Thursday, July 30, 2020

Discordian Tarot



Thanks to the indefatigable Adam Gorightly, keeper of the Discordian Archives, the images of the Discoridian Tarot created by a 26-year-old Antero Alli back in 1979 after an encounter with Greg Hill are now up on the Internet, available for all to see. 

Along with the images are Mr. Alli's account of how the cards came to be created, and how Adam rediscovered them after the creator had forgotten them. 

Lots more stuff at Antero Alli's website. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

New album influenced by 'Prometheus Rising'


the fundamental structure of existence is nothingness (a spiritual odyssey in three movements) is a new album by Steve Tromans, available at Bandcamp. 

Tromans' own description of the music: "Not as nihilistic a statement as may first appear, honest - aka "It's just turtles, turtles, turtles all the way down..." & other things I learnt from reading
@RAWsemantics Prometheus Rising." Also: "This album is definitely my Vangelis meets Terry Riley meets Tangerine Dream meets Allan Holdsworth homage (influences assemble..)"

You can listen to the whole thing before deciding whether to buy it.

Bandcamp bio for Tromans: "Pianist and composer Steve Tromans has been active on the music scene since the 1990s. He has given over 6,000 performances on a national and international level, at venues ranging in size from festival stages to the intimacy of club spaces. As a composer he has written more than 100 compositions, and received major commissions from a series of major arts organisations in the UK."

Here is the Dr. Steve Tromans Twitter account.

Hat tip: RAW Semantics on Twitter. 

Addendum: This guy also has a one-track album (about 30 minutes) called Prometheus Rising. The other album titles at his Bandcamp main page also are intriguing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Visit Zendrites.com


When I started reading the New Trajectories journal, available as a download from MaybeDay.net, I was particularly impressed with the "Transmission From the Tribe" comic written by Mike Clinton and illustrated by Ken Condon.

I'm afraid I didn't know those guys before, but the comic included a link to Zendrites.com, where I found the above cartoon and other cartoons with RAW quotes. And other good items, too. One of the more exciting aspects of Maybe Day is the opportunity to find out about other creators and learn more about them.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Prominent SF fan recommends Illuminatus!



James Davis Nicoll is on the Hugo ballot this year for 'Best Fan Writer." We'll find out in a few days whether Mr. Nicoll has won (the all-online Worldcon, nominally based in New Zealand, begins this week) but in the meantime, he's posted "Five More Massive Works of SFF to Add to Your Must-Read Pile," at Tor.com and one of the works he recommends is Illuminatus! Excerpt:

The trilogy is, to quote an old review of mine, “if drugs, sex, the occult, polyester, Studio 54, post-Watergate America, and the Playboy letters page were to have a monstrous baby.”




Sunday, July 26, 2020

Maybelogues panel discussion now available




On Saturday, the Maybe Day celebration continued with a "Maybelogues" panel discussion led by Bobby Campbell, held live and then posted to YouTube.  Featuring Bobby Campbell, Mike Gathers, Steve "Fly" Pratt, Brenton Clutterbuck, Mike Gathers, Peter Quadrino, Oz Fritz, Ted Hand, Rich, Eva David and Eric Wagner. One hour, 53 minutes. I was unable to take part, I had to work. It turns out Bobby is an excellent moderator.

Topics include, "Has Operation  Mindfuck gone too far?" what RAW saw as a legacy for his work, integrating magick into the "normal world," and what projects are each panelist working on. I do have to call out the panelists on one point: Bobby asked everyone for an update on their projects, but no one on the panel asked for an update from Bobby. Bobby, please share?

A couple of anecdotes: Bobby shared that RAW was a fan of the movie "The Chase" with Charlie Sheen, and Ted Hand said RAW watched the TV show "House" and was sad he had to die without knowing what the final outcome of the series would be.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Thanks to everyone for New Trajectories



New Trajectories, the big zine put together by Bobby Campbell for Maybe Day, clocks in at an impressive 77 pages. But like the tesseract home in the famous Robert Heinlein story, "--And He Built a Crooked House--" those 77 pages have a lot more in them than you might realize. Like a link to a YouTube playlist of Robert Anton Wilson inspired songs, a link to a Mike Gathers minibook, a link to the first chapter  of Steve Fly's new novel, and so on.

All of the Maybe Day work put in by RAW fans seems particularly impressive to me when you consider we're not getting a lot of help. We don't get money from the government or from arts foundations. Academia doesn't seem to be interested in RAW. We can't even get much publicity; Boing Boing, for example, has had nothing about the upcoming Hilaritas Press edition of Starseed or about Maybe Day. Maybe it's not the right time to try to stoke interest in a dead white male, although I'd point out that RAW didn't come from a wealthy family, and Irish Americans were once a marginalized group.

In fact, New Trajectories is so impressive, many of us seem to be a little worried he/she/they didn't measure up. One friend described his contribution as "super rough." Another worried his contribution wasn't original enough. I worried about my Bob Shea piece, but it was sincere.

Everyone, you did well! Pat  yourself on the back!





Friday, July 24, 2020

Getting to know Bobby Campbell



Bobby Campbell in the video explaining Maybe Day. 

Artist and writer Bobby Campbell dropped a lot of material Thursday from himself and his many collaborators for Maybe Day, and it's going to take me awhile to absorb all of it, but I thought for a few days I could call attention to some of the contributors and contributions and perhaps offer a bit of annotation.

The obvious way to start is with Bobby himself. The whole Maybeday.net website is a creation from Bobby, but he also has an article in the New Trajectories zine and a video explaining Maybe Day. 

Please also see Bobby's Weirdoverse website, his Twitter and his Instagram.  Bobby is also the maintainer of the Robert Anton Wilson Twitter account. You can also support his Patreon account. 

I met Bobby (and Gregory Arnott) in person when I got together with them for RAW activities at the ConFluence SF convention in Pittsburgh in 2018. I was attempting to repeat that effort with the North American Science Fiction Convention in Columbus, Ohio, this year, but the convention was canceled. Bobby then declared he would organize the Maybe Day effort. Kudos to Bobby for all his work -- building the website, putting together the "New Trajectories" zine, making videos, doing all sorts of artwork and on and on. Hard to believe he has a day job, but he does.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Happy Maybe Day! [UPDATED with explanation]


Bobby Campbell helps you celebrate the gala international holiday at MaybeDay.net with a 72-page PDF zine you can download and keep, his production of a 32-page document from Mike Gathers on the Eight Circuit model (also a handy PDF), videos from various folks and more! Go get your stuff! Find the others! (You will recognize many names and meet new friends.) All hail Bobby for his great work, and thanks to all of the contributors! (Above illustration chipped in by Rasa).

Addendum: Explanation of Maybe Day below. 


Explanation of Maybe Day: Maybe Day is celebrated every July 23 by fans of the American writer Robert Anton Wilson, who was known for books such as Illuminatus! and Cosmic Trigger.  It is thus analogous to Bloomsday, celebrated every June 16 by fans of James Joyce.

The day also recognizes the efforts to keep Wilson's work before readers, not just official efforts such the Robert Anton Wilson Trust and its Hilaritas Press imprint, but the informal but persistent efforts of a network of RAW fans around the world.

For reasons that are not easily summarized in a few words, July 23 is a notable day for many fans of Wilson; the significance of the date becomes apparent if you read Cosmic Trigger.

