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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An invitation

Next week will be the final post of the Illuminatus! online reading group effort that's tied to a specific section of the book.

But I'm not quite ready to end.

Christian Greer suggested I do some kind of video or audio broadcast or podcast to wrap things up. I've taken his suggestion and modified it into something else. I've sent out an email to some of you, but I am also posting a public invitation: If you want to share some final thoughts about Illuminatus!, a general observation or perhaps something you noticed in your latest re-reading, please send it to me by July 10. I will include it in a blog post (or perhaps a series of blog posts, depending upon how many people send me something.) Send it to my tom.jackson (at) address.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Week 71, Illuminatus online reading group

Tim Wheeler (Lord Harold Randomfactor) and Mary Wheeler aboard the Suzie Wong, William F. Buckley's boat in 1963.

(This week: Appendix Yod, Operation Mindfuck, page 783, to page 796, end of Appendix Teth, Hagbard's Booklet.)

Some notes:

Appendix Yod, Operation Mindfuck:

For more on all of this, see Adam Gorightly's book, Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society.

See the important remark on back on page 774: "This book, being part of the only serious conspiracy it describes — that is, part of Operation Mindfuck — has programmed the reader in ways that he or she will not  understand for a period of months (or perhaps years)."

Ho Chih Zen, Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, page 783, Kerry Thornley.

Dr. Mordecai Malignatus, Page 784, Robert Anton Wilson.

Harold Lord Randomfactor, Page 784, Tim Wheeler, the force behind Young Americans for Real Freedom. (For more, see this.)

Malaclypse the Younger, page 785, Gregory Hill.

Hagbard's Booklet

"A monopoly on the means of communication," page 796. This blog is a small example of how the Internet has dented the monopoly.

"When a more efficient medium arrives, the taboos on television will decrease," page 796. A forecast that turned out to be quite accurate, and which also looked ahead to the current golden age of TV.

(Next week: End of Illuminatus!, pages 797-805, appendices Mem and Nun.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday links

Tyler Cowen. Between his blog and Arthur Hlavaty's  you can learn a lot. Tyler is better known as a public intellectual, but Hlavaty is a better-known fan. 

Nice "Eris of the Month" at Historia Discordia. 

Locus Award winners, via Supergee. More different from Hugos than in usual years. Would like to have seen Cixin Liu win for best novel, but the Ann Leckie (second book of a trilogy) is quite good.

The economics of California water, e.g. government at work.

Tyler Cowen on gay marriage. 


Nice RAW quote. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

RAW graphic novel in the works

I recently met Ryan Richards on Twitter. Pleased to meet him, and I can report that he's hard at work on a graphic novel, "Robert Anton Wilson for Beginners."

Naturally, I asked him when it will be out. "The contract has the script and art due by Feb 2016 so I'm hoping for a July 23rd 2016 release date. Maybe delay until Oct 23rd," he replied.

"It'll be published through For Beginners LLC," he said. "Affiliated with the folks over at @disinfo." (That's the Disinformation website.)

More on Richards here. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Anecdota Press launches

Randolph Bourne, an author for Anecdota Press

I have a new venture, which I hope will complement this blog: I have begun publishing Kindle ebooks under the rubric "Anecdota Press."

I'm working with Gary Acord on this. We haven't quite figured out titles, but I am essentially the editorial director, and he is the "chief technical officer," although he prefers the title "nerd." In other words, I'm trying to find stuff to publish and putting together the manuscripts, and he's in charge of figuring out how to convert it to the Kindle format. Gary is a computer software writer by trade, so this plays to his strength. Eventually we hope to determine if I have a "strength."

Our first publication is War is the Health of the State by Randolph Bourne, a compilation of Bourne's public domain antiwar essays, written during World War I. I couldn't find that anyone had put together a compilation, so I did one myself. It will set you back a whole 99 cents to buy the short book. is published by nonprofit called the Randolph Bourne Institute. Mr. Bourne died in 1918, so he provided a way for me to prove I could publish an ebook on Amazon, without the additional complication of having to deal with an author. We're now working with an author to put out an ebook of his first book. That will likely be our second title. More on that when I have something to announce.

I remain very interested in this blog. Richard Rasa — projects coordinator for the Robert Anton Wilson Estate — wrote in an email the other day, "Both Christina and I both really love" Of course, he was perhaps just being nice, but I appreciated his comment. I'm finally off today, after working 10 days in a row, and after I post this, I will do the next exercise in "Serpent Power" and post another comment in the most recent Illuminatus! post.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

John Stuart Mill on the Confederacy

John Stuart Mill 

I wish I could have titled this blog post, "John Stuart Mill on the Confederate flag." But alas, as far as I know, he didn't weigh in on the current controversy over whether governments should fly the Confederate battle flag.

He did, however, weigh in on whether the American Civil War was at its base a war over slavery, and that debate is directly related to the flag debate. Defenders of the Southern rebellion still like to argue that it wasn't about slavery. Because if it was, the Confederate flag stands for slavery, and ends the "heritage vs. hate" debate. What "heritage"?

Mill was a 19th century British philosopher and an important thinker in the history of libertarian and classical liberal thought.

