Monday, June 30, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, week nineteen


Infinite Divisability by painter Yves Tanguy. 

(This week: Page 184, "MR. KHARIS: Does Mr. Celine seriously suggest..." to page 193, "Did it have anything to do with the weird dream he'd had of the temple in the Mad Dog jail?")

This section with Saul Goodman, apparently held captive in a hospital and being brainwashed by a doctor, seems to me to represent one of the themes of the work as a whole.

Saul is trying to figure out What Is Going On. He wants to know where he is, and who this "doctor" is. But in the rest of the trilogy, he also is trying to figure out what is going on, wading through a sea of information and theories. And many of the characters are trying to figure things out, too, although some, such as Simon Moon, seem awfully sure of themselves every time they open their mouth.

One point that RAW seemed to consistently teach over his lifetime was NOT to be sure of yourself, to keep trying to figure out what is going on,  to avoid all encompassing belief systems and instead to venture opinions, which can be discarded as new evidence appears. It's a teaching he offered over and over again. 

As an example, consider the New Libertarian Notes interview. Does anyone think he is only talking about politics?

I also read at least one periodical every month by a political group I dislike -- to keep some sense of balance. The overwhelming stupidity of political movements is caused by the fact that political types never read anything but their own gang's agit-prop.

Some notes on the text:

"Does Mr. Celine seriously suggest that the United States government is in need of a guardian?" page 184. It seems to me that one of the political debates in this country is between those who believe the government should be restrained by the rule of law, and those who see no need for any restraint, so long as their side is in charge.

"We believe we have shown that the resettlement plan offered by the government will be no hardship for plaintiffs," page 184. The place where I lived most of my life, Oklahoma, still has many Native Americans because they were "resettled" there. The western half of the state is mostly "Plains Indians" from the west, while the eastern half has Cherokees, Choctaws, Seminoles etc. shipped in from the eastern states.

"And I'm damned if I'll drive a broken-down jalopy that spends half its time in a garage being repaired merely because that would make me seem more 'dedicated' to you left-wing simpletons." Page 185. I love this sentence.

"Slavewagon," page 185. Volkswagen cars, associated with the hippie movement, had their roots in Nazi Germany. (As Simon Moon surely knew, hence he offers no rebuttal.)

LDD, page 186. Despite the jokes, what it really stands for is "Legion of Dynamic Discord." The legion was the basic military unit of the very un-Discordian Roman Empire, so the name is itself a joke.

"Proving that government is a  hallucination in the minds of governors," page 186. "There is no governor present anywhere," Chuang Tzu, quoted in Robert Shea's fanzine of the same name. Considered by some an early anarchist and skeptic.

Tanguy,  page 192. Yves Tanguy, a Surrealist, one of my favorite painters. Known for his eerie, other-worldly landscapes. 

"George had chosen to denounce the Crusades as an early outbreak of Western racist imperialism." page 193. Fair enough, I guess, but I always wonder why nobody notices most of the Muslim world was Christian until it was occupied by an earlier outbreak of Arab imperialism. It didn't start at the end of the 11th century. 

(Next week: Page 194: "The sub's engine was vibrating pleasantly" to "when you're lost our here," Page 204.)



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Libertarian Discordians on Facebook



Via an invitation from Mr. Jake Shannon, I am now a member of a Facebook group called Discordian Libertarians. It is a closed group, requiring an invitation to join, but if I understand the rules correctly, I am now empowered to invite suitable others. If you want an invitation, email me. The other members appear to be, in fact, libertarians (Mr. Shannon is the former chairman of the Libertarian Party in Utah) so please bear this in mind when considering whether you want to be a member.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Crowley, Jack Parsons and Whitley Strieber

Aleister Crowley

In an interesting new blog post, Adam Gorightly, showing off the research skills he displays in his new book, compares the Grey Alien on the cover of Whitley Strieber's Communion with a critter allegedly invoked by Aleister Crowley back in 1917. He also discusses Jack Parsons and provides two interviews with RAW, one on Crowley and one on Parsons, and links to a RAW piece about Crowley in The Realist. As far as I can tell, the latter is not posted at rawilsonfans.com.

Gorighty tosses off all kinds of interesting observations in his post. For example, after explaining the Babalon Working ritual involving Parsons and Marjorie Cameron, he writes,

The Babalon Working ended just before the ‘Great Flying Saucer Flap’ of 1947 when the modern age of UFO sightings began. In this regard, some have suggested that Parsons, Hubbard and Cameron opened a door and something flew in. (Insert creepy organ music here.)

You can follow Adam on Twitter.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sean Gabb's 'The Break'



Although it has little to do with the point of this blog, I've been interested for years in the period of history known as "Late Antiquity." It's a period of history that runs roughly from 300 C.E. to 700 C.E. that's known under a variety of other names, e.g. "The Fall of Rome" (a misnomer, as the eastern half of the empire continued for centuries), "The Dark Ages," "The Later Roman Empire," the "postclassical world," etc. This interest occasionally crops up in this blog, for example in my posting about the historian Procopius as a classical liberal. 

Anyway, I can't get enough of reading about Late Antiquity, and I like both nonfiction and well-researched historical fiction. That's how I got interested in a British novelist named Richard Blake, who has written a series of novels about an Anglo Saxon man named "Aelric" who winds up in various parts of the Byzantine Empire in the early 7th century. Each book focuses on a different city — the books have titles such as Conspiracies of Rome, The Terror of Constantinople (about the reign of the emperor Phocas, not exactly a happy time for the Roman Empire), The Blood of Alexandria, and so on. The novels are in a sequence but they also stand alone nicely.

They are some of the best historical novels I've ever read. There's lots of sex and violence and intrigue, and about as much bad behavior as you'd expect in a Bret Easton Ellis novel, so we're not talking about dry academic surveys here, but Blake has a particular gift for vividly depicting what life was like in those days. There's a scene in Conspiracies of Rome, for example, where Aelric encounters a particularly good place to go to the bathroom, one that actually has running water, and his explanation of it reveals a lot about what sanitary conditions usually were like in the early 7th century.

