Monday, March 31, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week Six


Antioch Hall at the reopened Antioch College

This week: Page 52 "Saul picked up the ninth memo" to Page 63 "the shadows of Maya."

This section of Illuminatus! introduces one of the major themes of the novel. Given the fact that libertarians and anarchists are doomed, at least in the short term, to live in a statist world ("those on the light side moved about the tasks appointed for them by their rulers" page 58) there is only so much that the libertarian or anarchist can accomplish in the world around him; the task therefore becomes to free yourself, or at least free your mind.

Here is the key passage on pages 62 and 63, after Simon Moon has listened to  his anarchist parents argue:

"You're both wrong," I said. "Freedom won't come through love, and it won't come through Force. It will come through the Imagination." I put in all the capital letters and I was so stoned that they got contact-high and heard them, too. 

Libertarians always have plenty to complain about, of course, but 1969, when Wilson and Shea began Illuminatus!, was a particularly bad time. The Indochina war raged in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and Americans were being drafted to participate in a war that many of them regarded as unjust. Science fiction writer William Gibson was among those Americans who went to Canada to avoid participating in the Vietnam War; years later, RAW read Gibson at the behest of a friend who was trying to keep RAW current on the science fiction scene.

Perhaps partially because they were reacting against a horrible war, many anarchists and artists in the 1960s had a renewed interest in surrealism, which was at least in part the stepchild of dadaism, which was born amid the horror of World War I. Moon alludes to this on page 62, "The young frontal-lobe-type anarchists in the city [of Chicago, where Shea and Wilson lived and worked] were in their first surrealist revival just then ..."

Here is a quote from Surrealism founder Andre Breton, "It was in the black mirror of anarchism that surrealism first recognised itself." (That's from "The Politics of Surrealism.")

The book is explicit about Simon Moon's use of sex magick as a brain change agent and as a means of escape (page 57) but other libertarians also have talked about the need to escape, or at least separate themselves from everyday reality.

This has given rise to (so far) Utopian schemes such as migrating to space (something that RAW advocated, of course) and setting up libertarian communities in floating cities. A more practical approach was advocated in the late Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, and see also Bryan Caplan's blog post advocating creating a "bubble" for yourself, "Create Your Own Bubble in Ten Easy Steps." (I've tried to follow some of Caplan's advice.)

Neither of these gentlemen were isolated from day to day libertarian issues. Browne ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate. Caplan is very active campaigning for open borders and pacifism. But both have offered practical counsel for living in a statist world with tasks appointed by rulers.

RAW's "mentor" James Joyce had an autobiographical hero, Stephen Dedalus, who adoped "silence, exile and cunning" as a defense against the twin oppressions of the state and the church. Joyce spent much of his exile from Ireland in neutral Switzerland.

The Internet has for years provided a means for escape, not just for libertarians but for many other interest groups who have been able to use it to find each other. The cypherpunks in particular saw encryption as a means to escape the attention of the authorities, although the cypherpunk project has been hampered by the apparent reluctance of even many libertarians to actually use encryption. (Anyone interested in this topic could consider using TAILS and other tools, such as PGP email. If you want to try encrypting your emails, I suggest using Enigmail with Thunderbird as a relatively easy method.)

A few notes on the text:

Page 54, Arthur Flegenheimer. Better known as mobster Dutch Schultz. Expect to read more about his last words.

Page 57, "everything else in my life has been a hallucination." Simon is trying to get her to "wake up."

Page 58, Malaclypse the Younger, e.g Gregory Hill.

Page 61, " ... the orders will still come from Wall Street."

Page 62, "Antioch in dear old Yellow Springs." Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

RAW lived in the Yellow Springs area for two years, an experience he talked about in Cosmic Trigger Volume 2: Down to Earth and  the Lewis Shiner interview:

You grew up in New York, then moved to Ohio. Why Ohio?

I was offered a job editing a magazine for a place called the School for Living, which later moved to Maryland. The School for Living had a very interesting philosophy, which was "back to nature, live on the land, eat health food" — and a bit of anarchism and Wilhelm Reich. I agreed with about half of that and thought the over half was kind of flakey, but it was interesting. I thought it would be a great idea to live on a farm and see how I did at it.

I enjoyed it. We were there for two years.

Were you influenced by your years on the farm?

Yeah, I think so. My children were very young then. I guess the oldest was about eight when we left Ohio. I used to look at the grass and crops and trees and goats and cows and at my children and my wife and myself and think about evolution — all these different types of intelligence. I got fascinated by the intelligence of insects. It turned me into a pantheist. No, pantheist is not correct. The technical word is pan-psych-ist. I became more and more convinced that everything was intelligent.

Next week: Page 63 ("Dad was the first to recover") to Page 73 ("he began thinking of alternate plans.")



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Prometheus Award shortlist announced

The shortlist of finalists for the Prometheus Award have been announced, and one of the books is Cory Doctorow's Homeland, a novel about "NSA spying stuff" that I reviewed for Reason.  (Cory reacts to the nomination.)

Here is the shortlist, in alphabetical order by author:

 Homeland, by Cory Doctorow (TOR Books)
 A Few Good Men, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books)
 Crux, by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot Books)
 Nexus, by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot Books)
 Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer)

The Hall of Fame finalists for best classic fiction are as follows:

"As Easy as A.B.C.," a short story (1912) by Rudyard Kipling "Sam Hall," a short story (1953) by Poul Anderson
"'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," a short story (1965) by Harlan Ellison
Falling Free, a novel (1988) by Lois McMaster Bujold
Courtship Rite, a novel (1982) by Donald M. Kingsbury

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A "bad" libertarian explains why you should read Justin Raimondo

Like many of my other favorite libertarians, Justin Raimondo understands there is a close connection between being against war and being in favor of civil liberties. "Leave me alone" cannot be separated from "leave everyone else alone, too."

