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

Monday, November 30, 2020

Prometheus Rising reading/exercise group, Week Eight

Jim O'Shaughnessy (Twitter account portrait)

Jim O'Shaughnessy is a figure on the Wall Street investment scene. His Twitter bio says, "Founder, Chairman & Co-Chief Investment Officer, OSAM LLC.  Author, 'What Works on Wall Street,' Host 'Infinite Loops' podcast." He lists as his personal website his investment company's site, O'Shaughnessy Asset Management.  He has more than 111,000 followers on Twitter.

Not the sort of person I usually follow. I don't make much money, and my "investment strategy" consists of investing in index funds and other safe funds in IRAs and in my 401-K, largely using dollar cost averaging. 

But one other thing: O'Shaughnessy is a huge Robert Anton Wilson fan who often quotes RAW and writes about him. His Twitter following of more than 111,000 suggests he has a much bigger following than many other websites interested in RAW.

And he also has done three threads recently on "The Thinker and the Prover." Here are Parts One and Two. And here is Part Three. 

In the first thread, he discusses Dr. Leonard Orr's model of "The Thinker and the Prover" cited by RAW.

"This is a useful model that is technically 'wrong' because of its simplicity," O'Shaughnessy writes. " Yet, I also want to demonstrate that things that are objectively 'wrong' because they simplify things can nevertheless be extremely helpful. This underlines George Box's idea that 'all models are wrong, but some are useful'."

If you get interested in Jim O'Shaughnessy, here is a thread that collects many of his threads on various topics.

A couple of other Prometheus Rising resources: An episode devoted to the book on the "Live From Chapel Perilous" podcast. And here is a summary of the book on the Fluid Self website, which Jim O'Shaughnessy spotted and shared on Twitter. 

How are you doing on the exercises? I am still looking for my second quarter. 

UPDATE: I asked Jim O'Shaughnessy on Twitter if he ever met RAW. He answers, "I wish. No, I discovered him when my friend @Dan_Jeffries1 recommended him to me. Same with Jed McKenna. 

"I owe Dan, a lot."

Sunday, November 29, 2020

RAW on Beethoven

I have found during the pandemic that few things I do are as useful in keeping me in a good mood as listening to a great deal of classical music. Yesterday, after listening to a dose that included some Beethoven, I pulled my copy of The Illuminati Papers off the shelf and re-read one of my favorite short RAW pieces, "Beethoven as Information." I can't reproduce the whole thing without committing a copyright violation, but here is a paragraph:

Perhaps some mystics have achieved higher levels of consciousness than Beethoven (perhaps!), but if so, we cannot know of it. Aleister Crowley once astonished me by writing that the artist is greater than the mystic, an odd remark from a man who was only a mediocre artist himself (although a great mystic.) Listening to Ludwig, I have come to understand what Crowley meant. The mystic, unless he or she is also an artist, cannot communicate the higher states of awareness achieved by the fully turned-on brain; but the great artist can. Listening to Beethoven, one shares, somewhat, in his expanded perceptions; and the more one listens, the more one shares. Finally, one is able to believe his promise: if one listens to that music enough, one will never be unhappy. 

The Illuminati Papers is one of my favorite RAW anthologies. Probably not a coincidence that it apparently includes material cut from the appendices in  Illuminatus!  More on The Illuminati Papers here. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

RAW lived here

2510 College Avenue, Berkeley, California. Photo by Branka Tesla

2035 Channel Way, Berkeley. Photo by Branka Tesla

I recently heard from Branka Tesla for the first time in a little while:

"As you know, there are also a few of RAW letters published in The Starseed Signals which reveal two addresses where RAW used to live in Berkeley: 2510 College Avenue and 2035 Channing Way. Since I live in Berkeley I walked to both addresses recently and took pictures. I don't know about you but visuals are important to me. What's missing on both of these buildings, in my view, is the plaque attached to the outside wall stating: 'In this building in 1974 lived, wrote and smoked pot Robert Anton Wilson.' "

If you use Google Maps you can see where the houses are located,what is nearby, etc. 

Thanks, Branka!