That isn't just my opinion. Here is Robert Anton Wilson, in Cosmic Trigger 1, explaining his former job at "Playboy" magazine:

My job was editing the letters in the "Playboy Forum," and also writing the italicized replies in which the Playboy position was stated. This position is straight old-fashioned mind-your-own-business John Stuart Mill libertarianism, and (since that is my philosophy as well as Hefner's) I enjoyed the work immensely.

I was quite pleased when I ran across this blog post by Ilya Somin which points out that back in 1862, Mill took on the question. Here's Mill:

There is a theory in England, believed perhaps by some, half believed by many more, which is only consistent with original ignorance, or complete subsequent forgetfulness, of all the antecedents of the contest. There are people who tell us that, on the side of the North, the question is not one of Slavery at all. The North, it seems, have no more objection to Slavery than the South have….

If this be the true state of the case, what are the Southern chiefs fighting about? Their apologists in England say that it is about tariffs, and similar trumpery. They say nothing of the kind. They tell the world, and they told their own citizens when they wanted their votes, that the object of the fight was slavery….

It is true enough that the North are not carrying on war to abolish slavery in the States where it legally exists [note by IS: Mill was writing before the Emancipation Proclamation, though elsewhere in the essay he correctly predicted that the Union will eventually seek to abolish slavery]….

The present Government of the United States is not an abolitionist government…. But though not an Abolitionist party, they are a Free-soil party. If they have not taken arms against slavery, they have against its extension. And they know, as we may know if we please, that this amounts to the same thing. The day when slavery can no longer extend itself, is the day of its doom. The slave-owners know this, and it is the cause of their fury….

If, however, the purposes of the North may be doubted or misunderstood, there is at least no question as to those of the South. They make no concealment of their principles. As long as they were allowed to direct all the policy of the Union; to break through compromise after compromise, encroach step after step, until they reached the pitch of claiming a right to carry slave property into the Free States, and, in opposition to the laws of those States, hold it as property there, so long, they were willing to remain in the Union. The moment a President was elected of whom it was inferred from his opinions, not that he would take any measures against slavery where it exists, but that he would oppose its establishment where it exists not,—that moment they broke loose from what was, at least, a very solemn contract, and formed themselves into a Confederation professing as its fundamental principle not merely the perpetuation, but the indefinite extension of slavery.

"Their apologists in England say that it is about tariffs, and similar trumpery." Not much has changed, huh?

As Mill points out, Southern leaders made it clear that launching the Civil War was about slavery. See this piece by Ta -Nehisi Coates, and another post by Somin, which includes a lot of evidence.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

RAW's webmaster launches new Leary-RAW website

Richard Rasa (and friend) 

Richard Rasa — longtime webmaster for the official Robert Anton Wilson website and projects coordinator for the Robert Anton Wilson Estate — has launched DNA Spaceship, a brand new site devoted to Timothy Leary and to RAW.

There's a very nice Timothy Leary timeline and fractal art that will knock your eyes out. The RAW material is a little thin so far, but the site is a work in progress, and Rasa says more RAW material is coming.

In the meantime, Rasa has opened up the site as a tribute to his friend Brummbaer.  Rasa explains,

"My thoughts are with my dear friend Brummbaer in these challenging days for him. I've been working on a new website that is not at all near ready, but Brummbaer gave me a number of his amazing graphics to use on the site, and the site also features his Where in the Universe is Timothy Leary video, so I thought I'd pass the site around, even in an unfinished state, just as a thanks and encouragement to Brummbaer. When fully up and running, DNA Spaceship will be my playground for sharing adventurous futurist thought. In the meanwhile, enjoy the preflight launch."

Mr. Rasa also is a sitar player who makes music with a three piece band.  A Mr. R.A. Wilson, quoted at the band's website, says the band's efforts are "Intricate, yet melodic as Bach, austere as a Zen shrine, sensory as a massage." You can also visit an "everything about Rasa" site. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Week 70, Illuminatus! online reading group

Book mentioned at the beginning of Appendix Lamed. You can read it online. 

(This week: Appendix Lamed: The Tactics of Magick, pages 768-783).

The essay  on "The Tactics of Magick" seems to my mind  to be the most interesting item in the Appendices, and also one of the most challenging. I plan to read and re-read it this, trying to make sense of the bits that are obscure to me.

Two other RAW pieces that I plan to re-read this week will, I hope, cast light on the article: The chapter "Sexual Alchemy" in Email to the Universe, and the chapter "Mammary Metaphysics" in Coincidance.

Those books are likely to be in every well-stocked library of RAW, but the third piece I want to point to is "Serpent Power!" a RAW article on magick (with exercises) that I tracked down in 2011. (You can read how I found it and acquired it after reading about it in Cosmic Trigger 1.) The article is available as a PDF here.  When I bought it, the library sent me big TIFF files, and Bobby Campbell converted it into a PDF.

I'll work on this stuff, and then return, either here or in the comments.

(Next week: Appendix Yod, Operation Mindfuck, page 783, to page 796, end of Appendix Teth, Hagbard's Booklet.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

RAW, PKD and other folks maybe contacted by the aliens

Philip K. Dick

As a kind of follow-up to yesterday's movie post, here's an article by "Pulling the Cosmic Trigger: The Contact Experiences of Philip K Dick & Robert Anton Wilson," by A.K Wilks, someone I hadn't heard of before.

