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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A word about reality tunnels

Makinde Adeagbo

The other day, I read a short piece by a software engineer named Makinde Adeagbo, on "Racial Fault Lines in Silicon Valley."  The whole thing is an interesting read, but really jumped out at me were the suggestions on how to bring different perspectives into a conversation. I particularly liked this:

Have a Learning Mindset. I have a different set of experiences than you. I am likely going to say things that aren’t supported by your experiences; your reality. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. Nor does it mean that you’re wrong. It means that you’re going to have to learn more about me to understand why I’m saying what I’m saying. Don’t try to figure out what’s right and wrong. Stay in a learning mindset.

"Stay in a learning mindset" seems like great advice for a lot of situations. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week Eight!

Wilhelm Reich with wife Ilse Ollendorf and son Peter 

Welcome to week 8 of the Cosmic Trigger Reading Group, in which our Author gets hip, discovers grass, and meets his principal Chapel Perilous partner-to-be.

In Multiple realities we meet another of Robert Anton Wilson’s Many Selves—the Hedonic Materialist, who has given up “all that mystical stuff” and determined that “weirdness was something that, like poverty, only happened to other people”—of course (Spoiler Alert!) this is all written about the guy who hadn’t yet entered Chapel Perilous by the guy who eventually arrived safely on the other side, which is one of the things I love about this book—the manner in which Bob can offer us so many different views of himself in terms of reality tunnels, time-frames, etc., all in service to an illustration of one of this books great themes—the birth and education of The Metaprogrammer (which rides heavy in these 2 chapters).

Our first chapter opens with the “urbane, sophisticated, successful Playboy Editor” essentially rolling his eyes at a fellow writer’s tale of LSD influenced “telepathic messages from outer space.” This little passage manages to revisit the developing theme of extraterrestrial communication while also revealing the limits of the Materialist and Hedonic Gratification world views and perhaps even softly hinting at the notion that some things follow after other things (which we will dig into deeper with 8 Circuit theory).

So Bob is living it up in Chicago, just another communications industry dude living a marijuana-fueled life of “sex, rapture, and doing-your-own-thing.” Then one evening he discovers another side of this goddess, Maria Juana—the manner in which she can replicate most of the phenomena of self-hypnosis (Hip Gnosis?)—and soon our author discovers the ability to “tune one’s nervous system like a combination microscope-TV set.”

I suspect that one reason Bob had such luck tuning his nervous system with the aid of cannabis is that he had already spent some time going through “the tedious training involved in ordinary hypnosis.” One not-so-tedious way to get some training in this area of by working with Christopher Hyatt’s Undoing Yourself With Energized Meditation, which includes an awesome introduction by Bob, in which he stresses the importance of Doing It Every Day (whatever your chosen “IT” is).

Over the course of the next few paragraphs “the shaken Materialist” gets first-hand experience with Freud’s notions of projection and censorship, as well as a fuller understanding of what the Buddha meant by maya, achieving Korzybski’s “consciousness of abstracting.”.As The Neurologician, he dives into yoga as a method of “freeing the nervous system from conditioned perception,” and finds this work especially fruitful with the aid of his hedonic ally marijuana.

In his role as The Author Who Has Passed Though Chapel Perilous, Bob informs us that “this is why pot-heads develop a certain inevitable alienation from society. They begin to feel like one-eyed-men in the Kingdom of the Blind.” This particular quote reminds me of a famous rap by Terence McKenna, whom we will meet 169 pages hence..

Our next chapter, The Murder of Christ: a Re-run, revisits some of the territory from The heresy hunt begins, i.e. governmental clampdown on consciousness exploration via LSD and the continued harassment and persecution of the most visible promulgator of that notion, Dr. Timothy Leary. The chapter title references both Leary’s current get-up as a “second-rate messiah” and Wilhelm Reich’s The Murder of Christ, an historical analysis of “the emotional plague of mankind.”

Bob offers a concise summary both of Reich’s basic view that sexual repression is the root cause of racism, sexism, rape, violence, and warfare, and of the persecution he faced as a result of trying to do something about that.

“I fully expect to live beyond the hysteria and persecution…” says Tim, which I feel he pretty much did, “till everything I’ve claimed is confirmed and accepted…”, and not so much (although some of US might live that long!).

Kerry Thornley

Wilson’s attitude in the next couple of pages, in which Leary and Reich are wrapped around one another like a double helix, reminds me of later works like TSOG and Guns and Dope Party. And then suddenly Bob strikes up a friendship by mail with Kerry Thornley and is introduced to Discordianism—“an exercise in guerrilla ontology—an attempt to make Nasrudin’s Donkey visible.” The quotations from a “Manual for Discordian Evangelists” are awesome, and Bob’s description of Operation Mindfuck offers many practical methods for discovering the metaprogrammer, and developing Neurological Relativism, such as “try to receive as many signals as possible from other humans, however wrong-headed their reality-map may seem,” (something easily accomplished in this internet-fueled campaign season).

And because Robert Anton Wilson is nothing if not a good student of Chekov, he concludes the chapter with the reminder that “Lady Eris…was just the Space Lady…in a different guise.”