It turns out that "Richard Blake" is a pen name for Sean Gabb, a British writer who is active in the Libertarian Alliance. (While many of his opinions are conventionally libertarian, many of his opinions show a strong allegiance to Timothy Leary's dictum, "Think for yourself." A sentence from his official bio: "He has written in support of the monarchy and House of Lords, in defence of the rights of holocaust deniers and for a time limitation law on the charge of child abuse." Sean's literary opinions also are idiosyncratic; see his list of favorite writers, which places L. Neil Smith next to Gore Vidal and "Monk" Lewis.)

The Break is a libertarian science fiction/fantasy novel, and as I write sometimes about fiction with a libertarian bent, I've decided to mention it here. I completed it a few days ago. It is set more or less in the present, but in a very different world from our own; there has been some kind of a strange catastrophe that left life in Britain unaltered, but sent the rest of the world back to 1064 CE.

The action of the novel takes place, then in 1065 CE for most of the world, if not Britain.

The break in the international economic order has brought starvation conditions to Britain. A rational response would have been to peacefully trade with the rest of the world, to stimulate agricultural production and bring some of the food surplus to Britain; instead the big government types who have seized control, who babble about "multiculturalism" but are willing to slaughter multitudes with helicopter gunships to restore order, send many people to the country, Pol Pot style, to work as farmers. Contact with the outside world is strictly controlled.

1065 CE is of course a suggestive time, coming one year before the Norman invasion (in our world, anyway). It's also close to the end of the Byzantine Empire as a large, powerful state. The novel's main characters are Jennifer, a teenage British girl, and Michael, a young Byzantine ambassador who has come to Britain seeking help against the Turks. Michael is a sexist, as you might guess from his time period. At one point, he tells Jennifer, an uncommonly brave and smart young woman, that she did pretty well for a girl. But it also turns out that Michael has old-fashioned notions about duty (to Jennifer, as well as to his country) and the reader warms to him.  I gather that this is Mr. Gabb's foray into young adult fiction, as there is plenty of violence but no sex. I don't like to give long plot summaries in my reviews; why spoil things for readers? Suffice to say that there is plenty going on, with a satisfying pyrotechnic ending; I was only sad that the characters never made it to 11th century Constantinople, as I wanted a glimpse. I nominated the book for the Prometheus Award.

(Disclosure: Sean/Richard sent me a review copy of the book. I've bought some of his other books for my Kindle and I was a fan before I had any contact with him via email.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Radio Free Albemuth to open at movie theaters this weekend



The movie adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, Radio Free Albemuth, will open in many U.S. cities this weekend. The official website is here, and if you look here, you can find where the movie is being screened, beginning on Friday.

I am not a Dick expert, although I've been reading him since before he was "cool," but I know that the true Dick experts, such as Ted Hand, I guy I follow on Twitter, are very excited about this movie. It is considered perhaps the most faithful adaptation of Dick's work. A Kickstarter campaign was held to get it inside movie theaters. The movie stars Alanis Morissette.

Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick were fans of each other, and both experienced unsettling experiences in receiving information that came perhaps from space, events chronicled by Wilson in Cosmic Trigger and by Dick in the VALIS trilogy of novels, which includes VALIS, The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Radio Free Albemuth, published posthumously, was an earlier version of VALIS.

Here's an  interview with the movie's writer and director, John Alan Simon.

Ken Campbell on how RAW turned him on to Philip K. Dick.

Philip K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson, a blog post by Ted Hand.

Science fiction editor David Hartwell describes when RAW and Dick first met (answer to the first question.)


Hat tips, Adrian Reynolds, Ted Hand.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Time running out on Cosmic Trigger funding drive



The Buddhists teach that everything is impermanent. The Cosmic Trigger funding drive certainly is impermanent -- as I post this notice, there are 11 days left. As long as I'm being a shill, I should point out that there's a long list of goodies to peruse. You can donate even a relatively small amount of money and get some limited edition RAW stuff.

A mere 10 pounds gets you a link and password to an otherwise unavailable video of the Liverpool Cosmic Trigger event (if you make a larger contribution, the video is included).

I watched the video last night. It's about 50 minutes long and gets quite interesting. Featuring the usual all-star cast of Daisy Eris Campbell, John Higgs (clad in a Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 t-shirt -- it does my heart good to see that the younger generation remembers Ray Bradbury), Robert Anton Wilson (via prose quotations) and Alan Moore.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week Eighteen [Updated]


Statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.

(This week: Page 173, “Welcome to the Playboy Club,” the beautiful blonde said,” to Page 184, “I can make bail for this man.”)

A few notes on the text:

"Welcome to the Playboy Club," the beautiful blonde said, (Page 173). Saul finds himself in a strange captivity, apparently held by the Illuminati. This scene reminded me of Sigismundo Celine's weird captivity in The Widow's Son, and the sexual fantasies of Leopold Bloom in the Circe section of Ulysses.

"That we can call these delicate creatures ours/And not their appetites" page 176, from Shakespeare's Othello, Act 3, Scene 3.

"Only the madman is absolutely sure," a frequently cited Robert Anton Wilson quotation, page 176.

"passing the mermaid of the harbor," page 177. On page 99, Rebecca Goodman muses on the statue of the mermaid Saul got her, and wonders how many Danes know it is a representation of Ishtar. The mermaid and its connection to oral sex ("mouth breeder," punning on an early section of the book) recurs on Page 192.

"While there is a soul in prison, I am not free," courtroom speech of Eugene Debs, sent to prison for opposing World War I. Debs did not get out until 1921, when his sentence was commuted by Warren Harding. Libertarian Gene Healy argues in his book, The Cult of the Presidency, that Harding was an underrated president who restored civil liberties after the president of Wilson, a warmonger still praised by "progressives" in the U.S.

Page 180, parody of Shakespeare, "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven," famous quotation from The Merchant of Venice.

"In 1923, Adolf Hitler stood beneath a pyramidal altar," page 181. In Appendix Lamed, the authors write, "In this connection—and also, en passant, as an indication that Adolf Hitler's link with the Illuminati was not invented for this work of "fiction"— we suggest that the reader look into The Morning of the Magicians, by Pauwels and Bergier." See this Wikipedia article for the book's possible connection to Lovecraft.