This is not to say that Mr. Raimondo cannot be a little annoying, even to other libertarians. In his guise as "Pope Justin," he sometimes dispenses advice on who is and who isn't a good libertarian, guidance that isn't always welcomed by the heretics. (As Art Carden has joked, "Every movement contains two kinds of people: those who have betrayed it, and me.") Personally, I prefer the ecumenical Bryan Caplan approach. Perhaps that's because I'm a "bad" libertarian, pretty good on civil liberties and peace but a little weak on some of the other stuff. I'm fine with public libraries, for example. (Quick! Find a stake and gather some dry wood!)

Anyway, Justin Raimondo has done wonderful, yeoman work at Antiwar.com, a site that I've given money to and tried to promote any way that I can. His editorials, which one highlight of a very useful and newsy site, argue relentlessly for the need to fight for civil liberties and against war, forming alliances with any willing partner. You can learn a lot by simply following his links.

He's just written a particularly good piece, "Libertarianism in One Country." Here are two highlights from it, aimed at a particular group, American libertarians, although he also is addressing any other American willing to listen:

When we started this web site we did so not only as peace activists but also as explicitly libertarian activists, and we did it in part because we wanted to educate libertarians as well as the general public in a field where confusion reigned. This confusion has always been particularly acute among libertarians because people the world over yearn for liberty – and the US government poses as their champion. And while history is indeed full of little ironies, this is a huge one – because it is Washington, and no other actor on the world stage, that poses the main danger to the peace and freedom of the world.

Inside the imperial metropolis, of course, we are afforded the protections of the Constitution – at least on the surface – as well as enjoying the fruits of an economic system that has produced unprecedented wealth. The irony factor comes into play when we note that our foreign policy of unrelenting aggression has produced only misery and endless bloodshed for the world’s peoples. This is the great American paradox, made all the more acute when we further realize that this policy has undermined our liberty and prosperity at home – perhaps fatally. The bigger and more bloated our empire gets, the less free and poorer we become.


***

We must never forget that the political character of a state, whether it is democratic, theocratic, fascist, or communist, says nothing about the foreign policy it will pursue. A democracy can be and often is relentlessly aggressive, while a fascist dictatorship could just as readily be pacific and isolationist. Indeed, a democratic nation with a Messiah complex is far more dangerous to the world and to its own people than a relatively authoritarian state that just wants to reign over its little corner of the globe. A danger to the world because the special arrogance that infuses would-be messiahs allows them to commit the greatest crimes for the noblest of reasons. A danger to their own people because the very act of aggression and empire-building destroys the liberal character of democratic states, eating away their substance from within.








Friday, March 28, 2014

An editorial about ebooks

The other day, one of the accounts I follow on Twitter posted a link to a downloadable PDF of one of Robert Anton Wilson's books.

I didn't retweet it and I'm not posting a link here. I have enormous respect for the gentleman who posted the Tweet, but I still urge people to purchase new RAW books, buy used books in the resale or trade market or check them out of the library. That's what seems the best interest of Robert Anton Wilson's children, who don't seem to be wealthy and more than likely can use the royalties from the sales of RAW's books. I don't have a problem frankly with the technically illegal circulation of books by authors who have been dead for decades -- I think copyrights in the U.S. seem far too long -- but that does not describe the situation here. Wilson died only about seven years ago. It seems reasonable to respect the literary property rights of his heirs.

I raise the matter because I want to make the point that when no reasonable legal alternative exists, people resort to illegal measures. The title in question cannot be purchased as an ebook on Amazon.

As I write this, Daisy Eris Campbell prepares to mount a stage production of RAW's Cosmic Trigger. Her efforts have deservedly garnered quite a bit of publicity. Want to buy a copy of Cosmic Trigger for your Kindle or Nook so you can read it and see what all of the fuss is about? You can't, because no ebook edition can be purchased.

Much of RAW's fiction have been turned into ebooks, but many of his books remain unavailable in digital format. Fixing that situation seems overdue.

Compare the activity — or inactivity — of the RAW estate with that of some of his contemporaries. Philip K. Dick's literary executor, Paul Williams, worked very hard to keep PKD in the spotlight. Timothy Leary's estate put out a new biography, provided his papers to the New York Public Library and maintains a vigorous Internet presence. Robert Shea's literary executor, Mike Shea, made sure years ago that all of Shea's work became available as ebooks, answers friendly emails and generally works with anyone who wants to keep Shea's work alive. New Falcon has been reprinting the Shike novels. What has the RAW estate done since Wilson's death?




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Illuminatus Reading, Week Five

Adam Gorightly has put up a meaty, interesting post at Historia Discordia keyed to Week Five of the online Illuminatus! discussion that I've been hosting here. You'll want to read all of it, but here's a bit I especially liked:

In a previous post, I commented how Illuminatus! is a mental exercise of sorts in trying to distinguish what is true and what is false in the book. In their quest to bust the Illuminati, Goodman and Muldoon arrive at the theory that the clues they’ve uncovered suggest the same thing: that the reality of the Illuminati is both true and false. And perhaps that’s the final secret of Illuminatus! (maybe): that it’s partly true and partly false and it’s ultimately up to the reader to decide for themselves which parts are true and which are false—so it becomes a different reality tunnel for each reader/experiencer.

I've archived Adam's post on the links page at upper right.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Steve "Fly" Pratt and John Sinclair news roundup

Some months ago, Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt wrote me and asked if I'd pen a press release for the new album he did with John Sinclair, the famous countercultural icon. I said sure. I asked Steve to send me some quotes. I didn't hear back. I forgot to remind him. Time passed, and I got busy with other stuff, and the album was released. So Steve, sorry the press release didn't get written, how about a blog post at my blog?

