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

Monday, February 29, 2016

John Cage: Anarchist and libertarian

John Cage

An article about John Cage (a big influence on composers I admire, such as William Duckworth) reveals a political dimension I didn't now about: Cage leaned libertarian and anarchist in his political views and boasted that he had never voted.

Excerpt from the article by Richard Kostelanetz, from Reason Magazine:

"Cage's informing theme is announced in the book's subtitle: How To Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse). Always is he predisposed to leave well enough alone; almost always are his sympathies libertarian. (The exception is a peculiar, unfortunate, and temporary admiration for Mao Zedong.) In addition to appreciating such '60s touchstones as Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, and Norman O. Brown, Cage was influenced deeply by the American individualist anarchists. His guide to their work was James J. Martin's 1953 history Men Against the State. Martin for a while was Cage's Rockland County neighbor, and Cage would purchase copies directly from him. 'It's one of those books I never have,' he once told an interviewer, 'because I'm always giving them away'."

Hat tip, John Merritt. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Overweening Generalist on Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

I tend to judge politicians by what they say about Edward Snowden and the Apple vs. FBI fight. Most of them flunk. Many of them flunk for Michael Johnson, too. 

I notice that Ron Wyden, one of the politicians in Washington, D.C., I like, is trying to use the Apple fight to teach his colleagues about privacy. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Friday, February 26, 2016

Foreign policy report card

The American Conservative has issued a report card on foreign policy,  judging the candidates on peace issues; for a full report on each candidate, go here.  (Don't be fooled by the word "conservative" in the name of the magazine; to paraphrase RAW on libertarians, they are not "that kind" of conservative.) Hat tip, Jesse Walker.

I covered Bernie Sanders when he campaigned in Ohio, in the city where I live; he pretty much didn't talk about foreign policy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hail Eris!


An Eris of the Month from Adam Gorightly. For more Erises and other Discordian goodies, go here. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Find the others in Britain

Tickets have now gone on sale for Festival 23, scheduled for July 23 " at a secret outdoor location in the north of England." All Discordians are invited. Details here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Are ordinary folks richer than John Rockefeller in 2016?

Professor Donald Boudreaux

Robert Anton Wilson was an optimist on technology who thought that things would get better and better. One of my favorite RAW books, Cosmic Trigger Vol. 2: Down to Earth, offers some insight into that: He remembered from his childhood how bad things were decades ago.

Don Boudreaux makes the point clear in a new blog post, "Most Ordinary Americans in 2016 Are Richer Than Was John D. Rockefeller in 1916." 


You could neither listen to radio (the first commercial radio broadcast occurred in 1920) nor watch television.  You could, however, afford the state-of-the-art phonograph of the era.  (It wasn’t stereo, though.  And – I feel certain – even today’s vinylphiles would prefer listening to music played off of a modern compact disc to listening to music played off of a 1916 phonograph record.)  Obviously, you could not download music.

There really wasn’t very much in the way of movies for you to watch, even though you could afford to build your own home movie theater.

Your telephone was attached to a wall.  You could not use it to Skype.

Your luxury limo was far more likely to break down while you were being chauffeured about town than is your car today to break down while you are driving yourself to your yoga class.  While broken down and waiting patiently in the back seat for your chauffeur to finish fixing your limo, you could not telephone anyone to inform that person that you’ll be late for your meeting.

Even when in residence at your Manhattan home, if you had a hankering for some Thai red curry or Vindaloo chicken or Vietnamese Pho or a falafel, you were out of luck: even in the unlikely event that you even knew of such exquisite dishes, your chef likely had no idea how to prepare them, and New York’s restaurant scene had yet to feature such exotic fare. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Is there a libertarian case for Bernie Sanders?

Is the famous Vermont socialist also a "libertarian," if you squint hard enough? 

Well, sort of. Maybe!

One of my favorite pundits, Will Wilkinson, makes the case here,  and see also his followup. 

Will's initial post points out the that Fraser Institute's 2015 Index of Human Freedom ranks Denmark, Sweden and Canada in the top 10, all countries Bernie Sanders would like to emulate, and that the U.S. ranks 20th. If you are interested in real-world data, Sanders is more libertarian than the other major party candidates, Wilkinson argues. (See his posts, which can't easily be summarized in a couple of sentences.)

This is interesting in light of the fact that Robert Anton Wilson, at times a self-described "libertarian," at other times had kind things to say about "Scandinavian socialism."  After all, aside from their social welfare aspects,  the Scandinavian countries have good civil liberties and don't go around the world dropping bombs on people. Will's commentary provides some perspective to John Higgs' observation that American libertarians and British socialists are both attracted to RAW.

Wilkinson himself concedes that there's one big problem with his thesis: The Scandinavian countries have libertarian aspects that Sanders doesn't seem interested in emulating. "Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to actually understand that Denmark-style social democracy is funded by a free-market capitalist system that is in many ways less regulated than American capitalism."

But it's unlikely that Sanders' economic program would be enacted by a Republican Congress, and at least we'd get fewer wars, and we might get better civil liberties, Wilkinson writes.

One other possible flaw with Wilkinson's thesis is that Sanders doesn't seem terribly interested in foreign policy or civil liberties. He'll talk about them, but often it's when somebody forces him to. When he talks about leading the bankers to the guillotine or turning the country into Venezuela, he is engaged and animated and goes on and on. Foreign policy, not so much.