Friday, November 27, 2020

Chad Nelson reviews 'Starseed'


At Counterpunch, Chad Nelson pens quite a comprehensive review of The Starseed Signals. Read the whole thing, but here's a bit:

"As a RAW aficionado, I study the Wilson oeuvre like Wilson studied Joyce’s. I pour over his fictional work in the most microscopic fashion, searching for the hidden gems Wilson camouflaged with his Zen-like prose, the way mystics do. Starseed helped me uncover a few more of his secrets that had eluded me. That alone was worth the price of admission. But Starseed was far more than that. It was optimistic, inspiring, and self-help-y in actionable ways. All qualities I have come to expect from the best of Wilson’s work. Starseed challenges you to aggressively interrogate the most unquestionable societal taboos, and identify your own robotic behaviors so that you may escape the socially-programmed reward-punishment matrix. Not for purely selfish reasons, but so that you may become a modern-day Bodhisattva, something the world desperately needs more of right now."

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Reasons to be grateful

Photo by Donna G from 

Whatever you think of Thanksgiving, it seems to be true that the ability to feel gratitude for one's life is a key part of happiness. 

I am certainly grateful for this blog, and for the friends I have made because of it.

Gwern, a smart freelance intellectual, has a good essay on all of the ways his ordinary day to day life has improved since the 1990s. 

I am perhaps most struck by a technological advance Gwern doesn't mention. In my youth, I had to spend a lot of money to listen to my favorite music, slowly acquiring various LPs. Nowadays, anyone can get unlimited music by spending $10 a month for a service such as Spotify. Not only that, but simply by using library cards, I can listen to an endless supply of music from services such as Freegal, Hoopla Digital and the Naxos Music Library without having to spend any money at all, a stupendous windfall. Freegal alone gives me access to a huge supply of classical music I can stream all day and dozens of albums by artists such as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. It's a big change from being curious about an old Bob Dylan album and having to actually hunt up a copy. Or being able to listen to all of Beethoven's piano sonatas without having to acquire an expensive boxed set. 

I spent decades building up a music collection. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that no one has to bother to do that anymore. 

Addendum: Supergee's annual post. 

Addendum II: Kevin Williamson on gratitude.  "Those of us lucky enough to know people raised during the Great Depression or the war years do well to note how easy they are not only to please but to delight. Ask an 85-year-old in Beaumont, Texas, or Tucumcari, N.M., about his air-conditioning, and he will sing you a hymn. That weird gelatin-based Eisenhower-era party food was haute cuisine to people who had spent the 1930s eating beans five times a week — or fought standing in blood half-starving at Hürtgen Forest. Their memories can, if we will pay attention, illuminate our present bliss. Every oldster who has ever bored you to death with a story of hardship beginning with the words “In my day” was offering you a gift, and you’d be smart to accept it."

Monday, November 23, 2020

Prometheus Rising discussion/exercise group, Week Seven


Prometheus Rising: Introduction by Israel Regardie

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger 

“Darling Alice, You really are a contemptible bitch!” -Israel Regardie to Aleister Crowley, 1937

A prime example of my hubris is that I am particularly proud of the authors who have influenced me; that I have, amongst all the race, have been blessed by Plan or chance to have been taught  by the greatest minds across the gulf of time. In my blinding pride, I often forget many of the ever-looming teachers who also held sway over my development. 

In many ways, I think of Regardie as someone who is a corollary to Crowley and Wilson rather than an influence in his own right. However, that is partially based on Regardie own subtle ingenuity: he appears at times to be an, admittedly invaluable, interpreter of the generally murky philosophies of the Ceremonial Magic, Thelema, and Reichian therapy. Thus he stands in the shadows, as a consigliere for these illustrious ideologies for young students. However, Regardie innovations in magic are as important to my development as any of the more “original” authors. 

I muddled through his One Year Manual in my dorm room in rural WV which was decorated solely by an Austin Osman Spare print and his A Garden of Pomegranates is the textbook on Qabalah that clear up many of my uncertainties and helped me understand the perfection of the scheme. The Tree of Life, The Middle Pillar, Roll Away the Stone, How to Make and Use Talismans have all been housed on my bookshelves across many moves. His The Golden Dawn and Gems From The Equinox preserved and made available teachings that otherwise could have easily been forgotten. (Although his criteria for what went into Gems can be bizarre in certain instances, to say the least.)  His biography of Crowley notably cottoned Wilson to the ideas of Uncle Al and he would later write an introduction for that book. One of Regardie’s most influential ideas is one of the most essential; before undertaking the serious study and practice of magic one should go through therapy.

