in both Liverpool and London; details and tickets here.

The play opening will be accompanied by two days of events, Nov. 22-23, in Liverpool -- including a Papal Ball and Find the Other Festival.

Daisy explains, "We have a bumper programme of talks, music, cinema, art, performance and ritual. There will be illuminating discussions on Magick, Conspiracy, Consciousness, Science and Art from Discordian luminaries including: Robert Temple (The Sirius Mystery), Adam Gorightly (Historica Discordia), Robin Ince (Infinite Monkey Cage).

"There will be Artwork from KLF’s Jimmy Cauty and Punk icon Jamie Reid; Music from TC Lethbridge and Youth (Killing Joke); Luxuriantly sculpted psychedelic landscapes; Pods, domes, and caravans with performances to wow & secrets to reveal; Stalls of arcane and wonderful paraphernalia; and so fnordy much more!"

The new Maybe Logic Academy class on Robert Anton Wilson, "Cosmic Trigger RE:PLAY," began Tuesday, but Bobby Campbell tells me that it's not too late to enroll in the pay-what-you-will class.  You will  need to register at the website; if you don't see the class in the forums section, you may have to ask one of the instructors to add you manually to the class.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Apel's book of SF author interviews

Philip K. Dick

Science Fiction: An Oral History. D. Scott Apel, editor. Available for 99 cents as a Kindle ebook.

Science Fiction: An Oral History is a book of interviews with various science fiction authors, and I strongly recommend acquiring a copy if you are interested in science fiction as literature, or in Robert Anton Wilson. There is a very good interview with RAW, and a very long, very good interview with Philip K. Dick. The encounters with other writers are sympathetic and well done. The book is worth your money (it's very cheap), but more importantly, it's worth your time.

The interviews are conducted by D. Scott Apel and his friend, the late Kevin Briggs. The conceit of the title is that the book provides an "oral history" of the genre by interviewing writers who span several decades in the genre, from the 1930s to the 1970s. The interviews are with C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Theodore Sturgeon, Dick, Fritz Leiber, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad and Wilson.

There's also a gossipy afterward, in which Apel details the unfriendly responses he got when he tried to interview Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. Arthur C. Clarke wasn't interviewed because he lived in Ceylon and apparently never came to California, at least as far as the authors knew. I wish they had tried to reach him by phone. Apel also explains why the book didn't finally come out until now.

The interviews range from good to excellent. Apel and Briggs know the work of each of the authors who are interviewed, and it shows.

The interview with Philip K. Dick is extraordinarily good, although I should add that it apparently consists of highlights from an even longer interview published as Philip K. Dick: The Dream Connection; serious Dick fans should seek it out.

Robert Anton Wilson's name pops up in a couple of the interviews; for example, it turns out that Theodore Sturgeon was a RAW fan (Sturgeon calls Cosmic Trigger an "excellent book.") The lively Sturgeon section is one of the better ones in the book, by the way.

And the interview with RAW, conducted in 1977, is a good one and has a great deal of material about Illuminatus! and about the science fiction world (Wilson says his favorite SF authors are Stapledon, Heinlein, Clarke and Sturgeon). In fact, the RAW interview is lengthy, and covers topics I haven't seen elsewhere. (At one point, Wilson remarks, "I'm awfully opinionated tonight.") Here is one bit, after Apel has brought up  "the principle of complementarity, where no single answer will explain the whole truth; You need two equal and opposite answers, at least."

Apel: Within the structure of the novel [e.g. Illuminatus!] it appears ago as the Illuminati seem both good and bad; the two opposite viewpoints integrating into a third thing.

Wilson: I decided it had to have some kind of resolution, so basically, they are the bad guys. But in The Sex Magicians, a little known novel I did that was published before Illuminatus! (although written after) the Illuminati are definitely the good guys. Very few people have realized that aspect of Illuminatus!, and I'm delighted that you recognize it. I've found people who were vaguely aware of something like that, but they haven't caught it as precisely as you did. I figure that's because I didn't make it explicit enough. Nothing in Illuminatus! is merely bizarre. It's a precise rendering of knowledge in quantum physics and neurology. The scientific thing that's most integral to Illuminatus! is the multi-model approach.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Illuminatus! Online Reading Group, Week 31

 A Common Mynah, hanging out on a tree.