Maybe Day also refers to "maybe logic," Wilson's suggestion that many questions or assertions can be answered, not just with "yes" or "no," but with "maybe," and that many claims ought to be qualified with a degree or uncertainty. So, for example, if you say, "Maybe Robert Anton Wilson is an interesting writer and maybe he still deserves to be read," you are issuing an invitation, not asserting a dogma regardless of personal literary taste.

Update to update: Watch Bobby Campbell's explanation of Maybe Day (about eight minutes):



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

More on Jesse Walker, jokes and RAW


An agent of the Illuminati, Ludwig van Beethoven. 

Yesterday, I blogged about Jesse Walker's new Reason article, "From Antifa to UFOs, One Joke Can Spawn a Thousand Conspiracies."  I'd like to stay on it and make a couple of points.

One of Jesse's main arguments that is something which is offered as a joke can wind up being taken seriously.

There's an example of that in Illuminatus! (well, there are probably at lot of examples, but here's one). Ludwig van Beethoven is depicted as being part of the Illuminati conspiracy.

In this interview (and I think in other places) Robert Anton Wilson maintains that this was simply a joke he made up: “Actually, a few things that I thought I invented did turn out to be true, oddly enough. The one I still remember is Beethoven’s link to the original, real, historical Illuminati. I invented that as a parody of right-wing books on the Beatles serving Moscow – but hot damn years later I found, in a bio of Ludwig, that he had several associates in the Illuminati and the Illuminati commissioned his first major work, The Emperor Joseph Cantata."

I think RAW is referring to the Maynard Solomon biography of Beethoven. A more recent Beethoven biography, by Jan Swafford, goes into considerable detail about the Illuminati influence on some of Beethoven's most famous works, including the Ninth Symphony, which was important to RAW.

Wilson's remarks about Illuminatus! and Robert Anton Wilson are worth discussing. As I've urged everyone to read the whole thing, I hope I can quote some of what he wrote without making the Reason folks mad:

[After noting Illuminatus! came out in 1975] Rumors immediately began to circulate that the books were more than just fiction. Conspiracy Digest reported that while many of the digest's readers believed Wilson "was an Illuminati agent attempting to lampoon and discredit conspiracy theories," others thought he was trying "to slip the truth past Establishment censors by disguising the truth as a titillating parody"; still others took the books as "a reliable guide to the inner doctrines of the hidden world of the secret societies alleged to control the conspiracy."

These sorts of reactions continued for decades afterward. The Rev. Ravi Holy, today an Anglican vicar, was an anarchist and occultist in his youth. Back then, the British journalist Damian Thompson has reported, Holy accepted Illuminatus! as "truth lightly clothed as fiction." When he was born again in a Pentecostal sect and created a conspiracist website, he "carried out only minor adjustments to this narrative." (Holy now describes himself as a "recovering conspiracy theorist.") The same sort of thing has happened to some of Wilson's other novels. In a 1992 tract called Dark Majesty, for example, the conspiracist Texe Marrs writes that Wilson's Masks of the Illuminati "purports to be fiction" before declaring that "there is little doubt that it contains much insight and many hard facts about the Secret Brotherhood."

Wilson has described the Illuminati as a "metaphor," but with all of the humor and fantasy elements in Illuminatus!, many people take it quite seriously -- libertarians focus on the political comment, people into magick tune in to the magick, etc. Certainly the appendices contribute to the notion that it's not just a story.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Jesse Walker on pranks that spark real beliefs


Jesse Walker has a great new article up at Reason on conspiracy theories, "From Antifa to UFOs, One Joke Can Spawn a Thousand Conspiracies." It's about how joke and prank conspiracy theories can morph into conspiracy theories people take seriously. (Of course, there are also serious conspiracy theories that dissolve into jokes when you look at them too closely, such as the Christian Crusade claim, mentioned in Illuminatus!, that the Beatles were a Communist plot).

Every RAW fan should read Jesse's article. There's a section which references Wilson by name and discusses reactions to Illuminatus!

But in a sense, much of the article is about Wilson. There's a discussion of the Priory of Sion (explicitly created as a hoax, Walker says) and how is spawned two prominent works of bestselling fiction, Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code. Jesse does not mention the book, but of course the Priory of Sion also helped spawn Wilson's The Widow's Son. 

Many other themes and incidents in Wilson's work also are covered, including the guy who got pancakes from a UFO (mentioned in Cosmic Trigger) and a theory that the Rosicrucian manifestos began as a prank, written by authors who "lost control of the narrative."

Then there's this sentence: "To read a certain sort of Fortean writer is to be constantly unsure about when he's being serious, when he's pulling your leg, and when someone is pulling his leg."

That sounds to me like a description of Wilson, although Walker says, "For the record, the particular Fortean writer I had in mind when I wrote that line was John Keel...but it works for others."

Related: If you like Jesse's piece, you might want to read his book. 






Monday, July 20, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter 11



Orson Welles as Count Cagliostro in "Black Magic" (1949)

Week Eleven: Chapter 11 “The Grand Orient and Other Treacheries” pg. 211-231 Hilaritas Press edition


By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger 

We meet upon the level, we part upon the square. Could you feel it, the crescendo swelling up to the nonexistent book four? I did, and that nagging feeling has been with me every time I look into the chapter. We will never know what happened with Sigismundo Balsamo and his vendetta against Weishaupt, Orleans, and his brother. Of course, given that RAW spent most of his life trying to teach us model agnosticism, this could be taken as a lesson in only having suspicions to lean upon. 

I don’t have anything to add to Wilson’s sparking conversation at the party thrown by Duc d’Orleans. I will say that as a critic I believe this is some of the finest dialogue that Wilson had written and that I would say that we get a clearer depiction of the author’s “beliefs” from Sartines quips than from the satori-laden “Wilderness Diary.” Or perhaps Sigismundo’s diary and Sartine’s scandalous wit are two sides of the same coin -- one representing the view from above and one representing the panorama on the ground floor. 

At first I believed that Madame de Monnier was the ancestor, perhaps grandmother, of Blanche Monnier, a French socialite who was once the toast of the mid-to-late nineteenth century Parisian party scene. Blanche made the mistake of pissing off her mother who locked her in a room in the attic for twenty five years and told everyone that Blanche had died. The story is horrifying, as are the before and after pictures. While not to make light of Blanche’s tragedy, researching these novels had made me acutely aware of the historical dangers of being a libertine born to French nobility/high society.

Digging a little deeper I was able to find out that de Monnier was in fact Marie Thérèse de Monnier, better known to history by her lover’s pet name for her “Sophie.” Sophie de Monnier would become the mistress of the already married Honore Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau who I briefly discussed during Week Four of The Widow’s Son reading group post. De Monnier was quite as scandalous, or had as scandalous a reputation, as Wilson depicts her at the Duc’s soiree. She is probably best remembered for her affair with Mirebeau leading to his father issuing the lettre de cachet that led to his final imprisonment before the Revolution. During his imprisonment Mirabeau spent his time writing filthy letters to Sophie, writing pornography for his own amusement, and honing his rhetoric. (I believe I mentioned this during The Widow’s Son but during his imprisonment Mirabeau met de Sade, the two did not like each other. Like de Sade, Mireabeau led the French authorities on a merry chase as he initially escaped to Switzerland, where he “lived in sin” with Sophie, only to be captured in Belgium.) 

