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

Sunday, May 31, 2020

RAW 'worst' book? Fans weigh in!

[My initial posting on the new release of The New Inquisition prompted an unusual discussion of what Robert Anton Wilson's worst book is. I'll repost Supergee's comment that began the discussion, post excerpts of other comments and then weigh in myself -- the Management.]

Supergee: To me this is RAW’s worst book: hectoring, clanking with pig irony, unselective in its examples, giving aid & comfort to those who say that when Dr. Fauci discusses viruses, that’s just his eddication talking. But it finishes with a marvelous discussion of how we perceive.

Eric Wagner: I love this book. Bob loved science, but he wanted to apply the scientific method to science itself.

Iain Spence: Once again Hilaritas Press have managed to collapse the price of an old RAW title down to 12 pounds. Some people were coughing up 30+ quid for old dog eared copies of these in the UK. Thank you once again to the dedicated team.
I think Mr Wilson had a bee in his bonnet about the worst excesses of scientific materialism rather than science itself. So it seems like he gets a bit carried away in this volume? I'm intrigued by the comments here...and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Inigo Montoya: I don't think it is his worst book. Among the nonfiction, both Coincidance and Email to the Universe are worse, a mishmash of b-grade and c-grade stuff. (And Moore's intro to the former is dreadful in my view -- and it is clear he never read Korzybski, or if he did, he didn't understand what he was reading. That's the only way I can explain the line "Count Alfred Korzybski’s work implies that almost all human experience is linguistic in its nature..." Whaa? Anyway...)

Among his nonfiction, the Cosmic Trigger books, Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology are his best, I'd say. I would rank this book after those, but above the Coincidance and Email... I think the first chapter is terrific -- it's RAW in all his agnostic glory. The book gets tedious though as it goes on... and RAW piles up example after example (often not persuasive) a la some kind of modern Charles Fort... but I find I skim over those and still find little RAW gems throughout... The tone it's also a bit shrill for him, which may contribute to the negative vibe around the book.

I think the book ends well, the chapter Creative Agnosticism is strong.

I have the New Falcon edition... and I have just bought the Hilaritas edition. I will reread it and see if I think differently on a second reading.

Rarebit Fiend: @Inigo- I love Coincidance- The Finnegans Wake material is worth the entire book. I do agree that "email to the universe" is a bit of a patch up job and would have rather RAW have completed "Tale of the Tribe."

I am incredibly prejudiced to favor Alan Moore and enjoyed the introduction. However Moore definitely has his own intellectual biases and agendas- however RAW's interpretations of information could be heavily influenced by his own expectations. For all our agnosticism we all still have definite biases.

My comments: 

1. It seems to me that in any discussion of Robert Anton Wilson's "worst book," the obvious front runner would be The Sex Magicians, which was published as a pornographic book. I have never seen it listed anywhere in Wilson's own official list of his works, and Hilaritas Press has not announced plans to republish it, so it seems to me it's never been considered part of the canon, even though it was published under Wilson's name.

2. I'm still reading The New Inquisition, but I thought the first chapter of the book was indeed very good, as Inigo Montoya says. It's as good as any nonfiction RAW ever wrote. I did not like one sentence referencing Carl Sagan and there seems to be a consensus portions of the book may be a bit weaker.

But I have to respectfully beg to differ with Inigo on Coincidance and Email to the Universe, which I thought were both very strong collections (and Hilaritas has beefed up the latter by adding a long interview with RAW, otherwise unavailable.)  Both of these books have some of my favorite RAW essays and the overall quality to me seemed strong.  It is true they don't really have a unified theme, although there is a lot of unified Joyce material in Coincidance. 

The only RAW book which has disappointed me so far is TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution. Certainly entertaining and worth a read, but not really as strong as any other book I've read so far. I'm pretty sure Eric disagrees with me on this, but I would have expected RAW writing about the war on drugs to write a better book.

3. Iain Spence raises another point, and it's something Hilaritas Press deserves a lot of credit for, so I want to amplify it. Robert Anton Wilson fans in Great Britain have found it's very difficult and expensive to obtain many titles in Robert Anton Wilson's back catalog. Hilaritas of course is publishing definitive editions for everyone, but they are also making it possible for our British friends, who have done so much to keep Wilson's legacy alive,  to obtain these titles easily and at a reasonable price, and to aid Wilson's family, to boot.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

New Inquisition sentences

As mentioned previously, I have been reading my copy of the new Hilaritas edition of The New Inquisition. (I bought the ebook, but it's also out in trade paper).

I'll reserve judgment on the book until I can finish it, but I enjoyed the first chapter. Here are some sentences from it I particularly liked:

Civil liberties are profoundly counter-intuitive. It takes an effort of imagination and good will to remember that those we despise deserve the same legal rights as those who agree with us.

At least a partial agnosticism is necessary before we can sincerely and consistently pursue the goal of "equal justice for all."

Thursday, May 28, 2020

How RAW helped Eric Wagner

[ Mike Gathers recently asked on Facebook how Robert Anton Wilson's books discussing the Eight Circuit model helped people and how they changed their lives; here is Eric Wagner's answer, reprinted by permission. 

In other "Eric Wagner news," the new and updated edition of his Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson apparently will be released soon; I will have a full announcement on this blog when I know more. -- The Management.]

Eric Wagner: I bought Prometheus Rising in 1985. My roommate Jai said, "This book seems perfect for you." I started looking for quarters and did some of the exercises in the book. Around 1988 I did most of the exercises I hadn't already done. Some I repeated many times. I spent a few years focusing on chapters from the associated day on the first 19 days of each month. (On the fifth of the month I would work on chapter five, etc.) I have found these exercises and the book in general very useful in understanding myself and my world and in changing my behavior. In the late 90's I started to translate the book into E-Prime, but just after I started I got a copy of Bob's revision of the text. He didn't put the whole thing into E-Prime, but I think he did radically improve the text. I struggled with Exo-Psychology when I first tried to read it around 1982. I came to love it, and I loved the revision Info-Psychology even more. I loved how WIlliam Gibson, etc., helped Leary's thought to evolve. I did a lot of the exercises in "Game of Life" and I found it very useful. I loved Neuropolitics and its revision Neuropolitque. I enjoyed Antero's books and I did a number of the exercises in them.