Here is the official press release on the album, which features Steve's music and Sinclair's words. The Guardian article is here.  It links to a stream of the album.

And here is the direct link to the stream:




Steve also wrote to me recently to tell me about an article online about a legal case involving Sinclair.

Steve wrote, "I wanted to turn you onto one of the most detailed descriptions of the Sinclair trial i have ever come across, by Hugh Buck Davis.

On reading, i found myself stumbling into the universe of 'Schroedinger's Cat' and some flashbacks to Illuminatus!"


Monday, March 24, 2014

Illuminatus! group reading, Week Five






Page 42 "ILLUMINATI PROJECT: MEMO #7" to page 52 "the Islamic and Catholic traditions respectively." 

Page 44, "Congressman Koch," presumably Ed Koch (1924-2013), who also was a mayor of New York. 

Page 44, "And 'illumination' was one of the words hippies were always using ... " The paragraph about light and illumination reminds me of "All things that are, are lights," a phrase from John Scotus Eriugena quoted in the Cantos of Ezra Pound.  The quotation provides the title for Robert  Shea's historical novel, All Things Are Lights,  which features a hero who practices tantric sex, much like Simon Moon. I have previous suggested that All Things Are Lights is a "thematic prequel" to Illuminatus!

Page 45, "Here, kitty-kitty-kitty," Hagbard is training the self-destructing mynah birds.

Page 45, "One of those scientists ... " Dr. Charles Mocenigo.

Page 48, "That character in Washington is a mental lunatic, and he means it." Illuminatus! was written in 1969-71, but unfortunately the satire on U.S. intervention in remote areas of the world hasn't dated.

Page 51, " ... the pivotal role of secret Masonic lodges in the French revolution ... "  I found an article about this, but it doesn't list many sources.  

Note: All Things Are Lights was re-released as an ebook under the Creative Commons License by Shea's son; you can download free ebooks here. 

Next week: Page 52 "Saul picked up the ninth memo" to Page 63 "the shadows of Maya."
 



Sunday, March 23, 2014

'Ulysses"

I recently finished reading Ulysses by James Joyce, and more recently completed two books about that book: Ulysses by Hugh Kenner and Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd.

While I realize that no one book can answer all of my questions about Joyce's work, I'm struck by the fact that even the EXPERTS can't agree on fundamental questions about what happens in the book. Depending on who you read, Molly Bloom in the last section is expressing a positive affirmation of life, masturbating or drifting off to sleep. In the Kiberd book, Molly is masturbating but Stephen is just peeing when he walks along the beach early in the book. According to Kenner, Molly is falling asleep, but Stephen is masturbating  on the beach. I also thought neither author quite captured what Joyce was trying to do.  I'd like to find one book that kind of ties things all together for me.

Here is Martin Amis on the difference between Joyce and Nabokov: "If you go to Nabokov’s house, metaphorically speaking, you get his best chair, in front of his fire, with his best wine. If you go to James Joyce’s house, you come into this big drafty edifice, and there’s no one there. And then you find him tinkering around in some scullery. And he offers you two slabs of peat around a conger eel, and a glass of mead."

Context here. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Teenset" interviews Simon Moon!

Editor's Note: Before her recent, fatal accident, Miss Glass was a leading expert on subversive affairs. 


[The following are jpeg images of the infamous article from the March 1969 issue of "Teenset" magazine cited in "Illuminati Project: Memo #5," page 40 of Illuminatus!  Scott from Wisconsin obtained these images for me from Avo, who hosts a site dedicated to information about Frank Zappa. My sincere thanks to both of those folks. -- The Mgt.]
 

 





Friday, March 21, 2014

Illuminatus group reading update

I've been putting up links to the "Weekly Posts" page for the Illuminatus! discussion at the top right of this page, and I wanted to point out that I've been trying to include meaty posts from other blogs that contribute to the discussion. So far, that's been Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia, but if you happen to write something on another blog that contributes to the discussion, and I miss it, please tell me and I'll put up a link.

I've also reorganized the various links and and apps on the right side of the page by  putting up  a new "Illuminatus Resources" area, and again, I'm open to suggestions.

As for Mr. Gorightly, please see his new post on Kerry Thornley and the Illuminati Lady. 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cosmic Trigger play updates



bOING bOING has finally noticed Daisy's production. The website has a huge audience, so this is a very useful way of getting the word out. I tried to get them to notice the Illuminatus! online discussion, but nobody's taken the bait so far.

An "informal RAW talk" has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at the Black Dove Pub in Brighton, England, featuring John Higgs, Daisy Eris Campbell and others. Details here.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"No Wife, No Horse, No Mustache"

Robert Anton Wilson readers will recognize the phrase "No Wife, No Horse, No Mustache." In Schroedinger's Cat, Joe Malik explains that he ran across the title in an issue of "Reader's Digest" magazine:

Joe Malik, as he had been trying to explain amid the din of the Wildeblood soiree, had been engaged in neuroprogramming research, trying to become one with the Reader s Digest, when he
found that wonderful title, which led him to immediately abort the experiment. He knew,
intuitively, that the mystery of a title like that was much better than the solution, the explanation of the title, could ever be.

If you are unable to resist the siren call of wondering what the article actually was about, we can help. Here are gifs of the article, ioriginally printed in the November 1955 "Reader's Digest" but reprinted in: Advanced reading skill builder prepared by Isabel M. Kincheloe [and] Harold A. Anderson, published in 1958. They were sent to me by Scott in Wisconsin,  a longtime reader of RAW since about 1976.














Monday, March 17, 2014

Illuminatus group reading, Week Four




Page 32 "George's cellmate in Mad Dog County Jail had a skull-like face" to Page 42, "the monster who founded the order of the Illuminati on May 1, 1776."

Here is the section where George Dorn involuntarily goes through an initiation, courtesy of the mysterious sheriff of Mad Dog, Texas.