That’s it for this week. Please gift us with your correspondences, correlations, and “coincidences”, your inside information and your outside the box realizations, or perhaps just the daily practices you have found to be most helpful at activating the metaprogrammer and making that damned donkey visible!

Next week we will dive into Jim Garrison and the Illuminati, Operation Mindfuck, and The Horrible Secrets of the Wicked Aleister Crowley. That’s pages 60-70 new, and 61-71 old. Until then, keep the lasagna flying!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review: 'Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time'

R.U. Sirius

I would describe R.U. Sirius' book Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time as an account that is sympathetic but not gullible. The book, written by someone who obviously has read many of Leary's books and who knew Leary personally, does a good job of presenting many of Leary's most interesting ideas and also chronicles his life. Significant excerpts from his writings give a flavor both of his ideas and of Leary's writing style.

Although the book was published by the Leary estate, Sirius apparently retained editorial control. He is obviously an admirer of Leary's work, but when Leary was full of blarney or put in a bad performance, Sirius says so. When there is a controversy, he acknowledges both sides. Sometimes he declines to take a side.

Here is a bit from the book, which I think illustrates its strengths. The heading for the section is "Was Leary Authentic or All Hype?"

There is this question, in many quarters, about the authenticity of Timothy’s enthusiasms. Was he a snake oil salesman or just an excitable boy? I would have to say that both those aspects of his character were inseparable. You couldn’t very well go out on tour touting Virtual Reality as the next great thing in mind expansion and then tell your audience that it would probably take another 30 years. So there is that. But if you actually read the materials he wrote about cyberculture and cyberspace (many of them published in his collection Chaos and Cyberculture), it becomes clear that his excitement was real and his thinking on the topic was not frivolous.

A little personal story may be in order here. One time in the mid- 90s, I was hanging out with Timothy. We’d gone to a party. This young woman came over to him and asked him if he’d looked at a video she’d sent him of her performance work. He became wildly enthusiastic, telling her that she was doing the most wonderful important work — the most contemporary, the most relevant and on and on. Later on, I ribbed him, implying that he had been blowing smoke up her ass. (Of course, if it’s Timothy Leary, you want him to blow some of that smoke into any of your orifices.) He got really peeved and ranted at me for an hour about the girls’ video. It was clear that he had watched that video obsessively and had meant what he’d said.

That incident sort of defines for me how I experienced Leary. I was attracted to his ideas but, before I met him, I basically assumed that he was going to be a full-on trickster who would be pushing out the blarney 24/7. So rather, the thing that impressed me was how genuine — how earnest he usually was… and even a bit naïve. He had a peculiar mix of sophistication and naïveté that I think sometimes got misinterpreted. Of course, there was some blarney, too. 

This is a slender book, but anyone interested in Robert Anton Wilson would want to read it. Wilson is mentioned in the text, and the book holds one's attention throughout. It's not easy to find a copy, but the estate gave me permission to post a PDF.

My previous post on the book is here. You can also read my interview with Sirius. 

Perhaps the estate might consider making it easier for people to buy a copy, such as making it available on Amazon and other Internet sites.

Oz Fritz knows a great deal about Timothy Leary. Here is the review Oz wrote when the book came out.  See also Oz' discussion of Joanna Harcourt-Smith's memoir.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Prometheus Rising paperback released

Hilaritas Press has announced that the new RAW Trust paperback edition of Prometheus Rising has been released, taking its place alongside the ebook edition released earlier. The next book to be published as a new official edition will be Quantum Psychology.

As I mentioned earlier, the new edition has a piece by Richard Rasa which explores why Robert Anton Wilson used somewhat different versions of the Eight Circuit model of consciousness in different, switching the locations of circuits 6 and 7.

The full announcement is available here, and as in past announcements from Hilaritas, a highlight comes from an autobiographical piece from Christina Pearson, RAW's eldest daughter, who talks about what it was like to grow up in the Wilson household and about her own search for a meaningful life. (It turns out she is 59, as am I.)

Life could be difficult for a Wilson family teen:

During that last year in Chicago I saw kids flip out, have psychotic breakdowns, have transcendent life experiences and complete cognitive paradigm shifts. I saw knife fights in the alleys, dads pointing rifles at kids, Black Panthers coming over to dinner, and prayers for the Viet Nam War to end on the lawns. I felt old; way, way old, before my time. I had a boyfriend who said “you are an old soul, I look at you and see the eyes of a thirty year-old.” I dropped him like a hot potato because I yearned for him to acknowledge the Timeless within me… I was thirteen.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A couple of comments about Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel. (Creative Commons photo by Dan Taylor). 

I have written other blog posts about Peter Thiel, noting that the Silicon Valley zillionaire has funded a number of causes that were advocated by Robert Anton Wilson, such as life extension, space exploration and free speech; see for example my blog posting here.  Thiel has been much in the news lately, so I'll comment on his latest mentions in the press.

It was reported a few weeks ago that Thiel is a Donald Trump delegate. This is disappointing and surprising news in what has been a disappointing political year. Maybe in the next few weeks, everyone else I like will become a Donald Trump supporter, too, and I'll be the last holdout. I don't think my wife or Arthur Hlavaty or Jesse Walker will endorse Trump, but it's become harder and harder to be surprised by anything this year.

Then news came that Thiel secretly funded the Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker.  That didn't bother me.

