Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week 28, Iluminatus! online reading group


The Buddha gives his first lecture after enlightenment.


(This week: Page 272, "I. THE FAUST PARSON, SINGULAR" to "not huddled around my shower stall, Page 282)

What could be more Discordian than a Buddhist sutra delivered during an acid trip by Dr. Ignotum Per Ignotius, one of the personas of Discordianism co-founder Greg Hill?

Malik and Simon are let in by a young man with a "Frisco-style" beard and hairstyle, and it would be appropriate indeed if the setting of the scene was California, where Discordianism was founded and where Buddhism and acid played important roles in the counterculture.

The Buddhas lectures to his followers (or, if you like, sermons) were known as "sutras," and Buddha would address his followers as "O, nobly born," so when Dr. Ignotius addresses Malik in this fashion  he self-consciously turns his talk into a sutra by using the same phrase (page 279).

"The name was chosen by my predecessors, Malaclypse the Younger," page 275. Malaclypse the Younger was an earlier name adopted by Greg Hill; later, as Discordianism developed, he adopted the Dr. Iggy persona.

"Of course, the quirkiest, most chaotic things that exist are other people — and that's why they're so obsessed with trying to control us," page 278. I recently finished reading a book, Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, about North Korea, a dictatorship in which one man at the top attempts to ruthlessly control the behavior and thoughts of an entire nation. I'm pretty sure Illuminatus! is not freely circulated there.

Here's the heart of the sutra:

Feeling paranoid? Good: illumination is one the other side of absolute terror. And the only terror that is truly absolute is the horror of realizing that you can't believe anything you've been told. You have to realize fully that you ARE "a stranger and afraid in a world you never made," like Houseman says. (Page 278).


A.E. Housman

The reference is to Housman, not "Houseman," i.e. A.E. Housman. The quotation is from the Last Poems: 

And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.

The text is available.

And here is another important point: "The life history which most of us carry around in our skulls is more our own creation than it is an accurate recording of realities," page 281.

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





What's in the missing pages of the 9-11 report?

One of the reasons why conspiracy theories about the U.S. government have to be taken seriously, at least some of the time, is that much of what the government does and knows is kept secret from ordinary citizens.

There's a movement that's been launched to declassify 28 pages from a Congressional report on the 9/11 attack.

President George W. Bush censored 28 pages of this report—an entire section said to describe the involvement of specific foreign governments in the attacks. After reading it, Congressman Thomas Massie described the experience as “disturbing” and said, “I had to stop every two or three pages and rearrange my perception of history…it’s that fundamental.”

Much more here. 

Hat tip: Justin Raimondo, who wrote an opinion piece about the matter. It is somewhat speculative, but one easy way to prove him wrong would be to release the secret information.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My ten books, and Supergee's



An old friend, Tim Ford, revived a Facebook meme this week by posting 10 books that have stayed with him, and tagged 10 friends, inviting them to participate. I tagged 10 people (inevitably leaving out many readers I should have listed) and posted my 10. Arthur Hlavaty has just posted his 10 on his blog; I don't know if he saw my post or was inspired by something else.

Please consider this as an invitation to post my 10 in the comments.

My 10 books (slightly altered from the Facebook posting):

Illuminatus! trilogy, Wilson and Shea
This Immortal, Roger Zelanzy
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
The Gold Bug Variations, Richard Powers
Cosmic Trigger 2, Robert Anton Wilson
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison
Money, a Suicide Note, Martin Amis
The Shadow of the Torturer, Gene Wolfe

Can't point to a particular title, as I love almost all of them, but Jack Vance belongs on that list, too.

Supergee's 10:

Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land
Shea & Wilson: Illuminatus
David Cole Gordon: Self-Love / Overcoming the Fear of Death
Joseph Heller: Catch-22
Alan Watts: The Book
Martin Gardner: Fads and Fallacies
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed
Philip K. Dick: Eye in the Sky and others
G. Spencer Brown: Laws of Form (though I haven't managed to finish it)
James Joyce: Ulysses

ETA: And of course The Crying of Lot 49. These top 10 things never work.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Maybe the U.S. can't win in the Mideast, but we can't lose, either!

Reality is continuing its bitter feud with satire as the best way to depict U.S. foreign policy.

In an apparent bid to show that reality can overshadow any attempt at satire, the U.S. government has now officially given help to both sides in a bloody civil war that's taking place in Syria and Iraq. Previously, the U.S. sided with Islamists in the attempt to overthrow the evil Assad regime in Syria. We are now cooperating with the Assad junta in an attempt to contain the evil Islamists we previously sided with.

For more information, see Glenn Greenwald's article at the Intercept.

Previously, the president wanted to drop bombs on Assad's soldiers. Now we're dropping bombs on the folks who oppose Assad. I guess as long we can bomb somebody, we're happy. As per usual, only a few Americans — libertarians, pedantic leftists and MYOB conservatives, and other such nut cases — want to simply stay out of the war. These weirdoes are not heavily represented among officials in the Democratic or Republican parties.

Meanwhile, the State Department has scolded Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for "outside interference" in Libya, where "outside interference" by the U.S. and other western nations led to the current civil war the country is embroiled in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The EFF an Illuminati front?


The Illuminati mythos trundles on; in the latest issue of The Week magazine, Katy Perry explains that she is not, in fact, a member of the Illuminati.

The above graphic is taken from science fiction writer Bruce Sterling's Tumblr, which Bruce accompanies with the comment, "That's pretty cool, for a civil liberties org." John Merritt sent it to me, commenting, "The EFF is an Illuminati front??!!"

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties group, says it's just a cool design for a limited edition T-shirt. Of course, that's what They want you to believe!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jake Shannon on 'Illuminatus!'


