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

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jesse Walker talks about conspiracy theories

Jesse Walker

When Jesse Walker, author of The United States of Paranoia, talks about conspiracies, the result is likely to be interesting. And so it was when Jesse talked to DigBoston. My favorite bit was when Jesse talked about conspiracy theories that likely had something to them:

Tell me a little bit about your paranoia. Have you ever found yourself nodding in agreement with a disreputable, perhaps even absurd, conspiracy story?

Jesse Walker: Not any absurd ones, I’d hope. As far as merely disreputable theories go… Well, I think there’s a lot of unanswered questions about the Malcolm X assassination. Of course that’s one that everyone acknowledges was a conspiracy, since we know there were multiple gunmen. But we don’t know how far it went. I’m in no sense an authority on the topic, so take anything I say here with a grain of salt, but I think Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm X [Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention] raises a bunch of significant questions about his murder. Marable was a respected scholar, so I wouldn’t call him disreputable; but his willingness to raise questions about the police’s behavior might stray into disreputable territory.

There are also plausible arguments—not proven, but plausible—that Timothy McVeigh had more than just one accomplice in the Oklahoma City bombing. He was plugged into that whole radical-right network around Elohim City, Oklahoma, and I can’t just dismiss some of the claims people have made about a wider plot there.

Sometimes I accept a non-conspiratorial version of a conspiracy story. It’s obvious, for example, that the people who meet at Bilderberg wield a lot of power, in the same sense that the people who meet at Davos wield a lot of power. But there’s a difference between recognizing that these are powerful people and embracing this strange notion that Bilderberg is the annual Lollapalooza where the big decisions get made. It’s an elite institution; it’s not some sort of secret parliament.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Artwork and memes from New Trajectories

The New Trajectories Tumblr (e.g. Bobby Campbell) has been putting up lots of good RAW artworks and memes. The above is one of my favorites, but go look at the other ones, too.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Wall Street Journal: Rand Paul opposes getting intel on terrorists!

Rand Paul 

Thursday's Wall Street Journal had a perfect example of the kind of cynicism and dishonesty that pervades so much political rhetoric in this country.

The newspaper ran an opinion piece by Daniel Henninger: "Rand Paul Liberates the iPhone." As you can guess from the title, it's another WSJ piece about how unreasonable civil libertarians are for complaining that the NSA should not be allowed to spy on everyone. The whole piece is filled with nonsense, but I want to call attention to a sentence in the first paragraph:

Barack Obama’s miracle race to the White House notwithstanding, it’s always been a long shot that Rand Paul could jump from a single Senate term into the Oval Office. It’s now clear that he knows it, too. After experimenting with various policy thrusts, Kentucky’s freshman senator has fastened his candidacy to restricting the U.S.’s collection of telephone data about terrorist groups, such as Islamic State, which are transforming the Middle East into an apocalyptic, region-wide war. His awkward geopolitical timing makes this a long shot.

Notice how the smear and the lie, which I've boldfaced for your convenience, is casually inserted in what purports to be a factual piece in one of America's major newspapers. Without any citations, Henninger simply states that Paul opposes wiretapping Islamic terrorists. Gosh, Paul must be a crazy libertarian radical!

Of course, Paul has never said he opposes collecting evidence against terrorism, and he never would say such a thing.

Try to imagine, for a moment, that the Congress not only banned mass collection of telephone metadata by the NSA, but also required a warrant for intelligence collection in the U.S. (This is a more radical proposal than anything the Congress is likely to pass, but it would bring domestic U.S. intel into compliance with the Fourth Amendment).

Imagine an FBI agent who has evidence of Islamic terrorist activity asking a U.S. district judge for immediate authorization for a wiretap. Is there a district judge anywhere in the U.S. who wouldn't immediately agree? And are we supposed to believe Rand Paul would object to the FBI  obtaining the warrant?

Possibly related: Piece on Medium on "The Age of Disinformation."  Paragraph from the piece (by meteorologist James Spann) talking about the debate on climate change:

I do encourage you to listen to the opposing point of view in the climate debate, but be sure the person you hear admits they can be wrong, and has no financial interest in the issue. Unfortunately, those kind of qualified people are very hard to find these days. It is also hard to find people that discss climate without using the words “neocon” and “libtard”. I honestly can’t stand politics; it is tearing this nation apart.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Will Neal Stephenson talk to me? Probably not ...

Every few years, my favorite living author, Neal Stephenson, puts out another long novel, and I make it a priority to read it. I bought Seveneves well in advance, and I'm about 100 pages into it so far, which is to say I haven't made it very far.

As I've mentioned earlier, there is an interesting parallel between Stephenson and Robert Anton Wilson. Both published novels set in the present which helped make their names (Cryptonomicon and Illuminatus!, respectively) and then published a series of historical novels, featuring ancestors of the characters in the previous novel (e.g., Stephenson the Baroque Cycle, Wilson the Historical Illuminatus! books such as The Earth Will Shake, the Widow's Son, etc.) Probably just coincidence they both did things this way, but who knows?