(Prologue to The Golden Apple. If you don't have one of the Dell mass market paperbacks from back in the 1970s, you can read it here.)

When I was a teenager, I began buying science fiction magazines. The magazines would sometimes serialize a novel over two or three issues, and when they did so, they would run a synopsis in the later issues, to help  out any readers who had missed the earlier part of the novel.

Dell originally published Illuminatus! as three separate mass market paperbacks, and so the second and third paperbacks had synopses for those who had missed the earlier books. These were omitted when Dell put out the one volume omnibus, which is the format that has kept Illuminatus! in print over the years.

This must have made sense to Dell's editors, but I enjoy the synopses every time I read them, and I noticed that the prologue for The Golden Apple is the only place that really tells the full story of the self-destructing mynah birds. I mentioned that to Robert Shea when I met him for the first and only time, at a worldcon in Boston, Noreascon 3 in 1989,  and he said that he and RAW had been unable to convince Dell that the synopses were little literary works in and of themselves.

(Next week: Page 309, "There is no god but man," to page 323, "Do-da, do-da, do-da-do-da-DAY ..." )

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Memoir from 'Green Egg' publishers

While browsings ebooks on sale at Amazon's Kindle store, I spotted The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism by John Sulak, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. The Kindle version is $1.99 through Oct. 5. (If you don't have a Kindle ebook reader or tablet, there are free Amazon apps you can download for your smartphone, tablet or computer, if you wanted to read the book.)

This book would be of interest to sombunall RAW fans, as these were the folks who published the zine Green Egg, where a number of RAW pieces were published. (See for example "RAW Letters to Green Egg," which I have a link to under "Feature Articles and Interviews" on the right side of this page.) I ran a search for "Robert Anton Wilson" in the "look inside the book" feature for the paperback, and found three references to RAW.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Giving props to Prop Anon

Propaganda Anonymous, right, with artist Shepard Fairey, from the rapper's Facebook page. 

Just a little bit more regarding the new online pay-what-you-can afford Maybe Logic Academy course on Robert Anton Wilson, which starts Tuesday. 

I'm pretty familiar with three of the four people teaching the course; I've written about Bobby Campbell, Bogus Magus and Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt quite a bit. (If the names don't ring a bell, please see my previous post.) But I really didn't know anything about rapper and activist Propaganda Anonymous until a couple of weeks ago. 

Bobby Campbell sent me the link to this excellent 2003 interview of RAW by Propaganda Anonymous. It's a long interview that covers a lot of ground,  and while inevitably there is some overlap with other RAW interviews, there's quite a big that was new to me. (It turns out that RAW was not a big rap music fan but could dig the lyrics.)

If I attempted to quote all of the bits I liked, this would be a very long blog post, but here is one bit:

Prop: I read in a previous interview that you considered yourself
an Anarchist earlier in your career.

Wilson: At one point I was calling myself an Anarchist, an Atheist,
and a Witch. Then when I reached my 40's I softened that. I
started to describe myself as a libertarian, a pantheist, and
a neopagan. And since then I moved on to a decentralist, a pragmatist, and
a proponent of maybe logic…. I got the idea from T.S. Eliot.
T.S. Eliot was the most popular poet of the 1920s, and suddenly
in the 1930s he announced he was a monarchist in politics, a
classicist in literature, and an Anglo-Catholic in religion.

It horrified most of his previous admirers, and it brought
him a whole new bunch of admirers from the other side
of the literary world.

Then Dylan Thomas declared himself an Anarchist in literature,
a Drunkard by religion, and a Welshman in politics.

There's another good bit where Wilson expands on his political philosophy:

I'm sort of a half-time Harry Browne fan. You
know him? He's the Libertarian candidate for president last term.
He has a weekly column he sends out on e-mails. Well, I agree
with him on half and disagree with him on half. Like most libertarians,
we never agree with one another totally. The greatest
thing he ever wrote was in a recent e-mail, "America fears most
of the world and most of the world fears America." Everybody's
afraid of America, with good cause. In America you're afraid
of everybody else, with good cause. I get more reactionary all
the time. Jefferson and Adams and Washington, Madison, that whole
group seems so much smarter than the people who are running
the government today. Back in the 18th century we had people
smarter than me. Now we've got Bozo. See: every rebel becomes
a reactionary.