Jake Shannon (with his conditioning invention, the Macebell). 

When I read a nonfiction book on a topic I know something about, I often start by looking at the bibliography or the "Further Reading" list.

So when I began reading Strange Attractor, the new book by Jake Shannon (who runs the "Discordian Libertarian" group on Facebook), I turned to the "Recommended" area in the back. The first book listed in the section is Illuminatus! Here's what he wrote:

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson – If you consider yourself a “libertarian” of some sort but you haven’t yet read The Illuminatus! Trilogy then might I suggest that such a reading might help you internalize the Cosmic Schmuck Principle. Plus there are plenty of dirty sex scenes and none of the boorish Randian logorrhea that plague many other epic libertarian novels.

Strange Attractor  is interesting so far (Shannon was a teen cancer survivor); I'll post a review when I finish the book.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 27, Illuminatus! online reading group



Image from a 2012 Cthulhu Mythos calendar. (Source). 

(This week: Page 262, "It was the night of February 2, 1776" to page 272, "Except for Drake's power drive.")

This passage is one of the most energetic and interesting in Illuminatus!,  tying together many different threads and concepts in prose that shifts rapidly in space and time. The energy and density is exciting, and this passage exemplifies the virtues of Illuminatus! Let's see if we can follow some of those threads, or rather, some of those time tracks.

" ... it reminded him, uncomfortably, of the shoggoths in that damnable Necronomicon that Kolmer was always trying to get him to read ... " (page 253).

The reference to H.P. Lovecraft's work ties Illuminatus! to one of the biggest "conspiracies" in fantasy, the Cthulhu Mythos, in which many other authors have used elements of H.P. Lovecraft's universe. Here is a long list of Cthulhu Mythos writers, which unfortunately does not include Wilson and Shea. A cheap, large ebook of Cthulhu Mythos stories is available from Amazon. 

'He held up his hands, looking at the five fingers on each ... " (page 263.) The peace sign has two fingers up and three down, 2 + 3 + 5. Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia asserts that the Discordians revived  the World War II "V for Victory" hand sign because it fit so well with the Law of Fives and that it was then widely adopted by the counterculture.

"Even so, the Aztecs grew more frantic toward the end," (page 264). The Aztecs allow Wilson and Shea to tie together the Holocaust (page 264), the monsters of the Cthulhu mythos (e.g., with Aztec deities such as Tlaloc who demand blood sacrifices) and even Atlantis (Atlantis is cited as an influence on both Mesoamerican and Egyptian art).

"Tobias Knight," the pentuple agent for FBI, CIA, A A, the Illuminati and the Legion of Dynamic Discord. 

"Why me?" Hagbard repeated with a smile. "The question asked by the soldier as the enemy bullets whistle around him, by the harmless homeowner as the homicidal maniac steps through the kitchen door hunting knife in hand, by the woman who has given birth to a dead baby, by the prophet who has just had a revelation of the word of God, by the artist who knows his latest painting is a work of genius." (page 265) Aren't these great lines? Compare with Abraham Lincoln, "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history."


Sir Francis Drake


"He was holding a bowling ball in his hand ... " page 267. Robert Putney Drake's ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, who helped preserve English liberty (and thus the classical liberal tradition) from the would-be invaders of England from the Spanish Armada; he allegedly was playing bowls when informed of the approach of the Spanish fleet, and supposedly remarked cooly that there was plenty of time to finish the game. He also sailed around the world, tying together with the exploration theme in Illuminatus!.

"Saul's angry, triumphant eyes start into mine, and I look away guiltily," (page 268). This is what comes right after (page 192) "I don't know what your game is but I sure as hell know who you are. You're Joseph Malik!"

" ... in another time track ... " page 270. Illuminatus! can be described as a sequence of seemingly random time tracks that gradually can be seen to coalesce into one very elaborate, but generally coherent plot.

"shoggoth," page 270, monster from H.P. Lovecraft, which Wilson and Shea tie together with the "Bugs Bunny Mythos." I loved Bugs Bunny when I was a kid.

"That same mixture of revelation and put-on is always the language of the supra-conscious," page 271. It's certainly the language of Illuminatus! Being serious about the put-on is also the habit of science fiction fandom; the model for Simon Moon, who is speaking here, is prominent science fiction fan  Neal Rest.  Shea also was a fan. Fans helped give birth to many aspects of popular culture, such as the zine movement.

"Crazy bastard thinks he's Captain Nemo." (page 271). Hagbard's submarine alludes of course not just to the Beatles song but to Jules Verne.

"Except for Drake's power drive," page 272. Which, in the end, undoes Robert Putney Drake. In Richard Blake's novel The Blood of Alexandria, a mysterious character named the Mistress tells the protagonist Aelric, an important official in the Roman Empire, "Yours is the empire of the sword and the tax gatherer. My empire is of the imagination." The Cthulhu Mythods and the "Illuminatus! mythos" are both empires of the imagination.

(Next week: Page 272, "I. THE FAUST PARSON, SINGULAR" to "not huddled around my shower stall, Page 282).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Adam Gorightly's 'Historia Discordia'


Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia is a very useful book for anyone who wants to understand Illuminatus! and/or Robert Anton Wilson's literary career.

As Adam has shown with his blog commentaries to the Illuminatus! online reading group, Illuminatus! is filled with Discordian symbols, teachings and terminology.

The book is based on a large trove of documents, the Discordian Archives, that Robert Newport gave to Adam. Adam has organized these documents into sections, with commentaries that offer perspective and explanations.

