Friday, December 13, 2019

About the TV series announcement

Robert Anton Wilson. (From the "lost photos.") 

A couple of thoughts on Wednesday's big announcement about the planned Illuminatus! TV series. (As a rule, I do one posting a day here, but decided to do Thursday's announcement early, on Wednesday night to get the news out.)

1. The announcement is apparently the result of years of patient work; see this Tweet, from @amoebadesign, e.g Scott McPherson who does the Hilaritas Press covers, "We've had to keep this secret for 5 years, but stage one is now complete. Illuminatus! Trilogy TV."

I know little about Kallisti beyond what's in the press release referenced above, but see this previous post.  Good for Kallisti.

2. Can RAW fans claim a little credit for the announcement?

Robert Anton Wilson has been dead for more than 10 years. He never had a bestseller. He never figured out how to get on TV very often (one national TV appearance that I know of, pinch hitting fot Timothy Leary on the "Politically Incorrect" TV show). He never got much support from the literary establishment, i.e. book review publications, book sections of newspapers such as the "New York Times," attention from English professors, and so on.

What he HAS had going for him, even posthumously, was a grassroots network of fans and admirers keeping his name out there. It's a pretty good story, even if it's been ignored so far by the New York Times and National Public Radio, and perhaps that support was useful in getting the project off the ground.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Illuminatus! TV series announced

A TV and movie production company with an excellent track record has announced plans to produce a TV series of Illuminatus!

Of course, you never know about this sort of announcement, but what makes this big news is Hivemind has completed many projects including The Expanse, a Hugo Award winning science fiction series. The Illuminatus! series is a collaboration between Hivemind and Kallisti, a suggestively-named company associated with amoeba.

Rasa reports Kallisti had been secretly working on the project for some time. The RAW Trust got the first inquiry from Hunter Gorinson of Hivemind just over a year ago.

"That seemed like perfect timing as Kallisti was just nearing that point in their development where they could use Hunter’s expertise. The Expanse from Hivemind is one of my favorite sci-fi dramas in recent years. I immediately gave Christina my thumbs up on that connection," Rasa said.

"RAW saw several unsuccessful attempts to get Illuminatus! to the screen. This latest effort seems like it has genuine traction!" Rasa said.

                                                                                                      -- Tom

Here is the complete official press release:

Hivemind & Brian Taylor Conspire to Bring THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY to Television
Subversive and Influential Sci-Fi Franchise Coming to TV from Showrunner of HAPPY! and Producers of Sony’s BLOODSHOT and Netflix’s THE WITCHER

LOS ANGELES, CA–  December 11, 2019 – Hivemind today announced that it has partnered with writer/director Brian Taylor (HAPPY!, CRANK) and European production company Kallisti for a new television series based on THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY – the hugely influential science-fiction franchise created by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea that first introduced the concept of "the Illuminati" into the popular consciousness, while simultaneously fueling, deconstructing, and skewering America's modern-day obsession with conspiracy theories.

When the offices of a Manhattan news publisher are bombed, anti-authority reporter George Dorn begins to suspect that the disturbing conspiracy his editor has spent months investigating is not only real, it might be the key to unlocking all of history’s greatest unanswered mysteries. As George sets out to find his mentor and uncover the truth about an all-seeing secret society that seems to unify every insane, inane, and outlandish conspiracy theory ever told – from the JFK assassination, celebrity cabals and lost continents to UFOs, ancient gods and the truth about the New World Order – he finds himself drawn deeper into a war between two shadowy groups. On one side stand the Discordians, a clandestine band of chaos-loving guerrilla fighters led by the enigmatic modern-day pirate Hagbard Celine; and on the other, the Illuminati – elite authoritarians who secretly manipulate world events, ever expanding their wealth, influence, and physical power in a plot to escape the limitations of human existence.

ILLUMINATUS! will be executive produced by Dinesh Shamdasani and Hunter Gorinson for Hivemind, and Iris McPherson and Kirstin Winkler for Kallisti. Taylor will serve as executive producer and showrunner.

“ILLUMINATUS! is a kind of mind-blowing literary miracle…  It manages to be completely seminal while as relevant today – if not more so – than the day it was published,” said Taylor. “Wilson and Shea have created a fractal-like world of conspiracy inside conspiracy that completely anticipates today’s internet-fueled, Post-Truth culture.”