RAW doesn't use the words "classical liberal," but that's what it kind of sounds like. 

Korzybski biography posted online for free

Alfred Korzybski

Bruce I. Kodish is posting a free online version of his Korzybski: A Biography, making his book about the General Semantics author. Of course, Alfred Korzybski was a huge influence on Robert Anton Wilson. (It was Korzbyski who originated the phrase "The map is not the territory.")

Kodish is gradually posting the book online; it is being serialized over the course of several months.

"With this free online edition, not having a readily available copy or the money to buy one can no longer serve as an excuse for not reading it," Kodish says.

If you like what you are reading, Kodish hopes you'll buy your own copy, or ask your local library to order it. (Many libraries do accept suggestions from patrons.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reminder for new Maybe Logic course on RAW

Bogus Magus, aka Toby Philpott

The new Maybe Logic Academy course on Robert Anton Wilson is just around the corner — Sept. 23 — and features Bogus Magus (aka Toby Philpott), Bobby Campbell, Propaganda Anonymous and Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt, a kind of Anglo-American all star team.  The official announcement and more details are here; you pay whatever you can afford.

Pratt organized the course and recently emailed me about how it came about.

"When i got news of the 'Find The Others' festival, scheduled for the day after the Cosmic Trigger stage play in Liverpool, (23rd November) i saw a doorway of opportunity to reignite the MLA community, and ride shotgun with the rising tide of RAW activities. The MLA MGT also shared the vision, so it goes.

"Bogus, Bobby and Prop were in typical kindhearted agreement to create something new, and each shaped up a two week prescription to trigger cosmic integrity in the minds of the people. I would also like to thank the MLA webmaster, for engineering the back-end of the class and bringing valuable feedback. Bobby provided all visuals without missing a beat, in the tradition of the community spirited artist movement of the 1960s."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oz Fritz on love under will and focused attention

Oz Fritz has published a new "position paper" on focusing attention and love under will, drawing on his extensive knowledge of esoterica, Aleister Crowley and forms of meditation. I thought this paragraph was interesting:

Now here's some incentive though it likely won't be believed until experienced.  Strengthening attention acts as a form of life extension.  Attention slows down time, or, if you like, slows down the perception of time ... same thing as far as the body's aging mechanisms are concerned.  You hear about people in car accidents saying that everything went into slow motion during the accident.  This is because the crisis reflexively triggers attention far beyond normal.  Time seems to slow down as the velocity of brain activity speeds up.  This can be more subtly noticed in learning a new activity or the protocols of a new situation such as the first day on the job.  Everything happens very fast as you struggle to learn and keep up.  As you learn the ropes, the pace of activity slows to a manageable rate.  The so-called learning curve is a gathering, concentration and crystalization of attention related to the new subject or activity.  Experienced music producers can hear more in one playback of a song than the average listener because they've increased and trained their listening attention to an advanced degree such that the music doesn't go by as fast as it does to the untrained ear.

See also my earlier post, Oz Fritz and RAW on the art of paying attention. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Notes on the reading group

Next week's episode of the Illuminatus! online reading group (e.g, Monday) will be on the prologue for The Golden Apple, a bit of text that's not in the Dell omnibus which I assume most people are reading but which was included when the work originally was issued as a series of three paperback originals back in the 1970s.

The prologue is a little shorter than the 10 page bits we've been doing, and I see this stage as an opportunity for anyone who wishes to get caught up with the group, or to start anew with The Golden Apple. Ten pages a week is not exactly a forced march, so it's not too late to take advantage of the next two weeks to get caught up.

A couple of other points: Adam Gorightly has been posting on the reading group episodes at Historia Discordia, and I've been noting his posts on this blog and collecting them on the online discussion group page. If you feel moved to put up something on your own blog or website, please make sure I don't miss it — I want to point to it, too. Also,  I remain open to guest posts on this blog. Just contact me and let me know you want to lead the discussion for an episode.

My sincere thanks to everyone who took a moment to post a comment on one of the blog postings for The Eye in the Pyramid. I'm looking forward to hearing from you during The Golden Apple. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Illuminatus Reading Group, Week 30

 "The Death of Caesar" by Jean-Léon Gérôme, just after the conspirators have pressed home their attack on Julius Caesar by inflicting 23 wounds.

