Friday, January 18, 2019

Oz Fritz on Steve Pratt's 'Tale of the Tribe' book

At his blog, The Oz Mix, Oz Fritz has posted an entry on the new edition of Steve Pratt's book,
Fly On The Tale Of The Tribe: A Rollercoaster Ride With Robert Anton Wilson. The book is available on Amazon and to Pratt's Patreon supporters.

Oz is an alum of Robert Anton Wilson's "Tale of the Tribe" online course and he strongly recommends Pratt's book:

This book is also one of the rare (so far), and invaluable primer books for the writings, philosophies and methods of Robert Anton Wilson.  For that alone, I highly recommend it, but there is much else too.  We get a cast of philosophical and scientific heavyweights and a synopsis of some their prime ideas and practical contributions to human development - the Tale of the Tribe.  Among others, we hear from Nietzsche, Alan Moore, Claude Shannon, Giordano Bruno, Giambattista Vico, Buckminster Fuller, Wilhelm Reich, Korzybski, John Lilly, Tim Leary, Ernest Fenellosa, Jung, Yeats, Aleister Crowley, Marshall McLuhan, Orson Welles, Paul Krassner, John Sinclair, and of course, the Tale of the Tribe's first two stars, James Joyce and Ezra Pound.

Sombunall of the subjects include:

What is the Tale of the Tribe? and its corollary, what do we do with it?
Augmented Reality(AR)
What is art? We are all artists.
Eprime and certainty; the effects of language on consciousness.
King Kong, his sister Hong, and Guerilla Ontology.
Finnegans Wake
James Joyce/RAW inspired geo-mapping APPS - I suspect this one brilliant idea alone would revolutionize the consciousness of whomever used them.
Hologrammic writing.
The contribution of Chinese ideograms to the Tribe.
Holometic Retribalism,  a Fly neologism which seems a portmanteau of hologram and hermetic.
The influence of psychedelic drugs on the Tribe.
Quantum entanglement and spooky action at a distance.

FOTTOTT is full of amazing quotes, the large percentage from Wilson, but many from other conspirators that serve to fill out and substantiate this vision of the Tribe.  Perhaps my favorite parts are the email and interview transcripts between Fly and RAW and any personal exchanges they had as it presents new light on the venerable sage.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Slate Star Codex on conspiracy theories

One of my favorite bloggers, Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex, takes on conspiracy theories. He argues that a little thought can help people figure out which ones are plausible.


The Basic Argument Against Conspiracy Theories goes: “You can’t run a big organization in secret without any outsiders noticing or any insiders blowing the whistle.” If we keep this in mind, I think we can resolve some of the awkward tensions above.

For example, the CIA definitely has fixed elections in foreign countries. Is this a conspiracy theory? No. The CIA is not secret. Everyone knows the CIA exists and does nefarious things, even if we don’t know exactly which nefarious things it does. There is no need to keep the CIA secret. It can advertise in public “Wanted: people who are good at doing nefarious things”. And if somebody whistleblows, they will not receive the thanks of a grateful country. They’ll probably just be arrested for leaking classified information, while everybody snoozes. “CIA discovered to have fixed Gabonese elections” is probably a page 5 story at best.

I think “The CIA is plotting to fix the 2020 US elections” is a conspiracy theory, with all the unlikeliness that implies. Although the CIA exists openly, fixing US elections would take a powerful conspiracy within the CIA. You would have to hide it from the idealistic young recruits who come in hoping to make the world safe for democracy. You would have to convince all the other CIA agents to hide it from Congress, from the other intelligence services, and from any CIA agent who wasn’t on board. And a whistleblower really would receive the thanks of a grateful country. Although the CIA gets the advantage of existing publicly, the intra-CIA conspiracy to fix elections doesn’t, and so the Basic Argument strikes it down.

If you are really interested in conspiracy theories, read Jesse Walker's book. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Did RAW read van Vogt? Should I read him?

