Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Brian Aldiss has died


Brian Aldiss in 2005. Creative Commons photo by Szymon Sokół.

Science fiction great Brian Aldiss has died; he was a major figure for decades. R.U. Sirius mentioned his psychedelic novel Barefoot in the Head on Twitter; Jesse Walker liked Frankenstein Unbound. My favorite among his novels is The Malacia Tapestry.  But I actually thought his short fiction was particularly good, and so I enjoyed every short story collection of his that I came across. 
The Science Fiction Encylopedia has a long entry on Aldiss.  Supergee posted a nice appreciation. 

An Aldiss quote purportedly praising Robert Anton Wilson as a "genius with a G" (or words to that effect) appears on some of RAW's books, although I thought Aldiss actually was referring to Ken Campbell's production of Illuminatus!, can anyone clarify?  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Email to the Universe discussion group, Week 15




 Paul Krassner at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco in 2009 (Creative Commons photo by Heidi De Vries).

By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger

Afterword by Paul Krassner

This was first published in 2012 as part of Boing Boing's RAW Week. It is appropriate that an altered version of Krassner's article would appear as the final addendum to RAW's final work; as noted in the essay it was Krassner who published RAW's first article that was composed around the physical dimensions of God's member.

A few months ago Tom discussed Krassner's Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut and I chimed in talking about Ed Sander's Fug You. Like RAW's Cosmic Trigger, these are firsthand memoirs that give a special insight into the counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies. Krassner is not as idealistic as Wilson, nor is he anywhere as focused. If his works have a consistent theme it would be freedom of the press which Paul pushed for harder than most Americans. (Well that, the Grateful Dead, and marijuana, which he makes sure to plug in his essay here.) He and Wilson were different in many ways but both were retroactive titans of their time; their books reveal they were as instrumental to the civil/artistic unrest that remade the Western world as Abbie Hoffman (Krassner loved Hoffman, Wilson thought he was a dolt) or LSD (Krassner loved (s) LSD but was influenced more by the freewheeling Kesey whereas RAW loved LSD but was influenced by the visionary Leary). In their unique ways both men/are brash and unafraid- Americans who truly exercise(d) their First Amendment rights.

Krassner recounts how RAW was barred from the Prophet's Conference which Wilson discusses in more detail within TSOG (I think). Both RAW and David Jay Brown questioned the Conference's decision to exclude RAW because of his unmarketable lexicon and were met with baleful resistance. In hindsight I believe the people responsible would agree they made a disastrous mistake by excluding RAW. I believe that one reason why Wilson never reads as queasily as New Age or other professionally optimistic writers is his unassuming diction. The Prophets Conference obviously missed out on this feature. As mentioned in this reading group a few weeks ago: I do not feel that there has been much evidence of acidheads taking over the corporate world. Perhaps it is more that the acidheads who succeed in the corporate world are the milquetoast type who can afford conferences in Hawaii where the speakers make sure to only talk about the polite parts of activating your chi.

I remember reading Wilson's account of the Married Roman Catholic Priest Conference but I can't for the life of me remember where. [You read it in Coincidance: A Head Test, which will be the next title reissued by Hilaritas Press. -- The Mgt.]

Thank you to those who stuck with me through this reading group and I hope that you've enjoyed going over email to the Universe. Thanks especially to Tom Jackson for his generosity of spirit and his openness to our different voices in this space he has created. I don't care what any of you say, I think he's a fine person and I can't bring myself to believe the awful things you've said about him.

This has been fun and I look forward to chiming in when we talk in the future!

Kallisti

[This entry concludes the online discussion of Email to the Universe. Very sincere thanks to Gregory Arnott for stepping forward and leading the discussion with his fine articles. -- The Mgt.]

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ted Hand comes to town


Ted Hand (right) and I in the Cafe Ah-Roma coffee shop in Berea, Ohio.

I don't live in California, or in Britain, and so I've met very few of the people I've gotten to know on the Internet via this blog. It's a bit like my earlier days in SF fandom, when I would correspond with or read various fannish writers, but often go years before I finally met them at conventions.

But Ted Hand, who lives in the Bay Area and is a blogger and writer and active on Twitter, has been roaming over much of North America, and I found out on Facebook Friday that he was in Cleveland to visit the Buckland Gallery of Witchcraft & Magick, a new museum in Cleveland I hadn't heard of before. So I invited him to meet for coffee Friday.