I do a books blog for my day job, and I interview authors. I've put in an interview request with Stephenson's  publicist. The answer will likely be "No" (actually, it will be interesting to see if I get a response at all), but if I get the interview, I'll ask Stephenson if he got the idea for the historical novels from RAW.

Neal Stephenson. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What is the best time to be alive?

Richard Blake

Historical novelist Richard Blake — engaged with the present, very aware of the past — would seem to be a good person to answer the question, "When was the best time to be alive?" And so Blake answers the question, and sombunall RAW fans may well find that it tracks with with RAW's techno-optimism.  In the ancient world, he explains, life wasn't so great even for the 1 percent:

Look now at the cities. Perhaps one in twenty of those living there were in easy circumstances. The rest were effectively beggars. Their life expectancy was lower than in the country. Or look at the higher classes. They had baths and slaves and pretty clothes. But they had no tea or coffee or proper dentistry, nor any effective pain relief. They had no spectacles. When the black rats turned up with their fleas carrying the Pasteurella pestis bacillus, the rich died just as horribly as the poor.

Related: Blake has a new novel out. I've already bought a copy. 

My interview with Blake (aka Sean Gabb) is here. 

It's one of my better interviews and you really should read it. Here's a bit where he talks about the right language for historical novels:

 This brings me to language, which is a problem in all historical fiction. Let me begin by showing how it shouldn’t be done. Take this:

 The King rose up upon his couch. “Thou shalt, before this night is out,” he quoth, “mount upon thy trusty charger and bring me the head of the false Bobindrell.”

 Whether people may once have spoken like this in England is beside the point. What matters is that it sounds ridiculous now, and it distances a reader from the characters in a novel. Whether your novel is set in England c1550, or some other time and place, here is how I suggest it should be done:

Still smiling, the King leaned closer. “I want the fucker dead,” he breathed. “I don’t care how you do it. Just make sure none of the blame ever drifts my way.” He took another swig from his cup and went back to watching the jugglers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eric Wagner on Waywords and Meansigns

(Today's blog post is a guest post from Eric Wagner — The Mgt.)

“ The Greeks went from oral to written even as we are moving from written to oral. They ‘ended’ in a desert of classified data even as we could ‘end’ in a new tribal encyclopedia of auditory incantation.”

– Marshall McLuhan, Essential McLuhan, pg. 92

One might see the Waywords and Meansigns musical setting of the entirety of Finnegans Wake as “a new tribal encyclopedia of auditory incantation.” Perhaps cargo cults will emerge around these recordings, with young people focusing all their attention on the sound in an attempt to learn to fly. Joyce encouraged readers to simply listen to the text, and these recordings free the text from the written page and the temptation to read the text in a conventional manner. Many people express disappointment and frustration when trying to find “plot” and “character” in Finnegans Wake, and I hope these recordings will put them more at ease. I suspect that John Cage, a Finnegans Wake enthusiast, would have delighted in these recordings. I would recommend reading Phil Dick while listening to these toetapping recordings, but … beware of the results. (Mind your p’s and q’s!)

— Eric Wagner

(Eric Wagner is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Week 66, Illuminatus online reading group

A rendering of Leviathan. Source. 

This week: Raise you five," said Waterhouse, throwing down another five-ton note," page 715, to page 729, "Don't you remember any of the last ten minutes?" said Hagbard.)

I feel a bit stuck in this week's episode; much is explained, but I don't really see how to talk about it without putting a bunch of spoilers in a blog post.

But I do think this section has a passage has a pretty clear exposition of one of the book's main themes, a political and spiritual libertarianism of "do not lay your own trip on others." It comes during Ms. Portinari's Tarot reading, when she is talking about the Buddhist concept of the Wheel:

The most important lesson of all, the one that explains all the horrors and miseries of the world, is that you can get off the Wheel at any point and declare the trip is over. That's okay for any given man or woman, if their ambitions are modest. The trouble starts when, out of fear of further movement — out of fear of growth, out of fear of change, out of fear of Death, out of any kind of fear— such a person tries to stop the Wheel literally, by stopping everybody else. That's when the two great bum trips begin: Religion and Government. The only religion consistent with the whole Wheel is private and personal; the only government consistent with it is self- government. Whoever tries to lay his trip on others is acting from terror, and will soon resort to terror as a weapon if the others won't accept the trip through persuasion. Nobody who understands the whole Wheel will do that, however, for such people understand that every man and every woman and every child is the Self-Begotten One—Jesus motherfucking Christ, in Harry's gorgeous brand of English." 

