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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books read 2016

Every year, I publish a list of the books I've read in the previous year. I don't know why I have only 44 this year, a down year by comparison with other years, although one reason might be that The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity is a pretty big volume,  1,296 pages in paperback, although as it happens I read it as a Kindle. I haven't tried to differentiate between books I actually read, and books I listened to as an audiobook.

1. Belisarius, the Last Roman General, Ian Hughes.
2. The Turing Exception, William Hertling.
3. A Borrowed Man, Gene Wolfe.
4. The Just City, Jo Walton.
5. Red Rising, Pierce Brown.
6. Joe Steele, Harry Turtledove.
7. Golden Son, Pierce Brown.
8. The Annihilation Score, Charles Stross.
9. Apex, Ramez Naam.
10. Luna, New Moon, Ian McDonald.
11. After the First Death, Lawrence Block.
12. Disasters of Ohio's Lake Erie Islands, Wendy Koile.
13. Deep Shaker, Les Roberts.
14. The Chocolate Falcon Fraud, JoAnna Carl.
15. Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie.
16. Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith.
17. Death of a Liar, M.C. Beaton.
18. The Sword of Damascus, Richard Blake.
19. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
20. The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo.
21. I'll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson.
22. Morning Star, Pierce Brown.
23. To Live Forever, Jack Vance.
24. The Way of Zen, Alan Watts.
25. Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time, R.U. Sirius.
26. The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks.
27. The Rise and Fall of Alexandria, Justin Pollard.
28. Written in Fire, Marcus Sakey.
29. Swing Set, Janice Weber.
30. The Yearbook, Carol Masciola.
31. The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, Andrew Roberts.
32. Love Wins, Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell.
33. The Sun, the Moon & the Rolling Stones, Rich Cohen.
34. Discordian Problems, N. Nash Cage.
35. The Network, Scott Woolley.
36. Arkwright, Allen Steele.
37. What the Dormouse Said, John Markoff.
38. Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America, Jesse Walker.
39. Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art, Virginia Heffernan.
30.  The Ghosts of Athens, Richard Blake.
31. 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar, Eric Burns.
32. Medieval Russia: 980-1584,Janet Martin.
33. The Investment Club, Doug Cooper.
34. Cosmic Trigger 1, Robert Anton Wilson.
35. Travel Writing, Peter Ferry.
36. The Other Wes Moore, Wes Moore.
37. The Beetle, Richard Marsh.
38. A Tower in Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States to 1933, Eric Barnouw.
39. Exit Right, Daniel Oppenheimer.
40. The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, Scott Johnson.
41. Speculator, Douglas R. Casey.
42. The Secret War, Max Hastings.
43. Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut, Paul Krassner.
44. Panacea, F. Paul Wilson.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top posts of 2016

Nick Offerman

One of my favorite blogs, Marginal Revolution, recently had a piece on the "Top Posts of 2016," i.e, the posts that drew the most traffic, and that made me curious what my top posts were.

I can't figure out how to get the kind of detailed information out of Blogger, that Marginal Revolution commands,  but when I look at the posts at my site with the most all-time page views, I find two that were posted in 2016: " 'Lost' RAW book to appear soon," about the RAW Starseed Signals book that Adam Gorightly unearthed and edited and which apparently will be out in 2017, and "Nick Offerman's dream movie role," about the actor's New York Times interview, in which he revealed that he'd love to play Hagbard Celine in a movie version of Illuminatus! 

This reinforces my opinion that the most interesting posts on the blog are the news items. Of course, there isn't enough real Robert Anton Wilson news to generate a blog post every day, but if you have a news tip, send it to me!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Listening to Starseed

Starseed performing at Tara's Refuge, Mt Shasta, California

Renaissance man Richard Rasa is in charge of Hilaritas Press, is a web designer and knows a lot about computers, but he also plays sitar in a band called Starseed.  I have always liked the sound of the sitar, and the chance to explore Starseed's music (and figure out which albums I want to add to my permanent collection) was one of the reasons I decided to take advantage of Spotify's current sale for people who aren't subscribers, three months of downloadable and ad-free music for $10. (The sale ends when 2016 ends, so if  you want to take advantage of it, you'd best hurry).