I think a useful way to think about this is to compare two quotes from the New York Times story about Thiel's involvement. Here's Thiel:

“I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

And here is Gawker publisher Nick Denton:

“Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories including Hillary Clinton’s secret email account, Bill Cosby’s history with women, the mayor of Toronto as a crack smoker, Tom Cruise’s role within Scientology, the N.F.L. cover-up of domestic abuse by players and just this month the hidden power of Facebook to determine the news you see.”

(The whole Times article is worth reading). 

Can anyone doubt that Thiel is speaking honestly and from the heart, and that Nick Denton is giving us spin and deception? The Hogan case has nothing to do with Facebook. It has nothing to do with any of the stories Denton mentioned, which all strike me as legitimate news stories. It is not, for me, a freedom of the press issue.

It has everything to do with publishing a sex tape to make money, or outing someone as gay who doesn't want to be outed to make money.  Or the "outing" story on Gawker last year that inspired widespread criticism. I don't want to get too specific because doing so would compound what Gawker did, but if you follow news about Gawker you know what I mean. I'm sure Nick Denton does.

Tyler Cowen weighs in. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Daisy Eris Campbell event in London

Daisy Eris Campbell

Daisy Eris Campbell and friends are inviting everyone to a show in London, "Poetry Can F*ck Up the Truth," built around the words of Heathcote Williams, but also featuring words from Robert Anton Wilson and Douglas Rushkoff.

"Last year saw the success of  a national tour, Poetry Can F*ck Off, performed by The Poetry Army, a loose knit collective that stages guerrilla presentations Heathcote Williams’ work. As a spin-off from that, we have three completely new shows, drawing on the same idea of weaving Williams’ words with guest performers, music and visual wonders to explore new topics and provoke new thinking."

Details (and tickets) here. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week 7

Scene from the movie "The Big Lebowski" 

By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger online reading group guest blogger 

Welcome to week 7 of the group reading of Cosmic Trigger. This week we are looking at a trio of chapters which exemplify the meta-theme I am calling The Beauty and The Bullshit (aka Aliens, Angels, and Archetypes vs Authoritarianism)—The Queen of Space (39 new), The 23 Enigma (41 new), and The heresy hunt begins (46 new). The trio begins and ends with “Dr. Leary,”,who serves as, among other things, a sort of Virgil for Bob’s funhouse tour through the territory of Chapel Perilous. Free map included! Bob even opens with a bit of Latin—“post hoc, ergo propter hoc?”, which can be translated as “after this, therefore because of this?” Of course, this phrase is commonly used as an example of false logic, and so our crafty fox author adds the question mark to show that he is not making any claims, and yet…maybe?

In The Queen of Space Bob and family have a drearily typical contact experience in which everyone plus quite a few neighbors see “what looked like” a silvery saucer-shaped craft on the hill above their house, although Bob thinks it looks more like a Bucky Fuller geodesic dome, and quite a few think they see “humanoids in silvery costumes.” Bob decides it was probably only a helicopter. Later that day his son Graham encounters a female “extraterrestrial” in the woods outside their house, at the foot of the hill (as distinguished from the top of the hill? Or is there something else to this little detail?), who advises him to study physics.

This little adventure gives Wilson room enough to bring in Prof. Jacques Vallee, Contact Scholar, who notes the similarities between Alien Contact stories and visitations by the Blessed Virgin Mary—noting that they “seem to be the same phenomenon”. This leads to a riff on similar archetypes throughout history, including the Egyptian sky goddess Nuit, who is connected to Sirius (foreshadowing anyone?), Peyote Woman, a female version of Mescalito, the Bubble Witch of The Wizard of Oz, and every goddess ever, everywhere, if you are buying what Robert Graves is selling, which includes a healthy dose of Amanita muscaria!

Wilson finishes this chapter with an account of the BVM at Fatima, in which she caused the sun to plunge toward the Earth in front of 100,000 witnesses. This leads to one of those Big (or Wig) Questions that is central to Cosmic Trigger—“If you accept that 100,000 persons can telepathically share the same hallucination…how much of consensus-reality is similarly created?

With The 23 Enigma Bob introduces one of the most prevalent and persistent non-human players in his entire oeuvre, a key originally handed to him not by the Virgil-esque Dr. Leary but by the man The Author is “rather proud” of calling “the greatest prose stylist since James Joyce,” all the way back in 1956, William S. Burroughs. Lot’s of 23 stuff in here, of course, all wrapped up with Synchronicity, The Net, Quantum Inseparability, Non-Local Models in modern physics, and the spiral staircase of Dr. James Watson, the DNA guy. This modest little number goes on to become Bob’s “intuitive signal,” which brings to mind that enigmatic bit way back on page 4 regarding the safe and effective navigation of Chapel Perilous—“if you approach without the wand of intuition, you can stand at the door for decades never realizing you have arrived.”

