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

Monday, December 31, 2018

Books read, 2018

1. The Blueprint: Lebron James, Cleveland's Deliverance, and the Making of the Modern NBA, Jason Lloyd.
2. The Powers of the Earth (Aristillus #1), Travis Corcoran. (Won the Prometheus Award, in the Top Ten I just blogged about.) 
3. Darkship Revenge, Sarah A. Hoyt.
4. Some Fantastic Place: My Life In and Out of Squeeze, Chris Difford. (Read my Chris Difford interview). 
5. Checkmate: One Man's Fight Against Political Corruption, Steven Kraus.
6. Artemis, Andy Weir.
7. Torchship, Karl K. Gallagher.
8. Torchship Pilot, Karl K. Gallagher.
9. The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock, David Weigel.
10. Torchship Captain, Karl K. Gallagher.
11. The Braintrust: A Harmony of Enemies, Marc Stiegler.
12. Autonomous, Annalee Newitz.
13. The Alexander Inheritance, Eric Flint, Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett.
14. The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, Lawrence Block.
15. Hannibal's Oath: The Life and Wars of Rome's Greatest Enemy, John Prevas.
16. The R.A. Lafferty Fantastic MEGAPACK, R.A. Lafferty.
17. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov. (Re-read).
18. Language of the Spirit: An Introduction to Classical Music, Jan Swafford.
19. Death of a Nurse, M. C. Beaton.
20. Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery, Brian Boyd.
21. Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks.
22. Medieval Europe, Chris Wickham.
23. Hadrian's Wall, Adrian Goldsworthy.
24. The Will to Battle, Ada Palmer.
25. God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State, Lawrence Wright.
26. The Overstory, Richard Powers.
27. From Now to Now, Marlis Jermutus.
28. Pax Romana, Adrian Goldsworthy.
29. Freeburg, Dan Harkins.
30. Sisters of the Soil, Patricia H. Wilkins.
31. Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Enlightenment, Robert Wright.
32. Land of the Infidel, Robert Shea.
33. Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente.
34. Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past, John Higgs.
35. Weather, Dave Lucas.
36. The Night of the Gun, David Carr.
37. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD, Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis.
38. The Saracen: The Holy War, Robert Shea.
39. Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West, Tom Holland.
40. The Paris Wife, Paula McLain.
41. Another Year Finds Me in Texas: The Civil War Diary of Lucy Pier Stevens, Vicki Adams Tongate.
42. Out of the Labyrinth: Selected Poems, Charles Henri Ford (re-read).
43. Charles Henri Ford: Between Modernism and Postmodernism, Alexander Howard.
44. Passage to Union: How the Railroads Transformed American Life, 1829-1929, Sarah H. Gordon.
45. The End of All Our Exploring and Other Stories, F. Brett Cox. A good collection by an old friend of mine.
46. Chasing Eris, Brenton Clutterbuck.
47. Skytrain: A Transport Revolution, Philip Kaplan.
48. The Fractal Man, J. Neil Schulman.
49. 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Eric H. Cline.
50. Circuit, Melinda M. Snodgrass.
51. Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Vol. 2, August Derleth.
52. Death by Dumpling, Vivien Chien.
53. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company That Addicted America, Beth Macy.
54. Daemon, Daniel Suarez.
55. Tell Me What You Want, Justin J. Lehmiller.
56. Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America, Emily Dufton.
57. Always Cedar Point, John  Hildebrandt.
58. Freedom, Daniel Suarez.
59. How to Listen to Jazz, Ted Gioia.
60. Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth, Robert Anton Wilson (re-read).
61. All the Beautiful Lies, Peter Swanson.
62. The Universe Next Door, Robert Anton Wilson (re-read).
63. The Story of Greece and Rome, Tony Spawforth.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Quote I liked from Cosmic Trigger 2

Photo by Gerry Juwono on Unsplash

I don't know how to make memes and I don't have time to learn right now, but I'd make this into a meme if I could. From Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth (the "Choose Your Hallucinations" chapter):

Whether one is transported out of one's habitual Reality Tunnel to the multiple choice labyrinth of Virtual Reality by marijuana or by Charlie Parker or by sexual orgasm or by meditation or by Picasso or by King Kong or by the Wicked Witch of the West, the experience has a quality of timelessness and liberation about it. One feels less mechanical and seems on the edge of grasping what the mystics mean by "Awakening;" sometimes, especially with Beethoven, one almost feels that one will almost never forget the "absurd good news," (as Chesterson calls it) of that Awakened state.

                        -- Robert Anton Wilson

Saturday, December 29, 2018

My top ten books for 2018

I've simply listed my favorite reads, including books that were not first published last year. Also controversially, I have actually waited until most of my reading for 2018 was concluded, rather than posting my "best" list weeks before the end of the year.

For each, I've listed the title, author, and year of publication, with a brief note.

1. The Powers of the Earth, Travis Corcoran. 2017. A science fiction novel set on the Moon. It won the Prometheus Award, and it was so good, I was sure it was going to win.

2. The R.A. Lafferty Fantastic MEGAPACK, R.A. Lafferty. 2016. Very early stories, and I wondered if the editing criteria was, "These are public domain stories we don't have to pay for." No matter; many of Lafferty's best stories were the early ones, and this is a great collection. Under $1 for the ebook.

