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

Monday, August 31, 2020

Request to readers


Robert Shea and his son, Michael, who now maintains the website. 

One more note about Robert Shea material, and a request for readers.

I have lately been listening to recordings of Robert Shea;  two of them are available for purchase at the website of the Association for Consciousness Exploration website. 

This post ends "Robert Shea Week," but I will continue to post about Shea from  time to time. 

There are many people out there collecting and making available material about Shea's Illuminatus! collaborator, Robert Anton Wilson, and they are doing a great job, but there isn't that much Shea activity. Do you have zines by Robert Shea (other than "No Governor," which I have), articles by Shea, correspondence from Shea or other material of interest? I would like to see it. I can be reached at tom.jackson (at) 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Prop Anon on Robert Shea

Prop Anon aka Gabriel Kennedy is hard at work on a biography of Robert Anton Wilson, and he was interviewed in 2017 by R.U. Sirius. I have permission from R.U. Sirius to reprint this bit:  

R.U.S: Robert Shea — coauthor of Illuminatus Triology — sort of ended up being “the quiet one”. What can you tell us about Shea and he and Bob’s relationship?

PA:Wilson and Shea became fast friends at Playboy. They would hang out together at the bar on payday. They, and their wives, would all hang out, smoke weed, watch TV or listen to records and think of funny sketches that made each other laugh. They had a lot in common: Both raised Irish Catholic, both left the Church young, both seeking to become full time free-lance writers. They both really dug into the Anarchist perspective. After Illuminatus!, Shea went on to start an Anarchist newsletter called No Governor, which Wilson contributed to. Wilson had a talent for collaborating with like-minded artists and thinkers; his and Shea’s collaboration resulted in Illuminatus! and that was itself a further collaboration out of their involvement with The Discordian Society. The two continually spoke of writing their sequel, Bride of Illuminatus, which they barely started before Shea was diagnosed with cancer. Shea’s death left Bob deeply distraught. Michael Shea, described seeing Bob at his father’s funeral looking shook by the whole event. Bob’s eulogy, Chimes at Midnight, published in Cosmic Trigger vol. III, written shortly after Shea provides a glimpse into Bob’s thoughts about his dead friend.

I also emailed Prop and asked if there was anything about Shea he wanted to share. He wrote back, "What seemed cool about Shea was that during the late 60s into the early 70s he got heavy into Anarchism, alongside RAW.

"Not only did he create his own anarchist newsletter, No Governor, he also was a regular contributor to the SRAF newsletter."

You could do worse than to follow Mondo 2000 on Twitter, and I noticed the other day that the R.U. Sirius book Counterculture Through the Ages is only $5 for the Kindle edition. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Good interviews with Robert Shea

Robert Shea

There aren't as many interviews with Robert Shea as there are with Robert Anton Wilson. But there are a few good ones. 

I recently discovered an interview with Robert Shea I had wanted to read for awhile was available on the Internet.

Neal Wilgus interviewed Shea for the fall 1985 issue of "Science Fiction Review," a once-famous SF fanzine published by Richard Geis, and I ran across the fact the issue is available for downloading at the Internet Archive. You can find it there if you search, but after I share the news with Mike Shea, he posted it on the website, he posted it, so here's the link to the PDF

It's a long and meaty interview, with discussion of many topics, here is a small bit:

SFR: What contemporary authors do you get the most out of reading?

SHEA: The list is continually undergoing revision as my taste changes and my reasons for reading change, but John Fowles, Romain Gary, Norman Mailer, Yukio Mishima, Vladimir Nabokov, George Orwell, Thomas Pynchon, J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Penn Warren seem to have taken up permanent residence in my literary pantheon.

Another Neal Wilgus interview with Robert Shea is included in a collection of Shea's work provided as a PDF at  The first article, "Why I Am a Right Wing Anarchist" by Robert Weston, identified as being by Shea, is actually likely written by RAW.  But the piece that comes next is another Neal Wilgus interview with Shea, this time published in Outworlds, another well-known fanzine at the time, in an issue dating back to 1976. 

I had wanted to know for years who the book editor was who bought Illuminatus! for Dell, and it was this interview that gave me my big break -- I learned that it was Shea's good friend Bob Abel. (See my article about Bob Abel, which tells you as much as I was able to learn about Abel.) It's also a pretty good-sized and useful interview. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Patricia Monaghan on 'Physics and Grief'

Patricia Monaghan

I recently acquired a copy of Patricia Monaghan's Pushcart Prize-winning piece about dealing with her grief over the death of Robert Shea, "Physics and Grief." You should read it (available at the link). It's a remarkable piece of writing, and you'll learn about Shea, and also learn what a good writer Monaghan was. While it serves as a requiem for Shea, I'm sure it must help Monaghan's friends deal with their loss., too Monaghan died in 2012. I am determined to find time to read more of her work. 

Interestingly, Monaghan explains her opinion that Shea "had more integrity than any person I'd ever met. That integrity remained to the end. He met his death with his long-held beliefs intact. He was frightened, but he was very, very brave."

You can read about Monaghan on Wikipedia, and also visit her official website, maintained by her husband, Dr. Michael McDermott, in much the same fashion that Mike Shea maintains the Robert Shea website.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Supergee on Robert Shea

Timothy Leary, Robert Shea, Patricia Monaghan, Jeff Rosenbaum, Gillie Smythe at an Association for Consciousness Expansion gathering in Cleveland. 

[Supergee posted this comment when I began "Robert Shea Week," and with his permission, I am now reposting it as a blog entry. -- The Management.]