A globetrotting science-fiction/conspiracy thriller laced with subversive humor, ILLUMINATUS! was first published in 1975 at the height of post-Watergate paranoia and has remained in print ever since.  Often ranked alongside Frank Herbert's DUNE, Douglas Adams' HITCHHIKERS’ GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and William Gibson's NEUROMANCER as one of the most influential and obsessively followed pieces of cult science fiction ever produced, references and allusions to the series have turned up everywhere from John Carpenter's THEY LIVE to ABC's LOST with high-profile creators such as Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, George Carlin, Damon Lindelof, Grant Morrison, and more citing the series as an inspiration and influence.

Celebrated as a “mind-twisting science fiction…classic for more than 30 years” by the New York Times, “the ultimate conspiracy book” by the Village Voice, and the “New Testament” of the American counterculture underground by Vice, ILLUMINATUS! has spawned nearly a dozen sequels and spin-offs, along with comic books, stage plays, radio productions, role-playing games, and more based on the original trilogy. In recent years, Kallisti has also developed an immersive ILLUMINATUS! VR experience, exploring series’ many iconic characters and settings, that has exhibited at numerous arts and technology events in the United States and Europe.

“Since acquiring the rights to this wild and unique series, we have been working on an immersive experience around THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY and are thrilled to bring this beloved story to television. We couldn’t think of more ideal partners than Brian Taylor and Hivemind. The themes of this cult classic are more current than ever today, and we cannot wait to bring it to life,” said Kallisti partners Iris McPherson and Kirstin Winkler.

"The series' staggering influence has only continued to grow with each passing year not just because it explores and indulges the most compelling depths of America's conspiratorial imagination, but because it also gives us the tools and knowledge to understand it. If there was ever a series primed for 21st century television, it's ILLUMINATUS!” said Hunter Gorinson, Hivemind’s VP of Brand & Content Strategy.

ILLUMINATUS! will mark Taylor’s next television project following HAPPY!, based on the Image Comics series and starring Christopher Meloni and Patton Oswalt, alongside left-field guest appearances by Jeff Goldblum, Ann-Margret, and musicians “Weird” Al Yankovic and Amanda Palmer. The series recently concluded its acclaimed run on Syfy with an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score for its final season. Taylor and Grant Morrison’s reimagining of Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD is currently shooting for USA Network in London.

To be produced in collaboration with Kallisti, ILLUMINATUS! marks a major new addition to Hivemind’s rapidly expanding roster of high-profile film and television projects, which also includes Amazon's acclaimed science-fiction series THE EXPANSE, which was recently renewed for a fifth season in advance of the fourth's December 13th debut; Netflix's much-anticipated adaptation of THE WITCHER starring Henry Cavill, debuting December 20th; and Sony Pictures’ feature film BLOODSHOT, starring Vin Diesel and Guy Pearce, in theaters February 21st, 2020.

Taylor is represented by Verve Talent & Literary Agency. Hivemind is represented by UTA.



Founded in 2018, Hivemind is dedicated to partnering with high-level creative talent and globally recognized intellectual properties from the worlds of science fiction, fantasy, horror, comic books, video games, anime, and more. The company's current projects include the acclaimed science-fiction series THE EXPANSE, now in its fourth season, for Amazon and Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of THE WITCHER starring Henry Cavill for Netflix, as well as this summer’s SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK feature film from CBS Films and next year’s BLOODSHOT feature film, starring Vin Diesel, from Sony Pictures. Hivemind has a first-look deal with Amazon Studios for event television, and its leadership team includes former Universal Pictures president Sean Daniel, his producing partner Jason Brown, Bad Robot veteran Kathy Lingg, and former Valiant Entertainment CEO & Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani. Visit them online at


Kallisti is an independent creative content studio that specializes in traditional, interactive and immersive storytelling. Since acquiring the film, television and interactive rights to THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY, Kallisti has been working on an interactive VR experience with creative direction from UK design studio amoeba. A demo VR experience based on these seminal works received rave reviews at the Rotterdam Film Festival’s Cinemart and at New Orleans Game Fete. Kallisti partners Iris McPherson, whose UK film-marketing company Filmtiki was involved in the marketing campaigns of tentpole movies such as THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, BATTLE LA and ANONYMOUS and Kirstin Winkler, an LA-based producer and former EVP of Centropolis Entertainment (10,000 BC, 2012, ANONYMOUS) will be overseeing the creative process for the studio.

