Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Toxteth Day of the Dead book

More British Discordian news: The Liverpool Arts Lab has announced the impending publication, on July 23, of the Toxteth Day of the Dead: Beating the Bounds book, with a foreword by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu.

"The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu have set out to build The People’s Pyramid. The first brick was laid on its foundation stone on Toxteth Day Of The Dead, Friday 23 November 2018.

"The location of the pyramid had not yet been determined, and so the foundation stone was taken on a procession around part of the the Royal & Ancient Park of Toxteth, searching for its future permanent site ... This book commemorates that event with photos of the procession, stories, poems, games and gifts."

More here. Preorders are sold out.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Castle Perilous 23 approaches

Sometimes I wish I lived in England, with all of the wonderful "find the others" events put on by the English RAW weirdos (this is meant affectionately; I am an American RAW weirdo.) The folks who did Festival 23 and Catch 23 have a new event, Castle Perilous 23, August 30 in a real medieval castle in a secret location. (We don't have many secret medieval castles here in Ohio.) The event is sold out and there's no public Internet site, but watch the Castle Perilous 23 Twitter account for news of returned tickets occasionally becoming available.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Erik Davis' two bookmarks book

A couple of points about Erik Davis' excellent new book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica and Visionary Experiences in the Seventies, which I am still reading (I haven't finished the RAW section, which is the middle of the book, between Terence McKenna and Philip K. Dick.)

1. Here is one arresting paragraph:

"Wilson always played the garage philosopher, packing his conceptual jams with chatty riffs and refrains, corny jokes and outlandish follow-my-wink enthusiasms. This makes his work appealing to late adolescents, but less so to others. Still, he remains an important and serious thinker, albeit an unsystematic and sometimes sloppy one." (page 220).

A couple of points: Wilson was not an academic. In academia it is currently fashionable to focus upon one narrow field of study. E.g., almost nobody is an expert on the later Roman Empire; professors are experts on the later Roman Army, the evolution of Roman cities in the later empire, etc. The professors who bother to write books on the general history of the later Roman Empire perform a valuable service to undergraduates and interested laymen such as me, but few risk doing so and being caught out in mistakes, i.e. being accused of being "sloppy." If you try to transmit current scholarship in your field to a general audience, you are inevitably targeted for carping criticisms.

Wilson was a generalist. He wrote about libertarian political theory, James Joyce, quantum mechanics, Beethoven, Timothy Leary's eight circuit theory of consciousness, Korzybski, magick, and many other topics. Did he probably make mistakes? Yes. But a generalist has his uses. Not by accident, I think, did Michael Johnson name his blog Overweening Generalist.

2. About RAW, Erik writes, "One of the more charming aspects of Wilson as a writer is the fact that, unlike many charming autodidacts, he does not pretend to think in isolation. His texts are unusually generous in acknowledging his sources, his influences and his intellectual heroes...." (page 221.)

Davis also is good about acknowledging his sources. One of the strengths of High Weirdness are the footnotes, where Davis not only lists his sources but makes many interesting comments. I am reading it with two bookmarks, one for the text and one to keep my place in the notes.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Jesse Walker on Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson (Twitter portrait) 

"One day maybe we'll awaken from this simulation and realize that Marianne Williamson's campaign was just a dream," writes Jesse Walker in his article about this year's most interesting and most weird presidential candidate. "But for now, she wants your vote."

Jesse is always interesting, but his piece on Williamson for Reason magazine is particularly good, and ties Williamson to a long tradition of American spirituality which Walker calls New Thought and could also be referred to as New Age, a recent manifestation.

Readers of this blog will be interested in passages such as this:

"That said, there is one rather Hallian passage in Williamson's first political book, 1997's The Healing of America. The Great Seal of the United States—that eye-in-the-pyramid logo on the back of the dollar bill—'illustrates our Founders' sense of America's destiny,' Williamson writes. 'The seal shows the Great Pyramid at Giza, with its missing capstone returned and illuminated. The Eye of Horus, the ancient Egyptian symbol for the consciousness of higher mind, is displayed within the capstone. Beneath the picture are written the words 'Novus Ordo Seclorum'—new order of the ages. This Masonic symbolism reveals democracy's function as a vehicle for the realization of humanity's highest potential'." ["Hallian" as in Manly P. Hall]

I was startled to read Jesse's piece and learn something about Donald Trump I didn't know. Another passage in the piece: "We're used to seeing religious coverage that stresses the left and right wings of Christianity. On some subjects, such as Middle Eastern policy, we hear about the left and right wings of Judaism. Well, here are the left and right wings of New Thought." Joshua Hallenbeck vs. Charles Faris on Twitter!