While these first two chapters have dwelt primarily with The Beauty, with The heresy hunt begins Bob delves into The Bullshit—specifically the actions by “The Government” to clamp down on the free exploration and self-control of consciousness and behavior change, the imposition of ever more layers of Authoritarian Control and Deceit, as well as the naming of a Villain to blame for the social ills brought about by those very policies. That villain, of course, is Dr. Timothy Leary, and page 48 (new) is largely devoted to some of the infuriating (to me) tactics of Senator Edward Kennedy when questioning Leary in 1966. Strangely enough Senator Robert Kennedy had a different take on LSD:

“I think we have given too much emphasis and so much attention to the fact that it can be dangerous and that it can hurt an individual who uses it… that perhaps to some extent we have lost sight of the fact that it can be very, very helpful in our society if used properly.”

A few anecdotes and observations related to each of theses chapters:

On page 40 Bob mentions the “coincidental” meeting with a friend in Berkeley who had had an “extraterrestrial” encounter in Northern New Jersey, 30 miles from Bob and Family, in the same time frame—late summer 1964. One of my “joint sightings” follows, and I’m wondering how many other stories of similarly verified experiences we can post in comments.

In 1989 returning from a trip to New Orleans which involved copious amounts of Sex, Drugs, and Magick, my car companions and I pulled off the highway and parked on a dark hillside to empty our tanks, whereupon we observed a pretty awesome spiraling light show in what we had previously thought was an interesting star formation. This went on for a few minutes before the “stars” scattered and the sky returned to normal. We were quite excited by this turn of events, and even though I was in the company of three other people who seemingly “saw” the same thing, that very state of excitement made the whole thing a bit suspicious in my mind—was this just a bit of willful group hallucination? An hour later we made a rendezvous with some friends who were taking the same route in a different car and they told us about some crazy star action they had seen from their car while driving—same general area, same time frame. Bingo!

Page 43 finds Arlen complaining that Bob is using selective viewing to come up with so many significant 23s. “Of course,” he admits. “But she was annoyed by being implicated in the 23 mystery even before she met me. Our oldest two daughters (by her previous marriage) were born on February 23 and August 23 respectively.” [The schedule for these postings was set way in advance, and was not set up so that the "23 Enigma" chapter would be discussed on May 23 -- The Management.]

Other people might be similarly implicated. I was born on January 23, 1958 (1+9+5+8=23 ) and my son was born on May 18 (5+18=23). Any other karmically implicated folks out there?

Okay—that’s it for this week. I will post themes in comments. Reading for next week starts on page 49 (new)—Multiple realities and The Murder of Christ: a Re-run. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time

Timothy Leary 

As a kind of background to the ongoing online discussion of Cosmic Trigger, I have begun reading Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time by R.U. Sirius.

If you aren't familiar with it, it's a chronological account of Timothy Leary's life and ideas, written with wit and empathy, and published by Timothy Leary's estate. For awhile after its release, it was made freely available as a PDF, so I grabbed a copy at the time.

The copyright is held by the Futique Trust. I have obtained permission from Denis Berry, who manages the Leary estate, to post the PDF, and she agreed. You can download it here.  (I also asked R.U. Sirius, and he was fine with it, too.)

I can only read it a bit at a time right now (I am working a bunch of days in a row. Yesterday, I finished reading Leary's description of his first LSD trip:

God, the hard eye of God. Merged with this pulsing flame it was possible to look out and see and participate in the entire cosmic drama. Past and future. All forms, all structures, all organisms, all events, were illusory, television productions pulsing out from the central eye. Everything that I had ever experienced and read about was bubble-dancing before me like a nineteenth century vaudeville show. My illusions, the comic costumes, the strange ever-changing stage props of trees and bodies and theater sets. All spinning out from the momentary parts of the central God-eye-heart-penislight.

He doesn't mention a pyramid, but the imagery still seem s reminiscent of Illuminatus!

In the text, Sirius comments, "Timothy Leary interpreted this first LSD trip as a death-rebirth experience. He imprinted that model and it became part of his psychedelic philosophy for the next several years. It would inspire him to rework the Tibetan Book of the Dead into a manual for the
LSD trip."

The book, by the way, is full of surprising revelations. I had no idea, for example, that Leary was interested in Robert Graves, one of my favorite writers. And I didn't know that Andrew Weil, the natural medicine guru, wrote an unflattering article about Leary's drug experiments in the Harvard student newspaper.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group update

I badly messed up the Cosmic Trigger archive at the top right of the page, and I've also had a couple of misleading headers on a couple of the entries — not deliberate, just operator head space error. But I think I've fixed everything now. We've had an introductory post, and we now have six entries for the text analysis so far, with a seventh scheduled Monday.

That may sound like we are deep in the text, but really, we haven't gotten that far. We are taking our time. I'm using the currently canonical text, an ebook put out by Hilaritas Press, but in my old Pocket mass market paperback, we're only on page 27. So we're not that far along. This is a seminal Robert Anton Wilson book, Charles Faris is doing a great job, and  the commenters are on top of their game. Don't miss out —get a copy, read the entries so far,  and join us!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Orson Welles news

Orson Welles in 1937

RAW loved the work of Orson Welles; here is a couple of bits of news passed on by Eric Wagner.

The Criterion Collection is announcing the August release of two Orson Welles films, "Chimes at Midnight" and "The Immortal Story." They are "two great rare Orson Welles films," Eric says.

In addition, Eric passed on this article from The Guardian newspaper about Welles politics, by Welles biographer Simon Callow.  One noticeable mistake in the piece: Callow means Henry Wallace, not George.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Eric Wagner and RAW on Pound and Illuminatus!