Holiday shopping news update, Eric Wagner edition [UPDATE]

Eric Wagner, right, hanging out with composer and jazz musician Anthony Braxton. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Although Dec. 11 was the publication date for the new edition as of Tuesday, when this post was written, Eric has been informed by his publisher today that the new edition is still in production. The new version is definitely worth waiting for; I will let you know when it's available. -- The Management. 

The new edition of Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson was released today. Eric says it is a revised third edition. 

This is a major update of Eric's guide to RAW's work, with many changes and additions:

• Five new appendices: "Afterwords of a Cosmic Schmuck," "Eight Ways to Listen to Beethoven," "On Robert Anton Wilson and Misunderstanding Finnegans Wake," "Reich...Bruno Leary...Pound" and "Ode to Joy."

• Many updates and corrections in the text, including new entries for Beyond Chaos and Beyond and Robert Anton Wilson: Beyond Conspiracy Theory. 

• New illustrations by Bobby Campbell.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

RAW on UFOs and conspiracy theories

Martin Wagner's latest rediscovery, "The Unconscious Conspiracy," is quite interesting, about the UFO phenomena, conspiracy theories and more. Good for Martin. A bit of it:

Every conspiracy, I feel, regards itself as an affinity group—a gang of men and women who think alike, share common goals, and work together well. If you and I are doing it. it is, by God, just an affinity group. When that gang over there does it, it’s a damnable conspiracy.

True conspiracy does exist, of course, when a group conceals evidence, spreads deliberate misinformation, and coerces or terrorizes witnesses. Any affinity group, however, approaches such behavior to the extent that the members reinforce each other’s prejudices, especially concerning such crucial epistemological issues as what is important enough to notice and discuss as against what is trivial and better ignored. As Nietzsche said in this connection, we are all better artists than we realize—especially when we unite to promote a given viewpoint. How coercive do you have to be before you have actually intimidated a witness? Most people, as numerous experiments have shown, are very easily manipulated into saying what an Authority Figure seems to want to hear.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Staten Island ferry disaster

The above image shows a sculpture in Manhattan memorializing the Staten Island ferry disaster of Nov. 22, 1963, when an entire ferry full of people was pulled beneath the saves by a creature with giant tentacles. The terrible tragedy is usually blamed on a gigantic octopus, but readers of H.P. Lovecraft or Illuminatus! probably have a more clear idea of what really happened. It's been explained that you've never heard of this because news coverage was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy on the same day. See this "documentary." 

Via the 2019 Advent Calendar of Curiousities, which I found out from RAW fan Mark Frauenfelder in the Recomendo newsletter. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Widow's Son Reading Group, Week Sixteen

A representation of man placed between the Macrocosm and Microcosm from the works of Robert Fludd

Week Fifteen (pg. 261-274 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 3&4, Part Three,  all editions)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Chapter 3 begins with three more disreputable, desperate men discussing the planned assassination of Sigismundo and Pierre. Pierre is still alive! Hooray -- and he seems to have learned his lesson about being directly involved with “wetwork,” even if he hasn’t found a more reputable career. While Henri, who seems to have taken the place of Lucien as the overconfident lieutenant, points out that Sigismundo is bound to be unarmed, hungry, and tired, only Louis is astounded by his feat of making it out of the Bastille. None of them seem to consider that the abilities of one who could do such a thing might still be a match for would-be assassins, even if they happened to be unarmed, hungry, and tired. (Circumstances that might make them all the more dangerous -- and I doubt that the three men here are much more well-fed or well-rested than Sigismundo.)

As in the beginning we are also taken into the confident ponderings of Lt. Sartines who is puzzling over what appears to be a record of memberships in a secret society similar to the one proposed in Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Before going over some of the names on the list I’d like to say that the line “[t]he secret usually turned out to be a Hebrew or Arabic word that meant nothing to anyone but a mystic” made me laugh.