3. The Overstory, Richard Powers. 2018. Who knew you could write a great novel about trees?

4. The Saracen: Land of the Infidel, and The Holy War,  Robert Shea. 1989. Very good historical novels set in medieval Italy.

5. Watling Street, John Higgs. 2017. Really good work on English history (and modern weirdness) that will interest many Robert Anton Wilson fans.

6. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD, Bill Minutaglio,  Steven L. Davis. 2018. Come for the fast paced narrative, stay to learn about Leary, still a fascinating figure, and Nixon, arguably worse than Trump.

7. 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Eric H. Cline. 2014. The end of "globalized" Bronze Age civilization.

8. Daemon and Freedom (two titles), Daniel Suarez. 2006, 2010. Not sure I agree with all of the author's opinions, but you won't read a better thriller.

9. Chasing Eris, Brenton Clutterbuck. 2018. Could have used some editing, but the sheer work Brenton put into surveying the modern Discordian scene was simply awesome.

10. Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth, Robert Anton Wilson. 1991. A re-read, of course. A nonfiction memoir that manages to read like a novel, and a good exploration of many ideas. One of his best.

I also liked, among others, Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov, which also belongs in the Top Ten but I think was covered by the reading group; All the Beautiful Lies, Peter Swanson; The Night of the Gun, David Carr, and The Will to Battle, Ada Palmer.

Friday, December 28, 2018

A 'Blake Williams' question

I've been re-reading The Universe Next Door, and I noticed this passage (in the "To Have Locks On These Doors" chapter, page 73 of the paperback edition pictured above):

Blake Williams had the great good fortune to suffer a bought of polio in infancy. Of course, he did not realize it was good fortune at the time -- nor did his parents or his doctors. Nonetheless, he was among the lucky few who were treated by the Sister Kenny method at at time (the early 1930s) when the American Medical Association was denouncing that method as quackery and forbidding experiment thereon by its members. He was walking again, with only a slight limp, when he entered grade school in 1938. The real luck occurred twelve years later, in 1950, when he was 18; the limp and the dead muscles in his lower calves disqualified him for military service. The next man drafted, in his place, had both testicles bloodily blown off in Korea. 

Blake Williams often seems like a stand-in for the author, and like Wilson, Williams was born in 1932 and treated using the Sister Kenny method. But what about the avoiding the draft bit? Did Wilson indeed have a disability that allowed him to avoid being drafted during the Korean War?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Bill Drummond's pyramid of the dead

Published on Dec. 23, of course.

I've been waiting to run across a piece that would explain those puzzling references on Twitter to a pyramid of the dead, and now I've found it: An informative and amusing piece by Bill Bain, which has a title so long I won't reproduce it.

Mr. Bain wants to know if any of Robert Anton Wilson's ashes may be contributed to the project. 

A bit from the piece:

IF you want to truly get lost down the rabbit hole, the internet is awash with dubious mythology concerning the number 23. Much of this involves mathematics, patterns, synchronicity and coincidence, such as babies getting 23 chromosomes from each parent, the arm having 23 bones and it taking 23 seconds for blood to circulate through the human body.

The idea was brought to cultural prominence by author William Burroughs and friend Robert Anton Wilson, who adopted the “23 Enigma” as the main theme of his hit Illuminatus! trilogy. Yet even Wilson once said: "When you start looking for something, you tend to find it.”

We should then perhaps ignore that w is the 23rd letter of the alphabet. That would mean the world wide web – www – could represent 23 + 23 + 23 = 69. If 69 is divided by three again, it makes, of course, 23.

And taking this questionable calculation to its natural conclusion, 2 divided by 3 is, wait for it – .666. So a very happy Antichristmas to all this column’s online readers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Christmas present (one of them)

Poster my son gave me for Christmas.

The poster and various other Flying Lasagna enterprises products available here.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The new John Higgs book, revealed by HIggs!

(I'll just quote the latest newsletter from one of my favorite British authors. The Management.)

(From the publisher's blurb)

In the 1980s we gave up on the future. There's nothing ahead but economic collapse, environmental disaster and the zombie apocalypse - or so we tell ourselves. But what if we are wrong? What if this bleak outlook was a generational quirk that afflicted those raised in twentieth century, but which is already beginning to pass? What if we do have a future after all?

John Higgs takes us on a journey past the technological hype and headlines to discover why we shouldn’t trust science fiction, why nature is not as helpless as we assume and why purpose can never be automated. In the process, we will come to a better understanding of what lies ahead and how, despite everything – despite all the horrors and instability we face – we can imagine a better future, and we will build one.

(Addendum from Mr. Higgs)

That fella will be out 16 May so, er, look out!

Note also that, while it won't be for much longer, Watling Street is currently a steal at 99p on Kindle.

Friday, December 21, 2018


A Wikimedia Commons photo of a Philip K. Dick bookshelf. 

Another wonderful "reprint" by Martin Wagner: Robert Anton Wilson's introduction to The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick 1977-1979. 


Long ago, when my youth burned green and wild with oats (as Dylan Thomas, or a bad parodist of Dylan Thomas, might write) I picked up a sci-fi magazine and read a very short story called “Roog.” The story described a dog’s “paranoid suspicion” against garbage collectors, told from the dog’s point of view,1 and it absolutely juiced my neurons. I felt as if I had just smoked my first pipe of Alamout Black hasheesh (“We taking you higher”) all over again. I felt wigged. I felt as if “illuminated from above.” I felt, in short, that the dog hat talked to me.