A.E. van Vogt circa 1963 (via Wikipedia) 

As I've mentioned recently, I've been reading Astounding, the interesting book by Alec Nevala-Lee that's about John W. Campbell Jr., and also Campbell's three most influential writers: Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and L. Ron Hubbard.

Various other interesting science fiction figures crop up in the text. There's an interesting "naming names" chapter which talks about which SF writers embraced Scientology (A.E. van Vogt and Theodore Sturgeon, particularly) and which ones thought it was nonsense from the word go (Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp, for example). A depressingly large number of people bought into Hubbard's ravings.

I've read very little van Vogt (just whatever's in the SF Hall of Fame volumes put out years ago at the instigation of the Science Fiction Writers of America, to cover the time period before the Nebulas began) but I got curious from reading Astounding, so I looked up van Vogt on Wikipedia. 

I learned that he made a big impression on Philip K. Dick, that van Vogt was interested in Korzybski and General Semantics, and that van Vogt's famous novel, The World of Null-A, refers to non-Aristotelian logic. I also learned that van Vogt drew much of his work from dreams.

All of this seems suggestive to a Robert Anton Wilson fan. Did RAW read van Vogt, have RAW's fans read van Vogt, and should I read him?

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Earth Will Shake online reading group announced

A few weeks ago, I floated the idea of doing an online reading group for the Historical Illuminatus! books, and reaction was good.

So let's do it. Let's have a reading group for The Earth Will Shake, and go on from there.

I suggest starting on Feb. 25; as with other online reading groups, there will be a posting every Monday, giving everyone the rest of the week to post comments.

I've had some guest bloggers leading many recent online reading groups. I'm inclined to take this one myself, although if there were a volunteer eager to lead the discussion, I certainly would listen.

If you are new to the blog, you can sample other online reading groups on the right side of this page, but the basic idea is this: A weekly blog posting is put up, and then everyone else is invited to weigh in using the comments. I have had to institute comment moderation to block all of the hire-a-prostitute-in-India spam posts, but I try to check for comments regularly and try to approve anything legitimate.  If you choose to participate by putting up a post at your own blog, I will link to you.

I figure Feb. 25 gives everyone time to hunt up a copy (preferably the canonical Hilaritas Press edition, but do what you can afford) and to wrap up whatever other current reading project is on your plate.

What pace makes sense? The Masks of the Illuminati reading group did about 35 pages a week, and covered the book in 10 weeks. The Hilaritas Press edition of The Earth Will Shake lists it at 398 pages. Would about 40 pages a week to cover it in 10 weeks make sense? I don't want to dawdle but I don't want to overwhelm people with an unreasonably fast pace, either.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Guns and dope links [UPDATED]

Violent crime has fallen in Colorado and Washington, even as marijuana use has risen. For context, see first link.

In the spirit of Robert Anton Wilson's Guns and Dope Party, some links:

Good Twitter threat on the new Alex Berenson 'Reefer Madness' book.

UPDATE: German Lopez at Vox -- hardly a libertarian -- weighs in. I'm going to read the book he recommends.

Marijuana legalization is more effective in reducing drug smuggling than a border wall. (Cato Institute).

Canada is dealing with a marijuana shortage. In a rational world -- not the one we live in obviously -- Oregon could deal with its surplus by exporting to Canada.

Expanding background checks for guns will do little to aid public safety. (Jacob Sullum).

A couple of links with no guns or dope:

John Higgs fan shirts are a thing.

Review of the new Adam Gorightly UFO book.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

'New' RAW interview

Martin Wagner does it again, with a posting of an interview of Robert Anton Wilson that appeared in 1991.  The interview is by James Wallis.

I particularly liked this bit about authorial intent:

So if your writings do have an intention, what is it? Obviously with books like Quantum Psychology, their intention is quite clear but is there a subtext? Do you want to alter the mind of the late twentieth century?