Either the Author or Sartines is mistaken about the parentage of Charles Radclyffe. He was not the illegitimate child of Charles II but rather his mother, Lady Mary Tudor, was a natural child of James and the actress Moll Davis. Radclyffe was raised in the Court-in-Exile of the Stuarts as a companion of James II’s son James Francis Edward, the Old Pretender who led the Fifteen, and participated in Charles Edward’s invasion, the Forty Five. He has been tied to various conspiracies and named as one of the possible Past Masters of the Priory of Sion.

Both Isaac Newton, whose reputation at this point in history (18th Century) would be analogous to the present day reputation of Einstein, and Robert Boyle are claimed as members of whatever Sartines is examining. Newton and Boyle are similar as both are respected a historical founders of modern science yet both were enthusiastic alchemists and theologians. (Always worth pointing out that Science is directly descended from Magic, same as Religion.) Johann Valentin Andrea was a German theologian who is often assumed to be the author (on his own claims) of The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, the third Rosicrucian Manifesto which was radically different than the first two in so far as it was pure allegory. Andrea also wrote the philosophical romance Christianopolis which is a similar work to Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis.

Robert Fludd was an early scientist but one whose famous contributions to Science are limited to his arguments with Kepler. Fludd was much more prolific on the occult end of things and was an active participant in the Rosicrucian conspiracy/brotherhood/joke/hoax. His works are known for their lush illustrations, which are still reproduced in many books on mysticism and alchemy, and his defense of occult traditions. His enthusiasm for Qabalah, astrology, Rosicrucianism, neo-Platonism, and alchemy led to many criticisms from his contemporaries. Kepler accused him of being a theosophist in his letters, an assertion that appears historically accurate. Another commentator claims that Fludd did a lot to free occult philosophy from Aristotalean thinking which is something I would imagine old RAW, no friend of “the Master of Those Who Know,” would appreciate.

Both members of the Gonzaga family of Northern Italy mentioned here have been posited as former Masters of the Priory. Louis, better known by the Latinate form of his name Aloysius de Gonzaga, is also a Saint of the Catholic Church. The rule of the Gonzaga family in Mantua would have come to an end only a half century before the present narrative. Connetable de Bourbon, better known as Charles III Duke of Bourbon and Montpensier, seems to have been mostly interested in soldiery during his lifetime and is naturally named as a Past Master of the Priory in many other documents.

The next name on the list, you guessed it: Frank Stallone.

Sartines goes on to ruminate on Poussin’s troublesome painting which has lately been in the possession of Louis XV.

The next chapter is fast paced as letters fly back and forth discussing Sigismundo’s whereabouts and different schemes are playing out to claim him. Signor Duccio seems like Sigismundo’s best hope of escape from Paris but Sigismundo seems to reward his efforts with a punch in the gut. I believe the “P” sending communiques to the Duc de Chartres is Pierre who seems to still be the coordinating agent for the wetwork crew. Cagliostro seems smug and to be on top of matters, an attitude and circumstance I believe doesn’t change until the end of Nature’s God. We end this week’s reading with Sigismundo in a courtyard of unsold angels, confronted by the assassins from chapter three.

From Eric: “I thought of Bach’s Goldberg Variations this week, and then I thought, no, it doesn’t seem operatic enough for all this action. Then I thought of the use of the Goldberg Variations in Silence of the Lambs.”

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Two Oz Fritz interviews

Oz Fritz working with the band Achilles Wheel. Photo by John Taber.

Grammy Award winning sound engineer Oz Fritz, who frequently comments on this site, is featured in two recent podcasts, Oz announced on his blog.

The first is an appearance on the Jai Dev show. "The content of the interview weaves biographical information alongside a discussion of music and mysticism put into practical use and expression.  This gives a rare look into the mystical side of my  musical journey."

You can follow a streaming link from Oz' post, but it's also available as an Apple Podcast, including from Android apps that can access the Apple store; I've downloaded it to my Android phone using my Podkicker app, and I'll listen to it Monday, when I have a long commute to work. About an hour and a half long.

The other interview is for the Thursday with Xaxx show, and it's a video interview by life coach Paula Galindo, Mr. Fritz' girlfriend. "This interview largely concerns my approaches and uses to some of the spiritual technologies unleashed by E. J. Gold with a touch of  Crowley and Gurdjieff thrown in for good measure." Follow the link from Oz' post or go here; the interview starts at about 5:20.