(This week: Concluding pages of The Eye in the Pyramid. Page 292, "RAGS. Hail Ghoulumbia, her monadmen are fled," to page 304, "Every emotion is a motion.) 

The end of The Eye in the Pyramid brilliantly ties together the Cthulhu mythos with the occult and with anarchism. It provides a good thematic summary for the book, although of course for a dramatic resolution we have two more books to go.

"He's inside the Pentagon. That's why they build it in that shape, so he couldn't escape. The Aztecs, the Nazis ... and now us ... "

A fictional metaphor for the National Security state and for the military-industrial complex, and for the way it demands the sacrifice of thousands, regardless of who wins the elections? At the time Illuminatus! was written, the U.S. was involved in the war in Vietnam, which had little to do with national security in a traditional sense. No one believed the Vietnamese were about to invade Hawaii or California.

Perhaps the passage I've quoted, and some of themes of Illuminatus!, come from the peace demonstration which attempted an exorcism of the Pentagon. 

Handbill written by Ed Sanders (of the Fugs, mentioned in Illuminatus!) with instructions for exorcism of the Pentagon, taken from above link.)

Some notes on the text:

"A rag, a bone, a hank of hair," page 293. The quotation is from a Rudyard Kipling poem, "The Vampire."

Anthropologist J.N. Marsh, page 294. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, considered a classic SF novel, has an anthropologist named John V. Marsch.

Dr. Henry Armitage, page 294. Head librarian at Miskatonic University in the H.P. Lovecraft story, "The Dunwich Horror."

Allegro's The Sacred Mushroom, page 294. The so-called "Jesus as mushroom" theory. Controversial, obviously, but Allegro has his defenders, including classical scholar Carl Ruck. I blogged about Ruck.

amanita, page 297, more here.

"young black student named Pearson," page 297. Later the leader of a rock music band, Clark Kent and his Supermen.

"I can see the fnords," page 302. Explanation of fnords here. The use of fnords to induce fear in the populace relates to the National Security State.

"I suppose you've read Seutonius and know that the late J. Caesar was rendered exactly 23 stab wounds by Brutus & Co.," page 304.

Suetonius is misspelled, but I pulled my copy of The Twelve Caesars off the shelf, and there is a reference to 23 stabbings. After the initial two stabbings, Suetonius relates, Caesar pulled his gown over his face. "Twenty-three dagger thrusts went home as he stood there." Suetonius also mentions that Caesar was 55 years old when he died, so his death conformed to the Law of Fives.

By the way, my copy of the The Twelve Caesars is translated by Robert Graves, the "Graves" mentioned on Page 294.

(Next week: Prologue to the Golden Apple, available here if you are using the Dell Omnibus edition (which omits it). 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Some antiwar links

Sheldon Richman

As we descend into our latest Iraq war, I thought it might be timely to post a few antiwar leaks. remains a good resource. There's lots of stuff up on Iraq, including Justin Raimondo's latest.  Chad Nelson, whose articles on RAW have been mentioned here, also has a new piece on the site, on "Challenging the Motives Behind War."

EconLog, a Libertarian blog with a quiet, reasoned tone, is also a reliably good antiwar blog. Here are some of my favorites from contributor David Henderson: "One Innocent Person Is Killed. Response: Kill More Innocent People." "Paul Krugman on Why We Fight," "Trade Creates Peace." 

Sheldon Richman has a great piece on "Ten Lessons, Plus One, We Should Learn from 9/11"

I've linked to libertarian pieces so far, but I don't mean to be partisan. Zoë Carpenter has a good piece in The Nation, "Is the War on ISIS Illegal?" And here is Tom Hayden on the new war. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Discordian historian Adam Gorightly on Week 29

Gregory Hill, author of "The Curse of Greyface"

Discordian historian Adam Gorightly has weighed in on Week 29 of the Illuminatus! online reading group. He explains the reference to the Curse of Greyface.

Adam also has just posted rare RAW videos. 

