Monday, May 20, 2019

The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week 13

Jonathan Swift

This week, please read part six, "The Hanged Man," from the quotation from William Blake's "Milton," ("I will not cease from Mental Fight," page 247, to page 264, "Someday. Somehow."

This was one of my favorite chapters, tying together Robert Anton Wilson's interest in personal liberty with his interest in Irish literature. Sir Edward Babcock explains that Jonathan Swift served "intellectual liberty" and "not just political liberty" (page 251) and the rest of the chapter illustrates how personal liberty is important, and not just the liberty to debate "political issues." The chapter is about sexual repression, although Wilson was interested in other personal freedoms such as  freedom to read or freedom to control what foods and drugs you choose to put into your body.

I liked the references to the works of James Joyce on pages 249-250 and the discussion of Jonathan Swift. I probably haven't read enough Swift, as I haven't gotten much further than Gulliver's Travels and "A Modest Proposal."

Years ago, I belonged to a book discussion group in Lawton, Oklahoma, and we would take turns suggesting works to read. I once suggested reading Gulliver's Travels and the others agreed, although when we had the meeting, I was mortified to find out that almost nobody in the book club had bothered to read it.

The capacity to feel a "fierce indignation" and to want to write about it is a characteristic of many investigative reporters.

The William Blake verse excerpted at the beginning of the chapter is from a poem often known as "Jerusalem" and also known as "And did those feet in ancient time." It was set to music and apparently is a popular patriotic song in Britain; many Americans who are my age likely would know it from the cover version by Emerson, Lake and Palmer on Brain Salad Surgery, an album that was popular among my friends when I was in high school. It would also be difficult for even an American to miss the connection to the movie Chariots of Fire. The Blake poem also is referenced in Alan Moore's novel Jerusalem. William Blake is a great favorite of many RAW fans, although I confess that when I studied the English Romantics in my English lit survey course, I wound up going all in for Percy Bysshe Shelley. (Perhaps you should be able to tell something about a reader by asking him/her/they to name a favorite Romantic poet, just as supposedly you can tell about a person by asking which Beatle is the person's favorite. I'm not sure how the latter would work for me, as George originally was my favorite, then John, and finally Paul.)

The section of the chapter in which John Babcock is considering his options -- whether to confess or keep silent, and how that decision will affect both him and Geoffrey Wildeblood -- sounds a lot like the "Prisoner's Dilemma," perhaps reflecting RAW's interest in game theory.  Prisoner's Dilemma also is a novel by one of my favorite writers, Richard Powers.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Jeff Bezos' space colony dream

"If the sci-fi space cities of Bezos’s Blue Origin look familiar, it’s because they’re derived from the work of his college professor, the late physicist Gerard O’Neill."

Of course, O'Neill also influenced Robert Anton Wilson's thoughts on space colonies. I don't like the sneering tone of the article, but I suppose that's probably the price for getting such an article in print at many publications. There are people who do things, and people who are ready to explain why everything is a bad idea, and in 2019 it's the latter who dominate. (The author is a architecture professor, and he objects to the design, although he apparently has other gripes, too.) Hat tip, Jesse Walker for pointing to this on Twitter.

Here is a more contrarian take on Amazon.  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Barbara Marx Hubbard has died

Barbara Marx Hubbard speaks as a vice presidential candidate at the 1984 Democratic National Convention (just over 10 minutes).

Futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard, 89, has died. She and Robert Anton Wilson were mutual admirers. About RAW, she said, "“Robert Anton Wilson is one of the leading thinkers of the modern age.” She appears as a character in Schroedinger's Cat.

If you take a few minutes to watch her speech before the 1984 Democratic National Convention, above, you can hear her mention the eye in the pyramid on the dollar bill as she calls for a peaceful foreign policy and a commitment to space exploration.

The New York Times published an obit.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Gregory Arnott reviews Fly's 'Tale of the Tribe'

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

I was a latecomer to Maybe Logic Academy -- I was there for its final hurrah in a semester that saw one of the classes I enrolled in cancelled and another with only two active students and an absentee teacher. I can’t even remember how I found out about it -- something to do with how one can wander over the Internet while working a boring office job. Anyways, that was where I first heard about The Tale of the Tribe.

Later, after I had read more about the Tribe and had read TSOG where the most complete piece of information on the book was in print at the time, I was talking about it to my friend as we stood outside looking at the stars on a hot West Virginia night; Robert Anton Wilson was basically going to explain communication, the Internet, and what was going on. My friend laughed --  “finally!” he exclaimed. Robert Anton Wilson had been dead at least five years.

To say that Wilson’s unfinished Tale felt like a loss is an understatement. In one issue of Alan Moore’s Tom Strong the perfect man finds his heart’s desire as an illusion conjured up by a malignant alien intelligence; a copy of Joyce’s sequel to Finnegans Wake, Finn Wakes Agen. In Steven Moore’s Somnium the protagonist in the protagonist’s novel finds himself in a library of unwritten novels. There’s something sublime about an unpublished work or some valuable manuscript lost to time; it has been easy for me to remain tantalized by the lost promise of the Tribe.

This is all a rather lengthy way to say I was excited when I saw the release of Steven "Fly" Pratt’s Fly On The Tale of the Tribe. Pratt’s book is slim but dense with information -- it’s playful and thought provoking. Fly deals with the Current Situation and how Wilson’s ideas have endured into our young century; appropriately for one of the torchbearers of model agnosticism, the book is full of promise and puzzles. Like Higgs at the end of Stranger Than We Can Imagine, Pratt seems to bank on agnosticism as a solution to the increasingly chaotic information climate: but that’s beside the point as I believe Pratt is more interested in inspiration than pontification.

Much of the book is invitational -- Pratt repeats throughout that it is critical to create one’s own “tale of the tribe.” One excellent example is given earlier in the book when Pratt points out that his and RAW’s cast of characters are all male -- Pratt gives an example of a female “tribe” beginning with Ada Lovelace. Later in the book Fly lays out the schemes for two later tale of the tribe courses that could be reconstructed by the intrepid student. Pratt also gives a healthily circumspect view of Ezra Pound and his complicated life; at one point Pratt seems to decide upon using Ernest Fenollosa as the primary touchstone for Pound’s contribution to the tale of the tribe, ideogrammic language,  as a deft sidestep when the fascist taint becomes too much with Pound. Of course Pratt makes sure to mention that Pound’s antisemitism was a phase that the poet regretted in later life. Everyone’s happy.

The most interesting ideas, for this reader, were the discussions of the hologrammic prose exemplified by Finnegans Wake and, this part really hooked me, Alan Moore’s Jerusalem. Fly is one of the few commentators I’ve seen who have given Moore his due: Jerusalem is a monumental masterpiece that will rank high among our race’s literary achievements if Providence is kind enough to ensure some sort of posterity. Fly is able to explicate how breathtaking the scope of the work is, as it encompasses art, magic, and the facets of our reality, and we seem to have similar tastes, go figure, since we both consider the chapter “Round the Bend” as the crowning achievement of the novel. (He even shares my love of Moore’s The Black Dossier!) In many ways “Round the Bend” serves as a magnificent realization of Tom Strong’s lost novel -- it is a sequel or a continuation of Finnegans Wake. The whole of Jerusalem could be seen as something similar or as an essential commentary on Joyce’s goals but that would belie the empirical majesty of Moore’s work.

While talking about the epic Cosmic Trigger play produced and directed by Daisy Eris Campbell Fly waxes rhapsodical: "Co-create a Universe, a theatre of the mind where each and everyone of us can work on many levels of synchrony, consider set and setting, speech and place. Make the invisible visible." Marching orders to make one's head turn.

Pratt’s little book will give the reader a lot to think about and chew on -- it is a text that is meant to send you into the hinterlands of language to find the foundations of our reality. I’ve brushed over a lot of Fly’s work in the book, partly for the sake of length and partly because I am still figuring out my thoughts and plans for the ideas he brings to the table. Suffice to say that this is an indispensable piece of scholarship for the RAW fan and an all around Important Book. RAW’s original book may have not been able to come to life but Fly proves that the tale of the tribe is still being told and is ready to be explored at any moment. Personally, I’m just grateful Fly made sure to include Moore in RAW’s canon. The book's cover art is by, the Tenniel to RAW's Carroll, Bobby Campbell whose illustrations implicitly make a connection between Fly and the green-skinned Mescalito. Pay attention.

As a postscript to the Maybe Logic story -- it was through Maybe Logic that I found Tom’s blog so even when the initial attraction is in bits and pieces it can lead to something satisfying. The tale of the tribe isn’t over until the last monkey stops squawking.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hilaritas releases Cosmic Trigger 3

Hilaritas Press, the publishing imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust, has announced the publication of its edition of Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death, completing its reissue of the Trigger trilogy. The paperback is $15.23 and the ebook is $9.99. Another fine cover by Scott McPherson.

As in other Hilaritas publications, an important element in the production is the willingness of volunteers to contribute their time and effort to help the RAW Trust, and in the latest announcement, Rasa praises the efforts of Gary Acord, my Texas friend, and Joshua Hallenbeck, my Colorado friend:

"Many thanks to Gary Acord and Josh Hallenbeck for their over the top help in editing and proofing! Gary and Josh also took on the insanely tedious job of fixing the page numbers in the book's index. The page numbers in this newly designed edition differ from the previous edition, and checking each entry to realign the listing was a monumental task. We are extremely grateful!"

More details and other Hilaritas Press news here. 

The Hilaritas Press website has been nicely revamped by Rasa; check it out. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

New Philip K. Dick Tarot cards

Philip K. Dick scholar Ted Hand and tarot artist Christopher Wilkey are wrapping up work on a new 80-card PKD Tarot deck.

Some details:

Unlock the Fool’s Journey and its relationship to the novels, characters, short fiction and other writings by Philip K. Dick. PKD scholar Ted Hand and tarot artist Christopher Wilkey have brought together a new vision of tarot and the great works of Philip K. Dick. It is an original concept of tarot that looks into both the past and the future at the same time.

Ideal for advanced students of tarot as well as novices to the I Ching (or Book of Changes), this 80 card tarot deck takes the seeker through an initiation into the life and writings of one of the greatest writers of recent times. Explore alternate realities and the nature of what it is to be human.

Taking cues from Aleister Crowley and other Golden Dawn inspired traditions, this deck puts forward some of the possible relations between tarot and the hexagrams of the I Ching, including two card games designed to help introduce readers to the symbols of which access that ancient volume.

Much more information here, including a link to preorder for $40. It's supposed to be available by August.

Ted also has begun offering three-card Tarot readings for $10, payable through venmo or PayPal, sent to Ted.Hand (at)

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week 12

Monument to La Barre in Abbeville, France. (Creative Commons photo)

This week, please read Page 229 (Tomorrow we take the coach southward, back toward Napoli") to Page 245 ("The lights of the city came closer.")

This is an interesting section. One reads about the worst of humanity in the horrible execution of the French nobleman, and the best, in the selfless efforts to rescue the young man who threw himself into the Bay of Naples.

I had assumed the execution of Fran├žois-Jean Lefebvre de la Barre was something Wilson had just made up to dramatize the cruelty of the old regime, but in fact the account is based on a real execution of a nobleman of that name on July 1, 1766. Wilson's account apparently is largely correct although the real la Barre was only 20 when he died. According to the Wikipedia article, the prosecution was secular (albeit for impiety) and the church hierarchy tried to obtain a pardon for la Barre.

Saudi Arabia recently carried out a mass execution of 37 by beheading. Nearly all were members of the Shia religious minority and the "evidence" was largely obtained by torture.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Oz Fritz on 'Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult'

Oz Fritz has began a new series at his blog, with Part One posted as "Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult."

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon has been called the premier book of postmodern literature.  It communicates multiple visions on multiple levels not the least of which coincides with Dr. Timothy Leary's vision for the next step for humanity - space colonies; expanding terrestrial life into outer space.  On another, not mutually exclusive level, GR presents a manual and course of study for the aspirant, the initiate, the bardo explorer and the working mystic.  We present a preliminary exploration into the occult side of this novel as well as Timothy Leary's role in it.

Oz points out references to Leary in the text and also possible references to Aleister Crowley. Quite an interesting essay, and Oz mentions the ongoing The Earth Will Shake reading group.

Here is an intriguing sentence:

There is another aspect related to the 1960s that probably caught Leary's attention which recurs frequently throughout the book and will remain occult in this essay.

Guess I have to read the book and see if I can spot it!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Peace news

Robert Anton Wilson used different political labels for himself over his life (sometimes, but not always, "libertarian,") but he always stood up for civil liberties and peace. In honor of that, a couple of brief news items:

1., a consistent voice against war, is having a fund drive and as I write this is able to match donations dollar to dollar. I've just made a donation.

2. Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute has been a consistent voice for sanity in American foreign policy. His new book, Peace, War, and Liberty: Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy, is available as a free ebook.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Denver decriminalizes 'magic mushrooms'

In a rather startling libertarian victory, Denver has voted to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. I admit that I had assumed it would fail, but last minute ballot counting pushed it over the top.

On Twitter, Michael Tracey comments, "Wow, this is genuinely amazing. Great for humanity. I'm not kidding in the slightest.

"I really think so many psychological maladies could be mitigated (or cured) if more people consumed psilocybin mushrooms -- ideally in a controlled environment with proper supervision if necessary. It's always been a disgrace that the Govt. criminalizes the use of this substance.

"Some journalist should ask Colorado presidential candidates John Hickenlooper (former mayor of Denver) and Michael Bennet how they feel about this groundbreaking referendum, including whether they voted for it. Also ask if they themselves would be willing to consume mushrooms!

"The scientific evidence demonstrating the multifold benefits of psilocybin mushrooms is now indisputable, and thankfully the citizenry is finally acting through the political process. I actually did a great interview with Rick Doblin about this in 2017."

(N.B. In case the point is unclear, I think the freedom to control what you put in your body cuts both ways; I think the folks who pressure other people to drink are assholes. Late last year I transitioned from "light drinker" to "teetotaler.")

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Sounding like RAW?

A couple of things I read on the Internet reminded me of some of Robert Anton Wilson's writings, so I thought I would pass them on.

Via last week's issue of Recomendo, an email newsletter I subscribe to that features Boing Boing founder (and RAW fan) Mark Frauenfelder, I read the article "88 Important Truths I’ve Learned About Life" at Raptitude, a "blog about getting better at being human" written by David Cain. I liked the piece and agreed with most of his observations, but some of them also reminded me of Wilson, e.g.

13. If you never doubt your beliefs, then you’re wrong a lot.

15. Nobody has it all figured out.

17. Every passing face on the street represents a story every bit as compelling and complicated as yours.

85. When you’re sick of your own life, that’s a good time to pick up a book.

The "Experiments" at the site look interesting.

Meanwhile, here is a quotation from Tyler Cowen:

My most absurd belief, perhaps, is the extent to which I think people should be truly uncertain about almost all of their beliefs. And it doesn't sound absurd when you say it, but I don't on the other hand know anyone who agrees with it. Take whatever your political beliefs happen to be; obviously, the view you hold you think is most likely to be true, but I think you should give that something like 60:40. Whereas in reality most people will give it 95:5, or 99:1, in terms of probability that it's correct.

The context. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Report on the pilgrimage

This is a picture of 67 Pilgrims. The 68th Pilgrim Cassandra Sutton took the photo. And the 69 Pilgrim - Peter & Heiko our two Bus Drivers - were asleep. It was taken at @Damanhur who were the most gracious and open-hearted of hosts. (Caption from Jonathan Harris, @jonone100)

On Twitter, Jonathan Harris offers an account of the pilgrimage to CERN led by Daisy Eris Campbell. "It really was something beyond special. All of us feel lucky to have participated in such a transformative event."

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week 11

Mozart in 1763 as a small child. 

This week: Please read from page 209 ("One week later that letter was posted to Napoli ... ") to page 229 ("Their music isn't as good as ours, either.")

I loved all of the discussion of English political ideas in this section, and the Turk's Head Tavern was a real place. But my favorite bits were the discussion of classical composers such as Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Christian Bach.

The description of Mozart sounds rather as if RAW was influence by the movie Amadeus, although in fact the movie came after the book; did Wilson see a production of the play it was based on?

I have a big online library of Mozart's music. The depiction in The Earth Will Shake of Mozart's precociousness and talent is hardly an exaggeration. My favorite fact about Mozart is simply that he was only 35 when he died. His production in his brief life is astounding. Even allowing for the fact that many of his early works are little performed today, it's painful to think about what he could have written if he had lived another ten years; many of his most famous pieces were written in the last few years of his life. By comparison, Beethoven made it to 56, and J.S. Bach to 65.

Some of my favorite Mozart works: The Marriage of Figaro (I still haven't heard many of the operas, but then again he wrote 22!), symphonies 39, 40 and 41, piano concertos 20, 21 and 24, piano sonatas 11 and 14, the Rondo in A minor for piano, the piano quartet in G minor, K. 478. The latter is not famous, and in fact there is a large body of not famous Mozart pieces that are also very good. You can buy a huge amount of Mozart for almost nothing if you search for "Bach Guild" at Amazon's online music store.

Johann Christian Bach, the "English Bach," tutored Mozart and is buried in London. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The news from table 23

Yesterday my wife and I were at an Associated Press news awards lunch in Columbus, Ohio, where I won a first place "best news writer" award, apparently for stories about the opioid crisis such as this one. 

I probably wouldn't have mentioned that here, except that I was quite amused when we showed up and I discovered that my newspaper (The Sandusky Register) was assigned to table number 23. (Ted Hand commented on Twitter, "Synchronicity is endless). Then again, Sandusky's original street design was laid out by a freemason to reproduce the masonic compass and square design, so perhaps it was appropriate I was assigned the Illuminatus! table.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

RAW on Psychedelic Salon podcast

The Psychedelic Salon podcast features RAW in an episode here (and on the usual podcasting apps.)

The episode is named "RAW Theology" and it's a lecture that dates from 1987. The first part is a discussion of religion and collects many of Wilson's thoughts on the subject, on Discordianism, Catholicism, the Church of the Subgenius, and so on. It's very funny. The rest is a wide ranging question and answer session.

About one hour and 45 minutes.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Letter to Timothy Leary about Illuminatus!

Above is a letter from Robert Anton Wilson to Timothy Leary, dated May Day, 1974. (If you can't read it on your computer screen, downloading the image and blowing it up).

Included in the letter is the announcement that Dell is going to publish Illuminatus! next year. "The full title, by the way, is Illuminatus! or Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus Productions Presents or Swift-Kick Inc. or Telemachus Sneezed or The Untidy Ape: A Head Test."

Via Martin Wagner.

Also from Martin: "How to Wage Nonviolent Revolution" (likely by RAW) and "Death Universe: A Review of Mondo Cane." 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Beyond Chaos and Beyond now in paperback [UPDATED]

Beyond Chaos and Beyond, the new RAW book edited by Scott Apel, is now out in paperback, for $19.95. You can still get the Kindle version for $4.95.

I recently reviewed and recommended it, and I notice that Rasa gave it five stars in an Amazon review. You can read my review by clicking on the link; Rasa wrote, "Scott Apel was an old friend of Robert Anton Wilson and the two of them worked together on his Trajectories magazine, offering a wonderful series of writings from this iconic author. Scott has assembled Volume Two of these gems, but the unexpected bonus in this book are the essays Scott wrote himself, describing the process of putting together the magazine but also his personal experiences with Bob. A wonderful read!"

UPDATE: Scott reports that if you buy the paperback, you can get the ebook for $1.99.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

John Higgs about to release new book

One of my favorite writers, John Higgs, is about to publish his latest book, The Future Starts Here: Adventures in the Twenty-First Century. It's out May 16 in Britain; there are no plans yet to release it in the U.S., so I guess I have to buy it from Book Depository, like I did his last book. Details from John's latest newsletter:

I’m launching it with a special, one-off, not to missed night in the Brighton Fringe, along with a group of mighty guests perfectly curated to demonstrate the argument of the book. If you can make it, it will be well worth your time. 

Follow the link to buy tickets.

If you can't make it to Brighton, John is launching a book tour that takes him to London and Liverpool and elsewhere; details here.

John is also coming out other books this year; read the newsletter for details of his frantic life, but there's no actual information on the books available yet.