Tyler Cowen links to some of the commentaries, and comments himself.  He argues that in the absence of a really candidate, it's best not to ride any horse: "I would challenge the view that a candidate needs to be preferred in each and every election cycle.  And as I’ve once argued, analysts, pundits, and others might do better in their commentary, and keep a more analytically detached perspective, if at least some they avoid attaching themselves to any candidate at all."

My own view of an ideal candidate would come pretty close to "Scandinavian socialism" — i.e., a peaceful foreign policy, civil liberties, a largely free market, but also a social safety net, in the form of health coverage for everyone and some kind of basic income scheme. There's really no politician that comes to mind who actually supports this. So for now I tend to concentrate on causes. I give money to, and I'll probably join the Electronic Frontier Foundation soon.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bombs away!

Ben Norton

From Salon (a publication I wouldn't ordinarily link to very often these days): "Obama 'on verge of. launching another bombing campaign in Libya, after dropping 23,144 bombs on six countries in 2015."  

A couple of sentences  from the article by Ben Norton: "The U.S. is a country at perpetual war; it persistently uses bombs to try to solve the very problems its own bombs created.

"There hasn’t been much media attention devoted to covering the buildup to yet another military conflict in Libya — but there hasn’t been much media attention devoted to covering the numerous other ongoing U.S. wars either, not to mention the almost non-existent coverage of the disastrous aftermath of the 2011 NATO war, so this is ultimately not surprising."

More here.  Worth  a read.

The article came out on Feb. 10, and predicted the new airstrikes that took place Friday.  Apparently there IS more to Salon than silly partisan rot.

Ben Norton is on Twitter.

Friday, February 19, 2016

KP van der Tempel on synchronicities

Klaas Pieter van der Tempel

[Today's post is an excerpt on Synchronicities from Klaas Pieter van der Tempel's new book, Pause, Play: A Higher Consciousness Handbook, a collection of dozens of short items on how to "wake up" into your everyday life, which I published under the brand Anecdota Press. 

I have posted quite a few times at this blog about synchronicities and I also get emails about them. On Wednesday, V. Morgan wrote, "So I'm driving yesterday thinking about galactic coincidence control when a car "wrapped" in giant ad for "23rd Brewery" passes in front of me.  G-d's hones truth.  Fnord." -- The Management]

Big one. This is probably the biggest one. Synchronicities are the most down-to-earth reminder and engineer of who you are. Why? Because they happen to you. Synchronicities, or coincidences, are the unconscious at work, revealing itself through minor or major absurdities. These include coincidences in things you see or hear, telepathy, Freudian slips, and so on. And you have to have synchronicities to know that you are in tune. When you notice a coincidence, you realize that the movie which is our reality is right on cue. The director is at work, revealing his or her tricks right in front of your eyes.

Synchronicity is the name Jung gave to meaningful coincidences. The concept has grown since then, and it covers basically all experiences of coincidence, déjà vu, and other such meaningful yet highly personal events. Whenever you feel like something ‘out there’ is happening directly to you, and only you can see the signs (or maybe you share it with a specific person or group), then you are experiencing a synchronicity. In a way, it’s the ‘higher’ you talking to you, the lower you.

Follow the signs! Be inspired by the Invisible Hand that’s directing you. Here, instead of always talking and trying to be in control of reality, you listen. Everything is you talking to yourself; so all you have to do is open your eyes, open your ears, open your heart and mind, and see what you are trying to tell yourself.

Whether the synchronicities are boring or amazing, interpret them as if they are meant to be meaningful. Objectively speaking, you cannot know what they mean, nor should you need to. You can only decide it for yourself. Know that, as with @dreams, the main message of any synchronicity is this: Wake up!

Synchronicities start as a wakeup call. And when you’re awakened by them, you are free to do anything because you’re in an altered state already. It’s the pause that allows you to play.

What you might also try to recognize in your daily life is that everything is synchronicity. We tend to only notice synchronicities when something appears odd or unusual. But everything that happens, happens for a reason; it’s you talking to yourself, creating yourself, playing with yourself.

Write down all of your synchronicities within a period of one or two weeks. And if you’re not having enough of them, summon a synchronicity to yourself. It could be one of your prayers. “Send me a synchronicity,” or something along those lines.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tim Cook defends strong encryption [UPDATED]

[Regardless of what label he put on his political positions during his life, Robert Anton Wilson always defended civil liberties and individual rights. I thought sombunall of you would be interested in Apple CEO Tim Cook's open letter defending strong encryption. — The Management]

Tim Cook 

February 16, 2016 


The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. 

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.

The San Bernardino Case

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

The Threat to Data Security

Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

A Dangerous Precedent

Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Tim Cook

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Patient 23?

The Dana Scully bobblehead, now on sale at the Fox website. 

So, did you guys see the X-Files episode last night? Was the reference to "Patient 23" a nod to us?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Peter Lanborn Wilson on RAW

Peter Lanborn Wilson

Thanks to Chad Nelson, in the comments on this post, for calling my attention to Peter Lanborn Wilson's obituary for Robert Anton Wilson. It's worth a read.

"Bob was a Futurist and I am a Luddite, but after a long series of letters back and forth we agreed to disagree on the subject of technology, since neither of us wanted to put ideology in the place of camaraderie."

RAW's "futurist," optimistic take on the Internet meshes nicely with the outlook of Mike Masnick; see the interview I referenced here. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Basic income update

Dylan Matthews

Dylan Matthews at Vox — who as I've noted before is a notable proponent of basic income as a policy — has a recent post which reveals that a Silicon Valley seed investment firm is planning a basic income experiment in the U.S. His post is generally a good update on what's been happening with the policy proposal over the last few months.