Also, reading this 14-page chunk of the book with its explanations tying together many of the plot strands reminds me that many of my favorite works of fiction are big works: Works that create their own world. I'm thinking of Illuminatus!, of course, but I'm also thinking of works such as Ulysses (which covers the events of one day, but which contains so much, people are still trying to figure it out); The Lord of the Rings (which according to Tom Shippey, Tolkien thought of in a way as a true history of a world), Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke, Neal Stephenson's long novels, and the way that modern science fiction is dominated, as Eric Flint writes, by series, entire groups of novels. Readers want to immerse themselves into another universe.

And don't you love Joe's realization of the universe all of the characters are in, and the description of the authors as the Secret Chiefs? (Page 722.)

(Next week: End of Leviathan and beginning of the appendices! "George was thinking. He remembered something," page 729, to page 742, "call Gold and Appel Transfers and leave a message," page 742.)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Is a cashless society coming soon?

Richard Stallman

Dan Clemons, a RAW fan in northern Ohio near where I work, calls my attention to a piece in the Telegraph which says that a society that bans cash may not be long in coming. The article, by Jim Leaviss, says it would be easier for the government to take our money away if need be and manipulate the economy under such a system.

It's a really native piece that doesn't so much explore questions such as "manipulate the economy on whose behalf?" as simply ignore them. Then there is this sentence:

Finally, the “black economy” will be hugely diminished, and tax evasion made all but impossible.

What do you want to bet that it won't be "all but impossible" for people who have large amounts of money?

Needless to say, the proposal would also end privacy and allow authorities to track all of our transactions. I notice that Richard Stallman on his website says that he always pays cash when he goes to the store, and urges everyone else to do the same thing. (His official site is quite interesting and worth a look.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Only 38 more times for me to go!

Eric Wagner

An email in March from Eric Wagner, which I forgot to post until now:

"On pg. 151 of my book during the interview I mention that Pound recommended reading forty books by Henry James to help one’s prose style. Bob replied, “Uh-huh. I’d say, Read Ulysses forty times.”

Eric's book that he mentions is An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, which I'll probably re-read when I finish the Illuminatus! online reading group entries. The book includes an Illuminatus! timeline, useful in sorting out the complicated plot.  Looks like I need to read Ulysses again, too.

Eric's book is put out by New Falcon, which has a big sale on RAW's books going on.  Eric's book is also on sale; the Kindle is only $5.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Discordian zine from Britain

From Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia comes word of a new fanzine, Discordia Britannica. The first issue includes Lewis Shiner's interview of RAW (which I've also published) and a piece by Adam. Adam includes information on how to contact the publishers to obtain a copy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One more bit from Eric Flint

Eric Flint

This kind of puts "someone said something mean about me on Twitter" in perspective:

 I fought for a just distribution of wealth and—more importantly—a reorganization of the way wealth is produced in the first place. I fought for civil rights and women’s rights, and the first rally I ever attended supporting the nascent movement for gay and lesbian rights was held in a black church in Detroit, Michigan back in 1977. And, throughout, I fought against the imperialist tendencies of the American political establishment in foreign affairs.

Listening to you anti-SJW types whine about your persecution just makes me laugh.


Boy, are you a bunch of pikers. I have had three murder attempts made on me because of my political beliefs and activities. I can’t remember any longer how many times I’ve been threatened with murder. I have been badly beaten by a mob of right-wing thugs in broad daylight on a public street and the man I was with was crippled for life. (That happened just outside of Birmingham, Alabama in June of 1979. Did the police ever investigate? Be serious. Of course not.)

 I have been physically assaulted because of my political beliefs on perhaps a dozen occasions. Being fair about it, while most of those assaults were carried out by right-wingers, some of them—perhaps a third—were carried out by Maoists. I have no idea how many times I’ve been threatened with physical assault. I lost track decades ago.

I have been arrested by the police on several occasions. No charges were ever filed, mind you, since they were so bogus no prosecutor would have taken them up. But this is a typical form of police harassment. They can legally hold you in jail for 24 hours without pressing charges, and if you don’t want to miss a day’s work you have to post bail—and if you don’t just happen to have several thousand dollars handy you have to pay a bail bondsman a percentage which you’ll never get back.

Since I was in my early twenties I’ve known that most careers were closed to me because of my political beliefs and activity. Those include any career in the military, any career in government above the level of a postal clerk, any managerial career in any major corporation—the list goes on and on.

More here. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Eric Flint on changes in science fiction

Eric Flint at Marcon

I didn't even know who science fiction writer Eric Flint was until a few weeks ago, but he turned out to be one of the most interesting writers at Marcon. An academic historian by training, he was a left wing labor union activist and factory worker until he turned to full time writing.

Commenting on the running kerfuffle over the Hugo nominations, Sad Pupplies, etc., Flint made a several points when he spoke at Marcon: (1) The emphasis on short fiction in the Hugo Awards is hopelessly outdated, as it dates from the time when magazines dominated the field; today, most of the action is in novels, particularly novels that are part of a series; (2) the relatively small number of people who hand out awards have little connection to what is actually popular these days in the science fiction field and (3) science fiction has grown so vast that it's inevitable that many really fine writers will be overlooked for awards.

