Friday, November 16, 2018

Moorish Orthodox Church archive launches

Cover for an issue of the Moorish Science Monitor

Christian Greer has announced he has launched the Moorish Orthodox Church of America archive, devoted to preserving radio broadcasts and other cultural productions of the group.

Greer explains:

This page is designed to provide an archive for the material culture of the The Moorish Orthodox Church of America. This diminutive church emerged in the first half of the 1960s on the Upper West Side of New York City, and before long, its members became embedded in the network of religious fellowships, esoteric sects, and street crews that populated the larger New York City bohemian scene. This psychedelic enclave provided fertile ground for the Moorish Orthodox Church of America (henceforth MOCA), which soon produced its own publications, and radio shows. It also operated its own temple/head-shop (known as The Crypt) on W. 103rd street. In addition to focusing on their own spiritual self-cultivation, members also doubled as "righteous dealers" who dispensed the "sacrament" of LSD to their brothers & sisters. The church worked alongside dozens of other heterodox mystical sects, as well as an army of psychedelic evangelists, to seed wide-spread spiritual illumination, and their combined efforts produced an exuberant culture of religious experimentation that soon spread across America, and points beyond.

More about the church on Wikipedia. 

The archive includes many radio programs featuring Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey), thought to be lost. You can listen to them on Greer's new site.

One radio program featured Robert Anton Wilson, Greer writes:

Over the course of Robert Anton Wilson and Peter Lamborn Wilson's two-hour on-air exchange, they offered an intimate look at the obscure persons, ideas, and events that characterized psychedelicist radicalism as of 1987. During their conversations, these men traced the genealogy of their own illuminated politics, beginning with early 20th century individualist anarchism, up through the psychedelic era (both had spent time at Millbrook), and far into the future, which they imagined in cyberpunk terms.  It was clear, even then, that their lively conversation represented an invaluable literary document, as it elicited a sizable response from listeners. In fact, the demand for copies of the show prompted WBAI to issue special cassette tape recordings as a premium for its highest-level contributors.

Greer is cleaning up the audio for that show, which will be posted soon. I'll let everyone know here when it's available.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday links

Tyler Cowen (Creative Commons photo). 

Where the secret societies are. (Atlas Obscura, via Supergee).

Six antiwar demonstrations that got little coverage.

Missing Piece of Antikythera Mechanism Found.

Your brain on microdoses of psilocybin.

Fiction sales are dropping. 

Tyler Cowen on marijuana legalization, a May column.   Closer to my own opinion than the Cowen blog post I recently critiqued.  But I suspect actual policy in the U.S. may be closer to Cowen's ideal than he realizes; large sections of eastern Colorado, for example, have no pot stores at all, and residents have to drive a considerable distance to shop legally. I doubt there are any states in the U.S. where a retail marijuana store can open if a town doesn't want it; please correct me if I am wrong

Advice from Tyler Cowen: "You should re-read the best books; you should have hobbies that make you think more, and you should argue for what you think is correct, but also understand it’s likely that you’re wrong." Sounds a bit like RAW to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Paul Krassner on Lyndon LaRouche

In Reason magazine, the wonderful Paul Krassner reviews Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers, and Themselves, by Matthew Sweet, a book about American deserters from the Vietnam War who wound up in Sweden. Many came under the domination of Lyndon LaRouche. 

LaRouche's crazy beliefs, or more precisely, his ability to get other people to take his crazy ideas seriously, are a striking feature of the American political landscape. Sometimes Donald Trump seems like a LaRouche who can play to the masses.

Apparently the book also shows that the sense of pervasive paranoia during the 1960s and 1970s depicted in Illuminatus! isn't something the authors made up. Krassner, writing about the pressures on the deserters:

"And part of the problem was that the deserters were clearly under surveillance. When many of an organization's members are already damaged people, and when their leader is already subjecting them to psychological abuse, it doesn't do anyone's sanity any favors to have actual good reasons to suspect some of your comrades are spies. As Sweet interviews the men who fled to Stockholm, he finds that several still carry suspicions about one another to this day—and he can't help wondering about some of them himself.

"Sweet never quite solves the mystery of who was or wasn't a government agent, but he paints an engrossing portrait of a place and time where such fears were rampant."

Many people who read this blog likely would enjoy Krassner's Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut (see my remarks here, and also here.)

Hat tip, Jesse Walker.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

BBC radio programming notes

Apparently John Higgs (left) likes to pass the time hanging out in London with Stefano Bollani and Terry Gilliam when he's between BBC Radio appearances. (Via Twitter). 

On the evening of November 26, the BBC Radio 4 program "A Good Read," apparently a show in which guests discuss their favorite books, will rebroadcast a 2007 episode that features Ken Campbell talking about Illuminatus! Then on Nov. 27, "Comedian Gráinne Maguire and alternative history author John Higgs talk to presenter Harriett Gilbert about the books they love and want to share."

More details here (for the Ken Campbell) and here (for the John Higgs.)