In addition, Charles Murray is planning an update on his book about basic income, In Our Hands, which I read last year.  Murray announced on Twitter that he will have a new edition out "in a few months." When I asked how it will differ from the previous book, he replied, "Mostly an update of the numbers from 2004 to 2014 and projections."

Bonus link: Dylan Matthews says reviving an old bill in Congress would make it much easier to achieve universal health insurance coverage than Sanders' plan.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sam Skopp on Illuminatus and synchronicities

Skopp Says  by Sam Skopp is a new blog in the Tumblr format. Only two entries so far, but the first one did catch my attention: It's about synchronicities and the Illuminatus! trilogy. 

I hesitate to recommend R.A.W.’s work to others. While deep down I believe that R.A.W. had all of the answers to life, the universe and everything, I know that the sense of belonging I found through his work is far more often found by others through more conventional means. Like Internet forums or football.

Or maybe I’ve become less interested in his work after years of sort of low key treating his every word as gospel, because Robert Anton Wilson is one of the few writers I’ll tell people has officially changed my life. It’s possible that Illuminatus! contains a treasure trove of fun and wisdom patiently waiting for the uninitiated.

Hey, Sam,  you can hang out here and nobody will think you are weird. This is a safe space where you can find the others!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rasa on giving RAW computer tips, and preserving his legacy

Richard Rasa, playing his sitar in concert. 

Richard Rasa is a busy man. And he spends much of his time trying to preserve Robert Anton Wilson's legacy.

He is a designer for Pelorian Digital,  a book publishing, web design, graphic design  and computer consulting company. He plays the sitar for Starseed, three person band that also features a tamboura player (another Indian stringed instrument) and a synthesizer player.

He also has the job title, "metaprogramming director for the RAW Trust." As he explains below, the RAW Trust holds the rights for Robert Anton Wilson's literary works. The trustee is Wilson's eldest daughter, Christina Pearson, and Mr. Rasa (he simply signs his emails "Rasa") helps her with many projects.

Pearson is heavily involved, but she also has a separate career helping people deal with hair pulling and skin picking. She was the founder and director for 23 years of the Trichotillomania Learning Center Inc. in Santa Cruz, Calif., from 1990 to 2013. In February 2013, she founded the Heart and Soul Academy in Colorado, which offers web-based curriculum which aims to relieve the suffering caused by unwanted pulling and picking behaviors.

Richard Rasa's RAW Trust work includes maintaining all of the RAW-related Internet sites,  the official Robert Anton Wilson site, the RAW Trust site, the Guns and Dope Party site and Hilaritas Press. 

Hilaritas Press is the new publishing imprint for the RAW Trust, and it's currently in the business of reprinting 19 of Robert Anton Wilson's books. Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, has just been published as an ebook and will be published in paperback very soon. The new two books to be released will be reprints of Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology. For a complete list and planned order of publication, go here, or look at the bottom of this article.

Rasa recently moved from Massachusetts to Weed, California, near the Oregon border, and his time is occupied by Hilaritas Press. But when I asked Rasa if I could ask him some questions about Hilaritas  and the massive effort to make Robert Anton Wilson's work more available in new editions, he immediately agreed.

RAWILLUMINATION: The Hilaritas Press website gives the intended order of publication for the new editions of RAW's works. "Cosmic Trigger" was perhaps an easy choice for the first book, given its enduring popularity, but can you explain how you picked the order for the rest of the books?

RASA: Cosmic Trigger was an obvious first choice because of its popularity. We pretty much followed the idea of popularity through the rest of the list and made up the order based mostly on each book’s sales figures. Realizing that some sales figures are misrepresentative of popularity for a number of reasons, parts of the list are a little wiggly in terms of how much we considered sales. We also figured in the thoughts of a few friendly agents of change who had their own feelings and agendas.

RAWILLUMINATION.NET:  I really enjoyed the new John Higgs introduction to "Cosmic Trigger." Do you plan to commission new introductions for all of the other new editions?

RASA: We have new introductions or afterwords for four of the nineteen lined up so far (sorry, but info on who-wrote-what-where will be announced when each book is actually in cyberspace or print . . . because, you know, you never know, until you do). Both Christina and I have the strong impulse to make Bob’s work available widely, especially to a new generation but also to the uninitiated of any age. We asked John to address that thought in his new introduction to Cosmic Trigger I, which I think he did wonderfully. The references in Bob’s writings will always refer to the events he navigated in space/time, but his beautiful, disturbing but nurturing mind-bending speculations deserve to be in the hands of anyone interested in understanding the dominant primates on this curious planet.

Olga is reading over my shoulder and clucking at the phrase, “dominant primates”.

RAWILLUMINATION: If I am reading the list of planned publications correctly, you are going to reprint everything except the Illuminatus! novels, the Schroedinger's Cat books and The Illuminati Papers. Are they still under the control of other publishers? And have I missed any titles?