Here is an Oz Fritz bio and interview from my blog.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The war on chronic pain patients

Kate Nicholson

[With permission from my boss, here is a recent story from my day job as a reporter for the Sandusky Register. I think the problems of chronic pain patients as a result of the "war on some drugs" is an underreported story in this country. See also this related story on the problems of chronic pain patients in the Sandusky, Ohio, area. For background, see Jeffrey Singer at the Cato Institute here and here.  Dr. Singer and Ms. Nicholson are both on Twitter. -- The Management]

SANDUSKY -- Day after day, emails from desperate chronic pain patients fill up the inbox of Colorado civil rights attorney Kate Nicholson.

“I’ve gotten 10 this morning,” Nicholson said during an October speech at a Washington, D.C., think tank.

She then gave examples of the kinds of emails she receives.

“I am a pain patient who can no longer get treatment for my pain caused by a spinal cord injury,” wrote one. “I do not want to (end) my life. I want to live. I want to see and hold my grandson. If I cannot get help from someone, somewhere, I will not be here next week.”

“My brother passed away,” another person wrote. “Over the last year, his doctors began to significantly cut down his pain medication. He was truly at the end of his rope.”

Nicholson gets many emails from chronic pain patients and their relatives after her own experiences turned her into a national spokeswoman on their behalf. In a telephone interview with the Register, she said she probably gets a half-dozen emails or phone calls every day.

She said the emails she quoted in her talk, given at the Cato Institute, are typical.

“They are complete strangers. They are all desperate,” Nicholson said.

“Sometimes it’s family members who have lost someone to suicide,” she said. “I’ve been getting these emails for the last two years.”

Nicholson is particularly known for her TED talk, “What We Lose When We Undertreat Pain,” an 11-minute speech available on YouTube that she gave in October 2017.

The Register contacted Nicholson because the cases she describes resemble many local cases the newspaper has covered.

The Register has interviewed many pain patients using opioid prescriptions who were former patients of Dr. William Bauer. They have said they turned to Bauer after other local doctors turned their backs and would not treat them.

Bauer was forced to give up his Sandusky practice after the U.S. attorney’s office indicted him this year on 270 federal charges, claiming he improperly prescribed pain medication. His case is pending in federal court. The prosecutor who brought the charges, Northern Ohio U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman, has ignored interview requests from the Register.

Herdman’s office has refused to provide any information about what sparked the investigation of Bauer, what basis was used for determining prescription levels were unlawful and other information about how the investigation was conducted.

In her TED talk, Nicholson describes how she was a successful civil rights attorney when she suddenly began suffering intense pain, which was the result of botched spine surgery. The pain was so bad it threatened to destroy her career, but she resisted taking opioid pain pills until all other treatments failed.

“Out of options, I surrendered and swallowed the pills. And then something remarkable happened. I improved. I felt relief. I wasn’t foggy. Space opened in my mind, and I could work again. And so I worked as a federal prosecutor, for more than 20 years,” she told her Boulder, Colorado, audience.

Nicholson said although she still struggled to sit or stand or walk, she was able to work with the help of the pain pills and negotiated groundbreaking settlements against the San Francisco Giants and 49ers sports teams and the Walt Disney Co. She won important court cases arguing from a folding law chair.

Eventually, after being in severe pain for about 20 years, Nicholson found a mix of treatments that relieved her pain enough to allow her to stop using high-powered pain medications. In her recent taped talks, she appears able to stand and move around normally.

But she remains sympathetic to chronic pain patients who say they need opioid medications.

“Opioids were essential,” she said.

And under current federal government rules, she’d be classified as an abuser, Nicholson said.

“You’re looking at someone who for years was an ‘overutilizer’ for most of my career,” she said.

Nicholson said she cannot comment on Sandusky doctor William Bauer’s case, as it is an ongoing legal matter and she doesn’t know the evidence.

But she said such prosecutions have an impact on doctors, who become fearful of treating patients, and on chronic pain patients looking for treatment.

In her TED talk, she described the chilling effect on doctors in Boulder who were afraid to prescribe opioids after a well-respected local physician prescribed to an undercover agent posing as a pain patient. Her doctor suddenly announced one day that she would no longer prescribe opioids. Nicholson was forced to fly back to Washington, D.C., to get treatment.