Robert Anton Wilson: And the twenty-first, yeah. At my most ambitious I want to make as big a revolution as Voltaire or Marx or Nietzsche, only I hope mine will be totally wholesome. Of course, that’s hoping for a lot. On a more modest level, I just hope I give some people some good laughs, cheer them up and make them a little more optimistic because the world is suffering from terrible depression. It’s a global illness.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Bob Wilson, 'amiable crank' [UPDATED]

A new book, Questioning Minds, reproduces the edited correspondence of two important modernist critics, Hugh Kenner and Guy Davenport. Hugh Kenner was a prominent James Joyce scholar (there are references to him at PQ's "Finnegans, Wake"  blog), and it turns out that Kenner knew Robert Anton Wilson. Here is a bit from the book, apparently from a letter by Kenner:

Have hooked onto an amiable crank named Bob Wilson, formerly of the School of Living in Ohio, now at Antioch Bookplate Company in Yellow Springs, O, who is loading me with Pound-Fuller-Wright-China-Korzybski-Gesell tieups. These Utopian absolutists make me nervous.

Hat tip: Jeet Heer, via Jesse Walker.

UPDATE: Here is my previous blog post, which I'd forgotten, on RAW writing to Kenner, and see also the comments.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Brenton Clutterbuck launches Patreon account

I can't quite bring myself to post his butt logo on this blog, so you'll just have to follow the link, but globetrotting Australian Discordian and Chasing Eris author Brenton Clutterbuck has announced he has launched a Patreon account. If you join and support him, you get a copy of his book and other productions. (He is using "Cluttered Butts" as the account name, rather than his name, so that's what you should search for at if you mislay the link. Australian marketing is interesting). Details here. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

When Stravinksky came to hear the Bird

Charlie Parker in 1947. (Public domain photo) 

Posted because I think Robert Anton Wilson would have enjoyed this story about Charlie Parker, too:

The house was almost full, even before the opening set — Billy Taylor’s piano trio — except for the conspicuous empty table to my right, which bore a RESERVED sign, unusual for Birdland. After the pianist finished his forty-five-minute set, a party of four men and a woman settled in at the table, rather clamorously, three waiters swooping in quickly to take their orders as a ripple of whispers and exclamations ran through Birdland at the sight of one of the men, Igor Stravinsky. He was a celebrity, and an icon to jazz fans because he sanctified modern jazz by composing Ebony Concerto for Woody Herman and his Orchestra (1946) — a Covarrubias “Impossible Interview” come true.

As Parker’s quintet walked onto the bandstand, trumpeter Red Rodney recognized Stravinsky, front and almost center. Rodney leaned over and told Parker, who did not look at Stravinsky. Parker immediately called the first number for his band, and, forgoing the customary greeting to the crowd, was off like a shot. At the sound of the opening notes, played in unison by trumpet and alto, a chill went up and down the back of my neck.

They were playing “KoKo,” which, because of its epochal breakneck tempo — over three hundred beats per minute on the metronome — Parker never assayed before his second set, when he was sufficiently warmed up. Parker’s phrases were flying as fluently as ever on this particular daunting “Koko.” At the beginning of his second chorus he interpolated the opening of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite as though it had always been there, a perfect fit, and then sailed on with the rest of the number. Stravinsky roared with delight, pounding his glass on the table, the upward arc of the glass sending its liquor and ice cubes onto the people behind him, who threw up their hands or ducked.

From the book Jazz Modernism: From Ellington and Armstrong to Matisse and Joyce by Alfred Appel, which sounds like a book RAW would have enjoyed.

Via this posting at Open Culture by Colin Marshall.

Monday, January 7, 2019

More JIm Garrison probe weirdness

In "The Raymond Broshears Files Part 00002: Odd Sects and Wandering Bishops," Adam Gorightly explores some of the con men who were somehow fingered as "CIA assassins" and the like by DA Jim Garrison.