Eric Wagner, with some friends 

[Eric Wagner, the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, recently forwarded me an email exchange between himself and Robert Anton Wilson, dated April 23, 2006. Thought I would share it with you. I haven't changed anybody's words, but I edited and formatted for clarity. Thanks, Eric! — The Management.]

Eric Wagner: I just reread your brilliant chapter on the VIth circuit in Prometheus Rising.  It made me think that many of the goddess and god scenes in the Cantos fit in well with Sheldrake's morphogenetic field theory.  Critters pick up on the morphogenetic fields and perceive the Eleusinian visions that crop up throughout the Cantos, a sort of yoga between the sixth circuit of individual brains and the morphogenetic fields.

Robert Anton Wilson: I suspect Ez decided to become a poet because
he had those visions from childhood on hence despite his rants against religion he
never denies "divinity."

Eric Wagner: What percentage of Illuminatus! did you write, and what percentage did Bob Shea write?

Robert Anton Wilson: I would guess about 2/3 me [mostly humor & surrealism]
and 1/3 Shea [mostly adventure].

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Come to the Illuminati Ball

It costs $450, and you have to submit an application at this website.  You are taken by a bus from Manhattan to attend it. All attendees who submit an application are asked to submit an animal affinity: Pig, monkey, chicken, cow or mouse.

From the FAQ:

Are we really being considered for the Illuminati?

The Illuminati Ball is an immersive theater production, however during the show Cynthia von Buhler will be selecting some candidates to join an actual secret society which meets at her estate.

The New York Times story on Cynthia von Buhler explains some of this.

Hat tip: Charles Faris.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Age Bullshit Generator

Tom Baker at @2CosmicTrigger3 this week says, "I like to think RAW would have been ticked by this delightful new age bullshit generator."

I think that's likely, too. Here is the link. 

The Tweets from CosmicTriggerThePlay vary week by week, but today's tip comes from "actor, (ac/dis)cordianist, and bohemianaut Tom Baker - cabaret maven, amateur chaos magician and fool."  Not the same guy as the Dr. Who actor, is it?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cosmic Trigger Reading Group, Week Six!

By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger online reading group guest blogger 

Welcome to week 6 of the group reading of Cosmic Trigger. This week we are looking at a pivotal duo of chapters, The Kennedy Assassination and the Net—29 (31 old) and A visit to Millbrook—31 (33 old), in which Wilson both completes his set-up and time loops us to the conclusion of the book, in the process setting us up for the particular and peculiar slice of life and history that Cosmic Trigger chronicles. 

It’s worth noting the shift in culture as exemplified in music from the time of Bob’s first peyote trip in December 1962 to the conclusion of CT narrative in December 1976. In late 1962 the biggest band in America was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and Bob Dylan had recorded and not yet released Blowin’ in the Wind, which failed to chart anywhere in the world. By the time we reach the conclusion of Cosmic Trigger, 14 years later, we’ve had The Beatles, The Stones, The Doors, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, and Donna Summer. Vast active cultural changes indeed.

The chronology of this week’s reading is pretty simple; we are introduced to Kerry Thornley and Lee Harvey Oswald, Jano Watts introduces Bob to the notion of The Net, John F. Kennedy is assassinated, Bob and his family move back to the city, and The Writer interviews Timothy Leary.

Thematically Bob continues to build on the themes he has already introduced, as well as introducing a few new ones, including one huge theme that will lurk in the background for the entire book—the notion that the “national psyche veered dizzily toward Chapel Perilous.” (30-31)  Remember that according to Bob everyone who enters Chapel Perilous comes out agnostic or stone paranoid—then compare the USA of May 16, 2016 to the USA of November 21, 1963. Today, agnosticism runs rampant—sexual agnosticism, gender agnosticism, racial agnosticism—at the same time that paranoia runs deep with an increasingly vocal portion of the population trumpeting their own steadily increasing fears and paranoias in these same realms.

A couple of my favorite bits include the rant on page 31 regarding “opinions” and proofs, and the entirety of the chapter on Leary, which is constructed with such density that it would take an entire book just to unpack it. Hint—Cosmic Trigger is that book!

The Leary chapter also ends with the line that loops us all the way to the conclusion of Cosmic Trigger—“I had no intuition at all that Dr. Leary would actually spend four of those years fighting to stay out of jail and the other six struggling to get out of jail.”

That’s it for this week—I’ll post the themes in comments, please post your own insights, hints, and suggestions there as well. Next week we will be reading The Queen of Space, The 23 Enigma, and The heresy hunt begins, pages 39-49 (41-51 old).

Saturday, May 14, 2016

What I "saw"

Re-reading Cosmic Trigger for the ongoing online Cosmic Trigger reading group (if you haven't joined us, go ahead and jump in — we haven't gotten very far and it's not too late to take part), and reading about the strange things that Robert Anton Wilson saw, or thought he saw, leads me to pose a question. Have you ever seen anything you couldn't explain?

I had such an experience maybe 10 years ago. It wasn't as dramatic as the events in Cosmic Trigger, but it startled me.

I worked for a little under a year at a weekly business newspaper in downtown Cleveland, before I left for the job I have now. I sat next to a slender young woman with long hair who was very nice.

