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

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

News on the 'Widow's Son' book discussion

August 23 is a big day for the blog. That's when we begin the weekly online reading group for The Widow's Son, Robert Anton Wilson's own personal favorite novel. The discussion will be led by my special guest blogger, Gregory Arnott, who plans to cover about 20 pages a week. As usual, everyone is welcome and invited to weigh in with comments. The official text is the Hilaritas Press edition (I bought the new Hilaritas ebook to go with my old paperback) but you can use whatever you can afford/get your hands on. 

Here's a few words from Mr. Arnott:

"I'll recommend parts of Flann O'Brien's corpus as well as other suggested readings that intrepid members of the group could check out for additional depth- tidbits of the original text from Hume, Voltaire, de Sade, and other Enlightenment-era philosophers that are directly mentioned in the text. The Widow's Son also deals heavily with the Irish occupation and a lot of Wilson's themes on the Irish mentality so there will be links to his other writings for these subjects. One of the highlights of the book is Sir John's evisceration before the Royal Society which corresponds directly to the CSICOP panel that RAW was so horrified by.  I also plan on delving on the difference between being skeptical and just accepting evil deeds as "being someone else's reality tunnel."

"So in my typical style this will mostly be a literary, magical, and philosophical commentary on the book on my part with my fellow readers filling in their own observations."

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Time to read VALIS

The excellent new Erik Davis book High Weirdness (review coming soon) focuses much of its attention in the Philip K. Dick section on VALIS. That's a Dick novel I haven't read yet, but I plan to read it soon (although I will read the new Neal Stephenson novel first).

I mentioned this to Ted Hand on Twitter and he replied, "VALIS is the book that sent me down the road of years of grad school in philosophy, esotericism and religious studies, approximately as big a deal as Cosmic Trigger. It's also important for being a key literary experiment where PKD injects himself and his 'Exegesis' into the book."

The discussion began when Ted listed his top five PKD novels: Time Out of Joint, Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik, A Scanner Darkly, VALIS. I told him I'd have to delete Time Out of Joint to make room for The Man in the High Castle. Discussion here.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Jesse Walker talks to Paul Krassner about RAW

The Parts Left Out of the Krassner Interview

By Jesse Walker
Special guest blogger

I conducted a long interview with Paul Krassner in 2012, while I was researching my book about conspiracy theories. Last week, after Krassner died, I published an edited version of that conversation at Reason. But I truncated the transcript considerably before we posted it—the full interview was more than three times the length of the Reason version, because not everything we talked about was going to be interesting to a general audience.

Some of those excised bits might still be interesting to a more specialized audience, though. In particular, this selection from the cutting room floor may interest the readers of RAW Illumination, since it’s about Robert Anton Wilson:

* * *

Paul Krassner

Jesse Walker: You stuck a footnote in one of [Wilson’s] earlier articles, when he mentioned being “greatly indebted” to Norman Brown’s Life Against Death. You wrote, “Editor’s note: As with Bob Wilson, there are undoubtedly books—fiction, non-fiction, serious, humorous—to which you are greatly indebted; write in and we’ll list ’em.”

Was that a jab? Or just a random joke? Do you remember this?

Paul Krassner: No, I probably meant that as a service to the readers....He was talking about Norman Brown’s book on—I’m trying to remember his thesis, the theme of it. It was pro-Norman Brown if I recall. And so I knew that there would be readers who might, just because Wilson recommended it—that they would be satisfied that it would be worth a read if Wilson liked it. And so I thought there must be other books like that, that they knew.

Because my policy was, instead of writing down to the readership— Because I’d hear magazine editors who say things like “We get it, but they won’t get it.” And one of the cartoonists for The Realist, Dan O’Neil, said to me: “We’re not peerless.” Meaning we weren’t superior to the readers, which a lot of magazine editors thought they were. And so I learned a lot from the readers. Because the readership I think had a higher level of education—not just education—but they were mostly FBI agents. I think they had a healthier skepticism than the population in general. And so I guess I must have printed anything that anyone sent in. Any recommendations.

Walker: I don’t think I saw whatever feature there was, but I might have just missed it.
Did you guys become friends early on, or did that develop later? Was it just an editorial relationship?

Krassner: We became good friends. Him and his wife, Arlen....In fact, I was still living with my parents when I lost my virginity at Mad magazine, and I had a date with that same girl, as they were then called. And we came to his house and so we shared the sofa. In their house, while they were in their bedroom. So I’d say we were intimate friends.