For more on this, I strongly suggest reading the essays posted recently on his website, in chronological order: "Some Comments on Hugos and Other SF Awards," "More on the Hugos from a Dark, Dark Place," "And Again on the Hugo Awards," and "What the Hell, Let's Do it Again — Still More on the Hugo Awards." The essays do become a little less interesting as he goes along — the main points are in the first essay. 

Incidentally, as I'd never read Flint, I asked him what someone who wants to sample his work should start with. He suggested 1632, which is available free as a Kindle ebook. (In fact, it was Flint who originally created the Baen Free Library.) 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 65, Illuminatus online reading group

Publicity photo of Marilyn Monroe. "The only other detail," she went on calmly, "was arranging a convincing suicide." Page 714

(This week: "And later in the Bugatti," page 697, to page 715, "That was when I really lost identity with the Ringmaster.")

"All categories collapsed, including the all-important distinction ... between science fiction and serious literature," page 714.

If there ever were a novel that sought to collapse the categories and erase the "all-important distinction," it would seem to be Illuminatus!

Even now, it's a distinction that is maintained by the gatekeepers. "Literary" writers who appropriate the tropes of science fiction, such as Margaret Atwood, still often feel compelled to explain that they don't write science fiction. The New York Times' book review section regularly reviews mysteries, but even though it can now be read on tiny computers that everyone carries around in their pocket, it still does not regularly review science fiction.

The question of whether Illuminatus! "is" or "is not" a work of science fiction or fantasy still seems difficult to answer. It was published as part of Dell's science fiction line. The only literary award it ever won, the Prometheus Award, is an award for science fiction.  It has clear elements of the fantastic, such as a giant yellow submarine, eldritch creatures out of Lovecraft and a Hollywood actress transformed into a goddess by magic.  Let's face it -- it still gets very little attention from serious literary critics. The people trying to keep the work alive are mostly a bunch of weirdoes.

Yet at the same time, it fits uneasily into the genre category. It incorporates avante-garde literary techniques such as the cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs. It has more debts to the "James Joyce mythos" than any genre novel ought to. Even after being substantially cut, it is longer, weirder and more complex than any science fiction novel ought to be. It is dense with literary allusion, not just to genre writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, but to "serious" writers such as James Joyce and William Faulkner. Even in 2015, as the Hugo Awards controversy shows, many people believe that science fiction is a genre of adventure stories, told in straightforward prose. The authors published their novel without serving the traditional apprenticeship of being repeatedly published in the science fiction magazines.

It "is" a science fiction novel and a literary novel, a large piece of prose that transforms into Stella one moment and Mavis the next.

Some notes:

A rendering of Yog Sototh. 

Yog Sototh, page 699, one of H.P. Lovecraft's creatures, who comes to the festival after being freed by the bombing of the Pentagon.

Pages 707-714, the "reality is what you can get away with" section: There is more about magic in the appendix that probably sheds light on this. I'm hoping Oz weighs in.

"As he fell forward, his hands became hooves, antlers sprouted from his head," the wrath of Artemis, e.g. Diana; "She was rising out of the waves, proud of her nudity," page 713, Aphrodite; "wandering the long Nile, weeping, seeking fragments of his lost body," page 713, Osiris and Isis.

(Next week: "Raise you five," said Waterhouse, throwing down another five-ton note," page 715, to page 729, "Don't you remember any of the last ten minutes?" said Hagbard.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nick Herbert on working for Werner von Braun

Werner von Braun, with models of the Saturn rocket. 

I had summer jobs when I was a college student, too, but it wasn't anything as interesting as working for Werner von Braun. The always-interesting "hippie physicist," Nick Herbert, describes his summer job working for NASA in 1957, in Huntsville, Alabama, where about every week he would visit an office that had a "nuclear warheads" sign on the door. (At the time, Herbert was a physics major at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.)

Herbert discovered that traveling a few hundreds miles for a job in his own country could be a disorienting experience. "I look upon my trip to late '50s Alabama as my first visit to a foreign country," he writes. "Alabama in 1957 was indeed for me a foreign country, with its incomprehensible deep South dialect, its peculiar patterns of racial segregation, its colorful Bible-belt fundamental preachers on the stairs of the Huntsville Court House, born-again Baptist tent revivals in the countryside and the ever-present feeling in the air (and in the public statues of Confederate heroes) that for many residents of Alabama the War Between the States was still current news. I was often referred to as a 'Yankee'."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chad Nelson on Wilson and Shea's article on crime

Chad Nelson

One of the tough perennial questions which anarchists must tackle is how an anarchist or libertarian society would deal with crime. Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea addressed the issue in "Anarchism and Crime," originally published in Green Egg in May 1974, and which I reproduced on this website. The two discuss what they contend are the three kinds of laws: Laws which reinforce the power of the state, laws which enforce morality, and laws which prohibit the kinds of behavior that almost everyone agrees constitute real crime: Murder, rape, theft, etc.