RASA: Rights to all of Bob’s books are held by the Robert Anton Wilson Trust, which is basically Christina, as the trustee, the beneficiaries being her and her siblings and a number of charities Bob noted in his will. Since Bob was promoted to multiverse I’ve been helping Christina with maintaining Bob’s legacy while legal issues took years to resolve. In the last months Christina and I became partners in Hilaritas Press, an entity of the RAW Trust. At early RAW Trust/Hilaritas Press meetings (me and Christina Skyping), we easily concluded, for reasons of which you are well aware, that we should asap assume publishing control over of all of Bob’s books formally with New Falcon Publications. It’s an enormous undertaking, and in answer to your question, I think that after all nineteen have new editions in eBook and print form, we’ll mostly likely take a breath. In the meantime, the other publishers, Simon & Schuster, Dell, Ronin, Sheffield House, Breakout Productions, all seem to be functioning within acceptable business parameters or they no longer exist. Acceptable parameters are relative and non-existence offers new opportunities, so I guess the best I can say is, stay tuned.

RAWILLUMINATION:  If it isn't too private, can you tell me what the charities are that Bob designated in his will? I would think listing them would give insight into what he considered important.

RASA: Not too private! The charities are: Amnesty International, Hospice of Santa Cruz County, and WAMM (Wo/Man's Alliance for Medical Marijuana).

RAWILLUMINATION: Once the job of reprinting the existing works has been completed, will you seek to publish any additional RAW works, using writings that are unpublished or have not been collected in a book since their original publication? I am including, in this question, the many introductions that Wilson wrote for other people's books.

RASA: All of the above. While we concentrate on our first 19 books, we are really only making notes for future projects, although there is one kinda cool Top Secret project that the RAW aficionado will enjoy. It’s maybe enough underway that it could come out along with one of our scheduled publications.

We’ve gotten some intriguing emails with proposals for projects and are considering mosbunall. I’m amazed and humbled by the contact we receive from the RAW community. So many people write simply to say how Bob’s writing changed their lives. They want to say thank you, or often offer to help in any way they can. Most of these letters are heart-warming to read and far overshadow the one or two a year we receive that appear to be incomprehensible. Although even those are fun to read.

RAWILLUMINATION: Robert Anton Wilson wrote in the third Cosmic Trigger book that he hoped that someday his correspondence with Robert Shea would be collected in a book. Has there been any breakthrough in locating that correspondence?

RASA:  I asked Christina, and she wrote:

"Neither I nor Bob Shea's son seem to have the letters... So maybe someday they will / or won't appear... That's in the Universe's hands." You are the webmaster for, and you have been for years, correct?

RASA: Yes, I’m the webmaster for all the RAW Trust websites. Christina asked me to take over rawilson, actually at Bob’s Meme-orial. Soon after that I created the Guns and Dope Party Website, and then recently RAW Trust and Hilaritas Press.

Sometimes when we were hanging out, Bob would ask me to help him with some issue he was having with his Macintosh. It was mostly just helping him find his way around the interface, but when he first started using email and we were sending test messages back and forth, suddenly I was getting an email from him everyday – on a wide variety of subjects from personal to public. I often sent him graphics I made, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I started doing graphics specifically for Bob. Bob’s run for governor in California grew out of an email group conversation he had with his friends, aka the GroupMind. Bob was at first reluctant, citing his failing health and his general disgust with primate politics, but the GroupMind emails show the process of his eventual agreement. Suddenly, after a week of just saying no, we got an email from him with his now well-known declaration, “Why shd I remain the ONLY nut in California who ain't running?” Every day for a few weeks after that we got an email from Bob with some new part of the Guns and Dope Party philosophy. One of the first ones was “A NATION WITH ONLY ONE TSAR = TYRANNY”. I opened up Photoshop and put the slogan under Uncle Sam in a Tsar outfit with an upside-down American flag in the background. Bob loved it, but was more delighted when he introduced Olga and I put her in the Tsar outfit. Many of those graphics were used in Bob’s Email to the Universe, and now on the Guns and Dope Party website. I think every artist who is turned on by Bob’s speculations may feel drawn to bring those ideas out creatively. I certainly loved doing it.

RAWILLUMINATION: Your latest official Hilartas Press email newsletter, which anyone reading this blog can sign up for at the website, has a nice shout out for the planned 2017 production of Daisy Campbell's Cosmic Trigger play. Were you or Christina able to attend the play in England?

RASA: Sadly no. Both of wish we could have made it to see Daisy’s Cosmic Trigger the Play, but we’ve both been occupied with major changes in our lives. For Christina, that was her move from California to Colorado and her starting of the Heart and Soul Academy ( ). For me it was primarily my move from Massachusetts to California and the circumstances surrounding my move West.

A view from Rasa's window in his new northern California home: Mount Shasta. 

RAWILLUMINATION: Why are you moving from the East Coast to California? Is it to aid your efforts on behalf of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust?

RASA: In Reality Is What You Can Get Away With, the Narrator says,

"Those with neophilic imprints -- 'It's fun to explore' -- keep moving Westward, against the spin of Earth, creating new ideas as they travel.”

I grew up in Washington DC. In the last decade, my mother’s poor health kept me from thinking about moving from the East Coast, but with her passing last year I’ve celebrated her life by following her advice to me which was basically, "do whatever you want to do as long as you are happy." I doubt she was consciously paraphrasing Crowley, but, after thinking about living in California since I was a teenager, I am finally planting myself in the Golden State.