"Remember what happened to Ambrose Bierce," page 181, famous American author whose disappearance is still unsolved.

UPDATE:

Page 181 has this passage: In Brooklyn, New York, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, returning from a party at which Hart Crane had been perfectly beastly— thereby confirming Mr. Lovecraft's prejudice against homosexuals— finds a letter in his mailbox and reads with some amusement: "Some of the secrets revealed in your recent stories would better be kept out of the light of print. Believe me, I speak as a friend, but there are those who would prefer such half-forgotten lore to remain in its present obscurity, and they are formidable enemies for any man. Remember what happened to Ambrose Bierce. . . ." 

In the comments below, Michael Johnson suggests consulting Dan Clore to see if the letter Lovecraft is reading actually existed. Dan is the guy who runs the Robert Anton Wilson Fans group on Facebook,  but he's also a Lovecraft scholar who wrote Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon, which he says has much of interest to RAW fans. So I wrote to Dan.

Dan replies, "Wilson and Shea just made that one up. I don't think HPL knew that Hart Crane (or their mutual friend, Samuel Loveman) was gay, either. In fact, in a letter Crane referred to 'that queer Lovecraft fellow'-- "

(Next week: Page 184, "MR. KHARIS: Does Mr. Celine seriously suggest..." to page 193, "Did it have anything to do with the weird dream he'd had of the temple in the Mad Dog jail?")





Sunday, June 22, 2014

'This book changed my life,' featuring the usual suspect


Vincent Murphy

In a guest post for a website called "Us vs. Th3m," Vincent Murphy writes about how he decided to give up his lucrative finance job and work with the homeless instead. 

What propelled him to that decision? Well, he ran across a certain writer while browsing in a used bookstore:

Near to my office was a second hand bookshop. The selection was usually piss poor, but in amongst the tatty Sven Hassells and endless ‘Sally Sixpence Sells a Shawl’ type Catherine Cooksons, a weird looking paperback pompously titled ‘Prometheus Rising’ caught my eye. It looked exactly like the kind of hippy-dippy nonsense I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole made of depleted uranium and cold sores, but in its favour the back featured a quote from Philip K Dick:

“Wilson managed to reverse every mental polarity in me, as if I had been pulled through infinity. I was astonished and delighted.”

One of the delights of doing this blog is that I run across pieces such as this sometimes to share with you. Read about how Murphy's discovery of the concept of reality tunnels changed his life. And if you like, compare with Caroline Contillo's account of how reading Quantum Psychology changed her life.

As a "reward" for reading his blog posting, Murphy has posted RAW currency designed by Bobby Campbell. "Feel free to print & distribute," Murphy writes.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

PQ on the new book on Joyce's Ulysses



I have blogged 2-3 times on Kevin Birmingham's The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses  but PQ has now put up a much more definitive blog post explaining the book and linking to many reviews of it. PQ also has some other cool Joyce links, including a 1922 Vanity Fair article about Joyce written by Djuna Barnes! Excerpt from the Vanity Fair piece:

Because he had heard of the suppression of The Little Review on account of Ulysses and of the subsequent trial, he sat down opposite me, who was familiar with the whole story, ordering a white wine. He began to talk at once. “The pity is,” he said, seeming to choose his words for their age rather than their aptness, “the public will demand and find a moral in my book—or worse they may take it in some more serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it.”

PQ is reading the book and says he'll write more about it. I am eager to read his observations.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The literature of cult and conspiracy



There's a new book out called Lure of the Arcane: The Literature of Cult and Conspiracy by Theodore Ziolkowski. He's a professor emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at Princeton University, and the book mentions the Illuminatus! Trilogy (including its alleged structural weaknesses, according to the book's index.)

The Times Literary Supplement review by Oliver Harris is here. Here's what he says about Illuminatus!:

 An interim tradition, between the Protocols and Dan Brown, redeems the pleasures of the arcane with irony. The LSD-tinged meeting of metafiction and meta-conspiracy seen in the 1960s is, in part, a response to the dark side of straight conspiracy reflected in the Protocols. Its self-conscious mischief-making achieves literary credibility in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), exposing us to the shadowy Tristero, a secret underground postal delivery service. It is a paranoid melange revisited in Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo (1972) (the Templar-allied Wallflower Order is attempting to root out a jazz-infused “virus” spreading dance crazes and black consciousness), and in less artful, more expansive form by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson in their collage of ancient sects, government agencies and hallucinatory ramblings, The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975) (“More important than Ulysses or Finnegans Wake”, according to Timothy Leary).

I complained about the slighting reference to Illuminatus! to Michael Johnson (I can't imagine that any literate person would argue that Mumbo Jumbo is better written) and he replied, "There seems an unwritten rule that if you're mentioning Illuminatus! before the Kwality Lit Establishment, you give backhanded compliments. Harris's quote from Leary on Illuminatus! also functioned as code for his audience, it seems. I don't think of Illuminatus! as "less artful" than Mumbo Jumbo, either. The standard bearer for artfulness in that paragraph was Crying of Lot 49, which has made it into the Canon, so..."

Ziokowski himself also has written about his new book, and here's what he says about Illuminatus!

 In Ishmael Reed’s diatribe against Western civilization, Mumbo Jumbo (1972), a secret society calling itself “The Wallpaper Order” strives to combat a “psychic epidemic” infecting black communities as it moves from New Orleans toward New York. The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975) by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson begins as a detective story when two New York detectives investigate the bombing of a leftist magazine’s office and the disappearance of its editor. They discover that the editors were investigating secret societies and conspiracies: notably the “Illuminati.” As the lengthy work develops, the detective story gives way to a science fiction about a group known as the Discordians, whose base is a golden submarine in the Atlantic Ocean and who have been engaged for centuries in a continuing battle against the Illuminati.

Herr Professor Ziolkowski remarks that Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum is "is a critically acclaimed masterpiece and not simply a cult classic," so I guess he gets in his little dig, too. But the book looks interesting.