About Starseed, Robert Anton Wilson said, "Intricate  yet melodic as Bach, austere as a Zen shrine, sensory as a massage." I celebrated my new subscription by listening to the Live in Mount Shasta album.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Wilson's new conspiracy novel

F. Paul Wilson

And so now I've just finished a novel by Dr. Wilson about two conspiracies, each centuries old, battling each other on multiple continents.

No, not that Wilson. I'm talking about F. Paul Wilson, and his new novel, Panacea, which is about a medical cure jealously guarded by pagans. Their enemies are a fanatical Christian sect called 536.

I'm struck by the fact that more than one science fiction writer named Wilson likes to write about secret histories and conspiracies. In form, F. Paul Wilson's latest novel (and his other novels) are more like Robert Shea than Robert Anton Wilson. They are straightforward, carefully plotted thrillers, and as Panacea shows, F. Paul Wilson has gotten quite good at it.

Incidentally, both Wilsons are influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. One of the protagonists in Panacea fears that Earth is being manipulated by an advanced alien civilization, and that the cure-all substance that defies scientific explanation was supplied by the aliens.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A few words about encryption

I've been interested in encryption for awhile, and back in 2014 I reprinted a ProPublica article on "Protecting Your Privacy Online."

Most of the advice there is probably still not bad, but if you want to encrypt your files so that the Trump administration or just nosy people can't read them, you need to know that TrueCrypt has security flaws and has been discontinued.

A person named Sophie Hunt has written me and called my attention to an article which lists free alternatives to TrueCrypt. 

A couple of other encryption notes: If you want to send secure text messages via smartphone, use Signal. (This article says it's for iPhone, but it's also available now for Android phones, too.) If you want to encrypt your email with PGP, the Mailvelope browser tool works well and is easy to use.

Another option for people who don't want to become encryption experts is to use ProtonMail, a secure webmail service which is available in a free version. Here is a review. My email address there is Here is a Wired review.

Even if you don't use encryption, enable two factor authentication for your webmail to avoid being hacked.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Google encourages spam

If you read this blog regularly, you can see that once again I am being harassed by spam in the comments, apparently from Indonesians. What makes this particularly bothersome is that the spam is coming from Google accounts. In other words, Google knows that its accounts are being used to spam other accounts, but won't do anything about it. Google is careful not to allow human beings to complain to other human beings at Google, but if you happen to know someone in Mountain View, could you bring it up? I'm spending a lot of time trying to battle this stuff.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Adam Gorightly on James Shelby Downard

If the name "James Shelby Downard" sounds at least vague familiar, perhaps it is because Robert Anton Wilson mentions him in Cosmic Trigger as helping to come up with "the most absurd, the most incredible, the most ridiculous Illuminati theory of them all." This is the theory that ties together (quoting CT again) "The assassination of John F. Kennedy at 33° of latitude, to fulfill the alchemical ritual of 'the killing of the divine king' " with other important events or places on the same latitude. (From the "Leary emerges from darkness and Sirius rises again" chapter. )

Adam Gorightly — and who else? — explains more about Downard in a new blog posting, "When Downard Met Discordia."  Adam has come into possession of a "lost" unpublished Downard manuscript on microfiche which can't easily be scanned using OCR. So he needs volunteer typists to help in getting a usable manuscript typed up. In return, you get "a sneak peak at a portion of Downard’s missing magnum opus—not to mention a gratis copy after it’s published!"

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Promoted from the comments: Michael Johnson on Blake Williams

Overweening Generalist art by Bobby Campbell. 

Michael Johnson's comment on yesterday's post (about Blake Williams the "mansplainer") is so interesting, I just want to make sure everyone sees it. 

More Michael Johnson here. 

"Promoted from the comments" is an occasional feature I "stole" from Tyler Cowen. Merry Christmas  (or whatever) to Tyler and Michael and Prof. Eric Wagner (cited in the posting) and everyone else. 