There are RAW connections. I had thoughts of following some close friends and moving West after high school, but when I was sixteen, I got hooked on the sitar and at age seventeen I left the states for years, always going East, to Europe to play jazz/rock and India to study sitar and goof around with the sadhus. In the 90’s, my dearest friend Marlis Jermutus, who introduced me to Bob, followed the advice of the Narrator and moved from Germany to California. She was also friends with Timothy Leary, and he once advised her on the merits of moving West. From India, I did move West to Massachusetts. And at least I was in Western Massachusetts, but after Marlis moved to California, because of my love for her incredible being (I don’t mean to go overboard here, but if I’m honest, then yes, incredible being), over the last 15 years I’ve been bi-coastal, living in Massachusetts working as a computer consultant, and graphics and web designer, and traveling every year for some months to California where I’m in touch with West Coast friends, and Marlis, her husband Bastian and I can perform as Starseed, playing meditative music that would nicely balance out the speed and stress of my East Coast digital realm. But now, I’m living in California, not quite moved in, but living in the state that also drew Bob, where for years when I was migrating West and staying with Marlis we would regularly pop over to visit the Wilsons. A lot of Bob’s friends still live in and around Santa Cruz, or in other parts of California, however, to be honest, California is large, like the size of good-sized countries, and I moved to the most remote part of California. I’m almost in Oregon, and so about a six hour drive from Santa Cruz. Still, I Skype regularly with Christina in Colorado, and it’s only a six hour drive to Santa Cruz, so I’m certainly excited to be within driving distance of the Bay Area, and so within driving distance of the upcoming celebrations for RAW Day 2017 when Daisy brings Cosmic Trigger the Play to Santa Cruz! I say “when” she brings the play, but that will depend, in large part on how much we want her to get here. Stay tuned for when her crowd-funding gets started, and please encourage everyone to donate generously! Here’s a delightful short video from Daisy on the subject:

So yes, a big part of moving West, to this remote part of California, was be in a quiet part of the West, away from distraction, where I can sit in my office with a beautiful view of mountains, free to devote mosbunall my time to Hilaritas Press and other RAW projects. I always thought the sitar was a very interesting instrument, so I will have to check out your music. I have an album called "Miles in India," which features the jazz of Miles Davis, performed with Indian instruments. 

RASA: Yes, I too have thought the sitar was an interesting instrument. Of course, India itself is fascinating, and so the astounding design of the sitar seems fitting. I was sixteen when I first sat down with a sitar and after some minimal but essential instruction, I couldn’t believe the sound that the simplest touch could bring - once the instrument was in tune, not a small matter with 20 strings. The instrument is large but very light because the gourd weighs very little and the neck is hollow, and so the whole instrument carries the sound. There is no sound hole. The sound seems to emanate from everywhere. With 13 sympathetic strings that vibrate in different amounts depending on what you play, the sitar player is enveloped in vibration. It was a sweet coincidence that sixteen was also the year I first smoked grass. Two years later I was in a farmhouse in Northern Germany rented by Sweet Smoke, a Psychedelic/Jazz/Rock group that had emigrated from New York. We all dropped acid and with a pickup on my Sitar I plugged into the sound system and we psychedelic/jazz/rocked out for hours. That was just before I set off for India for formal training. A couple years later I came back from India and joined Sweet Smoke, primarily as a rhythm guitar player, but at every concert we played one extended piece with sitar. I was never one for following convention, or the scolding of my teacher in India when I once or twice “bent the rules” with some jazz/rock inspired flourish during a lesson, but free jamming with Sweet Smoke left a lasting impression on my playing.

One of my favorite recent pieces from Starseed I used in the background of this video:
That’s Marlis in the video with her wild deer friends.

A short concert video of Starseed in action. 

(Here my interview ends, but this is the planned order of publication of the Robert Anton Wilson books being reprinted by Hilaritas Press).

1 ~ Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977)
2 ~ Prometheus Rising (1983)
3 ~ Quantum Psychology (1990)
4 ~ Email to the Universe (2005)
5 ~ Coincidance: A Head Test (1988)
6 ~ The Earth Will Shake (1982)
7 ~ The Widow’s Son (1985
8 ~ Nature’s God (1988)
9 ~ Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth (1992)
10 ~ Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death (1995)
11 ~ Sex, Drugs and Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits (1988)
12 ~ The New Inquisition (1986)
13 ~ Ishtar Rising (1989)
14 ~ Reality Is What You Can Get Away With (1992)
15 ~ Wilhelm Reich in Hell (1987)
16 ~ The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1997)
17 ~ TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution (2002)
18 ~ Natural Law, or Don’t Put a Rubber on Your Willy (1987)
19 ~ Chaos and Beyond (1994)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Novelist Lionel Shriver: I am not a kook. I'm a libertarian.

Lionel Shriver

In the New York Times, the prominent American novelist Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) explains that she self-identifies as a libertarian, and explains why. As I read it, I kept saying "Yes" and "Yes" and "Yes!"

"During the nine months a year I live in London, I’m regarded as an archconservative nut. When I fly home to the United States, I transform, mid-Atlantic, to a leftist radical — with the same opinions."

"In truth, few self-confessed libertarian candidates are purists."

"But then, without allowing for qualifications, any standpoint degenerates from pragmatic guideline to inflexible dogma. Like any other broad political perspective, libertarianism can be a useful starting point, but if you apply it in a strict, quasi-religious manner, you’ll indeed get consigned to the crackpot’s corner." 

"I cannot be the only American repeatedly forced to vote Democratic because the Republican social agenda is retrograde, if not lunatic — at the cost of unwillingly endorsing cumbersome high-tax solutions to this country’s problems. My comrades and I don’t all sit around reading Ayn Rand novels, either."

Some of her impurities are not mine, and I have a few other impurities of my own, but on the whole, this is an explanation of libertarianism that resonates with me. It's been a dire year for politics and political commentary, at least for me, so it was nice break to read a piece on politics I actually enjoyed. 