We met at the Cafe Ah-Roma coffee shop in Berea, the small city/Cleveland suburb where I live next to Cleveland's main airport. Ted Tweeted a selfie of us afterward, writing "Super fun times discussing Robert Anton Wilson, journalism's plight, SF fandom, and how lucky I am to live in California, with @jacksontom"

We also talked about many other topics before I had to go back to work, although somehow we didn't get to our mutual interest in Late Antiquity. I asked Ted about his current projects, and he told me plans to write a book on Philip K. Dick's knowledge of esoterica. He is also working on a set of Philip K. Dick Tarot cards and on an alchemy adult coloring book. Ted also wants to write critical theory about Robert Anton Wilson's interpretation of magick. Ted was easy to talk to and I appreciated him taking the time to meet.

 

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Week magazine mentions our favorite writer



Erwin Schroedinger 

The Week magazine — apparently there is a British edition, as distinct from the U.S. one that my wife and I subscribe to — has published an article explaining the Schroedinger's cat thought experiment.

That would by itself be of interest, but also this is how the article ends: "The protagonist of Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency uses clairvoyance to determine that the cat inside is not alive, or dead, but has grown bored of the experiment and wandered off. And American author Robert Anton Wilson wrote a whole Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy in which each novel discussed a different interpretation of quantum physics."

There's no byline on the article, so I can't give credit where it's due. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A new biography of Claude Shannon


Claude Shannon 

Robert Anton Wilson more than once mentioned his intellectual debt to Claude Shannon, a mathematician and engineer known as "the father of information theory." For example, Shannon is mentioned three times in Email to the  Universe. In the "Note" at the beginning of the book, RAW mentions many of his influences, including "Claude Shannon and Norbert Wiener for their studies of control and communication between animals and/or machines .... " 
There has, until now, been no full-length biography of Shannon. In July, however, came the publication of A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. You can read an interview with the authors, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The New York Times' reality tunnel






 Nancy MacLean


The books section of the New York Times ran a review of Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, the expose of secret libertarian conspiracies that's been controversial for weeks because of the author's habit of changing people's quotes to match her thesis. (For background, see my earlier post on the subject.)

To my surprise, the new book review, by one Heather Boushey, executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, does not mention  this controversy, if only to attempt to refute it. Apparently in the "reality tunnel" for Houshey, and for the Times book section, ideologically inconvenient facts don't exist. And she's a Ph.D. economist, too. Instead she writes, without a trace of irony, that "books like MacLean’s continue to shine a light on important truths."

A quote from Robert Anton Wilson, from Cosmic Trigger: 

"My God," the Libertarian said to himself one day in early 1968, when this  had become clear, "the left wing is as robotic as the right wing." (We apologize for our naivete in taking until 1968 to figure that out.)  

I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons for the popularity of sports is that the outcomes and statistics are not subject to political manipulation. My baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, defeated the Minnesota Twins 8-1 Monday. Surprisingly, in the post truth age, the score is the same whether you're a Twins fan or a Indians fan. It apparently doesn't even matter whether the fan is a Democrat or Republican, a liberal or a conservative, a libertarian or a socialist. Nobody is claiming that the Twins won, or that an article saying that the Twins won "shines a light on an important sports score."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Five books



On Twitter, "Emma," a librarian, writer and blogger, Tweeted, "Quote & RT with your top 5 books of all time. Don't think about it, just follow your heart."

So I quoted the Tweet and offered these five:

1. Illuminatus! Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
3. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.
4. The Gold Bug Variations, Richard Powers.
5. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson.

Of course, the nature of such an exercise is that one has second thoughts. Should I have listed The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe instead? Where is Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, and Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R.A. Lafferty and Excession by Iain M. Banks?

What are your five?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Email to the Universe discussion group, week 14


By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger 


On My Way Out


both seem far far away

from 




[These two quotes are extracted  from John Higgs’ casual masterpiece The KLF: 

"The interval between the decay of the old and the establishment of the new, constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism."- John C. Calhoun

"A naked man in a city street—the track of a horse in volcanic mud—the mystery of reindeer's ears—a huge, black form, like a whale, in the sky, and it drips red drops as if attacked by celestial swordfishes—an appalling cherub appears in the sea—Confusions."- Charles Fort/Ken Campbell]

To attempt to answer my own questions from last week and to respond to the opinions of Oz Fritz, Eric Wagner, and Tom Jackson ( the vital repositories of RAW’s spirit in the New World):

We are all increasingly grizzled veterans serving a perpetual tour on the front lines of the Culture War. The sophisticated disguises that communication has adopted during the course of human evolution have caused in increase of psycho-seismic activity. Our society is transforming rapidly and all sorts of cancers metastasize across our screens in the course of weeks, days, or hours. In 2005 there is no way anyone would have believed Donald Trump would be POTUS- I don’t think even RAW could have predicted this outcome. As comedians pointed out in January as fond reminiscences of the Bush years  cropped up in op-eds; Trump is so horrifying we are looking back upon a CIA-trained cokehead who committed genocide (GeeDubs) with fondness. RAW hated Bush and his disdain is clear throughout this book- today we yearn for those years of “sanity.” As the blood in Charlottesville attests, the situation today is beyond appalling.