Here is Michael's comment: 

In the omnibus (3-in-1) ed of the SCT, we meet Blake Williams on pp.28-29, as the stage magician Cagliostro gives his initials from the stage and it's a lot of RAW's biographical stuff: polio, working on quantum psychology, space travel, and being haunted by seeing Reich's books burned at the Vandivoort incinerator. The narrator (or Justin Case) calls Blake "that unbearable bore."

Next, pp. 46-47, Blake is that "intolerable bore lecturing on the Birth of Cosmic Humanity to anyone who would listen," and very soon after that, "that lard-assed bore Blake Williams..." P.48 the "windy old baritone sax" Blake Williams is mansplaining at the classic RAW cocktail party scene about how "terrestrial life is embryonic in the evolutionary sense."

It goes on. In a certain sense RAW seems to be lampooning himself, but that's too simple.

For anyone who wants to study Blake Williams's character in the omnibus ed of SCT:
pp. 28-29; 46-54; 57; 68-69; 71-73; 98-100; 112-113; 201-207; 211-213; 235-236; 241-244; 249-251; 265; 267; 274-275; 280; 285; 293-296 (causality); 332; 341; 358; 410-414; 419-422; 424-425; 476; 484-494 (interjecting and present during Cotex's presentation); 504-510; 512; 516; 536-538.

In a different universe, Williams "knew that Value was the Schrodinger's Cat in every equation."

Among other publications, Blake Williams wrote How To Tell Your Friends From the Apes and was the "neuroanthropologist" who helped RAW write the quiz on p.10 of Illuminati Papers.He also appears on numerous pages of RWYASN.

Prof. Eric Wagner writes, "The character Blake Williams' name derives from that of poet and painter William Blake, whose line about discovering 'infinity in a grain of sand' Wilson frequently quotes. (Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, p.164)

William Carlos Williams also seemed to see grand significance in small, mundane things. In Mitch Horowitz's book Occult America he covers an American occultist named Benjamin Williams on pp.215-220, but I think Wagner's right: RAW had seen and used Wm Blake as a signifier of intellectual poetic wonder, a strong poet in the use of metaphors, an anti-authoritarian and master of world-construction who would rather make his own "reality" rather than live in the system of some other man's. There's a certain view of poetic "madness" associated with Wm. Blake for RAW (and many of us). Wm Blake in Wilson's work seems to be seen as a liberator from stringent, stultifying, body-denying xtianity, replaced with a "God" that seems isomorphic with "poetic imagination."

The "problem" of Blake Williams articulating many of RAW's favorite intellectual riffs while at the same time often being seen as a mansplaining "bore" is an interesting one to me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ted Hand on RAW and 'mansplaining'

From Wikipedia: Mansplaining is a portmanteau of the words man and explaining, defined as "to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing."[1][2] Lily Rothman of The Atlantic defines it as "explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman",[3] and feminist author and essayist Rebecca Solnit ascribes the phenomenon to a combination of "overconfidence and cluelessness."

On Facebook and on Twitter, Ted Hand argues that Robert Anton Wilson's work can shed light on the phenomena: "Mansplaining is a useful term because there are gender dynamics involved in the specific form of patronizing or condescending it describes. Failure to recognize these dynamics strikes me as a classic failure of what Bob Wilson called an intelligence test. Bob himself had no problem accepting this basic element of primate dominance dynamics and dramatized mansplaining in several scenes of his novels (see for example the Blake Williams stuff in SC trilogy.)"

On Twitter, Ted adds, "Reread the Blake Williams mansplaining to his female student stuff and you'll see what I mean. There is plenty of expose of sexism in illuminatus! as well, see for example Mavis."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Interview with David Lynch

David Lynch. Creative Commons photo by Sasha Kargaltsev. 

I'm sharing this because quite a few RAW fans seem to be "Twin Peaks" fans: Mitch Horowitz recently interviewed David Lynch for public radio, and you can read a transcript of the uncut interview.  Brief excerpt:

Mitch Horowitz: Describe for us, your perfect day.

David Lynch: Perfect day? Lots of ideas, energy to realize the ideas, tools to get the ideas done. And some very, very good coffee along the way.