Here is Adam, writing about one of the criminal masterminds Garrison targeted, a guy named Thomas Edward Beckham:

Beckham followed his mentor’s lead by getting into a number of scrapes himself. In February of 1961—during Army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks—Beckham went AWOL, and in short order found himself in the stockade. As is typical in such cases, the Army figured it best just to let him go. Beckham resurfaced later that year in New Orleans where he was arrested for vagrancy.

In 1962, Beckham was running a scam called the “United Cuban Relief Missionary Force” that was subsequently dismantled by the FBI. As part of this con, Beckham sported a clerical collar, pretending to be a Catholic priest, while soliciting donations that he apparently pocketed. That same year he was charged with the rape of a minor, and a second vagrancy charge. Some priest.

Adam thinks that a literary hoax -- a purported translation of the Necronomicon, apparently by a guy named Peter Levenda -- was influenced by Illuminatus!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

New Buckminster Fuller biography announced

Buckminster Fuller (Creative Commons photo)

Alec Nevala-Lee, a Robert Anton Wilson fan and the author of a new book on John Campbell Jr. and his major authors, Astounding, announced on Dec. 31 that he will end daily blogging, but not before making an announcement that will interest RAW fans:

 I’ve confirmed I’ll be spending the next three years writing the book of my dreams, a big biography of Buckminster Fuller, which is something that I couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. 

Fuller of course was a big influence on Robert Anton Wilson.

Here is a blog post from Nevala-Lee discussing his plans for the book.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Archive of fact magazine

A posting at the Boing Boing website by RAW fan Mark Frauenfelder reports that there is an online archive of 22 issues of fact magazine, where Robert Anton Wilson served as editor and where some of his articles ran.

Mark illustrated his piece with a picture (pictured) of the Ronald Weston article,  "Of Transcendental Beauty and Crawling Horror," which as readers and Martin Wagner fans know, was written by Wilson.  Mark did not know that, however, until Michael Johnson pointed it out to him in the comments.

Hat tip, Nick Helweg-Larsen.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Young Robert Heinlein sounds like RAW

Alec Nevala-Lee's Astounding is pretty exciting for a science fiction fan, but Robert Anton Wilson fans might be interested, too.

I hope you enjoy synchronicities, because I ran into one this morning after I got out of bed.

When Robert Anton Wilson was interviewed by New Libertarian Notes, he talked about his love for the work of Robert Anson Heinlein: "Heinlein has been an idol to me for more than 20 years. He can do no wrong, no matter how much he loves wars and hates pacifists. (I'm the kind of anarchist whose chief objection to the State is that it kills so many people. Government is the epitome of the deathist philosophy I reject.)" Wilson was well aware of the coincidence of their middle names; in The Universe Next Door, which features alternate universes, Wilson's byline is given variously as "Robert Anton Wilson" and "Robert Anson Wilson" and Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon is (approvingly) mentioned in the text.

I have been reading Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee. For an old science fiction fan like me, it's kind of like reading the backstory behind classic anthologies such as The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Vol. 1, edited by Robert Silverberg. And as you can tell from the title, it's not just about John Campbell Jr. and Astounding Science Fiction magazine -- the reader learns a lot about Asimov, Heinlein and Hubbard. ("Jack Parsons" appears many times in the index, but I haven't gotten to that part yet.) (When I was in high school, Asimov probably was my favorite author. I didn't know about his hobby of grabbing and manhandling every woman within reach at SF conventions until many years later.)