Page 37, Hermes. The Greek messenger god, who often suddenly appears and disappears on errands.

Page 37, Lorelei, Rhine maiden who lures men to their deaths. 

Page 38, "a Swiss chemist named Hoffman," Albert Hofmann, Swiss chemist of LSD fame. Note misspelling in the text.

Page 38, "Now I'm getting it," Mary Lou cried. Initiation through sex is woven  through a narrative of initiation through terror. 

Page 40, Teenset, March 1969 At the top of the page is  the cover of the magazine cited in Memo No. 5. As I detail here, I found the image after reading a comment from Michael Johnson, who says the article was written by Robert Shea. I do not have the text of the article, but the cover headline says, "Diabolical World Conspiracy Exposed!"

Page 40, as nice parody of the authoritarian mind set. "The cult terrorized the Moslem world until Genghiz Khan's Mongols brought law and order to the area. Cornered in their mountain hideaway, the Hashishim dope fiends proved no match for the clean-living Mongol warriors ... " Of course, a large part of the Mongol "law and order" was military brutality and wholesale massacre. Compare the remark of a tribesman in what is now Scotland in Tacitus' Agricola about the Romans: "They create a desolation and call it peace." 

Page 41, "Ewige blumenkraft," German for "flower power forever." From Wikipedia: 

 "Since "flower power" is a modern concept advanced by hippies, it is likely that Shea and Wilson intended this as a joke, although, characteristically, they never say so. They attribute the disclosure of this slogan to an article by Sandra Glass in the magazine Teenset for March 1969. Another possibility is that the rose and lotus flower are an important symbol of spiritual development in both the western and eastern mystery schools.
"Ewige Blumenkraft und ewige Schlangenkraft" is also offered in Illuminatus! as the complete version of this motto. The text translates "Schlangenkraft" as "serpent power"; thus "Ewige Blumenkraft und ewige Schlangenkraft" means "eternal flower power and eternal serpent power" and may allude to the conjoinment of cross and rose within the alchemical furnace. In this interpretation, the authors seem to suggest sexual magic as the secret or a secret of the Illuminati.

Next week: Page 42 "ILLUMINATI PROJECT: MEMO #7" to page 52 "the Islamic and Catholic traditions respectively." 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New book on English-speaking peoples and freedom


Sigismundo Celine, the hero in Robert Anton Wilson's The Earth Will Shake, noticed that England's superiority over Italy in matters of freedom of thought not only made life easier for intellectuals such as himself but also resulted in material prosperity.

Some relevant passages from the hardcover first edition:

Due to Mr. Drake and Sir Edward Babcock, I have met a most singular Irishman named Edmund Burke ... In Napoli, a man like Mr. Burke would be leading a secret society; here he is part of the government itself. He and the other Whigs are forever obstructing the king: they tell him what he may do and what he may not do. Of course, the king does not like this at all, but when the Whigs have enough votes in parliament, the king himself may not disobey them. This is because of the Bill of Rights they made his grandfather sign. I try to imagine our Ferdinand IV being made to sign and obey such a document. It is easier to imagine a cow giving birth to two monkeys and an ostrich .... (Page 214) (There's more in the passage that makes me want to read Burke.)

On Page 216, Celine remarks about:

... the freedom of this country (where there is no Inquisition) ... "  [after observing machinery in a factory] This is what natural philosophy can accomplish (the English call it "science") and it is awe inspiring. It is indeed because natural philosophy is hounded by the Inquisition that Napoli is poor compared to England and why Spain, where the Inquisition is stronger, is poorer still. Every machine is a thought that produces wealth, as Uncle Pietro wished me to understand. 

Now, compare with Tyler Cowen's review of Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World by Daniel Hannan. Excerpt:

Every time my plane lands in England I shed at least a tear, maybe more, out of realization that I am visiting a birthplace (the birthplace?) of liberty.  This is not a joke and during my trips there I never quite snap out of that feeling, though I am also well aware of all the problems those people have foisted upon the world as well.

I found many parts of this book to be superficial, or perhaps well-known.  Yet often they were superficial and…true ... This is in some ways an important book, though I do not think it is a book which will satisfy everybody.

Many of the commenters to Tyler's post pointed to how the English treated the Irish, people in Indian, etc. Fair enough, but English speaking Irishmen contributed a lot to the idea of liberty, and India became a democracy.  I do think English writers such as John Stuart Mills made contributions, whatever the flaws of the imperial English state. Reality can be messy, as witness the United States, which is terrible about interfering in the affairs of other countries, but which has an admirable record, generally, on free speech and religious liberty.

Thanks to Michael Johnson for his help in locating relevant RAW passages.



Saturday, March 15, 2014

New photography exhibit in England

University Campus Suffolk has announced a new exhibit of photographs by Gareth McConnell, inspired by Robert Anton Wilson's book, Sex, Drugs and Magick.

"Gareth’s exhibition is inspired by the writer Robert Anton Wilson’s controversial 1987 book ‘Sex, Drugs and Magick’ which is considered a scholarly appraisal of both historical and modern use and misuse of drugs in conjunction with sex and occult practices.

"Appropriating the title of Robert Anton Wilson’s counterculture classic, Gareth McConnell revisits and reworks his accumulated photographic archive in a low fidelity meditation on youth, hedonism and escape. He takes as his starting point the heavily mythologised status of Ibiza as a key ingredient in the ‘second summer of love’ and of the acid house movement and ecstasy culture that followed."

More here.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday links

Michael Johnson on gossip, a good post.

Finnegans Wake art, a post from PQ.

A call for end to end encryption. After the NSA stuff broke, I tried to get all of my email correspondents to use PGP, but only Gary Acord was interested.

Carl Sagan and Timothy Leary.

Tweet from Joyce Carol Oates.