Included are a very rare first edition of Principia Discordia and  a copy of the previously lost Honest Book of Truth, written by Kerry Thornley, which is quoted on the first page of Illuminatus! 

About the latter, Adam writes: "For years, many suspected that The Honest Book of Truth never actually existed, other than a few quotes that Kerry Thornley cooked up… but now, at last, the truth can be told! Lord Omar (Kerry) did indeed compose a work called The Honest Book of Truth, a 15 page irreligious tract that will be reproduced in its entirety in my forthcoming book, Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society.

"As a sidebar, when I was talking to RAW once regarding his thoughts on Thornley as a writer, he told me that Kerry’s most significant work was The Honest Book of Truth—a comment I didn’t know what to make of at the time, because I, like most everyone else, believed that the book never actually existed."

Obviously, this blog post was written shortly before the book was issued; citation here.

While RAW and Robert Shea took a lot from Discordianism, Adam's book makes it clear that they also gave a lot back. I thought the first part of the book, in which Kerry and Hill create Discordianism and make themselves the leaders of the movement, was a little flat. It only really takes off when RAW, the best and funniest writers among the Discordians, started contributing prank letters and other documents. I would also argue Illuminatus! did a great deal to promote Discordianism, perhaps even making it seem a little more interesting than it actually is.

Discordianism also became more interesting when Greg Hill opened it up to allow everyone to become a Pope, a development that Adam documents in his book (page 117).  As Adam writes,  this change transformed Principia Discordia "into more of an art project than a religious tract" (page 116).

John Higgs also has written a review.

(Disclosure: Although I would have eventually bought a copy of the book, Mr. Gorightly's publisher, perhaps sensing that the weirdoes who read this blog might be interested, sent me a review copy.)

UPDATE: Adam has another Eris of the month. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Update on Robert Anton Wilson fans website

Joseph Matheny, who hosts the very valuable Robert Anton Wilson Fans website of RAW material (videos, audio, articles, letters, interviews, etc.) now reports that he plans to migrate the currently-down site, and all of his other sites,  to a new location:

We’ll be back! No, not like the Terminator, but something new and exciting for the future. We’re moving servers, uploading a lot of the old Greylodge material, crafting a new interface, new database search tools, all kinds of tech-craft to make finding what you want on our site archives so much easier. So, don’t despair, we’ll be back this fall and we’ll be better. Until then, have a great remainder of your summer!

Follow the  above link for more information.

In the meantime, I have put up a link under "Resources" for "Robert Anton Wilson at the Internet Archive." Scroll down to download your free copy of Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Session. I bought it when it first came out, but now Matheny has made it available for free.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New comic book from Bobby Campbell


Bobby Campbell has issued the new digital comic book AGNOSIS #1 — #FINDTHEOTHERS. It is 64 pages long and available for $1.95 as a digital download here.  I bought my copy right after it came out and read it the next night.

It's written by Bobby with rather good art from Marcelino Balao III. RAW fans will enjoy the work, as it is dense with allusions to Bob, Timothy Leary, James Joyce, Robert Shea, Aleister Crowley, etc., and will enjoy seeing some of their concepts brought to life in Balao's art. I particularly liked the No Bunny and the entire panel illustration the eight circuit model of consciousness. I hope Bobby sends this to Alan Moore and gets a response.

There's no DRM, so I was able to download my copy, back it up online, and then transfer it to a tablet for convenient lie-on-the-couch viewing.

Also available: Weird Comix #1, an anthology from Bobby (for just 99 cents).

I interviewed Bobby earlier this year.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New John Higgs book

While we wait for John Higgs' big alternative history of the 20th century, he is meanwhile coming out with a short ebook on the British monarchy.


                          John Higgs, loyal subject of British pet Elizabeth II

Our Pet Queen: A New Perspective on Monarchy will be issued Tuesday by Random House. The blurb says, "In the modern, democratic twenty-first century, the notion of an unelected, dynastic monarchy is not easy to defend.This new book argues that the current monarchy is by far the best system for choosing a Head of State - providing that it is understood that we are not subjects and that the monarchy are not our superiors. They are, in actual fact, our pets.
 
"In this original eBook, John Higgs, author of the The 20th Century: An Alternative History, makes an argument in favour of the monarchy that will annoy royalists even more than it will annoy republicans. This is a tongue-in-cheek, witty examination of the persistence of monarchy in the modern world."

On his blog, Higgs comments, "It's a continuation of what seems to be a major theme in my books, namely that looking at the world rationally leaves you far more bewildered and angry than when you recognise and enjoy the magical thinking that really shapes the world.

"It's 15,000 words, contains revolutions and beheadings, and you can pre-order now from Amazon UK for £1.94 or from Amazon.com for $3.25."

Higgs isn't the only British author I follow who has written on the monarchy. Sean Gabb aka Richard Blake, in this essay, wrote a defense of the institution.

Sean is not a fan of the current queen, but adds, "This does not, in itself, make a republic desirable. Americans may be very pleased with an electoral system that has given them so many interesting and even entertaining heads of state. But, from an English point of view, American history is something more enjoyably observed than suffered."

A couple of graphs later, he adds,

"Symbolic functions aside, the practical advantage of having a monarchy is that the head of state is chosen by the accident of birth and not by some corrupted system of election; and that the head of state is likely to show a longer term, more proprietorial interest in the country than someone who has lied his way to one or two terms of office.  (This is the essential argument of the German libertarian Hans-Herman Hoppe`s book Democracy: The God that Failed.)"

I'll bet a dialogue between these two gentlemen, both subjects of Her Majesty the Queen, would be interesting.

I still feel a patriotic loyalty to the American system, where every four to eight years, we get rid of our president and replace him with one who is equally bad. I only wish our president was about as powerless as the British hereditary monarch.