By Supergee (Arthur Hlavaty)

Special guest blogger

Bob Shea was a dear friend. This is what I wrote about him when he died:

Shea's historical fiction can be described as "traditional." Each novel told a story, with beginning, middle, and end, pretty much in that order, and pretty much without obliqueness, irony, ambiguity, metafictional self-reference, and other such postmodern qualities.

The books can likewise be described as traditional in morality. Though they do not reflect the punitive sexual code often indicated by that phrase, they unabashedly treat such traits as compassion, courage, and loyalty as Good Things.

There are those who condescend to this sort of novel. (That is particularly easy to do so if one has not written one.) In reply, one might, at the very least, point out that each apparently simple and straightforward story is also a skilled and complex weaving of many plot threads, told in graceful prose with style and wit, and peopled with richly detailed and fascinating characters.

As a person, Shea was much like his novels. First and foremost, he believed that people should be nice to each other, but behind this apparently simple approach was an intelligent awareness of the problems it entailed and a perceptive skepticism about the organizations and ideologies that purported to provide and institutionalize niceness.

I had the pleasure of knowing Bob Shea, first postally and then in person as well, for 15 years. When Bernadette Bosky and I had our nonlegal wedding ceremony, he officiated, with the style, humor, and warmth he brought to everything. He was a flawed human being like all of us, but his good qualities far outweighed any flaws. I will miss him.

Supergee writes a blog. As Arthur Hlavaty, he is a well-known science fiction fan who was nominated 12 times for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Some of his fanzines are archived on the Internet. See also this archive. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Eric Wagner on Shike and Robert Shea's other fiction

                                                                            Robert Shea

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

I first read Robert Shea when I read Illuminatus! in 1982. Since I had already read Wilson’s Schroedinger’s Cat and then went on read all the Wilson I could find, I had a much better sense of Wilson’s literary personality than I did of Shea’s. In 1986 I saw volume 1 of Shea’s Shike in the fiction section of Books, Etc., in Tempe, Arizona, and I bought it, hoping the same Robert Shea had written it. I started reading it, and it seemed like a conventional historical novel, but early on it included an initiation and the number 23, so I decided it seemed like the same Shea. (Ah, those pre-internet days before we had Google for fact checking.) I loved the book. I had read that Shea considered himself an anarchist and that he practiced Zen meditation. I thought he did a great job presenting people with political power in the novel. I thought his anarchism had given him great insight into political power, and I loved the Zen material in the book (and the martial arts). I quickly bought and read book two as well, and my friend novelist Paul Chuey suggested perhaps Shea wrote even better than Wilson. We both entertained that idea for a while, basking in the experience of reading Shike. I returned to preferring Wilson’s writing, but I definitely appreciated Shea’s contributions to Illuminatus! even more.

I worked at Hunter’s Books in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1986, and I saw an announcement for a new Robert Shea book, All Things Are Lights. I got all excited, recognizing the reference to the Scotus Erigina quote in the title. I ordered it, and devoured it when it arrived. I enjoyed it a bit less than the Shike books, but perhaps I had hyped myself up too much. Once again I loved Shea’s insight into people in power. I also loved how Shea’s books painted a picture of a Eurasian conspiracy of adepts in the late Middle Ages, providing deep background for the conspiracies in Illuminatus! and in Wilson’s other books. If you haven’t read any of Shea’s solo books, I highly recommend you give them a try.

Eric Wagner is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, now available in a new revised and expanded edition. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Getting Robert Shea's books

Robert Shea's novels are well worth reading and I encourage everyone to explore them. 

If you prefer books on paper, you can order used copies of all of his titles, and Robert Shea's son Mike Shea also has made paper editions of some titles.

But if  you are fine with ebooks, good news: Mike Shea has released all of the titles under the Creative Commons license. There are reasonably priced titles in the Kindle format on Amazon, but you can also get good editions for free. Here is my guide for getting good, free Robert Shea ebooks.

For my favorite, All Things Are Lights, get it on the Internet Archive, where you can download two convenient formats: mobi (for Kindles) and EPUB, usable on all other tablets and phones. I downloaded the mobi file and sent it to my Kindle and it worked fine.

You can also use the Internet archive to get copies, in the same two formats, of the two Saracen books, The Saracen: Land of the Infidel and its sequel, Saracen: The Holy War. (Really, they are one work, published in two parts.) The Internet Archive also has Shea's Native American historical novel, Shaman.

Project Gutenberg also has some Robert Shea titles at one convenient location, including Shaman and the two Saracen books. 

Shike, available as an inexpensive Kindle ($2.99 for both volumes) also is available for free in HTML at $3 is cheap enough that I just bought it, to have it for my Kindle. There were problems for awhile with the text of the Kindle edition, but Mike Shea tells me those problems have been fixed. 

My next two posts for Robert Shea Week will be guest bloggers who will explain why you should read Shea. 


Monday, August 24, 2020

Trapped by his books! Mike Shea on Robert Shea

I've always been interested in Robert Shea as well as Robert Anton Wilson, and early in the  history of this blog, I interviewed Mike Shea, who is Robert Shea's literary executor and maintains the official website. (See the bottom of this page.)

I decided to seek a new interview for Robert Shea Week, and Mike obliged. I've been in touch with him periodically over the years for information or to raise a point, and he's always immediately replied. 

I asked Mike for a biography and he obliged: "Michael Erik Shea is a writer, gamer, and programmer living in Vienna, Virginia with his wife Michelle. Mike is the son of Yvonne Shea and Robert Joseph Shea, author of Illuminatus! and other novels.

"Mike is a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd. He runs Sly Flourish, a website and Twitter feed dedicated to building better D&D Dungeon Masters. Mike wrote and self-published a number of RPG and D&D related books including Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, Fantastic Adventures, and Ruins of the Grendleroot. He also wrote freelance articles for Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, Pelgrane Press, Sasquach Games, and other RPG companies."