Information on his brand new Kerry Thornley book is here. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Maybe Logic Academy to present online course on Robert Anton Wilson

Maybe Logic Academy, apparently still active in offering courses after all, has announced that it is presenting an online course on Robert Anton Wilson, "Cosmic Trigger Replay." It starts Sept. 23, and is serving as a kind of run-up to the new Cosmic Trigger play in England.

Details on the course are here. A donation is requested, but folks are essentially being asked to pay what they can afford. It's an eight week course.

The new offering is being taught by four different Maybe Logic veterans: Bogus Magus (aka Toby Philpott), Bobby Campbell, Propaganda Anonymous and Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt. Given the credentials of the faculty, this course offering seems like a pretty good opportunity.

Bogus has an Illuminatus studies site.  He's on Twitter. 

Bobby Campbell is an artist and writer who has done illustrations for many of Robert Anton Wilson's and Robert Shea's books. You can follow him on Twitter, and you can also buy his new comic book and read my recent interview with him. 

Steve Fly Agaric is music director for the Cosmic Trigger play. He is a musician, a writer, an expert on building websites and probably 10 or 15 other things I've forgotten. He has so many websites devoted to RAW that it is difficult to keep up with them all, but here is one and the amazing RAW360 is here (do yourself a favor and take a look). Go read my interview with him to see why the New York Times once ran his picture.

Propaganda Anonymous is a writer, performer and activist in New York City and has been a member of Maybe Logic Academy from the beginning. More here. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

J. Christian Greer on Wilson, Leary and Discordianism

J. Christian Greer 

Here is some good news. Dutch scholar and Discordian J. Christian Greer has been awarded a New York Public Library Short Term Research Fellowship to study the Timothy Leary Papers. On Monday, Mr. Greer put up his first blog post, discussing what the papers reveal about Leary, Robert Anton Wilson and Discordianism. (Mr. Greer has sometimes posted on this blog as JCG, although fortunately the NYPL did not  hold that against him.)

"Financial difficulties prohibited the Robert Anton Wilson estate from maintaining a posthumous archive, and thus the Leary papers at NYPL represents not only an essential resource for Wilson’s work, but also acts as one of the few repositories of Discordianism’s material history," Greer writes.

Read the whole thing. 

More on Mr. Greer here. He already has three university degrees, including a master's in "hermetic philosophy and related currents," and is working on his Ph.D.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 29, Online Illuminatus Reading Group

Roman statue of the god Pan. One of the Atlantis statues George Dorn delivers inspired later statues of Pan. 

(This week: "There are times when dignity is suicide," page 282, to "that sign is absolutely the whole clue to how the show runs, page 292).

Well, if I'm any judge of literary quality (I'm sure you'll let me know if I'm not), this section shows one of the biggest weaknesses of Illuminatus!, and one of its most important strengths.

When I was a college student in the 1970s in Oklahoma, a not terribly enlightened time or place, a friend of mine in the dorm described his contempt for another student.  Richard complained that the other fellow seemed to regard women as little more than "pussy machines."

Tarantella Serpentine is little more than a pussy machine, but unfortunately this could also be said about most of the other female characters in Illuminatus! — Stella Maris, Mavis, Sherri Brandi. We learn a lot in the course of the work about Hagbard Celine, Simon Moon, George Dorn, Robert Putney Drake. We don't learn a lot about any of the female characters. It would be nice, for example, to know a little more about Mavis. I suspect that if Illuminatus! was offered as a new literary work in 2014, any moderately competent editor would suggest strengthening the female characters.

But then there's the sudden shift from George Dorn to Saul Goodman at the bottom of page 290. This is reminiscent to me of the shifts between characters in Ulysses, in which all of the characters are treated as an important part of Dublin. And it's the beginning of a passage where Mavis pops up, thankfully a section in which Mavis is a woman who is compassionate, not just sexual, and there's a discussion of ego loss that sounds a lot like the Buddhist doctrine of no self (page 291):

"There are two forms of ego loss," Mavis went on, "and the Illuminati are masters of both. One is schizophrenia, the other is illumination. They set you on the first track, and we switched you to the other ... Saul sat upright ... We cut off whole egos, thinking they are not ourselves but separate."

Couldn't this be read as an argument for  reading fiction — "becoming" other people, and becoming more compassionate by learning about the lives of others?