Well, that Trip occurred a long time ago—almost forty years ago, I suspect—but I never forgot the name of the author of “Roog” and I never stopped looking for anything else by him in print. In 1978 or ’79 I finally met him—Philip K. Dick in all his beamish and batty beatitude. We both had reached our mid-forties by then, and I think we shared the subterranean tremors that shift male tectonic plates at that age. Specifically, as writers concerned with the “abnormal,” we each wondered sometimes if we had absent-mindedly graduated, somewhere along the line, from whimsy to lunacy. Phil had the persistent notion that, in February 1974, he had made contact with some sort of Higher Intelligence. Of course, as a card-carrying Postmodernist, he never really believed that totally. I had the suspicion that I had also contacted a Higher Intelligence, in July 1973.2 Of course, as an initiated Deconstructionist, I also never believed that totally.

Read the article to learn about the "baffled suspiciousness" of Dick and other writers.

A couple of notes:

1. The Wikipedia entry for "Roog" shows it was published in the February 1953 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. RAW would have been 21 when he read it. F&SF was my favorite SF magazine as a teen and young adult, I had a subscription for awhile, so I'm pleased to know that RAW sometimes read it. The magazine still exists.

2. The first meeting between RAW and PKD, mentioned in the piece Martin posted, apparently was in October 1978 at Octocon II, a science fiction convention in Santa Rosa, Calif.; I investigated for this blog when they  had met. Find out more. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Okay, okay, I was wrong

Gordon White, author of The Chaos Protocols (which I liked), holding his niece on Twitter. 

My wife is a librarian, so obviously she knows a lot about books and authors. (Give her any topic, and she can tell you exactly where a book is filed under the Dewey Decimal system.) But she tells me she never heard of Robert Anton Wilson, and none of the librarians she works with knows who he is.

My wife's library has a blog, Read It Or Weep, and several staff members at the library have been posting their "best books" of 2018.

Ann is an expert on mysteries, and you should read her entry if that's what you like, but what I also noticed was that a guy named Greg recommended The Chaos Protocols by Gordon White. He also recommended The Invisibles by Grant Morrison and Promethea by Alan Moore. His review of The Ballad of Black Tom showed that he was very familiar with H.P. Lovecraft.

With the assurance of an EXPERT, as Robert Anton Wilson would spell it, I told Ann that this guy was probably a Wilson fan, or at the very least would know who Wilson was. So she went up to him and said, "I need to ask you something. Do you know who Robert Anton Wilson is?"

The guy looked at her blankly and said, "Should I?"

I still think I should have been right.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Daisy Campbell's new adventure

Daisy Eris Campbell, pointing the way for the rest of us. 

Daisy Eris Campbell is organizing a pilgrimage to CERN and Switzerland next spring, and everyone is invited to come along.

As I blogged recently, Daisy gave a long interview recently to a theater writer at a Glasgow newspaper. In the article, she mentioned her interest in synchronicities:

This idea of synchronicity and meaningful coincidence was first coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, whose well-documented dream of Liverpool was one of the inspirations behind the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, where Illuminatus! was first performed. A bust of Jung by David Wright is set against stone taken from Jung’s house in Basel. Campbell is planning a pilgrimage to CERN, the Geneva-based centre for research into particle physics and the make-up of the universe.

“I feel it’s time to return a gift to Jung,” says Campbell, who is planning a trip with Liverpool Arts Lab, direct inheritors of the spirit of the old Mathew Street centre. “Again, why? We don’t really know, but it feels necessary.”

Daisy has now fleshed out her plans in her latest email newsletter, available here.  Excerpts:

First thing to consider: This will be a true pilgrimage - i.e HARD. It'll involve camping in mountains in April. It will be intense and in tents. You have been warned.....

For Illuminatus scholars you'll know that April 23rd was the day that they immanentised the eschaton. You'll also know that Eris was birthed in the UK via Illuminatus, staged on the site of Jung's dream of Liverpool - and given (as Alan Moore pointed out at the last performance of Cosmic Trigger) that all the current chaos and confusion has stemmed from muddling up the words 'immanentising' and 'immanantising' - it stands to reason that we must be at CERN to immanantise the eschaton on April 23rd, thus re-setting the world and ushering in the age of Grummet. 

The price cannot be 100% fixed until we know numbers - but a pretty close guess is £369 per person. This covers minibus & petrol, Eurostar, camping and all entrance fees etc. It is very unlikely to go up beyond £400. 

The deadline for expressing interest is Dec. 23.

Much more news at the link. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

New Adam Gorightly book

Self-described "crackpot historian" Adam Gorightly is a hard working researcher and a lively writer with an eye for absurdity and humor. I suspect these qualities may be in evidence is his new book, A is For Adamski: The Golden Age of UFO Contactees, co-written with Greg Bishop. Please see Mr. Gorightly's announcement for more information.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman reading group, Coda

Photo by Cameron Mourot on Unsplash

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger 

I think Oz wrote the coda to this group. Please check it out at his blog. (Tom wrote about it last Friday.) I hope you had a wonderful Beethoven’s birthday yesterday. Thank you for participating in this group and allowing me to share one of my favorite books with you.