And that’s why we desperately need the transformative techniques that RAW cheerfully spins into our souls as humorous yarns or passionate polemics. Wilson was a monkey who couldn’t get the stars out of his eyes and died seeing things wrapped up in an infinite net of diamonds. This is what we should aim for in our holy discourse, the brilliance  coded into every sentence; as Branka Tesla pointed out- RAW impregnates every line in this sainted text. This is a cyclical in the school of Perennial Wisdom, composed and preserved by one of our most incomparable philosophers;  Robert Anton Wilson conquered the world in a way that is comparable to Socrates or Blake. This is his goodbye and his greeting- an invitation to travel along so many avenues of thought and a boutique of expertly developed exotic blooms that one cannot help but stop and shudder in admiration.

I remember being fifteen, before I had read RAW, and telling my classmates if my choice was heaven with them or hell with people I admired, I’d prefer the latter.



Higgs, in his more recent opus Stranger Than We Can Imagine, proposes that, after we are faced with the stark reality of improbability and astounding happenstance of the twentieth century, our best choice of mental states is model agnosticism. He never acknowledges RAW by name, which bothered me, but this is clearly the same conclusion our wild-eyed Brooklynite drew early in his life and pursued like a hound nipping at the heals of God.

These are the times that test the soul of man. I am an atheist, thank god, but I still revere the saints who, whilst living, did miraculous things and transformed the garden into which we are all born, to something more beautiful.




Next week: Paul Krassner's afterword, new to the Hilaritas Press edition. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday links


Chris Kalis on Twitter says, "It's come to the moment when Robert Anton Wilson takes up an entire shelf. #fnord @RAWilson23 http://ift.tt/2vueYni "

Are we living in a Philip K. Dick novel?

Ada Palmer has won the John Campbell Award, for best new writer in science fiction. Best novel for the Hugo Awards is The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. Full Hugo list. Women obviously have a strong presence in science fiction these days. I haven't read Jemisin yet, but I have The Fifth Season, last year's Hugo winner, on my Kindle. It's so hard to keep up!

Free speech vs. the First Amendment. 

Cover of a punk rock album. 

Variation on "Here kitty kitty"?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The musician Ott on his favorite RAW books


Ott

Austrian RAW scholar Martin Wagner recently called my attention to Ott, the British record producer and musician, who is a big RAW fan. Official page here. Thanks, Martin!

Here is Ott, answering a fan question:

FAN: Just began reading my first Robert Anton Wilson book and it seems I run into one of your song titles every 50 pages or so :) but my question though is which of his books would be your top 3 favorites? 

Ott responded on 01/13/2012
OTT: It's hard to put them into order of preference because a lot of his books feel like the same thread of writing spread over several volumes.

The one which had the most profound effect on me was 'Prometheus Rising' but that is because it was the one I read first. It introduced me to the concept of 'tunnel reality' and the power of semantics and I vividly recall the sensation of consciousness expansion that occurred two chapters in. It was as life-changing as any of my other psychedelic experiences, and possibly more than most.

'The Illuminatus' is important as a demonstration of the concepts outlined in his non-fiction works and I make a point of re-reading it every couple of years. It reminds me not to take any of 'this' too seriously.

Equal third place goes to 'Schrodinger's Cat', 'Cosmic Trigger' and 'Right Where You Are Sitting Now' for coming along exactly when I needed them.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Another backhanded compliment

As somebody who identifies most of the time as a "libertarian," I noticed some time ago that the movement had received a backhanded compliment; the movement has become large enough that it comes under constant attack.

Few of these attacks come in the form of engaging with libertarians in an honest and respectful manner. Not many people, for example, seem to want to argue that the war on drugs has been a great success, as evidenced by the recent heroin epidemic, or that years of U.S. intervention in the Mideast have brought peace and democracy to the area.

Instead,  there are endless smears. Weirdos and bigots such as Milos Yiannopoulos or that Vox what's-his-name guy in SF fandom are solemnly presented to the world as typical libertarian intellectuals.

And the misrepresentation of what most libertarians believe is endless. Jesse Walker recently caught one and Tweeted about it. A guy named Igor Volsky, deputy director of the Center of American Progress Action Fund,  recently Tweeted that even the Cato Institute found immigration a net benefit.