And then when he was living in Santa Cruz, and then L.A., my wife and I would have dinner with him and his wife. Every time they came to town, we were living in Venice, so this friendship remained until his dying days. We saw him in Santa Cruz, and he had post-polio syndrome, and he was weak and his energy was gone. But he had a support group there, which was a medical marijuana dispensary later on. And he was one of the ones outside city hall in a wheelchair with a bunch of others, smoking marijuana cigarettes. They were smoking joints to indicate they were patients and that this was medicine. And Mayor Adams didn’t do it. Didn’t call the police, or that sort of thing. So we were at his house and saw that his computer was extending his life, because he could communicate. It was very important to him to communicate with people and there was a group there who knew him. The people from the medical marijuana dispensary—a couple of them had joined these groups he had—on analyzing the work of James Joyce, for example. So he was really like a guru. Not that well known for it, but that’s how people treated him.

Have you ever seen the documentary made about him?

Walker: Maybe Logic?

Krassner: Yeah, that was the one. We just saw it for the first time recently.

Walker: What did you think of it?

Krassner: It really captures him. Let me just take a little drink of water.

Walker: Oh, sure.

Krassner: (high-pitched voice) OK, that’s better! (normal voice) So I wrote this obituary of him. I think I called it “The Parts Left Out of His Obituary.” Which if you never saw I could send to you.

Walker: Was that the Huffington Post piece, or was this a different—

Krassner: Maybe it was.

Walker: I saw something you wrote about him for The Huffington Post, but I did not—

Krassner: That was probably it. I’ve lost four magazine assignments for having stuff on Huffington Post, because the editors wanted to be exclusives. And if they found something that appeared online, they wouldn’t publish it, so I stopped blogging. But anyway, that must have been it, because I don’t think I wrote anything else about him online. I think they asked me for something from Boing Boing, and I sent that to them too.

Walker: Just based on things that each of them wrote, I’m pretty sure that he and [conspiracy theorist] Mae Brussell really didn’t like each other. I wondered if you ever saw the two of them in the same place, if there was interaction, or if there was a sort of intellectual incompatibility that flared up in print.

Krassner: I don’t know how familiar she was with his work. I think it might have been that they maybe never met, were never in the same place at the same time. So I don’t know if he was aware of her work and admired it. But I don’t know if there was any enmity between them. Had you heard that?

Walker: I’ve seen things they’ve written that made sort of swipes at one another. I don’t have it in front of me, but I think she accused someone he was a friend with of being in a conspiracy, and he didn’t take to that, or...

Krassner: Oh—yeah, yeah, yeah.

Walker: Leary, or someone like that. I don’t remember who.

Krassner: If there were conspiracy researchers who didn’t agree with her points, she would think that he was part of the conspiracy.

Walker: Right.

Krassner: She believed she had the truth, and I think that a lot of it was just assumptions.

* * *

Jesse Walker (with duck friend). 

A few days after we spoke, I sent Paul an example of Wilson and Brussell crossing swords. It was copy of a letter Brussell sent to Conspiracy Digest, which amid other invective claimed that Wilson and Leary “are used by the CIA Intelligence Community to sugar sweet the yellow brick road to Oz, while the means to enslave mankind are being manufactured under our noses.” I also included Wilson’s sarcastic reply, which among other things declared that he has “been a high official of the Central Intelligence Agency since July 23, 1973” and has “gold bars (stolen from Fort Knox by Winthrop Rockefeller) stacked to the ceiling in every room of the house, including my cellar.”

“I’m glad you sent that,” Krassner replied. “I recalled arguing with Mae, trying to defend Bob and Tim, but she was too attached to her perception, which fit her own agenda.”

I wrote back: “Did you ever have the converse argument with Bob, defending Mae Brussell?”

“No,” he responded, “because I knew Wilson and Leary intimately, and I knew that Mae was wrong...for example, she convinced herself that the government helped Tim to escape, when actually it was the Weather Underground...since Bob defended Tim, Mae said he was brainwashed when  his whole philosophy was to avoid being brainwashed...I thought his response in Conspiracy Digest was a brilliant satirical approach, sort of like Stephen Colbert’s role-playing exaggeration of right-wing actions...”

“Oh, I knew you wouldn’t defend Brussell’s accusations against *them*,” I wrote back. “I just wondered whether you ever had a conversation with Bob (or for that matter Tim) in which you felt the need to say, ‘She does make some good points on some other subjects, though, such as...’”