-- Tom 

Mike Shea

As far as you can tell, from sales, contact with fans, etc., what is your father's most popular book? I know it's probably hard to track downloads.

MIKE SHEA: Illuminatus! is still, by far, the most popular of his books followed by Shike. The sales on the books are roughly proportional to the way they were when they were published. One of the harsh realities of being an author is that your first book may be your most popular and you never quite get back to that level. I don’t remember my father talking about that very much but I imagine it’s something he thought about and it’s a hard thing to deal with. I see it with a lot of authors as well. Many people have said that Shaman, his last published book, was his best.

Has there been any interest in Hollywood adapting any of his books? Does the Creative Commons license you use mean they would have to pay you to turn Shike into a miniseries?

MIKE SHEA: The only interest has been for Illuminatus! Every few years a company would option the book for a movie, TV show, VR game, or something like that. It’s a nice unexpected bit of cash once in a while but isn’t job-quitting money. Once optioned, however, things usually fall apart. Recently however a company picked up the rights for Illuminatus! for an Amazon series. The big digital players are buying up properties like crazy and they seem to have deep pockets for experimentation. You can read more about it here.

Unfortunately, none of my father’s other books have been optioned.

Did your father ever give you advice on writing?

MIKE SHEA: Not really. I wasn’t doing a lot of writing when he was alive. It wasn’t until after he died that I got into it. A shame. Reading through his journals and interviews elsewhere helps me get an idea for the style of writing he would have recommended. Of course, I’d give anything to have had him read something I’m writing now. I think he’d love it. One of the things I always admire, and something that helps guide my own direction now, is that he never let go of being a kid. He loved Buck Rogers comic strips from the day he was like 5 years old to the day he died. He found a guy who was reprinting Buck Rogers in color and would mail the guy begging for more of them. He was never afraid of hanging onto childhood fantasies. He would doodle rocket ships on everything.

Do  you know if he particularly liked any of the cover art for his books?

MIKE SHEA: There were some he sure didn’t like. The ones that had Jebu from Shike with black hair pissed him off when the fact that he had red hair was a big part of the story. I think he always dug the original Illuminatus! covers, as do I. They’re classics.

I recently re-read Patricia Monaghan's essay "Physics and Grief," did you know Monaghan very well and what was she like?

MIKE SHEA: I can’t say very well but we spoke often before and after my father’s death. She was really smart, of course, and funny and warm and caring. She took care of my dad at the worst parts of his life and I am always eternally grateful for that. I wasn’t ready to do that at 20 years old. I liked her a great deal and was really happy she was in my father’s life.

How did your father and Robert Anton Wilson stay in touch over the years, was it mostly letters, and are there any new clues on what happened to that correspondence?

MIKE SHEA: I think it was occasional phone calls but probably mostly letters. I don’t have any of the correspondence in my own archives. I don’t know if Christina Pearson, Wilson’s daughter, has any. She’s never mentioned them to me. [I've asked on the RAW side and had  no luck. So far, no one seems to know anything. -- Tom]

Do you want to tell Robert Shea fans something about him they might not know? Is there anything your father told you that sticks with you that you'd like to share?

MIKE SHEA: He was a pretty normal guy. For the guy who edited at Playboy and wrote Illuminatus! and marched in the 60s and all of that, he was a pretty straight forward dude. He took his walks every day. He took naps. He was always soft spoken and relaxed. Our family certainly had some hardships but he always kept on going. He had an awesome office full of his tchotchkes and tacky souvenirs that he loved. Even though he stopped smoking in the early 80s his office always smelled like a tobacco shop, which was nice.

Boy did he collect books. He had these huge old green shelves in the back of his office. He filled it up with books, then crammed more books above the ones lined up on the shelves, then another row in front of the first, then more crammed in above that. Pretty much as many books as you could pack in. One day I came home from school and he was yelling at me for help. The book case had collapsed in front of the door of his office, trapping him inside. He was slowly working his way through the bookcase, piling up these monoliths of books across the office floor. He might have starved back there but at least he had something to read!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Welcome to Robert Shea Week

Robert Shea, wearing a T-shirt proclaiming him as "Super Writer," poses with the manuscript of Shike. Photo taken circa 1981, from 

I've long said that as great as Robert Anton Wilson was, his Illuminatus! co-author, Robert  J. Shea, also should be remembered, and still should be read. The "Robert Shea Week" I announced plans for a few weeks ago begins today, with about a week's worth of posts about Shea. 

Shea, of course, besides coming up with the idea for Illuminatus!, getting Dell to buy it and and co-writing it with Robert Anton Wilson, also authored quite a few books on his own, mostly well-received historical novels such as Shike and Shaman and All Things Are Lights. He was working on two more novels when cancer claimed  him on March 10, 1994. He was only 61.

Many of my previous postings concerning Shea's work are available under "Robert Shea Resources" and "Illuminatus Resources" on the right side of his page, and I'll also put up links for Robert Shea Week. You can also visit the official page maintained by his son Mike Shea, read the substantial and useful Wikipedia entry.  and read the entry about Shea, by critic John Clute, at the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. 

"Robert Shea Week" should not be taken too literally, but is a flexible event, as "Robert Anton Wilson Week" was at Boing Boing years ago. I am expecting the publication soon of the new Starseed Signals "lost" RAW book and Prop Anon has been hoping to make an announcement about his Robert Anton Wilson biography, and who knows what other news might emerge. If there is "breaking news," you will get it here without delay, and then Robert Shea Week will resume. 