When Quantum Psychology came out, I formed a group which started the book. Then I started another group that did the whole book, and then a few years later I formed another group that worked through the whole book. I started an online group with Bob Wilson that worked through the first few chapters, and then Tom Jackson formed a group I participated in which did the whole book online. I found the exercises useful especially in seeing how differently Bob's readers interpret his ideas and how to implement them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Help with the RAW mixtape

As one of his projects for the planned Maybe Day events, Bobby Campbell is is making a RAW Mixtape.  He is asking for suggestions on what to include. He wants "songs inspired by the lives and ideas of Robert Anton Wilson."

Here is a favorite of mine, one of my suggestions:

Zongamin - AZZAZZA from T.A.M. Corp. on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

RAW Semantics on the new RAW edition

RAW Semantics, the Twitter account for the blog, on the new Hilaritas Press edition of The New Inquisition:

"To me, chapter 1 alone seems worth the price of entry - and that's just the beginning. A must-read, must-acquire book, if you don't already have it. (Douglas  @rushkoff

 seems an inspired choice for the introduction to this new edition)"


I bought the new edition a couple of days ago and started it Monday night. (It's one of the few RAW titles I have not read.) Enjoying it so far, although the comment about Carl Sagan in the first chapter seemed a bit gratuitous. I will share my impressions at some point.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter Four

Kindred Spirits, County Cork

Week Four: Chapter 4 “A Reverser of Laws” (pg. 49-58 Hilaritas edition)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Before beginning to discuss this chapter I should point out that I am not a scholar of American Indian society or beliefs. (Neither was RAW for that matter.)  I do believe that Western interpretations of Native peoples have been overly-cavalier and fetishistic. Currently the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are dealing with two of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States: I am going to make a small donation and I would encourage others to consider making a donation as well. Considering that this is the 75th anniversary of V-E and V-J days it should be pointed out how valuable the Navajo Code Talkers were to establish effective, secure communications in the Pacific Theatre.

Interestingly, since we have spent so much of the early novel considering Ireland I should point out that the Irish have been donating to the American Indian groups in small amounts as a show of solidarity. This is because of the generosity of the Choctaw people during the Potato Famine when they sent a donation for the Irish people. Considering that the survivors of a forced relocation by the US Government made this donation, it is one of the more noble moments in history. Some of the Irish didn’t forget. In County Cork there stands a monument called “Kindred Spirits” to commemorate the unique bond between the two peoples. In many ways “Kindred Spirits” would have been a good alternative title to this chapter. (Incidentally, Eric’s music selection this week contains a Navajo chant called “Potato Song.”)

It wouldn’t be a Historical Illuminatus novel without someone trying to kill Sigismundo; instead of inept assassins hired by overly-competent conspirators Sigismundo encounters an opponent who is equal to him in strength as well as mystery. My searching couldn’t find anything about the Maheema tribe so I am going to presume that they are fictional. Because of indications later in the novel and because Sigismundo is in the then “Northwest Territory” we can assume that the Maheema people live in Ohio- Miskasquamish indicates that the Maheema and Chickasaw people were sometimes familiar. From my understanding he would probably have encountered Chickasaw peoples south of the Ohio territory in what is today Tennessee. The Chickasaw inhabited the areas that are modern day Mississippi and Tennessee- “Father of the Waters” is a translation of the name of the Mississippi River.  Because of a reveal later in the book we also know that Miskasquamish’s perspective on the land and time is different than Sigismundo’s.

Let’s talk about funny names. Miskasquamish is an obvious Wilsonian pun on H.P. Lovecraft’s Miskatonic River/University which is another fictional name that comes from a mashup of Algonquin language sounds. This is possibly an allusion to the fact that the Maheema people are also a fictional creation. The Squamish are a First Nations’ people from British Columbia. Another Lovecraftian connection is when Miskasquamish thinks: “A man of medicine can look straight at a Sky Demon, He who Walks on the Wind, and not show his fear.” I believe this is a reference to one of August Derleth’s, sometimes regrettable, contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. Ithaqua is often called “the Wind-Walker” and one of Derleth’s stories is titled “The Thing that Walked on the Wind.” I’m not a huge Derleth fan but Ithaqua is based on Algernon Blackwood’s excellent, subtle tale of ineffable horror in the wilderness, “The Wendigo.” (With some homoerotic subtext to boot!) It’s a longer short story but many of us have time on our hands: give it a read. The Wendigo itself is a “real” evil spirit spoken of by the Algonquin people of Eastern Canada. Finally, my favorite name in this chapter is Miskasquamish’s misapprehension of Sigismundo: Sackymondo. For some reason this mistranslation reminded me of an older cartoon, by my estimation, called Rugrats which I watched as a child: in one episode the children are very afraid of Sasquatch who they call “Satchmo” throughout.

Miskasquamish’s beliefs and practices seem to be derived more from Wilson’s own imagination and the relatively-lurid descriptions of psychedelic use in Native cultures propagated during the mid to later twentieth century. (This is not to say that these accounts were entirely untrue or of no value.) Mainly, Miskasquamish’s use of drug blends and his talk of animal spirits reminds me of the novels of Carlos Castaneda. (The bear-people though are a reflection of RAW’s interest in early bear gods and ideation.) In Cosmic Trigger Wilson discusses Castaneda frequently, and to this reader, his influence is clear. Castaneda’s books have received a great deal of scrutiny from Academia and his later “Tensegrity” cult activities mars an already complicated legacy. That said, I didn’t read Castaneda until pressured to by one of my teachers - I considered it nonsensical trash until then - and found that his works make a great deal of sense as far as magical philosophy goes. Indeed, I find the teachings of Don Juan resemble those of Aleister Crowley to a great degree. Who am I to refuse nonsensical fiction as a path to the “truth?”