But all this is ahead of de Monnier at the time of her conversation with Sartines, Orleans, and Beaumarchais. (With Sigismundo somewhere in the background.) We can see clear examples of the ideas that would make de Monnier a figure of interest in the years preceding the Revolution, especially in her brilliant spiel comparing the Old Testament god to Caligula. 

Dr. Cyprus is also mentioned during the character’s discussion in a similar manner that the plebeian characters discussed “Spartacus” in The Widow’s Son. Dr Cyprus, as I mentioned previously, seems to share some qualities with Dr. Hankopft. His philosophy is very similar to that espoused by Unistat President Furbish Lousewart V, who also loathes technology and scientific thinking. At the end of The Universe Next Door, after the nuclear holocaust, Wilson informs the reader that the quotes from Lousewarts book Unsafe Wherever You Go are taken from Adolf Hitler. It seems like a safe assumption that Dr. Cyprus would have become one of the tertiary or quaternary characters whose words mimic and mock along with the main plotlines of the proposed future novels. 

We will pass over duc d’Orleans and Weishaupt's flame daggers as another thread we cannot follow and land upon the manipulation of the Cardinal de Rohan at the hands of Count Cagliostro, Giuseppe Balsamo. Surprisingly, the tryst with a prostitute in the garden was true and de Rohan seems to have been one of the biggest dopes in the annals of history. 

The story goes back a few years to the reign of Louis XV. King Louis decided he wanted to gift Madame du Barry with a magnificent diamond necklace. The production of such a necklace took years, during which Louis grew sick with the pox and went to the big whorehouse in the sky. The jewellers, who were understandably pissed at having a very expensive necklace that they couldn’t sell, tried multiple times to offer it to Marie Antoinette. Perhaps because of her distaste for du Barry, or perhaps because she was canny enough to understand how such an expenditure would look to the suffering French citizens, Marie Antoinette refused each time. 

Marie Antoinette is famous for her prickly relationships with many of the French nobility and was not a fan of the Cardinal de Rohan. Louis Rene Edouard de Rohan had earned the Queen’s ire by his actions in the Court of Maria Theresa of Austria, her mother. de Rohan, despite his ecclesiastic role, had no scruples about putting his love of pleasure and wealth on display. He also, in an act of hypocrisy that according to Sartines we shouldn’t be surprised by,  told Maria Theresa about Marie Antoinette’s (probably fabricated) disreputable activities in France. 

By 1783 the Cardinal de Rohan, while welcomed to Court because of his familial status, was in fact  persona non grata at Versailles. Marie Antoinette did not have time for his shit. de Rohan was taken for a ride by his mistress, Jeanne de la Motte. Much of the manipulation ascribed to Cagliostro in this final chapter was in fact pulled off by de la Motte, her husband, and some engravers. de la Motte convinced the Cardinal de Rohan that Marie Antoinette wanted to put the bad blood behind them in a series of increasingly intimate forged letters- this culminated in the garden tryst with a prostitute that de Rohan sincerely believed was the Queen of France. 

The necklace comes into play because Jeanne knew about it and thought that it would look better picked apart and sold for her ascent into Parisian high society. She convinced the Cardinal that Marie Antoinette, once more through a series of forged letters, wanted the necklace but could not purchase it herself while the people were suffering. “Marie Antoinette” asked if the Cardinal would buy the necklace for her; he did so and the whole affair came to light. The French Court would be rocked by “the affair of the diamond necklace” from 1784-85. 

The fallout of the purchase was de la Motte was able to french the necklace on the black market but she and her conspirators were captured and punished. Interestingly, Jeanne would escape six months into her prison sentence. de Rohan was thrown in the Bastille and never got to sleep with the real Marie Antoinette who still hated him. Marie Antoinette’s reputation, despite her non-involvement, took another massive blow in the eyes of the French public and the “affair of the diamond necklace” is cited by historians as one of the precipitating events of the French Revolution by destroying confidence in the House of Bourbon. Presumably Louis XIV was off playing with his toy boats. 

While Count Cagliostro was arrested for a role in the conspiracy, historians seem to agree that he had nothing to do with this particular con. While looking into this I believe that Wilson’s rearrangement of history is due to the influence of a film Black Magic, itself an adaption of Alexander Dumas’ Joseph Balsamo, based on the life of Cagliostro. In Black Magic (from 1949), none other than Orson Welles plays Count Cagliostro; while Dr. Mesmer does make an appearance, it seems as if Cardinal de Rohan is absent. Instead the film is about a plot to replace Marie Antoinette with a prostitute which leads to the purchase of the diamond necklace by a fictional dupe. 

What fun! It is a pity that all things come to an end, but they do. We’ll never see the excised 500 pages from Illuminatus!, nor will we ever find exactly how Sigismundo waged war against the Illuminati. We do know that when a character’s name changes in Historical Illuminatus that it indicates a major shift in that character’s perspective and goals. Both Sigismundo and Seamus reclaimed their “original” or “truest” selves and both are prepared to take drastic actions. We know that tragedy has struck the Babcocks...but we don’t know what. Loose ends! And like history itself we find out that the trail runs cold and we’ll never know. 

I’ve had a tremendous amount of fun writing about and discussing Historical Illuminatus with all of you. Special thanks to Tom for allowing me to write for his blog, to Eric for providing our musical selections, Oz for his insightful qabbalistic commentary, and to everyone who took the time to read or share their thoughts and ideas in the comments. I believe that our next reading group is going to be Prometheus Rising which is a hell of a book. Don’t miss it!

Looking forward to seeing everyone for Maybe Day and in conclusion I’m going to add a poem by Masonic Poet Laureate Rob Morris. (Morris became Laureate after his death an honor that had not been bestowed upon anyone since the death of Robert Burns.) 

The Level and the Square by Rob Morris

We meet upon the Level, and we part upon the Square,
What words of precious meaning those words Masonic are,
Come let us contemplate them, they are worthy of our thought,
With the highest and the lowest and the rarest they are fraught.

We meet upon the Level, though from every station come,
The king from out his palace, and the poor man from his home;
For the one must leave his diadem outside the mason's door,
And the other finds his true respect upon the chequered floor.

We act upon the Plumb,—tis the order of our Guide—
We walk upright in every way and lean to neither side;
Th' All-Seeing Eye that reads our hearts doth bear us witness true,
That we still try to honor God and give each man his due.

We part upon the Square, for the world must have its due,
We mingle with its multitude, a cold unfriendly crew;
But the influence of our gatherings in memory is green,
And we long upon the level to renew the happy scene.

There's a world where all are equal—we are hurrying towards it fast,
We shall meet upon the level there, when the gates of death are passed,
We shall stand before the Orient, and our Master will be there,
To try the blocks we offer by his own unerring Square.

We shall meet upon the level there, but never thence depart,
There's a mansion—'tis all ready for each trusting faithful heart,
There's a mansion and a welcome, and a multitude is there
Who have met upon the level, and been tried upon the square.

Let us meet upon the level then, while laboring patient here,
Let us meet and let us labor, though the labor seem severe,
Already in the western sky the signs bid us prepare
To gather up our working tools, and part upon the square.

Hands round, ye faithful masons, form the bright fraternal chain,
We part upon the square below to meet in heaven again,
Oh what words of precious meaning those words masonic are—
"We meet upon the level, and we part upon the square."