I can't tune in BBC radio from Ohio, but apparently once the programs air, I can download them as podcasts.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman reading group, Week 14

Beethoven hard at work on one of Eric Wagner's favorite pieces, the Missa Solemnis

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections 4 - 6 of chapter 8 (pg. 242 - 268) and listen to Op. 132 repeatedly. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Tom suggested we all name our favorite Beethoven pieces. I would choose the Ninth Symphony, the Missa Solemnis, the last four piano sonatas (op. 106, 109, 110, and 111), and the late quartets.

This week’s quartet features the famous Heiliger Dankesang. Beethoven wrote this in the Lydian mode. Almost all music composed during Beethoven’s lifetime fell into either a major or minor key. This proved true of almost all music during the Common Practice Period, the period in classical music from the early seventeenth century until the late nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth century composers after Wagner such as Mahler, Debussy, Strauss, and Scriabin started pushing tonality to the breaking point. Before the Common Practice Period composers often used other modes besides the major and minor.

If you play all the white notes from C to C on a piano, you get a major scale. If you play all the white notes from A to A, you get a natural minor scale. If you play all the white notes from D to D, you get the Dorian mode, from E to E the Phrygian, from F to F the Lydian, and from G to G the Mixolydian. Medieval and Renaissance music used those latter four modes. Beethoven decided to go back to the day before yesterday to compose the third movement of Op. 132 and used the Lydian mode. (Miles Davis and Gil Evans used these modes in jazz in the 1950’s).

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Emperor Norton plaque restored

The restored Emperor Norton plaque. 

A formerly blackened plaque honoring the Emperor Norton (of Illuminatus! fame) has been restored in San Francisco. The plaque has (mostly) not been on public view for the last eight years, but apparently will be mounted soon at a train station. Here are the details. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

'The Invisibles' coming to TV

Grant Morrison at Comic-Con 

Grant Morrison's comic book series, The Invisibles, is coming to TV.

"Morrison’s newest project with UCP will be developing and writing his long-running comic series 'The Invisibles' for television. Set in 2020, the series follows an elite international cell of occult freedom fighters dedicated to the creation of a better world for everyone by any means necessary."

For a refresher on how Illuminatus! influenced the series, see this excellent Prop Anon interview. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

War on some drugs news

Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

The legalization of marijuana was on the ballot Tuesday in two states; it passed in Michigan with 56 percent voting in favor, but failed in conservative North Dakota, with only about 40 percent in favor. So it seems likely that the legalization movement will continue to advance in liberal or moderate states, but may not move forward in socially conservative states. Libertarian law professor Ilya Somin believes change on the federal level is at least possible. 

Michigan is the first midwestern state to legalize marijuana. The Detroit Free Press has an explainer on what passage means: Possession will become legal by early December, but retail sales are not likely until 2020.

One interesting feature of Michigan is that there is a provision to license small businesses.

"Microbusinesses – similar to microbreweries or microdistilleries – are licensed to cultivate up to 150 marijuana plants and process, package, and sell directly to consumers. They help ensure opportunities for small businesses."

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The space migration dream remains alive

Jeff Bezos (Wikimedia Commons photo) 

The dream of space migration promoted by the likes of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson remains alive; Elon Musk is perhaps the best known exponent, but Jeff Bezos is further along with his own rocket company than I realized, according to this fascinating Wired magazine piece by Steven Levy.  (The Oct. 15 piece identifies the main leaders of startup space ventures as Musk, Bezos, Paul Allen and Richard Branson. Of course, Allen has just died, so who knows what happens to Allen's effort).

Bezos' Blue Origin rocket company is connected to one of my favorite writers besides you-know-who: 

After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.

In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.

When Bezos talks about space migration, he sounds not unlike Leary or Wilson:

The solution, as Bezos sees it, is to get off the planet to better exploit solar power, so that the sun’s abundant photons can support the fruitful existence of countless people. (We’d also grow real fruit in space.) “Wouldn’t your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s lives be so much more exciting if there were a trillion humans in the solar system who used more of that output to do amazing things?”

Incidentally, the Washington Post seems to be doing well under Bezos' ownership. 

Thank you Charles Faris for sharing this with me. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson on UFOs

Martin Wagner has uncovered another "lost" Robert Anton Wilson article: "Has Contact Already Been Made? A Synergetic Theory of UFO’s," published back in 1978.

A few days ago, I noted John Higgs' observation that UFO reports had suddenly fallen off in the era of the cell phone, when everyone always has a camera with them. Wilson's emphasis on the subjective nature of UFO reports, as opposed to the assumption that they are literally spaceships from other planets, seems prescient.

Bravo to Martin for another great find.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A business book by RAW fans?

The Deviant's Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets by Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker came out in 2002. The book apparently is a business book that describes how fringe ideas or practices can become mainstream, and both authors are described as futurists. Mr. Wacker died last year.  Both have written other books.

Our English friend Nick Helweg-Larsen emailed me about the book after noticing that Robert Anton Wilson is mentioned in the footnotes, which have a citation from Quantum Psychology on page 128. The cited quotation is from Nick Herbert, quoted as saying, "Reality? We don't got to show you no steeeenking reality."