Yesterday, I read chapter 5, "The Analytical Laboratory 1938-1940," and I noticed several observations about Heinlein, early in his SF writing career, which might interest Wilson fans. Heinlein became interested in General Semantics and Alfred Korzyzski, Nevala-Lee writes, explaining that Korzybski is best known for his aphorism, "The map is not the territory." An early unpublished novel, For Us, the Living, was structured "around his interest in a proposal for a universal basic income." An early novella, "If This Goes On--" featured a character warning that Americans need to "wake up" from their conditioning:  "The American people have been conditioned from the cradle by the cleverest and most thorough psychotechnicians to believe in and trust the dictatorship which rules them ... " (pages 110-114)

But getting back to what happened when I got out of bed. I had made up my mind to write about Astounding last night. When I got up and went through my morning ritual of moderating comments on the blog, I was "astounded" to see that  "Alec" had left a comment to yesterday's post. He wrote:

Glad to hear that you're enjoying Astounding!. I'm not sure if you knew this, but I'm a big RAW fan:

For a while, I thought about writing his biography, but it sounds like someone else beat me to it—and I can't wait to see the result. 

Well, I didn't know that. Mr. Nevala-Lee's blog posting deserves a separate posting here, but you can go read it now.

Addendum: On Twitter, Mr. Nevala-Lee writes, "Wilson doesn't turn up in the book itself, but I often thought about him as I was writing it. (Among other things, the epigraph from Crowley in Chapter 10 was taken straight from Cosmic Trigger.)"

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Book links from me and other bloggers

Happy new year, Chris Difford, and thanks again for the interview! My wife and I saw your pal Elton John in concert last year. 

Books that Arthur Hlavaty read last year. I have started Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee and it is wonderful so far.

Books that PQ read in 2018, pieces he wrote, favorite films, favorite hip hop albums, favorite podcasts and some travel photos.

Arthur, PQ and I all read The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon, and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis. That book also is included in my "Top Ten Books of 2018" blog post, which you'll want to read if you missed it, because PQ has just posted his top five books in the comments! Also, see Van Scott's top ten books, and post your list, too.

Last year, I wrote about books quite a few times in my day job at the Sandusky Register, and as this is a blog that attracts readers, you may want to read some of my more interesting dispatches. You can read my feature about a forgotten Sandusky teen poet who is the subject of a new book (quite an unusual literary story), my interview with Chris Difford of Squeeze (and his comments on ten Squeeze songs!), my article about cartoonist Tom Batiuk of "Funky Winkerbean" and "Crankshaft" fame, my piece about Robert Kennedy Jr.'s new book,  my article about Ohio's poet laureate, Dave Lucas (I read his book, "Weather," which is quite good), and my piece on Paula McLain, author of "The Paris Wife" and other books.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Oz Fritz on a new Kenneth Grant book

Oz Fritz reviews (and recommends) a new book about Kenneth Grant, Servants of the Star and Snake, edited by Henrik Bogdan.  Oz notes that Grant is mentioned 11 times in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger and says, "If Wilson acts as a spiritual progenitor of sorts for me, then Kenneth Grant seems like an Uncle from the same lineage."

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Robert Anton Wilson on facing the future fearlessly

With the beginning of the new year, it seems appropriate to steer you to "Facing the Future Fearlessly," Robert Anton Wilson's article from the Summer 1980 issue of Magical Blend. It's the latest rediscovery from Martin Wagner, and happy new year to Martin, and danke schön  all of his good work during 2018!


If there is any place where our much-publicized “free will” can act, it is precisely in the interstices between the present and the future. We cannot change the past—except insofar as it changes by being transcended, when we forgive it, or, even more, understand it—but we are all co-creators of the future. We all literally create our own future, minute by minute, as we go along; and, by the multiplication of energy (“karma”) we are all creating our collective future synergetically. That is, to assume that only the “bad guys” (whoever they are) will determine the future is to assume the non-existence or non-effectiveness of love, hope, intelligence and many other qualities that are known to exist and to be effective.

There is nothing esoteric about this. Very concretely, you can, right now, think of somebody who hurt you once, and you can plan an elaborate revenge. Think of such a person, but do not go ahead with the vengeance scenario. Instead, make a conscious act of forgiveness. If you are new to Consciousness Work, just realize that bad energy is depressing to hang onto, and forgive only because you want to get rid of the bad energy. Make a decision either to not think of that person again or to think of them impartially, the way you think of rocks, because carrying around bad energy drags you down.