The Cato Institute, like every other mainstream libertarian group, has argued over and over and over again in favor of immigration. Jesse Tweeted, "Even Cato is pro-immigration. Even the ACLU opposes censorship. Even the NRA hates gun control. Even the pope is Catholic. Even a bear shi—"

The latest smear is a book called Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean,  heavily footnoted but nonetheless filled with deceit, which exposes the supposed conspiracy of libertarians to destroy democracy. MacLean and her minions have answered every attack on her by saying that all of her critics are part of the vast conspiracy.

So here is an article about the book from Vox, which can't be depicted as a libertarian website. Excerpt:

While some on the left have hailed the book, libertarians and conservatives have attacked it online. Several have argued that MacLean misleadingly truncates quotes, to make it seem as if Buchanan and other libertarians such as Tyler Cowen are anti-democratic. While they obviously have a great deal of skin in the game, their critiques of the book have landed a number of solid blows. 


For instance, when MacLean claims that Cowen is providing “a handbook for how to conduct a fifth column assault on democracy,” she cites as evidence Cowen’s statement that “the weakening of checks and balances would increase the chance of a very good outcome.” Unfortunately, she declines to provide the reader with the second half of the sentence, which goes on to note that “it would also increase the chance of a very bad outcome.” Nor, as she has claimed in interview, is the title of Cowen’s blog Marginal Revolution a signal to the illuminated that Cowen is undertaking a gradual revolution by stealth (it’s actually a well-known term for the birth of modern economics). 


She accuses David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, of believing that “close to half of American society is intent on exploiting the rich” when he writes about a “parasite economy” of predators and prey. In fact, the predators Boaz is talking about are specific interests lobbying for subsidies, tariffs, quotas, or trade restrictions. While his claims can be contested, they are simply not what MacLean says they are. 

The Boaz piece that Vox links to is worth reading. 

I certainly wouldn't claim that libertarians "are" correct on every issue. I don't agree with the Libertarian Party on every issue. But it's a shame that political discussion in this country largely consists of distorting what other people actually support.

(The Blogger "add images" tool doesn't seem to be working today, so you get lots of text.)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mondo 2000 returns



R.U. Sirius has revived his pioneering magazine Mondo 2000 as a new website. 

The original Mondo 2000 preceded publications such as Boing Boing (now a website) and Wired magazine.

The new website has so far offered articles such as "La Petite Mort: The Death of Sex" by M. Christian, "William S. Burroughs in High Frontiers 1987 About Mind Technologies," "The Next Fifty Years: Why I’m Optimistic Because Everything Will Be Terrible…" by John Shirley, "Interiorizing The Body, Exteriorizing The Mind" by Terence McKenna and the first Mondo 2000 editorial, annotated for 2017.

For Mondo 2000 news, follow on Twitter.





Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Adam Gorightly, movie actor


From Adam Gorightly's Tweet: "Yours truly in the role of Roger Person, the wisecracking homicidal Freemasonic fried dough truck entrepreneur in

The movie is called "The Hill and the Hole" but I'm having trouble finding out much more about it. I do know it's from Bright Rectangle Films.  Apparently it is based on a Fritz Leiber story, here is a description:

"Casting "The Hill and the Hole," an indie adaptation of Fritz Leiber's short story of the same name. The film blends elements of weird fiction and Fortean phenomena with themes of land rights into a contemporary ghost story. The visual tone of the film is somewhere between (original) "Wicker Man," David Fincher’s "Zodiac," and "No Country for Old Men." 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Email to the Universe discussion group, Week 13

By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger 

Federico Fellini

Part IV Q & A

The questions answered in Part IV span 25 years and seven different interviewers. There’s a lot of material in the last section and most of it has already been covered in the book. Taking this into consideration, as well as the fact that our reading group seems to be winding down with the summer, I’ll touch lightly on a couple topics and wait to hear what your thoughts are as we draw near the end.

The fourth part of email to the Universe begins with the overly familiar dying words of the Old Man of the Mountain and another of the other Old Man’s quips preceded by a pronouncement by Federico Fellini. During my undergrad years I was enchanted with Fellini and would stay up late watching 8 ½, Juliet of the Spirits, La Dolce Vita, Amarcord and whatever else I could find. I’ve mentioned I am not a huge film aficionado but Fellini, like Lynch and Ken Russell, is one of the directors who has captured my attention. “Nothing is known. Everything is imagined” make sense in light of fates of his protagonists. I’ve always prefered to think that Guido didn’t commit suicide at the end of 8 ½ but instead found a way into his memories and fantasies, away from drear, demanding reality.

My favorite line of any haiku from the “Old Man” sequence has to be: “caw caw caw Lord Lord.” This is an astounding rendition of how the crow’s call registers to the human ear...I often listen to their croaks and wonder why they make me shudder so.