In other words, Mr. Lynch wants a "damn fine cup of coffee."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Reading Nabokov

Detail of the cover for one of the editions of Ada

I haven't read any Nabokov in awhile, so I am treating myself this holiday season to reading Ada. I have a list of favorite authors in my head, and from time to time I read another book by one of my favorites.

Eric Wagner has told me the footnotes in Pale Fire provided some of the inspiration for the footnotes in The Widow's Son. Wagner does not remember RAW discussing any of Nabokov's other work; if anyone has any information, please chip in.

I started reading Nabokov in high school, when I was actually assigned Despair in my creative writing class, and loved it. The other Nabokov books I've read are Pale Fire (my favorite so far, and I've read it more than once); Lolita; King, Queen, Knave; Glory; Laughter in the Dark and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. Obviously, I have quite a few other books left to read.

Ada Online has very detailed annotations of Ada (Nabokov's longest novel) by Brian Boyd, his chief biographer. I am doing my best to ignore the site while I actually read the book. But I wanted to share that April 23 is one of the motifs in the book, and Boyd says that the date is Nabokov's birthday. Click "Motifs" at the site and scroll down to "April 23."

Synchronicity of the day: Eric, an English teacher in California, subscribes by email to a "Word of the Day." Minutes after I first posted this, he forwarded today's "Word," which is "cordate," with the subject line, "Check out the first citation." I looked, and the first citation is the obit for Vladimir Nabokov published in the New York Times: "He also wrote at 15, his first poem after seeing a raindrop cause a cordate leaf to flutter." (Cordate means heart shaped, as with a shell, or a leaf.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Effinger's books available free [UPDATED]

George Alec Effinger

Before I took on the quixotic quest of helping Robert Anton Wilson become better known as a writer, my literary crusade on the Internet was on behalf of George Alec Effinger (1947-2002), who mostly wrote science fiction. I've always though Effinger was an underrated writer who deserved to become better-known. It needs updating, but my tribute site honoring Effinger is still up. 

I bring this up because I learned yesterday that nine of Effinger's books are available free, for now, as Kindle ebooks: A Thousand Deaths, Dirty Tricks, What Entropy Means to Me, Irrational Numbers, Budayeen Nights, Live! From Planet Earth, Those Gentle Voices: A Promethean Romance of the Spaceways, Felicia and The Nick of Time.  This is no doubt for a limited time. (I know this because a woman named Eleanor Forman was kind enough to take time to email me. I follow news about ebooks going on sale or being made available for free, but I haven't seen anything about this anywhere.)

This is a good opportunity to find out what I, and more famous connoisseurs such as Neil Gaiman, see in Effinger's writing.  I have read every one of the books available for free, so here are capsule reviews:

A Thousand Deaths, a collection of tales about science fiction writer Sandor Courane. Notable because it includes the novel The Wolves of Memory, my favorite Effinger novel and the author's personal favorite.

Dirty Tricks, a good collection of stories. Effinger was a fine story writer.

What Entropy Means to Me,  Effinger's first novel, but a Nebula Award finalist. Precociously good.

Irrational Numbers, another solid short story collection.

Budayeen Nights, a collection of stories sharing the same setting as the Marid Audran novels, Effinger's most popular works. Includes the story "Schroedinger's Kitten," which won the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Live! From Planet Earth, a posthumous collection which has some of Effinger's best known stories. Featuring pieces about Effinger from various writers, including Neil Gaiman, Mike Resnick and Michael Bishop.

Those Gentle Voices: A Promethean Romance of the Spaceways, a charming short novel, not usually considered a major work.

Felicia, mainstream novel about a hurricane hitting the Louisiana coast. Pretty good book.

The Nick of Time, charming time travel novel. There's a sequel, The Bird of Time. I really liked both books.

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia does a pretty good job of explaining Effinger's work.   And you can read my old FAQ, which needs updating.

My bibliographer for my Effinger website was Richard Newsome; I've lost touch with Richard, does anyone have any information?

Effinger by the way was from Cleveland, where three of my favorite writers are from: Effinger, Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison. All were gone by the time I finally moved to the Cleveland area.

