Monday, April 18, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week Two

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By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger online reading group guest blogger 

Welcome to week 2 of the Cosmic Trigger Reading Group. Today we are looking at the Preface, originally written in 1986 when Bob switched over to New Falcon Publications as his publisher. After noting that Cosmic Trigger is his most “successful" book in human terms, as he had received more mail about CT than about any of his other books, and on lecture tours he got more questions regarding CT than all of his other books put together, Bob offers this raison d’être for writing a new preface:

“This new edition presents an opportunity to answer the most frequent questions and to correct the most persistent misunderstandings.”

Bob then proceeds to launch into an awesome 8 page rant about the seeming inability of sumbanall human beings to wrap their heads around the notion that Bob Does Not Believe Anything.

“It should be obvious to all intelligent readers (but curiously is not obvious to many) that my viewpoint in this book is one of agnosticism.” I’ve read that sentence a hundred times, and I still do not know if he means that a lot of readers don’t get it, or that very few readers get it. Perhaps it is that very slippery element in Bob’s writing that allows me to dip into the well over and over. Or perhaps it is just that it is so damn hard to get it!

At any rate, this preface is full of awesome one-liners and great hints on who to follow and how to get the most out of your reading. To wit:

"Belief is the death of intelligence”, which leads down a rabbit hole following The Copenhagen Interpretation, Model agnosticism, Niels Bohr, Alfred Korzybski, and Alan Watts.

“Cosmic Trigger deals with a process of deliberately induced brain change through which I put myself in the years 1962-1976." Compare this statement to the admission in CT II that he was doing WAY MORE ACID in this period than he let on to, even in this 1986 update.

"Reality is always plural and mutable” and Bob is going to try to patiently explain this “ONE MORE TIME, perhaps more clearly than before.” I laugh out loud at the attitude behind those upper case words, and then the admission hidden in lower case that maybe just maybe he hasn’t been quite didactic enough in the past.

“This book does not claim that 'you create your own reality,'” although if it did, Bob could have had a much more lucrative career (and most of us would have stopped reading him!)

And STILL with the Space Migration! Thirty years later we still haven’t conquered the most basic requirements to even think about something like that—see the March issue WIRED for a comprehensive look at the challenges to life in Space. And yet if there is one area that RAW nudges up against True Believer territory. . .

And Life Extension—“the breakthrough cannot be far away”. Well, maybe two!

Finally, he wraps the whole thing up in a bow with a last dig at “two groups of dogmatists”—the "Fundamentalist Christians and Fundamentalist Materialists”:

“When dogma enters the brain, all intellectual activity ceases.” Thereby once more stating the major thesis of Model Agnosticism—just in case we had missed it!

Please chime in with your insights, favorite bits, self-deprecating stories of former idiocy, etc.

Next Week we will dig into the Forewords by Timothy Leary, P. hD., and I will offer my own two cents on how to make a six month group reading of Cosmic Trigger a most awesome adventure in fundamentally changing your life (once again!). Until then, keep the lasagna flying!


supergee said...

I’ve always used “believe” as a weak verb. If I say “I believe the Yankees will win today,” I haven’t made a serious commitment. But many people say, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it. Thank God I don’t have to think about it.” So to avoid confusion, I now try to say “hypothesize” instead of “believe.”

Oz Fritz said...

RAW began his online Crowley class in 2005 with a study of "The Soldier and the Hunchback," the classic essay of doubt and certainty.

p.xiv "... but with the techniques described in this book, such decisions can become conscious and intelligent." - RAW discloses the didactic nature of CT.

The way last part deals the worst tragedy of his life makes this book a profound work of art, as I see it.

Oz Fritz said...

It should read, " the way the last part deals with the worst tragedy of his life ..."

Eric Wagner said...

Space exploration and life extension continue, if not as quickly as Bob anticipated. He seems spot on in this preface. I enjoy this preface - I consider it my favorite part of Cosmic Trigger. I like rememorizing the Crowley quote each time I reread the book.

These days I do lean towards the heresy that "there is only one unique existant" (one vast energy dance), but I do not think I understand that existant very well.