Aum Ha. 

From Eric: “The presence of Beaumarchais and the reference to Mozart led me to choose this selection from The Marriage of Figaro. Thank you for the opportunity to choose these pieces. I suspect Sigismundo disguised himself as the young lady’s father.”




Sunday, July 19, 2020

More on Brenton Clutterbuck's new book



If you want to learn a bit more about Brenton Clutterbuck's new book on the underground music scene in Argentina before you decide whether to buy it, you're in luck. Brenton has posted the first chapter of Si Nos Organizamos online. 

I'm glad the chapter has been posted because you can see for yourself the book seems interesting. 

Typically when someone becomes interested in an obscure genre of music, there's a good reason; the person has discovered something compelling and wants to share. I know a rock historian, Nick Blakey, who's an expert in the underground Cleveland rock scene of the 1970s. Robert Christgau has written a lot about African pop music, a topic not explored by many other pop critics. I have a particular interest in avant garde Russian classical music of about 1915-1935 and have been trying to put together a blog about it. 

Brenton's book is available as both a paperback and ebook.

I forgot to mention yesterday you can follow Brenton on Twitter. 


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Brenton Clutterbuck news update


Brenton Clutterbuck, the author of Chasing Eris, a survey of the Discordian scene around the world, has a new book out, Si Nos Organizamos. 

Brenton says,

"It's been a long time coming, but Si Nos Organizamos, a snapshot of the Argentine Musical 'Under', is finally here.

"There’s no clear path to success for the underground musicians of Buenos Aires, but that hasn’t stopped it from birthing one of the most exciting and innovative creative scenes around.

"Si Nos Organizamos is a snapshot of where the Buenos Aires ‘Under’ stood in 2016. Shaped by disaster, economic pressure and political dysfunction, the scene is characterised by its headstrong determination, creative ingenuity and willingness to organise to build the grassroots creative infrastructure that defines the scene."

Details on getting the book. 

More news:

• Brenton will be involved with Maybe Day.

• Brenton has compiled a list of all of the books mentioned in Chasing Eris.

• You can support him on Patreon and keep up with his various projects.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Maybe Day is coming soon!



This is your friendly reminder that Maybe Day, July 23, will be celebrated next week with a variety of offerings coordinated by Bobby Campbell, including a journal, video presentations, a panel discussion on July 25, and more. I know the journal, New Trajectories, already has a bunch of articles.

There will be an online panel discussion at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on July 25, but everything else arrives on July 23, as Bobby explained in a new update he sent me: "With the exception of the Maybelogues panel discussion everything drops on 7/23. The website will have a download link for New Trajectories and all the Presentation videos will be embedded there. I’ll be promoting stuff throughout the weekend and facilitating conversations in the OM Arts Lab, but there’s no set schedule. There is a LOT of content! It’ll take some time for folks to digest. I just counted and we currently have 23 contributors to Maybe Day 2020 :)))"

Bobby's last official update was here if you want more details. 

All of this will be seen, but in the meantime, go to maybeday.net and join the conversation!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Illuminati Papers has more than one edition




The gentleman who writes the RAW Semantics blog notices something interesting about The Illuminati Papers. 

"I have the 1981 second printing (And/Or Press), and I had no idea – until recently – that a later edition (Ronin, 1997) had a brand new introduction added by RAW."

I had no idea, either. My edition was published in Great Britain by Sphere Books (I certainly didn't buy it over there), but it's apparently based on the And/Or Press edition. So I haven't read the introduction, either, although The Illuminati Papers is a favorite of mine. 

RAW Semantics offers a quote from that introduction:

"This book dates from a barbaric, almost pre-historic age—over twenty years ago. You will realize how far back in the abyss of time that near-Feudal epoch looks in retrospect when I tell you that I wrote the entire manuscript on a typewriter. Of course, we had electric lights instead of candles, and the 'horseless carriage' had come into general use, but otherwise the so-called advanced nations remained in a primitive industrial economy and few could foresee the Information Age dawning."



Alice Walker and the 'lizard Illuminati'


Alice Walker, who's alert to the "Illuminati bloodline families and their puppets" when she sees them on TV

By now if you pay attention to such things, you've probably heard of the resignation latter of Bari Weiss, a controversial New York Times columnist. I'm not going to weigh in on that, at least for now, but there was a sentence in it that caught my eye, because it referenced the Illuminati:

But there is still none appended to Cheryl Strayed’s fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati. 

Wait, what?

Alice Walker, as I assume most of you will know, is a famous American writer who won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple. 

As far as I can tell, the "lizard Illuminati" reference may be to this "By the Book" interview with Walker that ran in the New York Times:

(As part of a long answer to "What books are on your nightstand?")

“And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke. In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.

I'm not familiar with Icke's work, so Walker's endorsement means nothing to me.

But Vox ran a long explainer, which says, "Icke is best known for arguing that the world is run by a secret cabal of alien lizard people, many of whom are Jewish."

The Vox article says Icke asserts "The world is run by a global elite of Illuminati, and the government, the British royal family, celebrities, and journalists are all in on it." Also, "The Illuminati are the descendants of a race of shape-shifting, blood-drinking, child-sacrificing alien lizard people." Also "Also, vaccines are the Illuminati trying to control us." In fairness, Vox says, "Icke maintains that he is not an anti-Semite, and that he is criticizing not real Jews, but 12-foot-tall alien lizard people, many of whom just happen to be posing as Jews."

Wikipedia has other details about Icke and Walker.  And here is Alice Walker's blog post recommending Icke: "my partner and I go around saying Oh, Chitauri, whenever we get a glimpse of one or two of the Chitauri offspring, aka Illuminati bloodline families and their puppets, on the telly.  It’s quite the stress reliever, just knowing what we’re looking at."

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

More on the new edition of Eric's book


The new, updated edition of Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, recently released in paperback, has now been released on Kindle at Amazon. The paperback is $24.48, while the Kindle is $5.99.

I bought the Kindle this morning so I'd have a searchable text, so I now have both the new paper edition and the new Kindle.

As with the paperback edition, you have to be careful to buy the updated Kindle; as with the paperback, for some reason Amazon is listing both the old and the new editions.  But since I now own the new Kindle, I could check, and I can confirm it's the updated text.

You will want to make sure you get the new edition. It has been  refreshed with pages and pages of corrections and updates, including changes in the "Books by Robert Anton Wilson" chapter to reflect posthumous publications, new interior illustrations by Bobby Campbell, and five new appendices, "Afterwords of a Cosmic Schmuck," "Eight Ways to Listen to Beethoven," "On Robert Anton Wilson and Misunderstanding Finnegans Wake," Eric's introduction to "Wilhelm Reich in Hell," and "Ode to Joy."

Various other bits are slipped in to the new edition. The "About the Author" now has this additional sentence: "Since then he has pursued a campaign of remedial reading, reading Melville, Tolstoy, Proust, Stendhal, etc."


Monday, July 13, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter 10


Week Ten: Chapter Ten “In Pursuit of Wild Pigs” pg. 185-210 Hilaritas edition

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blotter 

Our penultimate chapter covers three years and concludes the American Revolution narrative in the novel. Through the lens of Seamus Muadhen’s experience we are provided with decently accurate accounts of the historical record of those three years. Looking into some of the events mentioned in this novel I found that much of Seamus’ descriptions come from the memoirs of Joseph Plumb Martin, whose words on Washington’s marches are directly quoted on pg. 186. Wilson deserves more credit than he has been given for going back to first hand sources; while those sources occasionally enjoy a dubious credibility, it is generally accepted as a good practice.