Richard Rasa has shared that Bob Wilson did not want to get channeled. I do not have strong beliefs about survival after death, and I have not had any strong feelings of communication from Bob since his death. I have wondered how he would have responded to stuff in our world over the past 11 plus years: the Obama presidency, the lost Orson Welles film, etc. I know he loved Beethoven immensely, and I suspect this reading group would have pleased him.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Happy Beethoven's birthday

An 1815 portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Willibrord Mähler

Happy Beethoven's birthday!

Eric Wagner's final Beethoven reading group post will run tomorrow.

Eric had a striking statement in his last post: "I consider these quartets as perhaps the greatest music ever written."

Probably Beethoven's nine symphonies are his most popular works. The 32 piano sonatas are probably the works I listen to the most often.

As Robert Anton Wilson noted at least once (I can't give you a citation), the string quartets are what Beethoven worked on at the end of his life. The last symphony, the Ninth, premiered in 1824. The last piano sonata, the very interesting No. 32, opus 111, dates to 1822. String Quartet No. 16 dates to 1826. Beethoven died March 26, 1827. As this Jan Swafford piece notes, the last piece Beethoven completed was a new ending for the No. 16 quartet.

Update: Martin Wagner points out today is Philip K. Dick's birthday, too.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Today's arts craze

The pastoral Whataburger that you come to Texas hoping to find. 

Robert Anton Wilson fans have a lot of competition as we labor to bring his novels and essays to the attention to the public. The latest craze on Etsy? Paintings of Texas fast food chain restaurants, set against beautiful natural scenery. I actually kind of miss Whataburger up here in Ohio, but don't look for a print of this painting on my wall. Via art hipster Supergee. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Oz Fritz's tour notes

Simrit Kaur (Creative Commons photo by Fiz327)

Partially inspired by the ongoing Beethoven discussion group led by Eric Wagner and partially by his work being on tour as the sound mixer for the world music artist Simrit, Oz Fritz has a new post up at his blog. 

At one point, Oz Googles Bob Dylan and Beethoven and pulls up these lyrics, from "Tombstone Blues":

Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedrolls
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells roadmaps to the soul
To the old folks home and the college.

Oz writes. "The title 'Tombstone Blues' obviously suggests death.  Old folks home suggests death lurking close by.  A college gives education.  The Invisible College educates invisibly. Educate yourself about death; make a roadmap to the soul.  I submit that Beethoven's music contains similar instructions.  A lot of great music seems didactic in a multiplicity of different ways along the lines of a spiritual education, an education into the mysteries of death and the life that follows.  Every SIMRIT concert does, different each time."

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christina's RAW Christmas memories

Christina Pearson at RAW Day in 2017. (David J. Brown photo.)

[Robert Anton Wilson's daughter, Christina Pearson, remembering past Christmases from the Wilsons. Reprinted by permission of the RAW Estate from the recent announcement that replicas of Robert Anton Wilson's spiral ring are now available for order. -- The Management]

A Wilson Christmas Tale…

Winter Greetings! This morning as I was carefully unwrapping our Christmas Tree ornaments, I began to contemplate the history of Christmas in our family. I also realized that the only area of my whole life that is actually organized, is how I treat these ornaments!

Looking back, it seemed that there were always catastrophes that occurred on a regular basis on holidays – like the time my father (Bob) was perched on a ladder putting the star up on top of a fully decorated 6 foot tree, only to have the ladder slide into the tree, and down the whole kaboodle went! It was QUITE the show - Bob yelling, the cat meowing, dog barking, my baby sister crying, Arlen (my mom) rushing in and adding to the hysteria… ah, yes!

Or while cooking holiday meals, my mom would wear totally outrageous (for cooking) clothing, that would inevitably have a big drooping hanging sleeve immersed in gravy, or catch fire, get stuck in the oven door; always something!

This morning as I thought back to calm and not-so-calm winter celebrations of Christmas, I remembered one in particular; I was 8 years old, we lived in New York City, and I was very, very sick. This was back in 1964. At the time, Bob was working for several tabloids, writing “junk,” as he called it, and we lived on the 11th floor of a big old apartment building on West End Avenue in Manhattan. We didn’t have much money, but my grandmother had died the year before, leaving a small inheritance amount to my mother and her sister.

This small inheritance had given Bob and Arlen the opportunity to move back to New York City, which they literally jumped at the chance to do; enough with the “back to the Land” phase, that had landed us in Ohio, back to the city where we belong! Just after being let out of school for the holiday break, I had come down with a terrible bout of Scarlet Fever as soon as we were let out of school for Christmas break Just figures… Anyway, it was Christmas Eve, and I was burning up with a very high fever. The doctor had already come and gone, making a house call (yes, they really used to do this!) in the middle of the night to assess me and administer medication. Mom had me lying on the couch in the living room, so she could keep an eye on me and give me regular sponge baths in an attempt to bring down my temperature.

I remember very little, except I was super ill, and something magical was happening! As I lay there on the couch, sweating and rolling incessantly, Bob was hard at work across the room. That night he built us a “Troll House!” I guess you could call it a doll house, but it really was for our little troll dolls that we loved dearly. And let me tell you something! My dad was SO not a good crafts person, even though he had been trained as an engineer. He took 6 similar cardboard boxes, and attached them so three were on top, and three below. He then “wallpapered” the inner walls with an assortment of patterned papers, ran a string of Christmas lights through as ceiling lights, and cut little doors in between the “rooms.” When you stood back, what you saw was 6 rooms, fully open to you.