I don't have time to read the book right now, but when I looked through the footnotes I found citations from a variety of people in RAW's circle or who knew RAW, including Jesse Walker, R.U. Sirius and Douglas Rushkoff, and references to people RAW was interested in, such as Clifford Irving, Rupert Sheldrake and Joseph Campbell.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman readng group, Week Thirteen

The Grateful Dead in 1980. (Creative Commons photo by Chris Stone). 

Kerman Week 13 – Op. 127

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections 1 – 3 of chapter 8 (pg. 223 - 242) and Op. 127 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Thank you for the terrific comments. On page 239 Kerman talks about “the extraordinary sense of coherence created by the sequence of movements in Beethoven’s greatest compositions.” (Note that he considers the quartets Op. 127, 132 and 131 Beethoven’s greatest compositions. Bob Wilson would likely prefer the Ninth Symphony and the Hammerklavier Sonata.) I enjoyed Jan Swafford’s biography of Beethoven, but I disagreed with how much he stressed thematic unity as the key to the coherence between movements in Beethoven’s music, especially in his early music. I find Kerman’s more nuanced approach, emphasizing harmony and form as well as melody, much more convincing.

On page 242 Kerman says, “The exquisitely calculated journey leads to a castle in the clouds.” This reminds me of a comment in The Deadhead’s Taping Compendium, Volume I, calling “Dark Star”, “St. Stephen”, “The Eleven”, “China Cat Sunflower”, and “Clementine” “psychedelic castle music” for their Medieval elements.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Cosmic Trigger II coming soon!

An old cover for Cosmic Trigger II. I am looking forward to seeing the new Hilaritas Press cover. 

I have no official news for Cosmic Trigger, Vol. 2, Down to Earth, but I do know it is next in line to be published in a new edition by Hilaritas Press and that Rasa and his allies are hard at work. It is one of my favorite RAW books, and I look forward to an excuse to read it again.

Rasa recently shared a great quote from the book:

Some evenings I applauded a particularly gorgeous sunset and shouted, “Author! Author!” All of us Infidels have our own moments of piety and forget the real Identity of the artist who makes this world so weirdly lovely.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hail Eris! All Hail the Saucers!

 When I was a boy, I used to love reading books about UFOs by the likes of Frank Edwards, the author of Flying Saucers -- Serious Business. I eventually outgrew my UFO interests, but fortunately Adam Gorightly did not. His upcoming book ‘A’ is for Adamski: The Golden Age of the UFO Contactees (available "before too damn long") seems likely to be a great read.

I base this opinion on Adam's new Historia Discordia article, "Discordianism Meets Ufology Part 00004: Were Gray Barker and Jim Moseley Original Discordians?" about a couple of memorable UFO pranks, including one pulled on UFO "contactee" George Adamski.

The letter in question—signed by the fictitious R.E. Straith, a member of the State Department’s “Cultural Exchange Committee”—informed Adamski that his 1952 encounter with Orthon the Venusian in Desert Center, California, had been confirmed by government officials, and Straith encouraged Adamski to drop by the Cultural Exchange Committee’s D.C. offices whenever he was in town.

Adamski all but wet his pants over this phony State Department endorsement, trotting out the Straith Letter at every opportunity to support his ET contact claims. This prompted an investigation by the real State Department and FBI, who ordered Adamski to stop pimping this cockamamie letter as it was an obvious hoax and there was no such department as the “Cultural Exchange Committee.” Of course this didn’t dissuade Adamski, who claimed that the government was trying to suppress the Straith Letter from the public. But he would not be deterred!

It was John Higgs who pointed out that sightings of UFO encounters suddenly declined in the cell phone era, when everyone walks around with a camera. See the chapter on "Science Fiction" in his excellent Stranger Than We Can Imagine.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Timothy Leary note

Timothy Leary during the recording of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." (Creative Commons photo)

The Butterfly Language blog  has an interesting post up about Timothy Leary, examining his legacy and noting that not everyone is positive about him. Val concludes, "I believe his desire to see humanity free and ready to evolve to the next level was sincere. (but that is me, reading a bunch of books; read books for yourself and decide for yourself)."

Val links to what she calls "an absolute essential short text," an essay by Leary called “The Post-Larval Must Be Very Cautious in Communicating with Larval Humans," which from she got the title of her blog. It is interesting, and it's another discussion of the eight circuit model; does anyone know if it's an excerpt from a book? Is is from Exo-Psychology? And I'm still not clear how we "attain biological immortality, leave the womb-planet, become galactic citizens and fuse with superior interstellar entities."

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A bit of Steve Fly news

Steve Fly (when he was even younger) with Robert Anton Wilson. 

Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt has released his second newsletter to his Patreon supporters (such as me). Here is a bit of RAW news from Steve:

Robert Anton Wilson.

There are a multitude of projects in orbit right now, all directly related to works by Robert Anton Wilson, and the man himself. I'm very excited and optimistic these will all blow your socks off. I hope to revisit the website I co-produced with Chu in 2012: and update one of the world’s first hand-drawn 360 degree virtual environments to include ll the fresh links.

There's also news about music, a new set of Tarot cards Steve is developing, and more. 