I would be content, at least in the short term, to redeploy the police and the criminal justice system to concentrate on the third type of law; that would be "libertarian" enough for me. But anarchists believe a stateless society would work in dealing with crime.

In his new piece for the Center for a Stateless Society, Chad Nelson argues that Wilson and Shea piece "remains as relevant today as when it was written."  

"As we watch the horrendous injustice perpetuated by the current state-run system unfold before our eyes on the nightly news, we ought to be eager to jump ship and entertain some of Wilson and Shea’s fresh ideas," Nelson concludes.

When I first posted about the Wilson-Shea article, I suggested that it might have been one of the appendices cut from Illuminatus! I certainly think it reads that way. Can anyone weigh in on that theory? 

Scene from a Libertarian Party convention, as depicted in the Onion. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Harlan Ellison accepts his Prometheus

The video of Harlan Ellison accepting his Prometheus Hall of Fame Award has now become available.

Ellison is very gracious in accepting the award. I was pleased by that, since I  nominated him for the award, but I was happier to see him showing no ill effects from the stroke he suffered in October.

For information on the Prometheus Award, go here. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Latest drug war outrage

Yeah, they'll take it, all right. 

I don't mean for this blog to take on too much of a "libertarian" tinge, but this is just outrageous: An aspiring music video producer, on his was to Los Angeles from Michigan, has all of his life savings stolen from him by the DEA. 

The Washington Post article is full of amazing facts and quotes. 

The agents found nothing in Rivers's belongings that indicated that he was involved with the drug trade: no drugs, no guns. They didn't arrest him or charge him with a crime. But they took his cash anyway, every last cent, under the authority of the Justice Department's civil asset forfeiture program ... "We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty," an Albuquerque DEA agent told the Journal. "It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Everything you know about the bin Laden killing is wrong, maybe

Seymour Hersh 

One of the most exciting things about Illuminatus! is the way that that the perspectives shift, the way the same events change when interpreted in a new way.

You can get much of the same dizzying shift in perspectives by reading the new Seymour Hersh piece on the Osama bin Laden killing. Among the assertions, which contradict just about everything we have been told about the raid from official sources: Pakistan was in on it, and made sure there would be no trouble from guards or air defense; Pakistan held bin Laden as a prisoner for years, to provide leverage over the Taliban and al-Qaida; bin Laden wasn't found by tracking a courier — there was no courier — but instead a Pakistani official gave the secret away in return for the reward money; the Obama administration had promised Pakistan that it would keep the killing a secret for days and then say that the terrorist leader had been killed in drone strike (President Obama decided to make immediate political hay of the raid when the helicopter crash during the raid made it impossible to conceal); there was no firefight — there was no resistance, and the commandoes simply walked in and shot bin Laden; there was no burial at sea. I don't know how much of this article is true, but it's a great read. 

Whether people believe the article seems to depend on whether they trust the U.S. government to tell the truth. Hersh has been attacked by all of the usual pro-Obama organs. On the other hand, the Intercept has found a journalist who corroborates much of the above, apparently using different sources. NBC also has corroborated much of Hersh's account.  Hersh has produced many scoops in his career, including revealing the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

UPDATE: NBC has walked back one of its assertions; see editor's note. But there's new corroboration from the New York Times. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A bit more on the new John Higgs book, from Twitter

John Higgs recently posted a photo on Twitter of part of the index of his much-anticipated new book, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century. John remarked, "Checking the index of my next book. Out of context, it makes the book look totally bugnuts."

As you can see, although the index lists three people named Wilson, there's no mention in the index of an "Wilson, Robert Anton," and I couldn't resist remarking on that.

John responded, "It's a bigger surprise to me, I can tell you. He dropped out during the last draft." John explained, "Book paints Twentieth Century in such a RAW way — Joyce, Korzybski, Crowley, multiple model agnosticism etc — the RAW bit was repeating itself."

I remarked, "To be honest, RAW was not influential in the same way as the other folks you cite." John responded, "Give him time and he should be." And Ian "Cat" Vincent remarked, "Not directly, but often people he influenced were (Alan Moore, Grant Morrison spring to mind)."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Week 64, Illuminatus online reading group

The Greek hero Heracles frees Prometheus from the torment of the eagle, from an Attic vase.

(This week: Page 687: AND THIS IS WHAT IS SAYS: NO REMISSION, NO REMISSION, BROTHERS AND SISTERS to page 697, "For George as well as for you.")

And so now this week we learn who the "real" Illuminati are: Anarchists who reject all authority, in both a spiritual and political sense (in Znore's felicitous phrase, "hermetic anarchists." 

