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

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: 'Ishtar Rising'

For many years, I've had an old Playboy Press edition of The Book of the Breast, one that I picked up cheap somewhere, from a library sale or garage sale or something.

I never read it because I assumed it was written quickly an an excuse for Playboy to publish a book with a bunch of breast pictures; I couldn't think of it as an "official" Robert Anton Wilson book. More recently, I didn't read it because I was waiting for the Hilaritas Press edition of the book published under its later title, Ishtar Rising: Why the Goddess Went to Hell and What to Expect Now That She's Returning.

I finally read it this weekend, and I have something interesting to report: It IS a Robert Anton Wilson book. RAW took Playboy's money and wrote the book he wanted to write (as I mentioned the other day, the editor printed liked it and printed it just as RAW wrote it.)

The book cites or discusses many of RAW's preoccupations (Principia Discordia, Aleister Crowley, James Joyce, etc.) and has many of the Wilson-style passages that may or may not be "true," but are certainly stimulating and entertaining:

In ancient Egypt, evidently, woman and the moon were the original religious objects because their mutual 28-day periods were the earliest markers of time. When the cycles of solar time were discovered, the male sun god, Osiris, and the male phallus, became sacred, and woman and the moon were pushed into second place. Eventually, under Christianity, the female-lunar rites became identified with witchcraft and black magic, and their appearance provoked the horror and hatred of the great witch-hunts. It is within this context that the Christian feeling that the breast is "obscene" must be understood. (Similarly, the use of drugs in the lunar-female religions explains the Christian antipathy to drugs.) 

The book's erotic theme allows RAW to talk about sexual alchemy.

A few points about the new Hilaritas Press edition: It includes not only the original 1973 introduction, but also RAW's 1989 introduction, which is one of the best parts of the book. In addition, Hilaritas adds a foreword by Grant Morrison, quite long, full of interesting observations, and obviously something Morrison didn't just quickly toss off.

Rasa was not able to get permission to use some of the original images (which were all in black and white) , but he worked hard to replace them and match them with RAW's original captions (and many of the illustrations in the new book are in color). In every instance in which Rasa has made a substitution, he has bettered the original; for example, an original black and white photo of Carole Lombard is replaced with a very nice color photo. Rasa even convened the Robert Anton Wilson Advisors so they could weigh in on which artistic color breast illustration to use early in the book.

So I am pretty sure that if you do plan to read the book, the new Hilaritas Press third edition is the one you want. And I also think the book is worth reading, if maybe not as important a part of the canon as Cosmic Trigger or Illuminatus! 
-- Tom Jackson

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A RAW prediction that's coming out nicely

N.K. Jemisin (Creative Commons photo) 

Some of RAW's predictions have not happened as quickly as many would like -- immortality has not arrived for anyone, I'm not typing these words from a space city in orbit around the Earth, and, well, many of you will notice I'm not suddenly getting any smarter.

But I've been reading Ishtar Rising, and there's a prediction in RAW's "Introduction to the 1989 Edition" that has turned out rather well:

 Ishtar and Inanna are archtypes of historical, as well as personal, psychological processes. The last 3000 years of history have followed the classic Ishtar/Inanna pattern: the Goddess has descended to Hell -- gradually at first, as Patriarchy emerged in the early city-states, and then with catastrophic speed as Christianity arose to damn the female half of humanity to sub-human status -- and now, in this century, the Goddess is beginning to rise again, through a thousand cultural transformations of which Feminism is only the tip of the iceberg.

You'd have to be asleep to not notice the more prominent role women are playing in the culture as they emerge from "Patriarchy" -- witness for example the rise of the MeToo movement, or Joe Biden's recent pledge he'll select a female running mate.

One particular piece of literary culture within the wider culture I happen to be familiar with is science fiction, once largely a male venture. Consider these names: N.K. Jemisin (Hugo Award, best novel, 2016, 2017 and 2018), Mary Robinette Kowal (Hugo Award, best novel, 2019), Ann Leckie (Hugo Award, best novel, 2014), Martha Wells (Hugo and Nebula awards), Ada Palmer (John Campbell Award for best new writer), Jo Walton (lots of awards including a Prometheus), Catherynne M. Valente, Becky Chambers, Arkady Martine (so new she hasn't won anything yet but I loved A Memory Called Empire), Johanna Sinisalo (Prometheus Award), Sarah Hoyt (Prometheus Award)  and more names could be offered. If you don't agree with me that women have been dominating science fiction, you will at least have to agree with me they've never played a more prominent role. (I like most of these writers and Ada Palmer is my favorite new writer.)

Friday, March 27, 2020

RAW's 'Mammaries'

I've started reading the new Hilaritas Press edition of Ishtar Rising, and then realized I had read some of it before. Chapter 4 (of the 7 chapters), "Mammary Metaphysics," is one of the essays in Coincidance.