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

'The Internet's Own Boy'


Aaron Swartz

Robert Anton Wilson never got around to writing his Tale of the Tribe book, but for him and for many other libertarian-minded folk, the role of the Internet in modern life has been important.

The late Aaron Swartz, in an interview in The Internet's Own Boy, a new documentary about his life and death, talks about two opposing views of the Internet: The idea that it provides a new method for achieving freedom that will liberate us all, and the notion that it provides a way for the government and others to spy on us all of the time. Both conceptions have a measure of truth, and which prevails will depend on us, Swartz observes.

I watched The Internet's Own Boy on the free, Creative Commons version posted at the Internet Archive. I strongly recommend taking the time to watch it if you are interested in Internet issues. (Kudos to Steve Pratt for also trying to draw attention to it.)  It's a fine documentary, focusing on Swartz's intellectual gifts, his contributions in politics and programming, his efforts to make information available on the Internet, and his death after he downloaded a large number of documents from the MIT computer system and was hit with a federal prosecution and threatened with up to 35 years in prison.

There's an interesting irony in the movie. It's clear that the Obama Administration's Justice Department, obsessed with secrecy and with crushing anyone who represented a challenge to the system, wanted to make an example of Swartz. Instead, although they are likely no worse than many other tyrannical government officials, the movie "makes an example" of Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann, who hounded Swartz to his death over a minor crime. Incidentally, President Obama has gone out of his way to make it clear that while Ortiz and Heymann may be unprincipled thugs, they're his thugs: His attorney general, Eric Holder, told a Congressional committee that the hounding of Swartz was "a good use of prosecutorial discretion."



Monday, August 18, 2014

Week 26, Illuminatus online reading group


Atlantis

(This week: Page 252, " 'What color where they?' he said suddenly to Hagbard," to page 262, "until long after this meeting is over, Mr. Muldoon.")

In this section, we get a good dose of Illuminati paranoia and more about Atlantis.

One of my sisters told me a few days ago about an old friend of hers believed she was being spied on by the government all of the time. In a sense, of course, my sister's friend is correct: The U.S. government apparently has telephone records for pretty much everyone. But it's probably not likely that the Tulsa police were personally targeting the woman, although my sister could not convince her otherwise.

On page 256, Hagbard Celine offers five explanations for why the Illuminati either do or do not rule the world; you can take your pick for your favorite. But if you do believe there is an Illuminati, you are allowed to be paranoid about them, whether or not you think they are in charge.

It's been said that Illuminatus! ties together many conspiracies.

There's also a lot of myth, and a lot of romantic history. We get the Assassins, the Vikings (Celine's ship is named the Leif Ericson), Greek myth (in the form of Eris) and Atlantis, a myth which has its roots in ancient Greece. As we noted last week, RAW said that the Atlantis parts were all Shea. And judging from his solo novels, all historical novels, Shea was a a big ancient and medieval history buff.

The Atlantis myth comes from an account in Plato; when I was young, developing my own interest in history, I read about one theory, that the Atlantis account was a distorted account of what happened to a Minoan community in the island of Santorini, destroyed by a volcanic eruption. 

Of course, there are many accounts of Atlantis; it would appear that the Illuminatus! account owes something to Ignatius Donnelly's Atlantis: The Antideluvian World.  I don't have time to try to read it now, but Wikipedia says, "Many of its theories are the source of many modern-day concepts we have about Atlantis, like the civilization and technology beyond its time, the origins of all present races and civilizations, a civil war between good and evil, etc."

Wikipedia says that Donnelly's book inspired my favorite Donovan song, "Atlantis," which I once saw the singer perform live, as the opening act for Yes. The song was a big hit in the U.S., although less so in Great Britain, where the single "the single managed only a modest No. 23 placing," Wikipedia says.  Did Wilson or Shea dig the song?


Here is a map from the Donnelly book, showing the empire of Atlantis. Apparently the ancient Atlanteans even occupied what is now the state of Ohio, where I live. The statues George Dorn gazes on "bore resemblance to Egyptian and Mayan," page 257. 

A couple of notes:

Peos, page 255. The name of the Atlantean city of Peos may come from Edgar Cayce, the alleged seer.

Gruad, page 258, first Illuminatus in Atlantis, 30,000 B.C. 

Zwack, page 261, Franz Xavier von Zwack A member of the Bavarian Illuminati, associated with Adam Weishaupt.

(Next week: Page 262, "It was the night of February 2, 1776" to page 272, "Except for Drake's power drive.")

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Discordian (mostly) news roundiup

I was away on a family gathering in Oregon for a few days, so I need to get caught up:


(1) Neil Rest and Daisy Eris Campbell at the world science fiction convention currently being held in London. Daisy posted this on Twitter, writing, "Just met the guy that Simon Moon was part-based on! #Illuminatus"

(2) Jesse Walker on Discordianism, at Io9. 

(3) Michael Johnson on Swift, Marx and Robert Anton Wilson.

(4) The Lost Treasure of Eris has been found. 

(5) Things to Stop Being Distracted By When a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police. (Via Supergee)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Neal Stephenson novel announced


Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson, maybe my favorite living writer, will be coming out with a new book, Seveneves, on April 14. It's apparently a science fiction novel; a few meagre details have been released. There's no information yet at the crummy official page or the other crummy official page.  

There is also a mysterious announcement for yet another new book to come out next year, BombLight.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Is Bloomsday tied to the Illuminati?

The excellent Groupname for Grapejuice blog has a new post up, "A Blooming, Buzzing Infusion," which investigates the possible occult links to June 16, the date that is the setting for James Joyce's Ulysses.