Miskasquamish’s other unique belief, and the one that drives much of his activities throughout the novel, is that Sigismundo is a “Reverser of Laws.” My searching didn’t find anything quite like what Miskasquamish describes but there was the concept of “contraries” or “reverse warriors” among the Plains Indians. The idea was that these people would deliberately act opposite from the rest of the tribe and sometimes formed “cults” of similar people. It’s an interesting idea.

Naturally, Sigismundo’s attempts to dissuade Miskasquamish’s enmity doesn’t pan out. There is a series of breakdowns in communication that strengthens the medicine man’s convictions. We may meet again next week as we revisit James Moon and the Man from Mt. Vernon.

From Eric: “ I don’t know the tribe of the shaman in the novel, but I play a Navajo song for my music history students in our unit on Gregorian chant and other religious chant traditions. I couldn’t find the exact recording I usually use, but I like this one: .”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hilaritas releases 'The New Inquisition'

Hilaritas Press, the publishing imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust, has just released a new edition of The New Inquisition.

The book features a new introduction by Douglas Rushkoff.

Other news from Hilaritas: An audiobook of Cosmic Trigger II will be out soon!

Read the whole thing news release. 

More information on the new edition. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

'Praise Bob' video

Posted a couple of years ago by Driftless Books, but I did not know about it until I saw a Tweet  from Jimthediamond.  Driftless Books is "possibly Wisconsin's largest used bookstore," more here. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Pinch to release 'Reality Tunnels'

Pinch aka Rob Ellis

News on the British dubstep musical artist Pinch, and his new album, Reality Tunnels, out next month:

Reality Tunnels is "the producer’s first solo album in 13 years, the title of which comes from American author and futurist Robert Anton Wilson’s 1983 book Prometheus Rising.

“In essence, the concept of a reality tunnel relates to an idea on how we create our own perspective”, explains Ellis, “the subjective filter that we each apply to the world around us; the things we perceive and what our consciousness deems worthy of attention, i.e. what we see and hear is entirely relative to what we do not.”

More here and also here.

Hat tip: Nick Helweg-Larsen.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

A new podcast: 'Live from Chapel Perilous'

An announcement of a new podcast: "Leroy and Maz host this podcast riffing on metaphysics, psychology, strange phenomenon, mysticism, alien intelligences, and the occult.


In the meantime there is an active Twitter account and a website. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

PQ mourns a Joyce scholar

As many of you are James Joyce fans, here is some sad news I need to pass on: James Joyce scholar John Bishop has died.

Here are some of the opening sentences from PQ's post at the "Finnegans, Wake!" blog: "The retired Berkeley professor and legendary James Joyce scholar who wrote Joyce's Book of the Dark, John Bishop, passed away on Friday May 15th, 2020 after suffering complications due to Covid-19. He had been fighting through health maladies the last several years ... It is safe to say John Bishop's book Joyce's Book of the Dark made a huge impact on me."

Much more here. You can also read the official obituary for John Bishop.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

Nature's God, Chapter Three

It is surprisingly difficult to find depictions of Washington with red hair. 

Week Three: Chapter 3 “Revolutions and Witty Sayings” (pg. 35-48)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

This chapter is one of the more Joycean I’ve read in RAW’s novels aside from the direct patiches of “The Penelopiad” and “Circe” in Illuminatus! and Masks of the Illuminati respectively. There’s still plenty of RAW’s voice in the chapter and the combination of their prose styles is beautiful. For instance: “A mystery in blue silk European gentlemen’s clothing sat in a shadowy corner, stirred, translated a glass from the table to its lips. Clinking clank the glass was returned to the table, and a sun glint crept through the window as silently as a burglar to flash sudden golden-purple on the red wine.” 

And in that this is taking place in a publican’s tavern, the discussion of Ireland, cynical sentimentalism, and dreadful History all tie back into Joyce. When Sigismundo growls “God save us all from history” that could have been, with less aggression, an exchange between Stephen Dedalus and Headmaster Deasy. Consider also the slightly romantic language that Sigismundo and James use with each other and we can see another, albeit non-paternal, parallel to Bloom and Dedalus towards the end of Ulysses.

Like Bloom and Dedalus, Sigismundo and Moon are wayfarers who have found a brief port before heading off toward different horizons. The reader already knows, aside from the similarities of being brought up in an occupied land, how similar these two tortured souls are in some ways and RAW does an excellent job of reflecting this during their conversation. It is enough to make me wish that there was a way for the two to be reunited, because both of them desperately need a friend. For now, however, Sigismundo “ah Malatesta” is moving towards the Northwest Territory by way of a fictitious trip to New Orleans and Seamus is introduced to a man he can follow at the end of the chapter. 

We’ll have a lot of fun talking about RAW’s portrayal of Washington in the weeks to come. As Eric and Oz have pointed out, he bears striking similarities to Washington in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon. (The recently deceased critic Harold Bloom considered Mason & Dixon to be Pynchon’s masterpiece. While I personally preferred Against the Day, it is an amazing novel with the most delightfully named narrator a reader could ask for. (Also I don’t give a shit about ending sentences with prepositions if that hasn’t become apparent yet. English teacher!)) I wrote my Modern Novel seminar’s capstone on the similarities between Pynchon and Wilson so I actually have some material on this...oddly enough I hadn’t read Nature’s God when I was in the class and drew mostly on passages from Sex, Drugs, and Magick and Illuminatus!. I mention this because Eric points out in his foreword that one of the biggest similarities between Pynchon and Wilson’s Washington is that both portrayals are semi-permanently stoned; the reason for this, aside from possible author-influence, is historical fact brought up in the Appendixes of Illuminatus!. Washington was a prodigious hemp grower and his journals clearly indicate he was interested in female flowering plants which are not used for hangman’s nooses or whatever ghoulish excuses square historians have tried to come up with and instead are only required for consuming cannabis. More on this later!