RAW's introduction to the piece in Coincidance provides a summary of how he felt about the book, looking back years later when he had become an established author:

The next essay comes from another potboiler I did for Playboy Press, called The Book of the Breast [footnote: Now published by New Falcon Publications as Ishtar Rising]. As usual, my philosophical and sociological speculations got in the way of lubricity which the editor really wanted, but he got fired along about then and a new editor, Martin Ebon, liked this book so much it was printed just as I wrote it. Curiously, it was the only one of my books for Playboy Press that sold well enough to earn regular royalties for me over a period of several years. 

Kudos to the late Martin Ebon for not screwing up the text, read more about him here.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

RIP Steve Stiles

Steve Stiles in 2006

Steve Stiles, a great science fiction fan and professional artist, died of cancer in January. He won the Hugo for best fan artist in 2016.  I want to belatedly note his career here; I've seen various signs that he was a Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea fan, or at least knew of them.

For example, when I searched for "Steve Stiles Robert Anton Wilson" on Google, I found this archived email exchange:

Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2007 17:43:09 -0500
Subject: [WSFA] Re: Robert Anton Wilson
From: "Steve Stiles"
To: WSFA members
Reply-To: WSFA members

>From: "Keith F. Lynch"
>To: WSFA members
>Subject: [WSFA] Robert Anton Wilson
>Date: Sat Jan 13, 2007, 1:11 PM

>Robert Anton Wilson, author of the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy,
>coauthor of the Illuminatus trilogy, died on January 11th at age
>74 after a long illness.
>I met him and his sometimes-coauthors Robert Shea and Timothy Leary
>at the 1991 Worldcon in Chicago.  Now all three of them are dead.

I remember seeing the young Robert Shea walking down the street near
Rockefeller Plaza in the '60s, but, being a shy kid, didn't say hello.
Thought he looked like a young FDR, and the long cigarette holder perched
jauntily between his teeth enhanced that image. I knew him then as the
editor of "The Scene," a non-s.f. mimeographed fanzine, and a sometimes
contributor to Paul Krassner's "The Realist." I think his writing career was
in its early stages and I probably recognized him from an appearance at a

--Steve Stiles

You can read the File 770 obituary, or the Wikipedia article, or the official website. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Free James Bond movies on Pluto TV

In the interests of keeping everyone's spirits up, I wanted to note that Pluto TV (the free substitute for cable TV, apps for smartphones and tablets) is showing a bunch of old James Bond movies right now (and a lot of other movies and stuff -- I like the rock concert movies.)

I watched "Never Say Never Again," one of the few Bond movies I'd missed. Not bad, and a nice bonus is the early scenes feature Prunella Gee. I'm pleased to report her character isn't killed off (unlike many other Bond galpals). It might have been traumatic to Daisy to see her mother being killed onscreen by SPECTRE.

Yes, I know the Bond movies are kind of sexist and not art flicks. I'm also planning to make time for the free Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. See the link for the schedule; "Nixon in China," a great show, is April 1. 

There's lots of other free stuff at Tubi.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: 'Pigspurt's Daughter'

Americans have had little opportunity to enjoy the work of Daisy Eris Campbell, the British writer, playwright and performer, and the daughter of British theater legend Ken Campbell. Her adaption for the stage of Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger has never been performed in the U.S. (an attempt to stage it in California was aborted when it unexpectedly received government funding for another run in Britain) and her tour for her "Pigspurt's Daughter" dramatic monologue only took place in Britain.

Now, however, Hilaritas Press has published a book adaption of the monologue, making it available to everyone. I just read my copy, and Hilaritas has provided a real service for Americans who want to check out Daisy's compelling madness. Pigspurt's Daughter, a short book that can be read in one sitting,  is the funniest book I have read in a long time, but it's also touching and oddly wise.

The book's subject is Daisy coming to terms with the 10-year anniversary of her famous father's death and becoming a successful artist in her own right. How she does so is quite a story. (Ken Campbell is not her only notable parent. Illuminatus! has a British secret agent who is a parody of James Bond; Daisy's mother, in one of those synchronicities that seem to flare up around Daisy, is British actress Prunella Gee, who was in a James Bond movie, "Never Say Never Again.")

Robert Anton Wilson's work often makes it difficult to tell what is real and what is made up, and Pigspurt's Daughter has similar effects on the reader. There's quite a bit about the pyramid of the dead in Liverpool being built by the KLF, and while it's as crazy as anything else in the book, apparently it's either real or the BBC is on the plot to put one over on everyone. 

John Higgs wrote a witty and gracious foreword for the book which says Daisy's work includes a fictional incident that came true. So I suppose it may or may not be true, as the book says, that Higgs phoned Daisy to warn her about one of her schemes, "I have a feeling this is a very bad idea, and that bad things may happen if you go ahead." And I am kept guessing whether Daisy really did have a solemn moment in a graveyard while wearing a fat suit. But you'll want to read the book and find out what I am talking about.

The book includes color photos and occasional staging notes that provide a clear picture of Daisy's performance, and there are family photos in the back, along with a review of the play by Jason Watkins which won a prize for arts journalism.