Now I have to go try her novels, as soon as I get time. 

Hat tip, fireflye in yesterday's comments.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Accomplished record producer tackles James Joyce

Record producer, composer and musician David Kahne at Avatar Studios in New York City, the recording studio formerly known as The Power Station.  (Photo by Jen Maler.)

[Please see my article about record producer David Kahne, who has produced Paul McCartney, Sublime, Kelly Clarkson, the Bangles and many others. His favorite work of art, in any genre, is James Joyce's Ulysses and he has just contributed a track to the new Waywords and Meansigns project. -- The Management].

Producer and record company executive David Kahne has worked with some of the top artists in show business. Paul McCartney. Bruce Springsteen. Sublime. Tony Bennett. The Bangles.

But on his latest recording, Kahne finally got to work with his all-time favorite artist: James Joyce.

A generous slice of the Irish modernist writer's avante-garde novel, “Finnegans Wake,” provides all of the text for Kahne's album-length recording, about 46 minutes long.


Monday, February 8, 2016

The most important book you haven't read?

Here's an interesting question for all of you book people out there: What is the most important book you have NOT read that influenced your life? The question is posed by Tyler Cowen, who suggests that readers avoid the obvious answer of the Bible or the Koran.

When I thought about it, I decided the answer for me is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, which I have avoided reading for more than 30 years. (I did read an excerpt once in another Rand book, For the New Intellectual, which is the only Rand book I have read (and that was many years ago.)

I have connected to libertarians in some fashion or other for decades. (Even this blog counts, although rather to my surprise the readers are not dominated as much by libertarians as I would have assumed.) Most people come to the libertarian movement from reading Ayn Rand, particularly her signature novel, as this book title suggests.  So it seems to me that a large number of people have been brought into my life by a long novel that I've never attempted to read.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

New Ezra Pound biography

U.S. Army mug shot of Ezra Pound 

The Wall Street Journal's book section runs an interesting review of a new Ezra Pound biography, Ezra Pound: Poet, Vol. 3, by A. David Moody, completing a three-volume set. The review is by Allan Massie, a prominent Scottish novelist and critic, and in Massie's telling the book is very interesting and well-researched, discussing Pound's later poetry and the controversies over his radio broadcasts and the accusations of treason.

About Pound's imprisonment in a mental hospital, Massie writes,

Many assumed Pound would soon be released. In fact, he remained in the asylum for a dozen years. It was embarrassing to keep “America’s greatest living poet” there. It would have been embarrassing to release a fascist and presumed traitor. It was embarrassing when the Library of Congress awarded him its Bollingen Prize for “The Pisan Cantos.” It was embarrassing when Jewish writers expressed their disapproval of the award. It was embarrassing when Dag Hammarskjold, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said that Pound’s continued incarceration was damaging the image of the United States. In short there was no end of embarrassment.

I've never read any of Massie's books but apparently he's quite a famous writer. Here is Sean Gabb's review of one of Massie's historical novels,  Caesar. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

RAW 'reality hacks' piece at Ultraculture

Prometheus Rising. But look for a new cover for the Hilaritas Press edition. 

"Here’s 4 Classic Reality Hacks From Robert Anton Wilson" is a piece at Ultraculture that I apparently missed when it came out, so I'm pointing to it now. The article, by Andrei Burke, highlights "four classic techniques for consciousness change taken from Wilson’s classic Prometheus Rising," and they seem well-chosen to me. If the article interests you, I suggest waiting to obtain the new edition of Prometheus Rising, due out soon from Hilaritas Press. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Illuminatus! fans helped develop the World Wide Web

You'll have to get to the end of this blog post to see what film star and singer Barbara Streisand has to do with any of this. 

Yeah, you read that headline right. And if you didn't know that, well, I didn't know that either.

But it's true. Here are a couple of bits from an interview of Mike Masnick, the well-known technology journalist and founder of Techdirt. If you don't know him, Masnick is a well-informed and influential writer who is, from my point of view, on the "right" side of technology and civil liberties issues about 99 percent of the time. I read him all the time, but had no idea he was a RAW reader until I read an interview with him at Mimesis Law (a web site that covers the legal industry), a long piece that Jesse Walker at Reason magazine ran across and kindly pointed out to me.

Here is a first bit from the interview (on how his approach to studying issues got started):

I’m not sure I honestly had any serious viewpoints on any of that when I started at Cornell ILR.  I will say that I had just come off an intense reading of the infamous “Illuminatus! Trilogy” by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, that a high school friend had given to me, saying “I need you to read this to stop you from becoming like a CIA spook or something” (a vibe I didn’t know I was apparently giving off at the time) and the book actually had a pretty intense influence on my view of things at the time, to the point that it was more “I’m not sure I trust any of what I’ve been told before, and I really ought to question lots of assumptions.” 

And now, the bit where you find out about the development of Mosaic, an early web browser which popularized the World Wide Web:

And, of course, the other amazing thing was once I got to Cornell, I got on the internet for the first time in the fall of 1993, and got sucked in immediately.  I spent an awful lot of time exploring IRC and Usenet — including falling in with a crazy group of folks on Usenet who were all fans of the Illuminatus Trilogy (it all comes around!), including a bunch of folks who went to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and they started telling me about this neat thing they were working on called “Mosaic” which was the very first graphical browser software for this new concept known as “the World Wide Web.”  So, one night, I dialed in with my 2400 baud modem and downloaded Mosaic overnight while I slept.  And, from there I was hooked on the whole concept of the internet and how powerful it might be.