The Buddhist doctrine of no self teaches that there is no immortal soul or essence of a person that persists for eternity. It teaches that "all conditioned things are impermanent." Quoting from my usual guide to Buddhism, What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula, "Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a soul, self or Atman. According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of 'me' and 'mine,' selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egotism, and other defilements, impurities and problems." (From Chapter 6, the Doctrine of No-Soul, Anatta. The chapter also says that "ego" is synonymous with "soul," "self" or "Atman.")

A few notes:

"I'll settle the question with you in hell if I'm wrong," page 282. An important lesson in operational security, as it would appear Maldonado turns out to be right.

"The only solution is a Yin Revolution, dig?" page 284. For more on the Yin revolution, see Adam Gorightly's recent post. 

"The Sicilian heritage goes back goes thousands of years before Rome," page 283. I don't know much about that, but it was certainly an important part of the Greek world, and hence a wellspring of Western culture, with figures such as Archimedes.

  (Next week: The end of The Eye in the Pyramid! Page 292, "RAGS. Hail Ghoulumbia, her monadmen are fled," to page 304, "Every emotion is a motion.) 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

New book about Kerry Thornley published

Author Adam Gorightly, author of the excellent Kerry Thornley bio The Prankster and the Conspiracy, has a new book that's about to come out about Thornley, Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald, and the Garrison Investigation.  (Adam Tweeted that it is "now available," which apparently means you can order it from the publisher right now. Amazon lists an Oct. 7 release date.)

From the publisher's page: (from where you can order the book)

"Kerry Thornley never imagined that after starting a spoof religion in the 1950s that worshipped Eris—the Greek goddess of chaos and discord—that this seeming joke would unleash a torrent of actual chaos into his life in the years to follow.

"During the late 1950s, Thornley became friends with Lee Harvey Oswald when the two served together in the Marines, and was actually writing a novel based on Oswald three years before John F. Kennedy’s assassination. These connections would later cause New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison to suspect that Thornley was one of the notorious Oswald doubles and a part of a JFK assassination plot. Initially, Thornley denied these allegations, but later came to believe that he’d been used as an unwitting pawn in the conspiracy.  This is the story."

When I interviewed Adam, I asked about the new book:

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.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Burn him! Burn him! He's a witch!!!

Radley Balko may be a respected critic of police abuse, but let's face it -- at bottom, is he a  hardworking journalist, or just a disreputable bald guy? 

On Thursday, Slate, an online publication I often read, published an article by some creature named Ben Mathis-Lilley.  For your convenience, I've boldfaced the part that makes Mr. Mathis-Lilley seem like an ignorant asshole. Here is the first few sentences of the piece:

Yesterday the Washington Post published an epic investigation of the municipal-fine system in outlying St. Louis County cities and towns like Ferguson. If that sounds boring—and I admit, as the person who wrote the preceding sentence, that it sounds boring—try this: In appalling detail, reporter Radley Balko makes a case that St. Louis County is home to a large-scale state-enforced shakedown racket that extorts black residents by using unjust imprisonment as a weapon.

Balko is a civil liberties advocate who's written for the libertarian publication Reason, so if you're inclined you can take his framing of the issues with a grain of salt. But the most stunning parts of his piece aren't anecdotes or rhetoric; they’re facts about a system that raises money for itself by deluging a largely-black population with fines and tickets for minor civic infractions, then punishes them again and again with arrests and imprisonment for not being able to navigate a convoluted judicial system.

If you suspect  you are about to get a rant along the lines of "the map is not a territory," you are correct. And notice that I don't seem that Mathis-Lilley "is" an ignorant asshole; I just write that his article makes him "seem" like one.

What if Mr. Mathis-Lilley had written, "Balko is a civil liberties advocate who's a bald guy, so if you're inclined you can take his framing of the issues with a grain of salt." Or, "Balko is a civil liberties advocate who's an Indianpolis Colts fan, so if you're inclined you can take his framing of the issues with a grain of salt."

In all three cases, I would argue that hanging a label on Balko has little do with the merits of any piece he's written. It's either well-written or it's not. It either follows reasonable standards of evidence, or it does not.

Reason magazine was founded in 1968, so it's probably run quite a few pieces by now, by a variety of writers. I'm not sure what it's supposed to prove that it has published Balko. Mathis-Lilley could have emphasized, by the way, that Balko's piece was published by the Washington Post.