This is all without mentioning the direct influence he had on the modern occult scene that, for better or worse, propelled and legitimized Grady McMurtry, Lon Milo Duquette, Wilson, Parfitt, and various other writers I am forgetting to their luminary status. So Regardie was a great man who seemed content to, instead of striking out further into the shadow realm of the occult like Kenneth Grant, stayed behind to guide the next generation. 

Regardie’s talent is on full display as in the first three paragraphs of his introduction he makes you fall in love with Wilson all over again as he notes the breadth and depth of his mighty philosophy and his bubbling humor. I have been lucky to have such teachers. He manages to weave in some of his personal philosophical hobby-horses such as his extrapolation of Wilson’s “Third Mind” into the Qabalistic theory of balance, centered on the triad of Geburah, Chesed, and Tiphareth and eloquently ruminates over the unmatched metaphor of Indra’s Net. 

His incredulity toward Wilson’s optimism makes him look all the wiser as we read the book decades after its initial publication. (I do wonder though if anyone, like myself, was swept up by Wilson’s hopes and words to the point that when they read Prometheus Rising the first time, and also almost believed in Utopia.) Regardie also says the only wise thing to say about Wilson’s Utopia: “However, I sincerely hope that Wilson is right in this case.” Regardie also notes that transformative periods in society are rarely, if ever, peaceable. Like birth, there is always implicit trauma. I know I have a tendency to bemoan the state of our world, but at least I’m honest. I hope that the turmoil that seems to be set up against the 2020s like a bowling ball against pins leads to some better arrangement. We shall see, I guess. Like the monk in the Zen vignette that Wilson relates in The Starseed Signals, perhaps the best thing is to take everything with a placid “is that so?” 

So we proceed gently into the realm of "The Thinker and The Prover" which I’ll discuss in my next entry. I would suggest taking this time as we engage with Chapter One of PR to revisit Regardie’s writing. We are all lucky that he is one of the teachers in this book. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The story behind 'Citizen Kane'

Famous screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, only 55 when he died of alcoholism in 1953 (public domain photo.)

Herman Mankiewicz came up with the idea of making a movie about William Randolph Hearst and won an Oscar for co-writing the script  of "Citizen Kane" with Orson Welles, although he had to fight to get any credit at all. An article at the New Yorker discusses Mankiewicz' role in the film, and a new movie, "Mank," about the writer's Hollywood years. The piece also quotes part of a telegram Mankiewicz sent to Ben Hecht to lure Hecht to Hollywood: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.”

The piece by Richard Brody is called "Herman Mankiewicz, Pauline Kael, and the Battle Over
'Citizen Kane'." All of you Orson Welles fans should read it. 

Thanks to John Merritt for calling my attention to the piece. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

New book on psychedelics and religion

 A new book, The Immortality Key by Brian C. Muraresku, revives the theory that psychedelics played a large role in early religion, including the Eleusinian mysteries in ancient Greece and even the early days of Christianity. 

Andrew Sullivan wrote a piece about the book, highly recommending it. There is also discussion from the skeptic Jason Colavito. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

'Rock stars to undertakers' KLF movie out now


A new movie is out (and available for rental online) about how the KLF folks, Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty, have made a comeback as undertakers. More information here.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Joanna Harcourt-Smith documentary to air soon


The New York Times  finally publishes its obituary for Joanna Harcourt-Smith, and it has a bit of news that I had not seen anywhere else. After mentioning her memoir Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary, it says, "A documentary based on her book is scheduled to air on Nov. 29 on Showtime. The film is by Errol Morris, acclaimed for “The Thin Blue Line” (1988) and “The Fog of War” (2003)."

Here is information about the film, "My Psychedelic Love Story," including a trailer you can watch. Of course, Joanna (as "Joanna Leary") is mentioned repeatedly in The Starseed Signals, so I've put a tag for the book on this blog post. 

Oz Fritz read Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary when it came out and his long review is available at his blog. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Rasa talks about editing 'Starseed' and other 'lost' RAW titles

When I had finished reading The Starseed Signals, I wondered about other books that RAW apparently worked on at the time but never published. I also wanted to learn more about the work that was done in putting the book together. (I could tell it took a lot of work, but I was curious about the specifics of reconstructing the manuscript.) Hilaritas Press editor Rasa, with his usual generosity of spirit, agreed to take my questions about the matter, so here are my questions and his answers. -- The Management. 