Thanks to everyone who has helped me put my Robert Shea Week posts together. I got one response when I offered to publish guest posts, and that will be up soon,  and I also got help from others for requests for favors or information; it's not too late to send me something or just to post a comment on one of the blog articles. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

amoeba VR showreel


I don't see an option for embedding or uploading the video to this blog post, but seriously, do yourself a favor and go to the link and watch the two-minute from @amoebedesign, e.g. Scott McPherson, the guy doing the book covers Hilaritas Press. The Illuminatus!/RAW stuff comes at the beginning, but I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy all of it. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Patreon news

Prop Anon, author of an upcoming RAW biography, has created a Patreon account. On Twitter, Prop explains, "Thru here I will release some real kool RAW related interviews with some of the great minds he inspired to those willing to listen. Stuff like this and more.

"Please consider giving me some money. I'll pray for ya."

Prop is hoping to have an announcement soon on his Robert Anton Wilson book, and I will report any news here. Prop also has just endorsed the new edition of Eric Wagner's Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, see the comments to this post

Prop is not the only member of the RAW community on Patreon; you can also use Patreon to provide tangible support for Bobby Campbell and for Steve Fly aka Steve Pratt. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Thursday links

Chris Frantz (James Swaffield photo provided by publicist)

The "RAW Semantics Guy" posts his biography. He's Brian Dean, and he's done other interesting things. 

Herd immunity may be arriving early. 

My interview with Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. 

Republican who just won Congressional primary. I try to avoid politics here, but come on. 

How to be angry and anxious. 

How do I pursue a career in the music industry while avoiding the "Illuminati"? (All good, but one bit relevant to this blog: "I’d start by reading Masks of the Illuminati, by R. A. Wilson. It’s a relatively short novel, and will get you acquainted with the lay of the land, so to speak."

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Mark Frauenfelder launches a newsletter

I've been a loyal fan for years of Mark Frauenfelder, the co-founder of the Boing Boing fanzine/magazine/website and also a writer, artist, arbiter of coolness, etc., and I've supported many of his ventures. 

Mark is a longtime Robert Anton Wilson fan, although I didn't know that at first when I started buying Boing Boing magazine many years ago and then signed up for a subscription. The first issue of Boing Boing had an interview with RAW by Frauenfelder and his wife, Carla Sinclair.  The Boing Boing website has run quite a bit of material on RAW. I was once so upset at not getting an issue of the magazine for several months that I called the listed phone number and talked to a young woman who explained that "Mark" had been busy working on a Billy Idol album. I think my informant was Carla but I was too shy to ask.

Anyway, Mark has now joined the latest fad for pundits and journalists, launching a paid newsletter. Mark's is called The Magnet. "I write about tips I find useful, things that interest me, what I’ve learned, interviews, recipes, quotations, and more. I also include excerpts from my favorite newsletters," Mark explains.

The first issue and the second issue are free, but to get all of them you have to pay a subscription fee of $50 a year; for a "limited time" you can get 40 percent off (e.g. $30 a year) at this link. I am an early adopter. 

See also Recomendo, the free newsletter Mark does with Kevin Kelly and Claudia Dawson, which I eagerly check every Sunday morning. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A bit of 'Starseed'

Hilaritas Press image for Rasa

While Rasa toils to publish Starseed Signals, the "lost" RAW book, he has offered a bit of the book's prose to the readers of RAW Illumination. 

Rasa explains, "Because of current news and recent media (specifically that documentary, “13th," I posted this 130 characters on Facebook:

> the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and ended involuntary servitude *except as a punishment for conviction* – so still slavery

"In the comments below that FB post, I decided to toss in this quote from RAW’s as-of-yet unpublished book, The Starseed Signals. This is the first bit of the book that we’ve released anywhere, and since it was kinda hidden in a FB post comment, but still 'out there,' I thought I’d send it to you to use as you will. 

"In The Starseed Signals, RAW discusses Leary’s ideas on prison reform. That, and other thoughts RAW had on his friend’s incarceration and incarceration in general, led RAW to write this passage:"

My work on the Playboy Forum was alternately exhilarating and depressing — exhilarating when we kept somebody out of jail (through publicity and/or the legal activities of the Playboy Foundation); depressing, when we failed. I read more and more letters from people in jails — men and women caged because they had violated some taboo or another. (Playboy only defended “victimless criminals,” those who had not committed force or fraud against their neighbors, but were punished for consensual behavior between adults.) I had always been a libertarian and an individualist; I had always disapproved of these crimeless crime laws that enforced Judeo-Christian religious prejudice on the entire community; I had always shared the standard Jeffersonian-Millian objection to such priestly tyranny in a secular nation. Now, I began to feel as well as understand the problem. The issue was not abstract; the people were real people, locked in real cages, and subject to very real brutality, including a great deal of homosexual rape. Those who urged total abolition of the cage-system — such as psychiatrist Karl Menninger and journalist John Barlow Martin—seemed to me to have the only sane attitude. You cannot “reform” a cage. You cannot “humanize” punishment, which is always the kind of torture acceptable to the society in which it occurs.

 – Robert Anton Wilson, The Starseed Signals

Rasa reports that the cover is the only unfinished part of the book and he expects to get it soon. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

James Heffernan on Mike Gathers

Saturday I posted a brief review of James  Heffernan's book on the Eight Circuit model, Nonlocal Nature: The Eight Circuits of Consciousness.  After it ran, James got in touch with me on Facebook, and I suggested he write something about Mike Gathers' Maybe Day piece on the Eight Circuit model, "Freud, Jung and a Platypus Get an MRI," PDF here. 