Bobby Campbell also has a Patreon account.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

My Halloween reading, and RAW's

I like to read a bit of horror fiction during the Halloween season. This year, I'm reading a story collection, Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Vol. 2, edited by August Derleth, that's connected to Illuminatus! I bought it at Confluence, after Gregory Arnott spotted it in the dealer room and called it to my attention.

Gregory told me the book is mentioned in the appendix, and sure enough, it is, at the end of the appendices, in an entry on "George Dorn's older brother" who "had an adventure with talking dolphins before George did." The entry doesn't list which story, but it's "The Deep Ones" by James Wade.

There are other signs that Robert Anton Wilson read the book. Illuminatus! mentions an oddball "Starry Wisdom" church on the island of Fernando Poo. "The Haunter of the Dark" by H.P. Lovecraft in the Derleth anthology also has a Starry Wisdom church, and Robert Bloch's "The Shadow From the Steeple" also mentions Starry Wisdom, too. (Robert Shea was not particularly a Lovecraft fan; all of the Lovecraft references appear to come from Wilson).

By the way, the first story in the anthology, Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars," kills a character who is apparently H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft returns the favor by killing "Robert Blake" in "The Haunter in the Dark."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Kerman/Beethoven reading group, Week 12

William Shakespeare (Chandos portrait)

Kerman Week 12 - Voice

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read chapter 7 (pg. 191 - 222) and listen to the fifth movement of Op. 130 (Cavatina), the first two movements of Op. 127, the fourth movement of Op. 131, and the third movement of Op. 135 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Thank you for the terrific comments. One may model a study group of the Beethoven quartets as three study groups. We have entered the final study group.

Pg. 193 – Kerman quotes from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 107, although the two lines quoted
in the book get the line break wrong.

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

        Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,

Can yet the lease of my true love control,

Suppos'd as forfeit to a confin'd doom.

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd

And the sad augurs mock their own presage;

Incertainties now crown themselves assur'd

And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Now with the drops of this most balmy time

My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,

Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,

While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes;

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.

    Shakespeare seems to describe downloading his consciousness into poetry and evading death when he says, “Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rhyme”.

Kerman calls this chapter “Voice”. I wonder if Crowley’s The Vision and the Voice would help one in understanding it. (Did Ultron build another android called the Voice?)

Pg. 197 – Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? comes from Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio.

Pg. 199 – The Sonata in A flat refers to the piano sonata Op. 110.

Pg. 218 – The measure which Kerman praises so highly comes ten bars from the end of the second movement of Op. 127.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Saturday, October 27, 2018

J. Neil Schulman's 'Fractal Man'

Libertarian SF writer J. Neil Schulman has a new book out, The Fractal Man. Published as an ebook, it's only 99 cents. I finished my copy a few weeks ago and enjoyed it.

The Fractal Man is an alternate worlds novel, featuring different versions of Schulman and his good friend, Samuel Edward Konkin III, a prominent libertarian figure who published many pieces by Robert Anton Wilson in his "New Libertarian" journal. Konkin also is mentioned at the beginning of Wilson's Natural Law, as the editor who published the original version of the piece, "intercut with a running commentary by himself, in the form of numerous footnotes attempting to rebut all my major points."

In our universe, Konkin died relatively young, age 56, in 2004. In Schulman's book, Schulman discovers that Konkin is still alive, when Konkin phones wondering why Schulman hasn't shown up to take the two to a SF convention.

The novel is essentially a series of amusing adventures as the two move from universe to universe, although underneath the comedy the book is rather poignant; Schulman is mourning his dead friend who died too young, and perhaps looking back at some of his own life choices.

The use of parallel universes recalls Schroedinger's Cat a bit, and in fact, RAW and the Cat trilogy  is name checked in the text. Looking at the possibilities implied by parallel universes, Schulman writes, "To me, this means the entirety of existence -- God and his fractals -- might as well be viewed as a multi-versal Schroedinger's Box -- and the Cat is whoever has the superposition to write the plot.

"I wish I could tell this joke to my old friend, Robert Anton Wilson.

"Or did he tell it to me?"

I asked Schulman via Facebook if he was in fact friends with Wilson. "Yes, I was friends in my real life with Robert Anton Wilson. He endorsed several of my books including Alongside Night and recommended my book The Frame of The Century? to his editor at Harper Collins (to no avail -- she was unwilling to publishing anything that didn't assume Simpson was the murderer)."

The Fractal Man has an amusing chapter in which in one of the universes next door, Schulman acquires a lot of money and launches a libertarian film studio. I suggested to Schulman that his film studio had overlooked a miniseries of Illuminatus! 

"You're right, Illuminatus! would be on the production roster of Paraversal Pictures -- on oversight on my part," Schulman replied.

There are quite a few jokes in the book about libertarians and life at science fiction conventions. The book has one reference to Donald Trump that I thought was quite funny.

Eric Raymond wrote a review of the book. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Psilocybin may become approved treatment for depression

Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia. 

Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson didn't live to see it, but it seems the taboo on using psychedelics for mental health treatment really is being lifted.

At Reason magazine, the reliably excellent Jacob Sullum reports that psilocybin is being recognized as a "breakthrough therapy" for treating depression. The news "represents a welcome return to empiricism in an area of public policy long driven by irrational prejudice," Sullum writes.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The North Dakota pyramid

A Safeguard ABM system missile site radar. (Public domain photo by Craftsman2001). 