The erudite Dr. Johnson adds, "BTW: other academic/intellectuals who have written about fiction and conspiracy that I found worthsomewhiles:

-Timothy Melley's _Empire of Conspiracy_ (His main idea is readers' "agency panic.")

"-Michael Barkun's _Culture of Conspiracy_

-Mark Fenster's _Conspiracy Theories_ (He values RAW's satirical play; the book has been significantly updated since the first ed, which I bought when it came out.)"

Hat tips: Dr. Johnson, Jesse Walker, Ted Hand.



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Eric Wagner's now on Kindle



I've complained before about the slowness of New Falcon, Robert Anton Wilson's most prolific publisher, in making its books available as ebooks, but it looks like the book company is making progress. Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson has become available as a Kindle. Moreover, the $3.99 Kindle price is a considerable savings over the $16.31 price for the paperback. Of course, you don't need a Kindle to read a Kindle-format book — Amazon offers free Kindle apps for smartphones, tablets, computers etc.

I don't see any sign yet that any additional Robert Anton Wilson books have become available as ebooks, but perhaps that will follow.




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cosmic Trigger play update



Daisy Eris Campbell has issued an update on the Cosmic Trigger play crowd funding effort. As of Wednesday morning, U.S. time, the drive has reached 56 percent of its 23,000 pound goal, with 17 days left.

A new live event is planned on June 23 at the October Gallery (in London, I think.) Daisy explains, "We have a forthcoming live event on Monday June 23rd – next Monday in fact – at The October Gallery. We are calling it Hagbard’s Salon. This is a chance for those who haven’t yet been initiated to see a scene from the play, hear this caper’s backstory, and generally be converted to the cause. For this reason, we are asking that if you have attended one of our live events before, you must bring a potential neophyte…

"Spaces severely limited."

If you are a Robert Anton Wilson fan, check out the perks available if you make a donation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Joyce author finds himself a heretic

Author Kevin Birmingham's new book on James Joyce's Ulysses is being attacked by professional Joyce scholars, particularly in Ireland and the United Kingdom, over its claim that Joyce suffered from syphilis, in spite of the fact that Birmingham assembles plenty of evidence, says a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Jonathan Goldman. Apparently Birmingham is some sort of heretic. Excerpt:

Luca Crispi, of University College Dublin, is particularly displeased. He lambasted Birmingham when interviewed for an article in the Sunday Times: “There’s no argument there; [Birmingham] just simply says things, weaves them together. … It’s more like historical fiction than fact.” He continues, at some length, and apparently, in some heat, impugning Birmingham’s methods and motivations; according to the article, Crispi considers the syphilis argument as the sort of claim ”used to sell books.” (As if anyone believes the best way to sell books is to write about Ulysses.) Crispi does not impugn Birmingham’s evidence—an immense amount of research detailed in his endnotes.

Hat tip, Arthur Hlavaty.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Illuminatus online reading, Week 17



The execution of Dutch Anabaptist Anneken Hendriks  by the Spanish Inquisition.

(This week: Page 164. Muldoon grinned, For once I don't have to play Watson, he thought, to Page 173, “Now is that communism, or isn't it?”)

One of the great themes of Illuminatus! is introduced in this section – mass murder, and the people who do it.

It's framed as a clever conspiracy theory about Satanists in the Catholic Church. The book cited on Page 165, Rome's Responsibility for the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, is in the public domain and available on the Internet Archive. But although Satanists are explicitly cited and linked to the Illuminati, other forms of mass killing are cited, including nuclear weapons (page 169) and to Hitlerism and the Aztecs (page 170). The mystical aspects of killing also are discussed.

There is more about this in the appendix in "Appendix Lamed, The Tactics of Magick,"  pages 768 to 783. I don't quite follow all of the discussion of sex and death, but this seems clear: “We conclude with a final warning and clarification: Resort to mass sacrifice (as among the Aztecs, the Catholic Inquisition and the Nazi death camps) is the device of those who are incapable of the true Rite of the Dying God.” (Page 783.) (I mostly followed the discussion, I think, but I did not get the bit about "the sword doing its necessary work" on page 780. Perhaps I need to finally read Sex, Drugs and Magick, one of the few RAW works I don't have.)

The political aspect of this would be opposition to almost all wars, as an unjustified slaughter of people by governments. Many of Wilson's writings mention his antiwar beliefs.

A couple of notes on the text:

“Back at the Watergate,” page 167. This must have been added late in the editing process, as Illuminatus! was written 1969-1971.

(“Here, kitty-kitty,” Hagbard repeats), page 167. The self destructing mynah birds, turned loose in New York City to freak out the population as part of Operation Mindfuck. This is not explained in the version of Illuminatus! which most of you have, the one volume Dell omnibus. The birds are explained in the prologue for the second volume, The Golden Apple. The synopsis was not reprinted when the original three books were collected together into the one volume.

I was suddenly called out of town on family business, so this entry will have to be a little shorter than usual. 

(Next week: Page 173, “Welcome to the Playboy Club,” the beautiful blonde said,” to Page 184, “I can make bail for this man.”)


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Press When Illuminated -- Adrian Reynolds

British scriptwriter and creative projects coach Adrian Reynolds gave a talk at a "Pulling the Cosmic Trigger" event held May 17 in Nottingham to benefit the Cosmic Trigger play.

His talk has now been made into a wonderful video, nearly 30 minutes long, featuring, as Mr. Reynolds explains, "visual material added brilliantly by Will Price." I urge you to take some time to look at this. I wish this was a high powered blog such as Boing Boing that could give this video the circulation it deserves.




Some background is provided here.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Chad Nelson on Quantum Psychology



Chad Nelson, who discussed Robert Anton Wilson's SNAFU principle in "Libertarianism as Direct Experience," has now tackled RAW's Quantum Psychology in a new piece for the Center for a Stateless Society, a "Left Market Anarchist Think Tank and Media Center" whose left brand of libertarianism seems fairly close to RAW's own politics.