It was inconvenient, but she could afford it, she related.

“What happens to people who can’t?” she asked.

In her Cato talk, Nicholson quoted a doctor from a Human Rights Watch report who explained why he wouldn’t care for patients who needed treatment.

“I turn away new patients. These are folks whose records checked out, they are good citizens,” the doctor said. “But I can’t afford to burn down my life and lose my license.”

Nathan Sanger, a chronic pain patient in Norwalk, described in an August interview with the Register what happened when the government shut down Bauer’s practice, forcing Sanger to go to his family doctor for help.

The doctor turned Sanger away. Sanger said the doctor, worried about being targeted by prosecutors, told Sanger he’d like to help, “but I don’t want to lose my license. I want to practice for at least 15 years.”

She told her audience at the Cato seminar that patients denied legal medication may feel forced to turn to illegal drugs, putting them in danger of the drug overdoses that federal prosecutions purportedly are trying to prevent.

“I’ve heard from people who turned to the illegal market,” she told the Register.

Nicholson spends much of her time as a spokesman and advocate for chronic pain patients.

“I’ve really been working at trying to get some relief for patients,” she said.

Note: Kate Nicholson’s TED talk is available on YouTube. Her presentation before the Cato Institute on the effect on patients and doctors of prescription drug monitoring programs is available at; Nicholson, the second presenter at the conference, begins talking about 22 minutes into the video. She’s on Twitter: @speakingabtpain.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thursday links

Ramez Naam, optimist and clean energy promoter. 

Free advice from shrinks. (Via Supergee).

Tweet thread on the John Higgs book about the KLF and Robert Anton Wilson. 

How to help with climate change. I'm a Ramez Naam fan for all kinds of reasons.

Ted Gioia's list of the 100 best recordings of 2019 (wide range of genres, lots of fairly obscure, indy stuff.)

Reason's 2019 gift guide.  Featuring Jesse Walker and other interesting folks.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Not from Illuminatus!

Purported UFO in Passaic, N.J. in 1952. Public domain photo via Wikipedia. 

"You might already be following the Navy UFO thing: over the past few years, the Navy has encouraged its pilots to come forward with UFO accounts, signal-boosted the reports, and sponsored UFO research organizations, as if they’re trying to stoke interest for some reason. Now the plot gets weirder: a Navy scientist has filed a patent for a quantum superconducter antigravity drive capable of UFO-like feats of impossible aeronautics. When the Patent Office rejected it as outlandish, the Chief Technical Officer of naval aviation personally wrote the Patent Office saying it was totally possible and a matter of national security, after which the Patent Office relented and granted the patent. The patent thanks UFO researchers in the acknowledgements, includes a picture of a UFO recently sighted by Navy pilots, and does everything short of print in capital letters ‘THIS COMES FROM A UFO’. Scientists who were asked to comment say the proposed drive is “babble” and none of the supposed science checks out at all. Has the Navy fallen victim to conspiracy-peddlers, are they deliberately trying to stoke conspiracy theories for some reason, or what?"

From the new links post at the Slate Star Codex blog. Lots of other good stuff; blogger Scott Alexander always finds good links.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Holiday shopping news roundup

The Robert Anton Wilson Trust announces (on Twitter): "We just made some long awaited changes to the RAW CafePress shop. Avoid the fnords! Shop for genuine RAW lasagna." You can get tile coasters, coffee mugs, tote bags, t-shirts and other goods with quotations from RAW or other references to him.

I asked John Higgs if his latest full length tome, The Future Starts Here: Adventures in the Twenty-First Century, or his new William Blake book, William Blake Now: Why He Matters More Than Ever is about to become available in the U.S. The answer is, not yet. "There's still no US publisher interested in those books alas, so yes they are only available from the UK. Perhaps the 2020s is when I'll find an American publisher who gets me."

However, any of John's books published only in Britain can be ordered from outlets such as the Book Depository (free worldwide delivery) or from Amazon. I've asked my wife to give me a copy of The Future Starts Here, just as I used Christmas last year to take possession of Watling Street. 