Hagbard explains the difference between the real Illuminati and the Saure version on page 694. The fundamental statements are on pages 689, 695 and 697:

There are no commandments, because there is no commander anywhere. [i.e., "There is no governor anywhere."] All authority is a delusion, whether in theology or sociology. (Page 689).

The ultimate weapon has always existed. Every man, every woman, and every child owns it. It's the ability to say No and take the consequences. 'Fear is failure.' 'The fear of death is the beginning of slavery.' Page 695

And what we're trying to communicate -- the ultimate secret, the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life -- is just the power of the word No. We are the people who have said Non serviam, and we're trying to teach others to say it. Page 697.

Some notes on the text:

Hagbard's mouth fell open in complete, genuine surprise. Page 688. A continuation of the scene on Page 654, the end of Book Four, when Hagbard realizes Joe isn't going to shoot him.

After I read this section, I though some more about why Hagbard tries to set up his own death. Perhaps having been responsible for the death of others, he thought he deserved to die himself. And to remove the temptation to power if he own. And to do the ultimate abdication as a guru.

"Mind you Joe, that's a scientific law, not a moral commandment." Page 689. The sentences in this area of the book are a restatement of the Buddhist law of karma. "there is no commander anywhere," the law of karma is not dependent on an enforcer.

"death is the currency in every empire, Roman or American" page 693. "War is the health of the state."

"Our founder and leader, the man known as myth as Prometheus," page 695. Another synchronicity: I spent the weekend helping to give out two Prometheus Awards (one of them to a libertarian science fiction, fantasy and horror writer named "Wilson"). I read the acceptance speech for the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. The Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, so far as I know, is the only literary award that Illuminatus! ever won. All this in the week when I get to the 10 pages that mention the Prometheus legend.

One of the five John Dillengers

"More surprises," Hagbard answered promptly. Page 697. One of the reasons Illuminatus! can be read over and over is that the text is always revealing surprises. I didn't even think of Dante's Beatrice Portinari until Eric Wagner mentioned the connection in the comments last week. 

(Next week: "And later in the Bugatti," page 697, to page 715, "That was when I really lost identity with the Ringmaster.")

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I was Harlan Ellison! For about three minutes

Your humble blogger wound up participating in the Prometheus Awards ceremony at the masquerade at Marcon 50 in Columbus, Ohio, which gave a Lifetime Achievement Prometheus to F. Paul Wilson and a Prometheus Hall of Fame to Harlan Ellison, for "Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman." Harlan, who turned out to be delighted with the award, sent an acceptance video from Los Angeles which finally arrived Friday, the first day of the convention. Alas, the convention technical wizards could not figure out how to get the video to play, and Libertarian Futurist Society founder and board member Michael Grossberg pressed me into service, asking me to read a transcript of Ellison's remarks in the video. Everyone was nice and said I did OK. 

Here are a few snapshots from Marcon 50: 

Science fiction writer Eric Flint. I thought he seemed quite interesting, and vowed to read one of his books. 

This is probably what most people who have heard of science fiction conventions expect to see on the stairs of hotel lobbies.

Author F. Paul Wilson, left, chats with Libertarian Futurist Society founder Michael Grossberg shortly after Wilson received the Prometheus Award for lifetime achievement at the masquerade intermission. 

A couple of characters from the "Star Wars" universe, clutching their masquerate award and light sabers. 

Godzilla, greeting well-wishers in the hallway. 

I get tired of all of the dragons at conventions -- most are not very interesting -- but I liked this Marcon dragon poring over a book. 

Science fiction writer and Libertarian Futurist Society member Joseph Martin, left, with science fiction author Vernor Vinge (multiple Hugos, inventor of the term "the Singularity," etc.) at the Prometheus Awards party Saturday. 

Science fiction writer Michael Z. Williamson (who recognized my "Fnord" t-shirt and said he liked it) imbibes "medical tequila" at the Prometheus Awards party on Saturday night. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

At Marcon

Vernor Vinge

Today's blog posting is coming to you from Columbus, Ohio, where I am attending Marcon, an annual science fiction convention. 

I love science fiction conventions, anyway, but this one particularly interests me because some of the organizers are members of the Libertarian Futurist Society, the folks who give the Prometheus Award. (Robert Shea was, I think, a member of the group, which gave a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award to Illuminatus!) Two of the featured writers here, F. Paul Wilson and Vernor Vinge, have won the Prometheus more than once. I interviewed them publicly Friday night. (The photographs are from Wikipedia; I haven't taken any convention photos yet.)

Anyway, the Libertarian Futurist Society attracted me because I love science fiction and am interested in libertarianism; I've been a member for years, and at this convention, I am finally meeting people I've only interacted with through the Internet. (When I started this fandom stuff, I would meet people at conventions who I had known for years via the U.S. mail).

Saturday, I'm going to wear my Boing Boing tribute to  RAW shirt, which says "Fnord" in the front. Let's see if the shirt attracts any attention.