Chad's article, "Psychology for Anarchists,"  does a good job of describing the book and is kind enough to refer readers to this site's Quantum Psychology discussion group (still available on the right side of this page.) He writes, "One of Wilson’s fan sites – www.rawillumination.net – joins readers together to discuss the exercises in a chat forum and, surprisingly, most are completely appropriate for remote participation." I did do my best to stick to the exercises as given in the book, but I did adapt some of them as necessary for the Internet.

Excerpt from Chad's piece:

Wilson refers to his system in various places in the book as “model agnosticism.”Attempting to pigeonhole the world into any one rigid belief system or model must necessarily fail, as new information constantly updates and amends one’s perception of the world. Model agnosticism, one begins to feel, can be a healthy and informed way to approach life. At its most basic, model agnosticism can be viewed as constant skepticism.

Chad is an attorney and his biography is here. One of his specialties seems to be applying family law to special needs persons. He is active in Special Olympics and is an affiliate member of the ACLU.


Chad Nelson

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chatting with Gary Acord about Cosmic Trigger and punk rock



While Discordians are enjoined to stick apart, the ongoing Cosmic Trigger play crowd funding effort has brought together RAW fans from around the world in an effort to make Daisy Eris Campbell's vision a reality. Many have chipped in to help.

One of those folks is Gary Acord, a  computer programmer who lives in the Dallas, Texas,  area. Gary volunteered early to host the Cosmic Trigger play website, thereby removing a possible headache for Daisy.

I asked Gary to take a few questions, and he agreed (mostly, I think, because I explained it was another way to publicize the Cosmic Trigger play.)

Gary likes his privacy and avoids posting his photographs on the Internet, so we had to figure out how to illustrate this piece. He sent me a photo of the feng shui water fountain inside the Acord Ranch. A story: A couple of months ago, Gary interviewed via Skype for a job as a programmer with a company that makes software for theologically conservative Christian megachurches. The interview did not go well. At one point, one of the MegaChristian software guys  asked, "What is that water sound? I feel like I have to to go to the bathroom." Oh, Gary replied, that's my feng shui fountain ....




Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself, i.e. where you live, what you do for a living?

For any stalkers out there, I live in a groovy little part of North Texas. I’m a computer programmer by trade. I’m a father of three teenage boys and have been happily married for 23 years. My oldest son says I’m eastern because of most of the Discordian-Zen bullshit I spew at them to, hopefully, keep them on their toes. I prefer silliness to seriousness. Let’s see, what else… I run barefoot and I shave with straight razors and old school safety razors (safeties more often but I’m looking to change that to the other way round.)

Robert Anton Wilson was a person with very unconventional beliefs -- "bohemian" doesn't really cover it -- but  he was also a family man with four children who was married to the same woman for decades. It seems to me that you are a person with some unconventional views who also is obviously a family man. Does the comparison make sense to you?

I find it extremely flattering for you to make a comparison like that. I’m with RAW on something you’ve said there.  I had beliefs when I was younger.  That’s just too definite a word for me now. People get all kinds of pissed of and offended and outraged and shocked and whatnot when their beliefs are challenged. Fuck that. I think I have musings.  Musings can change easily.  They can ebb and flow and drift.  Maybe if more people had more “unconventional musings” instead of rigid beliefs, we’d have less conflicts.  Then, maybe, we could begin to achieve more of our potential, as a species.  Yes, I’ve been married to the same beautiful, brilliant woman for a couple decades, too (23 years!)  We like to say we have codependency down to a science.  I’m definitely a family man and I don’t care what Black Flag said.  We do loads together. We still eat dinner together every night despite the boys all being teens. Which, apparently, is odd.  We’ve even received compliments about how we are as a family by Mormon friends.  I suppose that’s saying something.  Not sure what.  As much as I truly love humanity, in general, I’ve often said anyone that lives outside these walls can also just shove it.  I stopped being a pacifist the day my first son was born.

The website for the Cosmic Trigger play website says you are hosting the site. Can you explain what that means and what your duties are?

What that means is I have space on my hosting platform so I’ve set up a spot for the website to sit. My “duties" include that setup, setting up some mailboxes (or forwarders) and getting the environment ready for the web dev (which was initially Dominic.) That’s pretty much it. If there’s any special add-on that the dev needs I’ll install it and configure it. I’m more of a dev, myself, so that’s about the extent of any hosting setup I generally do anyway.

Gary, let me see if I understood the answer to my question. You host the Cosmic Trigger Play website on your computers in Texas, in a temperature-controlled room in a blastproof vault of the Acord Mansion? And by volunteering the space on your servers, Daisy doesn't have to pay a commercial provider a hosting fee, or pay someone to work with her webmaster?

Heh, I guess I deserved that. There was a time when I did indeed run my own server here at Acord Ranch. So, yes, I pay for hosting service with 3 different companies. If I stopped paying that bill then Daisy’s site (and several other friends and family sites that I host) would dwindle offline if I didn’t hustle and migrate it to one of the other hosts.

You play kind of a "behind the scenes" role hosting the Cosmic Trigger website, and behind the scenes  here at RAWIllumination.net, you've been consistently helpful and encouraging. Are you a guy who doesn't necessarily need the spotlight, or have I read you wrong? 

 I really really enjoy helping people.  I definitely don’t care for the spotlight.  This very interview is weird for me.  About being helpful… if we won the lottery, or fell into some vast amount of money, we’d probably blow it all secretly giving friends, family, total strangers cash, cars, homes, whatever.  The idea of sending anonymous envelopes of cash to random people, in random cities, just for shits and grins is beyond appealing.   Ultimately I wish there was no such thing as money, and no such thing as needing reimbursement for whatever was done.  That’s probably my utopian side coming through though.  Since, as RAW said, it’s somehow magic paper when printed by the Fed, I figure as long as we’re stuck using these stupid vouchers for our very existence, why not spin the magic a little differently.  Of course, lacking truck loads of cash, we tend to help out with time, support, kind words, and sweat whenever we can.