There are lots of references in the book to the works of both Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea (there is quite a bit about the Cathars, the subject of my favorite Shea novel, All Things Are Lights, and the monologue begins with a mention of Illuminatus!). The rather arresting cover nicely shows off Rasa's design skills.

-- Tom Jackson

Footnote: I did not get a review copy; I bought it like everyone else.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Ask Eric Wagner

I recently had a post in which Eric Wagner, author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson,  answered a question posed to him on Facebook. Eric says he is willing to take other questions, so if you have one, please post as a comment to this blog post.

Here is question I asked Eric to get things started:

Tom Jackson: In honor of the the 250th anniversary for Beethoven, I would like to dig a little deeper into RAW's interest in Beethoven. What were his favorite Beethoven pieces, and did he have favorite performers? What other classical music did he seem to particularly like to listen to?

Eric Wagner: Well, Bob wrote about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony over and over again, especially the final movement. The Hammerklavier Sonata plays a major role in The Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy and Bob also mention it in Prometheus Rising. Beethoven’s Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Symphonies also show up repeatedly in Bob's writings, as does the very early Emperor Joseph Cantata. Years ago I asked him for his ten desert island discs. I think you published that once. I can’t find the list at present, but in addition to the above and the Beethoven Piano Concertos it included the Mozart Piano Concertos, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, Carmina Burana, and Scott Joplin played on harpsichord. Bob does a great job creating the musical world of Sigismundo Maldonado in The Earth Will Shake. Sigismundo particularly loves Domenico Scarlatti. Bob also loved Mahler.

I don’t know about Bob’s favorite performers. Christina Pearson and Scott Apel would know better then I would. I spent far less time with him than they did. I do remember the one time he came over to my house for a Finnegans Wake study group in 1988, I asked him what he would like to hear. He asked for a number of Beethoven pieces, all of which I had recordings of except the Triple Concerto. Then he asked for Bach’s Goldberg Variations as a change of pace.

(Incidentally, I have no news yet on when the new edition of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson will come out. Eric prepared extensive revisions and it was supposed to be issued late last year, but it's been delayed. Eric has not received an update yet, and I got no reply when I emailed the publisher recently. Does anyone have any news on New Falcon? -- Tom)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Oz Fritz on the 'Widow's Son' reading group

Oz Fritz was one of the mainstay commentators in the recently-finished reading group on The Widow's Son. Apparently he still had points he wanted to make, because on his blog, he has a new posting up, "The Widow's Son Discussion Group," where he talks about how important the book is in RAW's canon and how the discussion "opened my eyes to a great deal of magic and to mysteries of life in general."

I don't want to try to summarize Oz' post, which is pretty substantial, but although I've already posted a comment (paying him back a little, as it were), I did want to offer a couple of footnotes.

Oz finds a possible reference to the number 23 at the end of The Widow's Son, and writes:  

I interpret 23 as a number indicating the Bardo.  The correspondences suggest both death and life, or perhaps, death and rebirth.  A primary instruction in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thodol, = “maintain the thread of consciousness.  If you look at the transmission of the 23 Enigma from William Burroughs to Robert Anton Wilson as described in Cosmic Trigger I, this number, 23, most frequently came up in relation to death.  Outside of physical death, the Bardo represents a space in between where change occurs between one thing and another.  It makes sense to end the book with this correspondence, we enter the Bardo in between the second and third books of the Historical Illuminatus series.

Of course, another change between one thing and another is that Sigismundo heads west to America, along with some of the other characters who are crossing the waters. Could this be analogous to RAW growing up on the East Coast, migrating west, and spending the last few decades of his life on the West Coast?

But getting back to death, earlier in his post, Oz writes,

Many confrontations with death in the first two books of the Historical Illuminatus series have been noted.  Death appears to become as much of a behind-the-scenes-character in The Widow’s Son as it does in Gravity’s Rainbow.  I pointed out several associations or simultaneous occurrences of Tiphareth with Death.  This resonates with the instruction given many times in The Egyptian Book of the Dead for the voyaging soul to unite with Osiris upon departing the physical sheath at death.

A quote from Scott Apel's Beyond Chaos and Beyond In the autobiographical essay at the end of the book, Apel describes how his girlfriend Catherine kept RAW company during RAW's final days, and adds, "And at night, she read to him -- as she had done to Arlen -- from The Egyptian Book of the Dead, in the hopes of easing his transition." (This is an example of how the book has a lot of interesting material, including previously uncollected RAW writings, not found anywhere else.)

Also in Oz' post, Oz quotes the famous Calvin Coolidge quote on persistence, rendered into a poem: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent." Etc. I can't resist pointing out that RAW's observation on the power of persistence is an important episode of Cosmic Trigger II (to avoid a "spoiler" for those who haven't read the book, I want to avoid being more specific.) 

BTW, speaking of the reading group, I've gotten all of the links caught up for it on the right side of the page, if any of you want to finish participating the group (you can still post comments -- I moderate and approve comments every day) or even want to start, with all of the free time everybody supposedly has these days. 