It took awhile, but I read the whole article, because it was interesting and I'm a Masnick fan. There's quite a bit about not being trapped in any particular political reality tunnel, although admittedly Mr. Masnick does not use that exact terminology.

Incidentally, I related to anecdote about being handed a copy of the first issue of "Wired" magazine.

And then, just as I was graduating high school, the very first issue of Wired Magazine was published.  I still remember my friend Ari handing me the first copy in the parking lot of our high school, telling me that it was “the new thing” after Mondo (yeah, rather than drugs in the parking lot I was getting tech magazines — make of that what you will), and I quickly got a subscription and would devour the magazine cover to cover every month.

I bought the first issue of "Wired" when it came out (it had Bruce Sterling on the cover! wow!) and I remember thinking how cool it was that someone was putting out a commercial magazine aimed at people like me. Although in my case, I was unfamiliar with Mondo 2000. I thought it was a slicker version of my favorite magazine, bOING bOING. (bOING bOING guru Mark Fraunfelder — they spell the name a little differently now — and I are both on the "RAW Trust Advisors" board now. Everything connects!)

Mike Masnick, FYI, also came up with the concept of the Streisand effect. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Nick Herbert's (and Alan Watts') Taoist buddy from China

Nick Herbert

My favorite hippie physicist (and maybe yours) is Nick Herbert, who is mentioned in Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, and who, as I have mentioned, has a blog.

Dr. Herbert had a recent blog posting I particularly liked, about a Taoist he knew for years, Gia-fu Feng, who did a best selling translation of the Tao Te Ching, and who helped Fritjof Capra get the Tao of Physics published.

After coming to America, Feng intersected with American culture in interesting ways, Herbert writes:

Gia-fu enrolls at the Wharton school in Philadelphia but, becoming increasingly disoriented by American culture, he "hops in an old jalopy" and wanders across the United States, a trek which eventually leads him to San Francisco where he finds a position with Alan Watts at the American Academy of Asian Studies both as student and translator. Arriving in the midst of the San Francisco Renaissance, Gai-fu becomes friends with writers Alan Watts and Jack Kerouac, poets Lew Welch, Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and other talents, among them fellow student at the Academy and future cofounder of Esalen Institute, Dick Price.

Herbert's blog post was prompted by the discovery that a woman named Carol Ann Wilson wrote a biography of Feng, Still Point of the Turning World. One more book for me to try to get around to reading.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

RAW on 'Scandinavian socialism'

As John Higgs points out in the introduction to the new "Cosmic Trigger," American libertarians and British socialists both like this guy

On Facebook, Olga Struthio asks,

"Wondering what Bob would think of Bernie Sanders: an old interview gives a clue . . .
Are there any existing political systems you admire?
Scandinavian socialism. I found the Scandinavians to be about the most admirable people in Europe. clean streets, a low crime rate, a general air of high civilization - luxuries for all and a total absence of slums, poverty, and ugliness. They seem very happy and productive, with one of the most way out futurist movements in the world. They're the California of Europe.
I hate to sound like a Marxist, which I'm not, but the reason you haven't heard about Scandinavian Socialism is because the media of this country is controlled by rich people who are scared shitless of socialism. They want Americans to think there's only one type of socialism, Soviet Communism, which is the kind of place where dissident scientists get thrown in lunatic asylums, all of which is true. Americans are paranoid about Russians but Scandinavians regard them with amusement; they're those backwards people who think that you can only have socialism by putting all the poets and painters in jail. The Scandinavians reward their poets and they don't put anyone in jail for dissident political opinions."

This ties in nicely with Michael Johnson's observation, in a comment to Monday's post, "RAW did emphasize individualist anarchists and Crowley and individualist ideas in general, but I suspect he'd - were he alive today - see the 2008 bankster-driven collapse and growing inequality as a reason to emphasize social well-being as complementary to our personal projects." (Read all of Michael's comments, and all of the other comments. There's some pretty good discussion.)

Leftists tend naturally to emphasize RAW's "left" side while libertarians tend to play up the "libertarian" ideas. (Conservatives don't have much in RAW's work they can point to for inspiration.) It seems to me that RAW was better at posing questions than coming up with ways to successfully reconcile his conflicting impulses. I personally want a strong safety net with maximum individual liberty, which is why I tend to gravitate to policy proposals such as the basic income guarantee.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Waywords and Meansigns releases new Finnegans Wake recording

James Joyce in 1915 in Zurich — the time and setting for Robert Anton Wilson's novel, Masks of the Illuminati.

Today, Feb. 2, is James Joyce's birthday. It's also the day for the release of the new Waywords and Meansigns album, in which the entire text is combined with music.

This is actually the second Waywords and Meansigns album. One was released last year, and this is the second edition. Download both editions at the official website.

I was given a "sneak preview" copy of one of the tracks on the second edition, which was done by David Kahne, a prominent music producer, a film and ballet composer, and also a Joyce fanatic. Kahne does the second track, which is 46 minutes and 15 seconds long — really, the length of an album. I think of it as an album. And I've been listening to it, and enjoying it.

I asked the Waywords and Meansigns publicist who helped Kahne with the track. There's the spoken words, and music from a variety of instruments. I was told that Kahne did the whole thing.

Kahne has produced folks like Paul McCartney, the Bangles, Sublime, and on and on. I am hoping to get an interview with him, which I will share here if it comes to pass.

