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Monday, October 19, 2020

Prometheus Rising discussion/exercise group, Week Two


It seems to me that in a sense, Prometheus Rising falls into a clear category of American publishing -- the self help book.

When I look at my reading for the past several years, recorded at Goodreads, I notice a number of books which could fall into the category of self-help books. 

Probably my favorite is the last one I read -- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, by Scott Adams, which I thought was quite good. 

But other books I've read in recently which fit pretty well into the category include Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America by Scott Adams,  Don't Unplug: How Technology Saved My Life and Can Save Yours Too by Chris Dancy, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport and How to Listen to Jazz by Ted Gioia. 

Obviously, many other books I have read aim to change my thinking about an issue or even change some of my behaviors. I would argue that all of Robert Anton Wilson's novels are not meant to be merely exercises in entertainment and escapism. But what all of these particular titles I have just mentioned  have in common, although they are rather disparate titles, are that none of them are meant to be read merely to entertain or inform. All of them strongly seek to get the reader to take action to change one's life. 

Wilson makes it clear that's his intent, too. "The reader will absolutely not understand this book unless he or she does the exercizes given at the end of each chapter," he writes. 

Here is the first exercise at the end of Chapter One:

1. Visualize a quarter vividly, and imagine vividly that you are going to find the quarter on the street. Then, look for the quarter every time you take a walk, meanwhile continuing to visualize it. See how long it takes you to find the quarter. 

As a blog housekeeping measure, I need to mention that I no longer have a handy quarter on the sidewalk near my house. 

I blogged on September 5 that a sidewalk in my neighborhood where I often do my daily walk had two quarters glued to the sidewalk with a piece of gum, making it easy to carry out the first exercise in Chapter 1. Well, although the quarters stayed there for weeks, the lure of an easy 50 cents apparently proved too much for somebody, because the quarters are now gone. 

So I am in the same position in hunting for quarters as anyone else. In fact, I am already worried that I might get stuck for weeks if I can't find any quarters and not be able to advance through the other exercises. I will give it an honest shot for a few weeks, but if I get stuck, I guess I will ask Eric for advice. 

In any event, I walk every day that the weather allows, and I have begun on the first exercise. 

I'll just have to see, also, what to do about the "go to a party" exercises, as I have been avoiding crowds since the pandemic began.

In any event, we are spending many weeks on the first chapter, and you should read it and be getting started on the exercises.

Next week you get Eric Wagner, and then Gregory Arnott returns. 


Eric Wagner said...

Terrific post. If one walks through the drive-through area of a fast food restaurant, one frequently finds quarters. I have not done that lately, but I hold that option in reserve if I still haven't found three quarters by next April. Does that seem like cheating to anyone? So far in the last five weeks I have found two dimes and a penny.

For the party exercises, I might substitute Zoom meetings for the time being. I agree we will likely have the pandemic with us throughout chapter one. I invite people to keep working on these exercises as we move on to subsequent chapters and even after we finish the book. I plan to do the party exercises more robustly in a post-pandemic world.

Van Scott said...

A couple of synchronicities. Saturday as I was preparing for my walk I was lamenting that I didn’t have a podcast to listen to. I happened to come to this site and what do you know? A couple of suggestions. That by itself isn’t very noteworthy, but today as I started out on my first quest for quarters I listened to episode one on the Chapel Perilous site. They discuss the randonautica app, and the similarities between that app and the quarter exercise were amazing. If you haven’t listened to it you should before you try the exercise again. Unfortunately, they never made the connection back to Prometheus Rising in their discussion.

I didn’t find any quarters, but as I was hunched over my phone typing this I glanced down at my coffee table and there in plain sight was a quarter I hadn’t noticed before. The funny thin is, I have no idea how long it’s been sitting there undiscovered.

Pedro said...

To top it all off, we find ourselves in a National Coin Shortage. Never has the hunt for quarters, as I scrawl the urban jungle seeking enough to feed my building's laundry machine, been such an essential part of my life as now!

I was hesitant to be a part of this. 23 months is a Commitment. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to have to thoroughly go through with the exercizes! Do I have time for that?