Krassner’s answer: “yes, although that was in 1972”—that is, when he published Brussell’s first major Watergate article in The Realist. He added: “at that point, it was sharing, not defense—before she wrote that letter to Conspiracy Digest in ’77.”

Editor's Note: My sincere thanks to Jesse Walker, and again, don't miss his Reason interview with Krassner, which had more RAW material and much else of interest. His conspiracy book will interest many of you.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunday links

From the RAW Trust: "Everyone interprets Robert Anton Wilson in their own way."

Comic book panel on the 23 Enigma. 

Five books about immortality. I like Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld. Via Supergee, who just changed his password for his blog, and it's working out really swell.

Scott Horton on 2¾ Cheers for the New Quincy Institute. ("What if George Soros and Charles Koch teamed up to do a thing? Sounds pretty scary so far. What if the project was to build a new antiwar think tank in Washington with the financial backing to make a serious mark?") I'm following on Twitter and I've signed up on the email list.

"You don't always know which Orson Welles stories actually happened. But here, true or not, is the tale of the time he allegedly dined with Hitler."

"The White House garden had quite a different look during the Marianne Williamson presidency." 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

News from Eric Wagner, and from me

Ogden Newspapers owns a paper in Hawaii, but I have not been offered a transfer yet. 

1. News from Eric Wagner: A new edition of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson will be issued soon. This will be a text that's been updated from the original 2004 first edition. I will post more details when I have them.

2. News from me. As I believe I mentioned early, my newspaper has been purchased by Ogden Newspapers.  The official takeover by Ogden is August 1, but the new management already is in charge. The announced changes seem reasonable and I have been treated fairly.  I will stay as a newspaper reporter and I don't have to put my "losing my job" contingency plans into play. We can still serve Sandusky and the paper will remain strong.

As far as this blog goes, if I had lost my job, I would have had more spare time for awhile, and I might have been able to pursue projects for this blog that have been put off for lack of time. On the other hand, if I get to keep working in a profession I enjoy, I will be happy and that bodes well for the continuation of this website.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Another 'new' RAW interview

Thanks to Martin Wagner, we have another rediscovered interview with RAW, an interview in Fifth Path magazine published in 1991. Thanks again, Martin!

Quite a bit to enjoy; I had never heard of this planned play, for example:

Are you working on any plays?

Robert Anton Wilson: No, not right now. I’m writing two books and then I’ll be writing a play on the trial of William Penn who was the first rich man converted to Quakerism and he made so much trouble in England where Quakerism was illegal, that the King finally gave him a charter to establish a colony over here which became the state of Pennsylvania. But in England he was put on trial for preaching on the streets a religion contrary to the tenentes of the established Anglican Church. And he was guilty and the jury refused to convict him on the bases of the jury nullification I was talking about before. And so it went to the Tower of London for three months after which public opinion was so outraged that the judge reversed himself and admitted the jury had the right to nullify a law that they didn’t like. That was the beginning of the end for religious persecution in England.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

War on some drugs news

Hamilton Morris (from Twitter account)

Reason magazine's Nick Gillespie has an interview with Hamilton Morris, "the 32-year-old host of Hamilton's Pharmacopeia, a documentary series that has aired for two seasons on the Viceland cable channel. The show explores the variety of drugs that are available, how they work, and how we might best use them to fulfill our hopes and dreams." Gillespie says Morris is a "psychonaut," a term I learned reading Erik Davis' High Weirdness book. Davis labels Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick "psychonauts."

It's an interesting interview, not the same old, same old. Excerpt:

Q: What do you think of food writer Michael Pollan's How To Change Your Mind?

A: I was amazed by his restraint. He created this extremely palatable, sterile history of psychedelics where, if you read the book cover to cover, it's very hard for any reasonable person to think psychedelics are bad. So on that level, I think it's fantastic.

On a more pedantic level, I resent how much emphasis is placed on the clinical use of these things. They should be legal regardless of whether or not they're viable treatments for depression, or [obsessive-compulsive disorder], or anxiety, or end-of-life pain.

Also: Mark Kleiman has died. His book on marijuana, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, co-written with a couple of other authors, is very good. Jacob Sullum wrote a good piece about him. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Paul Krassner on RAW

Paul Krassner

Jesse Walker has responded to Paul Krassner's death by publishing a "Lost Interview" with Krassner, and some of the discussion is about serving as Robert Anton Wilson's editor.