The reading group for Nature's God, the third Historical Illuminatus! book, starts April 30. I had an old paper copy, but I just got the ebook from Hilaritas so I can read the extra material and run searches. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

News from John Higgs

John Higgs

John has released another newsletter.  And while I say it has news, in a sense it has "not news," as instead of listing events it lists canceled events.

The work-in-progress presentation in April of my play HG Wells & The Spiders From Mars in the Cockpit Theatre, London has, needless to say, been cancelled. This will resurface at some point further down the road, so more news as and when. The Berkhamsted Book Festival, at which I was going to do an event with Robin Ince, is also cancelled. Basically – if in doubt, everything’s cancelled.

John has a lot of interesting thoughts -- on COVID-19, individualism, and on what to put into  your brain while you're forced to stay at home:

Those that are self-isolating may suddenly find themselves upping their brain food intake considerably, so it’s worth remembering the importance of a balanced diet. Not all brain-nosh is the same. Social media is a lot of empty calories, for example, and it is easy to snack on, being always within reach. But a prolonged binge will not leave you feeling good, which is why I don’t have Twitter or Facebook apps on my phone.

That’s not to say that a blast of sugar and additives should not be part of your head diet – Doom Eternal is released this week, after all. But a balanced diet is the key. Books are the fruit and vegetables of the brain food world. You don’t consume as many as you should, and you make excuses for leaving them on your plate. Yet a book heavy diet is the most satisfying, and it leaves you feeling much better than any other form of head-scran. I’m biased here, I admit, but it’s still true.

I mostly agree with this, although I think social media has been useful during the crisis (hence my COVID-19 Twitter list.) Also wish John had put in a good word for newspapers, but that's MY bias.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Playboy shutting down magazine

Playboy magazine cover featuring the current president of the United States 

200 years from now, will Playboy magazine mostly be remembered for spawning the Illuminatus! trilogy? Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson were editors at the magazine while they wrote it, and bits from the magazine turned up in the text. And the original inspiration for it came from letters sent to the magazine espousing conspiracy theories. One day in a Chicago bar, Shea suggested writing a novel that took the theories literally.

Maybe, maybe not. But in any event, Playboy has announced it is shutting down its print edition and moving to all-digital publication. 

RAW superfan Mark Frauenfelder used to pen a column on internet sites for the magazine. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What's up with NASFiC?

Many science fiction conventions have been canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak; has been tracking the announcements. 

On his blog, Supergee wrote on March 9, "Alas, my 77-year-old asthmatic lungs dassn’t get on an airline, so I will have to skip the ICFA {International Conference on the the Fantastic in the Arts, which it actually says in tiny letters on the userpic) this year." I meant to post a comment criticizing ICFA for going forward, but didn't get around to it. According to, it is one of the events that has been canceled.

Naturally, I have been wondering what is happening with the Columbus NASFiC. (The Tor chronicle says nothing about it so far). It is scheduled for August 20-23 in Columbus, Ohio. The convention website is silent.  There is nothing as the convention Facebook page.

Where does this leave the plans I announced to have RAW fans participate in activities at the Columbus NASFiC, including manning a Hilaritas Press table in the dealer's room?  I don't know, and that seems unknowable at this point.

Gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned in Ohio, by order of the state health department. On the other hand, that ban won't last forever. There have been reports that the virus doesn't do well in hot weather, and speculation it will fade in the summer.

The convention seems far enough away that it seems prudent for the convention to stay silent, for now, and see what happens, although the current situation can't be good for selling convention memberships and making plans.

I'll keep an eye on the convention and report any news.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Listening to Beethoven

What do you do to cope with all of the bad news?

In Right Where You Are Sitting Now, Robert Anton Wilson writes, "I believe in Beethoven, the mediator and comforter" (in the "Credo" chapter).

And indeed, I do tend to listen to Beethoven in stressful situations. I am listening to Beethoven now, along with other classical music.

I asked Eric Wagner what it's like for him, and he wrote, "Yes, I can definitely relate to Beethoven’s healing power. I had a similar experience on Friday. In a foul mood I turned on the radio and heard Faure’s Requiem. That really hit the spot.

"Two nights ago I had a dream about Mahler, so I’ve listened to a bunch of Mahler the last two days. Music seems to have tremendous metaprogramming power."

Related: During the pandemic, various classical music sources are offering free music, for example the Metropolitan Opera is streaming an opera for free every night. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

What to do about 'Prometheus Rising'?

Our next reading group appears to be set: April 30 we start on Nature's God, with Gregory Arnott volunteering to take the lead again.

And then next is Prometheus Rising, with a rotating cast of contributors taking the lead, including Gregory Arnott and Eric Wagner, with others yet to be determined.

As for a schedule, Eric Wagner has suggested (in the comments): " I would like to spend 23 months on the book: Five months on chapter one and the prefatory material and then a month on each of the other chapters. I think the book and its exercises deserves that kind of scrutiny."