We didn't have free parking there, so we had to pay a parking company to have a place to park our cars. I was a reporter, often having to leave the office for interviews, so I didn't have the option very often of using public transportation to get to work, which I would have preferred to having to drive downtown.

Downtown parking was expensive, so must of us chose to park in the Flats, an area west of downtown where the parking was cheaper.

It wasn't uncommon for me to run into one of my office mates as I walked to the office from the Flats after returning from an appointment. And so one day, as I was going back to the office, I saw the young woman who sat next to me as she walked to the Flats. Then I returned to the office — and there was the young woman who I had just clearly seen walking away from the office.

I was very startled, and I've wondered since then about my mind playing tricks on me.

Rationally, it seems to me that perhaps I simply saw someone else and mistook her for the young woman who sits next to me at work. In fact, that must be what had happened. But the incident surprised me at the time, and I haven't forgotten it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Adrian Reynolds on paying attention and not being a robot

Adrian Reynolds

Robert Anton Wilson fan (and writer,  and coach) Adrian Reynolds has a very nice essay up, "What's Up Doc?",  about about paying attention to what's around you and avoiding acting like a robot.

"For the last couple of weeks I've either been doing things to reach deadlines for projects I'm already working on, or starting to prepare for new escapades. Not much wiggle room in there for departing from a bunch of habits that I've mistaken for myself."

But he got out of it, and read how.  There's some Discordianism in his piece.

And if you like the piece, don't miss his "Press When Illuminated" video.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Beethoven's subversive music

Ludwig van Beethoven 

Given Robert Anton Wilson's love of Beethoven, I thought this was interesting:

"In Beijing in 1970, Jindong Cai crouched next to a phonograph. He and a friend had shuttered the house’s windows and were keeping their voices low. They could get into serious trouble for listening to the subversive album they were about to play. The rebellious music: Beethoven."

More at this article, "Stanford music scholar explains Beethoven’s rise as a cultural icon in China."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Alex + Ada wins special Prometheus Award

(Official press release follows -- the Management.) 

The Libertarian Futurist Society has given a Special Prometheus Award to Alex + Ada, a graphic novel by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn.

Alex + Ada was published by Image Comics. The collected edition appeared in three volumes from July 29, 2014 to August 25, 2015.

Set in a near future United States, Alex + Ada explores the social and political impact of the creation of artificial intelligences through the personal story of a young man, Alex, who receives an android companion as a gift from his wealthy grandmother. He faces a series of increasingly challenging moral choices about his relationship with the android, which he names Ada. As the story progresses, Alex, Ada, and other characters are caught up in a moral panic over androids that inspires repressive legislation and outbreaks of mob violence—and are tested by how they respond.

Luna and Vaughn’s treatment of artificial intelligence and virtual reality is sophisticated and technologically plausible. They tie the ethical question of which beings have rights to deeper philosophical issues of the nature of conscious experience and selfhood. And in the end, they hold up personal integrity in the face of a repressive society as an example worth following. Their story gives us a look at issues that a future world might have to address.

The award ceremony will take place at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, at a time to be announced. The award includes a gold coin and plaque for the winners. Also to be presented are the annual Best Novel and Hall of Fame Awards, finalists for which were announced April 4 and January 18, respectively.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


"Hippie physicist" Nick Herbert, making the case for Tennyson, posts "Ulysses," thereby forcing me to read it. Time well spent.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cosmic Trigger reading group, Week Five

By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger online reading group guest blogger 

Welcome to week 5 of the group reading of Cosmic Trigger. After reading the INTRODUCTION, PREFACE, FOREWORDS, and PROLOGUE, we finally get to PART ONE: The Sirius Connection.

A little note on Keeping Together — Cosmic Trigger is composed of some 49 mini-chapters, titled and not numbered, plus some 7 odd “fables.” I will list each week’s reading by titles and page numbers. Because I own the new Hilaritas edition (2016) and an old And/Or Press edition (1978) I will use those page numbers. For simplicity I will refer to them as “new” and “old”. Since the chapters are generally from 3-5 pages in length, with the occasional 9 pager thrown in, it shouldn’t be too hard to locate anything anyone is referring to.

This week we are opening with an illustration of a seminal Aleister Crowley quotation by the exquisite John Thompson. From there we dive into the INTRODUCTORY FABLES and our first two mini-chapters—The Door to Chapel Perilous, and Did a Leprechaun leave the Simonton pancakes. All of this wonderfulness occurs between the pages of 17 and 29 (19-31 old).

At this point I am approaching the text in a couple of ways:

First, as a linear tale that begins with The Door to Chapel Perilous and ends with Via Dolorosa, all the way from “I was born” to “the final secret of the Illuminati.”

Second, as a series of themes interwoven in such a way as to Make A World in a way that a simple progressive argument could not. Cosmic Trigger is put together more like a pastiche, a cubist painting, a montage, or a hologram. Of course, the linear tale is one of those themes, the one that serves to provide drama and a sense of propulsion, as well as to lull the rational mind into a sense of safety and “understanding” while the myriad other themes warp and woof their way from one shaggy dog story to another, eventually weaving together a web that can be traversed in any time-space direction one chooses, as often as one chooses, always offering new and unusual perspectives and insights.