On Washington in this chapter: I don’t know about Washington’s cursing but I imagine that a seasoned military man and frontiersman wouldn’t necessarily be afraid to fully express himself. However, I should note that Washington liked acting the role of a reluctant, Cincinnatus-style leader but had been showing up at the Continental Congresses in full military dress since the first day. While this quandary is complicated by Washington’s personal writings, I think that we can safely say that one doesn’t end up leading a fledgling nation without a little bit of ambition. 

Chapter 3 ends with a leap forward to 1968 where, as we see in Illuminatus!, Simon Moon and Hagbard Celine will join historical events with William S. Burroughs, Ginsberg, Shea and Wilson, along with Ed Sanders in protesting the nomination of Hubert Humphreys as the Democratic candidate for President. Curious how writing that sentence reminds me so much of this year’s election. 

Sigismundo’s variation of “The Derry Air '' is regarded by Moon to be more mournful and hauntingly fragile than the original. Eric has selected the original for us this week: 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

'Hefner vs. The Narcs'

"Hefner vs. the Narcs" is another great rediscovery by Martin Wagner, Robert Anton Wilson's take on the suicide of Hugh Hefner aide Bobbie Arnstein when she was targeted on drug charges by the federal government, apparently in an unsuccessful bid to get Hefner. It includes some of Wilson's bitterest denunciations of the war on drugs. Excerpt:

The Drug Enforcement Administration has the morals of a scorpion, the mental set of Ghenghis Khan and the general love ability of the Gestapo, combined with the fanaticism of the Holy Inquisition, the ferocity of Anthony Comstock and the frenzy of a Fundamentalist. It is the kind of organization that seems to belong naturally in Stalin’s Russia; nobody can ever possibly believe that such an apparatus of terror exists right here, under the noses of the ACLU, until it has stomped into your own life, and then it is too late to warn others.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Columbus NASFiC has been canceled

Following yesterday's good news about Maybe Day, here is some bad news, albeit news that was not unexpected: The Columbus NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention) has been canceled.

It was a big convention that was supposed to be held August 20-23 in Columbus, Ohio, and I mention it here because I had been working to put together programming and offerings for Robert Anton Wilson fans. Hilaritas Press had agreed to purchase two tables in the dealer's room and I had been working with Christina Pearson, Rasa, Bobby Campbell and Gregory Arnott. I want to thank Christina and the others for their support. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

For obvious reasons I had doubted in recent weeks that the convention would be held, or that it would even be wise for me to go, and I canceled my hotel reservation recently. And now Thursday came the official news of the convention's cancellation.

Here is the notice on the Columbus NASFiC website:

This is the statement I have been hoping we would not have to make, but it is with a heavy heart that I and the executive committee, in consultation with Hotel management and the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, announce that we have made the decision to  cancel the Columbus 2020 NASFiC.  Due to the uncertain health situation and the unreliable travel restrictions, it was decided by all that hosting the NASFiC at this time would be unwise.

We will not be offering any refunds but, that being said, we still plan on publishing a souvenir book for all attending and supporting members. 

We may have a virtual event  on the weekend of August 20 -23.  We’ll update everyone on that later once we have some plans. 

We were very much looking forward to hosting  the North American Science Fiction Convention this fall with you and regret that it cannot happen. 


Lisa Garrison, Chair 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Maybe Day event announced

Maybe Day, a virtual gathering for RAW fans, has been announced by Twitter by Bobby Campbell, the organizer.

Here is Bobby's announcement:

"MAYBE DAY 2020 is a virtual celebration of the lives and ideas of Robert Anton Wilson.
It will go live on July 23rd 8:08 AM EST at

"We'll be putting together a zine, a collection of video presentations,
and whatever else we dream up in the meanwhile.
Working title for the zine is "NEW TRAJECTORIES"
I'd also like to arrange a couple of panel discussions.

"I've set up this discussion forum to help facilitate communication & collaboration.
Do please feel free to make an account and say hello!

"Approximate deadline for submitting zine content is July 1st
& July 15th for video presentations."

More information at And don't you think Bobby's art is particularly good?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

New podcast interviews Daisy

Announcement on Twitter:

"Episode 01 of the F23 Podcast featuring  @DaisyEris is now available on Apple, Google & Spotify. Hear Daisy in conversation telling a tale of adventure, pilgrimage, love and magic that defies the senses."

"The F23 Podcast is a conversation based podcast with interesting, inspiring, inter-dimensional beings of wonder who have chosen a human form for this incarnation. In conversation with me Jamie Dodds (Pope Flag-dag the Brave) sharing their experiences, journeys, learning and un-learning from their off the map adventures through the counterculture."

See also my review of her excellent book, Pigspurt's Daughter. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Maybe the books just didn't do well

Last week, I posted about a mystery that has vexed Robert Anton Wilson fans: Why didn't he write The World Turned Upside Down? The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles was supposed to consist of five books and we only got three.

Here's a theory: The books did so poorly in the marketplace Wilson finally concluded the reward was not worth the effort.

An earlier blog post perhaps underscores the point. Back in 2012, I wondered if the lawyers who defended Dan Brown when he was sued for plagiarism over his use of Holy Blood, Holy Grail in The Da Vinci Code were familiar with The Widow's Son, which of course also draws upon Holy Blood, Holy Grail for a major plot point. The answer was no.

It seems striking to me that neither Brown's lawyers nor anyone they knew were familiar with The Widow's Son. Nobody got in touch with them during the trial to tip them off about the book. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I'm 'going' to New Zealand

I have purchased an "attending" membership for the worldcon in New Zealand. The convention has gone virtual because of the pandemic, so "attending" means I can participate online, vote for the Hugos, etc., but don't get to actually go to New Zealand.  I plan to read the novels on the Hugo ballot. (I read one, A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, a few months ago. I thought it was wonderful.)

I am curious whether any other RAW fans have purchased memberships in the convention and whether there might be an opportunity for programming or some sort of get together.