Here, you go, RAW fans -- a big "eye in the pyramid" you can look at from behind a fence, conveniently located in Nekoma, North Dakota. It's part of an ABM system built at great expense and quickly abandoned. Read about it from Atlas Obscura. 

Meanwhile, a local jobs agency has bought the site, which includes less interesting stuff besides the pyramid. "The Job Development Authority is hoping a big name company like Google will move servers into the pyramid." Meanwhile, Wikipedia has a history of the program, if you are curious. 

Hat tip: @Stargazer_KEA on Twitter. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Must-read 'new' RAW interview

Martin Wagner does is again, unearthing another RAW interview. "Half Witness at the Trigger: An Inter-Review with Robert Anton Wilson," an interview by Dean Gengle, appeared in The Advocate, the gay publication, in February 1978.

This is a particularly good interview.  (And did RAW really once live in a commune?) A few highlights:

I’ve noticed that when I’m most happy and high I get strange input from others who seem to want to penetrate that happiness with all kinds of reasons why I shouldn’t be happy. It’s an interesting phenomenon.
Robert Anton Wilson: I agree with Don Juan. Almost everybody is a black magician. The whole art of life is just to not let them bring you down. Once you figure it out you find that everybody or nearly everybody in one way or another is looking out suspiciously for signs of happiness; and whenever they see it they pounce in one way or another: paranoia, depression or something that’s your fault, which, once you’ve attended to, will bring you down into their misery.

I’m trying to understand sexuality as it connects with various forms of ritual, both practically and theoretically. Could you talk a little bit more about ritual?
Robert Anton Wilson: When I first got started on consciousness work, or whatever you want to call it, I was not into ritual at all. I was very heavily into Zen meditation and I regarded ritual with a great deal of contempt. Then I went through a complete turnabout and I decided that meditation just wasn’t for me, but I was getting tremendously good results with ritual once I started working with it and, for a while there, I was going around telling everybody: “Oh, fuck meditation, it’s a waste of time. Ritual is where you get the action.” And finally it dawned on me that that’s just me. I’m a novelist. I think novelists are particularly prone to get good results out of ritual because every novelist is to some extent a frustrated actor, a playwright, a playwright/actor/producer. You’re trying to put on a show in your own head that will become real in the head of the reader, and so novelists, I think, are prone to be good magicians, whereas other types of people might find meditation much quicker.

There is also a bit where they discuss the nature of the universe and Wilson says, "Eddington said it’s more like a great thought than a great machine. But the latest physics seems to really indicate that it’s more like a great acid trip than a great thought."

And a place where Wilson says he held back some of his experiences when he wrote Cosmic Trigger I: "I left out some of the more incredible things that I could have put into Trigger. "

Kudos to Dean Gengle for a good interview.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pot legalization still makes sense to me

A Mr. Nice Guy marijuana store in Depoe Bay, Oregon. 

I don't like to get too political at this blog -- I strive for an "everyone is welcome" vibe, as opposed to just welcoming my own tribe -- but as Robert Anton Wilson wrote a lot about the "war on some drugs," perhaps I'm not going too far afield if I try to explain why I still think the legalization of marijuana is a good idea.

I say "still" because I've noticed a bit of a backlash recently against legalization in places like, and in a "Marijuana in Canada" recent posting by Tyler Cowen on his Marginal Revolution blog.  Most Americans favor legalization according to public opinion polls, but apparently I'm not one of the cool kids. (That happens to me a lot).

After linking to a New York Times article which included the (in my opinion, absurd) claim that marijuana was likely to become as ubiquitous in Canadian foods as corn products such as corn syrup, Tyler wrote, "I increasingly believe that decriminalization will prove a more stable solution than outright legalization."

I link pretty often to Tyler Cowen on this blog, and I admire him as a "think for yourself" libertarian who considers the evidence and is willing to take contrarian stances, but on this issue I disagree with Dr. Cowen and believe that doctrinaire libertarians have it right.

There are obvious problems with decriminalization. For one thing, in states such as Ohio which have passed decriminalization, people who have even small amounts of cannabis are still treated like criminals. Yes, it's like a traffic ticket, and you aren't tossed in jail, but you are still treated like a petty criminal.

And selling the stuff still can get you sent to jail and the penalties in many places are still unfair and enforced in a racist way. Here is a case in Mississippi that showed up in my Twitter timeline after being retweeted by Alex Tabarrok, Tyler Cowen's co-blogger.

My exposure to places were legalization has taken place is pretty limited, but I was on vacation in Oregon for a few days, where there are dispensaries, and here is some of what I noticed:

(1) When you go into marijuana stores, you first enter a small foyer, where you have to show a photo ID to prove you are old enough to get into the room where marijuana is for sale. This happened to me in two places and I'm close to qualifying for Social Security (and look it), so apparently there are no exceptions to this rule.