Seamus might be wrong about the Colonial Army being the first “bare-arsed” army in history. It is sometimes accounted, although this might be apocryphal, that dysentery was so rampant amongst the fleeing English army that by the time they made their stand against the French at the funnel-abattoir that was Agincourt, many of the longbowmen fought without breeches. Shitting and shooting. I’m sure RAW would have appreciated the parallel.

Washington’s failed attack on Staten Island is reflective of the model modern major general’s fixation on New York since the beginning of the conflict. After his defeat in Brooklyn, the British pretty much had New York City as their base of operations for the duration of the War. Washington actually wanted to focus the campaign that led to Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown on retaking New York from the British.

The Dark Day of 1780 did cause a lot of hubbub amongst the Continental armies and the people of New England. (Seamus’ recollection of the cock’s crowing and whippoorwill songs is taken directly from Joseph Plumb Martin’s journals.) The incident did garner one bon mot for the historical record when Abraham Davenport, a member of the Connecticut Senate, said to his colleagues, who wanted to adjourn over fear of it being Judgement Day: 

“I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

His remark reminds me of a bumper sticker an uncle bought for me Christmases ago: “Jesus is Coming: Quick! Look busy!”

New England’s Dark Day is actually surmised to have been caused by forest fires that were raging in Ontario. Atmospheric effects before and after the Dark Day, the sun and moon having a reddish hue for example, are typical in such events. While West Virginia was not in the path of the recent dust plume, it is worth pointing out that much of the Southern United States just experienced hazy skies and fantastic sunsets due to dust from the Sahara Desert migrating across the Atlantic. The effects in the Caribbean were even more dramatic.

The Battle of Yorktown was even more fantastically awful than Seamus’ account indicates. Washington is recorded as having struck the first strike of the pickaxe at the beginning of the trench digging, although I couldn’t find anything about him striking three times. It is plausible, and I prefer to believe he did did did. Cornwallis had holed up in Yorktown and had sunk dozens of his own ships to block hostile naval access at the mouth of the York River. After this order he had all of the horses that couldn’t be fed over the course of a siege slaughtered and cast into the river. However, the tides swept the corpses back to shore so there was an overwhelming smell of decay in the air. And it rained and rained. Seamus’ complaints about the precipitation during the war are 100% accurate.

Joseph Plumb Martin’s memoirs also seem to provide some of the details for Seamus’ experience. Like Seamus, Martin was involved in various charges and taking of redoubts; his company cleared the way for Alexander Hamilton’s vaunted taking of a British redoubt. It is generally argued now that Cornwallis’ playing of “The World Turned Upside Down” was a detail added a year after the end of the Siege of Yorktown. However, this is one of those dubious facts that I choose to believe in myself.

And we end with Seamus Moon sailing back to Ireland to take up a new struggle against the goddamned British. And, since we are nearing the end of RAW’s final novel, we are left to wonder what he might have gotten up to forevermore.

From Eric: “A soundtrack for an unwritten sequel.”
https://youtu.be/v-N0ckzU1mI

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Cherryh, Fancher win Prometheus Award


C.J. Cherryh in 2006

[The connection with this blog is that the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award is the only literary award, that I am aware of, that Robert Anton Wilson ever received (he and Robert Shea won it in 1986 for Illuminatus!) Robert Shea was a member of the Libertarian Futurist Society, which gives the Prometheus Award and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Disclosure: I am a member of the board of the LFS. By the way, when some friends of mine and I formed a science fiction club at the University of Oklahoma in the 1970s, C. J. Cherryh was our first author guest. She had just published her first novel, Gate of Ivrel.  Below is the official press release on this year's award. -- The Management.]

Prometheus Award for Best Novel

Alliance Rising, by C. J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher (DAW), has won the 2020 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for novels published in 2019. Set in C.J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union Universe (before her novel Downbelow Station), Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher's interstellar saga of technological upheaval, intrigue and romance explores the early days of the Merchanter Alliance. Independent spaceship families ally during complex, mult-isided political-economic rivalries to defend established rights and promote the common good through free trade.

In one of the better fictional treatments of a complex economy, characters maneuver to prevent statist regimes from dominating space lanes, resist Earth's centralized governance, and investigate the purpose of a mysterious ship, The Rights of Man, undergoing construction on an isolated space station. Classic libertarian themes emerge about what rights are and where they come from (often to resolve conflicts and avoid the initiation of force) and how commerce and property rights promote peace and prosperity as humanity spreads among the stars.

The other 2020 Best Novel finalists were The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood (Random House; Nan A. Talese); Ruin's Wake, by Patrick Edwards (Titan Books); Luna: Moon Rising, by Ian McDonald (TOR Books): and Ode to Defiance, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing).

LFS members also nominated these 2019 works for this year's Best Novel category: They Will Drown in Their Mothers' Tears, by Johannes Anyuru (Two Lines Press); Monster Hunter Guardian, by Larry Correia and Sarah H. Hoyt (Baen Books); The Good Luck Girls, by Charlotte Nicole Davis (TOR Teen); Empire of Lies, by Raymond Khoury (Forge Books/TOR); The Year of Jublio!, by Joseph T. Major (Amazon); Atlas Alone, by Emma Newman (ACE Books/Penguin Group); Stealing Worlds, by Karl Schroeder (TOR Books); Fall, or Dodge in Hell, by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow); and Delta-V, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton).

The Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction

"Sam Hall," Poul Anderson's short story, won the 2020 Best Classic Fiction award and will be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame.

First published in 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction, Anderson's story is set in a security-obsessed United States, where computerized record-keeping enables the creation of a panopticon society. The insertion of a false record into the system leads to unintended consequences.

Anderson (1926-2001), now a five-time Prometheus Award-winner and the first sf author to be honored with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement (in 2001), explored political implications of computer technology that now, decades later, are widely recognized.

The other Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists were "As Easy as A.B.C.," a 1912 story by Rudyard Kipling; "The Trees," a 1978 song by the rock group Rush; A Time of Changes, a 1971 novel by Robert Silverberg; and "Lipidleggin'," a 1978 story by F. Paul Wilson.

In addition to the finalists, the Hall of Fame Finalist Judging Committee considered four other works: The Winter of the World, by Poul Anderson; The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood; "The Pedestrian," by Ray Bradbury; and The Uplift War, by David Brin.

While the Best Novel category is limited to novels published in English for the first time during the previous calendar year (or so), Hall of Fame nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including novels, novellas, stories, films, television series or episodes, plays, musicals, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse.

Prometheus Awards History

The Prometheus Awards, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for the Prometheus Awards.

The Prometheus Award have, for more than four decades, recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power. Such works critique or satirize authoritarian trends, expose abuses of power by the institutionalized coercion of the State, champion cooperation over coercion as the roots of civility and social harmony, and uphold individual rights and freedom for all as the only moral and practical foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, universal human flourishing and civilization itself.

After separate judging committees select finalists in each annual awards category, LFS members read and rank the finalists to choose the annual Prometheus Award winners.