With the Columbus, Ohio, NASFiC in August in jeopardy because of the pandemic, plans are underway for a virtual RAWcon this summer. More soon, after I have had a chance to discuss this with the main organizer and see what he is ready to release.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter Two

A Lady’s Maid Soaking Linens c. 1765- Henry Robert Morland 

Week Two: Chapter Two “Rape Before Lunch” (pg. 15-34 Hilaritas edition)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

There are wheels within wheels and this chapter is a particularly vicious turn, red in tooth and claw. This violence is carried out on many different levels: the immediate, taking place before Maria Babcock’s eyes on July 4, 1776, socially as we are reminded time and again of English hypocrisy and the empty promises of justice, the perennially relevant, as this account of a rape trial could have been written yesterday, and the karmic as we see various ancestors and incarnations of RAW’s cast of characters represented in the courtroom that will decide upon Sir Vaseline-Foppe Wellington being innocent and turn Lady Babcock into a theological revolutionary.

Right now most of the readers are aware of the cultural shift that has occurred since the beginning of the #Metoo Movement, the 2016 election, and as far back as the so-called #Gamergate mess that seemed to kick the hornet’s nest of mediocre white men: all of which were, or were presented as hinging greatly upon sex/gender relations. Right now most of us are aware of Tara Reade’s accusations against candidate Joe Biden and the many accusations against incumbent Donald Trump; many Americans are left in a moral conundrum. Many Americans are disgusted by the hypocrisy and  glaring partisanship of those who months ago insisted we #BelieveWomen and today are happy to say “I believe him.” Nearly 250 years from the time that Chapter 2 is meant to portray: we’re still in the same fucking mess. And for that matter: I’m just a guy who likes Robert Anton Wilson and I don’t have any solutions.

Indeed, Wilson’s views on women and the Women's Movement were varied: he could write as enthusiastically about the gritty, or should it be slippery?, details of sex as any schoolboy, he considered himself a male feminist yet he could rant about radical feminists along with the best of the Men’s Movement during the Nineties, he was able to point out to a friend who had never understood how women were afraid of men that the same discomfort he felt earlier when a large gay man hit on him was something women dealt with on the regular, he was able to write this chapter which, again, sounds like an account explaining why women don’t come forward sooner or at all. Wilson’s relationship and attitudes towards the various “women’s” issues of the late twentieth century could be the subject of a long essay or book on its own. What is clear is that Wilson had a deep and abiding respect for Woman and women throughout history: if you root for the underdogs, you’ll be rooting for women. I doubt Arlen would have settled for less.

Justine Case, seemingly an earlier incarnation of the music critic who writes essays in The Illuminati Papers and Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the film critic who attends parties throughout The Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy, is being defended by a member of that vibrantly gray and odd family, the Drakes. Hartford Coke Bacon doesn’t seem to be connected to any of RAW’s fictional characters but does have a pedigree consisting of blood from the famous jurist Lord Coke and the philosopher Sir Francis Bacon.

Just as institutionalized misogyny drilled in to the reader’s head by the confrontation between Justine and her mother after the trial, to really emphasize the classism that is so pervasive in the court of law under the Union Jack, Hartford Coke Bacon is connected with Delia Bacon, anti-Stratfordian extraordinaire. The younger Bacon not only impressed Emerson with her wit but was beloved of many of the Transcendentalists and American literary icons. Upon her death she was praised by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman. She was said to be a genius in her own right and a woman of remarkable eloquence. She also thought that Shakespeare’s “philosophical masterpieces” couldn’t have been written by a commoner for the common man and that they were obviously the product of higher class minds for a higher class of audience, the only audience that could possibly understand Shakespeare after all. And this view of Shakespeare is, shockingly, historically inaccurate, disgustingly elitist, and ignores the pervasiveness of culture and ideas. As someone who has taught Shakespeare, I can personally testify that the rarefied approach to his work is ridiculous and ignores the genius of the plays. The anti-Stratford position is often born of a disbelief that a rather unexciting man who simply read quite a bit for his time and needed money could ever produce great art. Which is utter and complete bullshit. For my money, the best of English literature came from an impoverished engraver who everyone thought was goddamn insane.

For the rest of our literature roundup we have a reference to that ungodly tome, Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded which consists of more than a thousand pages of letters as a servant girl fends off unwanted advances from her employer, Mr. B, who then reforms at the end of the novel and they get married. Samuel Richardson’s popularity is striking for modern readers, most of whom find his novels unwieldy at best and unreadable when honest. He also had his critics at the time, one of whom was Henry Fielding, famous for his (infinitely more readable) The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, wrote a parody An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews. In Shamela, the position of Pamela from Richardson’s novel is built on lies; in “reality,” she is much as Hartford Coke Bacon tries to portray Justine Case, a lewd woman who is bent on entrapping her beneficent master. Happily Mr. B’s name is revealed to be Mister Booby. There are wheels within wheels. We also have a delightful example of RAW writing in the style of Daniel Defoe: aside from being scarily accurate RAW is imitating James Joyce, who imitated Defoe during that most difficult chapter of Ulysses, “The Oxen of the Sun.” Alan Moore would later go on to imitate Defoe’s prose in Jerusalem.

At the end of the chapter Sir Vaseline Foppe-Wellington is released to his own devices which will see him syphilitic and delusional, the Judge easily hangs a starving man the next day, and Justine Case hopefully finds safer accommodations at Babcock Manor. Next week we’ll move across the Atlantic to the new world and some casual conversation between two of the least casual characters in these novels as the wick is lit to blow up the world order. See you then!

From Eric: “I thought this song would work:

Sunday, May 10, 2020

RAW and Pronoia

Kevin Kelly (Creative Commons photo)

Kevin Kelly, the tech guru and Wired magazine founder, recently celebrated his 68th birthday by offering "68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice."  I thought it was good advice, but as a RAW blogger, this caught my eye:

"• The universe is conspiring behind your back to make you a success. This will be much easier to do if you embrace this pronoia."

This seems rather similar to Robert Anton Wilson's saying, "You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knit group of nearly omnipotent people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends."

I thought maybe RAW had originated the concept of pronoia, but this Wikipedia article cites others, including John Perry Barlowe, who defined it as "the suspicion the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf."

Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings by Rob Brezsny, a 2005 book, cites RAW as one of the progenitors of the concept.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Housekeeping update

I've created a set of links at the top right of this page for the new Nature's God reading group, to make it easy to stay in touch with the group. We're not very far along, so grab a copy of the book and join in!

I have updated "Robert Anton Wilson Resources" to list the new RAW Semantics blog.  "Feature Articles and Interviews" has been updated with three major new pieces by Gregory Arnott -- his discussion of the occult aspects of Twin Peaks and his reviews of new books by Daisy Campbell and John Higgs. I've also updated the "Official News."

Updating the links is a work in progress, but I like to think there's a lot of good material on the right side of the page for the serious RAW fan to browse. This is mostly due to other people, not me. Suggestions for other updates and for ways to make this site more useful are welcome.

Friday, May 8, 2020

More on the mystery of the missing fourth book

Yesterday, I noted that Robert Anton Wilson apparently didn't get very far in the fourth book of the planned five Historical Illuminatus! book, and Eric Wagner remarked, in the comments, "Bob had a tremendous run of bad luck when multiple publishers went out of business over the course of the publication of the first three volumes."

I don't know the entire publishing history of the first three books, but certainly the series got off to a rough start. D. Scott Apel writes in the biographical essay "BOB AND ME: A Record of a 30 Year Friendship" in last year's Beyond Chaos and Beyond that the first book of the series, The Earth Will Shake, was published by Tarcher, the "New Age" publishing imprint of Jeremy Tarcher.

"But sales were poor enough that Tarcher passed on publishing the remaining books of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, which, as might be expected, pissed Bob off no end," Apel writes, adding that Wilson hated Tarcher.

Apel himself remained friendly with Tarcher's wife, ventriloquist Shari Lewis. He writes, "... to this day I have no idea if Tarcher actually screwed Bob over -- he always impressed me as an intelligent, ethical individual, even if he was a publisher -- or if Bob's imagination had bested his objective analysis of the situation."

According to the Hilaritas Press edition of Nature's God, the novel originally was published by ROC Penguin in 1991. According to Wikipedia, Roc Books still exists as a fantasy imprint of Penguin Group. As yesterday's blog post suggests, editor James Frenkel clearly had planned to publish The World Turned Upside Down, the planned next book in the series. According to the Hilaritas edition of The Widow's Son, it was published in 1985 by Bluejay, reprinted by Lynx in 1989 and reprinted by ROC Penguin in 1991. The Earth Will Shake also was issued by multiple publishers, including a ROC Penguin edition in 1991. New Falcon later kept the series in print until Hilaritas Press took them over. Bluejay Books was started by Frenkel and no longer exists, but Frenkel persisted in publishing Wilson. So the lack of a willing publisher does not seem to explain why The World Upside Down never appeared.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

What happened to the fourth book?

Eric Wagner's Introduction to Nature's God includes this note from the Hilaritas Press: "Sadly, the Robert Anton Wilson Trust has not found any evidence of a fourth volume of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles."

The original plan had been for the chronicles to consist of five books.

Wilson kept his agent, Al Zuckerman, and his editor, James Frenkel, in the dark about getting the fourth book completed, although he implied he had worked on it. See this paragraph from my 2010 article "The Widow's Son -- editing RAW's favorite book." 

“He could say something to you, and you had no idea whatsoever whether he was making it all up or telling the absolute truth. It was impossible to tell. He said everything with the exact same sense of earnestness,” Frenkel said, recalling a luncheon with Wilson and Wilson’s agent, Al Zuckerman, when Wilson was supposed to be finishing The World Turned Upside Down. It was the projected fourth book of The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles. Wilson said he would finish the book soon, but in fact it was never completed, Frenkel said.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Fandom and RAW

Eric Wagner's Introduction for Nature's God has a footnote that touches on science fiction fandom. He writes, "Some science fiction fans in the 1940's worshiped a deity named Ghu, who caused typos in fanzines. In his honor they inserted h's in various words: bheer, ghod, etc.")

I have been reading classics of fannish writing available at the TransAtlantic Fan Fund
Free Ebooks website -- Ah! Sweet Idiocy! by Francis T. Laney last year (maybe not so much a classic as a historical curiosity) and just recently, Fandom Harvest by Terry Carr (also a writer and famous SF editor.) I've been wondering lately whether fannish writing will ever get recognition, outside of fandom itself, and will be remembered. It was sometimes a source of often quite good writing, although for a limited audience. It's a literary movement, separate from science fiction itself, that hasn't gotten much attention from the mainstream. The internet seems to offer  hope that some fanzines will be preserved and maybe even read.

I don't know if Eric intended a larger point or just wanted to offer an interesting and amusing aside, but the creation of the mock god Ghu in the 1940's seems to prefigure Discordianism and other later created religions.

There's always been considerable overlap between SF fandom and RAW fandom; one example familiar to readers of this blog is BNF (big name fan) Arthur Hlavaty, multiple "Best Fan Writer" Hugo nominee and also a prominent RAW fan mentioned once or twice in RAW's books. While of course he blogs, he also still issues actual fanzines, and happy fanniversary to him. (See also this Hlavaty fanzine archive, and this one. Lots of good reading!) Some of us also have been involved in fandom; I am not a BNF but I formerly belonged to APA-50 and (for a shorter time) to FAPA, have contributed occasional articles and LOCs (letters of comment) to fanzines and attended conventions. I have an "attending" membership in the New Zealand worldcon this year, which has gone virtual. I don't know how active Eric has been, but if he knows esoterica such as "Ghu" he's an insider.

Perhaps my favorite of the old fannish writers was Redd Boggs. I used to republish  his fanzines in APA-50, so that some of my fannish friends would know about him. I can't find any of his zines online.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Free ebook: 'Liminal' by Cameron Whiteside

I'm on the email list for Joseph Matheny, (author of Ong's Hat, friend of RAW, released Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Session etc.) and I got an email for his list from him a few days ago, subject "An unusual offer."