(2) Marijuana apparently is sold exclusively in Oregon in such places. It's not like alcohol, which  you can buy in many places in Oregon, such as supermarkets. I didn't watch much TV or listen to much radio, so I don't know if any advertising is allowed, but the impression I get is that pot isn't "in your face" in Oregon for people who don't want it. You're not going to walk by the marijuana aisle at the Safeway.

(3) We stayed at an Airbnb place and in a rented condo, both of which had "no smoking" rules but were silent on alcohol consumption. Again, the impression I get is that marijuana is legal and tolerated, but that open consumption is not encouraged. The tourist literature we sent for touted Oregon wine and beer; I don't remember seeing anything from the tourism bureaus promoting the pot shops.

(4) Marijuana is taxed, apparently generating income for public services, and apparently laboratory tested for safe use (i.e., no foreign substances, you can figure out what dose you are getting etc.)

Which of these aspects of legalization would a reasonable person object to? And why is decriminalization supposedly better?

Washington, D.C., does not allow the legal sale of marijuana, although it does allow use and possession. I recently interviewed pot historian Emily Dufton and asked how that's working out:

Q: You live near Washington, D.C., which has an unusual policy — possession and use of marijuana is legal, but sales are not. Does this rob Washingtonians of the "best part" of legalization, i.e., you can closely police whether it's sold to minors and whether it's correctly packaged and sold without funky additional ingredients?

Emily Dufton: Absolutely. I think DC has a terrible system of legalization. One quote I used in my book called it "the dealer protection act of 2015." In short, it lets most anyone get into dealing small amounts, through the "gift economy" or just through outright sales, but doesn't provide any real oversight or regulation on the plant itself. Despite legalization, consumers still have no real idea of what they're getting. Were there pesticides used? Sprays? Is there mold? Who is it being sold to? How old are they? No one knows. And with no taxes being paid on the drug, our local government isn't benefiting at all — another extension of how Congress keeps too strong a hold over the city. The DC law does allow adults to grow their own plants (some other legal states, like Washington, do not), but overall it's a mess.

No doubt one of the concerns about legalization is that it will encourage more people to use marijuana. I assume that when pot's legalized there probably would be an increase in use, mostly from people who just weren't comfortable breaking the law or who didn't have a connection with a pot dealer.

But I've also noticed the reports that sales of legal marijuana in places such as Oregon and California haven't been as large as expected. That suggests to me that most people who really wanted it were able to get it in the black market, and many of them are still doing so.

This is not to say, by the way, that Tyler Cowen isn't making valuable contributions to the discussion about substance abuse. He's been trying to point out, rightly, that alcohol is very underrated as a problem substance. I heard him say on a podcast that he has completely given up alcohol, and I'm considering that myself. I'm not a big drinker, anyway.

Frankly, if TV advertising for _all_ substances, including beer AND cannabis, was banned, I would probably be OK with that. What I want is a rational policy and a level playing field, as opposed to allowing endless TV ads for a substance that kills 88,000 Americans a year and allowing booze sales everywhere, but continuing to hassle cannabis users and treat them as criminals.

The death toll from alcohol, by the way, does not take into account the amount of crime, often violent crime, committed by people intoxicated with alcohol. Ask any police reporter, at any newspaper, about alcohol and the police blotter.

Footnote: Tyler Cowen has a new book out, Stubborn Attachments, which I have bought, just like I do with his other new books.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Kerman/Beethoven reading group, Week Eleven

Kerman Week 11 – Op. 95 – The Second Half of Chapter 6

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections three and four of chapter 6 (pg. 168 - 187) and listen to Op. 95 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/quartet and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Thank you for the terrific comments. Kerman refers to this quartet as a “spiritual exercise” on page 169.  I like that. I think of this whole reading group as a sort of spiritual exercise. 

Beethoven scholar Maynard Solomon, whom Robert Anton Wilson frequently cited, co-founded Vanguard Records and signed the Weavers and Joan Baez.

Pg. 169 – mitgefühl means sympathy.

Pg. 171 – Beethoven’s doing away with “conventional bridge and cadential passages of every kind” reminds of how Ezra Pound got T. S. Eliot to eliminate transitional passages in The Waste Land.

Pg. 178 – I love the passage, “The cello is treading on razor blades, and the upper instruments are whispering through their teeth memories of the semitone lament, which, indeed, seems to be frozen into the cello line itself.” I remember the third or fourth time I read this book in 1994, sitting at the front desk at LTJ Dance Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona, feeling blown away by Kerman’s description. I always remember that moment when listening to the second movement of this quartet.

Pg. 184 – I had to look up proleptic, the adjective form of prolepsis, “the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished,” according to

Pg. 185 – The discussion of form here makes me want to reread The Laws of Form, a Wilson favorite.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

An 'Insider' on RAW and Beethoven

As we are currently running Eric Wagner's online discussion group on the Beethoven string quartets and Joseph Kerman's book about them (new entry tomorrow), I wanted to remark that Eric's book, An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, has a good-sized "Lexicon" section, a reference section where you can look up many aspects of Wilson's work.