Yesterday, I linked to a writer I admire, and whose death I mourn, Alexander Cockburn. I guess since I self-identify as a classical liberal, by Mathis-Lilley's reasoning, I really should have written, "Cockburn was a Marxist who's written for the Nation, so if you're inclined you can take  his framing of the issues with a grain of salt."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Discordian historian Adam Gorightly on Week 28

Adam Gorightly, hanging out a few years ago with a prominent American writer.

Crackpot historian Adam Gorightly — his title refers to his esoteric specialties, not his expertise as a scholar — has kindly weighed in on Week 28 of the Illuminatus! online reading group. Please consult his blog post to learn more about Greg Hill, Emperor Norton, the Yin Revolution and other Discordian topics.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Your tax dollars at work: Government harassment

I've been reading a book called Strange Attractor: The Discordian Libertarian Writings of Jake Shannon.

For awhile after he moved to Utah, Shannon ventured into politics. There's an interesting passage about what happened after he ran for Congress as a Libertarian on a platform of (among other things) abolishing the IRS:

Well, not even eight weeks after I announced my candidacy for the third Congressional District, I went to check my private business banking account and found it emptied out! At first, I thought I was the victim of identity theft, so I called up my bank. This is when I first found out that the IRS had levied my account! Without so much as even a letter to warn me, they had simply emptied thousands of dollars from my business account. In addition, I started to be charged non-sufficient funds fees by my bank for services that were on auto-draft. I was dumbfounded.

I called up my accountant, and she began the process of trying to figure out what was going on. I had my own business for years and had never had a single problem with taxes. After much back and forth, the IRS said they made a "mistake" and put the funds back into my account. No apology and no offer to compensate me for the hundreds of dollars of NSF fees from the bank their "error" had caused me to incur. Now, normally, I'd be open to the possibility of chalking the whole experience up to coincidence, but when the exact same "error" happened to my wife's business just a few weeks later, it became clear this was harassment. Our accountant cleared everything AGAIN, and she got her money put into her account, but it was becoming clear that there were consequences for speaking freely. 

That's from Chapter 20, "Project Jake." Of course, it's not embezzlement if the government does it.

Now check out Jesse Walker's posting at Reason's  Hit and Run blog, "That Time the President, the FBI, and a Moonlighting Supreme Court Justice Tried to Dig Up Dirt on a Movie Star." It details how, when LBJ's daughter began dating George Hamilton, the president enlisted a Supreme Court justice (!) and the apparently-compliant FBI to dig up dirt on Hamilton.

This was back in 1966 — nearly half a century ago. So why is it relevant now? Walker writes that while some of the story has been known for years, the full FBI file has yet to be released. A law professor sued two years ago to get the file made public. That hasn't happened yet, but a U.S. district judge has issued an opinion.

I'm hoping that Jake will press his own case to find out who ordered the IRS to harass him. Perhaps in 48 years, some of the truth will come out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jeff Rosenbaum has died

Timothy Leary, Robert Shea, Patricia Monaghan, Jeff Rosenbaum, Gillie Smythe

Jeff Rosenbaum has died. An important figure in the pagan movement in the Cleveland Ohio area, where I live, he was closely associated with Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Tim Leary and other persons of interest. He was an organizer for the Starwood Festival and a founder of the Association for Consciousness Exploration.

Here is an obituary. It's written by Jason Pitzi-Waters. Excerpt: "In addition to his work with ACE and Starwood, he was Robert Anton Wilson’s lecture agent for six years during the 1980s, played guitar & percussion with Ian Corrigan and Victoria Ganger in the bands Chameleon and Starwood Sizzlers, and was published (and interviewed) in a number of Pagan-themed publications."

Here is another obituary. The photo, above, of Rosenbaum with Robert Shea and Patricia Monaghan is taken from it. The obituary is from Ian Corrigan. Excerpt: "With an agenda drawn largely from “Cosmic Trigger” we set about hosting events as simple as showing movies at a Case Western Reserve University venue and as major as bringing Dr. Leary to Cleveland for the first time as he returned to public speaking in the late 70s."

Thanks to Timothy Leary Futique on Twitter (e.g., R. U. Sirius) for spotting the sad news.