The Dublin Hermetic Society, which included W.B. Yeats, held its first meeting on June 16, 1885, blogger Znore explains.

[Joyce biographer] Ellmann does not suggest, to my knowledge, that this opening meeting of the Dublin Hermetic Society had anything to do with Joyce setting Ulysses on June 16th. It is quite a coincidance, though, that this magical order first met on the same day in Dublin that Nora first performed her own version of sex magick with Jim during a walk through the same city streets. Yeats's profound influence on Joyce is clearly evident and the question is begged: was Joyce in on the conspiracy?

Znore then demonstrates how June 16 is tied to the Zoroastrian religious calendar and provides citations to show how the Bavarian Illuminati were inspired by the Persian fire cult. His long post also discusses the neopagan calendar created by Ezra Pound and how Robert Anton Wilson was very familiar with it. If his post is correct, Illuminatus! is even more inspired by the work of James Joyce than we already thought.

I can't really do justice to Znore's post with this short blog entry. I had missed, for example, the fact that Aleister Crowley gave Ulysses a rave review, although Steve "Fly" Pratt knew. 

I've belatedly added Groupname for Grapejuice to the "Sangha" blog list on the right side of the page. This was an oversight on my part and I'm pleased to finally correct it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday links

New York Times columnist (and prominent economist) Paul Krugman on "Libertarian Fantasies." Another Times columnist, Tyler Cowen, comments on the piece. Krugman appears to me to miss the point -- a basic income guarantee, like guaranteed health coverage, makes sure everyone gets help.

The government wants to take away an older woman's money because, well, it's the government.

Celebrities explain what they are reading this summer.  "I was a little kid when KLF were releasing music. I always wondered why the term Mu Mu kept cropping up in their chart hits. For a child from Nigeria, it sounded a lot like a word we used to call people stupid. Then a few years later, I heard they burned a million pounds on an island somewhere and was even more confused. I hope John Higgs helps me get to the bottom of this whole thing."

New science fiction anthology inspired by Neal Stephenson. 

When James Joyce went to Africa on a word hunting safari. I think it was Brian Eno who said that the problem with computers is that they don't have enough Africa in them.






Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shopping for peace


Angela Keaton, left, engaging in a pillow warfare at a Libertarian Party of California gathering in 2008, in spite of her antiwar principles.

These days, when I shop at Amazon, I do so via "Amazon Smile." It's Amazon's charity initiative. Your prices don't go up, but Amazon donates 0.5 percent of your purchases to the charity that you choose.

I chose Antiwar.com.

Angela Keaton (director of operations at Antiwar.com) explains,

Antiwar.com's parent organization, the Randolph Bourne Institute, has enrolled Amazon.com's "Smile" program. Through Smile, we will receive 0.5% of the money you spend at Amazon so long as you get there using the link https://smile.amazon.com/ch/71-0929026.

We'll be working to convert our "regular" Amazon affiliate links to Smile links for some extra juice -- 0.5% PLUS "affiliate commissions." You probably shop at Amazon anyway. When you do it this way, you support Antiwar.com at no extra cost to yourself.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Zine interview with RAW

Adam Gorightly has uncovered a zine interview with Robert Anton Wilson,  apparently published in the mid to late 1980s, from the zine "Off the Deep End." I think it's an interview that hasn't been available on the net before, but it's hard to check that, since RAWilsonfans.com remains down as of this writing. Anyway, Adam has posted the interview.

Excerpt:

T.C. [Tim Cridland]: You've written a number of books on widely differing subjects. Is there an underlying subject or theme that runs through all your works?

R.A.W.: Yes. The underlying theme is that there are a lot of available realities, and you don't have to live your life in the one your parents bought. There are plenty of  hucksters out there selling alternative realities, and you can buy any one you want for yourself. Or, you don't have to buy any of them -- you can look at them all as an anthropologist does. Or you can rent them and go from one reality to another, trying various ones out, until you find one you like best. Or  you can keep on moving forever without tunneling in any of them. 

As for RAWilsonfans.com, the site's host, Joseph Matheny, explains that he is moving all of his websites and that it should be back up soon.




Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 25, Illuminatus! online reading group


Robert Shea

(This week: Page 242, "Waving their crosses over their heads and howling incoherently," to Page 252, "His mother was Norwegian.")

We tend, as we read through Illuminatus!, to focus on Robert Anton Wilson, and his obvious literary influences, such as James Joyce. 

But this section of Illuminatus!, with its underwater battle at the ancient city of Peos in Atlantis, is redolent of lost cities, weapons of super science, ancient races, alien creatures, old science fiction novels such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, action-packed pulp sequences. It sounds a lot like something written by a science fiction, and not a young one; rather, a science fiction fan who might have read old pulp magazines decades ago. It sounds a lot like Robert Shea.

And indeed, in the Robert Anton Wilson interview reproduced in Science Fiction: An Oral History by D. Scott Apel, RAW says flatly, "Atlantis is all by Shea." 

The introspective passages in the Atlantis segment sound rather like RAW, so perhaps he had a hand in these. But the narrative passages remind me of Shea's novels, the ones he wrote after losing his job at "Playboy" magazine and reinventing himself as a historical novelist.

The biography in Wikipedia is really not very good; to know about Shea's ties to science fiction and science fiction fandom, you have to read elsewhere. 

See, for example, this essay by Shea on his relationship with Larry T. Shaw, the legendary science fiction magazine editor, a piece I found when I tracked down back issues of Shea's fanzine, No Governor. Shea writes, "I met Larry Shaw at a gathering of the Hydra Club, a science fiction professionals' association, in 1959."