The story of the famous tune "Blue Moon," although he doesn't mention the Cowboy Junkies version. In a way, the song is linked to John Dillinger. (Via Jesse Walker.)




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Interview with Carole Cusack

Via Ted Hand on Twitter, I looked at this interview with Dr. Carole Cusack, an Australian university professor who studies religions. The interview included a section where she was asked about her book  Invented Religions, a book which includes chapters on Discordianism, The Church of All Worlds and the Church of the Subgenius -- all groups that RAW had a relationship with. Cusack approached the subject with the same scholarly methods that she has used in looking at other religions:

 I understand that some people, both ‘insiders’ of certain of the traditions examined (mostly Discordianism and the Church of the SubGenius) but also some esoterically-inclined scholars, have objected to my etic, outsider approach to these groups, but I can only riposte that a scholarly conversation can only occur when the preliminary documentation of the phenomena has been accomplished, and that’s what I was doing. I still love the book; it’s been the easiest thing I’ve ever written. And the funnest (and yes, I know that’s not a word). 

I read her book last year and wrote about it here and here.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RAW form letters

At Historia Discordia,  Adam Gorightly digs up and posts three form letters that Robert Anton Wilson created; two of them, from the 1970s, seem to have been created to help RAW deal with his correspondence; one later one seems to have created just for fun. Only one, however, has a place to checkmark "Thanks for your kind words about ILLUMINATUS." Wouldn't he have gotten fan mail about it all through his life?


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Interview with Bobby Campbell


Mr. Campbell

Philadelphia area artist Bobby Campbell has lately taken over the job of doing the covers for New Falcon book titles and reissues, including  titles by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. 

Here is a fun fact about Bobby Campbell: He actually is known to his friends as Bob Campbell. "Bobby Campbell" is his name in the RAW community and the name that goes on his art. He explains, "I go by Bob, but like to use Bobby as a pen name for art stuff.

"It actually stems from taking classes w/ RAW. I didn't want to take my usual username: "Bob" because I thought it might seem rude and/or create confusion during discussions in the forums, but I also don't like using screen names, 'Sunflower69' or whatever, so I became Bobby. When I started making Maybe Logic based art/comix the name carried over and just sort of stuck."

I asked Bob/Bobby if he would answer a few questions for RAWIllumination.net readers who want to know more about the man behind the artwork and comix, and he agreed. For more on Mr. Campbell, please see the official Web site and follow him on Twitter.

Would you mind telling the folks who read this blog a little bit about yourself?

I'd be delighted! I'm Bobby Campbell, a 33 year old Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Cartoonist. I work out of my home studio in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I have 2 spectacular sons w/ a lovely lesbian couple, and have a rather extraordinary extended family/friends amalgamation.

How did you get interested in Robert Anton Wilson? 

My sophomore year at University of Delaware I encountered one of those life changing teachers, who come along at precisely the right moment, a Professor of Asian and Comparative Philosophy, who was a fan of RAW, Leary, Watts, etc.

My first exposure to RAW was a worksheet handout from "Quantum Psychology" outlining the 8 circuit model, which was used to help elucidate Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga, in an Indian Religion and Philosophy course.

Then in the best university course I ever took anywhere, "Death and Dying," he used Leary's "Design For Dying" as a course text, which sent me further down the rabbit hole. Finally, he recommended The Illuminatus! Trilogy to one of my housemates, who dropped it off in my room after he was finished. Six days later I had finished the entire trilogy and was absolutely hooked. The UD library must have had a super hip librarian at some point, because they have almost everything RAW every wrote, and I binge read their whole collection.

I think a lot of people who really get into RAW have that weird experience where the books seem to be dealing with exactly what you're going through, in a way that nothing else seems able to, and I remember actually losing my temper at one point, because he wasn't around for me to talk to about all this stuff, and it seemed profoundly unfair. 2 years later I'm sitting in his living room smoking a joint. Indeed do many things come to pass!

How did you become a cover artist for New Falcon? Do you have "artistic freedom" to do those covers the way you like? 

My New Falcon work is all due to the entirely wonderful Eric Wagner, who very kindly recommended me for the gig. I had just recently taken his "Chapel Perilous" class, wherein I had ranted about the poor quality of the covers for the most recent editions of the Cosmic Trigger books, and next thing I know I get an email from New Falcon offering me the cover to "Wilhelm Reich in Hell."

New Falcon has been really great about giving me artistic freedom. So far I've been allowed to run with whatever I dream up.  There's been a few tweaks here and there, but nothing major, and in each case I think they've only helped to improve my art.  Which is not usually the case when dealing with design notes.

You are active on Twitter. What do  you think are the "must follow" Twitter accounts for people interested in RAW?

Coincidentally enough I would say you are at the tippy top of the list, @JacksonTom!
As sombunal know I run the @RAWilson23 twitter account and try to give a signal boost to any novel RAW tweets.

So far as finding the others goes here's 23 shining beacons:

@johnhiggs • @DaisyEris • @AdamGorightly • @TimothyLeary8 • @Rushkoff • @StealThisSingul • @erik_davis • @notjessewalker • @Frauenfelder • @ChasingEris • @FW_WOTD • @PQuadrino • @BogusMagus • FLYAGARIC2019 • @Zenjew • @t3dy • @catvincent • @amoebadesign • @gacord • @lordfanny1723 • @rockinajar • @advantardeodus • @iamcaroline

(I would say @Robert_A_Wilson, which was the most highly followed RAW relevant account, but it appears to have been deleted.)

Also, me! @RGC777

Do you make your living as an artist?

I make my living more so as a graphic designer, digital distributor, and web developer for a few independent record labels. There is some creativity to it, but I don't think I'd call it art.

Though more and more the genuinely artsy-fartsy stuff is beginning to take off.

Would you like to tell me a little bit more about the independent record labels you work for? What kind of music  do you personally like?