Here are excerpts from a recent press release:

We set Finnegans Wake to music unabridged once already last spring, and now we’ve done it again. With a new cast of all-star readers, musicians, and artists.

Our contributors poured so much dedication, creativity, and passion into this project. We are really excited to share it with the world.

As always, all audio will be distributed freely under creative commons licensing via

Please share this info with friends! if you have any press contacts who may be interested in coverage or reviews, please let us know.

The second edition of Waywords and Meansigns features original readings and music from British fringe musician Neil Campbell, renowned author Brian Hall, composer Mary Lorson, Grammy-award winning producer David Kahne, punk rock icon Mike Watt, composer Steve Gregoropoulos with Kaitlin Wolfberg and Becky Stark, KPFK DJ Mr. Smolin, Joycegeek Adam Harvey, artist Kio Griffith, the Conspirators of Pleasure (artist Poulomi Desai and bassist Simon Underwood), painter Robert Amos, Maharadja Sweets, Hinson Calabrese, Double Naught Spy Car, Ollie Evans, Steve Potter, Graziano Galati, SIKS, Rio Matchett, Jenken’s Henchmæn, and many more wonderful folks. [Mary Lorson was with Madder Rose and Saint Low -- the Management.]

Album art by Nicci Haynes.

Last year, I wrote quite a bit about Waywords and Meansigns.  My interview with Peter Quadrino and Steve Pratt came out quite well, I think.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: John Higg's "Stranger Than We Can Imagine"

John Higgs new history book, "Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century" is not the  usual political-military narrative that most historians offer.

Instead, Higgs argues that the best way to understand how we got from the 19th century to the present day is to examine some of the difficult but interesting ideas and artistic conceptions that arose from 1900 to 2000. Some of these ideas are hard to  understand, so the "Making Sense" in the title is something of a double entendre.

This approach plays to Higgs' strengths. He is very good at explaining difficult ideas in a way that makes them easy to understand, and he often uses humor. A floating teacup (Higgs seems very British) is used to discuss the theory of relativity.

Although 12-tone music was invented fairly early in the century, the results of the composing style remains incomprehensible to many listeners today, and it's also difficult to explain to non-musicians. Higgs manages the job, lucidly, in one paragraph:

In traditional composition, a stream of musical notes complement each other in a way that sounds correct to our ears because the pitch of every note is related to, and determined by, the central tone of the key chosen by the composer. Without that central tone, which all the other notes are based on, we become adrift in what Professor Erik Levi called "the abyss of no tonal centre." This is similar to Einstein's removal of the Cartesian x, y and z axes from our understanding of space, on the grounds that they were an arbitrary system we had projected onto the universe rather than a fundamental property of it. Without a tonal centre at the heart of Viennese atonal music, the compositions which followed could be something of a challenge. 

Although Higgs is one of the most clear prose stylists writing today, his book actually is rather complex. By my count, he offers three narratives.

In one narrative, the book is what it appears to be — a history of the 20th century, focusing on some of the more striking and hard to understand ideas and social movements. These ideas and movements are discussed in a series of thematic chapters, but the topics they cover are arranged to form a kind of temporal narrative; relativity is covered in the first chapter, for example, while the Internet takes up the last.

But as a kind of organizing principle, Higgs narrates these events as a history of the rise of individualism, and how that played out. For Higgs, while there is a positive side how individualism freed people, individualism is not an end to itself, but a stage along the way to organizing a new approach to society that balances freedom and responsibility.

In his chapter on teenagers and rock and roll, Chapter 11, Higgs compares Margaret Thatcher's philosophy to the philosophy of the Rolling Stones, and he does not intend that as a compliment to Mick Jagger & Co.  He ends the chapter,

The second half of the twentieth century was culturally defined by adolescent teenage individualism. But despite complaints about kids being ungrateful and selfish, the adolescent stage is a necessary right of passage for those evolving from children to adults. Understanding the world through the excluding filter of "What about me?" is, ultimately, just a phase.

The teenage stage is intense. It is wild and fun and violent and unhappy, often at the same time. But it does not last long. The "Thatcher Delusion" was that individualism was an end goal, rather than a developmental stage. Teenagers do not remain teenagers forever.

But RAW fans will recognize the book as a kind of "secret history" or hidden narrative of RAW's intellectual universe.

I call it a "secret history" because Wilson is not mentioned at all. He's not in the index, although the bibliography does mention the Illuminatus! trilogy.

But Higgs, who often lectures about Wilson and who often writes about him (he wrote the introduction for the new edition of Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, published by the RAW Trust) provides discussion and background on many concepts, people and ideas mentioned by Wilson.

For example, he discusses modernism and the writing of James Joyce;  Emperor Norton in San Francisco; Aleister Crowley's career; John von Neumann's game theory; rocket scientist and magician Jack Parsons; Carl Jung's interest in UFOS; Erwin Schroedinger and quantum mechanics, and George Gurdjieff's efforts to get people to come out of "waking sleep" — all issues raised by Wilson's writing. I'm probably forgetting other examples. Because I have read so much Wilson, there were probably fewer surprises for me than for most of Higgs' readers. I doubt that many of them had heard of Emperor Norton before.

Higgs' rather skeptical treatment of the value of individualism allows him to put some distance, however, between himself and Wilson, who rooted much of his philosophy celebrating the uniqueness and primacy of the individual.

Higgs' book is entertaining and stimulating from beginning to end; when I did a "best books of 2015" piece for my paper, I included it in my list.