As with anything else in life, there are trade-offs. A concentrated study of Prometheus Rising would be valuable. But spending two years on it would seem to preclude doing reading groups on anything else for awhile, during a time when Hilaritas Press continues to issue new editions. There's no rush to make a decision, but does anyone else want to offer feedback?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has died

Genesis P-Orridge performing with Throbbing Gristle in 2009. Creative Commons photo by Seth Tisue. 

Sad news that will interest many of you: Musician and occultist  Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has died, age 70, of leukemia.

The New York Times has posted an obituary.  Boing Boing has published Douglas Rushkoff's tribute.

On YouTube, here is "Robert Anton Wilson & Genesis P. Orridge Discuss Aleister Crowley & Species Evolution."

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Eric Wagner on what order to read RAW

Eric Wagner

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

Žan Naglič  asked me, “Do you have a special order in which to read Robert's books? So far I've read Prometheus Rising and Illuminatus!”

1.      I recommend reading his books in chronological order. That way you can experience the evolution of his thought and writing.

2.     I started out reading the three volume Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy in 1980, and I have returned to it over and over again. If you can’t find the original three volumes, I also recommend the revised one volume edition.

3.     I highly recommend reading The Earth Will Shake and The Widow’s Son, the first two volumes of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles. will begin a study group of volume three on April 30. We would love to have you participate.

4.     Hilaritas Press has just published a full color illustrated edition of Ishtar Rising. Richard Rasa, the pubisher, and Bob’s daughter Christina have lamented the small number of reviews of this book on Amazon. If you buy it from Amazon, please write a review.

5.     Get a copy of Quantum Psychology and invite some friends to start a study group.

Eric Wagner is the author of An Insiders Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

The next reading groups

Many activities are being canceled because of COVID-19, but I guess we can still have discussions over the Internet!

As Gregory wrote in his final Widow's Son blog post, he will finish off Historical Illuminatus by leading a discussion of Nature's God, beginning with a discussion of Eric Wagner's introduction on Walpurgisnacht, which if I understand correctly is April 30. I hope that gives everyone time to hunt up a copy of Nature's God. 

Everyone seems to be on board with following that up with a Prometheus Rising discussion, which likely will be led by more than one person, one of them Gregory; details on that after I figure it out. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The BBC on the People's Pyramid

I finally had the opportunity to listen to the BBC radio segment of the program "Seriously...." about the People's Pyramid. It was a lot of fun to listen to. About a half hour long.

The program includes Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond of the KLF and, apparently, Daisy Campbell, although she is identified only as "Daisy the bricklayer." There is no mention of Robert Anton Wilson that I could make out when I squinted my ear at the various British accents, but there is discussion of the number 23, Discordianism, "the all-seeing eye" etc. , so anyone who was curious who listened to the broadcast who did a bit of research would likely find out about RAW. (The narrator says about Discordianism, "Seriously, just Google it, but maybe not too much.")

See this previous post for links and more information. You should be able to get it on your favorite podcasting app.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A poem for McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner in 1973

Jazz great McCoy Tyner has died.  You can read the New York Times obituary. 

Here is a poem in response by Eric Wagner:

A Poem for McCoy Tyner 

                                           I don’t think much about heaven,

                                           but it struck me this morning that

                                           the John Coltrane Quartet gave

                   .                       a concert for God today

                                           after two days of pleasant rehearsals.

                                           McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison

                                           joined Mr. Coltrane for three extended sets.

                                           Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan sat in for

         .                                 a rousing encore of “Mr. P. C.”

                                           making Paul Chambers smile, sitting with

                                           Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman and

                                           Tupac Shakur.

                                           God seemed most pleased

                                           by the performance.

                                                            -- Eric Wagner 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

These coffee beans are roasted but RAW

And yes, that's Bobby Campbell's artwork on the new "Cosmic Trigger Blend" coffee offering from Brandywine Coffee Roasters in Wilmington, Delaware, but it's only available for a limited time.

Bobby says,

Here's the details :)))

Cosmic Trigger Coffee Blend
Tasting Notes: Wild Flowers, Brown Sugar, Star Fruit, Honey
Limited Edition - Available from March 10th - Friday the 13th

Brought to you in all its mind expanding majesty by The RAW Trust & Brandywine Coffee Roasters
Featuring art by Bobby Campbell & Todd Purse

Monday, March 9, 2020

23 and me

William Burroughs, whose concept of the 12 Enigma was popularized by Robert Anton Wilson 

I seem to be running into the 23 Enigma a lot lately.

I've been listening to quite a bit of Rolling Stones. I recently noticed that Sticky Fingers, arguably the band's best album, was released April 23, 1971.

One of my Christmas presents was Fuchsia Dunlop's Food of Sichuan. The back of the book has a section on the "23 flavors" of the region.