F. Paul Wilson

Friday, May 8, 2015

First the shock of the Tory victory in the UK, and now this. An oddball group in California?!

Logo from the official website. 

Michael Johnson invokes Thomas Pynchon in his writeup about the 3,000-year-old Masonic police force that has been busted in California. I still haven't read Pynchon, but I thought of Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo, which mentions the Knights Templar.

When I followed the link to the LA Times story, I found out that they gave an award to Congresswoman Maxine Waters in 2012, so evidently they have been around for a couple of years, if not 3,000. Why are they suddenly a big deal now? Putting it another way, why did the enemies of the Knights Templar wait until this week to strike? And why is the LA Times so confident that a couple of busts can shut down a 3,000-year-old organization? Can anyone prove that Adam Gorightly doesn't have a new book coming out, and this isn't a particularly clever publicity stunt?

The official website is a bit of letdown, as much of it is password protected. ("Fnord" didn't work). I can't find out, for example, if any of the 6,887 lodges are near my  house.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Waywords and Meansigns — the interview

Cover art for Waywords and Meansigns by Robert Berry 

When the folks from Waywords and Meansigns approached me for a bit of publicity about their project to set Finnegans Wake to music, I explained that I already knew two of the principals, Steve 'Fly'  Pratt and Peter Quadrino (or PQ.) 

The album has now been released, and you can stream it or download it (in a variety of formats) from the Internet Archive.  There's cover art and liner notes, too. The project has gotten a nice writeup in the Guardian.  The official site has lots of information, including bios of all of the participants.

Fly and PQ both kindly agreed to take a few questions from me about the project and Finnegans Wake: To begin with, can you say something about why you decided to get involved in this project?

FLY: Due to the war on some people who use some drugs, I take any opportunity to get high  with James Joyce using his intoxicating hologrammic prose. Probably the most psychedelic epic-poem in all of literature: Finnegans Wake provides me with a relatively safe alternative to psychedelic drugs, and a break from my electronic drug problem. This project provided me with an excuse to take an heroic dose of FW and intermix the text with music, essentially a double-dipped festival of mystery and fierce beauty with kindred creative spirits, my kind of trip.

PQ: I've been very absorbed in Finnegans Wake for a few years now, writing about it on blogs, starting a local reading group, participating in an online reading group, and I've continually pondered ways of presenting it through our new forms of media whether via YouTube or podcasts or whatever. When I heard about Derek's "Waywords and Meansigns" project it sounded like the perfect approach, a true Here Comes Everybody venture, and I jumped at the opportunity to participate. I've never done any kind of audio recording before and I don't even like my voice, but this just seemed like something I had to do.

Steve 'Fly' Pratt (from his bio at the Waywords and Meansigns website) What did you learn about the text by doing this recording project? 

FLY: The longer that one engages with the text in one sustained reading, the richer the meaning that manifest. When speaking the text ALOUD, yet another interpretation, or complex of interpretations emerge, where increasingly as you stay with it, YOU begin to feel like the center of the whirling narrative. It really bites you. Reading silently unleashes only half the fun of the work, so read it aloud, and together with others, and intone the other occluded half of the great work accomplished, let those sounds soar. This point resonates with the whole audio based approach to the project, and is an echo of something i recall RAW suggesting too.

The healthy difference I hear between each of the contributors to the project and the wide array of voices, sounds, music, accent and pronunciation serve as evidence for the unique way the book encourages multiple interpretations. I found it helps develop the personal imagination of the reader, based on where, when, why and what YOU are, or think that you are...sunny Jim.

PQ: The recording process (which took almost 3 months) confirmed a few things I'd experienced when I read the book a few years ago. For one, immersion in the text brings about a proliferation of synchronicities. It's as if the text responds to the environment. All of our names popped up in some form (there was a whole page of PQs), the text occasionally echoed something we'd talked about that night, and when we tested certain songs alongside the reading there were often extraordinary harmonies and resonances in timing and tone. The experience certainly confirmed the text's inherent musical rhythms, it really comes to life when read aloud. And last but not least, it's often said Finnegans Wake is a book for the ear but it's also a book for the mouth. You'll never utter anything like it.

Peter Quadrino, or PQ What can you say to people who are afraid to read Finnegans Wake because they believe it will be too difficult?

FLY: Perhaps think of the text as-if it were an interactive word game. Something you play. And to repeat, read it aloud and discover the tongue-twisting turns in every line. Take it slowly. Jump to any page, get your kit off and dive in. If that does not turn you on, the next time you get totally trashed, or feel a case of the giggles coming on, pick up the good book and prolong the enjoyment. Simple.