Most of the day job stuff is pretty boring, but the label I got my start with, Madison Underground Records, is well worth mentioning.

It's a DIY punk rock label run by my friends and features several of my favorite bands: The Headies, Power of IV, Tit Patrol, Endless Mike Jambox.  You'll find their records available all over the internet, and I'm quite proud to have played a role in that

I should like to encourage everyone everywhere to listen to the latest record by The Headies - Meta-Pop.

I seem to mostly like music along the spectrum of indie sub genres - garage rock, punk, dream pop, alt hip hop, et al.

Most of my favorite musicians are also bartenders, cooks, school teachers, etc.

Though I'm not really all that much of a music guy. I'm way more likely to listen to podcasts, audio books, lectures, etc

When you met RAW, what was he like, and how was he different from how you pictured him after reading his books?

I thought he was going to be this larger-than-life super intimidating figure, the rich and powerful iconoclast: ROBERT ANTON WILSON! And was extremely delighted to instead meet a very nice old man named Bob, who seemed genuinely baffled why anyone would fly across the country just to meet him.

He somehow seemed like both a regular working class dude and also the archetypal wise old man. The Joycean everyman.

It was really great to get to meet my hero and for him to surpass my expectations.

How did it come about that you flew across the country to meet RAW?

When the Maybe Logic Academy first opened up they offered a package deal where you could sign up for weekly email correspondence w/ RAW in addition to course enrollment. Just the week before I became his pen pal & student I'd had a tremendously ecstatic visionary experience in the Amazon jungle, on that famous shamanic medicine Ayahuasca, and consequently brought an excessive amount of enthusiasm to the proceedings. I was extraordinarily lucky to have direct contact w/ RAW while processing that experience. We got acquainted over an "8 Dimensions of 'Mind'" course and several months of regular correspondence, after which I felt comfortable enough to ask if I could pop over and attend one of his weekly movie nights w/ his friends.

Do you remember something interesting that he told you when you met him? Did you ask him questions?

I actually made it a point to keep my visit almost entirely social. I left my camera in the car and didn't ask any big questions. All that heavy lifting had already been done via Internet anyways.  Pretty much we just joked around, got stoned, ate pizza, and watched "Son of Frankenstein." It was fun!

The only time he really put on his Bodhisattva character was when he paused the movie after a character said "Everything is under control!" looked over, smiled, and said "everything really is under control." He said it like both a dire warning and a joyous reassurance. A perfect coincidentia oppositorum.

(The full story of our meeting is a bit more complex and just as infused w/ cosmic coincidence as one would hope meeting RAW would be, but it's a bit much to get into just now!)

Did you ever meet Robert Shea?

Unfortunately I did not.

What are you favorite Robert Anton Wilson books, and why? Have you read any of Robert Shea's "solo novels"?

My favs out of the non-fiction books are "Quantum Psychology" & "Prometheus Rising" and out of the fiction books "The Widow's Son" & "Masks of the Illuminati."  I've enjoyed all of his books, and tend to think of them all as parts of a larger work, but these stand out as high water marks to me. The 80's seem to have been his golden age, where he had full control over the material, and a comfortable enough set & setting that he could really concentrate on turning out great work.

I haven't read any of Robert Shea's solo novels yet, but recently got sent hard copies of his Shike books, which I did the covers for, and so those are at the top of my reading stack.

What is your role at Maybe Logic Academy? Do you know why they have stopped offering online classes?

I don't know that I really have an official role at Maybe Logic Academy. I've been hanging around there off & on since they first opened in 2004. I took a bunch of classes, assisted w/ a few others, and even taught one of my own. It was tremendously beneficial experience for me. I don't really know why they stopped offering online classes, but would guess it has something to do with the general decline in interest after RAW passed away. There were also intermittent technical difficulties w/ the website that contributed to the dwindling of the community. It's still there though! http://www.maybelogic.net And there's even occasional activity in the forums. You never know!

Are there any questions that you have been waiting for me to ask?

Not that I can think of! Though I'll gladly throw out there that I've got some cool secret projects in the works for this year, and encourage everyone to stay tuned!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Illuminatus group reading, Week Three




 Sir John Sinclair (1754-1835)

Page 23 "Hagbard Celine's gigantic computer" to Page 32 "Clark Kent and his Supermen swing into a reprise.". I'm using quotes as well as page numbers to make things easier for folks who may be using ebooks. -- The Mgt.

Page 23. Hagbard Celine's computer uses the I Ching, among other systems/sources of information. Philip K. Dick's famous science fiction novel, The Man in the High Castle, made extensive use of the I Ching. Robert Anton Wilson was a big fan of Dick's writing; I'm guessing Shea was, too, but I can't confirm that.  The Man in the High Castle was published in 1962 and won the Hugo Award in 1963. RAW may have known that John Cage used the I Ching when composing "Music of Changes" in 1951.

Page 26. "By golly," the President said. "By golly. We won't use that out in the open. My speech'll just talk Bomb, but we'll leak it to the boys in the Kremlin that we've got this anthrax gimmick in cold storage, too."


This passage is not as satiric as some might imagine, although Wilson and Shea may not have realized it at the time. When the Illuminatus! trilogy was written, the president of the United States was Richard Nixon, who utilized what has come to be known as the Madman theory in his foreign policy. This is how Nixon explained his theory to one of his trusted aides:

I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, "for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button" and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.

Page 26, "and he genuinely loved children and dogs, unless they were on the site of something that had to be bombed in the National Interest." Don't you love that line?

Page 27 "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets is considered one of the earliest rock and roll songs. It was written in 1952  and recorded in 1954.

Page 27, "George Dorn." Notice how his last name resembles the last name of the famous radical Bernardine Dohrn, who is married to Bill Ayers. She was one of the founding members of the Weather Underground, which in 1970 helped Timothy Leary escape from a California prison.