Q. Why did  you offer to host the Cosmic Trigger website? Has the book had any particular meaning for you? 

A: I guess you could say the spirit moved me.  Whose spirit I can't say (probably Our Lady Eris to be sure).  I just really wanted to help out with the project in some way.  Ordinarily I would have offered to build the site itself (as that's part of my trade) but at the time I just didn't have room in my schedule, so the next best option was to offer to host the site.  I did tell Daisy at that time that if nobody turned up to build it then I'd help make it happen.  Fortunately, Dom stepped in for that role.  C.T. has been more meaningful to me, perhaps, in the last 4 or 5 years than it was 20 years ago. Up until then it certainly didn't have as much significance for me as Illuminatus! and Schroedinger's Cat.  Those are the two that sent me on the lifelong spiral of self-discovery.  I think, also, I was much more interested in the conspiracy their aspects of those books.  I was a conspiracy dork by around age 16 so I was all over that when I found them.

What do you mean when you say you were a conspiracy dork at age 16? What were you into in those days?

Let’s see. In addition to beginning to look at rings like secret societies, I think I was most intrigued by the JFK assassination and then Marilyn Monroe’s suicide (cough… murder).  I even did a paper in high school about it and I remember pulling up the front page of the New York Times on microfiche for 5 Aug 1962.  I found it most curious (and apparently still do) that they ran “Kennedy calls for safer drugs” (or something similar I’m going from sheer memory) right below “Marilyn Monroe found dead” (again a paraphrase).

How did you get interested in punk rock, and how has that affected your attitude toward life? 

OK, the first half of that is easy.  A cousin of mine gave me a copy of FEAR The Record when I was 9 or 10.  The first song he played for me was “I Love Livin in the City”.  It must have been a strong imprinting moment because the next time I encountered something “punk rock” which was around age 12 or 13 I was drawn to it like a magnet.  There was this guy at my school named David.  He was new.  He had a mohawk.  He got beat up by jocks at least once a week.  He had a fanzine at the time and for $1 would tape any albums he had (he had a long list).  My first two albums from him (one tape, one album per side) was D.R.I.’s “Dealing With It” and Dead Kennedys' “Frankenchrist.”  I have no idea how many more tapes I got from him.  The cool thing was, he kept the spirit of punk with the tapes.  He laboriously hand copied all the lyrics and included that with each tape.  I don’t think I was ever the same after.  I have to admit, though, that probably the two punk bands that had the greatest effect on me over time are the Subhumans (UK), and CRASS.

You've been interested in the Church of the SubGenius for awhile. (The founder, Ivan Stang, began the church in Dallas, where you live, and then moved to Cleveland, where I live.) How did you get interested in them? Did your interest predate your interest in RAW?

Hmmm, that Dallas & Cleveland connection. I wonder if I sat down and figured out when, exactly I discovered your blog and when I got my first taste of OM (via the MIGHTY Rev. Stang) it would line up to around 23 years… Segue...I was a teen, but I don’t remember exactly when I started following the Church of the SubGenius. It was sometime in the late 80’s (probably 86/87).  I think it was very close to the time I discovered that the local PBS TV station played British Comedies on the weekend. So if I wasn’t playing my guitar, I was listening to Stang and Philo (and the gang) or watching BritComs when I was home. Stang is actually from Haltom City which is right next to the city I grew up in. Both of which are in Tarrant County, not Dallas County. If you look at a road map, it’s the western bloodshot eye. I used to listen to the Hour of Slack on KNON (The Voice of the People!) every weekend. I rarely went to Dallas back then so, unfortunately, never made it to see any of his live rants or devivals. My first introduction to RAW was with Illuminatus! somewhere around 1990. A fella at work told me I needed to read it. When he handed it to me he said “This is acid in book form. Treat it as such.” He later gave me Schroedinger's Cat and said “This does with physics what Illuminatus! does with sociology. Be Prepared.” After that, I got everything I could find of RAW’s that I could find. I had the best luck either at the major discount book chain of the day or sometimes my local occult bookstore.

You are one of the few people I know who uses PGP in your emails. Why do you do that, and what other privacy enhancing steps do you recommend to other computer and smart phone users? 

I’m a relatively private person. When a letter is sent in the regular ole “snail” mail, I think most people would be quite disturbed if someone else opened it up and read it. When we send email, that’s completely plausible (and as we’ve seen with recent news common practice!). One way to “lick and seal” your email is to use encryption and PGP offers “some” modicum of success with that. Most of our emails are just common everyday bullshit of the “how was your weekend?” variety and many people say “What’s the big deal if anyone reads that?” For me it’s just none of their fucking business unless I’ve invited them into the conversation. I recommend NOT using corporate cloud backups. There are products available that are just as easy to use but puts the control in your own hands. I’m a fan of the DIY approach to just about anything. With a little effort (tough word for some folks, I know) I believe anyone can quickly learn to make their computers work for them instead of the other way round. For smart phone users… start by password protecting your phone. There are also encryption apps available for email AND texting that are relatively easy to use. Oh and one last favorite, I recommend folks use duckduckgo.com for their web searching. At least for now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Historia Discordia released



Adam Gorightly's new history of Discordianism, Historia Discordia, has been released and is available at Amazon and the other usual outlets. (If you like to support the remaining bookstore chains, it's available for example at the Barnes and Noble and Books A Million sites.)

Mr. Gorightly has received an endorsement from Alan Moore:

Like communication-god Thoth with his yammering ape, like the all-important noise that Count Korzybski assures us must accompany our every signal, no harmony is possible without an acknowledgement and understanding of discord. Born from the bowling-alley epiphanies of Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley, its disruptive teachings disseminated through the incendiary writings of Robert Anton Wilson and other Eristic luminaries, the Discordian Society has unexpectedly become a landmark of gleefully aggressive sanity in a chaotic and incoherent world. Through this book, we can all involve ourselves in their gloriously constructive quarrel.

This is well put, but for me, the most convincing endorsement is the Historia Discordia website, which has showed off Adam's wealth of Discordian documents. I try not to prejudge a book before I have actually read it, but I'd be shocked if his book didn't have a lot of cool material. I have not seen Historia Discordia yet, but I recently purchased and read Gorightly's Kerry Thornley, and posted about it here.