This sentence places Shea at the heart of science fiction fandom in New York City. Wikipedia helpfully explains, "The Hydra Club was a social organization of science fiction professionals and fans. It met in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s.

"It was founded October 25, 1947 in the apartment of Judith Merril and Frederik Pohl on Grove Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York. As nine founders were present, the club took its name from the legendary nine-headed monster, the Hydra.

"Among its members were Lester del Rey, David A. Kyle, Frederik Pohl, Judith Merril, Martin Greenberg, Robert W. Lowndes, Philip Klass, Jack Gillespie, David Reiner, L. Jerome Stanton, Fletcher and Inga Pratt, Willy Ley, George O. Smith, Basil Davenport, Sam Merwin, Harry Harrison, and J. Harry Dockweiler."

Here is a 1951 article about the Hydra Club by Judith Merrill, featuring a caricature of many of its members.

Notice that on the official Robert Shea page, maintained by his son, Mike Shea, you'll see that Shea's first published stories were in magazines such as "Fantastic Universe" and "If." (I miss "If" and "Galaxy." I know that dates me.)

It's clear from the Shea essay on Shaw that Shaw was a mentor in many ways -- in teaching Shea about how to work at magazines, in helping to introduce Shea to anarchism, in helping Shea with his fiction and in getting Shea involved in science fiction fandom:

Larry was a quintessential science fiction fan. He had come to New York City from Schenectady in the 1940s and had been a member of that legendary science fiction fan club, the Futurians. He was editor of Infinity, a respected magazine that flourished and perished along with the sf boom of the late 50s. He was always working on one fanzine or another.

Larry and his wife Noreen were among the members of the Fanoclasts, and with their encouragement I boldly went deeper into fannish realms than I'd ever gone before. He introduced me to the fascinating people who were active in New York fandom in the 60s and got me to read fanzines from the stacks he kept on his coffee table. He even inspired me to start a publication of my own, a mimeographed literary magazine called The Scene, ancestral to the journal you hold in your hands.

Yikes! Where can I find copies of "The Scene"?

Shea stayed on at "Playboy" after Wilson left and remained in the Chicago area. Wilson explains in Cosmic Trigger 3 what happened next: "When Playboy fired him, Shea endured terrible anxiety about keeping his house, and dashed off a few novel outlines while looking for another job. He sold is first novel before finding a job and never stopped writing again."

Shea's first "solo" novel, Shike: Time of the Dragons, came out in 1981. He published several historical novels before he died of cancer, age 61, in 1994. His widow, the late Patricia Monaghan, is listed on the faculty of Maybe Logic Academy. I exchanged some emails with Monaghan, herself a respected author and expert on paganism, and I was very sorry to discover as I prepared this blog post that she died in 2012. I wish somebody had told me about it at the time. She was a very nice lady and always was helpful to me when I researched Shea for this blog.


Patricia Monaghan 

Shea's novels are all still available in one form or another, thanks to the efforts of his son, Mike Shea, who maintains the official Shea page.

I am very fond of All Things Are Lights, which I have argued is a "thematic prequel" to Illuminatus! Monaghan wrote to me in a 2011 email, "All Things are Lights is my favorite of Bob's books, I'm glad you wrote about it."

Here is an email exchange I had with Monaghan about All Things Are Lights, taken from this blog post: 

From my email:

I'm very fond of "All Things Are Lights," and I tend to think of it as a kind of prequel to ILLUMINATUS!, as there are references to many topics covered in the other work, such as the Assassins, the Templars, secret societies and so on.

But I did not notice any directly links between the two works. Were there any names I missed that are common to both works, or anything else that directly ties the two works together? Do you remember if Mr. Shea ever said anything about the relationship between the two?

Part of Dr. Monaghan's reply:

I'm glad you like All Things, which is such a terrific book. You are right in the "prequel" idea in that Bob's interest in secret societies and such folded over from Ill! to All Things, but there was not direct connection. What drove Bob as an historical novelist was an interest in the underdogs of history, the people who were "lost" from a historical point of view. (I keep thinking that Saracen should be made into a movie, now, with the rise in interest in the Islamic world--but of course Bob's Muslim characters weren't terrorists! Well...they were...sort of....) The Cathars were persecuted in what was really a land-grab by the French against the Spanish--in Languedoc today, you can still see, in bars, maps of France before and after the "Albigensian crusade," which make very clear that France exploded in size after grabbing that land. Bob's last published book, Shaman, looked at the Black Hawk War from the Indian side. That was his way--always to focus on the "other" in any historical situation.

(Next week: Page 252, " 'What color where they?' he said suddenly to Hagbard," to page 262, "until long after this meeting is over, Mr. Muldoon.")

Sunday, August 10, 2014

L. Neil Smith is seriously ill

I am making an exception to my "one post a day" rule to pass on some breaking news: Science fiction author L. Neil Smith, a hardcore libertarian heavily influenced by Wilson and Shea, has suffered a stroke but is recovering. Sean Gabb has posted news about this. Let's hope he has a full recovery and can resume writing and attending conventions.

William Burroughs, the occult and H.P. Lovecraft


Matthew Levi Stevens

So, John Merritt sends me a link to this Reality Sandwich article, "The Beat Godfather, the Great Beast, & the Necronomicon," about the connections between William Burroughs, the occult and H.P. Lovecraft (among other things), and I wondered if Oz had seen it. Then I wondered if the rest of you had seen it.