My parents were married on July 23, 1955 – not just a 23 day, but also "Robert Anton Wilson Day." So I suppose I could claim I was destined to do this blog.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Widow's Son reading group -- Finale

 James Gillray’s political cartoon which rather gleefully anticipates the trial of Thomas Paine

Week Twenty Nine (pg. 489-517 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 5,6,&7 Part IV all editions)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

It was and is widely believed that Clement XIV was poisoned, although Wilson seems to think that the poisoning was not quite as literal as other historians. The doctors who performed his autopsy ascribed his death to scurvy and hemorrhoidal disorders and pointed out he was over 70 years old. Policy failures and the climate around the Holy See as recounted by RAW exacerbated the situation. While searching around I found a wonderfully insane conspiracy book titled AntiChrist that directly links the graffiti and (assumed) poisoning of Ganganelli to the later (re)founding of the Illuminati by (ex?)-Jesuit Weishaupt. The author goes on to state that the Illuminati founded by Weishaupt was merely the refounding of the Alahambros (which should be familiar) which were at one time led by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

An amusing tale about the nature of the papacy comes from a slim volume of stories titled The Twilight of the Gods by Richard Garnett; it concerns the reign of Pope Sylvester II, who was historically accused of being a sorcerer, and his relationship to Lucifer. It is titled “The Demon Pope.”

As we reach the crescendo of the final complete part of the Historical Illuminatus! sequence, (Nature’s God always seemed curtailed by the lack of the implied fourth novel), familiar roles carry us further along the chain of history. De Sade comments in his wry-insane manner about Rome, Wilkes and Burke try to avert war and Empire’s dissolution, Beaumarchais and Diderot don’t need a weatherman, stately plump Benjamin Franklin returns over the Atlantic towards a Continental Congress, while a less familiar character in this Romance, John Adams, proposes that we are in a state of nature.

Hobbes’ state of nature is also summed up in the Latin phrase Bellum omnium contra omnes- the war of all against all where every man has as much right to any other thing as any other. Hobbes predicted much of what would happen during the Enlightenment. The text makes sure to note that the battles at Concord and Lexington were the first time since the religion wars of the 1600s that “peasants” had defeated a sovereign power. Hobbes had learned from the atrocities that drove Grimmelshausen mad and led to Charles I losing his head and Cromwell’s dictatorship; his works accurately describe the breakdowns of society that Duccio recounts in his private history where the will to battle becomes War. John Adams seems to be maneuvering towards the direction of creating another Leviathan that will match the English Crown. The architects and prophets of America are drawing together.

In France the Leviathans of commerce and royalty have grown fat and ready for beheading- in Ireland the situation still hasn’t been resolved over two hundred years later. The world waits with bated breath, especially because of  COVID-19, to see how these motions set in place centuries ago will develop.

And Hanfkopf is woven into his final narrative and goes out like Joseph of Arimathea, another keeper of secrets. 

Sigismundo’s perspective is a little insufferable but understandable considering all that he has been exposed to- instead of becoming an unwilling pawn he decides to embrace the spirit of Rousseau’s noble savage and Crowley’s counter-dedication to Konx Om Pax:

St. Paul spoke up on the Hill of Mars
To the empty-headed Athenians;
But I would rather talk to the stars   
Than to empty-headed Athenians;

It’s only too easy to form a cult,
To cry a crusade with “Deus Vult”—
But you won’t get much of a good result 
From empty-headed Athenians.

The people of London much resemble   
Those empty-headed Athenians.
I could very easily make them tremble,   
Those empty-headed Athenians.

A pinch of Bible, a gallon of gas,
And I, or any other guess ass,
Could bring to our mystical moonlight mass   
Those empty-headed Athenians.

In fine, I have precious little use   
For empty-headed Athenians.
The birds I have snared shall all go loose;   
They are empty-headed Athenians.

I thought perhaps I might do some good;
But it’s ten to one if I ever should—
And I doubt if I would save, if I could,   
Such empty-headed Athenians.

So (with any luck) I shall bid farewell   
To the empty-headed Athenians.
For me, they may all of them go to hell, 
For empty-headed Athenians.
I hate your idiot jolts and jars,
You monkeys grinning behind your bars—
I’m more at home with the winds and stars 
Than with empty-headed Athenians.

It seems to me that Sigismundo is correct that the fourth soul or satori or enlightenment is virtually worthless if not successfully integrated into the whole personality. One of my instructors insisted, like Regardie, that any success in magic is predicated upon rigorous therapy and self-examination. I was frustrated at the time because I wanted hot chicks and to blow old men’s hats off with sylphs but I’m grateful now.

Sigismundo’s hypothesis about the origins of gods is fascinating. I have contended for years that The Fool is none other than the first chimp who took just the right amount of hallucinogenic substance to not poison itself or go beyond comprehension. Or am I just inventing my own grand opera?

Reread Chapter 24 of Part III.