During this unusual production of Bob’s (he did NOT generally try to do any type of crafty projects), I do remember hearing a lot of strange sounds emerging from him as he struggled to get these box rooms in order; at the time it seemed totally normal for him to be growling… squealing, and randomly swearing; but looking back, it may have been my fever but I will never know for sure!

My parents then proceeded to fill each room with little toy furniture, with Arlen periodically running over to the couch to bathe my whole body with rubbing alcohol. For me, I was swimming in the scent of the alcohol, while my eyes were dazzled by the little blinking tree lights now adorning our “doll-house.” It was the most magical thing I had ever seen, and it was the night I learned that Santa Claus was really my parents.

Interestingly enough, it was not a disappointment or let-down to discover the truth about Santa; instead I could FEEL the love rolling off them both as they worked to care for me and create this little fantasy doll-house in honor of the Celebration of Light being born in the midst of Darkness.

I treasure this memory, however distorted it was from my illness; that night I learned about love manifesting as action, a lesson I have never forgotten.

   All my love, Christina

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Steve Pratt publishes new 'Tale of the Tribe'

At the end of TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, Robert Anton Wilson outlined his plans for a book, Tale of the Tribe.

He never completed it, but Steve "Fly" Pratt published a book on the subject late last year, and now has just released a new edition, Fly On The Tale of the Tribe: A Rollercoaster Ride With Robert Anton Wilson. It is on Amazon and available to his Patreon supporters. 

Steve explains, "Late last year I hastily self-published this book about influencers on Robert Anton Wilson and about the tale of the tribe. Recently, new additions, chops changes stops, and spins were edited in. I must confess, the text was a little messy before, now it's straightened out somewhat I'm happy to spread the word."

Excerpt from the "Note From the Author" in the book:

"Sticking to a slightly strict interpretation, in the attempt to be precise from the get-go, the tale of the tribe is taken here to describe three things:

"1. An unfinished, unpublished book by Wilson.

"2. The 8 week class called Tale Of The Tribe led by Wilson in

"3. An epic poem including history, two examples of such a magnum opus are the Cantos of Pound, and Finnegans Wake by Joyce. Each a wild jungle of experimental language, global epics in a whole new style, to be explored with an open mind over a long period, and to challenge aesthetic, ethic, historic and moral prejudice at the same time. Complex authors their complex work to deal with it. This ain’t a coca-cola ad."

Cover by MVP Bobby Campbell.

I have a copy of the new edition (I'm a Patreon supporter) and hope to read it soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

RAW on what artists do

Photo by Vuitton Lim on Unsplash

A movie theater is the best place to learn the true meaning of Plato's parable of the prisoners in the cave, who accept shadows as reality. Every artist who moves us, from a movie maker to Beethoven or Shakespeare, is a bit of a hypnotist. In this sense, that seemingly stupid and mechanical contraption we call "society" must rank as the greatest artist (or hypnotist) on the planet. -- Robert Anton Wilson

(Cited in Facebook by James Heffernan. From Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth, the "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" chapter. Heffernan is the author of Nonlocal Nature: The Eight Circuits of Consciousness. )

Monday, December 10, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman reading group, Week Eighteen

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

Kerman Week 18 – Op. 135

This week please finish the book and listen to Op. 135 and the last movement of Op. 130. Please comment on this week’s reading.

I hope all goes well. People often roughly divide Beethoven’s work into three periods. The quartets fall into these periods quite nicely. At the end of each period he tends to look backward and compose in a somewhat Haydnesque manner. One can see this in Symphony #2, Symphony #8, and both works in this chapter, Op. 135 and the new ending to Op. 130.

Pg. 362: “Muss es sein” means “must it be?” “Es muss sein!” means “It must be!” Bob Wilson plays with this in Schroedinger’s Cat.

Pg. 362-363: Pantalone, Spavento, and Brighella come from commedia dell’arte. Melusine refers to a water spirit. I had forgotten that Proust’s narrator compares Gilberte to Melusine. Wikipedia says “Melusine appears to have inspired aspects of the character Mélisande, who is associated with springs and waters, in Maurice Maeterlinck's play, Pelléas et Mélisande, first produced in 1893.  Claude Debussy adapted it as an opera by the same name, produced in 1902.”

Pg. 373: I like Riezler’s notion of seeing both versions of Op. 130 as organic. This reminds me of model agnosticism. The two versions of the quartet seem like two universes. One doesn’t have to prefer one to the other or question the artistic validity of the quartet as a whole as Kerman does. Of course, Kerman does a great job of illuminating the wonderful things Beethoven does in both versions of the quartet.

Pg. 375: Kerman says of contemplating the Beethoven quartets, “it has a way of shutting out other prospects.” Often when I finish this book, I don’t know what to listen to next. I consider these quartets as perhaps the greatest music ever written. Where does one go from here?

Pg. 376: I love the reference to “chthonic powers” – very Lovecraftian.

Pg. 379: When he discusses the personalities of individual quartets, it reminds me of how Crowley discusses getting to know the 78 tarot cards as individuals over the course of a lifetime.