It's from a new book, The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs.  The author is Matthew Levi Stevens. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

RAW, from anarchism to libertarianism


Jake Shannon

Jake Shannon, who finds all kinds of interesting items for his Discordian Libertarians group, finds an interesting quote from RAW:

My early work is politically anarchist fiction, in that I was an anarchist for a long period of time. I'm not an anarchist any longer, because I've concluded that anarchism is an impractical ideal. Nowadays, I regard myself as a libertarian. I suppose an anarchist would say, paraphrasing what Marx said about agnostics being "frightened atheists," that libertarians are simply frightened anarchists. Having just stated the case for the opposition, I will go along and agree with them: yes, I am frightened. I'm a libertarian because I don't trust the people as much as anarchists do. I want to see government limited as much as possible; I would like to see it reduced back to where it was in Jefferson's time, or even smaller. But I would not like to see it abolished. I think the average American, if left totally free, would act exactly like Idi Amin. I don't trust the people any more than I trust the government.

"Robert Anton Wilson: Searching For Cosmic Intelligence" - interview by Jeffrey Elliot (1980)

Jake has a new book out, which I plan to read soon. He also has a blog. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Illuminatus!, Week 24

THERE IS NO ENEMY ANYWHERE

Adam Gorightly has a new post up about the business card of page 236 of Illuminatus! that says, "There is no enemy anywhere."

It's an actual card that Greg Hill  used to give out as part of Operation Mindfuck, and as Adam points out, there is a serious point behind it. He explains that it was a "LDD programming tool" (e.g., the Discordian "Legion of Dynamic Discord") and that it "was another method to deliver a new imprint to Oedipuski’s head—that neither the radical right or radical left were 'real' enemies of one another—and that to become truly free, one needed to escape the Us-Against-Them groupthink matrix."

The "Us-Against-Them groupthink matrix" is a regular feature of U.S. politics, and is generally used to disguise the fact that the most important decisions already have been made -- it's OK for a U.S. president to start a new war anytime he wants, it's OK for the government to spy on everyone and assemble massive dossiers, it's OK to give massive amounts of tax money to Israel,  it's OK  to give away tax money to support specific private enterprises, and so on. These are policy positions that most Democrats and Republicans agree on, regardless of their supposedly important partisan differences.

I'll also add that much of the U.S. political system is driven by classifying foreigners are "enemies." Politicians from both parties are forever reminding us that they want to take away our jobs through trade, they want to swarm across the borders to live next to us, they want to commit acts of terrorism against us, they want to force us to do something about global warming, and on and on and on.

I'm afraid I've taken Adam's post and gone off on a bit of a rant. So to return to his post, it's another illustration of how knowing the history of Discordianism can educate the reader on how the movement had a strong influence on the text of Illuminatus! 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Libertarians discuss basic income guarantee

The Cato Institute, a Washington think tank with a libertarian perspective, has launched a series of articles to debate the basic income guarantee, an idea that has been championed by a number of libertarian-leaning folks (including Robert Anton Wilson). First up is this piece by Matt Zwolinski. 

Not everyone thinks this is a great idea. Justin Raimondo, in his full-on "libertarian pope" mode, issued a series of Tweets (such as this one) that denounced the idea of having even a discussion, essentially issuing a fatwa against any libertarians who advocate for the idea.

I understand where Justin is coming from; in a larger sense, this is the usual debate between libertarians who want to fight for the vision of the libertarian utopia they carry around in their heads, vs. the folks who recognize that utopia isn't scheduled to arrive anytime soon and that there are things that can be done to move the current system into a more libertarian direction. Justin is apparently beaming his Tweets from a planet that doesn't have an expensive and intrusive welfare bureaucracy; that's not what obtains in the U.S. on Planet Earth. To put it a different way, we're going to have a taxation system that takes away large sums of money from people for the immediate future; what are we going to do with that money? Do we have to use all of it to build bombs and spy on people?

Jesse Walker, meanwhile, has a piece on Reason arguing that the welfare system can be made more like a basic income guarantee system, to make it less intrusive.

Jesse writes, "When libertarians discuss this idea, a great deal of stress gets put on the idea that the grants should replace the existing programs completely and not merely add another payment to the mix. With that proviso, the proposal attracts a lot of libertarian support: The new system would be less paternalistic, less bureaucratic, and possibly (depending on the details) less costly than the old one. But the proviso isn't exactly politically realistic. Replacing the entire welfare state in one fell swoop is a tall order, especially if you want to include popular middle-class entitlements as part of the deal. Zwolinski admits that the scenario is, for the time being at least, 'a bit of speculative fancy.' "

If you are going to have a really adequate basic income guarantee, then it makes no sense to keep the rest of the welfare state. I hope libertarians don't give up on the idea too quickly just because it isn't "politically realistic." Marijuana legalization wasn't "politically realistic" in the U.S. until very recently.

Thanks to John Merritt for help with this blog post.

UPDATE: Merritt notes the issue also is being debated in Germany.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Illuminatus! reading group notes

A couple of notes on the Illuminatus! online reading group: We've gotten through most of the first book, The Eye in the Pyramid, and I've added to the list of posts to give page numbers for each post; if there is a passage that particularly interests you, you can easily find the particular posting and see what the various contributors said about it. This should become more useful as we get farther along.

My offer to invite anyone who wants to give it a try to submit a guest post still stands; as we are going in increments of about 10 pages, you could work a few of weeks in advance and pretty much figure out which section you'd be writing about.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Week 24, Illuminatus! online reading group



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

And though she feels as if she's in a play
She is anyway

"Penny Lane," Lennon and McCartney

Here we get into a self-referential bit of the book. (The artwork by Bobby Campbell posted above, his kind effort to help promote the group reading, references the original Dell cover art and also the cover of the Dell omnibus edition, which I assume is what most of you have.)