Walker: What was the editorial process like with him?

Krassner: I would just tell him not to censor himself and hold back. If there was something I didn't understand, I would have to assume I was the common denominator of the reader, and so I would ask the most questions. I would have to look up words in the dictionary when I was reading his manuscript, and I figured the reader would have to look it up too if they didn't understand what it meant.

He would do a thing on Ezra Pound's poetry. And I really didn't quite understand it, but it was interesting that he could transcend the Nazi aspect of him and just deal with this poetry. Because he was a taboo, you know. So for me, it was like, "Can you separate art from the personality of the artist?" It's like Wagner.

More about RAW (and much else besides) at the link. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

RIP Paul Krassner [UPDATED]

New meme from Rasa

The New York Times obituary.

San Francisco Chronicle obituary.

Michael Johnson writes (to an email list, reprinted by permission):


"I loved this guy.

"So many stories.

"One night my wife and I went to go see him give a talk at the Midnight Special bookstore on the Santa Monica Promenade. His appearance wasn’t advertised very well, so there were only about 12 people who showed up. So he did his entire routine standing amongst us, as if we were all at a party. He interacted with us and improvised a lot. He was totally hilarious. I bought one of his books and asked him to sign it as if I had been there with him at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, so he did.

"Every time I had a Q that I thought he’d be able to help with, I emailed him and he was very gracious.

"The doing LSD with Groucho thing is something I’ve told a lot of people about, but they often didn’t believe me.

"Read him. In his many books he recycles his own stuff a lot, like RAW did, but I never minded. There was always enough new stuff to make me happy.

"I’ve recommended his autobio, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut to so many people and everyone has loved that book. I consider it essential for understanding the counterculture from 1960-80. His story about the San Francisco police riot on “White Night,” when protesters showed up on the streets of SF, angry that Dan White’s “twinkie defense” worked, is harrowing. Paul wasn’t doing anything violent, but some cop beat on his leg so bad he walked with a limp the rest of his life.

"Paul took pride in never doing any legal drugs. I’m not sure how his last few years went, but who really cares?

"Bless him and Dove sta memoria. He gave RAW a huge break."

UPDATE: Steve Fly writes about Krassner. 

For more RAW connection, see my two previous blog posts. One of my earlier posts on Krassner. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

UPDATE: Paul Krassner has died

UPDATE: Mr. Krassner died Sunday, age 87. More Monday.

I have other things to get to, but let's stay on Paul Krassner for a moment; he's worth it.

As I wrote yesterday, Paul Krassner reportedly is in hospice care and won't be with us much longer. The sad news in the Tweet is from Mondo 2000, a must-follow Twitter account.

Branka Tesla wrote in a comment, "Paul Krassner wrote an Afterword for Robert Anton Wilson's last published book - Email to the Universe - and he made me burst with laughter when I read his last sentence "May he rest in lasagna."

Thank you Branka. She's referring to the new Hilaritas Press edition.

Speaking of Hilaritas Press, the above meme from the RAW Trust was Tweeted on July 17, with a followup Tweet the same day explaining, "It is (pardon the E-Prime) Paul Krassner behind Bob."

Jesse Walker wrote, on Twitter, "Sad news. Paul isn't just a talented satirist; he's one of the menschiest writers I've had the privilege of knowing." Arthur Hlavaty on his blog wrote, "It all started with The Realist. Editor Paul Krassner was brilliantly witty and cynical, and the zine also introduced me to Robert Anton Wilson and Albert Ellis, among others."

Krassner was the mentor for Bob Abel, the book editor who launched Robert Anton Wilson's (and Robert Shea's) career.  Paul Krassner was kind enough to help me when I wrote that article.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Paul Krassner is in hospice care

Paul Krassner in 2009 (Creative Commons photo)

from Mondo 2000 on Twitter: "The great Paul Krassner is in hospice and will be leaving us. He's been a great friend to Mondo and to me and to many others and one of the funniest and kindest people on earth. A cultural hero."

Krassner is a very funny writer and an influential editor, but RAW fans particularly should appreciate him.

In an introduction to "Three Articles from the Realist" in Wilson's essay collection, Coincidance, Wilson explains, "Paul Krassner's iconoclastic journal, The Realist, has published more of my writings than any other American magazine, and there was a period in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I might have given up writing entirely if Paul had not gone on publishing my work. I think everybody in the 'counterculture' owes a great debt to Paul Krassner, but I perhaps owe him more than anyone else."