Finally were brought together with the only main character I’d feel comfortable buying a drink for and a figure whose belated appearance buries the dog of his implicit involvement with almost every larger historical theme in the novel. The Narrator neglects to mention that Thomas Paine’s trip across the Atlantic was sponsored by none other than the enterprising Dr. Franklin and its peril. The ship that Moon and Paine are aboard has a case of typhoid being passed around and some will die, Paine himself will have to stay in the care of Franklin’s physician on his arrival in the colonies. Paine will immediately become a citizen of Pennsylvania and take over editing duties of a paper for Franklin where he will write an anonymous missive against slavery in the Colonies. Paine will of course incite the colonists’ ire against the British Crown further along the path towards battle. No less than the radical/conservative John Adams would state that “without Paine’s pen, Washington’s sword would have been raised in vain.”

After his first American sojourn Paine would come back to England and then Paris where he would defend and praise the Revolution, be sued in absentia for libel against none other than radical/conservative Edmund Burke, and fall prisoner thanks to Robespeirre’s paranoia. Paine would be released to travel back to America thanks to the machinations of James Monroe and died a hugely controversial figure who advocated for deism, universal rights, and the overthrow of all the old Kings and Popes. While there is no real evidence for Paine ever becoming a Mason, his philosophy could be said to have further Masonic goals more so than any other contemporary.

Moon has tried to redeem his blackmail and heads, along with Sigismundo and the world’s attention, towards the New World.

Thus we close The Widow’s Son, Robert Anton Wilson’s personal favorite of his novels, and will open again under the auspices of Nature and Nature’s God. Nature’s God begins with a foreword by none other than our own Eric Wagner, “Bewitching Rhetoric,” and was penned on Walpurgis Night 2010. I propose that we come together for the first reading group to discuss Eric’s forward on on Walpurgisnacht 2020 and continue with the first Chapter “Murder in Clontarf” on Monday May 3rd.

As a note: I should have included the factoid in my post for Week Nineteen that Mary d’Este makes a cameo in RAW’s Masks of the Illuminati as a co-conspirator of Crowley’s who helps pull the wool over Sir John Babcock’s (the descendent) eyes during the final London chase scene as Miss Sturgis, Isadora Duncan’s secretary.

Thank you to Tom. Thank you to Alias and Oz and Eric and everyone else who contributed, and to Rasa and Christina for their support. I’ve loved reading your thoughts. Thanks to anyone who read!

From Eric: ““To two scoundrels in an unpredictable universe”, and to all the other scoundrels out there, a concerto by Vivaldi: .” 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

RAW fandom at NASFiC

I'm pleased to report that Hilaritas Press has applied for two tables at NASFiC, the North American Science Fiction Convention to be held August 20 through 23 in Columbus, Ohio. Everyone in the dealer's room has to be accepted by the convention; acceptances will go out "on and around"  April 16 the convention says, and I will keep you posted here.

The Hilaritas Table will sell books by Robert Anton Wilson, but we also plan to give away freebies and serve as a focus and contact point for RAW fans attending what is usually one of the biggest SF conventions of the year.

Gregory Arnott and Bobby Campbell are helping me, and I will try to persuade the convention to allow RAW programming, such as a panel. Obviously, there is nothing to prevent informal get togethers by RAW fans. The Libertarian Futurist Society, which gives the Prometheus Award, also will be present at the convention.

Obviously, as I write these words, a potentially very serious pandemic is beginning to gain a foothold in the U.S. No confirmed cases in Ohio yet, but that situation is expected to end soon. Events that involve large gatherings of people already are being canceled. So we'll have to see how potentially affects the convention plans.

I wish I could simply pound the drums and publicize this, but I feel obligated to be truthful and include a note of caution.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Maybe Quarterly recovered

At the Maybe Logic blog, Bogus Magus has a big announcement:

When the Maybe Logic Academy ran, under Bob's direction, we evolved this as a student blog, and that led to us creating a magazine, Maybe Quarterly, which ran for 14 online editions, and one actual paper copy.

The magazine got stored on the academy server, so when that failed, we lost everything, and all the links here, to material contained, got broken.  I decided to rescue what I could, using the Internet Archive (The Wayback Machine).  I found most of the contents, although some images have gone missing (presumably stored elsewhere), and inevitably some links don't work.

You will find some amazing contributions, however, so I will launch this post, and probably finesse it as time goes by (linking to individual articles, etc).  You should be able to read the magazine in sequence, using the "Next" button at the foot of the page, or click on the index on the first page(s) to go to specific content.   I will add authors later.

More here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Wednesday links

Artwork of Robert Anton Wilson posted on Twitter by Andy Paciorek. From a book in progress, 'The Mirror Obsidian. Visionaries. Cultists. Witches. Occultists.'

February Eris of the Month

Lawrence Ferlinghetti to turn 101.

Erik Davis event in Los Angeles. It must be nice to live in a part of the country that has such events.

Scott Alexander on COVID-19. 