James then read Mike's piece and wrote comments on the original Maybe Day blog post of July 23; here are his comments:

I just read Mike Gathers' microbook done in commemoration of Maybe Day -- Freud, Jung, And A Platypus Get an MRI, and I must say I think it was lovely!

I have never read a treatment of the Eight Circuit Model that so deftly interweaves Freud, Jung and contemporary neuroscience. Just for the neuroscience alone I was grateful, but in illustrating the interleaving facets of the work of various pioneers, as well as modern science, I was spellbound. The commentary about the wiring of the brain and the complexity of imprinting -- and how it does not always take place instantly -- is fascinating.

One element that particularly stood out for me was the question of why RAW did not continue his application of Freud to the third circuit in Prometheus Rising. He equates the first circuit with the oral stage, the second circuit with the anal stage and... why did he not correlate the third circuit with the phallic stage, when the correspondence is so congruent?

I hope to see some more of Mr. Gathers' ideas in the future -- they're marvelous!


James has a website and you can also find him on Facebook. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

RAW Semantics on generalizations and politics on social media

I have felt for awhile that, as Gene Healy argues, politics in the U.S. tends to make people dumber and meaner.  I've also tried to engage with social media mindfully and read books as the subject, as for example when I read Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism last year and tried to adjust how I use social media. (I temporarily deleted Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone. I later put them back on, but I use Twitter now pretty much through curated lists, and I don't really use Facebook that much.

The RAW Semantics blog has a new post up, "RAW Political #1," which uses Robert Anton Wilson's linguistic analysis of generalizations about groups to analyze why so many Twitter political comments incite hate rather than thoughtful discussion. Excerpt:

Because it seems so obvious, it also seems easy to take for granted. “Sombunall” – a simple enough idea, but not widely adopted. I recently read an online comment claiming “sombunall” as redundant, since the qualifier “some” seemed perfectly sufficient by itself (as “some” already implies “not all”). Perhaps “sombunall” could be considered redundant if the vast majority of people routinely used qualifiers such as “some” or “most” in their generalisations. But Bob created “sombunall” precisely because those qualifiers tend to be omitted by lazy habit (or by self-righteous or malign intent).

To demonstrate this, I recommend conducting a Twitter search for “liberals are”. (You can substitute other political labels in the search – eg “libertarian”, “progressive”, “conservative” – but I found that “liberals” seems by far the most frequently hypergeneralised label. Here are a few examples I found (on Twitter) at the time of writing:

“Liberals are brainwashed”

“Conservatives are morons”

“Libertarians are sociopaths with no conscience, empathy, or vision.”

“Liberals are categorically insane & making you live like slaves.”

“Conservatives are absolutely terrified of women having sex and enjoying it.”

Apparently more posts on the subject are on the way; the RAW Semantics blogger might find it useful to take a look at Newport's book, which seemed useful to me. Sombunall of you might find it helpful. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Heffernan's Eight Circuits book


Earlier this year, I read James Heffernan's book on the Eight Circuit model, Nonlocal Nature: The Eight Circuits of Consciousness. I can't seem to find the time to do a long book review, but here are some notes:

1. I gave it four stars in Goodreads. I thought it was interesting and well written. There as nice sentences such as, "If you can walk away from this book feeling that the light reflecting from the page and hitting your eye is not ordinary, then I am happy." 

2. Rather than aimed at the general reader, the book seems aimed mainly at people who have learned about the Eight Circuit model from Robert Anton Wilson and who want to learn more or get an additional take on it. There isn't much of an explanation of where the model came from and the history of discussion about it. Heffernan kind of assumes people know what it is and will welcome discussion. Perhaps a new edition could include an introduction to the concept and reach out to people who are not already familiar with it. 

3. I am never quite sure how seriously to take the Eight Circuit model, and this book does not move the needle very much for me one way or the other. I don't know what to make of sentences like, "As I have noted previously, having seventh circuit awareness is like having access to the uncollapsed quantum wavefunction of the brain."

4. Heffernan seems to mostly stick pretty closely to RAW's ideas, so it's noteworthy when he differs from RAW. He isn't big on space migration and writes (other passages could be cited) "Space migration is at best a distant goal, and it appears that, with technology as it is, especially pertaining to propulsion technologies, it could be many, many decades before serious space migration is remotely possible." Obviously the space migration dreams of RAW were premature, but I'm still more of an optimist than Heffernan.

5. The paperback is $30 but the Kindle is only $4, so it's affordable to get an ebook and draw your own conclusions. Amazon also allows Kindle owners to loan their copy to other readers who use a Kindle. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Orson Welles tells a famous story from Plato


Plato's famous allegory of the cave, as presented in an animated short, about nine minutes, narrated by Orson Welles.

Hat tip: Jesse Walker.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Former Kamala Harris aide tied to Illuminati and the 'Knights Templars' (which go back to 1100 B.C.)


Official Senate portrait of Kamala Harris, who had an "aide" who also helped run a 3,000-year-old police department for the Knights Templars and the Illuminati. That's what it says on the Internet!

Three people were charged in 2016 with running the allegedly bogus "Masonic Fraternal Police Department," which allegedly had ties to the Knights Templars (I admit to not knowing whether I can believe the police department  was created by the Knights Templars back in 1100 B.C.) 

The deputy police chief of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department, Brandon Kiel, was working for state government at the time of his arrest. He was also deputy director of community affairs for the California Department of Justice, which at the time was run by Kamala Harris, who you may have noticed has been in the news lately. (Senator Harris was California's attorney general at the time.)

The Politico story refers to Kiel as a "Kamala Harris aide," but the California Department of Justice is a pretty big place, and I can't tell from the stories what kind of relationship, if any, Harris had with Kiel. I ran searches for Kiel and Harris on Google, but all I got were stories about the Masonic Fraternal Police Department. 