Now that it's started, I find myself having no choice but to follow along. Thanks for starting this one up, and can't wait to see where it goes!

quackenbush said...

I found a quarter yesterday at the airport right before the metal detector on the top of a barricade post. I considered that it was my destiny to take it and go through security with it, but ultimately I put it back.

Eric Wagner said...

Cool comments. Mr. Gathers, I just thought about your wonderful essay on the eight circuit model while reading Leary write about Freud in "Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality".

Anonymous said...

Iain Spence said:

Mushroom Eclipse -

My own strangest experience concerning Robert Anton Wilson's coin experiment happened to me in the early 1990s. At this time I used to walk several miles just to locate my favourite mushrooms, eating over half a dozen varieties.
One day I was out by myself looking for Slippery Jacks - a bright orange
slimy variety with a mild taste. I knew of an excellent location for these
mushrooms which sat just below some larch trees close to a water tank. It's a peaceful location in the middle of nowhere, with no houses in sight.

Wandering among the mushrooms I stopped in disbelief as I looked
down on a perfectly round Slippery Jack with a ten pence piece on its top. The
coin itself was completely centered in the middle of the mushroom, like a
peculiar form of art. I picked it off the top of the mushroom and examined
it - sure enough it was an old two bob piece, still in use as ten pence coins.
Someone had seemingly dropped it when checking their water supply in the previous few months and a mushroom had grown from below, having pushed up the coin.
With regards to my hobby of eating unusual mushrooms - there was no one among my then circle of friends who knew of this particular spot for the Slippery Jacks. I was in fact rather secretive as to where I got my mushrooms from - at least with the more unusual varieties. (I'd already seen one patch of Chanterelles wiped out by a family who'd over-picked them from a spot in a certain birch wood.) So I was fairly certain that the coin hadn't been placed by someone as a prank on myself.

Picking up the Slippery Jack, I looked around in confusion and for a moment I thought of the fairies...but then I pulled myself out of my reverie, pocketed some more mushrooms and walked home, fondling the two bob coin in my hand. Eventually the coin mingled with the rest of the change in my pocket and once spent, was off once more on its travels.

Psuke said...

I have never had luck finding the quarter when looking for this chapter *but* I did find a quarter at work a week or two before this study group was announced and considered that serendipity.

I haven't been to a party in a decade. Being an introvert I find them overwhelming and that's just gotten more so as I get older. Now there's a pandemic and I am a caretaker of my mother with dementia, so it's even less likely.

Exercise 9 should be a relative breeze, though, examples abound abundantly.

quackenbush said...

We start out with the infamous quarter exercise. I am reminded of the phrase, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” A caveat to this exercise might be that spare change is much more scarce in modern society, although the banking laws around dispensaries have kept cash alive as a medium of exchange, and I suspect if one focused their efforts when approaching their favorite local outlet (state permitting, of course) one might have more luck at this one. But back to my point, I remember searching payphones as a kid for that quarter and surprisingly high success rate on those endeavors, particularly in airports.

But perhaps I digress, zooming out on this exercise and returning to “where attention goes, energy flows..” are we manifesting quarters out of our will here, or just tuning into the frequency and vibration of quarters. I suspect the latter, but I don’t completely rule out the former either. I like to leave room for the mystery.

So then, a lesson here might be around commitment, focus, and intention. Will.

Oz Fritz said...

I started visualizing a quarter on Monday. I'm interpreting street to mean anywhere outside of home. I found myself having to remember to look for them. Just reread the exercise to find it says to also visualize yourself finding a quarter which I haven't done yet. Today I looked when in town, found a dime and a penny but not a quarter. I plan to take a walk in the downtown areas of our two small sister cities at least once a week to increase the odds. The woodland creatures in our rural neighborhood have been notoriously careful with their pocket change since state-wide budget cuts went into effect. Happy quarter hunting!

Rich Vos said...

I've found many quarters, but none that really turn me on like the first one that came into existence when I tried the trick years ago. However, synchronicities have been up and 23 is all over the place. Though, my attention for 23 is heightened as well.