As always, the annual Best Novel winner will receive a plaque with a one-ounce gold coin; and the Hall of Fame winner, a plaque with a smaller gold coin.

LFS Prometheus Awards panel at New Zealand Worldcon

In honor of the recent 40th anniversary of the Prometheus Awards, the New Zealand Worldcon (ConZealand) has added to its virtual program a panel discussion on “Freedom in SF: Four Decades of the Prometheus Award.” That panel, with novelist F. Paul Wilson joining LFS board members and awards judges Michael Grossberg and Tom Jackson, is scheduled for 10-11 p.m. Saturday Aug. 1 EDT (i.e., 2 p.m. Sunday Aug. 2 NZST in New Zealand.)

The Worldcon will offer a full virtual convention schedule, available July 30 through Aug. 2 to Worldcon registered members.

LFS at North American Science Fiction Convention

The Prometheus Awards ceremony will take place in an online program via Zoom as part of the Columbus 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). Because of safety concerns during the pandemic, the NASFIC will offer selected virtual events Aug. 21-22, including the LFS's Prometheus Awards ceremony (set for Saturday Aug. 22 from 1pm to 2:30 EDT), to be immediately followed by a NASFiC/LFS panel discussion with Prometheus-winning writers F. Paul Wilson and Sarah Hoyt on "Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today."

Prometheus blog: Awards Appreciation Series

On the 40th anniversary of the first Prometheus Award in 1979, the LFS began celebrating and remembering past winners with a weekly Appreciation series on the LFS's Prometheus Blog. With the initial Best Novel series completed, the Appreciation series is now continuing with review/essays in chronological order of each of the winners of the Hall of Fame category, first presented in 1983. Each review/essay is designed to remind readers of outstanding works of fiction that remain worth reading or rereading today while educating the public about the specific pro-liberty and/or antiauthoritarian themes or story elements that inspired LFS members to select each work as a Prometheus winner.
For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org. For reviews, news and commentary on these and other works of interest to the LFS, visit the Prometheus blog via the link at the top of our website (lfs.org/blog).

Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

RAW reviews the 1976 'King Kong'



Another Martin Wagner rediscovery (and I meant to post about this earlier, sorry Martin): A review by Robert Anton Wilson praising the 1976 remake of "King Kong."

The two versions simply are not comparable. It is impossible to say with any fairness that one is better than the other; that would be like comparining Beethoven to strawberry or sex to Picasso.

What we have here is just what the advertisements promise: an astonishingly original motion picture. It is also the most mythic, psychedelic and mind-boggling cinematic extravaganza since 2001.


Friday, July 10, 2020

RAW versus the Acidheads


Home page of the Original Kleptonian Neo-American Church. "Kleptonian" refers to Arthur Kleps, please see below. 

Adam Gorightly has an excellent new post up at Historia Discordia, RAW vs. the Acidheads for… ONE MILLION DOLLARS! which includes a clipping from "National Weed," a newspaper I am unfamiliar with,  “Author Sues Acidheads For Saying Leary Wrote His Book!” The article does not actually announce a court filing, and Adam says, "In essence, this article appears to have been a PR prank Robert Anton Wilson pulled as a pretext to promote Illuminatus! while at the same time taking a pot-shot (pun intended) at members of the Neo-American Church, who — on occasion — RAW was known to tussle with."

Adam's posting also has a possible clue to the contents of the impending publication of The Starseed Signals: Link Between Worlds.  

"This article also mentions a Timothy Leary interview RAW was working on that had yet to be published at the time due to what he referred to as 'perfectionist' editors at PLAYBOY. This “Lost Leary Interview” — which has yet to see the literary light of day — was among content included in the RVP-never-to-be-version of Starseed Signals, although I’ve been informed that our friends at Hilaritas Press may include it in their forthcoming iteration of the book," Adam writes.

His post also includes a letter to the editor written by RAW, involving a feud between RAW and the late Art Kleps. 


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Eric's music listening scheme


Murray Perahia (Creative Commons photo)

Eric Wagner wrote recently to share his new music listening scheme: "My new game: I listen to a Mozart piano concerto based on the date. Today, June 18, I just put on Concerto #18. I have the Perahia set of 27 concertos and two rondos. I plan to listen to a rondo each on the 28th and 29th, and I plan to return to #25, my favorite, on the 30th. I will likely pick another late concerto on July 31 if I keep this up."

Murray Perahia is a very good Mozartean; I need to listen to the 25th to see why Eric likes it so much. I'm partial to #20 and #24, myself. I forgot to ask Eric if he is referring to listening to a CD on the stereo, or to Spotify with a Bluetooth speaker, or what. I need to nail these details down.

But in any event I like this scheme for concentrated listening. One drawback is that while Mozart is never less than pleasant, the early work is not as interesting as the later pieces; Mozart wrote most of the music he's remembered for in the last few years of his life, frantically issuing one masterpiece after another in his waning months. On the other hand, under Eric's scheme, the music is generally going to get better as the month advances.

In any event, I may have to adopt this for myself. It would be a way to finally get through all 27 Nikolai Myaskovsky symphonies; I could also modify the scheme to listen to all of the Shostakovich and Prokofiev symphonies (with a few concertos thrown in) or to listen to all of Beethoven's piano sonatas in a month.

I never seem to get many comments for my classical music postings, but oh well! I like to think RAW would have read them.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Get your free 'black opium in a lush and expensive brothel'


Johann Christian Bach, the 'English Bach'

One of the amazing aspects of modern times for an old guy like me is the wealth of free music that can be streamed into your home by anyone with a library card. I take advantage of that quite often, usually but not always to listen to classical music.

Robert Anton Wilson's description of the music of Johann Christian Bach in a recent chapter for the Nature's God reading group as  "black opium in a lush and expensive brothel" (Chapter 7) reminded me that I've meant to explore J.C. Bach's music; surely Wilson meant to strongly recommend him with such a vivid description. I'll use him as an example of how to use the free library services. (I find it comforting to know that if I lost everything, all of my music collection vanished, and I had no money, I could still listen to tons of music.)

The two main digital library music services are Freegal and Hoopla Digital. There is little overlap between them, as they have deals with different record companies. Both have tons of classical music representing all of the major composers (and many minor ones.)

Each service has strengths and weaknesses. Freegal has unlimited streaming and also lets users download and keep five MP3 files a week. It also makes it easy to combine music into playlists. (I quickly put together a four-hour J.C. Bach playlist.) Hoopla operates strictly by letting users check out an album for a week. There's no opportunity to put together playlists, but Hoopla has a very large selection of music, much bigger than Freegal.

It's best to have a library card that offers both services, or to have more than one library card, so you can take advantage of both. It's easy to do this in Ohio, which provides a bigger state subsidy for local libraries than any state and therefore requires each library to accept applications for a library card (for a library, or a library network) from anyone in Ohio.  Other states are apparently not so generous, but see this article on "Libraries with Non-resident Borrowing Privileges!" which explains how you may be able to obtain an additional library card in your own state, or failing that, purchase a library card.  I looked at some of the latter libraries, and the Houston Public Library, in Texas, seems to offer a nice balance of cost and lots of digital goodies.

I spent a lot of time recently listening to Johann Christian Bach on both library services, and indeed, as you might expect from "black opium in a brothel," his music is beautiful and sensuous. The recommendations below are for the library services, but they should also work for Spotify, etc. 