RAWIllumination: The Starseed Signals apparently is not the only "lost" RAW book. The text and the supplementary correspondence make it clear that RAW at about the same time as he worked on The Starseed Signals was working on a couple of other books, one about Aleister Crowley and the other about the science of trying to obtain life extension. Do we know how far he got, and are there any traces of these manuscripts?

Are there any other "lost" books known to exist, and does Hilaritas have any other "lost" RAW books in preparation, as opposed to putting together new collections of all of the various short pieces he published over the years?

Rasa: Sadly, as we’ve noted, RAW was not very good in keeping his papers intact. Add to that that the family moved some 20 times, and we are afraid that a lot may have been lost. There are no traces of any other books other than The Tale of the Tribe. In looking through RAW’s last computer, I found a manuscript for Tribe that RAW had started, but he didn’t get very far. We assembled a small team of experts to pore over the document and try to figure out if it is worth publishing. We are still working on that project, but I’m afraid that there is not a lot to work with. Finding The Starseed Signals was a case of lucky coincidances. In my dream list of future coincidances, I would love to find books four and five of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles – if I had a choice in what serendipity may hold. We are not holding our breaths on that. We are relatively certain those books never got written. I want books four and five of Historical Illuminatus!  too, but my particular obsession is the years of "lost" correspondence  between RAW and Robert Shea. RAW even wrote in CT3 that he'd like to see it collected in a book someday, but (as far as I can tell) neither man actually bothered to save it in a  useful way. 

Rasa: Yeah, that’s what I get from Christina. What we’ve got now is what we’ve got.

RAWIllumination: In your "A note from the publisher" in The Starseed Signals, you mention a discovery that RVP, which earlier was supposed to be the publisher of the book, left out parts that were "too hard to decipher." In what way did the manuscript have parts that were hard to decipher? And were there any parts that even Hilaritas Press could not decipher?

Rasa: There were a couple of sections of The Starseed Signals that were simply too hard to read without a LOT of effort. In one case, we simply put the effort in and were able to figure out the entire passage. In another case, we found a section that was very hard to read (In these cases, RVP simply put in the book, “Original text indecipherable”), but after some research, we figured out those couple of paragraphs were used in Cosmic Trigger, nearly verbatim. That was the only place in the book where RAW didn’t totally rewrite a passage that later found its way into Cosmic Trigger. We were really lucky that passage, largely impossible to fully read in the type written manuscript, seemed largely the same in Cosmic Trigger. In a couple of other places, RAW had put articles into the book from other sources, and a couple of those were simply left out because RAW’s photocopies were too hard to read. With a bit of research, we were able to track down the original articles. In other cases, RVP simply pasted in the poor photocopies. We transcribed all the articles so they would be easy to read. How were RAW's original drawings redone to make them legible? Did you do the tables yourself, Rasa?

Rasa: All of the charts and drawings were done by RAW by hand, and so they mostly looked very rough, and even a bit hard to read. What I called the “Kether” chart, had a nice flow to its spiral line, and I thought that rough drawing would still work. I did replace much of the text in that drawing, but I used a font that was similar to the typewriter font RAW originally used, so the whole chart, now easy to read, looks a lot like RAW’s original. I redesigned all the other tables and charts. I’m fairly certain that was RAW’s practice – to draw what he wanted and then have his publisher reconstruct it so it would be legible. 

I think what is simultaneously both satisfying and mildly frustrating is that we are finally able to create versions of RAW’s books that we think he would have loved. We are even taking any typos readers may still find, and updating our editions, so that we can finally clean up those tiny, but irritating issues that RAW often complained about. He even wrote in the Fore-word for Quantum Psychology about how “amusing” it was to have a name in one of his books continually misspelled. In The New Inquisition, New Falcon changed the name of philosopher/physicist Mario Bunge, to “Munge” – throughout the entire book! RAW claims it may have been his mistake, but we are guessing he was being polite in not publicly blaming New Falcon. One of our amazingly well-educated proofreaders, Alfonso Montuori, in this case, discovered that error, and I later found that interview where RAW joked about it – using it as an example of chaos getting the better of him. He was amused by that, but we know from personal conversations that he hated any errors in his books, and that was one of his major complaints about his previous publishers – that those corrections were seldom, if at all, fixed in edition after edition. We are thrilled to take the time necessary to make these new editions RAW-worthy, but we are mildly frustrated that RAW never got to see what he so often desired. 