Tyler Cowen on COVID-19.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Actor Josh Radnor mentions RAW

Josh Radnor

Actor, musician and writer Josh Radnor (a native of Ohio, where I live) pens a piece "on the Unexpected Moment That Filled Him With Gratitude" and mentions RAW:

In “Prometheus Unbound,” Robert Anton Wilson wrote that instability is a requirement for evolution. Ants, he said, are a highly stable species and thus haven’t evolved for millions of years. But humans are highly unstable and we’re evolving at a pretty furious clip. Thus all the individual and collective instability we bemoan is actually, on some level, serving us and nudging us forward. It’s not unlike physical training systems that keep you off balance in order to engage and work unused muscles.

He means Prometheus Rising of course (the passage in question refers to "insects," not ants specifically) but the mention of "Prometheus Unbound" is a synchronicity with this blog. That's the name of a long poem by Percy Shelley, who's been discussed recently in the comments in the Widow's Son reading group.

Hat tip: Nick Helweg-Larsen.

Monday, March 2, 2020

RAW would have liked the reading groups

Robert Anton Wilson

What would RAW have thought of our online reading group for The Widow's Son, and all of our other online reading groups? It seems reasonable to think he would have liked them.

If you've read the comments for the Feb. 24 episode of the reading group,  Eric Wagner asked, "I wonder what Bob Wilson would think of our comments in this discussion group?'

Oz Fritz replied, "To answer Eric's question: I think RAW would be pleased and grateful for these discussion groups about his books. I suspect he would have liked sombunall of my comments and all of Gregory's introductory write-ups. This question sparked reflection on his reactions to the comments in the online courses of his that I took. He usually responded to people's comments always making it quite clear what he thought either way. I realized that I missed his voice in these proceedings, but then thought that his voice is always there as the subject matter and is getting expanded and explicated through our various interpretations."

I brought up Bob Dylan enjoying the fact that people talk about his lyrics and wrote, "Speaking of Dylan, he apparently is pleased by the people who study his lyrics, and I would have to think RAW would be pleased by the reading groups, although on that point I guess I have to defer to the people who actually knew RAW."

Alias Bogus then wrote, "In reference to Tom’s comment about hoping Bob would have enjoyed the reading groups, I can only quote an exchange from the Maybe Logic Academy, when we did a 12 week course on the Illuminatus! Trilogy, and in the forum I made a comment to which Bob replied:

"Bogus Magus: Little did I know, however, that I would end up treating it the way we are now – poring over the text like a Joycean scholar!


"10 Nov 2004

"Dear Bogmag,
Of course, I wanted at least some readers to
pore over the text like Joyce scholars….that’s
why I made it so Joycean
It has taken 29 years [plus the 5 years
lost in getting it published] but that
dream seems real at last,
and I thank everybody"

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Twenty Eight

Pope Clement XIV, noted for his suppression of the Jesuits (after heavy political pressure) and his humane treatment of the Jews.

Week Twenty Eight (pg. 471-477 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 3&4 Part IV all editions) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

De Sade remains indomitable; or rather, as written about previously in this series of posts, the Divine Marquis will evade capture (until he doesn’t). Then he’ll be free again, and then captured again — but they never quite get the best of De Sade. We could expect such a harsh philosophy from so singular a man, who mustn’t have worried what could be done to him as opposed to what he could do to those around him.

Everyone hates the Jesuits. They’re feared outside and within the Catholic Church, they are depicted as learned scholars, shadowy spies (see Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon), and tormentors of the imagination (Portrait of the Artist). The Jesuit secrecy, or supposed secrecy, has won them few friends over the years. Although I don’t think anti-Jesuit sentiment is that popular or thought of today, we could relate the fear of the Jesuits to the whispers about the Knights of Malta during the P2 conspiracies heyday, or Opus Dei when Dan Brown released his magnum opus The Da Vinci Code.

It looks like old Ganganelli is being targeted by meme magic. I guess Pope Francis, another liberal Franciscan, should make sure not to piss off any gamers. Imagine the outskirts of the Vatican, covered in graffiti of a frog in a blond wig standing over Francis’s corpse flashing a white power sign. Like everything related about Pope Clement XIV, the information about the Pugachev Uprising is related accurately if occasionally with the flavor of contemporary perspective. The Pugachev rebellion is yet another example of how Russians are entirely incapable of self governance. It would be nice for someone in Russia to lead an uprising now instead of being as utterly feckless as the rest of the world in combating the menace that is Vladimir Putin.

We move on from Weishaupt’s nuptial bliss to a tumultuous chapter in Sir John and Maria Babcock’s marriage. Like the scenes with Sigismundo’s drinking in the first novel, RAW depicts the inner turmoil of a character flirting with alcoholism. Maria and John’s conversation sees some of the truth come to the surface, but not enough to make this reader comfortable. But considering the attitude that is still prevalent about homosexuality, it is eminently understandable that Sir John does not want to add that to Maria’s knowledge of his infidelity. Moon has acted the blackguard, and now has his shop in Liverpool: just as Sir John unknowingly played a part in Moon’s terrible experiences, does his blackmail count as some sort of revenge?

From Eric: “I have selected Mozart’s Symphony 29 this week. President Trump tweeted suggesting Symphony 23. I appreciate the suggestion, but I chose 29 instead.”