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."
RAWIllumination.net: You are the webmaster for rawilson.com, 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 (http://www.heartandsoulacademy.org ). 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: https://youtu.be/GRP6dD6Vk3M
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.
RAWIllumination.net: 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: https://youtu.be/0t0bVqhsMSg
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)