As Schroeder would say, only six days until Beethoven’s birthday.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

RAW reviews 'Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Growers Guide'

Another big discovery by Martin Wagner: Robert Anton Wilson's book review of Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Growers Guide by Terence and Dennis McKenna (writing under pseudonyms), published in August 1976.

A couple of excerpts:

Only narcs and the major drug dealers, that oddly symbiotic alliance, can possibly oppose the self-evident intent of the authors, which is to teach the reader how to make pure, undiluted, 100 percent safe neurochemicals at home, and thereby avoid the hazards of the black market.

It is indeed a splendid dream. Imagine: every Head in the country begins growing his or her own magic psilocybin mushrooms. Funny fungi sprouting everywhere. Millions, then billions of golden-headed darlings bringing the most ancient Mayan secrets to meta-phase nervous systems, coast to coast. The local distributor of mescaline-cut-cut-with-garbage, which he calls LSD, pounds on the door desparately, “Hey, I’m selling blotter at 10 cents a hit this week” — and nobody answers.


The only thing wrong with this book, aside from the price, is that they forgot to mention that you should always absolutely in every case whatever the circumstances play Beethoven’s Ninth during the third hour of the mushroom experience. With earphones and your eyes closed. Then o dearly beloved may you find the Gold of the Philosophers, the Stone of the Wise, the Medicine of Metals, the Rosy Cross, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness. Io Pan Io Pangenitor Io Panphage Hagios Hagios Hagios IAO.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Daisy Campbell on 'Pigspurt' and other matters

"The first #MuMufication brick is laid by @DaisyEris on the pyramid stone for the #ToxtethDayOfTheDead #PeoplesPyramid. She is watched over by Jimmy Cauty, Bill Drummond, @GreenFuneralCo and procession participants. #KLF" (caption from @violetmaze on Twitter)

The Herald, a Scottish newspaper in Glasgow that dates back to 1783, runs quite a nice long article on Daisy Eris Campbell by the paper's theater critic, Neil Cooper. Applause to Mr. Cooper for doing quite a good job. He explains the Toxteth Day of the Dead, which I've seen mysterious references to on Twitter (see brief video, above) and also explains why the final performance of Daisy's "Pigspurt's Daughter" will be in Shetland (on Dec. 10):

The Lerwick date for Pigspurt’s Daughter came about after Campbell “put a call out to various seekers and spores.” One of these was Jeff Merrifield, whose connections with Ken Campbell date back to his tenure at Bolton Octagon running a touring community company. This later morphed into The Ken Campbell Roadshow, whose ranks included Sylvester McCoy and Bob Hoskins.

Merrifield went on to work with the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool, and is the company’s official chronicler. He also wrote a biography of Ken, called Seeker! Now a long-term resident of Shetland, where he creates artistic capers of his own, Merrifield’s invitation to bring Pigspurt’s Daughter to Lerwick was a no-brainer.

“Me and Dad always wanted to go to Shetland to see Jeff,” says Campbell, “but we never made it. Now we’ve contrived to bring Pigspurt’s Daughter there on his birthday with his best mate. I don’t think I’ll make any money, but it’s being done for magical reasons.”

Friday, December 7, 2018

Online reading groups in 2019

We've been doing online reading groups at this blog for years, generally with pretty good participation, and archiving them so that anyone who reads the book after the reading group is done can go back and read the blog posts as he/she reads the book. (I don't know how often anyone does this).

2018 has been something of an anomaly for the blog, as we have covered two books that were not written by Robert Anton Wilson: Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (which, aside from its intrinsic interest to serious readers influenced RAW's The Widow's Son) and we are winding up Eric Wagner's discussion of Joseph Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets. 

For 2019, I suggest we return to Wilson, with the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, or at least with The Earth Will Shake and The Widow's Son. All three books (including of course Nature's God) have been published in definitive editions by Hilaritas Press and it seems to me they deserve some love and attention. I'm particularly fond of The Widow's Son and think of it as a neglected book. We could maybe start with The Earth Will Shake in February and go from there.

This suggestion is not set in stone; you could make a case, for example,  for Prometheus Rising, also available in republication from Hilaritas, and also worth a discussion group. I'm open to ideas and discussion.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"Their" self help books, and "Ours"

Via Marginal Revolution: Tim Harford's list of his favorite self help books. 

I always feel like I'm not getting as much done as I'd like to, so I will particularly look at his top two recommendations, Designing Your Life and Getting Things Done.

But looking at the list also reminded me that two of Robert Anton Wilson's books, Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology, also are treated as "self help" books by many of his fans.

Note that there is a Quantum Psychology online discussion group archived at this site (look at the bottom right of the page); we probably need to do Prometheus Rising sometime. And see Caroline Contillo on "How Quantum Psychology Changed My Life." 

Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology have both been republished in definitive editions by Hilaritas Press.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Christmas with the Wilsons

From left: Rasa, Christina Pearson, German radio journalist Maximilian Netter, Marlis Jermutus

The RAW Trust newsletter that announced the availability of a replica of Bob Wilson's spiral ring, which I blogged about yesterday, also contained a piece by RAW daughter Christina Wilson about her Christmas memories. Excerpt:

Looking back, it seemed that there were always catastrophes that occurred on a regular basis on holidays – like the time my father (Bob) was perched on a ladder putting the star up on top of a fully decorated 6 foot tree, only to have the ladder slide into the tree, and down the whole kaboodle went! It was QUITE the show -- Bob yelling, the cat meowing, dog barking, my baby sister crying, Arlen (my mom) rushing in and adding to the hysteria… ah, yes!