UPDATE: I've added links for the titles. Also, Effinger's literary executor, Barbara Hambly, has made her own Search the Seven Hills: The Quirinal Affair free for Kindle. It's as good a historical mystery as you'd want to read.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wilson, Dick and other folks who were 'contacted'

Val D'Orazio. © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons. Source.

"Divine Invasions: Philip K. Dick, Robert Anton Wilson and 'Alien Contact' In The 1970s" is a new piece that weaves together Dick's VALIS experiences, Wilson's Sirius contacts, Timothy Leary's "Starseed" experience and other alleged instances in the 1970s when influential writers tuned in to a cosmic radio station. The author, Val D’Orazio, also lists other people who had similar contacts. It's an interesting piece.

The article reminded me of another article, "Pulling the Cosmic Trigger: The Contact Experiences of Philip K Dick & Robert Anton Wilson" by A.K. Wilks. 

Ms. D'Orazio also has a piece on the number 23, and according to her Wikipedia bio, she was born on Feb. 23. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cosmic Trigger play news flash [Updated]

The above Tweet was on Twitter a few minutes ago as I write this. I don't have any other details, such as how this relates to the planned performance in Santa Cruz, Calif., on July 23. More information as it becomes available.

More information: It will be a four-week run at the Cockpit in London.

From Daisy's announcement: "We’ll release more information on ticket sales as soon as we have it...Meanwhile… spread the word, Find the Others and Keep the Lasagne Flying!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hey, what's the name of that long Wilson and Shea novel?

Vinay Gupta 

Judging from what I see on Twitter and Facebook, some of my RAW fans are driving themselves crazy over Donald Trump. I myself prefer not to give Trump that much power; I don't feel driven to learn every stupid thing he has said over the last 24 hours, or to let my disgust over the election result control my life.

If only we had a satirical work that captures the absurdity of the present moment:

I feel like I almost have it ... it's on the tip of my tongue.

Incidentally, Vinay Gupta's whole Tweetstorm is pretty interesting.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Musical synchronicities

Live, playing live

I like synchronicities, like most RAW fans, so I'll pass a couple on.

Everyone once in awhile, although I mostly listen to classical music these days, I feel an impulsive hunger to listen to a particular rock group. Suddenly, I need some Rolling Stones, or whatever. On Monday, I felt a sudden desire to listen to the rock group Live. So I started blasting out "Pain Lies on the Riverside," which I consider a great song, and some of my other favorites.

Live is from York, Pennsylvania, an old town (by American standards) and that in itself is a mild synchronicity. I can only think of a couple of bands from the 1990s that I really have followed. I visit York a couple of times a year because my wife's sister lives there. Her kids know some of the kids from one or two of the band members.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. I don't usually listen to rock music in my living room as  my wife doesn't want to hear hard rock in the evening at home. But I had to hear Live! So I listened to them for the first time in months.

And eventually, I got curious for an update on the sad story of the band. In the way of rock stars, the lead singer had a falling out with the rest of the band members, so they went their separate ways. So I pulled out my phone to see what was going on with them. And I discovered, to my surprise, that the band had just announced, a few hours ago, that they had all gotten back together.

This reminds me of how Gary Acord, without meaning to, had marked Leonard Cohen's passing. He wrote about it recently:

"Last night my youngest seemingly randomly pulled up Leonard Cohen singing 'Hallelujah' on youtube on his phone.  I’ve mentioned this to Oz before,  that’s sort of become our family tune.  It’s the one tune that if anyone starts playing it or singing it, everyone joins in with whatever instrument gets picked up and the world disappears for a few minutes.  So, anyway, he and my wife started singing along.  I hummed along.  When it was over I asked, for no obvious reason, 'Is he still alive?'  They were both gobsmacked and said 'of course!'  Then my son googled it up…  he had started playing the youtube video within minutes of the death of Leonard’s body.  So, no choices, to the music room the three of us marched.  I grabbed my guitar and we gave the old fart a proper send off.  It was good for us.  Don’t know if he noticed."