Here are a couple of sentences from the Los Angeles Times account: "Much of the notoriety derived from Kiel’s role within Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris’ administration, as well as the bogus police force’s eccentric online presence, including a website in which its members claimed to descend from the Knights Templar. Social media accounts associated with Henry also referred to secret societies such as the Freemasons and Illuminati, adding to the intrigue."

Hat tip: John Merritt. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

'Devs' on Hulu


I recently watched the TV miniseries Devs on Hulu. Chad Nelson pointed it out to me back in March, but I only just now got around to it. It's a visually interesting science fiction by Alex Garland, eight episodes. I'm not a movie or TV expert -- that would be Jesse Walker -- but I liked it. (If it gives you an idea of my taste, I don't watch a huge amount of TV, but I loved "The Americans" and the comeback season of "Twin Peaks.") 

Anyway, Devs might be of interest to RAW fans for a couple of reasons: It stars Nick Offerman, who has expressed interest in playing Hagbard Celine, and it explores quantum mechanics, a major topic for RAW and some of his circle. (At last report, Offerman had not responded to invitations from the RAW Trust to get in touch.) 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Daisy Campbell teaching class on writing for the stage

Daisy Campbell is teaching a five-week course. "Get Your Show Written." The Cockpit Theatre class, priced at £95, is set for dates in September and October and already is sold out, but a follow-up class also is planned. 

"So if you too are struggling with a part-written show, or would like to try your hand at writing a show for the first time - this is the course for you! Perhaps this invitation is just the kick up the backside you've been praying for...?" Daisy writes.

Within hours, before I could even get this notice posted, Daisy wrote on Twitter, "OK this course is SOLD OUT but we are getting a second one set up to run concurrently, Watch this space xx." So if you missed the chance to take her class, watch her Twitter account.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Why Nicolas Cage is right for the Illuminatus! TV series


Nicolas Cage in 2013 (Creative Commons photo by Georges Biard)

I haven't seen any updates on the project to turn Illuminatus! into a TV series (if anyone has any news, please share) but when I read this amazing 2019 New York Times Magazine interview with Cage, I wondered if he would not be the ideal actor to play Hagbard Celine.  Here is my reasoning:

1. He wants to play the captain of an elaborate submarine. "When I read Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” the depiction of Nemo was that he was also in love with the ocean. He had freedom, and he lived in a palace that was also a submarine, playing the organ. To me, that was a beautiful life."

2. He's an Italian whose last name begins with a "C" (as most of you doubtless know, his birth name is "Coppola").

3. He went through a period where he meditated three times a day and read philosophical writers, such as William Blake. So to get him to take the role, the filmmakers could arrange for him to meet John Higgs.

4. He has visited Glastonbury, England, reputed site of King Arthur's grave, in his search for the Holy Grail. There is where John Higgs comes in again. Let's face it, there's only one well-regarded author who came to Glastonbury to scatter the ashes of Timothy Leary.  You want to learn the final secret of the Grail, Mr. Cage, you take this part.

5. Illuminatus! of course involves pyramids, and Cage has had a pyramid built in New Orleans to house his remains when he transitions from hardest working actor in show biz to Hollywood legend. 

6. Illuminatus! is a mixture of modernist and pop culture influences, and that's also a pretty good description of Mr. Cage's art. In the article, the influences he cites include the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and a John Stamos TV commercial.

7. "In the last three years Cage has acted in 23 films." Actual sentence in one of the article's footnotes. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

A new interview with John Higgs!

John Higgs talks with John Wisniewski

John Higgs (Author photo nicked from the official website, 

One of my favorite writers, John Higgs, gives an update on his writing and answers questions about many of his books in this new interview with John Wisniewski. 

John Higgs' nonfiction books are William Blake Now: Why He Matters More Than Ever (a longer book about Blake will be out soon), The Future Starts Here: Adventures in the Twenty-First Century, Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century, 2000 TC: Standing On the Verge of Getting It On, Our Pet Queen: A New Perspective on Monarchy, KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds and I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary. 

He also is the author of two works of fiction, The First Church on the Moon and The Brandy of the Damned. 

I love all of his stuff, and many of his books are of particular interest to Robert Anton Wilson fans; all RAW fans should read the Leary biography, the KLF tome (almost as much about Wilson as its actual subject, a book so offbeat Higgs hesitated at first to publish it) and Stranger Than We Can Imagine, which covers many topics Wilson also wrote about. 

Mr. Higgs also wrote the introduction for the Hilaritas Press edition of Cosmic Trigger, and in the interview he mentions the related Starseed Signals, the new "lost" Robert Anton Wilson book the rest of us are waiting to buy, out soon from Hilaritas Press. He lives in Brighton, England, with his lovely wife and their two children. 

John Wisniewski has done other interviews for this blog, see also his interview with UFO author and retired professor of religious studies David Halperin,  his 2015 interview with Mr. Higgs,  and his interview in 2014 with Adam Gorightly,   John Wisniewski is a freelance writer who has written for L.A. Review of Books, Paraphilia magazine, Toronto Review of Books, Urban Graffiti magazine and other publications. He lives in West Babylon NY.

John, could you tell us about writing The Future Starts Here?

JOHN HIGGS: Writing The Future Starts Here began back in 2017, if you can still remember that strange, long gone time. It was prompted by the blanket of pessimism that then dominated the media and the culture back. This was after Trump, Brexit, populist nationalism and the rise in racism, along with the absence of political action on climate change. There was a general election in Britain in 2017, for example, and climate change was simply not mentioned during the campaign. There was just nothing but pessimism in the culture, even from those I look up to and learn from. And, having read a lot of RAW and Leary in my time, this set off alarm bells. There are always good and bad things happening and when you can't see both, you're not seeing the full picture.