The first questioned answered is from Neal Wilgus back in the prehistoric year of 1977. In a footnote RAW reflects on the dismal state of the political circus as of 2004 compared to the year when the question was first offered. Eleven years after the Wilgus interview he states on pg. 239 that Reagan has brought more stupidity to the White House than any other person in Wilson’s lifetime.  RAW seems to have had a consistent state of bewildered dismay at the blatant progression of conservatism’s bald-faced goal of despotism. When Clinton is mentioned on pg. 256 Wilson points out the increased scrutiny of President’s private lives by the media (he also acerbically ends his thoughts on the subject that even if it is “open season” on politicians, they deserve it). Like most of the political repartee in email these observations are still evergreen and the situation(s) unresolved.

Wilson discusses his writing influences, his interests, marijuana, conspiracies, mysticism, life extension, and space migration. These subjects are all covered multiple times in different parts of the book; I’ve just finished rereading The Homing Pigeons after the other two volumes of Schroedinger’s Cat and Cosmic Trigger II while we’ve been covering email so I haven’t had many days go by the last month without reading some story involving Pound or Hemmingway, Korzybski or P2. RAW was consistent. Not that these interviews aren’t enjoyable and don’t serve as a refresher of the many different topics covered in this book as well as Wilson’s general corpus, but I really have very little to add.

Between the lot of us at some point in these write ups or comments we’ve shared our thoughts on pretty much everything that is covered in these interviews.

So I’d like to ask those of you who have stuck with me a few questions:

Has your general perception of RAW or any of the ideas discussed altered significantly while going over email to the Universe? Was this anyone’s first time reading email?

Where do you feel email to the Universe fits in RAW’s overall output? Does it compare to collections such as Coincidance or Right Where You Are Sitting Now? Or does it remind you more of the later Cosmic Triggers or TSOG?

Is this a fitting final book for RAW? Is it meant to be a final book? Does the chronology of publication mean anything?

What are some of the differences you noticed between younger and older Bob in the text?

Next week we’ll finish Part V and read Krassner’s afterword.

Note: The formatting for the last paragraphs on pg. 234 and 256 seems to be centered instead of aligned left with the rest of the text.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Douglas Rushkoff on 'Aleister and Adolf'



I got two interesting comments in response to Thursday's post referring to Douglas Rushkoff's new graphic novel, Aleister and Adolf.

Michael Johnson pointed to a Dangerous Minds interview of Rushkoff by Richard Metzger. It includes this bit:

Aleister & Adolph reminds me a lot of Robert Anton Wilson’s Masks of the Illuminatus—which I think is his best book—because it sort of forces its ideas into the reader’s head like an earworm that you can’t resist. Also Crowley is a character in that book, too, of course. Do you see it as a bit of a RAW homage?
 
Douglas Rushkoff: It’s a RAW homage in that the story has verisimilitude—it is told in a way where it’s absolutely possible for this all to happen. There’s no supernatural magic here; it’s just the magick of Will. There’s the black magic of the Nazis. But however extreme the Nazis, it was real. It’s got the reality quotient of Eyes Wide Shut or Apocalypse Now.
And that’s the understanding of sigil magic I got from Bob. It’s all very normal. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Just that you have to participate in its perception. It’s just a different way of understanding the connections. So while the protagonist of the story starts off as a disillusioned atheist and ends up believing in magick as Magic, even Crowley (at least my Crowley) tries to convince him not to take it so literally.

I wouldn’t understand magick that way if it weren’t for Bob. It’s embedded in the fabric of reality. It doesn’t need to break the rules of reality to work.   

Friday, August 4, 2017

Znore on Kek and Finnegans Wake



In his latest entry at Groupname for Grapejuice, "How Finnegans Wake Predicts and Obsolesces Esoteric Kekism," Znore writes about Kek/Pepe, discusses Finnegans Wake and Aristophanes "The Frogs," and writes this paragraph about James Joyce:

Joyce's own political leanings, as far as they were political at all, were individualist and anarchist, much like Shem's. But he was also a humanist and a universalist. He was equally scornful of British imperialism and Roman Catholic dogma as he was with xenophobic and narrow Irish nationalism. Beyond both the nation and the empire is the creative artist who, in a Blakean sense, creates his or her own system and is subject only to the Imagination. Priests and kings and presidents and parties are all worthless shams compared to it.

Among other attributes, Znore strikes me as a really good literary critic.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The connection between Hitler and the occult



"Whether you learned about it from watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or, even earlier, from reading Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s European bestseller “The Morning of the Magicians,” who doesn’t now know that Hitler and Nazi Germany were obsessed with the occult?"

That's the excellent book critic Michael Dirda, writing in the Washington Post.