Monday, December 12, 2016

How do you talk about RAW?

Robert Anton Wilson opening a door. (Story of the photograph here.)

The other day, I was talking to my wife at dinner, and she brought up the planned July 23 performance of the Cosmic Trigger play in Santa Cruz, California.  (God willing and the creek don't rise, as they say, but I plan to be there for the performance.)

My wife asked why the performance would be scheduled to take place on a Sunday, and I explained that July 23 is Robert Anton Wilson day, as proclaimed by the mayor of Santa Cruz, where Wilson once lived.

My wife did not ask the next question – why that particular day? – and I admit I did not volunteer an answer. ("Well, that's the day, as described in Cosmic Trigger, that he thought he might have been contacted by beings from Sirius. He was doing a lot of drugs and occult activities at the time ... ")

Without taking time for context, it can be hard to describe to normal people why Robert Anton Wilson's work has such a powerful hold on the people interested in him. How do you guys do it?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A dreamy, shimmering opera production

I was certainly not attempting to gather material for this blog when I went to the Metropolitan Opera movie theater broadcast Saturday of "L'Amour de Loin," an opera written by the modern Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. But as it was easily the trippiest music production or concert I've ever seen, I thought some of you might be interested.

I've been into Saariaho's music for years; if the opera had been mounted with performers dressed on burlap sacks on a bare stage, I likely would have gone, just to have the rare chance to see it. But in fact, the staging was amazing. The background for the performers (three singers, with a chorus) was a line after line of lights. Most of the time, the lights were in blue and white (depicting the Mediterranean Sea), with the performers either in boats or on the end of cranes. Sometimes, most strikingly, they emerged from from the lights.

The lighting perfectly complemented Saariaho's shimmering music and the effect was often dreamlike, most overtly in a scene in which the troubadour sleeping in his boat dreams about his love (the very beautiful opera singer Susanna Phillips), and she emerges in a white dress, rising above the waves.

Incidentally, "L'Amour de Loin" is only the second time in its history the Met has mounted an opera by a female composer. Saariaho, 64, must be pleased to see the production.

Going to a movie theatre is a good way to experience Met operas; information here.  There will be an "encore" showing of the opera in movie theaters on Dec. 21.

And you can read the Alex Ross piece on Saariaho. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday links

The Koch Brothers versus public libraries. This seems like a good way to make libertarians look bad. Hat tip, Supergee.

Classical stars pick their favorite Mozart piece.

Megan McArdle on dealing with trolls.  "I rushed to reassure her. 'Mom,' I said, 'I get death threats all the time. They never do anything about it.' "

Now we've lost Greg Lake. For progressive rock fans of a certain age, it's been a bad couple of years.

How white privilege explains Trump.  " But no matter what you think, there’s no doubt that a lot of people—no matter what their ethnic, family, or socioeconomic backgrounds—are getting tired of being told their success is undeserved. They feel like they played by the rules, worked hard, saved their money, and created opportunities for their families and their communities. Regardless of who they are, you can’t make them be ashamed of that."

Are libertarian Democrats making a comeback?  Related, libertarian Jason Kuznicki becomes a Democrat. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Druid takes on Discordianism

John Michael Greer

John Michael Greer writes, "One of the things I’ve had occasion to notice, over the course of the decade or so I’ve put into writing these online essays, is the extent to which repeating patterns in contemporary life go unnoticed by the people who are experiencing them."

Well, then, give me some credit, because I've noticed at least one repeating pattern. For the second time this week, I'm writing about a new full-length essay on Discordianism by someone named Greer.

A couple of days ago, I posted about J. Christian Greer's important new essay on Discordianism, and now today,  I am writing about John Michael Greer's new essay, "The Fifth Side of the Triangle." 

J.M. Greer (no known relation to J.C. Greer) is "Past Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, current head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, and the author of more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society" according to the bio on his blog, The Archdruid Report. Apparently his writings have an audience; his new piece has 118 comments so far.