His music can be easily found on Freegal by searching for "Johann Christian Bach" and "J.C. Bach." On Freegal, try the Johann Christian Bach - Quintet in D Major, Op. 22 No.1 recording by Collegium Musicum Fluminense or the J.C. Bach: Sinfoniae Concertante Collegium Aureum album. 

Hoopla's cataloging and annotation of classical music is not exactly a strength, and but the service's treatment of J.C. Bach is particularly slovenly; a search on Hoopla for "J.C. Bach" or "Johann Christian Bach" turns up nothing. I could not accept that Hoopla, with is large stores music, actually did not have any English Bach, so I searched for "Bach" and scrolled through hundreds of albums and bookmarked a number of relevant ones.

I can at least make your search easier. Search for "The English Concert" to find J. Chr. Bach: Quintet Op.22 No.1; Quintet Op.11 Nos. 1 & 6; Sextet Without Op. No.  and search for "Netherlands Chamber Orchestra" for J. Chr. Bach: Sinfonien. 

If classical music is not  your jam, I should mention that Hoopla is particularly good at offering classic rock. No Beatles yet (although lots of solo Beatles albums), but lots of Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, etc. 









Nature's God reading group, Chapter Nine, Part Two


Week Nine and a Half: Chapter Nine “Cherry Valley” Part II pg. 169-184 Hilaritas edition

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger 

I would say with some confidence that I have never read any description of the psychedelic state as enjoyable and heady as Wilson’s crescendos of psyche and soul. They’re a pleasure to read- like being inside a game show booth grabbing at references to Joyce, music, magic, and ribaldry instead of dollar bills. This pleasurable quality does not extend itself to writing as the tempest of erudition leaves far too many footnotes to fill in...too many references that need to be explored. (I am completely lost on the identity of Dr. Cyprus and would love for someone else to clear that up for me.) So, I beg your forgiveness if I am not necessarily thorough.

As Colonel Muadhen experiences PTSD in an army hospital and continues to see the Creation of a Jealous and Vengeful God his consciousness guides the reader into Sigismundo’s flailing attempts to keep reality together. The four guardians have become Diversion, Perversion, Subversion, Diversion. Sigismundo’s consciousness, seemingly led into some fashion of self-referencing bear trap by Miskasquamish, is transported from their encampment in the sweltering, sulphurous brook to the frigid floor of an English forest where Maria Babcock is possessed by Lady Greensleeves.

The dual setting of this iteration of Chapel Perilous is interesting: two men in some sort of magical contest and twelve women passively watch the thirteenth suffer from a deluge of magical energy. The men struggle in an alchemical crucible, the yellow-sulphur imagery is a little strong, while the women are gathered in the cold forest in the dark of night. There is balance between the visionary experiences, however unpleasant it may be. The four guardians tumble throughout both visions, their morphing and unpleasant guises echoing the tumbling down of the world around Sigismundo and Maria Babcock.

Of course, the emphasis on the sulphurous brook near Sigismundo’s dwelling is made explicit when he “hallucinates” into the future and sees the road marker reading DAYTON 20 MILES. Sigismundo has been living in the spot of the future Yellow Springs, where Wilson would later live with his family and experience peyote. (He would also be arrested in a sit-in for desegregation.)

Miskasquamish’s magic strongly resembles that of Don Juan’s when Sigismundo pants that he cannot walk to the brooke, Miskasquamish simply comments “Then you will crawl.” There’s the flavor of Castaneda’s irascible man of power...much like Don Juan, we find out that Miskasquamish is not what he seems. In another manner the transformation of the bear-people into magicians of all ages and nations resembles the accounts of magicians throughout time during the apogee of psychedelic or ritual operations. There is a presence of many minds.

Sigismundo’s trip is more traumatic than those he has experienced earlier in the series and stronger than Sir Babcock the Younger’s spiked-champagne evening chronicles in Part 5 of Masks of the Illuminati. Miskasquamish eventually leaves as the bear-people transfigure themselves into magi to be replaced by old Abraham Orfali.

Maria is Crossing the Abyss, an undertaking not to be taken lightly, without immediate preparation. But, like the Knowledge and Conversation of the Guardian Angel, the process will occur if the aspirant remains on the path of magic, and if well-guided and sincere, the magician will have been prepared. After all, pure folly is the key to initiation. Maria’s blindside-Samadhi is linked to Sigismundo's own abysmal experience. Traditionally, at least in the sense that Crowley’s writings track as “traditional,” the Crossing of the Abyss is very similar to Wilson’s description of Chapel Perilous in Cosmic Trigger: the aspirant will either give up their ego, every last shred of their paltry conception of “myself” and attain another state of being, or they will fail in that endeavor and go mad. (RAW is a bit gentler saying you’ll either come out completely agnostic or raving paranoid.) Orfali, the Initiator, provides Sigismundo with the necessary tool to complete his Crossing.

Our Author is still kind to his creation; Sigismundo is no longer running from anything and has transcended...something.

Before Miskasquamish and Sigismundo “enter eternity,” Sigismundo realises that “the whole of nature was identified as a mongoose.” I believe this is a reference to a joke that is said to contain the whole secret of magic. While the original is found in Crowley’s Magick In Theory and Practice, I first read it in Alan Moore’s Promethea #12 “The Magic Theatre.” I’ll relate it as I have told it on evenings similar to those experienced herein by Balsamo and Maldonado:

There are two men inhabiting the same railroad carriage, sitting directly across from one another. One of the men has a box with a perforated lid sitting on his lap. His fellow passenger’s curiosity is piqued and after some time he inquires what the other man has in the box. 

“Well,” said the other man with a smile of indulgence. “It is a mongoose.” The passenger nods and sits for a moment before asking again: 

“I’m sorry to press, but a mongoose is an awfully exotic creature around these parts- why are you transporting a mongoose? Is it your pet?” 

The other man smiles again and magnanimously says, “My dear fellow, trusting in your discretion, I shall let you know that my brother has a terrible drinking problem. Furthermore whenever he drinks he sees snakes all over. I am bringing him this mongoose to chase away the cobras, as it were.” 

The passenger is surprised at the other man’s sincerity and accepts the matter as it is before remarking: “But, and I’m sorry to press, aren’t those snakes imaginary?” 

The other man smiles again, “Yes,” he gestures at the box, “but this is an imaginary mongoose.” 

There you go, the ultimate secret to magic. I expect payment.

Sigismundo decides to set aside his wilderness onanism and sets out beyond his clearing. There he finds out that Miskasquamish, like Don Juan, Aiwass, Jesus Christ, The Ascended Masters, Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hogwarts, Max Headroom, Australia and my parents’ acceptance wasn’t....fucking...real. Okay, at least he existed at one time if one counts being a ghost in a fictional novel any sort of existence.

From Eric: “A musical preview of George Washington knock-knock-knocking next week. https://youtu.be/rnKbImRPhTE




Saturday, July 4, 2020

Roddy Doyle, 'By the Book'


Roddy Doyle in 2006 (public domain photo)

As Robert Anton Wilson was interested in Irish literature, I like to think he would have enjoyed the recent  amusing and interesting"By the Book" interview with the Irish writer Roddy Doyle, published in the New York Times. (Doyle is the author of a number of funny and humane books set in Ireland, among them The Commitments, made into a movie you have have seen. He won the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha. )  In the course of the interview, Doyle brags that he took a quiz about his work run by an Irish newspaper and got eight out of ten answers right.) Excerpt from the interview:

What books would you recommend to somebody who wants to learn more about Irish literature?