Mr. Matheny explained:

I generally do not use this email list to promote the work of others but in this case, I have decided to make an exception. You may have heard me mention a work on this podcast, that many of us in the community have been receiving links and communique about, from a mysterious character calling himself, Cameron. 

People like Julian Langer, author of Feral Consciousness have reviewed this work recently and no less than Nick Herbert said when asked if he had read it:

"I made the mistake of reading Liminal before going to bed. It really influenced my dreams = every person and everything has a hidden purpose some of which you are in on and some not. After I had finished the "proposal" I saw my collection of laptops and pads as sinister apertures into a clinging needy system that only wants to do me good (your buying habits indicate that you'd probably like this new Wampus) at an indeterminate price (you're basically nobody unless you own a Limulus D).
It's a scary piece of writing. And a nice logo too: reminded me of my early algebra classes -- draw a circle of radius R on the Cartesian X-Y plane in such a way that it encloses the origin but is not centered there.
What is the equation for this circle?
 Where does this symbol come from?
 A preview of a slice of madness."

So I became intrigued and read it myself. Afterward I wrote to the "publisher" and asked if they could put me in touch with the author, being that some of my work was referenced in the opening scene. They wrote back and said the author is MIA but that they know who I am and asked if I wanted some free copies to distribute to my list. So, now here I am, with 23 copies of Liminal: By Cameron that all need a home.

Mr. Matheny said he would mail a copy to the first 23 people in the U.S. who asked for one; I replied quickly and sure enough, the book showed up in the mail a couple of days later. (I haven't had time to read it yet.)

The sequel is that in an email I got Monday, Matheny said that in response to all of the disappointed people who missed out on getting a copy, the publisher is making the ebook free for four days. So if you act fast, you can get it free from Amazon. Remember that if you don't own a Kindle, you can read it on a Kindle app.

Tuesday links

Ada Palmer's favorite photo of Iceland. She's been Tweeting out beautiful things from her account. 

Ted Hand's favorite web resources for esoteric studies. 

The  UFO videos: "Among my friends and acquaintances, the best predictor of how seriously they take the matter is whether they read science fiction in their youth."

RAW Semantics on RAW and Robert Morning Sky, who claimed contact from extraterrestrials.

Virtual tour of the tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI.

Video tribute to Emperor Norton (about three minutes.)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Nature's God, Week One

Depiction of Brian Boru from 1723

Week One: Chapter One “Murder at Twilight” (pg. 11-14 Hilaritas edition)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Brian Boru’s history is said to have been similar to what Robert Anton Wilson writes in his opening chapter but, as is the nature of such matters, there are various disagreements and quibbles about whose perspective we’re examining the matter from. The Brian Caeneddi of Borumu, slayer of Vikings, that we are introduced to seems to be derived from a 12th century manuscript Cogadh Gaedhil re Gallaibh or The War of the Irish with the Foreigners, whose title conveniently explains its contents and which was authored by one of Brian’s many grandsons to puff up his Grandfather’s legend. I also have a suspicion that this is the version of Brian Boru we meet in Finnegans Wake’s Yesodic territories.

This legend of Brian Boru ignores the more likely possibility that the Battle of Clontarf was primarily an internal conflict -- Brian’s rise to power had made him many enemies -- with minor foreign involvement. Consider this: by the time Brian was alive most of the cities in Ireland had been built by the Norse and Danish invaders. RAW and other writers point out that Dublin was itself built by the Danes. The Danish and Norse people in Ireland had been there for roughly two hundred years by the time of Brian Caeneddi’s nativity and should probably be considered Norse-Gaels. Some accounts say that it is likely Brian himself had Norse ancestry. Brian was also the first “High King” of Ireland to really try to put the title to work which pissed off a lot of the other Kings- both Irish and Norse.

Boru, whose title incidentally seems to mean “Lord of cattle-tributes,” had to contend with various disagreements during his time changing his title from King of Munster into King of Ireland. Disagreements between the Kings of Leinster and Dublin were particularly quarrelsome and led to violence. Máel Mórda, King of Leinster, and Sigtrygg Silkbeard, Norse King of Dublin, were made to swear vassalage to Brian after their failed rebellion and he married Gormlaith, who was the sister of Mael Mórda and the mother of Sigtrygg. Gormlaith was one of his many wives.

Like Lady Macbeth, Gormlaith has not been viewed kindly by history. Both the Irish Cogadh Gaedhil re Gallaibh and the Icelandic Njal’s Saga, which was possibly authored by Snorri Sturulsen, portray Gormlaith as a manipulative, resentful, and power-hungry woman. The Irish author points towards her anger at her brother’s vassalage to Brian being her source of ire while the Icelandic account discusses some sort of divorce. Either way, both accounts paint Gormlaith as the driving factor that led Leinster and Dublin to rise up once more against Boru.

If Boru was an early Sinn Feiner it makes almost poetic sense that he would have problems with Ulster. Some accounts say that the Ulstermen, who had given him such a hard time before he declared Armagh as the center of the Church of Ireland, added their forces to Leinster and Dublin’s rebellion. However, it seems that one minor Ulster king sent troops to oppose Boru.

Whether it was, as Njal’s Saga claims, at Gormlaith’s urging or on his own accord, Sigtrygg was the one who involved Norsemen from outside of Ireland. However, the Danes/Norsemen who Sigtrygg turned to for support were relatively close peoples from Orkney and the Isle of Man. And from Man came two brothers: Brodir (Brodar) and Ospak. While Sturulsen might not have much to say about Brodar in his Heimskringla, a history of the Norse Kings which discusses Brian Boru, Njal’s Saga paints Brodar and Ospak as key players in the drama that surrounded Clontarf. Firstly, their story is made interesting as Ospak and Brodar are offered Gormlaith’s hand in marriage and the High King title if they come to the aid of Dublin- Ospak, a heathen, cannot bring himself to oppose a “King so honorable” and departs to fight alongside Boru. Brodar, who had become a Christian and then committed apostasy to practice sorcery (great life choice, I must say), was tempted towards Dublin and Leinster. On Good Friday, the brothers found themselves on diagonally opposite sides of the field.