He takes awhile to get to Discordianism in his piece — he wants first to write about fossil fuels and the contemporary political situation, topics that he's written entire books about — but eventually he talks about Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and gives us his thesis that Hegel's system of thesis, antithesis and synthesis as an explanation for the cycles of history is far inferior to Discordianism's five stages of history. (To see what J.M. Greer is adapting -- he uses a bit of his own terminology -- see "Appendix Gimmel" in Illuminatus!, "The Illuminati Theory of History."

"Am I seriously suggesting that the drug-soaked ravings of a bunch of goofy California potheads provide a better guide to history than the serious reflections of Hegelian philosophers? Well, yes, actually, I am," Greer writes.

He's promising to post a follow-up piece next week, "circling back to the place where this blog began, and having a serious talk about how the peak oil movement failed." I don't know how much Discordianism will be in it.

J.M. Greer's other blog, The Wall of Galabes, offers "Reflections on Druidry, Magic, and Occult Philosophy." 

Hat tip, John Thomas, via an email.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Publishing notes

I've posted links at the top right of this page to two books I've published in Kindle ebook format — War Is the Health of the State,  a collection of antiwar writings by Randolph Bourne, and The Higher Consciousness Handbook by Klaas Pieter van der Tempel.  My publishing venture has not exactly taken the world by storm so far, but I still like both books and both are quite inexpensive.

I also want to note a book that I had nothing to do with: Science Fiction: An Oral History by D. Scott Apel, which is a good collection of interviews of science fiction authors, and which is only 99 cents. Notably, it has a long interview with Robert Anton Wilson that is unavailable anywhere else. My original review of the book is here. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

J. Christian Greer on Discordianism [UPDATED]

Christian Greer 

Today's must-read for everyone interested in this blog is "Discordians Stick Apart" by J. Christian Greer, an article about "The institutional turn within contemporary Discordianism."  It's included in a book, Fiction, Invention and Hyper-reality, edited by Carole Cusack and but Christian has posted it online at to make the text available to everyone.

Amusingly, Christian divides the history of Discordianism into five periods. Brilliantly, he illuminates that history by sketching its various influences, such as science fiction fandom.

And he makes some very good points. For example, many Discordians don't recognized that the Principia Discordia that's considered canonical is only one version of the work. And by treating Discordianism as a religion with a received text, modern Discordians differ from the way the religion originally was practiced.

Christian's piece emphasizes the important role that Robert Anton Wilson played in popularizing Discordianism and giving it a mass following. Here is a good sentence: "The second period of Discordianism's history (1969-1984) is characterized by its emergence from total obscurity."

I read the article obviously knowing a fair bit about the subject and found very few mistakes. It's not correct, however, that April 23 is "Robert Anton Wilson Day." As proclaimed by the mayor of Santa Cruz, it's July 23. Read the proclamation text.  July 23 is the date RAW allegedly was contacted by denizens of Sirius, as described in Cosmic Trigger; April 23 is an important date in Illuminatus! 

I liked the attention paid in the article to The Golden APA. You can read my piece about it. 

Hat tip, Adam Gorightly on Twitter.

UPDATE: You can also download a copy of Greer's essay. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Communication is possible only between equals

I've been reading an interesting book about World War II, The Secret War by Max Hastings, about spying and covert operations, and it tends to reinforce the Wilson-Shea saying in Illuminatus! that communication is possible only between equals. I'm assuming the corollary is that the greater the difference in rank, the lesser chance that communication gets through.

It's not as if closed, totalitarian societies have no advantage over open, democratic ones. Hastings spells out just how vulnerable the U.S. was to spying and details the huge amount of information collected from American traitors by Soviet spies. (He criticizes the FBI a great deal but admits that it wasn't riddled with Communist traitors a la the British secret services.)

But Hastings also explains that the information obtained by spies isn't useful in itself. It can only serve a purpose if (1) the people getting the information are willing to listen and (2) the nations getting the information have the power to act on it.

As to point (1), the allies had a huge advantage; the Soviets had a huge intelligence apparatus, but Stalin often ignored reports that didn't fit into his reality tunnel. Roosevelt and Churchill made mistakes, but the political systems in the U.S. and Britain forced them to listen to opinions they didn't agree with; people could speak up without having to worry about losing their jobs, or even their lives.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Daily Grail book: 'Spirits of Place'

A book announcement sombunall of  you may be interested in: Spirits of Place, issued by Daily Grail Publishing and featuring various writers, including Alan Moore.