Page 29, Harry Pierpoint, friend and mentor of John Dillinger. He outlived Dillinger by a few months, but was executed in Ohio in 1934.

Page 30, It Can't Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis, 1935 novel which warned about the possibility of fascism in the U.S., considered by some Lewis' last important novel. It won the Prometheus Hall of Fame award in 2007, the same award Illuminatus! won in 1986.

Page 31, "It is forbidden to dream again" etc., from "Why I Write" by George Orwell.

Page 32, Mark Rudd, another famous Weather Underground member.

Page 32, Sir John Sinclair,  according to Wikipedia he made important contributions to scientific agriculture. For more on George Washington and hemp, see the first item in the Appendix.

Next week: Page 32 "George's cellmate in Mad Dog County Jail had a skull-like face" to Page 42, "the monster who founded the order of the Illuminati on May 1, 1776."


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Oz Fritz and RAW on the art of paying attention

A few weeks ago, I was on a tour bus in LA, looking at star homes, Hollywood film haunts and other attractions. It should have been more fun, but I was still getting over the flu. I spent a lot of time looking for bathrooms every time the bus stopped.

Still, the day its moments.

One that stands out for me is when we went to Venice Beach. The bus driver, who pointed out the house where Johnny Rotten lives, advised us to eat from the food stands to save time. I ate a deep fried fish taco that was pretty good, but I was still hungry. I finally decided a hot dog would be about right, so I stopped at another stand. The woman who was supposed to be at the counter had gone to the bathroom, and as the minutes ticked away and I worried about missing my bus, I considered my options. I noticed an Indian food stand and ordered a samosa instead.

A samosa is a kind of dumpling with potatoes inside. Not very exciting in my experience, but the woman who served it ladled a sauce on it that tasted like it had vinegar and other flavors. The sauce made the samosa one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. I wish I could get some more.

There are times when I feel tired or down when I've discovered I can give myself a positive energy boost by listening to the right kind of music. Lately, I've found that a dose of Shostakovich or Prokofiev or Beethoven can be helpful. The first time I listened to Shostakovich's third string quartet, listening through earbuds as I lay in the dark, I was riveted. Each note seemed to connect to my nervous system. Of course, it is my nervous system, and yours will be stimulated by someone else's music.

I tell these stories about being in a moment of awareness, knowing that Oz Fritz could have told them much better. Here is Oz, on the esthetic appreciation he felt while watching ... car exhaust.

"All at once I saw the connectedness and the intrinsic aesthetic nature of everything, what Thelemites call the Vision of Beatitude. This vision, though not constant, has never left. For instance, not long after, I stood waiting at a bus stop in 20 degree below zero weather in Calgary blissfully looking down the road at a car and the beautiful pattern its exhaust smoke made in the clear crisp air against a background of freshly fallen snow. It looked like a painting. No, I wasn't smoking or taking anything to engender this cognition."

Oz makes a habit of noticing things. Did you see his comment a couple of weeks ago in the opening Illuminatus! discussion? "Stayed at the Marina hotel and watched the wind blow strong waves along the Mediterranean shore this afternoon. As I write this a multi-spout, multi-color fountain sequences through a choreographed water dance in this high aesthetic food court lounge at the airport."

The car exhaust quote  is from a blog post called "The Art of Listening," and it describes a discovery that Oz made at age 16, probably well before he had heard of Brian Eno (slightly edited):

I moved into my first apartment on my own about three months after turning 16. Apart from some clothes and a few books, my only possessions were a stereo and record collection. I worked at a nearby fast food joint afternoons and evenings after school, getting back home around midnight. Naturally, for a music-loving kid that age, firing up the stereo and blasting rock albums at full volume late into the night was the first order of business after work. Not surprisingly, the neighbors complained, and after a mere three days I was given the ultimatum to either turn down the music or face eviction. The next night, jonesing for a music fix and not wishing to get kicked out, I put on Jimi Hendrix at a very low level, laid down between the speakers and listened as hard as I could. To my astonishment, I became just as immersed in the music as I did when it was turned up loud. That's when I discovered the role attention plays in the listening process, though at the time I had no idea what it was.  I only knew  that music could give an equally powerful experience at a low decibel level if a special effort at listening was made. 

(This is from Oz's excellent blog, The Oz Mix.)

Although Oz mentions Brian Eno in the post, he doesn't mention how Eno made essentially the same discovery.

Here is how composer William Duckworth tells the story in his interesting book, Virtual Music: How the Web Got Wired for Sound. 

Duckworth explains that Eno was convalescent, on painkillers, recovering after being hit by a taxi.

While he was convalescing, his friend Judy Nylon came to visit one day and brought him a recording of eighteenth-century virtuoso harp music. As she was leaving, he asked her to put it on the record player in his room. But after she had left, and to his chagrin, it was raining and the volume was so low that the combination of the two meant he could barely hear the music, catching only the loudest of isolated notes or the smallest flurries of sound. So there he was, unable to hear it properly, but also unable to adjust the volume or turn it off because he was confined to his bed. As this forced listening continued, however, he said he "started to think that it sounded all right" and to wonder "why no music like this existed." He went on the say that the experience gave him "the sense of hearing the tip of something and the knowledge that there was more beneath it." And as he continued to listen, he said he came to the conclusion that "I wanted my music to do this." It was because of this experience that he resolved to make a commitment to experimental music and to take it more seriously.

All of this relates, in my mind at least, to Robert Anton Wilson's essay, "How to Read/How to Think," reprinted in Coincidance: A Head Test.  It's also available in this issue, Number 8, of Robert Shea's anarchist fanzine, "No Governor."

"How to Read/How to Think," a not very long article written largely in the form of a series of questions, would have to included in any list I compiled of favorite short pieces by RAW. I sometimes  think I should make a point of reading it once a week.