Lots of other Starseed coverage here. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Adam Gorightly's 'Lost' afterword to the (formerly) lost RAW book

Adam Gorightly has a new blog post up on his "lost" afterword to what was going to be the edition of The Starseed Signals published under his supervision. (It was never published and Hilaritas Press took over the project.)

I've had a lot of blog posts about The Starseed Signals. I've created a page to archive many of them; you can see it at the top right of this page. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Prometheus Rising discussion/exercise group, Week Six

A photo taken 21 years ago of today's special guest blogger, Eric Wagner, with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, who died on Nov. 8. Eric was the champion on the episode of the game show and used his winnings to take his wife to Paris.  (Photo posted on Facebook.)

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger 

On the morning of October 31, 2020, I found a quarter in the drive through of a Sonic Drive-In before they opened. Later that day I had to take my beloved dog Pookie to an emergency center, and we had to put him to sleep. He would have turned fifteen on November 26. On November 1 I found two quarters at a Taco Bell drive through. An hour and a half later I found my final quarter in that same drive through. I find it an interesting coincidence that I found these quarters in rapid succession after two months of unsuccessful searching at the same time I lost Pookie. In terms of the Thinker and the Prover, before Pookie started throwing up and I took him to the emergency vet, I thought that his health seemed OK. I considered spending a lot of time with him this year a great blessing, a positive side effect of working from home. When people talked about wanted to jump forward in time to the end of the pandemic, I thought that I wanted to treasure each day, because I feared Pookie would not outlive the pandemic. (What the Thinker thinks….) After talking with the vet, I could see how much Pookie was struggling. Before that night I modeled his behavior as normal for an aging dog. Holding him that night I could see his labored breathing and feel how slender he had become, and I could feel his suffering. 

After having found the quarters the next day, I decided to continue with creating my own similar experiments. I decided to see if I could flip a coin three times in a row and get heads each time. It took me 19 flips to get three heads in a row. I explained that by selective attention and tried to get three heads in a row again. This time it took ten flips. I explained that by mind over matter and tried again. This time it took 29 flips to get three in a row. 

Next I decided to lose a pound. It took me one day. I explained that to myself as selective attention. I tried to lose another pound. Once again it took a day. This time I explained it as mind over matter, and I decided to lose another pound. This time it took me two days. I do not draw any strong conclusions from the quarter or weight loss exercises. My data set seems too small. 

After rereading the chapter I confronted the party exercises. Well, during this pandemic I don’t plan to attend any parties, so I decided to use Zoom meetings. At the first one I considered myself ugly, unattractive and boring. I thought of the exercise a number of times during the meeting. I held myself back from making jokes. I did make one joke, and it got a good laugh. Perhaps I usually share weak jokes, but because I thought of myself as boring during this exercise, I held my tongue until I had a strong joke to share. 

“Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” – Prince, “1999”. 

This morning I tried the next party exercise. I didn’t have a particularly strong experience. I will try the exercise again, perhaps at an actual party. 

I have observed the Thinker and the Prover in two close friends. I hope to get into discussions with some relative strangers in the near future and observe their Thinkers and Provers. I don’t talk much with relative strangers during the pandemic. 

Well, thanks to Zoom I got to talk with a few relative strangers and observe their Thinkers and Provers as well as to observe my own Thinker and Prover. I contemplated my expectations of this Prometheus Rising group. I think I’ve given these exercises a pretty good try over the past 35 years, and I think I’ve gleaned the main lessons from them, but I also think I may have missed the point sometimes, and these exercises may have a lot more to teach me. My Prover sort of has the next 22 months planned out, but it also may prove that I have missed the point and that I can reach new perceptions. Hopefully I will have an even more positive experience with these exercises than I anticipate. We will see. I found the moments when I found those quarters after months of unsuccessful searching very charged.

Two of Eric's dogs. Pookie is on the left. The other dog is Maggie, who died two years ago. 


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Starseed and Gold Bug

If you are familiar with DNA, you know that it consists of four different biochemical building blocks, two kinds of bonded pairs: Adenine always pairs with thymine, and cytosine with guanine. This is analogous with the sexual pairing of men with women, as RAW remarks in Chapter 14 of  The Starseed Signals

Wands -- adenine
Cups -- thymine
Swords -- cytosine
Discs -- guanine

These four amino acids serve as bonds for the DNA helix. These chemical bonds are analogs of the sexual bonds at higher levels. (Here is some of the analogical, non-linear, non-Aristotelian right-lobe thinking we warned about earlier.) The pyrimidines are "male analogs," so adenine and cytosine are Wands and Swords respectively. The purines are "female analogs" so Cups and Discs are thymine and guanine. The lovely thing about this analog is that the phallic-vaginal symbolism (wands to cups, swords to discs) describes exactly the bonding system (adenine to thymine, cytosine to guanine) that actually does hold the DNA helix together. 