The Thinker thinks and the Prover proves. I've become rather skilled at convincing myself of unique delusions, so this is par for the course.

I remember that there is a *feeling* that comes with a synchronicity, though I haven't had a big one in a while. It's different than noticing a connection cognitively. It feels like something is different - as if this shouldn't be. In my head, it feels like a version of deja vu...


Unknown said...

After the last Plant Manager at my job suggested I read Think and Grow Rich by N. Hill a couple of years ago I started diving into the self-help genre more, particularly the overlap of business/self-help/biohacking. Some of it seems like a continuation of some ideas in PR. I have been intrigued by the support of psychedelics from a few writers such as Tim Ferris and Dave Asprey. I think the biohacking enthusiasts owe a larger debt to Leary and RAW than acknowledged. I also like to link the field of positive psychology back to Leary who proclaimed “ You can’t do good unless you feel good.”

phodecidus said...

My favorite self-help book is probably Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, closely followed by Self-Therapy by Jay Earley. The first is meditations on cultivating self acceptance. The second is a book on Internal Family Systems.

Internal Family Systems (or IFS) is a form of parts work. Let's say there is a part of you that wants to lose weight and a part of you that eats cheeseburgers after work each day. Parts work handles each of those parts as if they are their own personalities with their own trauma, beliefs, emotions, etc.

One form of parts work might involve "chairing", where you sit across from an empty chair and talk to a part of yourself as if it is there. Then you switch places and talk to yourself from the part's perspective. I've found this exercise useful when I'm hung up on an argument I'm having with a friend. I assume their position and talk to myself from their POV.

Internal Family Systems takes things to another level by organizing our parts as one would organize members of a family in family systems therapy. It's a trauma-focused modality that considers each of our parts as useful and well meaning, even the self-harming parts.

There are different kinds of parts in IFS like protectors and exiles. Protectors are our defenses; our gossipy parts, our alienating parts, our addictive parts, etc. We get these parts to step aside and show us the exiles they're protecting; the injured inner children that need re-parenting.

This process is accomplished by entering a dialogue with our parts to unblend from them until we are in Self. We know we are in Self when we are calm, curious, confident, compassionate, clear, creative, connected and courageous. This is an 8 Cs other than the 8 Circuits.

Practitioners of IFS believe that merely connecting our parts to Self initiates deep healing. Self-Therapy by Jay Earley is a how-to book for this process, but I recommend doing it along with a therapist.

I've done the exercises from Prometheus Rising several times. Once on my own, once with a class lead by David J Brown on Maybe Logic Academy, and one with a group of friends who met in person. I'm excited to engage with the material again.

The quarter exercise is a great place to begin. A lot of Law of Attraction folks will sell you on one explanation and have you begin by manifesting a romantic partner, new car or job. I think opening the door to magical thinking can be dangerous.

If you can manifest success, why not manifest tragedy? Maybe you manifest something awful by mistake. You don't want to open the door to that kind of thinking, so I think it is best to start small and work with multiple explanations for the phenomena.

One way to assure you wont 'manifest' (or tune your perception to find) negative things is to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Prometheus Rising, in many ways, seems miles ahead of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.

The basic premise of CBT is that emotions, beliefs and behaviors begin with cognitions, and we can fix our lives by fixing our cognitions. One does this by identifying cognitive distortions and correcting them. Ten common cognitive distortions are all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalizing, mental filter (only paying attention to certain types of evidence), disqualifying the positive, jumping to conclusions (which includes mind reading and fortune telling), minimization/magnification, emotional reasoning, "should" or "must" thinking, labeling and personalization.

I think that practicing CBT can lead one closer to the kind if optimistic, happy life that RAW wants his readers to have.

I also think my earlier discussion of IFS is relevant to this chapter. Last time I practiced the quarter exercise, I found it easier to find them if I imagined a little girl looking for them along the street. I guess the part of me that is enthusiastic about finding quarters is young and feminine. Engaging with her opened me to finding many, many quarters in an era where they seem harder to stumble upon.