The Morning of the Magicians is mentioned in Illuminatus! which devotes considerable attention to the connection between the Nazis and the occult. If you think Wilson and Shea made all of that stuff up, check out Dirda's review of Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich by historian by historian Eric Kurlander.

Lots of other interesting sentences in Dirda's piece; here is another one: "The psychologist Carl Jung would even assert that Hitler was a medium, a 'mouthpiece of the gods of old'.”

If you don't know him, Dirda is a Pulitzer-prize winning critic who loves science fiction, fantasy and horror and who is quite familiar with Robert Anton Wilson and Discordianism.  Read my interview with him.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hilaritas Press report on RAWDay


The photo of Bobby Campbell, above, is taken from Richard Rasa's RAWDay Report from Hilaritas Press. 

Lots of news you should read for yourself (I have posted a handy link under "Official News." I especially liked this excerpt from an old Robert Anton Wilson email, dating back to 1999:

In the dark, terrible months after my daughter’s death, I often repeated to myself a favorite quote from Nietzsche: “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Then G Gordon Liddy got out of prison and I saw the TV coverage. Liddy walking to his car, reporters shouting questions, Liddy answering “No comment... no comment... no comment...” Then just before he got into the car, a reporter asked, “Do you have any comment on the American prison system?” Liddy replied, “Anything that doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

I suddenly felt a deep empathy with him. Guess that’s what the Romans meant by “humanitas” and Buddhists call compassion for all living beings.


Don’t know much about acting, but writing novels sure teaches a lot of that. I’ve learned more creating/becoming my monsters and villains than I’ve learned creating likeable characters.


Robert Anton Wilson, email to the GroupMind, 5/20/99

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Email to the Universe discussion group, Week 12

 By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger




Sexual Alchemy

It was nearly chic to have an idea about the true meaning of alchemy during the early twentieth century. A surprising amount and varied array of individuals sallied forth with their interpretations from Daumal to Jung to Fulcanelli to Reuss. But alchemy, derived from the Arabic Al-kimmiya,  has never been well-defined, even judged by the standards of occultism with explanations ranging from the get-rich-quick chicanery, to the chemical, psycho-spiritual, or erotic yoga RAW proposes. Most likely it was some combination of these disparate elements and its definition varied from person to person as it does today. Happily this essay is concerned with alchemy solely in the sense of the IX° work of the O.T.O. instead of history and truth. It is as good an essay on the working of sex magic as Crowley’s Energized Enthusiasm and an exciting essay but I will admit I prefer his treatment of the subject in the third and fourth chapters of Sex, Drugs, and Magick (whose contents he does note in the essay).

I’d like to discuss RAW and Louis T. Culling because I read Culling a few years ago after deciding to follow up on Wilson’s footnote in Cosmic Trigger where he declares that Sex Magick teaches Crowleyean methods of Tantra. And boy, does it kinda do that and kinda spins a line of bullshit that had me gaping and occasionally guffawing in sheer incredulity; I’d like to think this is why RAW liked him so much and his recommendation is at least a self-aware instance of existential leg-pulling. For how RAW nearly dismisses Kenneth Grant* as an “oddball magician,” and Grant is pretty consistent in his assertions and elaborations in his admittedly bizarre interpretation of magic, Culling seems to me to be nearly too bombastic as to having been real in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I find Louis Culling to be an interesting and inventive fellow whose system of sex magic was adapted from the workings of C. F. Russell, a mathematician and American student of Crowley’s who spent time at the Abbey of Thelema at Cefalu before heading stateside to create his own Thelemic order “The Choronzon Club” which later became the the Great Brotherhood of God . (For more on C.F. Russell, his eccentric interpretation of Crowleyean sex magick and Yi Jing please check out Steve Moore’s excellent “Change in a Parallel World.”) So RAW is incorrect insofar as his assertion goes that Culling was taught by Crowley — he never met the man. The version of sex magic presented by Culling in Sex Magick and The Complete Curriculum of th G.’.B.’.G.’. entails three degrees of magical chastity, karezza, and finally the sex magic discussed in this essay with an emphasis upon the bud-will mentioned in Crowley’s Liber Aleph.

For a taste of the delightful absurdity that abounds in Culling’s books I’d like to present the following:

“I have received so many plaints [sic] about getting a suitable partner that I have decided to give a special exemplar. In this case, the husband and wife were incompatible and they had agreed to separate within thirty days. He, being a brother member in a secret magickal order [presumably the G.’.B.’.G.’.], had high aspirations in the Great Work.  Due to his frustration he had an intense desire to have a suitable magickal partner...even though his wife was not a good partner, the very intensity of his desire served much to overcome the incompatibility between them, in assaying to create the Bud-Will Intelligence to have a good partner.