Here is a Krassner piece published in Variety just a few days ago.

Friday, July 19, 2019

My Tarot reading, using PKD cards

When I'm not trying to explain to my friend Ted Hand that RAW's libertarianism is a feature not a bug, we often chat on Twitter and elsewhere about RAW-related and cultural matters.

Ted has been offering Tarot readings for $10, using the new Philip K. Dick Tarot cards he helped create. My newspaper has just been sold to a new owner, Ogden Newspapers, so I'm going through a period of transition. In the mood for input and willing to experiment, I paid him for a reading. When I got the results, I realized that I'm currently reading the PKD section of Erik Davis' new High Weirdness book, a mild synchronicity.

Above are the three cards he drew, and here is his reading:

Here's your PKD Tarot reading. Cut off in the corner is the phrase "issues of scale can also be (a matter of) point of view," which is interesting given your situation with the paper being sold.

Indicator card is Joe Chip from Ubik, the quintessential PKD "small protagonist" who gets a sort of gnostic message from graffiti on the bathroom wall. That feels like some kind of a comment on your seeking out a Tarot reading!

Past card is Four of Swords, "The War with the Fnools." On the side of the cards is the I Ching correlation, interesting that it's minor setback. I'd take that as encouraging.

Future card is "The Dark Haired Girl" which is in traditional tarot the High Priestess, representing intuition or divine inspiration.

Joe Chip correlates with Hanged Man, which represents a situation of stuckness and/or self sacrifice. Can indicate something needs changing in your life or your approach.

Four of Swords in traditional Tarot is Truce.  Can indicate things having been brought to a resting point. Like once a problem has been solved. 

There's some kind of weird allegory about "the changes in the media business" here. I'm also seeing some play on that in Joe Chip's "impossible message." Doing journalism is such a challenging task in this brave new world.

 Dominance of Trumps in a reading indicate "forces beyond your control." So I'm seeing a pointer toward the goddess figure within, the Jungian anima.  There is an opportunity here to open yourself to some strange new ideas.

I guess my advice would be to keep seeking out ways to engage the "lunar consciousness" of weird intuition. Gaze at the moon, get high, find some spooky music. Dip into the irrational.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The 'dark side of Maybe Logic'?

Ted Hand, left, hanging out with me in Sandusky in 2018. 

Ted Hand launched a big discussion on Twitter a couple of days ago by arguing that some of RAW's work has not held up well in the current political climate, specifically the interest RAW focused on conspiracy theories. Ted argues that the alt right/racist right have used  conspiracy theories as a recruiting tool.

There's a danger I'll misrepresent him if I don't quote everything he said, but here are a couple of representative comments from Ted, and you can go to Twitter and read more:

"Chatting with @mitdasein I realize my attitude about "Fringe research" has changed a lot since my RAW boyhood. I used to think a lot of that stuff had serious intentions but was marginalized. Now I see much of it is racist conspiracy theory. TLDR:  Pizzagate ain't Fortean."

And "Lots of RAW has aged poorly, but his methodological agnosticism can be helpful. It's just a bit obsolete, and in practice it's problematic. Look at all the Jordan Peterson fans on RAW boards parroting stuff abut reality tunnels as if they were epistemologically savvy..."

Some of the thread is here, but you'll have to go beyond it.

Some of the folks weighing in include Erik Davis, John Higgs, Cat Vincent, uel aramchek and Semiotic Stochastic. Bobby Campbell, writing at the @RAWilson23 account (a must-follow for RAW fans) writes, "It's strangely cathartic to read such undeniably valid criticisms of ideas I help propagate. Very many thanks for helping to elucidate the dark side of Maybe Logic."

John wrote about similar issues with his "Operation Mindfix" piece in 2017. He comments, "Reading that back, I'm struck by how the notion that the certain and the alt-right are the only people who can never escape from Chapel Perilous stands up well in light of the whole Qanon thing."

Ted also has issues with RAW's alleged "right libertarianism. " I didn't post much on the conspiracy theory stuff, but I did push back against what I think is the exaggerated notion that RAW was right libertarian; I suggested instead that his attitude toward feminism is more problematic. I got some support from Erik Davis on the libertarianism observation  and on the feminism comment.  (For my money, RAW often but not always combines the best libertarian and left ideas, but Ted complains, "RAW spent a lot of writing hours writing right wing libertarian propaganda that makes perfectly sensible left wing ideas sound ridiculous to bigots." )

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.