Included is an entry on Beethoven, here is part of it: "Wilson makes more references to Beethoven's music than to any other music in his books. In Illuminatus! a character talks about the late quartets. Beethoven's late music permeates Schroedinger's Cat: the 'Hammerklavier' gets mentioned over and over again, 'Dr. Raus Elysium' in that novel comes from a pun on the Ode to Joy ('Tochter als Elysium') 'Muss es sein?' comes from the quartet Opus 135, a character calls the Ninth 'unsuccessful tantric sex,' etc.

"Wilson uses Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, along with other music, as soundtrack in both of his screenplays..."

Insider's Guide also has a separate entry on  "Muss es sein?" There are also entries on Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Eric's book is only $5 for the Kindle version, so you can stick it on your phone (using the Kindle app), giving yourself a handy reference book as you work your way through Wilson's work.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Anarchism in the California desert

Slab City. Creative Commons photo. 

Actual examples of anarchist living on the ground are not exactly numerous, but a new book, Slab City: Dispatches from the Last Free Place by Charlie Hailey tells the story of Slab City.

Boing Boing explains,

Slab City is a curious community in the Sonoran Desert about 150 miles northeast of San Diego. Formerly a World War II Marine Corps base, it's now home to around 150 off-the-grid squatters and thousands of temporary campers and RV owners who wait out the winter months before continuing their journeys. The name comes from the concrete remnants of the military base. Author and architect Charlie Hailey and photographer Donovan Wylie documented the anarchic living and structural scene in their new book "Slab City: Dispatches from the Last Free Place." The pictures are a compelling and provocative view inside this not-so-temporary autonomous zone that embodies a curious kind of liberty for its diverse inhabitants. 

Hat tip, Jesse Walker.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Exciting book news: 'High Weirdness'

Erik Davis, speaking at RAW Day 2017. Watch the video of his talk. 

Here's a book many of  you will want to read when it comes out next year: High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experiences in the Seventies by Erik Davis.

From the MIT Press summary:

"An exploration of the emergence of a new psychedelic spirituality in the work of Philip K. Dick, Terrence McKenna, and Robert Anton Wilson.

"A study of the spiritual provocations to be found in the work of Philip K. Dick, Terrence McKenna, and Robert Anton Wilson, High Weirdness charts the emergence of a new psychedelic spirituality that arose from the American counterculture of the 1970s. These three authors changed the way millions of readers thought, dreamed, and experienced reality—but how did their writings reflect, as well as shape, the seismic cultural shifts taking place in America?

"In High Weirdness, Erik Davis — America's leading scholar of high strangeness — examines the published and unpublished writings of these vital, iconoclastic thinkers, as well as their own life-changing mystical experiences. Davis explores the complex lattice of the strange that flowed through America's West Coast at a time of radical technological, political, and social upheaval to present a new theory of the weird as a viable mode for a renewed engagement with reality."

Seeing Erik Davis' name on the book only makes the announcement ever more exciting, of course. He was one of the speakers at RAW Day last year in California.  Some of you probably listen to his Expanding Mind podcast.

The MIT Press bio: "Erik Davis is an American journalist, critic, podcaster, counter-public intellectual whose writings have run the gamut from rock criticism to cultural analysis to creative explorations of esoteric mysticism. He is the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, The Visionary State: A Journey through California's Spiritual Landscape, and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica."

More details from MIT Press:

$34.95 T
ISBN: 9781907222764
500 pp. | 6 in x 9 in
10 b&w illus.
June 2019

Hat tip: Jesse Walker.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday links

Another one from Rasa. 

Was Gary Hart set up?  Via Supergee. The more I read about Democrats and Republicans, the more I wonder why there aren't more libertarians. Then again, if I understood that, I might also be able to grasp why masses of Americans don't turn away in disgust from the current GOP. 

Jacob Sullum on pot legalization in Canada. If Mr. Sullum isn't the best journalist in the U.S. on drug issues, he is surely a close runner up. I need to find out if he does interviews.

I interview pot historian Emily Dufton. 

"Neo-liberalism has been incredibly successful, essentially delivering on all of its promises of economic growth, declines in poverty, and peace." And see also this. 

What the hitchhiker learned.  Yes, a lot of stuff from Marginal Revolution, which has been particularly good lately, although I disagree with Tyler Cowen on marijuana legalization and will write about that soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Arthur Hlavaty's recommended books [Updated]

Arthur Hlavaty says Catch-22 is "the ultimate Libertarian book."

A couple of months ago, I posted about Arthur Hlavaty's new zine, Archive I: Down by the Old Slipstream, a collection of his writings about fiction that he likes. I really liked it and told you all to read it.

Arthur has now assembled a second collection of his fiction recommendations, Archive II: Back to Live, and if anything, it is even better than the first zine. Here are the first two items, on Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, and on Illuminatus! 

Robert A. Heinlein Stranger in a Strange Land. 

The satire hit me first, then the sex, then the Eastern religion. Yes, I know that it’s flawed,  but the good stuff remains. Heinlein was a  Trickster, whose two desires were to make money  and make people think. He certainly succeeded  with the latter, as far as I am concerned. (And I bought all his books.)

Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson

I may still have been sane when I finished  Stranger, so I was ready for more, and in 1975  there appeared a trilogy about sex, dope, science  fiction, alternate metaphysics, conspiracy  theory, and libertarianism/anarchism. My tastes  have changed, but then I figured that if they’d mentioned pro football, they would have had everything.