So that was the background for the book. Other factors were the rut that mainstream sci-fi had fallen in, which had become reliant on tropes such as time travel, visiting alien planets and self-aware AI, which no longer seemed plausible, and the huge generational difference between the Millennials and Generation Z, which is talked about a lot now but which was overlooked then. The book was based on the awareness that by 2050 people would approach our problems differently to how they did back in 2017, and they wouldn't be looking at the world through quite the same shit-coloured glasses.

You have written about William Blake, John, and why he is important to this century. Could you tell us about writing this?

JOHN HIGGS: That one took me by surprise a little. I had a bunch of other books developing in my head, in various states of readiness, but the Blake books just barged in and demanded to be written ahead of them. Blake is and will always be an enigma, but it felt like the right time to look at him afresh with twenty-first century eyes, and see if we are in a better position to understand his level of consciousness or what he meant when he talked of Eternity, visions and the imagination. Also, British identity has been in a period of collapse over the past years, and when something new is built out of its ruins, it seems important that Blake is included.

John, how did you get interested in the writing of Robert Anton Wilson?

JOHN HIGGS: I first heard of him when I was living in Liverpool in the early 90s. Liverpool is a pretty psychedelic city and he was one of the common touchstones, a writer that would get mentioned a lot. I bought the Illuminatus! trilogy around then, but didn't get very far with it. My real introduction to him was over a decade later when the late and much missed Beat writer Brian Barritt lent me his copy of Cosmic Trigger, which I still have. In the lost-but-soon-to-be-published 1975 RAW book The Starseed Signals there are four or five references to Brian -- usually Tim Leary insisting that it is vital for RAW's understanding of the world that he gets in touch with him. That RAW didn't do this is such a shame -- who knows where we'd be now if those two had put their heads together?

Could you tell us about writing your book about the KLF, John? (The KLF: Magic, chaos and the band who burned a million pounds). 

JOHN HIGGS: Well, it needed doing, that was the main thing about that book. It was a story that needed to be told. The big mystery which I’m still fascinated by is why, in the 17 years or so after Bill and Jimmy of the KLF burned a million pounds in a boathouse on the Isle of Jura, nobody came along and wrote about it. It was obviously a fascinating story and you would have thought that somebody would have picked it up and ran with it, and yet nobody did. The story spent all that time waiting patiently in one of society’s many cultural blind spots.

If nothing else it’s a reminder to keep an eye on those cultural blind spots, they tend to be where the gold is.

You wrote a Timothy Leary biography, I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary. Why was Timothy the "most dangerous man in America?"

JOHN HIGGS: As Leary himself used to explain it – “you get the Timothy Leary you deserve." If a few paranoid members of the Nixon government in the mid-1970s wanted to see Leary in those terms, that was absolutely their right and their choice. It tells us more about them than it tells us about Leary, but that is always the case.

You also wrote Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century. How has technology changed us and is it for the better?

JOHN HIGGS: I wouldn’t want to go back to the technology we had at the beginning of the twentieth century, so in my eyes it’s better. Neither would I want to go back to the technology we had at the beginning of the twenty-first century, although I’m sure many would be happy about the un-invention of smartphones.

Technology can and will be used for either good or ill and that becomes more apparent the more powerful the technology is. So it’s important to remember that technology is a tool, and the whoever utilises that tool is morally responsible for the consequences of it being used. That tends to be a useful maxim to remember when looking at effect of technology on society.

What will your next book be about?

JOHN HIGGS: The book after William Blake Vs The World is one I'm actually keeping quiet about, for once. It is publicly referred to only as Project Monastery. This is partly because I have accidentally come up with something that could well be commercial. It's not that I think anyone would run away with the idea, but there's no harm in it being in less minds and it being a little quieter in Ideaspace, for now at least.

New books of interest


Tyler Cowen has not, in fact, begun reviewing books for readers, but you might almost think so from his latest "What I've Been Reading" blog post. By my count, three of the five books are of pretty clear interest to people who follow this blog. 

Tyler reviews The Craft: How the Freemasons Made the Modern World by John Dickie. "Although it has a stereotypically bad subtitle, this is an excellent book.  It clarifies exactly where the Freemasons came from (dissident thought connected to James II), its connection to actual masons, how the movement got routed through Scotland, its prominence to the Enlightenment, its African-American component (Martin Delany), how it influenced Joseph Smith and Mormonism, why Castro tolerated it and the Shah of Iran encouraged it, and much more," Tyler reports. The book is out August 18. I used Amazon to check the index, and there are quite a few references to the Illuminati. 

There's also a mention of  The Decline of Magic: Britain in the Enlightenment by Michael Hunter. Tyler picks out a key quote: “Though it is often thought that the scientists of the early Royal Society tested magic and found it wanting, this is a misconception.  In fact, the society avoided the issue because its members’ views on the subject were so divided, and it was only in retrospect that this silence was interpreted as judgmental.”

Classical School: The Birth of Economics in 20 Enlightened Lives by Callum Williams covers a number of folks Robert Anton Wilson mentions in his writings, such as David Hume, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Condorcet. Tyler, himself an economist, says the book is "A clear, well-written, and useful introduction to the lives and thought of some of the leading classical economists."