As you can guess, the article goes into considerable detail about Dick's VALIS contacts, and Wilson's experience with the intelligences from Sirius (or from his own brain, or whatever it was) described in Cosmic Trigger 1: Final Secret of the Illuminati. Wilks also gives shorter accounts of similar experiences by the likes of John Lilly, John Lennon and Albert Hofmann.

I'll point you to the piece without much comment,  but I can offer a couple of footnotes:

(1) The article doesn't mention it, but "hippie physicist" Nick Herbert has also reported being contacted by aliens who used telepathy and invited him to join their cosmic conspiracy. Good-guy Herbert turned them down, worrying that joining them would be disloyal to the human race. See "Nick Meets the Galactic Telepaths." 


They claimed to be an ancient group of galactic telepaths traveling through space mind-to-mind rather than in clunky metal ships. "Here is what we do," they said and suddenly I experienced a kind of LSD trip. Then they turned off the "mind ray" and I become completely normal. They took me in and out of this odd psychological space several times to show off (I suppose) their prowess in the mental realm.

Then the aliens revealed the purpose of their visit. They were inviting me to join the conspiracy of galactic telepaths. They told me that some of my friends were already members. Unlike "Tony the angel" whose voice projected a clear persona, these alien voice seemed colorless, like ticket agents or office clerks. My initial response was that if this community really existed its goals would differ from human goals as much as human goals differ from the goals of fishes. This group must by necessity be non-human. So by joining it I would in some sense be betraying the human race.

Herbert tried to find others who had been contacted by the aliens, but he had no luck. "Some of my psychedelic pals in the Stanford psychology department were prime candidates but they all shrewdly denied being galactic telepaths," he reports.

Herbert is not your average physicist, but he can't be dismissed as a crank. The only time he gives for this incident is the late 1960s.

Nick Herbert

(2) PKD and RAW apparently met for the first time at a 1978 science fiction convention. 

No alien contacts for me, I'm afraid, at least so far.

Thanks to Michael Johnson for pointing me to the Wilks piece.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Radio Free Albemuth movie streaming free in many areas

Alanis Morissette and Jonathan Scarfe in Radio Free Albemuth

If you are a RAW fan, you are likely a PKD fan, as in Philip K. Dick, so I'm passing on to you the news that a rather faithful adaptation of one of his books is available for free online viewing in many areas. "Radio Free Albemuth" came out in 2010, but as far as I can tell it didn't get wide release.

It's available for viewing now on Hoopla, the digital service that offers streaming movies, TV shows and audiobooks and downloadable ebooks for patrons of the libraries that subscribe to it. Hoopla is widely available in Ohio, where libraries are well-funded, widely unavailable in Oklahoma where libraries aren't. I watched it on my tablet computer when I finally got a couple of free hours on a recent day off.

The selling point of the film is that it's a pretty faithful adaptation. Well known Twitter Dick fan Ted Hand  calls it his favorite Dick movie. I think I still prefer "Minority Report" and "The Truman Show." (The latter isn't an adaptation of anything Dick wrote, but it seems Dickian to me.) 

In a way, "Radio Free Albemuth" is kind of an inversion of "Bladerunner." "Bladerunner" looks great, has fine special effects, and is well acted with big name stars. But it's kind of shallow, and not much of an adaption of the excellent "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," the excellent Dick novel that's the purported source. RFA has people I mostly didn't recognize, except for Alanis Morissette, who looks pretty good onscreen — I wonder if she's a Dick fan? The special effects in RFA are nothing to shout about, but it seems to be pretty close to the novel (I'm relying on the Wikipedia summary, I haven't read the book yet) and has the PKD paranoia and weirdness you expect.

I wondered what Jesse Walker, Dick fan and movie critic, thought of "Radio Free Albemuth," so I Googled. Here's his "review," cobbled together from comments posted to his recent Philip K. Dick article for Reason: "The recent Radio Free Albemuth adaptation was pretty loyal to the original novel. The main difference was that they changed the years in which the story was set. The movie is OK. Some parts of it work really well, but I don't think the denouement really comes off."

If you register at Hoopla, it will help you figure out if you have a nearby library where you can obtain a library card. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Robert Anton Wilson and Bernard Wolfe?

The always-interesting Michael Johnson posts about Rachel Donezal, Caitlyn Jenner and Self-Definition, "Passing" and the Myth of "Race." It's a really good post, and I've posted a comment there.

But given the orientation of MY blog, I want to take up a brief aside in Michael's piece, one that made me sit up:

Bernard Wolfe, like Robert Anton Wilson (their careers as writers have much in common), who actually wrote the book, went to Yale, was with Trotsky in Mexico, was guided into a career of writing porn by Henry Miller and Anais Nin: Wolfe needed something to pay bills and wanted to keep up his writing life, was influenced by Alfred Korzybski and Norbert Wiener and a psychoanalyst named Edmund Bergler, and wrote a science fiction book called Limbo, about which scholar Carolyn Geduld writes, "In its own way, Limbo may be as difficult a book as James Joyce's Ulysses. The latter imposes difficulties of form on a relatively simple narrative, while Limbo uses a simple form - the science fiction, antiutopian novel - to discuss very complex theoretical material."- from Bernard Wolfe, by Carolyn Geduld, p.73...Enough of this digression...

But not enough for me!

I'm not quite sold yet on Michael's comparison between RAW and Wolfe, but it's better than any comparison between RAW and another writer than I've been able to come up with so far. What a stimulating suggestion!

My knowledge of Bernard Wolfe is pretty much limited to having read two stories and a long afterward many years ago in Harlan Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions science fiction anthology, but there's a pretty good Wikipedia biography you can read.

I dutifully pulled my old Science Fiction Book Club edition of ADV off the shelf after reading Michael's passage.

It's true that Wolfe and Wilson both worked at Playboy magazine, and had wider writing careers. Both had an acquaintance with a certain era of New York bohemia. It's interesting that Wolfe was influenced by both Korzybski and Wiener. Both were interested in jazz and the black experience.

I can also notice differences, at least on the basis of Wolfe's Again, Dangerous Visions appearance. In his afterword, Wolfe rants about the space program (the most important thing that can be said about it, apparently, is that it gave the sitting president, Richard Nixon, opportunities to appear on TV), about how much he dislikes science fiction, and how much he dislikes the "two deans of sf" who appeared on TV during broadcasts about the Apollo missions. If he's talking about Arthur C. Clarke, he's dissing someone who was a far more important public intellectual than Wolfe. It isn't even close.

Wolfe was a Trotskyists in the 1930s. In the afterword, to his ADV stories, he writes, "I have a dangerous vision. I see capitalism once and for all overthrown ... " The book has a 1972 copyright. So Wolfe spent decades mouthing the same left wing cliches, carefully ignoring what the overthrow of capitalism actually amounted to in practice. The difference between Wolfe and RAW's questing, protean attitude toward politics seems pretty vast.

In his intro the the Wolfe stories, Ellison strongly recommends Wolfe's only science fiction novel, Limbo, which I clearly should read.

When I looked at the table of contents of ADV, I remembered that Ray Nelson's "Time Travel for Pedestrians" was actually the most RAW-like story in the anthology. I then looked up Ray Nelson on the Internet. So in the end, I wound up wishing I had read more Nelson. Dig this article on "The Last Days of Philip K. Dick," Nelson's childhood friend.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Can this bowling alley be saved?!

Following up on yesterday's breaking news, Adam Gorightly has now posted a blog entry on the closing of Friendly Hills Lanes in Whittier. As Gorightly details in his links, his detective work suggests that it's the business where Discordianism was born.

The article in the local Whittier Daily News says it may be possible for the building to be saved, and describes it as a "historic building." Little do they know! I doubt that it has a historic marker, but I would argue it qualifies for a historic preservation tax credit.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sic transit gloria Discordia mundi

The Friendly Hills bowling alley in Whittier, identified by Discordian historian Adam Gorightly as the birthplace of Discordianism.

Buddhists got a big lesson in the religion/philosophy's teachings on impermanence when the Taliban blew up the big statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan. Now it's the turn of Discordians to learn that nothing lasts forever.

Via Twitter, Discordian historian Adam Gorightly points out that the "Brunswick Shrine" has closed. This is Friendly Hills Lanes in Whittier, which Adam has identified as the birthplace of Discordianism, where the goddest Eris revealed her secrets to Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill. For Adam's evidence in pointing to this particular bowling alley, see this blog entry. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Five reasons the Edward Snowden story in the (London) Sunday Times is a lie

Edward Snowden

(Note from the Mgt.:  For why I am posting this as Tuesday's entry, see the end bit. From the Libertarian Alliance). 

Five Reasons the MI6 Story is a Lie 14 June, 2015
by Craig Murray:

The Sunday Times has a story claiming that Snowden’s revelations have caused danger to MI6 and disrupted their operations. Here are five reasons it is a lie.

1) The alleged Downing Street source is quoted directly in italics. Yet the schoolboy mistake is made of confusing officers and agents. MI6 is staffed by officers. Their informants are agents. In real life, James Bond would not be a secret agent. He would be an MI6 officer. Those whose knowledge comes from fiction frequently confuse the two. Nobody really working with the intelligence services would do so, as the Sunday Times source does. The story is a lie.

2) The argument that MI6 officers are at danger of being killed by the Russians or Chinese is a nonsense. No MI6 officer has been killed by the Russians or Chinese for 50 years. The worst that could happen is they would be sent home. Agents’ – generally local people, as opposed to MI6 officers – identities would not be revealed in the Snowden documents. Rule No.1 in both the CIA and MI6 is that agents’ identities are never, ever written down, neither their names nor a description that would allow them to be identified. I once got very, very severely carpeted for adding an agents’ name to my copy of an intelligence report in handwriting, suggesting he was a useless gossip and MI6 should not be wasting their money on bribing him. And that was in post communist Poland, not a high risk situation.

3) MI6 officers work under diplomatic cover 99% of the time. Their alias is as members of the British Embassy, or other diplomatic status mission. A portion are declared to the host country. The truth is that Embassies of different powers very quickly identify who are the spies in other missions. MI6 have huge dossiers on the members of the Russian security services – I have seen and handled them. The Russians have the same. In past mass expulsions, the British government has expelled 20 or 30 spies from the Russian Embassy in London. The Russians retaliated by expelling the same number of British diplomats from Moscow, all of whom were not spies! As a third of our “diplomats” in Russia are spies, this was not coincidence. This was deliberate to send the message that they knew precisely who the spies were, and they did not fear them.

4) This anti Snowden non-story – even the Sunday Times admits there is no evidence anybody has been harmed – is timed precisely to coincide with the government’s new Snooper’s Charter act, enabling the security services to access all our internet activity. Remember that GCHQ already has an archive of 800,000 perfectly innocent British people engaged in sex chats online.

5) The paper publishing the story is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It is sourced to the people who brought you the dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, every single “fact” in which proved to be a fabrication. Why would you believe the liars now?

There you have five reasons the story is a lie.

Author’s postscript:

The site is under a strong denial of service attack from a bot trying to crash it by overloading with millions of pings from multiple locations. I presume the objective is to take down the revelation of the fake MI6 Snowden story, which had been read by tens of thousands already and is now really taking off.

While the copyright in that article remains mine, I grant permission for it freely to be reproduced by anybody, anywhere. I shall be grateful for multiple copies to be posted around the web so it can’t be taken down.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week 69,Illuminatus online reading group

Benjamin Tucker

(This week: Pages 756-768, appendices Daleth, Tzaddi, Vau, Zain and Cheth).

Many of the sections in this part of the book refer to individualist anarchists from the 19th century, whose teachings have ever since influenced libertarians and anarchists, including Josiah Warren and Lysander Spooner. Pierre Proudhon,  and Benjamin Tucker. 

Wilson read much of that material when he lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio,  in the 1960s, editing an alternative magazine. (That sojourn is immortalized in Illuminatus!.Yellow Springs is the home of Antioch College, where Simon Moon majored in math.) There are references to Wilson's reading material in, for example, Cosmic Trigger 2: "Two years earlier, at the School for Living library, I had read most of the classics of anarchist theory. The State was created by conquerors, these books said, to police the peoples they had enslaved. The revolutions of the 18th Century failed because, instead of abolishing the State and organizing society into voluntary communes and syndicates, we had stupidly continued the State apparatus, thinking we could 'control' it by democratic elections. These elections cannot control the state because the Great Pirates who own the Earth and its resources own the State, too, and know how to buy elections." (Page 198.)

Wilson also says, on page 206, "I learned a lot about Third Choice systems — social doctrines that were neither Capitalist nor Marxist — at the School of Living, which had a great library of radical and off-beat literature. It was there that I found and read all of the issues of Liberty, the individualist-anarchist magazine edited by the brilliant Benjamin R. Tucker ("the clearest mind ever, in politics," Joyce called him.)

So as  you can see, the roots of Wilson's anarchist/libertarian thinking reach back much farther than relatively modern libertarian writers such as Ayn Rand. (Wilson did go through an Ayn Rand phase, which he also recalls in Cosmic Trigger 2: "Like most Randoids, I went around for a few years mindless parroting all of the Rand dogma and imagining I was an 'individualist'." (Page 119).

Probably the closest modern equivalent of the sorts of people Wilson was interested in would be the Center for a Stateless Society, although Wilson remains an influence on more conventional libertarians.

There is also discussion in this section of the appendices about alternative private currencies, which thanks to the Internet are being realized in the form of Bitcoin and other alternatively currencies. Here's a review of a new book about Bitcoin. 

(Next week: Appendix Lamed: The Tactics of Magick, pages 768-783). 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

RAW and jazz

Ornette Coleman

Oz Fritz has just done a nice tribute to Ornette Coleman, the legendary boundary-pushing jazzman who died on June 11.

Which leads me to pose a question: Can anyone give some information about the jazz artists that RAW enjoyed? I know he liked jazz, as any intelligent young person in the 1950s would, and that one of the artists he liked was the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Yet I don't know much about this aspect of his life. His literary tastes are pretty well documented (look for example at the bottom of this link) , we have a lot of information on what movies he liked,  and we know that he loved Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Mahler, yet I know little about which jazz musicians he listened to. Can anyone help?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Robin Ince, British comedian and RAW fan

Robin Ince

A Tweet from Robin Ince: "most useful phrase I've learnt in last few years is "REALITY TUNNEL".Constantly questioning why we believe what believe. Thanks T. Leary." (The Tweets to Ince and his replies make it clear he's a Robert Anton Wilson fan. Leary came up with the concept but RAW helped develop it and popularize it.)

More evidence of his RAW interest: He is the only celebrity I've ever run across on Twitter who follows me.

I have to admit that I only know Ince's name because RAW fans in Britain like him, but he has 114,000 followers so he must enjoy a big audience. He's an actor and comedian, best known for his BBC radio show, "The Infinite Monkey Cage." BBC radio isn't as big over here as BBC TV, but fortunately the show is widely available as a podcast, so I can check out soon.

Bonus bit: Speaking of Twitter and comedians.  (Caroline is a big RAW fan.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Science fiction and social justice

Joanna Russ. I thought she was particularly good as a short story writer.

From The Nation magazine, comes an article that's worth a read: "Why Science Fiction Is a Fabulous Tool in the Fight for Social Justice," by Laura Flanders. It's an interview with the two editors of Octavia's Brood, "an anthology of radical science fiction by activist writers."

It was news to me that Mumia Abu Jamal is a Star Trek fan:

 I had the honor of visiting him on death row. I made some Star Trek reference and Mumia just flowed with it—he was like, "Right? Live long and prosper." Mumia is a nerd in all ways; he really sees the visionary realities and possibilities of science fiction. He contributed an essay on Star Wars, US imperialism, and militarism, and also recorded an audio version. It's amazing to hear him not only give this brilliant analysis but also do a Darth Vader impression.

Certainly science fiction can  be a good vehicle for leftist ideologies, but it works for all sorts of other ideologies, too. Libertarian science fiction is a thing. 

Joanna Russ did an essay years ago on why Star Trek is better (i.e., more politically progressive than Star Wars. Of course, it was a smart piece — it was written by Joanna Russ — but alternatively it could be read as an example of the dangers of politicizing everything.

Hat tip for the Nation article: Ted Hand. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A note to my readers

Bobby Campbell, on Twitter, pointed out that yesterday was the fifth year anniversary of this blog, which began on June 10, 2010. I had not noticed. Thank you to everyone who has taken time to post a comment, send me an email tip, share RAW documents with me, or otherwise show support. And I appreciate the people who just stop by and read, too.

This seems like an opportune time to mention something I have been meaning to point out. I am blessed with some really good readers. I don't get the kind of nasty, inappropriate comments that other people have to worry about. Admittedly, I'm not a woman and I'm not a minority, so that probably shields me from some of the regular online abuse, but when my stuff is posted at my newspaper's web site, I often draw comments that are both mean and false. I don't get a huge number of readers here, but I get some — hundreds of pageviews a day according to Blogger — and I can't remember ever having to remove a comment because it was nasty, or even feeling tempted to. (I have occasionally trimmed obvious spam, and I've done other "cleanup" actions, but I can't recall ever censoring anyone.) So while I don't get the volume of readers of other sites, please consider yourself an elite group.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Illuminatus vs. Cryptonomicon

When Illuminatus! is compared to other literary works, Gravity's Rainbow and Mumbo Jumbo usually are mentioned. Without attempting to say anything about what it "means," I have noticed parallels with Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. 

1. Illuminatus! and Cryptonomicon were both breakthrough novels for their authors; much of what Robert Anton Wilson wrote after that referenced the Illuminati. Cryptonomicon was Stephenson's first very long novel, but all of his subsequent novels have been of similar length.

2. Both works are very long novels, although Illuminatus! originally was broken up and published as three mass market paperbacks. 

3. Both novels reference a secret society that uses magic. In Illuminatus!, of course, it is the Illuminati. In Cryptonomicon, the mysterious Enoch Root apparently has a secret life and apparently knows how to revive people who have died; there is more about this in the Baroque Cycle.

4. Both novels have libertarian themes, and both won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. 

5. Both novels explicitly reference the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft appears as a character in Illuminatus!, which uses the Cthulhu Mythos. The title of Cryptonomicon references the fictional work that Lovecraft made famous, the Necronomicon.

6. Both novels feature, as a major plot element, a clandestine group which seeks to hide its activities and secrets from an enemy. In Illuminatus!, this would be both the Illuminati and their opponents. In Cryptonomicon, Bobby Shaftoe belongs to a secret unit which carries out operations designed to hide the fact that the Allies have cracked the Axis' communications codes. 

7. Both novels feature an appendix which provides a code for communicating secret messages. In Illuminatus!, see "Appendix Beth: The Illuminati Ciphers, Codes and Calendars. "Cryptonomicon has an appendix written by Bruce Schneier, explaining how to use a low-tech method that Schneier invented for using a pack of playing cards to encode messages.

8. Both novels spawned a series of prequels, historical novels that feature ancestors of the novels main characters. In Wilson's Historical Illuminatus series, the characters include the ancestors of Hagbard Celine, Simon Moon, etc. Stephenson's Baroque Cycle has the ancestors of important Cryptonomicon characters such as Bobby Shaftoe and Lawrence Waterhouse. Both prequels mix fictional and real people, and both feature a major composer as a character; the Wilson books have an appearance by Mozart, while Handel pops up in the Baroque Cycle. 

9. Both novels have plots that range across much of the 20th century and feature World War II as a major plot element.

10. Neither novel fits comfortably into a commercial publishing category. Illuminatus! has many different elements; it was marketed as science fiction, but Wilson did not think of it as a science fiction novel. Cryptonomicon also was sold as a science fiction novel, but the brief fantasy elements are a very small part of the text; if anything, it could be considered a historical novel or literary novel.

11. Both works can be linked to the ideas of Peter Thiel. According to the Wikipedia article on Cryptonomicon,  Thiel has said that the book was required reading in the early days of PayPal.
I am not going to claim that Thiel is a fan of Illuminatus! or has ever heard of Robert Anton Wilson; however, as I have noted, as a philanthropist Thiel has funded many of the ideas RAW pushed in the 1970s, including life extension, intelligence increase and making it possible to migrate into space.

12. Illuminatus! has been described as a counterculture encyclopedia, while Cryptonomicon can be described as a book that covers many of the uses and possibilities of personal computers. So you could say that Illuminatus! covers what Timothy Leary was interested in early in his career, while Cryptonomicon tracks nicely with Leary's later interest in computers, and with the way computer culture succeeded drugs and radical politics as the focus of the California counterculture.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Did the 'Illuminati Papers' rescue some of Illuminatus' appendices? [UPDATED]

Discordian historian Adam Gorightly kindly shares a tip with me: He emailed me the above, a letter that Robert Anton Wilson sent to Greg Hill, hand dated June 9, 1975. It offers new evidence that some of the appendices left out of Illuminatus! for space reasons found their way into The Illuminati Papers. 

RAW writes, "If ILLUMINATUS hits big enough, Feldman (editor at Dell) thinks we might be able to bring out ILLUMINATI PAPERS, with appendices and other stuff cut from present edition, and other Illuminati matter."

"Feldman" is Fred Feldman, a Dell editor who edited Illuminatus! for publication, and did much of the cutting that Wilson references. You can read my interview with Feldman. You can also read Arthur Hlavaty's review of The Illuminati Papers. 

Adam also mentions that he has enough material to probably turn into another book, which would be great news. For D. Scott Apel's statement that The Illuminati Papers includes cut appendices, see here. 

UPDATE: I wrote to Feldman, who writes back: "I wish I could be of some help to you about this, but I just don’t remember.  I can tell you this: back then, everything was hard copies; either carbon copies or photocopies.  So I’m sure I would have mailed back to the authors any cut pages.  I would never have thrown them away.  Never."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Week 68. Illuminatus online reading group

Vladimir Mayakovsky, a typical Cancer? 

(This week: Appendix Gimmel, The Illuminati Theory of History,  pages 742-756.)

"Appendix Gimmel, the Illuminati Theory of History" is one of my favorite pieces in the appendix, very entertaining. In an earlier posting, I amused myself attempting to apply the Illuminati Theory of History to the rise and fall of the Roman empire.

As I re-read this appendix, I began to wonder how much of the theory could be linked to the Illuminati and Adam Weishaupt, and how much was just something that Wilson and Shea made up. Many of the references in the piece seemed amusing spurious, e.g. "In a well-known passage in the Necronomicon," and  Weishaupt importing peyote from Mexico "at great trouble and expense."

Sensing that I was in over my head, I emailed Eric Wagner, Adam Gorightly and Michael Johnson, and asked for help. I wrote, "Does this come from Discordianism, or did Adam Weishaupt write anything like this, or did Wilson and Shea just make it up? I would appreciate any pointers."

Adam wrote, "I'm guessing mostly made up by Wilson and Shea."

Eric wrote, "I would agree with Adam. I've spent a fair amount of time with this appendix the last few years thinking about Bob Wilson's use of five sectioned texts. Rereading the appendix this week I think about applying this theory of history to my 17 years at my current job." (Eric is a teacher at a California school.)

Michael wrote, "I think it's RAW and Shea getting creative with Joachim of Flores, Vico, Hegel and then many other serious historiographers' propensities to delineate X Number of True Epochs in human history. Oddly, the idea that these epochs would repeat as a cycle seems far more common than one would guess before diving into these Grand Schemas/models. I read a book on cyclical models of history (forget the title...was it by Frank Manuel?)), and the author broke the models down into 1.) thinkers who saw the cycles repeating, but on a sort of ascending spiral: the repetition holds, but things never literally repeat exactly as before, and there's progress of some sort; and 2.) thinkers who seemed to be saying that things will literally repeat: you know how you're sitting somewhere, in that shirt, reading this email? It will all happen again, some day, somewhere and somewhen, exactly as you are now. IIRC the Hindu idea of "kalpas" was one of these, and Nietzsche too...but Fred had to have been pulling our legs, right?

"There's plenty of textual evidence in RAW's 1960s writing that the idea of some intellectuals having the inside track on how History will go was bullshit and dangerous. Look at his advocacy for Popper's _The Open Society and Its Enemies_, which attacked Plato and Marx especially, as one example. (I think Leo Strauss and the Wolfowitz/Cheney NeoCon reading of "the Truth of History" proves Popper was onto something.)

"However, I think RAW liked Weird Ideas as part of some sort of Divine, poetic imagination. And I think he sees Joyce's use of Vico in this regard in that way. In a sane society, Weishaupt's writings would have been translated into English by a bona fide scholar by now."

Thanks, guys!

The Wikipedia article on Adam Weishaupt indicates that some of Weishaupt's works have been translated into English, although some of the translations seem to be quite expensive.

The explanations of the various stages in history include examples of people who supposedly represent the corresponding astrological signs, and while some of these folks are quite familliar, some of them were obscure to me. Vladimir Mayaskofski, listed on page 752 as a "typical Cancerian," was a Russian Futurist who had a controversial life and even a controversial aftermath to his death. He was associated with the Russian avant-garde, a movement I'm interested in (particularly the music produced by composers associated with the movement.)

(Next week: Pages 756-768, appendices Daleth, Tzaddi, Vau, Zain and Cheth).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

'Ten Good Reasons to Get out of Bed in the Morning'

Robert Anton Wilson's essay, "Ten Good Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Morning," was first published in Oui magazine in 1977, and while it has dated a bit (the technology predictions did not work out as planned, although I'm still betting on them in the long run) it's still a powerful essay, still largely convincing in its message. (I have all kinds of communication and entertainment options that didn't exist in 1977. For example, I can communicate with people all over the world with this blog -- I don't need any help from somebody with a printing press. So there's good stuff RAW didn't anticipate in his techno-optimism.) I'm away from home so I can't check this, but I'm pretty sure it's reprinted in Right Where You Are Sitting Now. 

CORRECTION: It is reprinted in The Illuminati Papers, as Chas says in the comments. Thank  you, Chas.

Someone named Matthew Shelton has recorded it on Soundcloud, so that if you like you can listen to it. It's just under half an hour long.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Nabokov's Ulysses map

One of my favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, sketched the above map to illustrates the travels of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through Dublin during the action in Ulysses. The posting at Open Culture, from where this illustration is taken, explains, "For those who teach Ulysses, Nabokov has a suggestion: 'Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced'.”

I've looked at the map, and many of the words are hard to make out, at least in the reproduction. However, I have found a website, Walking Ulysses, which is dedicated to providing maps.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Time to pardon Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden

The passage of a modest reform bill into law has focused new attention on efforts to help Edward Snowden, whose brave whistleblowing made reform possible. Amnesty International UK has launched a Justice for Edward Snowden petition drive. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Free British fannish ebooks!

David Langford, with some of his Hugo awards. 

As I believe that sombunall of you are interested in science fiction and science fiction fandom (there is at least some overlap between RAW fans and SF fans, maybe besides me and Arthur Hlavaty, now equipped with a more clear vision than ever), I wanted to pass on the tip that David Langford, the British author and big name fan, has prepared some ebooks for free download. 

The offerings include THEN, Rob Hansen's history of British fandom from 1930 to 1980 (the equivalent, I presume, of Harry Warner Jr.'s chronicles of American fandom) and some reports on TAFF trips. (That is, the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund, which pays to send fans across the Atlantic Ocean. In such cases, it is customary to write a trip report.)

Mr. Langford also has some electronic books for sale, available to customers in the U.K., the U.S.A. and other non-European Union nations. They collect his fiction, his criticism, etc.

Langford's monthly Ansible newsletter, by the way, is the perfect choice for people who don't have a lot of time but who don't want to lose touch with science fiction and fandom. I don't read Locus, which would involve a time investment that I don't feel I can make but Ansible, a very compressed newsletter, keeps me in the loop.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Oz Fritz on becoming a recording engineer

Oz Fritz, doing his thing

Oz Fritz is working on a book (working title, Music, Magick and the Game of Life) and he's posted a selection on his blog, "Transition from Assistant to First Engineer," and as you might expect, it's not all techie talk about the equipment he uses in the studio. Here he is, setting up a recording session for a Bootsy Collins* album:

I arrived three hours early to set it up and used Tibetan mandelas, art pictures by Max Ernst and Salvador Dali, psychedelic images, graphics from an illustrated Egyptian Book of the Dead and all kinds of other esoteric and fine art pictures.  It ended up feeling very intense in there, almost uncomfortably so.  You could feel the walls pulsating with light and image producing a natural high, a waking state. I was concerned that I'd gone too far, but the session went quickly and smoothly.

*This is the Parliament/Funkadelic bassist, who also contributed to the Illuminati EP.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Week 67, Illuminatus! online reading group

George Washington, father of his country and the hemp-growing industry. 

(This 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.".)

This week takes us to the end of Leviathan (where the most important secrets of the plot are revealed to George, and again revealed to the reader, in case he/she/it missed them earlier) and into the first two appendices.

At the beginning of the appendices, it is stated that there originally were 30, but that eight were omitted "due to the paper shortage." This seems to accord with statements by the authors and by the work's editor, Fred Feldman, that significant cuts were made in the manuscript when Illuminatus! was edited and printed (see my interview with Feldman).

So what happened to the missing appendices?

Robert Anton Wilson was asked about the cuts in the Lewis Shiner interview: When asked about whether any of the cuts in Illuminatus! would be restored, Wilson said, "No, all that got lost."

D. Scott Apel claims that some of the material that was cut from Illuminatus! was published as The Illuminati Papers. 

The same thing is hinted in issue No. 10 of Robert Shea's "No Governor" fanzine, in the lettercolumn. Roldo (an artist apparently known by only one name) wrote and said he'd like to see some of the missing pages from Illuminatus!, for example more on the Tarot from Miss Portinari. Shea replied. "There's more on the Tarot in other books by Robert Anton Wilson, such as Prometheus Rising. Wilson's ideas bear a striking resemblance to those of Miss Portinari and Mordecai the Foul. Nothing is every lost."

I have speculated that the "Anarchism and Crime" article by Wilson and Shea is a missing appendix from Illuminatus!; it reads like one, but I don't know how to prove it.

Many of Wilson's collections of essays contain material that would not have been out of place in the Illuminatus! appendices. It's impossible to know now how much of that could be material written for Illuminatus! or a rewrite of such material.

A few posts ago, I compared Illuminatus! to Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, noting each novel's relationship to a series of historical novels that followed. I don't want to push the comparison of Illuminatus! and Cryptonomicon too hard here (it's going to be a separate blog post) but I noticed that Illuminatus! has an appendix which contains a cypher for sending secret messages, one that can be rendered using the cards in a Tarot deck; Cryptonomicon ends with an appendix by Bruce Schneier on Solitaire, a low-tech system for encoding messages that uses a deck of playing cards.

Original magazine cover illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," mentioned in the appendix. 
(Next week: Appendix Gimmel, The Illuminati Theory of History,  pages 742-756.)