 The book lived up to it: chaotic,  experimental. occasionally simplistic, but full 
of the three things I most read for: people,  ideas, and laughs. As with Stranger, I reread it every year, and I still haven’t worn it down to  the parts that annoy me and “I know that.” AND ALSO Shea went on to write good, solid  historical novels with a beginning, a middle, and  an end in that order, but also with fascinating  characters and small hints of metaphysical and other weirdness. I particularly liked Shike and  All Things Are Lights. Wilson’s novels were more  like Illuminatus!, centered on initiation.  Schrödinger’s Cat was based on quantum theory, among other things. James Joyce, to whom there are many references in Wilson’s other fiction, showed up as a character in Masks of the Illuminati, which actually had a tight plot structure, along with the Wilsonian stuff.

The two archive zines and much else are available here. 

Arthur should consider assembling his book reviews into a book, perhaps an ebook, to reach the people who don't follow fanzines.

UPDATE: Fixed the formatting, which I did not have time to do yesterday, and see also my post on finding free ebooks of the Shea novels Arthur recommends.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

RAW-influenced Australian group Hedonix

Hedonix (Facebook photo). 

I post from time to time about musicians who wear their RAW influence on their sleeves; the Sydney, Australia duo Hedonix is one that I missed. The band's 2013 album, Guerrilla Ontology, includes the track "The I in the Triangle." 

The band's members are Robert Dilley & Steven Zanuttin. Mr. Dilley says, "My best friend and I have a group/project called Hedonix. We haven't produced anything new in a while, but what we've got might be of interest to RAW fans who also enjoy electronic (particulary psy trance) music. We dedicated our first album (Order out of Chaos) to RAW and named our second one Guerilla Ontology. Just check the tracklists and you'll be able to see which have samples of Saint Bob. You can find the music around the traps to buy but we're also on Spotify. I hope you enjoy! If you do, get in touch and let us know what you thought!"

Source (comment from Rob posted Monday.) 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Kerman/Beehoven reading group, Week Ten

Another photo of the Borromeo String Quartet. Listen to a live recording of Opus 74 from the Gardner Museum. Photo by Richard Bowditch.

Kerman Week 10 – Op. 74 The First Half of Chapter 6

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections one and two of chapter 6 (pg. 155 - 168) and listen to Op. 74 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/quartet and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. The expression “with the Bartók quartets twanging in our ears” on page 161 has always bothered me. It struck me as dismissive of Bartók.

Pg. 163 – Schubert’s song Das Wirtshaus appears in the song cycle Winterreise.

I have never really loved this quartet, but I have enjoyed listening to it this week. Kerman calls this work “a work of consolidation than of exploration” on page 168. Well, the rest of the quartets devote themselves savagely to exploration as we will discover over the next eight weeks.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The hippie physicist talks to Scientific American

Nick Herbert. (Creative Commons photo by Nick Herbert). 

"Hippie physicist" Nick Herbert of Cosmic Trigger fame is interviewed by Scientific American, and it's a very interesting interview. Lots of good questions from John Horgan.

Herbert no longer thinks  that faster-than-light communication is possible. Here is one of his thoughts about physics and mysticism:

Horgan: Looking back, does the analogy between quantum mechanics and eastern mysticism hold up?

Herbert: For many years physics held the distinction as "the subject everyone hated in high school," but Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics made the subject sexy again and paved the way for such bestselling quantum physics popularizations as Heinz Pagels's Cosmic Code and my own Quantum Reality.

However I am sorry to say that despite immersing myself deeply in the quantum paradoxes and less deeply in meditation and mindfulness, I find them both profoundly mysterious but having little in common.

In his blog post about the interview, Herbert notes that Horgan has published what appears to be an interesting book,  Mind-Body Problems: Science, Subjectivity & Who We Really Are, available free online. Herbert writes, "In this book, Horgan interviews nine specialists representing nine different perspectives on human subjectivity. This book is unusual in that Horgan does not just interview these nine people about their ideas but about their personal lives as well. John's curiosity and desire to really know what's going on entangles himself and the reader in a sometimes embarrassingly intimate connection with some of these scientist's personal lives. For that reason, this book is a lot more lively than your typical psychology textbook."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

What we get for the transporter beam

Ludwig van Beethoven. Earth's bargaining chip? 

Considering that we have been immersing ourselves in Beethoven, I was pretty amused to see this bit (Tyler Cowen is interviewing Paul Krugman for a podcast):

COWEN: Will there ever be interstellar trade in intellectual property? You send your technology to a planet far away. It arrives much later, of course. Or you trade Beethoven to the aliens in return for a transporter beam? Can this work? You’ve written a paper that seems to indicate it can work.

KRUGMAN: I wrote a paper on the theory of interstellar trade when I was an unhappy assistant professor. Are there any happy assistant professors? [laughs] I was just blowing off steam. But it’s an interesting question.

COWEN: It could become your most important paper, right? [laughs]


The "Conversations with Tyler" podcast is quite good; there's a wide variety of guests. I like Episode 21, the interview with Cowen himself.