I also asked John about whether The Widow's Son may have inspired the Leary escape scene in his Timothy Leary biography, I Have America Surrounded, and whether Leary's escape could have inspired Sigismundo's escape from the Bastille in The Widow's Son (as Gregory Arnott discussed in a recent blog post.) 

John replied, "No, I still haven't read The Widow's Son, I'm ashamed to say, although I'll get to it sooner rather than later as I loved The Earth Will Shake. I based my description of Leary's prison break primarily on his description of it from Confessions of a Hope Fiend (and a few other sources to correct the deliberate untruths included to protect those involved from the police). RAW would certainly have read the same book, and heard the tale from Tim, by the time he wrote Widow's Son, so the influence seems likely."

Monday, December 2, 2019

Steve Moore's 'Somnium'

The late Steve Moore's fantasy novel Somnium came out in 2011, so of course Robert Anton Wilson never got a chance to read it. But I have noticed that many RAW fans, including me, are fans of the book. I read it a couple of months ago when I was on vacation, and I want to give it a few words here.

Somnium is narrated by a writer in the early 19th century in London who is enamored of the moon and of paganism. Part of the book is a narrative of the writer's present, including his relationships with various women, which in large part may exist only in his head, and parts are a narrative about another person, also enamored of the moon, who lives in Elizabethan times. There are also suggestions that the narrator was himself created by a writer in the future, evidently Steve Moore.

As the novel advances, it becomes harder to figure out what is actually happening and what is in the narrator's imagination. All of this makes it sound like the book is a difficult read, but it actually flows quite well and is a lot of fun.

The book is erotic without being sexually explicit and Moore seems to have a particular fascination with women's breasts. This does not exactly make him an outlier among heterosexual males, but the obsession is rather striking

There's quite a bit about Moore in John Higgs' book Watling Street. Somnium also  is a favorite of Gregory Arnott, who helped turn me on to it, and Alan Moore has an afterward in my edition of the book and calls it a "masterpiece." I listed the book in my recent ten best SF and fantasy books of the last decade list. I do have the feeling that despite the efforts of the book's fans, it has not attracted the attention that it should.

I read the book in a very handsome edition, pictured above, put out by Strange Attractor Press, a publisher with a website that's worth checking out.

Steve Moore, who died in 2014, was a prolific comics writer; Wikipedia has a nicely-done biography. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Fifteen

“The worst that had ever been said about Old Kyte was that, many years ago, she had led peasant dances in the woods on May Eve, which some of the Methodists and Ranters had called licentious.”

Week Fifteen (pg. 237-260 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 1&2 Part III all editions) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger 

While staying in my home town over the Thanksgiving holiday, I picked up my relatively old New Falcon edition of The Widow’s Son  to read over this week’s material. When I came home and picked up my Hilaritas edition I was struck by how much Bobby Campbell improved his already excellent illustrations. I’m particularly referencing the illustration that kicks off Part III and incorporates Poussin.

This Part of the novel begins with a quotation from Pound’s Cantos, one of RAW’s favorite works, specifically the section written while Pound was imprisoned for his radio broadcasts against the Allies in Italy. During this part of the poem Pound identifies with Odysseus as Oytis or “no man” (You can also spell it Outis and translate it as “no one” which is one of our cats’ names.) but by this point is beginning to feel after a state of permanence. The next line continues “fire must destroy himself ere others destroy him,” which certainly fits in with the themes of transformation that we’ve been reading about in the narrative. The Canto continues and speaks of a city, Hooo Fassa, destroyed and rebuilt four times before being built in the “mind indestructible” guarded with “the four giants at the four corners” and “a terrace the colour of stars.” From the commentaries I looked at Hooo Fassa seems to be a mixture of Mencius’ philosophy that the mind responsible for its own destruction can be responsible for its rebirth and the Ghanan myth of Wagadu, a divine spirit that inhabited the city of the same same that was destroyed four times; since Wagadu existed in the minds of the people she was able to rebuild her city a fifth time under the name Fasa. (Wagadou was the proper name of the old Ghanan Empire as well.) So self-transformation and life-death-rebirth served all around. We’ll encounter a set of the four giants soon enough.