Adam's book announcement is here.






Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Where was Confrontation located?

From Nick Helweg-Larsen, a question: "In modern day America, where abouts in New York would the radical left magazine Confrontation (or most magazines for that matter) have its offices?
In the book Joe Malik lives on Riverside Drive. Where might George Dorn live?"

I didn't know, but I thought of someone who could give a good answer: Roman Tsivkin, who lives in New York City. He responded,

"Tough question, because there are a few candidates for such a location, but I'd say the Lower East Side, specifically the East Village. In the '60s & '70s it definitely had the right vibe for a Confrontation-type publication HQ (today, not so much because of gentrification: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Village,_Manhattan).

"However, Joe Malik's place on Riverside Drive is on the West Side, which means he'd have had to cross Manhattan to get to the East Side. Not very convenient, so the other candidates are the Meatpacking District, a seedy place at the time (now "party central" with clubs & oodles of galleries), and the West Village.

"But the East Village or somewhere in the Lower East Side sounds about right overall, such as around the Bowery, NYC's Skid Row in the '70s (William S. Burroughs lived there in his 'Bunker')."


Monday, June 9, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week 16



(This week: Page 154, "ILLUMINATI PROJECT: MEMO #17" to page 164, "That would probably be a Fascist plot, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish and anti-Negro.")

For today's episode, I went a pulled an extract from Robert Anton Wilson's Right Where You Are Sitting Now:

Taking somebody's money without permission is stealing, unless you work for the IRS; then its taxation. Killing people en masse is homicidal mania, unless you work for the Army; then it's National Defense. Spying on your neighbors is invasion of privacy, unless you work for the FBI; then its National Security. Running a whorehouse makes you a pimp and poisoning people makes you a murderer, unless you work for the CIA; then its counter-intelligence.

Lately is is fashionable to claim that Nixon was a bit nuts toward the end of his career. I doubt it; he had merely been in government so long (1946-1974) that he had forgotten there was another America (outside Washington) where people still believed in something called common decency. 

(This is entitled "The Watergate Syndrome" and it's on page 159 of my And/Or Press edition. A stamp at the front of my copy says it was purchased from Peace of Mind Books, "Nation's Largest New Age Selection," in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

Isn't that a great quote? Of course, the bit about National Security is wildly outdated,  but I guess that's what happens when you dust off an old book dating back to 1982.

But I wanted to post the bit also because I think it relates nicely to the courtroom scene, pages 156-158, e.g. Hagbard Celine's question, "Why can't we say highway robbery is highway robbery, instead of calling it eminent domain?" And then on the next page, the judge upholds the federal government's right to redefine whether a "bandit" is someone who takes something of yours without your consent: "I will not hear the United States government called bandits again."

Of course, under eminent domain, a landowner is supposed to be entitled to fair compensation, but at the end of the day, it's not up to you and it's not a consensual transaction; if the government wants your land for an airport, a highway or a dam, it can take it. The U.S. Supreme Court even ruled in 2005 that eminent domain can be used to take away private property to make it somebody else's private property, if it is done for "economic development." (In the United States, "economic development" means the government provides tax breaks or direct subsidies to a private business, usually at the expense of another private business.) Incidentally, Indian tribes in the U.S. are supposed to be sovereign on their own land (they often have their own license plates, are not subject to many of the usual state taxes, etc.) so it is relevant to question whether the same eminent domain rules apply to them as apply to everyone else.

In the courtroom scene, Hagbard and John Feather both try to warn about the danger of a government which acts as if the actual meaning of words does not matter.

Libertarians and anarchists will love the courtroom scene, of course, but the discussion is also relevant if merely still believe in civil liberties. How much, in 2014, do the words of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights matter?

For the Bill of Rights, the record would appear to be mixed. For the most part, the First Amendment is still in relatively good shape; freedom of speech, of religion and of the press is still pretty strong in the U.S. The Second Amendment has not become a dead letter, either,  thanks to the efforts of a well-organized gun lobby.

On the other hand, as I alluded to in my sarcastic comment above about the NSA, the Fourth Amendment is very much in play. Many of us believe that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" was flaunted when the National Security Agency took it upon itself to collect phone records for everyone in America.

(Next week, Page 164: Muldoon grinned. For once I don't have to play Watson, he thought, to Page 173, "Now is that communism, or isn't it?")





Sunday, June 8, 2014

Matt Black of Coldcut endorses Cosmic Trigger funding drive

British DJ Matt Black, chiefly known as a founding member of the duo Coldcut, has become the latest celebrity to endorse the crowd funding drive to stage Cosmic Trigger  as a play:




Black joins Tool and Douglas Rushkoff and Oscar winning actor Jim Broadbent. 

Lots of information lurks at the official Cosmic Trigger play website.  The crowdfunding site, listing lots of exclusive goodies for those who chip in, is here.  As of Sunday, with 27 days left, the effort had raised more than 10,000 pounds, about 46 percent towards the 23,000 pounds goal.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jesse Walker on William Burroughs

William Burroughs

William Burroughs, a brilliant artist and a repugnant person, gets an article from Jesse Walker in the form of a long book review of the Barry Miles biography. Even as I dislike Burroughs, I feel like I ought to finally try one of his books. Excerpt of Walker's review:

Miles' biography is one of those doorstops full of details that may be diverting for readers already interested in the subject but aren't likely to engross anyone else. Virtually every available fact about Burroughs' life is here, from his favorite sexual position to what he liked to eat for breakfast. Where a firm fact isn't available, we get well-documented speculations. Being a Burroughs fan myself, I enjoyed it, to the extent that it's possible to enjoy a book that paints such an unflattering portrait of a writer whose work I admire. The fact that Miles clearly likes Burroughs and is doing his best to put a positive spin on things just makes the effect worse.

Arthur Hlavaty is similarly ambivalent.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Adam Gorightly and Oz Fritz see the fnord! [Updated]



Somehow, Adam Gorightly is the only person  one of the few people who has noticed so far that Illuminatus! includes two "ILLUMINATI PROJECT: #16" memos. One, on page 146, discusses the claim that "The Nazi Party was founded as the political appendage of the Thule Society," while the other, on page 150, covers allegations the John Birch Society made about the Robert Kennedy assassination.