One of Ms. Williamson's books. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

The saga of And/Or Press

I've been reading the new Erik Davis book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica and Visionary Weirdness in the Seventies. I like it a lot; everyone who reads this blog would likely find it very interesting. More about it soon.

On page 170, Davis briefly mentions "the independent Berkeley publisher And/Or Press, which also put out books on Gurdjieff, laughing gas and nude Tai Chi." It also put out the McKenna brothers' Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide: A Handbook for Psilocybin Enthusiasts, which came out under a pseudonym.

I don't have any of those books, but I do have two Robert Anton Wilson books put out by And/Or: The Illuminati Papers and Right Where You Are Sitting Now, two of my favorite RAW books.

I realized I didn't know anything about And/Or Press when I read Davis' passage. I ran a search, and it turns out there's a Wikipedia article about And/Or, and also its successor, Ronin Publisher.  Ronin is still around and has a bunch of Timothy Leary titles. 

Right Where You Are Sitting Now is listed for sale on Amazon as a paperback. No ebook is listed. The Illuminati Papers, as put out by Ronin Publishing, also is listed, and there's also a Kindle.

These two titles seem to be an anomaly, as all of RAW's other books either are published by Dell (e.g., Illuminatus! and  Schroedinger's Cat) or were eventually acquired by New Falcon and then Hilaritas Press, the imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Brian Eno, on Twitter

Musician and record producer Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, known as "Brian."

Hat tip, Charles Faris.

More on Mr. Eno the RAW fan.

The Wikipedia bio. 

I particularly like Eno's work as a producer for Talking Heads, but he also produced recordings for U2 and many other bands, has issued memorable solo recordings, was an early member of Roxy Music, did a fine album with David Byrne called My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and has many other credits.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Oz Fritz on the new Bob Dylan film

Oz Fritz has a post up on one of my favorite singers (and one of Robert Anton Wilson's least favorite), Bob Dylan. Specifically, the post about the new Martin Scorsese movie on Netflix, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.  I haven't seen it yet; maybe this weekend. I am old enough that I saw the original movie about the tour, Renaldo and Clara.

If you haven't heard, the new movie mixes real documentary facts with fiction.  In other words, it's not a straight documentary of the tour, although it has concert footage and some genuine moments mixed in with the made up incidents and characters. Renaldo and Clara also was pretty weird and not really a conventional documentary; I remember mainly liking the concert sequences.

One paragraph from Oz's piece:

"This misdirection should come as no surprise.  The film begins with old footage of a stage illusionist making a woman disappear then bringing her back.  It seems part of the film's mission to ontologically shake-up assumptions about exactly what is going on.  Editing and using sound and visuals in this way to create new contexts and factual illusions reminds me strongly of Orson Welle's F is for Fake "documentary" that looked at art forgery through using the techniques of film forgery. Robert Anton Wilson wrote an excellent account of the sleight-of-hand in that film that could give some insight into how Scorsese constructed this Bob Dylan story."

Monday, July 8, 2019

Latest books read

Delta-v, Daniel Suarez. A thriller about mining an asteroid. Daniel Suarez is a reliably good techo-thriller writer. Four stars on Goodreads.

Trophy Kill, R.J. Norgard. Mystery novel set in Alaska. I read this for work because Norgard is a local author, but it's a quite well done first novel, the start of a series, with lots of Alaska lore and realistic information about the life of a private eye (the author was a private investigator in Alaska.) Four stars.

The Earth Will Shake, Robert Anton Wilson. I'm looking forward to the discussion group on The Widow's Son. Four stars.

Good Riddance, Elinor Lipman. Latest novel by writer who is known as kind of a modern version as Jane Austen. Enjoyed it, but not quite as much as some of her others (I follow her pretty religiously). Three stars.

An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, Eric Wagner. This one was a re-read. Essential for the serious RAW fan. I particularly admire the essay on The Homing Pigeons and the Illuminatus! timeline. Four stars.

Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, Tyler Cowen. One of Cowen's most contrarian books and one of his best, although I suspect many people have their minds made up and will refuse to read it. Good defense of the big tech companies. Not as one-sided as the title implies; there are good criticisms of business, too.  Four stars.

I'm on Goodreads (as "Tomj"), feel free to friend me.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Prometheus Awards announced

The Libertarian Futurist Society (a group I'm active in) have announced the new winners of the Prometheus Award, with Causes of Separation by Travis Corcoran winning the Prometheus, and Kurt Vonnegut's classic short story, "Harrison Bergeron," picking up the Hall of Fame Award. Corcoran has now won for two years in a row.

For more details, including the other finalists, please see our press release. (One of the finalists for the Hall of Fame was Robert Anton Wilson's novel, The  Universe Next Door.)