According to Njal’s Saga, it was Brodar’s sorcery that decided the battle should take place on Good Friday, although the Christian Kings were reluctant to fight on a High Feast Day. The Saga also records plenty of fantastic portents against the Norsemen such as swarms of ravens and ghostly attacks. It’s full of shit but also a lot of fun.

The battle was said to have lasted an entire day. It is debated whether the 64 year old High King actually participated in the battle or if his son led his forces while he observed the proceedings from his tent. It is thus also debated whether Brodar met Brian on the field of battle or was directed to his tent by a traitorous Irishman where he killed the High King during his prayers. It is not debated that Brodar shortly met his own end after slaying Brian Caeneddi of Borumu; Njal’s Saga records that one of Brian’s men, the colorfully named Wolf the Quarrelsome, opened Brodar’s stomach and marched him around a tree, winding and pulling his entrails about the trunk.

Gruoch ingen Boite, one of the characters in Hollingshed’s Chronicles from which Shakespeare sourced much of the “historical” information of his plays, was just that: a character. Very little is known about her life aside from that she was the wife of the historical Macbeth and mothered a son who would become King of the Scots.

One of Brian’s other descendants, mentioned in the penultimate paragraph, was also a Great King who had his head forcibly opened, thus curtailing his reign- albeit the later assassination occurred on November 22nd, not April 23rd. I’m sure the lineage of split skulls was not lost on RAW.

Lesson: maybe just be content being a senator or a regular King.

So, The Earth Will Shake began with an assassination occurring before Sigismundo’s eyes, The Widow’s Son began with four men conspiring to assassinate Sigismundo, and Nature’s God begins with the historic assassination of Brian Boru. So, that leaves us an assassination in the immediate present, an hypothetical assassination for the future, and an assassination in the, even to 18th century readers, distant past. Just can’t shake it. And it doesn’t look like things are going to be any more civil next week as we have an appointment for “Rape Before Lunch.” Gird your loins for a very unpleasant chapter that makes Lady Babcock into a fiercer Mary Wollstonecraft. 

From Eric: “Well, Brian Boru makes think of the Brian Boru harp. It appears on the cap of Guinness bottles. I have always associated that harp with Spock’s Vulcan harp, so .

"Live long and prosper.”

Sunday, May 3, 2020

This is a good time to buy Prop Anon's music

Prop Anon is a New York City musician, writer, political activist and all around interesting person who also has just completed a new biography of Robert Anton Wilson.

Like many avant garde New York City types, Prop has a day job to pay the bills. (I own a fair amount of music by famed composer Philip Glass, who no longer has to work as a taxi driver and plumber.)

Unfortunately, Prop's job has disappeared during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Conveniently, however, Prop's musical recordings are available for purchase on Bandcamp, and Bandcamp has a temporary policy of letting artists keep artists keep 100 percent of the money from the sales of their music. So this is an opportune time to buy his music.

Tracks from Prop's hip hop album, Squat the Condos, are available, including the track "Ayahuasca Metropolis" which is the recommended track for RAW fans.

Or you can buy Prop's Fuck Satan, Hail Eris EP. Hail Eris is Prop's stoner punk band. Prop says his favorite tracks from the album are "Kallisti" and "Frozen in Time."

See my interesting 2016 interview with Prop, which includes the official music video for "Kallisti."

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A new RAW blog: 'RAW semantics'

Check out a new player on the RAW scene: RAW Semantics, a new blog.

I had not heard about it until yesterday, and apparently it is new (the blog entries are not dated) but it already has close to a dozen entries. The "About" section (it doesn't identify the writer) says,

"The idea was to set up a modest blog to encourage me to re-read my favourite RAW-related books and write an ongoing commentary on them from a perspective that hasn’t already been tried (to my knowledge).

"It would not have a wide appeal, but it might interest a few Robert Anton Wilson aficionados.

"I started putting it together in summer 2019, but then soon got diverted to other things. Now, with more time on my hands (lockdown, as of now), I’ve started to add more, and will continue."

One of the entries, "Wilson becomes a liberal," gives background on some of the passages in Cosmic Trigger 2, one of my favorite RAW books.

Along with the blog entries, there's a nice collection of RAW-related links. (The Wayback machine is used to restore links from RAW's old website.)

There's also a new Twitter account promoting the blog. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

'Prometheus Rising' and the Axial Age

An exchange on Twitter that mentions Prometheus Rising, which will be our next online reading group after Nature's God:

To understand the Tweet, I had to figure out what the "Axial Age" refers to. The answer turned out to be quite interesting.  It refers to the period from 8th the 3rd centuries BC, when most of the world's religions, philosophies and other cultural underpinnings were invented. Here is a quote from Karl Jaspers, the German philosopher who coined the term:

Confucius and Lao-Tse were living in China, time and time the schools of Chinese philosophy came into being, including those of Mo Ti, Chuang Tse, Lieh Tzu and a host of others; India produced the Upanishads and Buddha and, like China, ran the whole gamut of philosophical possibilities down to materialism, scepticism and nihilism; in Iran Zarathustra taught a challenging view of the world as a struggle between good and evil; in Palestine the prophets made their appearance from Elijah by way of Isaiah and Jeremiah to Deutero-Isaiah; Greece witnessed the appearance of Homer, of the philosophers—Parmenides, Heraclitus and Plato,—of the tragedians, of Thucydides and Archimedes. Everything implied by these names developed during these few centuries almost simultaneously in China, India and the West.

Are we in a new "Axial Age"?

There's been a plethora of recent books complaining about stagnation during the last few decades, including one by Tyler Cowen and a new one by Ross Douthat.  But is their sample size too small? In the last 200 years, we've gotten railroads, air travel, the telegraph, radio, TV, and in recent years space exploration, advances in renewable energy and the internet. Entire new art forms  have been invented such as the motion picture and recorded music, and the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics have advanced our ability to understand the universe. So perhaps Robert Anton Wilson's sense of optimism is not misplaced.