The main topic is a defense of very careful reading and of difficult books (the article includes great insights into James Joyce's Ulysses, which I just finished re-reading.)  But beyond that, RAW stresses the importance of paying attention,  whether one is reading a book, looking at a painting, listening to music (in Coincidance, the essay is preceded by three insightful jazz haiku) or simply going about one's day.

Here are a couple of short bits from "How to Read/How to Think" in RAW's best aphoristic style, on the importance of paying attention:

Do we "see" more in life when we are intensely alert? Do we see more in books and art when we are intensely alert? Is normal mechanical reading a species of what mystics call dreaming or sleep-walking?
                      
                                                          ***

One Zen master, when asked what Zen "is," always replied with the single word, "Attention." What the hell did he mean?



Friday, March 7, 2014

RAW on 'injustice collectors'

Adam Gorightly unearths interesting RAW documents I haven't seen before, a letter to the editor from somebody named Angela Douglas and a reply by Robert Anton Wilson, and also a letter that Wilson sent to friends about the matter. The exchange appeared in "Against the Wall,"  a libertarian zine I am not familiar with.

RAW's answer is particularly interesting to me because he brings up the concept of "injustice collector."

Douglas seems able to find offense where no offense is intended and enemies where there are no enemies. This is typical of what psychiatrists call "injustice collector" syndrome. 


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A couple of images


Ever wondered what "Banana Nose" Maldonado in Illuminatus! looks like? Well, here you go! After the novel came out, he began a new career as a Muppet. (More information here.  Hat tip, Daddy Eroshka in the comments for Monday's post.)


A photo of the Liffey River (aka "Anna Livia Plurabella") in Dublin, taken by John Merritt. Photo taken in July from O'Connell Street bridge. Thanks, John!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Joseph Malik, Illuminati memos etc.

Adam Gorightly, who promised to explain the Discordian references in Illuminatus! as the online group reading continues, has a very interesting post up at his Historia Discordia website explaining the Discordian backstory behind the first set of Confrontation magazine memos on the Illuminati. This is a read-the-whole-thing post, but here is a taste:

The evolution of much of the Illuminati mythos depicted in Illuminatus! was initially inspired by Jim Garrison’s JFK assassination investigation of all things, which makes all of this even more convoluted, so bear with me .... During the course of Garrison’s investigation, one of his unofficial investigators (otherwise known as the “Irregulars”) was a fellow named Allan Chapman who subscribed to the theory that JFK’s assassination had been orchestrated by (you guessed it!) the Bavarian Illuminati.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Illuminatus! group reading, Week Two



Page 13, "we're closer to the pet shop here," to Page 23, "rather close to the Weatherman faction." I'm using quotes as well as page numbers to make things easier for folks who may be using ebooks. -- The Mgt.

This is the section in which Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon begin examining the memos to Joseph Malik, editor of "Confrontation" magazine, giving background to the magazine's mysterious Illuminati project.

Most of the references in the memos are quite straightforward, and even now, when interest in the Illuminati seems to be continuing, looking up the references in the memos is a good way to research the alleged secret society. But one of the memos is, well, kind of different.

Page 20 cites a letter and answer that appeared in the Playboy Advisor column for the April 1969. For those unfamiliar with Playboy, this is the feature in which readers pose questions about stereo equipment, women, tipping, etc., and the gurus of cool at Playboy reply with advice. (Well, in 1969 they probably seemed cool.) I don't know if the column still runs now (in many ways, the magazine is kind of shadow of its former self) but for years, the magazine would send a personal reply if you mailed it a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Questions about the Illuminati are kind of a switch from the feature's usual topics. It turns out that it's not a coincidence that Wilson and Shea worked at Playboy when the letter and the answer to it was published.

Illuminatus only gives part of the letter, but here is the complete letter to Playboy magazine, courtesy of Jesse Walker, which I previously posted about. Walker, who researched Discordianism for his latest book, says the "faux letter" actually was written by Wilson, possibly in collaboration with Kerry Thornley; RAW also wrote the reply.

The centerfold in that issue was a Ms. Lorna Hopper from Texas and Wikipedia, which tracks these things, says that she is now 63 years old.



Nick Helweg-Larsen tracked down a copy of the magazine and kindly sent me some images from the issue; some offer a clue on why "Playboy" was considered interesting in its heyday. As you can see from the cover image Nick sent me, above, the cover was not aimed strictly to attract the attention of the intelligentsia, but it plugged an Allen Ginsberg interview and a Vladimir Nabokov piece.



This section of Illuminatus! is also the section in which Saul Goodman decides to take seriously the idea that there might be an Illuminati ("And I know. There is an Illuminati..." Page 23), thereby making a serious effort to Figure Out What the Hell is Going, a major theme of the book. Of course, readers are also trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and which parts of the book to take seriously and which parts are just a joke and which parts are a joke but also food for thought.

"THIS PHONE BOOTH RESERVED FOR CLARK KENT" (page 23), this is from August Personage, not Markoff Chaney (see Page 27). The way that the bits tie together to construct a narrative resembles Joyce's  

Next week: Page 23 "Hagbard Celine's gigantic computer" to Page 32 "Clark Kent and his Supermen swing into a reprise."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Report on the Liverpool 'Cosmic Trigger' event

Ian "Cat" Vincent has penned a report for the Daily Grail on the Feb. 23 "Pulling the Cosmic Trigger" event in Liverpool, featuring Daisy Eris Campbell and John Higgs. This will answer many of questions, such as when Daisy's play is going to open and why a pair of rainbow colored panties ("knickers" to the folks over there) were placed on a bust of Carl Jung.

This Facebook page is offering updates on Daisy's efforts.

A big Flickr photostream of the event is here. The photos are marked "all rights reserved" so I better not copy any here, but go look.