As a linear process, we begin with the quote from Aleister Crowley in which we are “warned against attributing objective reality or philosophical validity” to any of the models and metaphors to follow, a notion which is re-inforced in the first (How do you know?) and third (You must have a big head to hold a rock that size.) of the Fables that follow on the next page. Of course, this is a theme which we will see a lot of in the pages that follow.

We also get our first introduction to 8-circuit theory in the Fable of Ishtar entering Eternity, and of course, we will be seeing more about this as we progress.

The Door to Chapel Perilous opens with a bang. RAW gets born, becomes an atheist, undergoes 3 forms of psychotherapy, and begins experimenting with “mind-altering drugs,” all in the space of 30 years and 4 paragraphs! Over the next 2 pages (and the next 6 months) Bob introduces the notion of the multi-selved being (The Materialist), tours “the vestibule of Chapel Perilous,” and logs “40 trips to inner space” via the “magical chemical” peyote, coming to the conclusion that “one had to be a shaman to know how to use it profitably.”

Soon, Bob seems to be in telepathic communication with plants, although “the Materialist knew too much to take it seriously…” He also begins to contact various “entities”, experiences for which he tries to find a “psychological, neurological, even parapsychological explanation.” Noting that such varied historical personages as Paracelsus, Goethe, Steiner, Fechner, Carver, Burbank, Edison, Vogel, and Reich had their own experiences  with various energies/entities/spirits, Wilson continues to weigh a variety of different models, ultimately finishing the chapter with “Maybe.”

In Did a Leprechaun leave the Simonton pancakes Bob lines up Peter Pan, Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, Irish leprechauns, Mescalito and a kitchen chair, and notes that they are all products of our human nervous system’s interpretation of the raw data broadcast by Universe, the three-dimensional hologram we call reality. After a long rap which ties together Mullah Nasrudin, Dogen Zenji, Dr. John Lilly, Sigmund Freud and Nietzsche, Wilson lays our interpretation of the world at the feet of The Metaprogrammer, which he declares to be (at this point) a human chauvinist.

Thematically, Wilson introduces at least 10 of the myriad ideas that will be repeatedly interwoven with the “story” of Cosmic Trigger. Like Eric Wagner wrote in last weeks comments, “I like that this book has an index.” Here is my list of 10 themes, in order of appearance, along with page numbers and incidences of repeated occurrence. Please do chime in with your own observations.

1. Sirius—15

2. Against attributing objective reality to magickal (or any other) acts—16
—how do you know?—17
—zen master vs student rush to judgement/absurdity of statement—17
—through future research…—19
—being a dogmatic oldfangled…—19
—psychological, neurological, even parapsychological explanation—22
—archetype vs spirit—23
—Mescalito could be both—23
—a third model--Clarke's Law and Wilson's Corollary—24
—as many as want to—24

3. Circuit theory—17
—terrestrial and future circuits—21

4. Chapel Perilous—18
—here come the drugs—18
—the vestibule of Chapel Perilous—20

5. Drugs—18
—here come the drugs—december 28 1962—19
—by mid 1963–40 trips in 26 weeks—20
—Mescalito—one day after—22

6. Metaprogramming—19
—re-organize or reimprint—19
—one can train oneself—24
—Mescalito vs kitchen chair—26
—3-D hologram—26
—Nasrudin, donkey, Cosmic Secret, most common error—27
—Nietzsche’s “greater artists”—28

7. Many Selves (24?)
—The Materialist—19
—being a dogmatic oldfangled—19
—The Skeptic—22
—The Materialist had seen him…most perplexing—22

8. Multi-model perspective—22-24

9. Planet of Sleeping People
—regimented urban hive—20
—walk in mindless indifference—24
—remembering the invisible donkey (or rabbit) is the first step—28
—awakening reveals…invisible intelligence—28
—human chauvinist—29

10. Parapsychology
—telepathic communication with plants—21
—The Materialist knew too much to take it seriously...he continued to know too much…—21
—contact with entities—21

Next week we will dive into The Kennedy Assassination and the Net and A visit to Millbrook, 29-38 new, 31-40 old.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Adam Gorightly on 'A Discordian Directory'

Jesse Walker recently discovered a "Discordian Directory" zine and shared it with Adam Gorightly and with me. Adam is the expert on Discordianism, so I waited for him to post on it, and he has done so. Also note that Adam includes a link to the whole document.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Nick Offerman's dream movie role

Nick Offerman

The New York Times has a wonderful recurring feature called "By the Book" in which the paper asks various famous people what books are currently on their night stand, what kind of books they prefer to read and what kinds of books they avoid, etc.

The latest interview subject is Nick Offerman, an actor, comedian, author and woodworker.  (He's best known for portraying "Ron Swanson" in the American TV comedy "Parks and Recreation.") The Times piece is a good read, but check out what he says when the Times inquires about books adapted into movies:

Which book would you most like to see on the big screen?

I generally find the book to be better than the film, so it’s a tricky proposition. There are a couple of Cormac McCarthy titles I would be thrilled to see, namely, “Blood Meridian” and “Suttree.” Both contain some very dark sides of humanity but also a healthy dose of gritty humor. But hold the phone! I know what I want more than anything: the Illuminatus! trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. That would make for a delicious and freaky repast. If anybody gets that one greenlit, do please holler at me and I will deliver you the most commanding Hagbard Celine that I can muster.