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Timothy Leary anecdote


Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (Twitter account photo)

I have been reading Remain in Love, the new memoir by Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club founder/drummer Chris Frantz, and to my surprise I ran across an anecdote about Timothy Leary:

[About record company executive and producer Chris Blackwell, in Compass Point, Bermuda, as a party host]

One New  Year's Eve the guests were Dennis Hopper, Timothy Leary, Elia Kazan and his daughter, Sonia Braga, Robert and Sue Palmer, Wally and Genevieve Badarou, and many other happy revelers. After midnight, I took Sonia Braga and another woman by boat to the Junkanoo parade in downtown Nassau. I knew the waters very well by that time, but it was still a crazy thing to do on a windy, moonless night. I invited Hopper and Leary to join us, but they respectfully declined because they could see how  high on rum and cocaine I was. Can you imagine being too high for Timothy Leary? Well, that night I was. We made it back safely, but not until well after noon. 

I should clarify that most of the time, Frantz seems to be a very sensible fellow, and his detailed book is a must read for Talking Heads fans. He does not stint on vignettes about famous people. Frantz and his wife, Tina Weymouth, have been married for 43 years, perhaps the world record for successful rock musicians. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

'Starseed Signals' still on the way

Image from a short Timothy Leary work, Starseed: Transmissions from Folsom Prison. I don't know yet what the cover of the new book will look like. 

Like many of you I am waiting impatiently for the publication of the new "lost" Robert Anton Wilson book, The Starseed Signals: Link Between Worlds. (If you don't know what I'm referring to, see this June 18 blog post, "The 'lost' RAW book will be out soon.")

In that interview, Rasa estimated the book would be out at "the beginning of July." That obviously proved to be optimistic, but when I contacted Rasa for an update this week, he told he is working on finalizing various details of the book, such as the cover that is being once again designed by Scott McPherson of the amoeba design company. 

Rasa perhaps wisely did not offer me another estimate for publication, but I had the impression he is anxious to get the book out. It should be only a matter of a few weeks. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

UFOS making a comeback in 2020

A purported UFO in Passaic, New Jersey in 1952 (via Wikipedia)

One of the oddest things about 2020, an odd year, is the way that UFOs and speculation about contact from aliens has made a comeback. "Flying saucers" have seemed old-fashioned in recent years. Yet here is a New York Times story (published on July 23), "No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s U.F.O. Unit Will Make Some Findings Public," which includes those Navy videos you've probably heard about. And here is Vox, with "It’s time to take UFOs seriously. Seriously." 

Slate introduces a note of caution with "It’s Still Not Aliens." And as Slate notes, the New York Times issued a long correction which didn't get as much publicity as the original story (part of the correction: "An earlier version of this article inaccurately rendered remarks attributed to Harry Reid, the retired Senate majority leader from Nevada. Mr. Reid said he believed that crashes of objects of unknown origin may have occurred and that retrieved materials should be studied; he did not say that crashes had occurred and that retrieved materials had been studied secretly for decades.") Still, it remarkable how the subject is suddenly being taken seriously. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Musings on RAW, Leary, Dick etc. at

Val D'Orazio's blogs tend to come and go (Butterfly Language, as far as I can tell, is no more and has been deleted) so I missed the fact until now that she launched a new blog,, in April. Lots of musings on RAW, Timothy Leary and Philip K. Dick, and some reprints from the earlier blog. "On the Future of Humanity in Space" is an interesting new post. 

Val's other blog is Fantasy Merchant.

Monday, August 3, 2020

RAW's 'Serpent Power'

If you've checked out New Trajectories, the publication Bobby Campbell put together for Maybe Day, then you've likely read Gregory Arnott's essay "Ewige Schlangenkraft," which references Robert Anton Wilson's article, "Serpent Power." 

"Serpent Power" has now become easier to read, thanks to Martin Wagner's RAW site. Here is part one, and here is part two. 

How the article became available is a nice example of the collaborative nature of RAW fandom. 

I tracked the piece down in 2011 after seeing it mentioned in Cosmic Trigger. Bobby Campbell turned my original TIFF files into an easier to handle PDF version, which you can download here.  And then Martin made it easy to read on the web.

It's a cool article. Ted Hand mentioned to me this weekend he had his "mind blown" after reading it. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

News and notes

1. The Worldcon has ended; ConZealand did a good job of largely replicating the convention experience with an online convention. Here is a list of the Hugo Awards; Arkady Martine is a worthy winner for Best Novel, even if I slightly preferred Seanan McGuire' Middlegame I was the moderator of a panel on the Prometheus Awards. Via the art show, I discovered New Zealand artist Emma Weakley

2. A few more copies of a very interesting, very rare John Higgs book, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, are becoming available.  More details here on how to get it. 

3. I am planning to do a "Robert Shea week" on this blog. I will do all of the posts myself, if necessary, but if anyone else would like to do a guest post, consider yourself invited. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Jean Cocteau and RAW

Jean Cocteau in 1923

The blogger at RAW Semantics spots something interesting -- the fact that Robert Anton Wilson cited Jean Cocteau as playing a "major role" inspiring Cosmic Trigger III -- and attempts to figure out why Cocteau was important to RAW.

Years ago, after I discovered surrealism but before I really got into David Lynch, I saw Cocteau's movie Orpheus So I was interested on one of the points RAW Semantics uncovered: "... in a BBC2 documentary on Surrealism presented by David Lynch (‘Surrealist Cinema’, BBC Arena, 1987 – part 1/part 2). Lynch says: 'in my opinion, Cocteau is the heavyweight of Surrealism'."

I reach a search for "Jean Cocteau" in An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson (I bought the ebook so I could do such searches) and found one reference; Eric says there is an entry for Cocteau in Everything Is Under Control, one of the few RAW books I don't have. 

Addendum: The links RAW Semantics provides to the BBC show are very interesting. The quality of the video is not very good, but many of the films Lynch mentions apparently are available on the Internet, e.g. Man With a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov.