Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A dynamic duo tackle Pynchon


Well heck, you didn't expect me to run a photo of Thomas Pynchon, did you?

Michael Johnson and Peter Quadrino have jointly released two blog posts that focus on Thomas Pynchon's epic novel Gravity's Rainbow. I have never read the novel (or any Pynchon) but their pieces convince me I am overdue. (I tend to like ambitious novelists, so I've thought for a long time that I need to check out Pynchon.

Both discuss Timothy Leary's fascination with the novel; Michael focuses more on Leary, while PQ offers more of an overview. Do read both pieces.

A soundbite from PQ: ... it was unanimously selected for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction yet ultimately rejected because of a passage involving coprophilia. So turned off by the perversions of Pynchon, the Pulitzer board elected to give the prize for fiction to nobody. The Pulitzer board described the novel as "unreadable", "turgid", "overwritten" and "obscene" and, after reading the book, I can't help but agree wholeheartedly with each of those adjectives, though I certainly did enjoy the experience overall.

A bit from Michael Johnson: Pynchon's erudition is on the level of Joyce, but his bend toward scientific knowledge seems particularly impressive. Robert Anton Wilson writes, "Pynchon shows considerable knowledge of information theory and other scientific matters generally ignored by the literary intelligentsia. In [Gravity's Rainbow] he uses calculus and quantum mechanics in the way Joyce used Homer in Ulysses."

In an alternate world, one where I've won the lottery and I'm super rich, I bribe these two guys to write about Vladimir Nabokov .... or at least Pale Fire. Or maybe get them to write about Richard Powers?




A rare photo of the reclusive blogger Peter Quadrino. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Week 58, Illuminatus online reading group



The Old Castle in Ingolstadt, where Hagbard Celine hosts a dinner featuring lots of good German beer.

(This week: "Are you a turtle?" Lady Velkor asks again, page 605, to  page 617, "Just then, Joe distinctly heard a rooster crow.")

While Lake Totenkopf is fictional, Ingolstadt is a real German city and is indeed the birthplace of Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Bavarian Illuminati. Weishaupt was a professor of the University of Ingolstadt. Victor Frankenstein, in Mary Shelley's novel, attended the university. There's apparently no great lake by the city, which is in fact on the Danube, thus putting it on the frontier of the Roman Empire. The Liebfrauenm├╝nster and Maria de Victoria churches, mentioned on page 606 under slightly different names, are real places.


The Liebfraumuenster Church in Ingolstadt. 



Interior of the Maria de Victoria church. 


The town hall in Ingolstadt. 

Some notes:

"It depicted the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV barefoot in the snow  at Canossa," page 608. This is a reference to famous incident in which the emperor stood in the snow, begging Pope Gregory VII to forgive him. The pope, although a significant figure, is not in fact Gregory the Great, so the authors get that bit wrong.

"Mal, baby," Joe cried, page 611. Malaclypse the Elder, who we encountered in Chicago.  See the Illuminatus section of this article.

Just then, Joe distinctly heard a rooster crow, page 617. Hagbard's oddball reenactment of the Last Supper seems to be conflated with Peter's denial.

I am in the middle of working 10 days in a row, so I am afraid this posting will be a bit shorter than I would like.

(Next week: "Cars, except for official cars and the vehicles of the performers," page 617, to page 627, "Come over here and get the energies going with me.")


Sunday, March 29, 2015

RAW on consciousness change


It's nice to have Robert Anton Wilson Fans back. There's a wealth of material to browse through, thanks to Mike Gathers' efforts to get the site going again.

There are quite a few interviews with RAW there, and one of the more interesting one is the "Notes from the Pop Underground" interview that posted in 1985. Here's a question about the occult that RAW turns into an answer about consciousness change. I think it sheds light on many scenes in Illuminatus!


What is your association with the O.T.O., Golden Dawn and other occult orders?

RAW: Those are only two of the occult orders into which I have been initiated. For a while in the early ’70s I was going around to occult conventions the way some people go to every science-fiction con, and frequently members of one occult order would initiate the members of another order _en masse_. If I listed all my mystical titles, the catalog would be quite impressive (to those who are impressed by titles). Chiefly what I learned from all this hocus-pocus was that ritual can be a very effective method of brain-change or neurological reprogramming, but only if it contains a high element of symbolic drama and a certain carefully calculated shock. That is, the reason most church rituals accomplish nothing and are so bloody *dull* is that the drama and shock are missing. The real reason for the secrecy of occult orders (including the Freemasons) is that the drama and shock are most powerful if the candidate literally does not know what is about to happen next.

A true ritual, containing a neurological shock, can be as effective as many years of meditation or other yogic practices. Of course, it doesn’t always work; amateurs often botch their rituals and the effect then is like a syrupy Disney film that’s supposed to make you cry but just makes you squirm, or a comedy that doesn’t make you laugh, or a horror film that doesn’t scare you. But when a ritual is performed correctly, everybody feels the energy and knows they have entered a new level of reality.

The principal methods of altering consciousness are drugs, meditation, special breathing techniques like pranayama, and a heightening of shock or confusion. A good ritual creates that shock and confusion in which you begin to see with new clarity and hear what is being said. It opens you to experiences that your cultural conditioning has previously armored you against.

After a while, however, all ritual becomes vain repetition. There is no more to learn from it. I dropped out of all occult orders, with no hard feelings on any side, many years ago. My work on consciousness these days is involved only with meditation and yogic breathing. In my experience, those techniques never become repetitious or redundant. You learn more from them every year.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Warning: Alternative Beliefs!



You may think you are just reading a literary site, devoted to a somewhat obscure American writer, but you are wrong. You are accessing forbidden fruit!

Yesterday, I took my car to the oil change shop and I accessed the shop's courtesy wi-fi on my smartphone and checked this site to see if it was up, did I have any new comments, etc. But I couldn't access it. A message (above) said I was blocked from RAWIllumination.net, because I was offering "Alternative Beliefs." See the link for more information.

It's said that early in the 20th century, book publishers competed eagerly to be "banned in Boston" because it was so useful for marketing a book in the rest of the country. I'm hoping this site will acquire a similar cachet, although I admit that "banned by Valvoline" isn't quite as interesting.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday links



PQ on recording Finnegans Wake. 

Oz Fritz on Bill Laswell. An interesting paragraph: "A popular notion in esoteric circles concerns the Secret Chiefs or Hidden Masters, advanced Initiates who influence and guide the evolution of the human species or at least attempt to.  According to Robert Anton Wilson this works as a "useful metaphor."  Perhaps not all the Masters are metaphysical?  True artists, those that communicate transformational information or "data cells" through the medium of their art, help shape the culture and society of their times."

Greg Hill's free ticket, from Adam Gorightly.  Also an Eris of the Month, although I could not find the golden apple.

Bill to end NSA spying on Americans introduced in U.S. House. Via Jake Shannon at Discordian Libertarians on Facebook.

Do we need a new economic model?  Via Jake Shannon, again.

Spielberg to direct Ready Player One movie. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

'Black Magic and Curses' by RAW?



Jesse Walker — author, gentleman, Reason magazine editor, RAW fan, etc. — wrote to me recently to ask if I knew whatever had happened to Black Magick and Curses, Robert Anton Wilson's planned revised version of Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words. An announcement was posted on Usenet by one "Mark Chan," purportedly RAW himself.

"This was earlier in 2000, so perhaps the revised edition actually existed? (Or perhaps this was just to be the original uncut version, which would itself be quite a find?)," Walker asks. The Post Office box was the same as for Permanent Press, which put out the newsletter "Trajectories" and the book Chaos and Beyond, Walker found.

These kinds of inquiries to the RAW estate never seem to generate a  useful response, at least in my experience, so I tried Eric Wagner, who very well might know, and Michael Johnson, another RAW scholar.

"I don't think it ever appeared," Eric wrote back.

Michael said he doesn't know, either. He speculated that a manuscript might have been auctioned off when RAW. "I'm fairly certain this never appeared in any substantial way," he wrote.

I notice also that "Black Magick and Curses" is the name of a piece in Email to the Universe. 

Does anyone else know anything?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book news from England


Above is the paperback cover for John Higgs' alternative history of the 20th Century, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century.  It is available for pre-order both in the U.K. and the U.S. (The lobster telephone presumably refers to Salvador Dali's surrealistic creation, although I'm hoping it's the phone John reaches for when you ring him up.)

Alan Moore is going to release a massive (non-graphic) novel next year.  Follow the link in the Times article for more information.  Moore also has an H.P. Lovecraft project that starts soon. 

Not sure I can really relate this last bit to RAW, but the Elvis Costello memoir also comes out later this year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cosmic Trigger play news



Daisy Eris Campbell has sent out a new email update. A couple pieces of news:

(1) Another batch of Cosmic Trigger t-shirts are being printed up at 15 pounds apiece (a little under $23 American dollars); to order one, write to Daisy (at) cosmictriggerplay.com. It's the t-shirt being worn by actor Oliver Senton, above, "and the money will go towards re-filling the Cosmic Coffers," Daisy writes.

(2) "We are currently exploring all sorts of Cosmic tentacles — and hope to be announcing some very exciting news soon... For more information, consult your pineal gland (and we might email in case)." Probably if you write to her, you can get yourself added to the email list.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week 57, Illuminatus! online reading group

Saul Goodman, as played by John Joyce in the Ken Campbell stage version of Illuminatus!, with Prunella Gee. 

(This week: "The peace symbol," said George, Page 595, to "If we're right about this, we might all be dead before Woodstock Europa opens next week." Page 605.)

At the beginning of Illuminatus!, New York police officers Saul Goodman, head of the homicide unit, and his friend Barney Muldoon, from the bomb squad, are called in the middle of the night to investigate the bombing of the offices of Confrontation magazine.

And in this week's section, we find out why pentuple agent Tobias Knight and Joseph Malik set off the bomb: If I am reading this correctly, one of Knight's organizations, the CIA, wants to deploy the talents of Goodman and Muldoon to see what's up with the Illuminati.

The bombing will draw in Muldoon from the bomb squad (a bombing would only get Muldoon in, page 605) and they want Goodman, too, so what to do? (Even having Malik disappear might only bring in Missing Persons, page 605).

Then I remembered the dummies used by the clothier on the eighteen floor, right above the Confrontation office. Burn the dummy just right before setting the bomb and it might work, Knight thinks, (page 605). (Tobias Knight's monologue on this section begins with "Robinson and Lehrman of the Homicide Department actually started the last phase of the operation," page 602.

And it does work. On page 11, Barney Muldoon explains to Goodman why Goodman was called to the scene, even though nobody was killed: "The call went out to you because a clothier's dummy was burned on the eighteenth floor and the first car here thought it was a human body." And then a couple of pages later, Dan Pricefixer finds the box of memos about the Illuminati ("It's the freakiest box of memos I ever set eyes on. Weird as tits on a bishop," page 13) and the chase is on.

And did you notice another passage where this section ties back to the beginning of the book?

Page 602: Robinson and Lehrman of the Homicide Department actually started the last phase of the operation, and a few sentences later, "Muldoon is on to  us," Robinson told us right off."

Page 19, after Muldoon and Goodman realize they've gotten interested in the strange case:

Methodically, Saul went on, "Who, on your staff, do you think is a double agent for the CIA?"
"Robinson I''m sure off, and Lehrman I suspect."
"Both of them go. We take no chances."

A note on the text:

Page 601, The woman who calls  herself Lady Velkor is an astonishing beautiful women with flaming red hair and smoldering green eyes. She sounds like Marjorie Campbell, the woman with red hair who participated in the Babalon Working ritual with occultist Jack Parsons. (Citation: Oz Fritz, in the Week 12 posting which covers the Black Mass in which Ms. Velkor makes her first appearance: "p.117: the woman with red hair and green eyes recalls Marjorie Cameron who had the same.  She was the woman who entered Jack Parson’s life during his Babalon working eventually becoming his wife.")

(Next week: "Are you a turtle?" Lady Velkor asks again, page 605, to  page 617, "Just then, Joe distinctly heard a rooster crow.")



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday links

Hellblazer excerpt, see below

Long interview with Iain M. Banks comes to light.  Hat tip, John Merritt. I think maybe, by the way, Mr. Banks was unfamiliar with left libertarians in the U.S.

Article on worker-owned co-ops. John again, who comments, "One side of libertarianism that's almost totally ignored by suit-and-tie 'Libertarians.' The 'Lief Erickson' in "Illuminates!" is also one."

Kurt Vonnegut grading his own work. 

"You people have been readin' too much Robert Anton Wilson." (From an issue of "Hellblazer," I don't have a citation for which one yet.) UPDATE: Federico Erostarbe, who Tweeted this, says it ran in issue No. 86, "in Eddie Campbell's short run (85-88)."

More Justin Raimondo on Rand Paul. Odd to see Justin denouncing libertarian sectarians, as he often is sectarian.

Hiding your data from the government. Earlier, I posted Julia Angwin's advice on how to do that.  


Saturday, March 21, 2015

A visit to Washington [UPDATED]


The Washington monument, as seen from a taxi window as I rode to the National Press Club on Thursday evening. 

Here is a synchronicity: I live in Ohio and I formerly lived in Oklahoma, so I only make it to Washington, D.C., every few years. Yet a few days after I read about the Washington Monument in the Illuminatus! trilogy, I found myself going by it. (The current section we are reading this week refers to the Washington Monument, a single finger pointing upward in an eloquent and vulgar gesture which only the Illuminati knew meant "Fuck you!")

I know I'm supposed to insert some libertarian boilerplate here about how much I hate Washington D.C., but the fact is that while I dislike much of what the government does, I like Washington. I like the Smithsonian museums and I like the way the subway makes it easy to get around and to go to places such as Chinatown, where I had deep fried shrimp in the shell for lunch Thursday.

Su-Mei Tse, L’Echo, 2003. Courtesy of the artist and Peter Blum Gallery, New York. © Su-Mei Tse From the Hirshhorn Museum's "Days of Endless Time" exhibit
UPDATE: Friday afternoon, when I finally had some free time, I got to visit my favorite art museum, the Hirschhorn. If you get the chance, check out the video installation exhibit at the museum, Days of Endless Time. It's very trippy. (It runs through April 6.)

The Hirshhorn is part of the Smithsonian family of museums, which has material to appeal to every interest and taste, if modern art is not your thing.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Adam Gorightly on Illuminatus, Week 56


Chart of the World Revolution, the conspiracy theory chart that apparently inspired the satiric one in Illuminatus! From the Discordian Archives. 

Adam Gorightly delves into the "chart on the Illuminati conspiracy" referenced on page 591 of Illuminatus! and displayed on page 97. It's a really interesting post, which gives the backstory on conspiracy theories at the East Village Other and the people associated with it, including Ishmael Reed.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Discordian history, and a Discordian Russian blog


Beware of staircases

Adam Gorightly, hard at work unearthing more of the literary history of Discordianism, has a new post up about rare editions of the Principia Discordia, including a Russian edition.

I followed the link from the comment by one "Ivan Zlax" at the bottom of Adam's article, and found a very weird Discordian site from Russia, which I don't understand, even though it is, in fact written in English. "Living in the conditions between staircases is unnatural. Unnatural lifestyle kills." This is from a blog post that apparently criticizes people for having pets. Fortunately, "But, as a rule, before spring comes, when the leeching owners aren’t ready for that, some pets manage to escape the emotional snare and staircases."

My wife makes fun of me because I like Russian music, Russian science fiction, etc., but I'm not quite getting Mr. Zlax. Adam, explain your Russian friends.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

News from England [Updated]



Ian 'Cat' Vincent

An announcement on Twitter from Ian "Cat" Vincent: "Pleased to announce I’ll be speaking at the MARGINAL PRESENCES symposium, Senate House Library, University of London on Robert Anton Wilson."

It will be April 23 at this event.

Update: Cat Tweets: Starts at 1300 on 23rd, I’m on at 1420




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Open Borders Day


Bryan Caplan

Monday was Open Borders Day; did you miss it? Chad Nelson didn't. He posted on Twitter, "One of my favorite border commentaries is from (not surprisingly) Robert Anton Wilson. In his typically witty critique of the human condition he remarked that domesticated primates (aka humans) engage in the same kind of senseless turf squabbles that their mammalian brethren do. Where other mammals mark their turf with bodily excretions, domesticated primates mark theirs with excretions of ink in the form of land titles, treaties, and other "sophisticated" writings. Indication that we haven't evolved all that much." Chad also posted an essay on the topic. 

There was a lot of Twitter chatter for Open Borders Day, much of it pointing toward efforts to get people to sign the Open Borders Manifesto (I signed). (It's not too late for you to sign, too.) You can also read a roundup of postings from Bryan Caplan and others. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week 56, Illuminatus online reading group


The Biograph Theatre in 1934, shortly after Dillinger was shot, in a photograph taken by the FBI. The Biograph is still in Chicago and now offers live performances.


(This week: Page 585, "Well, said Joe," to page 595, "a circle with a downward pointing trident carved inside it.")

Well, we find out which minor Illuminatus! character killed John Kennedy and we get confirmation (if you had missed it before) that Joe Malik himself bombed the offices of Confrontation magazine. I don't have an overarching blog post this time, just some notes:

"I became a cop because of Billy Freshette," page 588. Mary Lou Servix is talking.

"preaching that the greatest of the White Magicians had died just recently in England and now the age of the Black Magicians was beginning," page 589. Aleister Crowley died in 1947.

"Mordecai the Foul," page 591. Robert Anton Wilson.

"You're either on the sub or off the sub," page 593. References "you're either on the bus or off the bus," the psychedelic bus of the Merry Pranksters in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. 

(Next week, "The peace symbol," said George, Page 595, to "If we're right about this, we might all be dead before Woodstock Europa opens next week." Page 605.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dadtown, part one



Adrian Reynolds reports that he has finished part one of Dadtown, his online science fiction comic book. He is currently at Emcon 2015, where he will announce the winner of a contest to to get a caricature of yourself killed in the comic. I just finished reading part one, and it's fast moving with interesting art.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hear PQ perform Finnegans Wake


Peter Quadrino

You've read PQ's blogs Finnegans, Wake! and A Building Roam,  you have seen him mentioned many times on this blog, now listen to  him perform a bit from Book III, Chapter 3 of Finnegans Wake, accompanied by music and other voices. The production from the Finnegans Wake reading group in Austin, Texas, where Peter Quadrino lives, is part of the Waywords and Meansigns project, which is attempting to record the entire book; only samples are available now. The player, below, has all of the samples released so far; PQ's is the one that sounds like wind howling at the beginning. Or go here and pick out  the sample you want. Steve "Fly" Pratt is working on the project, too, although a sample from him apparently is not available yet.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Robert Anton Wilson Fans returns!



Robert Anton Wilson Fans, the biggest RAW archive on the Internet, has made a comeback.

The site went dark for much of last year. Joseph Matheny did a fine job of hosting and running it for years. Now the site's founder, Mike Gathers, has reclaimed it and relaunched it.  The artwork, above, was created by Bobby Campbell for the relaunch. Note that now it's rawilsonfans.org; the rawilsonfans.com site has been taken over by someone else.

To celebrate, here is my interview with Mr. Gathers, a relationship therapist in Colorado,  on the history of the site, chasing the Wilsonian White Whales,  and other matters:

RAWIllumination.net: How did you get interested in Robert Anton Wilson?

Mike Gathers: Looking back, it seems like a long circuitous route.  I remember being into Tim Leary in high school.   I don’t know how he found his way into my life, but I felt intensely curious about him.   His attitude towards psychedelics as spiritual sacraments caught my attention.   So in college, I actually started experimenting with psychedelics, chasing the Grateful Dead, and getting deeper into Leary, which led me to folks like John Lilly, Ram Dass, and Carlos Castenada.   Eventually the internet became more of a thing, and I stumbled into the deoxy.org website somewhere around 1997.   Back then deoxy focused more on 4 or 5 specific people rather than a whole spectrum of areas and ideas.   Leary and Wilson shared the same web page and so I was confronted with Wilson head on.   And there was something too shocking about Wilson at first – specifically the whole immortality thing, which was the first idea featured on deoxy: “Robert Anton Wilson (1932-NEVER).”  That and to a lesser extent, the space migration thing — it was too much for me to wrap my head around.  So I steered over to the Terence McKenna page instead.  As I digested all the McKenna I could, I slowly warmed up to Wilson.   And then once I went, I went whole-hog.


Mike Gathers

RAWIllumination.net: When did you start collecting RAW documents? When did Robert Anton Wilson Fans debut as a website?

Mike Gathers:  The site was born out of the confluence of three things.

Somewhere in 1998, I discovered the usenet group, alt.fan.rawilson, which was really beginning to take off at that time.   There were all sorts of interesting characters and intelligent people posting, including Wilson himself under the pseudonym Mark Chan (which I didn’t realize until much, much later).  A German, Marc “elymr” Lutter, put together a FAQAFUQ - Frequently Answered Questions And Frequently Unaswered Questions.   He asked Mike “RMJon23” Johnson to write a bio of Wilson and with the help of the community, he collected links to any and all Wilsonia we could find on the internets.   Another member uploaded it to a cybercities.com website, but the site was down a lot and never really functioned very well when it was up.   I always thought it was an important collection and deserved a solid home on the web.

And then somewhere along the line, around 2001 with the whole Napster thing, I came across a few songs from The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy, the punk rock album that Wilson frequently noted being on.  That was something that sombunall at alt.fan.rawilson commented on – “would love to hear that...”  So I really wanted to share it, but didn’t know how at the time.

The final piece was an essay on Aleister Crowley that Wilson wrote for Paul Krassner’s The Realist.   Mike Johnson told me he was looking for a copy, and I found it on some obscure website (Monkey-something?) that stocked back issues of the Realist among other oddities.  I bought the issue.  The essay was broken into chapters based on the Tarot trump cards.   Every Friday I typed up a chapter and posted it to alt.fan.rawilson.  This was early 2004.

So the point being that all of these things sort of built on each other and the FUQAFAQ hadn’t been updated in a few years and eventually I discovered that I could host a website on my ISP account.  I updated the FUQAFAQ and broke the different sections into different pages.  Using MSWord, I saved the pages as .htm files and uploaded them to an ISP hosted web page – RAW23.comcast.net – along with the .mp3 files I had collected, and RAWilsonFans was born.

So that’s a long winded way to say that the collection was started on usenet with Marc “elmyr” Lutter and the alt.fan.rawilson community in early 1999.   I collected a few mp3s via Napster in 2001, and then started collecting and digitizing documents in early 2004.  I put all three things together and the site launched in June, 2004.

RAWIllumination.net: How did it come about that Joseph Matheny hosted the site and took charge of its presentation?

Mike Gathers: Joseph used to run the Grey Lodge Occult Review, which started out as an online ‘zine and morphed into a blog feed.  In 2007 when Mike Johnson and I came into possession of the Politically Incorrect episode with Wilson as one of the guests, it was a pretty big score and I wanted to spread the word. So I reached out to Grey Lodge and let them know.  Joseph posted the video to Grey Lodge and asked if I wanted to be a contributor.  I didn’t have much left to contribute at that time, and so nothing happened there, but we stayed in touch.

Joe always seems to have some ideas brewing and at one point he was discussing revamping the platform for all his websites (greylodge, alterati, gSpot, and probably a few others) and I suggested he throw RAWFans into the mix.  The site had gone stagnant and sat on a really archaic platform (SiteStudio) and I didn’t have the technical know-how to do much with it at the time.  I didn’t understand exactly what Joe had in mind and I’m not sure he did either, but I transferred the domain, hosting, and database over to Joe.

The site sat unchanged for a while, perhaps 2 - 3 years, and then in early 2012 Joe created a customized WordPress theme for the site and loaded up the main navigation pages.  I converted each of the individual documents into WordPress posts, updated all the broken links, added some new material, and we re-launched the site.

Things were humming along and then last year Joe hit a major life SNAFU.  He took all his web content down and put it into cold storage.  While he was dealing with what he had to deal with, the RAWilsonFans.com domain renewal fell through the cracks and so I lost my domain to a Chinese Royal Jelly distributor.   Once Joe re-emerged, we were able to reconnect and we both agreed it best if I reassumed hosting and maintenance of the site, so what we are launching today is back to being 100% owned and operated by me.

RAWIllumination.net: Who are some of the people who deserve credit for finding the documents posted on Robert Anton Wilson Fans?

Mike Gathers: I’d like to acknowledge a variety of people who played a variety of roles.  As I mentioned, the site started out as a FAQAFUQ at alt.fan.rawilson.  Back then it was more of a collection of links to other material, particularly interviews, and it was a community effort.  Marc started the FAQAFUQ in January of 2000 and with each update (roughly monthly), the community would add more and more links that they dug up on the interwebs.   That went on for about a year, and then things went quiet for a year with one final update in January 2002.

From there, Mike Johnson, Dan Clore, and Eric Wagner typed up a few things and posted them to the usenet group.   Wagner digitized and posted the “Brain Books” article from Trajectories #16/17.  Clore digitized and posted some articles from Critique and Magical Blend.  Johnson tracked down and digitized ”Joyce and Tao” and ”The Relativity of Reality” and a possibly a few others I’ve forgotten about.  Brian “BS” Shields probably contributed as well, but I can’t remember specifics.  I do remember him helping with digitizing at one point in time.  (When I say digitizing, I mean either typing the whole damn thing or scanning the article, running it through optical character recognition (OCR) and then editing all the errors.  Either way, it’s rather labor intensive as you know from direct experience.)

So then, when I launched the site, I incorporated those articles and went deep into google to find whatever links I could.   At that time, Johnson and Wagner snail mailed me copies of whatever else they had in their possession and I began the process of digitizing everything I could.   Mike also emailed me a bibliograpy of items he was searching for and that helped me target specific searches.  In fact, I’ve added to and updated that list over the years and still maintain it as a sort of “fishing” list for the site.   I began scouring eBay on a daily basis and purchasing whatever looked promising. Probably at least half of the content unique to the site consists of stuff I purchased off eBay.  Later on, I discovered periodical collections through the library systems in both hard copy and microfiche form.

At Wilson’s “meme-orial,” Johnson met a fellow named Kurt Smith who knew Wilson when they both worked together at Playboy.   Kurt digitized his VCR copy of Politically Incorrect for us, and he also lent Mike his extensive collection of letters from Wilson, one of which he scanned for me to post on the site.  

Other submissions came from various places.   Folks would contact me out of the blue and offer what they had.  I wish I had kept better records, but someone sent me copies of the first three issues of Trajectories.  A Russian lad sent me scans of his Russian book covers.   Jesse Walker of Reason magazine sent me all his New Libertarian back issues.  Iona Miller had posted on the tribe.net RAW forum that she had a bunch of letters from Wilson, so I contacted her and she sent me a copy of one.
At the Maybe Logic Academy, Wilson would occasionally post something I hadn’t seen before, so up it went on the site.  One day he simply posted, “my first interview with a Russian Magazine” which turned out to be one of his last interviews.

And of course you, Tom, have dug up several things yourself and done a great deal of the dirty work in digitizing many of the magazine articles I have sent you.

I would also like to note that many, many folks in the online communities, particularly Eric Wagner and especially Mike Johnson have been incredibly supportive and provided a lot of the fuel that kept me going.


Michael Johnson, visiting Robert Anton Wilson in Wilson's apartment, Feb. 18, 2003. 

RAWIllumination.net: Can you explain the relationship between Robert Anton Wilson fans and RAW's excellent last book, Email to the Universe?

Mike Gathers: Well, here’s what I can tell you for sure.  Eric Wagner emailed Mike Johnson and me a copy of the Table of Contents of Email to the Universe before it was published.  (Wagner was close with Wilson, so I assume he got it directly from the man himself.)  I took one look and realized that every single essay in the book was already available on the web, half of them on my site.   So I reached out to Nick Tharcher of New Falcon and said something along the lines of, “Hey, this stuff is out there, would you like for me to take it down?”  Nick said, “Yes, please,” and so I took down the essays that were hosted at RAWilsonFans.com and let him know, but also mentioned that the other half of the book was still available on other websites beyond my control.  Nick said thank you and offered to send me a free copy of EttU when it was released, and sure enough a few months later the book hit the shelves and I received a copy in the mail.

Now beyond that I can only speculate, but I’m fairly confident that Wilson was aware of the website.  I would post something new on the site and announce it on alt.fan.rawilson and often within a couple days, Wilson would circulate said article through his personal “group mind” email list. So whether he gathered up the material for EttU directly from my site, or indirectly from others, I really can’t say - probably a mixture of both.  But the fact is that a good chunk of the material in EttU is stuff that we, the online Wilson community, brought from obscurity to the internet.  And I’m sure the income from that book helped Wilson live a little more comfortably in his final two years.

RAWIllumination.net: Do you think there's any major unpublished RAW material out there that would make a good book, or two?

Mike Gathers:  No, I don’t think there’s anything significant out there that hasn’t been previously published in a periodical or a book.

I had hope for Wilson’s final opus, Tale of the Tribe, but after speaking with Eric Wagner at Wilson’s Meme-orial, I don’t believe that anything exists outside of the “preview” in the back of TSOG, and a couple MaybeLogic Academy courses.  A super ambitious project would be to take the scattered remnants and mix in commentary from fans like Wagner, Johnson, Steven “Fly” Pratt, and Toby “Bogus Magus” Philpott and see what comes of it.

I could also see a book of letters assembled and including Discordian Abnormail and such.  Some old Discordian correspondences have been making appearances on the Robert Anton Wilson Fans Facebook group and I think that with the illustrations and historical context, a very interesting coffee table book could be put together.

Now as far as material not previously published in a book, there’s a few fascinating options (to me at least), but again, nothing I would consider major.

There’s still a lot of great stuff from the 60’s and 70’s that could reach a wider audience.   Just as Email to the Universe was a compilation of existing material, a couple more books like that could be assembled.   I could see a book on Crowley, magick and the occult as well as a book sociological-political-cultural commentary.  The magick book could be assembled from relevant articles previously published in Gnostica, Green Egg, and other sources, while the political book could be assembled from previously published essays taken from sources such as The Realist and Critique.
A more complex project would be to compile all the existing Wilson interviews into one book such as what Semiotext(e) did for Burroughs Live.  However, I shudder to think of the complications that must come up in securing the rights to publish several dozen interviews from several dozen sources, many of which are now defunct.

RAWIllumination.net: I've written more than once about the possibility of publishing a book of RAW-Robert Shea correspondence, as RAW suggested in Cosmic Trigger 3. The Shea folks tell me they aren't aware of any correspondence left behind. The RAW estate is less helpful in responding to inquiries. Do you have any thoughts on this? Has the RAW estate cooperated in your hunt for unpublished writings?

Mike Gathers: I am familiar your personal White Whale of Wilsonia and appreciate your persistence in the matter.  I can certainly relate to chasing after Wilsonian White Whales.   I have had very little correspondence with the RAW estate, and none of that concerned unpublished writings.  Based on conversations with others, particularly Eric Wagner and Mike Johnson, my impression is that Wilson wasn’t one to hold onto such things – at least not in any sort of organized fashion – and I doubt what there was has survived.   I suspect that now, 8 years after Wilson left us, very little, if anything remains of the estate beyond the book rights.  So no, I highly doubt the Shea-Wilson correspondence still exists, but who knows, maybe it will turn up in an episode of Storage Wars one day.




Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finnegans Wake 'prophecy' of RAW's death



Znore at Groupname for Grapejuice plunges back into Chapel Perilous in part two of a series of articles that began with one I wrote about the other day. 

The new post, among many other points, discusses the significance of the page numbers in the original edition of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake and about the use of the book as a prophetic text. Znore then writes,

If the page numbers are significant then dates can be determined from them. The first time I saw this type of correlation is of page 111 of the Wake with Robert Anton Wilson's death on January 11th.

...peraw raw raw reeraw puteters out of Now Sealand in spignt of the patchpurple of the massacre, a dual a duel to die to day, goddam and biggod, sticks and stanks, of most of the Jacobiters...

Lots of other interesting thoughts in the post, too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kevin Birmingham on Ulysses


Kevin Birmingham

Kevin Birmingham is the author of The Most Dangerous Book, a history of James Joyce's Ulysses and the titanic effort that was required to get it published and made widely available to the English-speaking world.  I interviewed him for my books blog at my newspaper.  I brought up Robert Anton Wilson in one question. I was going to reprint the interview here, but I need all the hits I can get to justify working on a books blog at my paper, so please go over there to read it. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Week 55, Illuminatus! online reading group


The General Slocum. As James Joyce scholar Jim Cartwright notes, the disastrous sinking of the ship that killed more than 1,000 people took place one day before the events of Ulysses, so people in the novel are reading about it in their newspapers.

(This week: page 575, "JUST LIKE A TREE THAT'S STANDING BY THE WAATER" to page 585, "AND HANK BRUMMER.")

Sheriff Jim Cash Cartwright, who I think is really working for Hagbard Celine, is one of the more interesting characters in Illuminatus. His lecture to Joe Malik, in its mixture of insight and B.S., is reminiscent of Mama Sutra's audience with Tobias Knight. It also pretty much captures the approach of the entire work.

"And it was hard to think that Cartwright was lying, since he knew so much about so many other things," page 585. I think that's the key. He's not lying, and he knows a lot, but the world is so vast that as we try to figure it all out, we can't get it all. It's also possible that he's blackening Hagbard Celine's name to provide cover for his own connection to Celine.

Toff's Character Breakdown for Illuminatus has this entry for Jim Cartwright:

Sheriff James  Jim  Cash Cartwright  little short fat man, hot reptilian palms, breath smells of bourbon and cheap cigars, Sheriff of Mad Dog, Texas, Episkopos of Mad Dog Cabal of LDD; author of How the Ancient Bavarian Conspiracy Plotted and Carried Out the Assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Lincoln Rockwell, Robert Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, George Wallace, Jane Fonda, Gabriel Conrad, and Hank Brummer.  Arrests and imprisons George Dorn; initiates Tobias Knight into LDD.  I30, E; I67, E; I561, G271; I578, L26; I613, L61; I637, L8

5; I691, L139 

(Key to the page references)

    I=Illuminatus! Trilogy, Dell omnibus

    E=Illuminatus! Part I: The Eye in the Pyramid, Dell

    G=Illuminatus! Part II: The Golden Apple, Dell

    L=Illuminatus! Part III: Leviathan, Dell


to convert page numbers from the omnibus to those of the individual volumes or vice versa:


   Illuminatus! Trilogy to Eye in the Pyramid: I?=E; E?=I

    Illuminatus! Trilogy to Golden Apple: I-290=G; G+290=I

    Illuminatus! Trilogy to Leviathan: I-552=L; L+552=I



Here is an interesting passage from Cartwright's lecture to Joe Malik (pages 479-480):

"Well, sir," said Cartwright, "my basic finding is that life energy pervades the entire universe, just as light and gravity do. Therefore, all life is one, just as all light is one. All energies, you see, are broadcast from a central source, yet to be found. If four amino acids—adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine—suddenly become life when you throw them together, then all chemicals are potentially alive. You and me and the fish and bugs are that kind of life made from adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine: DNA life. What we call dead matter is another kind of life: non-DNA-life. Okay so far? If awareness is life and if life is one, then the awareness of the individual is just one of the universe's sensory organs. The universe produces beings like us in order to perceive itself. You might think of it as a giant, self-contained eye."

Joe remained impassive.

Cartwright went on. "Consciousness is therefore also manifested as telepathy, clairvoyance, and telekinesis. Those phenomena are simply non-localized versions of consciousness. I'm very interested in telepathy, and I've had a lot of success with telepathic research. These cases of communication are just further evidence that consciousness is a seamless web throughout the universe."

Compare with Scotus Erigena's "all things that are, are lights," which we've mentioned earlier, and while the "life energy" bit is possibly a stretch, this is pretty close to Robert Anton Wilson's own adaption of quantum mechanics to theories of consciousness; see for example the "Note" at the beginning of email to the universe: "I also suspect that this world shows signs of intelligent design, and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignty, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style [of] an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology."

Horace Naismith, page 581, pen name for Playboy editor William Helmer, according to Adam Gorightly. 

H.L. Hunt, page 582, right wing, wealthy Texas oilman. According to the Wikipedia biography, the character of J.R. Ewing from "Dallas" was inspired by Hunt.

(Next week: Page 585, "Well, said Joe," to page 595, "a circle with a downward pointing trident carved inside it.") 



Sunday, March 8, 2015

New posts from Znore, Oz Fritz


Jessie L. Weston

Who needs to subscribe to magazines when your favorite bloggers are on the job? Znore and Oz have new posts up.

Znore "Groupname for Grapejuice" blog has a new post up, "Squatting the Chapel Perilous 1,"  which to my mind at least relates closely to RAW's comments about Chapel Perilous, his speculations about the Illuminati in Cosmic Trigger Vol. 1 and to some of the themes of Robert Shea's novel, All Things Are Lights. There's a lot in Znore's posting on a book about the Grail legend by Jessie Laidlay Weston, From Ritual to Romance, available free at Project Gutenberg. 

Oz Fritz also is interested in magick, and in his new post, "Massacre Live in Paris," he records a live album and writes more about the link between magick and music.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Illuminatus artwork


A work of art reprinted from one of Bobby Campbell's blogs, illustrating a scene from Illuminatus! Bobby explains that it's from the first issue of the comic book adaptation. "Pencils by Eric D. Burza, inks by Jeffro Antithesis & The Erisian Fiasco. Lettering by The Rising Mojos. Adaptation & Editing by Icarus."

Friday, March 6, 2015

More on Glennon's 'Double Government' book


Gene Healy

When I read Michael Glennon's book on America's bloated national security apparatus, National Security and Double Government, I liked it so much I interviewed the author. The book sheds light on the National Security state that Robert Anton Wilson wrote about. 

Gene Healy, the vice president of the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., has now written a review of Glennon's book for Reason magazine, and it's a thoughtful and interesting take.

Healy says it's "an important new book," one that helps shed light on why Barack Obama's national security policies are little different from George W. Bush's.

"It remains the case that Obama had the formal authority to say no to mass surveillance and perpetual war," Healy writes. "But saying no would require resisting enormous bureaucratic and political pressure. And anybody willing to do what it takes to become president is unlikely to transform himself into a self-denying Cincinnatus once in office. Political survivors don't jump in front of trains."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Antiwar.com asking for help


Antiwar.com's editorial director, Justin Raimondo.

I've just made a small donation to Antiwar.com, which is currently conducting a fund raising drive. I don't donate to political parties, but I do donate to support causes in believe in (something I wrote about in an earlier post.) 

The FBI spied on Antiwar.com, so in a sense, if you donate you are doubling your money — you're standing up for peace AND for your First Amendment right to peaceful dissent.

If you aren't familiar with it, Antiwar.com is a news and opinion site that supports a more peaceful foreign policy. It is founded and run by libertarians, but it includes contributions from folks who aren't part of the "freedom movement." Chad Nelson (who is a libertarian) is an assistant editor at the site.  But there's also a new article up by Patrick Buchanan. When Buchanan sounds more reasonable than most mainstream media pundits, you've got a problem.

The site is run by a 501(c)3 organization, the Randolph Bourne Institute, which means (1) Your contributions to Antiwar.com are deducted from the income which is taxed by the federal government to pay for the war machine and (2) the Randolph Bourne Institute is required to file public documents providing financial information about its operations, which you can search for at ProPublica and other Internet sites.

More information on Antiwar.com is available here and here.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A mid-1970s newspaper article about Illuminatus!


A 1970s newsroom.

[Editor's note: Adam Gorightly ran across a newspaper clipping about Illuminatus!, written by a journalist who read The Eye in the Pyramid and interviewed Robert Shea,  and sent two PDFs on to me; I have posted the PDFs but I have also typed in the article to make it easier to read. This apparently ran in late 1975 or in 1976 in the Chicago Sun-Times. The late Peggy Constantine was a well-known journalist there from 1960 to 1988. This article gives some valuable bits of information, although it's amusing she gets the name of the one of the co-authors wrong, and even manages to get the title of the first book of the trilogy book wrong -- The Mgt.]

Paperbacks

Sci-fi
Thrillers

By PEGGY CONSTANTINE

"I had spent an hour with my analyst. I stood outside a bookstore window and saw all the paperbacks about the occult and James Bond and conspiracies and all those things, and I decided I had the nucleus of a novel."

That's Robert Shea's explanation of how he came to write, with Robert Angus Wilson, a trilogy of far-out, fascinating science fiction thrillers, the first of which is Illuminatus! (Dell, $1.50).

Shea, an editor of Playboy Magazine's Forum column, and Wilson knew about the ancient Bavarian secret society of the Illuminati, which existed to arrange events for its membership's well-being. Shea says that to this day the John Birch Society believes that the Council on Foreign Relations is a front for the Illuminati. Shea and Wilson were also turned on by the Discordian religion, which preaches that disorder is in the world for a reason.

Shea's idea was simple enough. A couple of New York detectives would start a murder investigation and wind up in a Pandora's box planted by the Illuminati. 

The co-authors submitted three chapters and an outline to Dell, and Dell sent back a $4,000 advance for them to carry on. They wrote alternate chapters.

"We allowed ourselves to be carried away," says Shea. "The beautiful thing was that I would work on something and Wilson could come up with 5,000 words he had written, and it would be a complete surprise to me."

They sent Dell two boxes of complete manuscript after two years of writing. ("The Dell editor blew a gasket. For a long time, the book sat at Dell. It's had five editors.") Some 200 pages eventually were cut.

Dell decided to issue a trilogy. "The Golden Apple" comes out in October and "Leviathan!" in November.

"Illuminatus!" is carelessly written and difficult to read. As Shea says, he and Wilson let themselves go, and that means any and all contemporary social and political issues are stuck into the plotline. It is almost impossible to follow the New York cops in their work and know who's who.

Yet the blessing is a contagious energy in the writing and funny, Playboyish digs at sacred cows and society. A Nixon-like character, for instance, takes uppers and downers to get through his day, but he loves dogs.

Shea originally wanted just to make money. Now he thinks the trilogy may be more serious.

"We seem to be saying the Illuminati is the cause of the trouble of the world. Everything would be wonderful if it weren't for this conspiracy screwing things up. But we know that is not true. What we really are suggesting is that the world is its own worst enemy."




Monday, March 2, 2015

Leviathan: Prologue


Cover for the original mass market paperback of Leviathan. I still have my original copy, which says the first printing was in November 1975 and the second printing was in January 1976. 


I confess that I have gotten so used to using the familiar one-volume omnibus edition of Illuminatus! that I forgot to cover the Prologue to Leviathan. It is the synopsis that was provided at the beginning of Leviathan, when Illuminatus! was originally published as three mass market paperbacks. Like the synopsis at the beginning of The Golden Apple, it was omitted when Dell began to publish Illuminatus! as a one volume trade paperback.

Chad Nelson  Chas reminded me that I had missed the Prologue in the comments for the last episode. 

So I am pausing this week to give people a chance to read the Prologue (seven pages in the original paperback, and also available online here).

I apologize to everyone who has already read last week's "assignment" and is burning to post comments; please save them for next week when we will go ahead and cover page 575, "JUST LIKE A TREE THAT'S STANDING BY THE WAATER" to page 585, "AND HANK BRUMMER."

My reasoning for pausing at the Prologue is twofold (1) To provide a refresher on some points for folks who have come long on the journey so far and (2) to give a fresh opportunity for anyone who has dropped out along the way to rejoin the discussion. I don't want people who have dropped out, or who came to this late, to feel they have to complete two whole novels to take part and offer something. Read the synopsis and join the club.

My copy of the original mass market paperback of Leviathan, apparently printed in January 1976, has advertisements for three other Dell paperbacks in the back: Venus on the Half Shell by Kilgore Trout, Kurt Vonnegut's fictional science fiction writer (it was actually written by Philip Jose Farmer); The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective, by Carl Sagan, and TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress, by Bloomfield, Cain, Jaffe and Kory.

My copy of Leviathan does not give credit for the cover, but it is almost certainly Carlos Victor Ochagavia. 

Leviathan does not have a dedication.  The Eye in the Pyramid is dedicated "To Gregory Hill and Kerry Thornley." The Golden Apple is dedicated "To Arlen and Yvonne," i.e., the author's wives.