At Confrontation magazine, the editor, top researcher and top reporter have all disappeared, but Peter Jackson is trying to put out the next issue, anyway; at least he still has other writers (page 238). Epicene Wildeblood has promised a review of an unnamed new work:

"It's a dreadfully long monster of a book," Wildeblood says pettishly, "and I certainly won't have time to read it, but I'm giving it a thorough skimming. The authors are utterly incompetent— no sense of style or structure at all. It starts out as a detective story, switches to science-fiction, then goes off into the supernatural, and is full of the most detailed information of dozens of ghastly boring subjects. And the time sequence is all out of order in a very pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce. Worst yet, it has the most raunchy sex scenes, thrown in just to make it sell, I'm sure, and the authors— whom I've never heard of— have the supreme bad taste to introduce real political figures into this mishmash and pretend to be exposing a real conspiracy. You can be sure I won't waste time reading such rubbish, but I'll have a perfectly devastating review ready for you by tomorrow noon."

In a couple of ways, Illuminatus! is ahead of its time. The self-referential aspect of the book now seems familiar, but many of the books that do similar things came after: Martin Amis' Money, whose characters include an author named "Martin Amis," came out in 1984; Richard Powers' Galatea 2.2, which includes a character named "Richard Powers," came out in 1995.

Similarly, authors ranging from Margaret Atwood to Michael Chabon to Kate Atkinson have helped blur the line between genre "pop" fiction and literary fiction, but Illuminatus! came before them, and even now a novel that explicitly invokes both James Joyce and H.P. Lovecraft feels unusual.

"Well, we don't expect you to read every book  you review," Peter says mollifyingly (page 239). Gore Vidal used to allege in print that some reviewers didn't actually read the books they write about, although I can't come up with a citation right away.

A couple of notes:

"The only hope for the left at this time is coalition politics. We can't exclude anybody who wants to join us." Page 239. The sorts of debates that Shea and Wilson are still satirizing still play out; I've read articles on left leaning websites that say progressives should not participate in peace or civil liberties rallies with libertarians, because, well, icky libertarians!

"There's an article in there by the University College physicist F.R. Stannard ... " page 241. Nick Helweg-Larsen actually tracked down a copy of the paper; for more on this, go here. 

(Next week: Page 242, "Waving their crosses over their heads and howling incoherently," to Page 252, "His mother was Norwegian.")


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Illuminati 'recruitment' in Illuminatus!

The comments are often the best part in the weekly Illuminatus! online discussions. There were a lot of good comments for episode 23. 

One that stuck with me was Oz Fritz's comment about Iluminatus! as a recruitment tool for the Illuminati. He wrote, "Speaking of eternal serpent power and the Illuminati Secret RAW writes of in CT1 recalls hearing a recent internet rumor that the Illuminatti are recruiting. They need more Illuminati and Illuminatus! tells you how. Maybe this book functions as a clandestine (or not so clandestine) recruitment algorithm?"

This is perhaps an example of a serious intent behind all of the Illuminati jokes. In Appendix Lamed, the authors write, "This book, being part of the only serious conspiracy it describes — that is, Operation Mindfuck — has programmed the reader in ways that he or she will not understand for a period of months, or perhaps years."

Adam Gorightly's new Historia Discordia has many documents that shed light on Illuminatus!, but one of the most interesting, for me,  is the "Constitution of the Illuminati" on page 109, which Gorightly attributes to Wilson and Shea. It lists "Five Rare Precepts" (perhaps playing off the Five Precepts of Buddhism?) Here are Shea and Wilson's "Five Rare Precepts," which I'm reprinting after asking Adam's permission:

1) We renounce and oppose the use of coercion in human affairs, whether for the purpose of monopolizing land or industrial property, resolving disputes, or that of advancing any political cause;

2) We renounce and oppose the use of deception and secrecy in human affairs, except for the purpose of an occasional harmless put-on now and then;

3) We adhere to the principles of participatory democracy, decentralism, and individualism within our association;

4) We give unqualified support to freedom of expression and freedom of belief;

5) Our specific purpose is to promote understanding and appreciation of anarchist ideas and practices in the political realm; we also encourage and support the cultural anarchism of surrealism and dada in the arts.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Supergee news roundup


Arthur Hlavaty, right, was the fannish guest of honor at the recently-concluded NASFiC in Detroit, along with Bernadette Bosky, center, and Kevin Maroney, left. Bosky is mentioned in the acknowledgements of Robert Shea's classic novel, All Things Are Lights. Maroney is the publisher of the New York Review of Science Fiction. 

Longtime science fiction fan and Discordian Arthur Hlavaty, still typing away frantically, has posted his latest Nice Distinctions zine, which includes some of the best material from his ongoing Supergee blog. and also has posted The Island of Dr. Gernsback 2.0.  Also, ICYMI, his excellent Robert Heinlein piece is here.  I notice that Arthur is listed in the "A Who's Who of Early Discordianism," one of the features in Adam Gorightly's new Historia Discordia. 

Bonus science fiction link: The hot new science fiction novel, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, raises a few eyebrows (fourth item, beginning with "Gregory Feeley").

Friday, August 1, 2014

The hippie physicist reads Timothy Leary reading the hippie physicist


Nick Herbert looks at Timothy Leary's handwritten comments on a copy of Herbert's book. 

The most interesting "hippie physicist," Nick Herbert, blogs about his discovery that Timothy Leary had read, and annotated, a copy of Herbert's book Quantum Reality. It was part of "a room full of materials that the New York Public Library decided not to include in their Tim Leary collection."

In the comments, Jack Sarfatti wants to know if Leary mentioned him or Saul-Paul Sirag. (All three are mentioned in RAW's Cosmic Trigger).