Here is the blurb:

Stories are embedded in the world around us; in metal, in brick, in concrete, and in wood. In the very earth beneath our feet. Our history surrounds us and the tales we tell, true or otherwise, are always rooted in what has gone before. The spirits of place are the echoes of people, of events, of ideas which have become imprinted upon a location, for better or for worse. They are the genii loci of classical Roman religion, the disquieting atmosphere of a former battlefield, the comfort and familiarity of a childhood home.

Twelve authors take us on a journey; a tour of places where they themselves have encountered, and consulted with, these Spirits of Place.

Contributing authors: Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir, Vajra Chandrasekera, Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kristine Ong Muslim, Dr. Joanne Parker, Mark Pesce, Iain Sinclair, Gazelle Amber Valentine, and Damien Williams. Edited by John Reppion.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

'Lost' RAW book to appear soon

Image from a short Timothy Leary work, Starseed: Transmissions from Folsom Prison. Source. 

It's taken awhile, but it appears that Starseed Signals, a Robert Anton Wilson book written in 1975 during a period of close collaboration with Timothy Leary, finally will be out soon.

The final touches are being put on the production by the publisher, RVP Publishers, and the book is supposed to be out during the first or second quarter of 2017, according to information given by the publisher to RAW fan Chad Nelson.

RAW and Discordianism scholar Adam Gorightly rediscovered the book and wrote a foreword for it. And although the book was never published, it formed the basis for later work, Gorightly writes in his foreword: "Starseed Signals laid the foundation for RAW’s landmark work Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminati, so don’t be surprised if some of the passages in this book seem familiar, to be later lifted and inserted into the Cosmic Trigger narrative."

This appears to be a substantial work, more than 340 pages of text. I can't wait to read it, and I'll provide more news as it becomes available.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

'Groovy Science' and Boing Boing books

Boing Boing, the website that grew out of the best magazine in the world, has published its 2016 Gift Guide for Books.  There are several titles here that might interest Robert Anton Wilson fans.

One of the reviewers, Mark Frauenfelder, is a longtime Robert Anton Wilson fan, and reviewer Cory Doctorow is an important writer for me, and I want many of the books they mention, but I also noticed that many of the titles that seemed interesting were recommended by David Pescowitz.

Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture is one of the books Pescowitz recommends. It's a collection of pieces edited by David Kaiser (of How the Hippies Saved Physics fame) and W. Patrick McCray. Pescowitz writes, "In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture is a new book of essays about this heady time!"

The table of contents reveals a piece by McCray called "Timothy Leary's Transhumanist SMI2LE" which has several mentions of Robert Anton Wilson.

Pescowitz also recommends England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground by David Keenan and a book called Atlas Obscura, also recommended by other trustworthy folks.

Thanks to Chad Nelson for the tip.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Krassner on Robert Anton Wilson

And now, I explain why Robert Anton Wilson fans would be interested in Paul Krassner's Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut, which I've been reading.

In his collection Coincidance: A Head Test, Wilson wrote, "Paul Krassner's iconoclastic journal, The Realist, has published more of my writings than any other American magazine, and there was a period in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I might have given up writing entirely if Paul had not gone on publishing my work. I think everybody in the 'counterculture' owes a great debt to Paul Krassner, but I perhaps owe him more than anyone else."

Here is the first mention of Wilson in Confessions, which explains how Wilson got the byline we all now know:

"Another writer, Robert Wilson, editor of the Institute for General Semantics Newsletter, gave himself a middle name, Anton, for his first published article in The Realist, 'The Semantics of God,' in which he posed this suggestion: 'The Believer had better face himself and ask squarely: Do I literally believe 'God' has a penis? If the answer is no, then it seems only logical to drop the ridiculous practice of referring to 'God' as he. Wilson began writing a regular column, 'Negative Thinking'."

There are other references to Wilson in the book, too.