After five congrexes [sic] he was certain that he had given autonomous intelligence to the Bud-Will, and that is where his story begins.

He insisted on writing the story himself, and for the sake of anonymity he even used my name, Lou. I lived near close by and intimately knew all of the principles involved, so well it almost feels like my own experience.

I was driving from Fallbrook with grocery supplies for my place in Rainbow Valley. Halfway home there was a woman thumbing a ride. I never pick up hitchhikers so I did not stop. Suddenly it hit me: there was something about the way we exchanged glances that struck me as a possible sign. I stopped about a hundred yards past her. She disdained another car that had stopped and started to walk rapidly to my car and eagerly entered it.

She said, “I have to get home to San Bernardino to take care of my two kids. Was at a family reunion in San Diego. All of ‘em drunk yesterday and all night and I ain’t had no sleep and nothing to eat. Here I am, chattering like a guinea hen and ain’t even told you my name. Name’s Alice, born in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.”


Suddenly her hand dropped heavy on my shoulder and she was asleep. In turning from the main road and going to my place, the jolting of the car woke her.


“Where are we at?” she asked.


I said. “We are going to my place and while you are having some sleep I am going to cook a steak for you and then I’ll buy you a ticket to San Berdou.”


She looked at me through the eyes of 100 per cent woman and said, “Lou, I must be dreaming: you are such a swell guy.”


After eating she flopped on the bed again and was asleep within a minute. When I awakened her she said that she could get the midnight bus. “Kiss me, Lou.” she said.


“Ever since I had titties I have dreamed about being loved by a man like you. Let’s take our clothes off and you just love me. That’s all: no sex.”


But the gods (and the Bud-Will) work in devious ways. She said that it would be soon enought to take the early morning bus. “Crimonetly! Tain’t no good being treated like I was an angel by a man like you that I could worship. I just got to be loved by you, all the way, even if only once. Take me, Lou.”


On the following morning she said, “You’ve taken me up almost to heaven and now I am dropped back down to earth. It hurts like hell to fall so hard. I know you are not for me no more. My old man gets out of jail next week and I have to be with him. But Lou, I am going to do something for you. I am going to give you my sister. Up till two weeks ago she was raised in the Ozarks by Granny. Then she came here to drunken Ma. Only seventeen and nobody to take care of her. And I seen some of those Berdou dudes sniffing around. You are the only man in the whole world I’d trust to have her.”


I was too stunned to say anything. We went to the only store in the valley, Ed’s Grocery and Eatery to wait for the bus. After we had ordered a cup of coffee, Alice went behind the counter and was talking to Ed in a low voice. Then she told me, “I see you’re poke flat for money and I asked him if he would give part-time work to my sister Mabel. He said yes, he needs her.”


Only three days passed before Alice brought Mabel down in a borrowed car. When Alice drove away I said. “Well, that is switch. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but here the Lord is giving something back even better.”


Mabel did not know what I meant but on the morning after the second night she said to me, “The Lord shore gives.” And the Lord gave on many succeeding nights, according to Mabel.


I raised hand-tamed animals on my place and one day a dude from San Diego came to Ed’s place inquiring about the ranch. The dude’s uncle wanted him to put down a deposit on a pair of wolf pups.
Mabel was just getting ready to leave the restaurant to go back to the ranch. She said to the dude, “Lou ain’t in today but he lets me handle his business. Give me $100 for a deposit.”


But the dude was looking her over, with ideas. He said, “I want to see those wolves first.”


“Let’s go,” said Mabel.


The dude whispered to Ed, “I’m going to get some of that stuff.”


At first the dude played it cautious but it was enough to give Mabel suspicions and she planted her legs apart and gave him a taunting laugh.


“I forget what I first said to her,” the dude told Ed. “but she just stared at me with a smile and said ‘I am a one man woman.’ Then I got my arms round her and said ‘Don’t play it coy baby. Gorgeous stuff like you has been had by plenty of men.’ Then she yelped. ‘You hadn’t auta said that!’ and she came up with her leg and gave me the knee right in my knockers- hard. Cripes that hurt.”


Ed laughed in derision. “More ambition than good judgement.”


I think I have the best magickal congrex partner in the world. I married her, but not because I wanted to own her. She was a precious gift which should not be owned.


The reader of this exemplar will do better to trace the workings of the Bud-Will Intelligence for himself than to have it outlined for him. It is clear enough. May this experience inspire others to work for a magickal partner rather than wishing for it, and also to be resourceful and patient enough to train her, and to treasure her when you get her. This is my hope and advice.