Read the whole thing. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

RAW estate releases spiral ring replica

The Robert Anton Wilson Trust has announced that a replica of Robert Anton Wilson's spiral ring is now available, as a ring or as a pendant.

From the announcement:

Our silversmith in Rhode Island has given us a reasonable deal on reproducing exact replicas of Bob's sterling silver spiral ring, and we are ready to take orders! When you order online, you will tell us your ring size. If you don't know your ring size, we've included easy instructions on the order page for figuring that out. Each ring will be separately ordered as soon as you complete the online form. Please be patient. It will take some number of weeks for the ring to be finished, sent to us and then packaged for shipping. The first ring orders should be shipping out in January. The price for one ring is $123, the same as the price for the pendant.

Rasa models the pendant. 

Much more at the link, including other celebrity models (such as Martin Wagner), some mystery models, an excerpt from Cosmic Trigger II explaining the ring and a special message from Christina! 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Kerman/Beethoven reading group, Week Seventeen

Cover of the Grateful Dead's "Blues for Allah." 

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections 4 and 5 of chapter 10 (pg. 325 - 349) and listen to Op. 131. Please comment on this week’s reading.

I hope all goes well. On pg. 325 Kerman discusses Tovey’s ideas about normality. Tovey and Kerman use the word normal in a very different way than Bob Wilson did in “Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal." In fact, the theme of normalcy (in the Tovey sense) runs all through the analysis of this quartet.

Pg. 331: Kareol refers to a famous house in the Netherlands built for Julius Carl Bunge, a big Richard Wagner fan. According to Wikipedia, “there were many tiles in the house with pictures referring to the opera Tristan und Isolde.” (Of course, Wagner called Tristan und Isolde a music drama, not an opera.) I like how Kerman calls the opening fugue a “great machine”.

Pg. 332: I look forward to the film Dominant Preparation with a Vengance with Bruce Willis as Beethoven. “Allegra molto vivace, motherf---er!”

Pg. 334: Dorabella and Fiordiligi – two sisters in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutti.

Pg. 346: Wagner’s “stupendous fiddler” makes me think of the fiddler on the cover of the Grateful Dead’s Blues for Allah.

Pg. 346 – 347: Tovey makes Beethoven and Wagner’s powers of modulation sound like mutant superpowers.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Daisy Campbell/Neal Stephenson news

The details for tickets for the last UK performance of Pigspurt's Daughter Dec. 10 in Shetland are now clear: Tickets are 10 pounds, at the door only. See flyer above. Follow Daisy on Twitter. 

Neal Stephenson is my favorite living writer, perhaps some of you also like him. He has a new novel coming out in June 2019, information here. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Long podcast takes on RAW

Harland Grant

The Dawdler's Philosophy is a podcast that features a scientist, Harland Grant, and a scientist, R.T.P. McKenna, "addressing Big Ideas both original and derived."

The podcast has just launched a new series, "Haunting the Margins," addressing marginalized thinkers, and the first one, lasting two hours and five minutes, is about Robert Anton Wilson. Topics covered include model agnosticism, how thinkers get marginalized, "correct answer machines" and other topics familiar to RAW fans.

The discussion is generally sound, although (1) as Rasa points out at the website, RAW was not, in fact, Jewish and (2) model agnosticism does not mean all models are equally sound. It's more about using a model so long as it is useful, but discarding it if you find a better one.

The podcast is available on iTunes, so many podcasting apps should be able to pull it in.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Apparently, I'm not going to emerge

Peter Thiel (Creative Commons photo)

From time to time, I have fantasized about finding a billionaire who was (1) a Robert Anton Wilson fan and (2) crazy, someone who would be willing to fund this blog so it would be more of a full time project and less like something I have to do part time, fitted in around a full-time job, keeping my wife and cats happy, etc.

This became very slightly less of a fantasy with the creation of Emergent Ventures, a philanthropic organization run by the doughty Tyler Cowen (frequently mentioned on this blog for years) and funded initially by Peter Thiel (who as I've mentioned has been trying to achieve some of the ideas proposed by Robert Anton Wilson). In his blog post, Dr. Cowen wrote, "We welcome the unusual and the unorthodox."

I figured I could give him "unorthodox," so I applied for money,  laying it on thick about Wilson's importance as a thinker, the blog's ability to introduce libertarian ideas to an audience that normally ignores them, the original journalism and scholarship I've been able to carry out such as obtaining Robert Shea's anarchist zines and interviewing Wilson's book editors, etc.

All I know about the review process is that Cowen makes the decisions himself (so, possibly, I was able to get him to read this blog! If so, hope he found something of interest). It was interesting to write out a justification for the blog. I also enjoyed the "Schroedinger's cat" period of several weeks of not having actually been turned down.

But my "No" email from the Mercatus Center duly arrived Tuesday. It says, in part, "We are sorry to inform you that we are not able to fund your request. Due to the large volume of applications, we are also not able to offer individual explanations for these decisions.