Old Kyte is a walking caricature of the shaky beliefs in a contiguous pagan tradition continuing throughout the Christian era in Europe and late twentieth century women’s mysteries- a term Maria uses to describe what Kyte has been teaching her during the initial process of her labour. She also serves as an example of the difference between the Matrist/Patrist mindsets that RAW likes to ruminate upon. She is drawn up in Sir John’s mind as the opposite of Dr. Coali who represents rationality, science, and the “man’s way” of handling childbirth. Because RAW is obviously sympathetic for the “woman’s way” of childbirth this is an inversion of the Masonic themes found in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” where the noble, masculine Sarastro triumphs over the dark, feminine Queen of Night. These ideas are especially interesting during a time in our U.S. society where midwives and doulas seem to be making a comeback and women’s bodies are seemingly heading towards the Supreme Court in the near future.

As a reminder that none of the Christian sects are innocent, RAW introduces a dissenter priest who tried, and failed, to run Old Kyte out of Lousewartshire.

The Matrist, earthy, “primitive” sides of Mistress Kyte are further illustrated as John ruminates on how she looks medieval compared to the setting of a “modern” bedroom, and by her Shakespearean use of piss and shit instead of the Norman/higher class terms for excretion. Of course she works with herbs and a dispenses an herbal drug- what else could one expect? This fascination with the use of dangerous herbs and wise women comes up repeatedly in RAW’s work- in Sex, Drugs, and Magick he recommends that the reader check out John Dickson Carr’s The Crooked Hinge for the inclusion of old witchery as part of the plot. (I read it years ago and really enjoyed it. It’s also a perfectly bizarre story in and of itself.) She also has Maria panting before contractions which is reminiscent of the tantric practice of “the breathe of fire” which RAW’s gives instructions for in Sex, Drugs, and Magick.

Kyte also calls upon four cardinal spirits to guard the room and the childbirth. These are further variations on the four archangels like the ones used by the Carbonari in The Earth Will Shake. Unlike the spirits called upon by Sigismundo’s father, which can be traced to the factitious Aradia: or, The Witch’s Gospel, the spirits called upon by Kyte seem to have been RAW’s invention. Sir John identifies Bride as Brigit in his own thoughts after Maria asks where she gets the names from. Robin is probably Robin Goodfellow, another name for Puck, but paired with Marian immediately brings Robin Hood and Maid Marian to mind as well. Marian could also be a form of the Virgin and Orfee is most likely a representation of Orpheus who has somehow ended up being part of an ancient Celtic tradition here. Side and Sidhe are the same and both are described as different places, different times, or different dimensions. Sidhe here has a lot in common with the notion of Magonia. John’s inner commentary illustrates the further themes of syncretization as he notices similarities between Kyte’s philosophy and Platonism as well as the dual use of the term “the Craft.” We can assume that Charles Putney Drake, the Worshipful Master of John’s Lodge who believed all that could access the baraka were once in one Lodge, is an ancestor of that Nietzschean ne’er-do-well Robert Putney Drake of Illuminatus! fame.

Maria, seen through the male gaze of Sir John and the narrator, is a picture perfect representation of femininity in this chapter. She accepts and even relishes the pain of childbirth and later reminisces on how the post-birth glow is better than the other times she has had transcendent experiences. Everything about the process of birth is received by her with grace and good humor. This portrait is heightened as Sir John reflects that no man deserves a woman’s love. I admit that I like this portrait of femininity but am curious how female readers would react to such a male fantasy of what femininity “should” be.

As Sir John wanders around in his own state of bliss he meets James Moon again who has brought his “fookin rock” and blesses him in the name of God, Mary, Patrick, and Brigit, a perfectly Irish formulation of the cardinal spirits.

Kyte gets the last word, promising the child that both her parents, by virtue of their involvement with “the Craft,” will come to know Side.

The next chapter requires little commentary: Signor Duccio is as concise as possible and reiterates his Malthusian belief that population growth is the main driver of societal upheaval. This serves as a fatalistic reminder that all the events we, the readers, know are coming in the narrative’s future are unavoidable even if our characters’ efforts were to play out. Change is inevitable and the future is coming at us like a bullet train. No time to dodge, not even for one who can do miraculous feats using the baraka.

The A.’.A.’. reflects on the mysteries of the vagina before imploring the reader to burn this page.

From Eric Wagner: More Handel in honor of Maria’s baby for this week. Happy Thanksgiving.