Now, I don’t know if what you just read was the worst pulp romance, a testimonial to an obscure sex technique, a country music song, or the occult equivalent of The Room but whoever wrote that was certainly drunk when they jotted out that whopper. Delightful. And this is the man who RAW soberly commends to his audience as an authority. Wilson does write about the importance of finding the right partner for sex magic workings in the essay but not all of us are Bob and Arlene. RAW’s main experiences with sex magic presumably were during the mid-Seventies. “This time, I used the Lily tape and the Crowley invocation again, without drugs, but with prolonged and holy rituals or Tantric sex-trance involving the cooperation of the Most Beautiful Woman in the Galaxy.” - Cosmic Trigger

The glossary definitions of alchemical code words as well as the example of Valentine’s alchemical doubletalk is derived from the same chapter as the bizarre yarn about Ozark child brides and molesty wolf purchasers. Culling’s interpretation of the Rubaiyat is included in the third Appendix of Sex Magick titled “Sufi Philosophy.” It perhaps endeared RAW to Culling that two of his other appendixes focus on the magical uses of marijuana, champagne, and damiana. Thomas Vaughan, the other alchemist mentioned by RAW in the essay, is a favorite of his who is mentioned throughout his corpus. Also considering that Basil Valentine died two hundred years before Vaughan’s birth they were nowhere near contemporaneous in the sense of human life spans. Unless I’m contemporaneous with Lord Byron or Admiral Nelson.

The alchemical theories of Dr. Israel Regardie are discussed. While we have it from the essay that from no less of an authority than Dr. Regardie himself that Wilson has correctly interpreted his alchemical code it is worth noting that in the one work Regardie published solely concerned with alchemy, The Philosopher’s Stone, that Regardie seems to adopt the psycho-spiritual approach that was favored by Dr. Jung. Or maybe that’s what he wanted you to think. While RAW writes on pg. 213 that Regardie “wrote a series of books which have influenced contemporary American occultism more than the work of any other singly author,” I think by now that title has passed on to the author of the essay. While Wilson never formerly declared himself to be a magician, aside from psychological experiments, he has made an indelible impact on the magical landscape and still serves as a vital beginning of an answer to the question “how can anyone really use this shit?”

The techniques of sex magick did not begin with the Sufis and Hassan-ibn-Sabbah most likely never had a time release capsule of opium, cocaine (considering the coca plant is native to South America), and hashish. Sex magic can best be traced back to the Tamili tantra cults of medieval India; an excellent practical resource on Tantra for westerners was written by Francis X. King (RAW’s favorite “non-insane” occult historian) titled Tantra: The Way of Action. Much of the underlying theory about technique and mechanisms is similar to the Spare-devised sigil magic floating around the interwebs today. King’s book offers a method of practice for either two or one participants. Hey we’re all not lucky enough to have a clearly-fictitious seventeen year old fall into our lap after we fuck her sister, that is more satisfying than the current masturbate-and-wish method that apparently not one of its practitioners is self-aware enough to realize is the perfect commentary on their lives. It also contains some excellent scholarship on J. W. Brodie-Innes, whose damnable silly quote is mentioned on pg. 220, and his contributions to western esotericism.

In the spirit of this collection I’d like to add on my own quote from Blake, taken from the Proverbs of Hell from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and recited by Miss Mao in Illuminatus!:

Prisons are built with stones of Law; brothels with bricks of religion.

*RAW also herein accuses Grant of being obsessed with menstrual magic. Elsewhere I’ve read other authors state that Grant is obsessed with either promoting or suppressing anal sex magic. While I haven’t read anywhere near to his entire output I’ve made a good dint into his Typhonian Trilogies and Nightside Narratives and never felt he discussed sex in a way that was either strikingly peculiar or excessive compared to other writers in the field. Although he does provide gems of ridiculousness as such: “The assumption of god-forms practiced by the Golden Dawn and Austin Spare’s technique of Atavistic Resurgence are magical explorations of Space and Time. They are aspects of ancient sorceries-once performed in Atlantis-that will be developed during the current aeon and will ultimately transcend both Space and Time.” I enjoy such eccentricities. More than anything I’d say Grant’s odd obsessions center more upon Lovecraft and whatever the fuck happened in the Nu-Isis Lodge back in the fifties. For all that he is maligned Grant was an important influence upon RAW during the time he was initially exploring sex magic and to most magicians after the seventies. He certainly is the only reason that the artist-magician Austin Osman Spare is known at all today.

As a post-script I’d like to say while I adore the works of Frances Yates and they filled up a lot of my bibliographies in undergrad- Prospero was clearly based on John Dee, as elaborated upon by the brilliant Alan Moore, and not Bruno. Although the Berowne theory is convincing.