PQ: Build up a passion and interest for it first. Read some books about it, get to know how bizarre and irrational it is. You can't try to just slog through it like any other big book. It's designed to shatter your logical mind and drown you in a variegated cacophony of lingual sounds from dozens of languages. Also, yes it's difficult but with enough time you will find the book will teach you how to read it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Waywords and Meansigns launches

I'll have much more on this soon, but I wanted to let everyone know that the Waywords and Meansigns project has launched. You can now stream or download the entirety of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, set to music.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Week 63, Illuminatus onine reading group

" .... seeing her as a Greek woman in classic robes holding a golden apple," page 671. Above, the latest "Eris of the Month" at Historia Discordia.

(This week: week: "Hagbard left at the same time the old waiter did, " page 670, to page 687, "You can always tell the higher members by their sense of humor.")

In this week's episode, in the peculiar way that Illuminatus! has with chronology, we get a look at Robert Putney Drake's early life, and a foreshadowing of the death that already occurred hundreds of pages ago. ("By denying death, you guarantee that you will meet him finally in his most hideous form," page 685.) Perhaps Wilson and Shea's use of the cut-up technique placed the section at the rear of the trilogy, and they decided they liked it there.

Drake resembles Hagbard Celine in his understanding of people and how the world works, but while Celine wants to help people and make the world a better place, Drake seems only interested in acquiring wealth and power for its own sake.

My current favorite TV program, "The Americans," is about a pair of KGB spies, deeply embedded in the United States, who kill people, coerce people, trick people, seduce people and so on, all out of a deep loyalty to the Soviet Union. Drake is similarly ruthless, but his only loyalty is to himself. Celine does what he thinks he has to do, but his original intent was to avoid hurting anyone.

Not that Mama Sutra doesn't try to get through to Drake. "The wheel of Dharma" that she refers to on page 685 is a Buddhist concept, and Buddhism is big on karma, or volition — the idea that what you do can be helpful or can cause suffering.

Of course, this is Drake's second warning not to mess with dark forces. H.P. Lovecraft tried to warn him, too, earlier in the novel (and Drake gave Lovecraft a similarly ignored warning.)

H.P. Lovecraft

For earlier discussion on whether Mama Sutra was based upon a real person, Mary Frohman, go here. 

(Next week: Page 687: AND THIS IS WHAT IS SAYS: NO REMISSION, NO REMISSION, BROTHERS AND SISTERS to page 697, "For George  as well as for you.")

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Epistle to the Paranoids

Everything becomes more clear when Adam Gorightly takes a moment to explain. 

The current section of Illuminatus! that the online reading group is in, the Tenth Trip, starts out with a quotation from the works on one Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, K.S.C. (i.e, Kerry Thorney) on page 657:

Ye have locked yerselves up in cages of fear; and, behold, do  ye now complain that ye like freedom.

The quote is attributed to the "Epistle to the Paranoids," which is in turn is attributed to a larger work,  "The Honest Book of Truth," but as Adam Gorightly explains in his new blog posting at Historia Discordia, "Illuminatus! Group Reading Week 62: The Epistle to the Paranoids," those are in fact two separate documents.

Adam then reproduces the three part "Epistle to the Paranoids," and it makes amusing reading. You will learn, for example, about the esoteric significance of the sacred numbers 0-9, "which "appear with surprising frequency in Illuminati-controlled radio broadcasts."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Terry Pratchett, Discworld Discordian?

Terry Pratchett at the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow

Although I've read science fiction and fantasy all my life, I was a bit late in getting to the late, great Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels. Still, I read Snuff and I am currently reading Raising Steam. 

I was chugging along in Raising Steam the other day when to my surprise, I came across a passage about Eris, the goddess of discord and Discordiana (although renamed "Pippina"). Pratchett didn't believe in chapters, but the incident occurs on page 102 of the U.S. hardcover, and it comes as part of a philosophical discussion between the characters Ridcully and Lu-Tze.

After Lucy — sorry, Lu-Tze — complains that his friends "are fixated on the idea that the universe can be totally understood, in every particular jot and tittle," Ridcully remarks,

It seems that even the very wise have neglected to take notice of one very important goddess ... Pippina, the lady with the Apple of Discord. She knows that the universe, while it requires rules and stability, also needs just a tincture of chaos, the unexpected, the surprising. Otherwise it would be a mechanism — a wonderful mechanism, ticking away the centuries, but with nothing different happening. 

Lu-Tze responds to this with statements that include, "And so, my friend, I think we say hail Pippina and the occasional discord."

Hail Eris! All hail Discordia! If all this isn't a shout out to Discordians and/or Illuminatus! fans, we're getting some mighty coincidental writing here.

Pratchett was fond of puns, so perhaps there is a hidden pun in the passage — a couple of characters in a Discworld novel are Discordians.

"As with the number 23 in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! novels, there appears to be a certain metaphysical or perhaps even occult dimension to the repeated occurence of this number in the works of Terry Pratchett." The number in question is 57. This strikes me as a joke on the mystic number 57 on the Heinz bottles, but who knows.