The whole interview is worth a read. He mentions RAW elsewhere in the interview, and he particularly loves The Book of the Subgenius. 

Nick Offerman's official site is mostly about woodworking, but reflects some of his other interests, too.

Hat tip: Joey Savitz on Twitter. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A brief for jury nullification

Paul Butler 

Robert Anton Wilson was an enthusiastic supporter of jury nullification as a way to push back against the War on Drugs (see, for example, his remarks in Chaos and Beyond.) has published a nice primer on jury nullification, in the form of an interview with Georgetown law professor Paul Butler, who wants the rights of jurors to be better publicized. The piece is by German Lopez. Excerpt:

GL: So why should jurors use nullification to combat racial bias?

PB: If you go to criminal court in Washington, DC, today, right now, you would think that white people do not commit crimes. About 95 percent of the people who are sent for crimes in that court are African Americans, even though African Americans are only about 50 percent of the population of the District. And that's true in cities all over the country with African Americans and Latinos basically being the subjects of crime and punishment.

That doesn't mean white people don't commit crimes. It just means that they don't get the same attention, and their criminal conduct does not get the same attention as people of color.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Women who write science fiction

Science fiction giant Kate Wilhelm. She writes a lot of mysteries, too, but we SF fans insist she belongs to us. 

Lists are always fun, and always a little annoying. Arthur Hlavaty pointed to to a list of "100  Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels by Female Authors," compiled by Nikki Steele.

While the list helps make the case that women have contributed significantly to the SF and fantasy genre, it seems to me that the most convincing way to make the point is to list some of the novels that Nikki Steele leaves out: When Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (Hugo Award); Downbelow Station, C.J. Cherryh (Hugo Award). I'm surprised those two authors aren't mentioned at all, and also surprised that Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness isn't chosen. (RAW was a big LeGuin fan, and Robert Shea campaigned for LeGuin's The Dispossessed to win the Prometheus Hall of Fame, which it did in 1993)

There are also more obscure books which I think are probably better than some of the books on Steele's list. I can't really fault Steele for leaving them out, but I'll mention them here: The Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman (Prometheus Award), Those Who Hunt the Night, Barbara Hambly (an underrated writer, probably). The Healer's War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is a great book that won the Nebula. Look to hear more about Johanna Sinisalo, whose The Core of the Sun I am currently enjoying.

Of course, I could list a lot of other pretty good SF and fantasy books by women, but those are all titles I strongly recommend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Indiegogo campaign seeks to finish Wilhelm Reich movie

Wilhelm Reich

A campaign to finish a documentary about Wilhelm Reich (often mentioned by RAW because the U.S. government burned his books) has been launched on Indiegogo. (Initial funding for the movie was provided by a Kickstarter campaign).  The movie is a project of the Wilhelm Reich Trust. 

Hat tip, Richard Rasa on Facebook.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week Four

By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger reading group guest blogger 

Welcome to week four of the RawIllumination group reading of Cosmic Trigger. This week we are diving in to the text proper starting at page 1, Prologue: Thinking About the Unthinkable.

Right there in the section title Bob tips off the alert reader that this is “a cryptic and ambiguous book,” and of course he reiterates that in plain English a few pages later as he winds up the first of many descriptions of Chapel Perilous, which seems to be one of the major themes of the prologue, which functions as a bit of a guide to how best to approach the rest of the book.

The alert reader might also notice that there is a lot in this prologue that Bob later inserted into his introduction to Neal Wilgus’s The Illuminoids (the text of which can be found here, not least being the opening line—"As the late, great HP Lovecraft might begin this narrative . . .”

Be that as it may, I want to bring your attention to a few of the post-markers that Wilson offers us here. Perhaps you can find others?

Starting in the middle of page four and stretching all the way through the top of page five Bob introduces us to Chapel Perilous in one of my favorite bits of writing by any writer, bar none:

Chapel Perilous, like the mysterious entity called “I," cannot be located in the space time continuum; it is weightless, odorless, tasteless and undetectable by ordinary instruments. Indeed, like the ego, it is even possible to deny that it is there . . .

Awesome writing indeed. Of course Bob goes into much more detail regarding Chapel Perilous, just so we might recognize it if necessary. I especially enjoy some of the more colorful descriptions:

An Insect Horror Machine, a Hall of illusions, Invisible to radar, a Fun House at a rather seedy Amusement Park.

The multi-model approach also gets a strong mention. Bob attributes this approach to Niels Bohr and goes so far as to claim that "any single-theory approach is premature and causes a truncation of our intelligence"—p13.

Niels Bohr

And of course what introduction by Robert Anton Wilson would be complete without a healthy dose of name dropping; amongst our cast of characters we will find Aleister Crowley, Marshall McLuhan, and Alfred Korzybski.

There is far too much in this tightly packed 14 pages to touch upon it all, so I will leave that to you. What is your favorite bit in the prologue?

Next week we will embark upon Part One: The Sirius Connection, from the Introductory Fables to the Simonton Pancakes. I’ll take mine with extra wheat germ!