I enjoyed Valis and Philip K. Dick: The Last Testament. I have not read The Sirian Experiments. I did stare at Sirius a bit last night.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Before buying the Hilaritas printing I've only ever owned the Pocket Books edition and hadn't had a chance to read the Preface up until now.

During a period of intense doubt/depression over magic/my life choices I was particularly put off by what I saw as Wilson's undeserved optimism about the future. I think it is the nature of people who feel as if they have been forced to be cynical by "the world" to be upset by those who have a strong enough spirit to keep hope alive in the face of adversity. Right or Wrong I appreciated it when Wilson addressed the slow development of space migration and life extension in Cosmic Trigger II (I think) and here as well.

I've read Shikasta Eric and it was pretty wonderful; poetic, delicate, and moving. At first glance The Sirian Experiments doesn't fit quite as well with Cosmic Trigger as VALIS since to my knowledge Lessing wasn't inspired by personal experiences when she was writing her science fiction series- however the book presents a Gnostic look at human history. I'll definitely be picking up The Sirian Experiments now that I know about the Wilson connection.

Shikasta is also tinged with the sorrow implicit in traditional Gnosticism- let us hope that Wilson's optimism wins out over the nightmare of history.

Dirtydiscordia said...

I can't say where I read this, but I believe that Phil Dick initially attributed his VALIS contact as eminating from Formalhaut, rather than Sirius. He later changed his mind and attributed it to Sirius after reading Cosmic Trigger.

It's true that the Space Migration / Life Extension stuff in RAW's earlier writing look dated now, but as he points out in the forward, it was a conscious part of his positive reality tunnel formation.

I suppose prior to Reagan and the cultural backlash, in the recent ember glow of the incredible potential of the late 60's, it probably still looked like the world was about to be turned upside down.

I think the point he was making was that how plausible his future was is secondary to how it made him feel. I feel the same these days about robotics and automation - it could produce a dystopia or a utopia, or it might just fizzle out. I choose to believe that it'll produce a positive future.

Dustin said...

I appreciate RAW' s clear explanation of agnosticism at the beginning.... I still prefer the Secret Cheifs to be extraterrestrials. It seems the most exciting to me.

Oz Fritz said...

I like how RAW characterizes belief, dogma, and certitude on p. viii: "My current model - or grid or map, or reality tunnel - contains the whole universe and will never need to be revised."

For moi, the SMI2LE formula seems more like a rhizome than arborescent to use Deleuze and Gutarri's concepts. That is, it seems to offer up a multiplicity of meanings and interpretations in various directions (rhizome)rather than a single and strictly literal meaning of people blasting off into outer space while extending the life span of the physical body far beyond what it is now (arborescent).

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I love the paradox that I'm carefully reading RAW's new preface, looking for insights from the Teacher, and he's telling me, over and over, NOT to treat him as a guru. So there's a paradox.

The Buddha also told his followers not to take his teachings as gospel. Here he is talking about the value of doubt: "Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, not by seeming possibilities, not by the idea, 'this is our teacher.' But, O Kalamas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome, and wrong, and bad, then give them up ... And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them." (Quoted in Chapter One of WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT by Walpola Rahula).

So, another paradox perhaps? I am trying to emphasize that RAW is not a know-it-all guru, and I wind up comparing him to the Buddha, which cuts against what I am trying to say.

Rob A. said...

Like others, I'm always struck by how wildly optimistic RAW was about space migration, intelligence increase and life extension but I think that all three concepts are still very much with us. There was something in the media only the other week about a pill that could extend life by a decade. The Kepler telescope has revealed the sheer extent to which the universe is dotted with planets, albeit many light years away according to current inertial systems. And ever since the inauguration of CAT and MRI scans around the 90s, the ability to study brain function and develop more accurate maps of how the brain learns has taken a real boost. I think there is a good case for optimism and however wildly inaccurate RAW's predictions are, it's his optimism and will to life that really shines out in his work. I just won't be packing my space suit or be planning my 150th birthday party just yet.