"Please do note that our rejection should not be taken as a negative judgment of you or your work. For instance, many requests simply fall outside the scope of our mission, or we believe would be better supported through traditional venture capital or philanthropic investments."

(I've mentioned Cowen a number of times in recent weeks as I waited for a response, but that's just business as usual at this blog, not an attempt to curry favor. I've mentioned him for years.)

Due to the ongoing dearth of crazy billionaires, I am actively exploring and thinking about other options to expand the reach and effectiveness of this blog and related freelance ventures.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson on 'Morality Mania'

Robert Anton Wilson's article "Morality Mania" is another great work of literary archaeology by Martin Wagner, reproduced at Wagner's RAW site.

Written in 1978, it's one of Wilson's more libertarian pieces and also seems to anticipate today's culture wars. It's full of sharp observations. A sample:

Of course, every human society has some system of criminal law. Such laws should be rational and obviously necessary: their function is, as Sophocles said, to protect the citizen from force and fraud. This is absolutely all that a rational mind wants, or will voluntarily accept, in restrictions on personal freedom. My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.

This common-sense, mind-your-own-business theory of law has never been satisfactory to moralists, all of whom are determined to ram their private taboo system down everybody else’s throat. This is because moralists, like psychotics, do not think objectively, but subjectively; they don’t even know what objectivity means. For instance, read any rightwing blast at Larry Flynt and then read the attack on him in Mother Jones for February-March 1978. The same subjective smog, the same inability to see or observe without prejudice, appears in both the paleo-puritanical right and the neo-puritanical left. The moralist cannot perceive anything but his/her own emotions; facts register indirectly, as emotional storms in the glandular system. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

More on Communism, the Beatles and Illuminatus!

A photograph of the Rev. Billy James Hargis. As Adam Gorightly notes, the picture of Jesus behind Rev. Hargis shows Jesus with short hair, apparently in a bid to make the Son of God look more like a patriotic American and less like the kind of long haired hippie who would listen to a Beatles album.  

Adam Gorightly recently posted "The Raymond Broshears Files Part 1: Welcome to the Garrison Investigation Funhouse," about a rather colorful character associated with the Garrison probe of JFK's murder, and when I posted about it, I talked about the connection between Broshears and the Rev. Billy James Hargis, an evangelist in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where I grew up) who was also an explicit anti-Communist. I once attended a service at Hargis' Christian Crusade church (as part of a comparative religion class in the Unitarian church my family belonged to), and I knew a kid at school whose family went to the church. I then went off to college at the University of Oklahoma and read Illuminatus!, which has a reference to a Christian Crusade publication by David Noebel, Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles; An analysis of the Communist use of music, the Communist master music plan.

Adam has now done a follow-up post at Historia Discordia, "Addendum to 'The Raymond Broshears Files Part 1' ” which discusses Rev. Hargis and which includes a particularly great prank letter that Robert Anton Wilson wrote as a purported fan letter to Noebel (the letter is by "the Rev. Charles Arthur Floyd II" representing an apparent religion, the "Decided Ones of Jupiter the Thunderer.") The letter points out that while Noebel has done fine work, he has "only scratched the surface of the music problem," noting that Beethoven was a high ranking member of the Bavarian Illuminati, "and his music, especially the Fifth and Ninth symphonies, is entirely worthless and seditious, being full of libertine, libertarian, anarchistic, Illuminated Seer ideology." (Wilson may have only been joking -- I don't know -- but the Jan Swafford Beethoven biography goes into considerable detail about how the Illuminati actually influenced the Ninth Symphony and other works. It is my impression that Wilson thought he was only joking when he wrote Illuminatus! and only later discovered the Beethoven-Illuminati ties, but I can't give you a citation; can someone help?).

If the name "Charles Arthur Floyd II" is nagging at you, Charles Arthur Floyd (aka "Pretty Boy Floyd,") was a bank robber from Oklahoma who as shot to death, age 30, in Ohio. "Pretty Boy Floyd" is a tune by Woody Guthrie, covered by many other musicians, that has the great line, "Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen."

David Noebel is apparently still alive. His classic expose, Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles, is available at the Internet Archive, apparently as part of an FBI file obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Kerman/Beethoven reading group, Week Sixteen

"Coversheet of Beethoven's Op. 130 as published in Berlin on June 2nd, 1827." (Caption and illustration via Wikipedia).

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections 1 – 3 of chapter 10 (pg. 303 - 327) and listen to Op. 130 repeatedly. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Kerman emphasizes this quartet’s problematic nature due to the fact the Beethoven decided to remove the original finale and publish it separately. Please keep in mind that Beethoven contemplated breaking up the Hammerklavier and the Ninth Symphony in a similar fashion. Beethoven sometimes felt ambivalent about his most radical compositions.

I love how Bob Wilson wrote about the Hammerklavier. Op. 130, with its original ending, seems the quartet analogue for that sonata, ending with an earth shaking, unprecedented fugue.

Pg. 321 – “And the Great Fugue, Schindler’s Monstrum aller Quartett-Musik - who would have thought of yoking this giant with a midget like the Presto second movement?” I once saw the Phoenix Suns play the Washington Bullets when 7’7” Manute Bol and 5’3” Muggsy Bogues both played for the team. They would often come off the bench at the same time, and, with their bright blue and red uniforms, I found the visual effect quite trippy.