Read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” then read “This Hostel Life,” by Melatu Uche Okorie. You’ve just read two fine examples of Irish literature. Stoker was a Dubliner; he grew up a 10-minute walk from where I live. Okorie’s stories capture the language and lives of asylum seekers who live a half-hour drive from Stoker’s house. Ireland is a small island but there’s more than one way to tell an Irish story.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Eric's new 'Insider's Guide' released


The new edition of Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson has been released in paperback and is now available at Amazon. A Kindle of the revised edition is not yet available.

This is an edition that is considerably updated and revised with new material from the original edition. I'll be able to compare the new edition with the older one when I get my hands on the new version (which should be soon.)

Important note: If you plan to purchase the book, note there is a danger a search on Amazon may turn up the old edition. Be sure you get the new one; you can click on this link for it. 

Second important note: As I note above, a Kindle of the new edition isn't out yet. I'll note its availability when everyone can get it.

An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson is invaluable for all hardcore RAW fans; I have read and re-read it and referred to it over and over again. I am confident the new one will be even better.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Review: The New Inquisition


I recently finished the Hilaritas Press edition of The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science by Robert Anton Wilson -- the first time I had read the book -- and I gave it four stars on Goodreads. (Three and a half stars would be a little closer to my opinion, but Goodreads doesn’t permit that much nuance.)

That’s not quite the five stars I would give to many books by Wilson, but it’s still a pretty good rating.. It’s not a perfect book. I have some criticisms I will get to. But the good portions are very good.

I was worried about reading the book and had actually avoided reading it. I feared I wouldn’t like it at all. Supergee’s comments capture what I was worried about when he writes, “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.”  (Arthur does conclude, “But it finishes with a marvelous discussion of how we perceive.”) So I figured I may as well wait for the Hilaritas edition.

So I did, and I bought it when it came out, and I enjoyed it. New Inquisition is filled with many insightful comments. As many commenters on this blog have mentioned, the first chapter and last chapter are very good.

The book is full of fine passages such as this one:

If we recognize some validity in these observations and try to “wake” ourselves from the hypnotic trance of modeltheism -- if we try to recall, moment by moment, in an ordinary day that The “Real” Universe is only a model we have created and that existential living cannot be compressed into any model -- we enter a new kind of consciousness. What Blake called “Single Vision” begins to expand into multiple vision -- into conscious bet-making. The person then “sees abysses everywhere,” in Nietzche’s deliberately startling metaphor. (Blake says it more soothingly when he speaks of perceiving “infinity in a grain of sand.”) (From Chapter 8).

Here’s another startling passage, a prescient description of today’s media landscape, written long before it took shape. In a section where Wilson describes how people would rather reinforce their own reality tunnels rather than listen to competing ideas, he writes,

“ … most of us are annoyed frequently by the daily newspaper. ‘News’ or alleged news that we don’t want to read gets printed; heathenish or heretical opinions appear on the letters pace, and sometimes in the columnists; politicians (of the opposite camp, of course) tell the most outrageous lies, which also get printed. With modern computer technology, all of this can soon be avoided. Just fill out a simple questionnaire and mail it in. The computer will print a slightly different version of that day’s paper for each reader, and your Personalized copy will come to you in the morning containing absolutely nothing but what you want to know … “ (From Chapter 7)

This passage, which could have been written no later than 1986, when the book was first published, is a good description of where we live now in 2020. With politics replacing religion as people’s main reality tunnel, the country is largely divided between people who worship what they are told by Fox News and Rush, or people who drink from the fountain of MSNBC and CNN. It’s also easy to use  social networks to reinforce what you already believe. Wilson could not foresee the exact technology, but he knew how most people would react to a plethora of information.

So what’s not to like?

Well, I could have done without the pages and pages of Fortean phenomena, rains of frogs and that sort of thing. Other than the fact that it goes on so long that it feels like padding, I worried about the sourcing. One item quotes, without apparent irony, the Weekly World News.

Another passage highlights an account, allegedly from the Dec. 8, 1931 New York Times, about a deckhand on the steamship Brechsee who suddenly had a four-inch-long bloody gash on his forehead. Wilson brags it came from the “usually scrupulous New York Times,” which seems fair, particularly in comparison to the Weekly World News.

But I happen to have a digital subscription to the Times, which is searchable. And a search for “Brechsee” turns up only one story, dating to 1941, which mentions it being sunk by a mine in World War II. Using the search terms “gash” and “deckhand” for that specific date didn’t work, either.

Maybe the search function at the Times’ website doesn’t always  work well. But I wonder how many of the other citations I could trust.

I also couldn’t get behind attacking the main target of Wilson’s book, CSICOP. I was never convinced that CSICOP or the people associated with it, such as Carl Sagan, were worth all of Wilson’s angst. I remained convinced that your average DEA agent was much worse than any of the people Wilson was picking on. (CSICOP stands for “Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.” The group is now known as “The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.”)

The old Inquisition resulted in very serious consequences, such as executions (including burning at the stake) and confiscations of property. The investigations often included the use of torture.

So, what does the “new” inquisition do? Well, apparently they write mean book reviews and critical articles, and they complain in public about “pseudoscience.” That’s about it. It doesn’t really sound like much in comparison to Twitter mobs, much less the Inquisition of old Europe.

Wilson does give examples in his book of genuine repression. But all of his examples involve government repression.

For example, Wilson discusses the burning of Wilhelm Reich’s books, but admits it was carried out by “the scientists and bureaucrats working for the U.S. government.” He even admits that Martin Gardner “expresses repugnance at the burning of Reich’s works.”

Similarly, Wilson brings up Timothy Leary getting 37  years of imprisonment for one marijuana cigarette. Of course, that’s totally appalling, but Leary wasn’t convicted and imprisoned by Martin Gardner and Carl Sagan. (Sagan, the supposed Grand Inquisitor, was in fact a big marijuana fan and wrote that "The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.")

Sagan’s reply to The New Inquisition (quoted on Wikipedia) is worth reprinting: “"Wilson... describes skeptics as a 'new inquisition.' But to my knowledge no skeptic compels belief. Indeed, on most TV documentaries and talk shows, skeptics get short shrift and almost no air time. All that's happening is that some doctrines and methods are being criticized-at the worst, ridiculed-in magazines like The Skeptical Inquirer with circulations of a few tens of thousands. New Agers are not much, as in earlier times, being called up before criminal tribunals, nor whipped for having visions, and they are certainly not being burned at the stake. Why fear a little criticism? Aren't they interested to see how their beliefs hold up against the best counterarguments skeptics can muster?"

See also this review, which spotted numerous mistakes, such as misspellings of names quietly corrected in the Hilaritas Press edition. It is written by Jim Lippard, who actually is interested in Discordianism and also is a RAW fan. (He wrote once he  “greatly enjoyed” Robert Anton Wilson’s work and owns most of it.)  But criticized Wilson’s scholarship in The New Inquisition and found plenty of problems when he checked out the sources for some of the Fortean incidents Wilson cites.

So, three and a half stars. But the good parts of the book are really good and it’s a book I can recommend every Wilson fan should purchase and read.