Gorightly's excellent new blog post focuses on the latter memo. Take a moment to check it out.

[Update] Oz spotted the duplicate #16 memos, too, as I somehow forgot. See his comment in the last regular episode. Hence my corrected headline.




Thursday, June 5, 2014

Google outage

This blog apparently was down for awhile Wednesday. I thought I would explain what apparently happened.

Yesterday, while my phone was turned off and I was sitting in a meeting I was covering for my employer, a newspaper, my Gmail account apparently was hacked, and a phishing message was sent out hither and yon.

I did not find out about this until I came out of the meeting and turned my phone back on, and discovered that Google had disabled my account. This cut me off from all of my email, all of my reporter's notes (which I keep stored in Google Drive) and all of my other Google services.

To Google's credit, my service was quickly restored when I contacted them and explained the situation, but I have had to spend hours writing back to people to say, yes, I was hacked, repairing my Gmail account, getting various email apps to work again, etc. etc. Most of my contacts had disappeared, but fortunately Google has a method for restoring them.

I don't know what I did wrong, if I did anything wrong. I almost always use Linux or Macintosh computers, I thought I had a fairly strong password, I know enough not to click on obvious phishing scams. I've put in a new password and enabled two-step verification. It turns out that two-step verification is a big hassle -- it doesn't work with some email apps -- but I guess it's preferable to being hacked again.

Anyway, if you got a weird email message from me, sorry. And while my account was suspended by Google, my blog apparently was shut down. Now you know why.

Regular programming resumes tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What caused James Joyce's blindness?


Kevin Birmingham 

So, where did James Joyce's well-known vision problems come from? The Guardian reports that according to Kevin Birmingham,  author of a new book, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses, Joyce suffered from syphilis. This had been rumored before apparently, but Birmingham has tracked down some rather good evidence, i.e. Joyce's symptoms and a drug that was given to him for his medical condition.

Birmingham's book, which I mentioned in a previous blog post, was shaping up as a interesting read, anyway. Here is the Publisher's Weekly review.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week 15




 Ayn Rand. Despite Simon Moon's amusing theory, she was probably not "the lost Anastasia" from the Romanov dynasty.

(This week: From page 144 "ILLUMINATI PROJECT MEMO #15" to page 154, "and you're going to tell the judge that, in exactly those words.")

Back on Page 62, i.e. Week Six, Simon Moon is discussing politics with his parents and he tells them, "You're both wrong. Freedom won't come  through Love, and it won't come through  Force. It will come through the Imagination."

His father tells him that he should concentrate on organization  instead. "If you want big words to talk to intellectuals  with, that's a fine big word, son, just as many  syllables as imagination, and it has a lot more realism to it." (Page 63)

And so now, in Week 15, Hagbard Celine explains to Simon that reality is something that is often imposed by force from the top (pages 149-150).

"Don't be  so bloody patronizing," Moon answers. "That's just Marx: the ideology of the ruling class becomes the ideology of the whole society."

"Not the ideology. The Reality," Hagbard replies, noting that in 1937, everyone in the U.S. who smoked pot became a criminal overnight, by an act of Congress. 

"And they really were criminals when the papers were signed. The guns prove it. Walk away from those guns, waving a joint, and refuse to halt when they tell you. Their Imagination will become your Reality in a second."

Moon reflects, "And I had my answer to Dad, finally ..." just as a cop attacks him with mace.

Hagbard's insight that reality is something that is created in people's minds can be illustrated by recent events. In the 1970s, gay rights were supported only by a minority of people. Today, gay marriage is becoming widely accepted. Marijuana legalization in the 1970s was something that only a few crazy people (such as libertarians) talked about; today, pot is legal in two states, and the legalization movement obviously is spreading to other states. A relatively small group of people imagined an end to the war on drugs, and now, although slowly, that's coming about.

Notes on the text:

SNAFU, page 145, later on, Hagbard Celine enunciates the SNAFU principle.

"I'm seven years older than he his," page 145, Simon Moon is talking.

"Source," page 147. The Libertarian American is a real publication, so I assume the cited article is real, but I don't know how to get a copy or who J.F.C. Moore is. Wilson mentions Moore's piece in this article.

"I was on Joyce's juices again,"  page 147. This article discusses Joyce's influence on Robert Anton Wilson.

"and Lennon's 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road?' was recorded a year in the future." Page 148. This is the Beatles song I mentioned in the discussion on Diogenes in Week 13. It's a brief song on The Beatles, aka "The White Album." And it's not a John Lennon song; it's a Paul McCartney tune.

"There thou might'st behold the very image of Authority," page 149. Hagbard is quoting from King Lear, Act Four, Scene 6: "There thou mightst behold the great image of authority: a dog's obeyed in office." This may also be a reference to an important Surrealist poem by David Gascoyne, "The Very Image."


" 'A is not A,' Hagbard explained with that tiresome patience of his," page 149. The phrase "A = A" is  used in Ayn Rand's work. I am not a Randian, but I believe that it refers to the idea in Objectivism that facts are facts, however much commie altruists might want to deny it. Steve Ditko, apparently a Rand fan, did a comic book called "Mr. A."

"I caught the reference to Aristotle," page 149. Ayn Rand was a big admirer of Aristotle. 

"that feisty little lady I always imagine is the lost Anastasia," e.g., Ayn Rand, who was born in Russia. Anasasia refers to the last czar's youngest daughter, murdered with the rest of her family by the Bolsheviks in 1918. After her death, various people claimed to be Anastasia and said that she had survived.

Grand Duchess Anastasia, who never got to grow up and read Ayn Rand.

"Property is liberty," Hagbard said. "I am quoting the same man who said property is theft." Page 152. Proudhon. See Appendix Zain, page 767.

(Next week: Page 154, "ILLUMINATI PROJECT: MEMO #17" to page 164, "That would probably be a Fascist plot, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish and anti-Negro.")

Sunday, June 1, 2014