All of the finalists this year are good and worth reading. I particularly like Martha Wells' "Murderbot Diaries" books and Helen Dale's  Kingdom of the Wicked. Wells' books are quickly becoming famous and have won other awards, but the Dale work (two novels which posit an alternative future in which the Roman Empire undergoes an industrial revolution) seems a bit overlooked to me. I hope we've drawn a bit of attention to it.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Saturday links

Mississippi sued over 'veggie burger' ban.

MAD magazine is mostly shutting down (no new content.) (Via Supergee).

David Henderson defends Marianne Williamson. But see also the comments.

John Higgs on the Beatles. He's a little hard on the Rolling Stones.

Ilya Somin defends the American Revolution. I once heard an American comedian remark about spending July 4 in Britain. "It's not a big holiday over there," she said.

Midnight movie inventor Ben Barenholtz dies.  The obituaries in the New York Times are fascinating, a great justification for my digital subscription to the Times. I skip most of the political stuff.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Interview: David Halperin on UFOS

David Halperin. Author photo from official website.

UFOs and "flying saucers" have suddenly become a hot topic again, with a flurry of articles in the press and a new book, "A" is for Adamski: The Golden Age of the UFO Contactees by our favorite crackpot historian, Adam Gorightly.

So when John Wisniewski offered to interview UFO author and retired professor of religious studies David Halperin for my blog, I immediately agreed.

Halperin is the author of the novel Journal of a UFO Investigator. About the book, writer Iain Pears wrote, "Journal of a UFO Investigator is a remarkable book.  Part science fiction, part novel of growing up, part surrealist voyage into the imagination, it is a disconcerting and satisfying experience." Other people said nice things, too, but since I like Iain Pears, he gets primacy of place. Hey, it's my website. Halperin's next book, Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO, is coming in 2020 from Stanford University Press.

To learn more about David Halperin, please visit his official site. You can find him on Facebook,  and you can sign up for his monthly email newsletter, which will show up in your inbox every Tuesday.

John Wisniewski is a freelance writer who has written for L.A. Review of Books, Paraphilia magazine, Toronto Review of Books, Urban Graffiti magazine and other publications. He lives in West Babylon NY.

See also Mr. Wisniewski's interview with John Higgs,  and his interview with the aforementioned Adam Gorightly,  both available on his website.
-- Tom Jackson

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: When did you become interested in UFO sightings, David? 

DAVID  HALPERIN: I became interested in UFOs in the fall of 1960, when I was twelve going on thirteen.  A friend and I were working on an extra-credit science project, which I think was supposed to have been about life on other planets.  (Back then, it still seemed remotely possible that Venus or Mars might be inhabited.)  We decided to include something about flying saucers, and in our local library I stumbled across Gray Barker’s They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers.  I read it, and was first terrified, then inspired to solve the mystery that Albert Bender had (allegedly) solved before he was silenced.  I never stopped trying to solve that mystery, although I now understand it far differently from the way I did at age thirteen.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: If I wished to learn more about UFOs which are the most informed books on the subject?

DAVID HALPERIN: Ideally, I’d suggest you work your way through the two volumes of Jerome Clark’s UFO Encyclopedia, either the 2nd edition (1998), or the 3rd edition (2018).  (I personally prefer the 2nd, even though it’s out of date.)  But that is a formidable and time-consuming project, and more modest suggestions would be: Brenda Denzler, The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs (University of California Press, 2001) and Thomas E. Bullard, The Myth and Mystery of UFOs (University Press of Kansas, 2010).  Both of these are excellent, sober, thoughtful pieces of work.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: What may have inspired you to write Journal of a UFO Investigator

DAVID HALPERIN: The inspiration of Journal of a UFO Investigator was memories of dreams and fantasies I had as a teenager.  I remember, one brilliantly clear but bitterly cold evening in December, staring into the black sky and imagining a blazing red disk proceeding slowly across it.  I knew I wasn’t actually seeing the disk, in the same way that I was seeing the stars—including Sirius, whose blue color I think I then perceived for the first time—but I was absolutely convinced such things were in the skies for me to see, if only I would look up.  In writing Journal, I asked myself: what if I did indeed see such a disk?  And what if it were to topple on me out of the sky?  That was how the first chapter was born.

 A year or two later, I had a dream: I was in a rambling old house in the country, at a meeting of ultra-serious teenagers dedicated to exploring the realms beyond the edges of science.  All the boys, myself included, were dressed up in jackets and ties.  And there was a beautiful blonde in an evening dress … and then I woke up.

 Much of Journal was devoted to answering the question: what would have happened if I hadn’t woken up?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: Could you tell us who Frank R. Paul was, David?

DAVID HALPERIN: Frank R. Paul was one of the great science-fiction artists.  Beyond this, I know nothing beyond what I’ve gleaned from the Internet—especially at

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: Over the years, has there been an increase
In the reporting of UFO sightings?

DAVID HALPERIN: The figures given by Cheryl Costa and Linda Miller Costa, in their UFO Sightings Desk Reference, show a pretty dramatic increase from 2001 (3479 reports) to 2012 (14077), and some falling off after that.  The Costa book only goes up through 2015; I have the impression that the decline has continued over the past four years.

The Costas estimate, on the basis anecdotal evidence from the late Stanton Friedman, that only about 10% of UFO sightings are reported.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: What was the UFO sighting that really introduced UFOs to the public
awareness, David?

DAVID HALPERIN: There’s no question: it was the Kenneth Arnold sighting of June 24, 1947, which triggered the wave of sightings in the weeks that followed and introduced “flying saucers” to the American language.

NOT Roswell, which after an initial flurry of interest (on July 8-9, 1947) was quickly forgotten, and didn’t come to light until 1978.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: What is being covered up about the nature of UFOS, being tied to religion and myth? What does your main character discover in his journey, in Journal of a UFO Investigator

DAVID HALPERIN: To take the second part of your question first: I think the epiphany in Journal of a UFO Investigator comes when the narrator returns from Israel and discovers his mother is dead.

“Now I know who they are, the three men in black.  I knew the moment my father spoke the words Mom is dead and their darkness filled the car, blotting out the headlights and the neon signs and even his face behind the steering wheel.  And I knew: they’ve won.  Always they will win.  In every life theirs is the victory.” (p. 264)

They’re embodiments of death, and the collapsing of his world at his mother’s death is represented as the crashing of the UFO he pilots, and himself taking on the character of an alien.

I wasn’t sure quite what you meant by the first part.  I think the cover-up, whatever its roots may be in reality—I do believe that Albert Bender was visited by three men, probably FBI agents who assumed his “International Flying Saucer Bureau” was a Communist front organization and wanted to shut it down—is part of the myth.  The Men in Black theme gets its power precisely from that which is unstated in it, its reflection of Gray Barker’s experience as a closeted gay man in 1950s West Virginia.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Listen to a Robert Anton Wilson guided meditation [UPDATED]

The Witches Almanac, the source for RAW's guided meditation. 

Last year on this blog, I linked to a guided meditation that RAW wrote that Martin Wagner found and shared on his site.

Robert Anton Wilson advised, "The student should record the following on a tape and play it back several times, while in a relaxed and meditative state. There is no need to employ a yogic asana, unless you are already skilled at yoga and do these postures easily. Otherwise just be relaxed but alert, in an ordinary chair, in a room where you won’t be disturbed and let the tape run several times."

I've now gotten around to recording it, and I thought as a convenience for the rest of you, I would share the recording. Get it here.   It runs for six minutes and twenty seconds.

The music in the background is Rasa's band, Starseed; appropriate, I hope, for a guided meditation that sounds as if it were influenced by Timothy Leary, and used with permission from Rasa. The particular tune is "Lakshmi Smiles" from the Live in Mount Shasta album. Starseed's music is available on Spotify.

If anyone else wants to try recording it, I would appreciate a link to share.

UPDATE: Eric Wagner already has weighed in with his own recording, a faster paced 3:26 version. Get it here. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Podcast with RAW lecture

Lorenzo Hagerty (Twitter photo).

The latest Psychedelic Salon podcast features a recording of a Robert Anton Wilson lecture, "RAW and the Information Age." Listen here, or at your favorite podcasting app.

This might be a good time for a reminder that the Robert Anton Wilson "Lost Studio Session" album remains available at the Internet Archive.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tuesday links


June Eris of the month. 

The psychedelics evangelist: A German financier wants to turn magic mushrooms into modern medicine. "Though he still resolutely won’t touch even a drop of alcohol, he has banded together a team of like-minded entrepreneurs — including Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel — to invest in a handful of startups focused on developing psychedelics."

Scott Horton on the future of

Gravity's Rainbow, Gilles Deleuze and the Occult Part 4. Part of a series, and again, quite a bit about Timothy Leary. And now part five has posted.

BBC program devoted to Finnegans Wake.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Gwern on RAW

Logo of Gwern Branwen

gwern, a "Writer, independent researcher, Internet besserwisser," is generally interesting and not someone who spouts the same old received opinions. To give you an idea, here is his 2018 newsletter.  

His compilation of book reviews is fascinating.  Four stars for RAW's Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy, four stars for Quantum Psychology, three stars for Prometheus Rising, but no detailed comments, unfortunately. He has read and rated a great deal of Gene Wolfe, and many of the authors he likes are ones that I like (Iain Banks, Neal Stephenson, R.A. Lafferty and many others.)

See also his home page.