RAW has a footnote to this passage, remarking, "It is perhaps safe to mention in a footnote that this concept was received by both the present author, in California, and by poet Brian Barritt, in Switzerland, the same week, one reason for believing in a central Starseed Transmission facility." 

I was quite started by this passage. Two bonded pairs of DNA chemicals as an analogy for two mating couples is a good one-sentence description of the plot of The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers, a 1991 novel that is one of my all-time favorite works of fiction. The two main plot strands are a romance in the 1950s between two biologists, Stuart Ressler and Jeanette Koss, and a romance in the 1980s between librarian Jan O'Deigh and computer programmer Franklin Todd. Todd and Ressler work together in the 1980s sections of the novel, so the two couples are intertwined. 

A central conceit of the novel is that information and codes are behind everything; the title alludes both to Bach's Goldberg Variations and to Edgar Allen Poe's story, "The Gold-Bug," in which cryptography is an important plot element. If you've already read The Starseed Signals, you can't help but compare that to the Leary-Wilson emphasis on the importance of the DNA code. 

 According to Wikipedia, the famous American cryptographer William F. Friedman became interested in cryptography when he read "The Gold-Bug" as a child.  One of the characters in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, another one of my all-time favorite novels, is based upon Friedman. 

Powers, 63, won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Overstory and the National Book Award for another novel, The Echo Maker, so if you follow literary news you likely have at least heard his name. The Gold Bug Variations also attracted quite a bit of attention. 

Powers, like RAW (and myself), is a huge classical music fan, and his novel Orfeo  also connects music to the genetic code.  Powers' short novel Genie involves the discovery of code apparently written by intelligent life billions of years ago and inserted into Earth DNA. I re-read it Saturday night; it also connects music to the genetic code. 

You can read my 2014 interview with Powers, in which he remarks, "Self-replicating molecules have set every living thing in motion, and that pattern-making impulse, at the inanimate level, is, in some profoundly mysterious way, the mother of all animate pattern-making and pattern-seeking urges." And he also remarked, "Meditation on our molecular roots is tremendously inspiring, and thinking about the journey from the first self-replicating molecules to the pinnacles of human achievement is the deepest kind of spiritual reflection."

Saturday, November 14, 2020

RAW and baseball

New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig

Timothy Leary apparently liked baseball, but I don't remember seeing Robert Anton Wilson talk much about the sport until I read The Starseed Signals, where a search reveals the word "baseball" is mentioned nine times. (It's mentioned six times in Cosmic Trigger.) Chapter Four of The Starseed Signals has particularly interesting discussion from Leary about baseball, but it's clear that RAW also understands the basics of the game. 

That made me wonder if RAW ever showed any interest in baseball, so I asked a couple of people who knew him well, Eric Wagner and Scott Apel. 

Eric Wagner: "At the time of Bob Wilson’s birth in 1932, baseball had a huge popularity as the national pasttime. I never heard him talk about baseball, but I think it formed part of his culture. I only recall him talking about sports once. In 1988 I told him one of my English professors called Ezra Pound a failed poet. Bob said, “Calling Ezra Pound a failed poet is like calling Joe Lewis a failed boxer.”

Scott Apel: "As far as RAW and baseball, I can't recall ever discussing that or any other sport with Bob. I'm not a sports fan, and neither was he. Might be a holdover from his childhood days -- when you live in NYC, you have the Yankees, and growing up as he did in the '40s, baseball and radio were about all there was for entertainment (and movies, of course, and comic books and literature). I theorize this because I was a baseball fan as a child living near Chicago in the '50s, and went to many Cubs and White Sox games with my dad and grandfather. Once we moved to California in 1960, however, I lost all interest -- gotta be one of the most boring sports ever. (I used to suggest that they play two games simultaneously, on two adjacent fields, so while nothing was happening during one game, you could look over and watch the other.) Last ballgame I ever went to was the Giants at Candlestick Park in 1963. So, sorry, but I can't be of any help with details about RAW's interest."

I noticed that both of them pointed out a child growing up in New York City could hardly be unaware of the New York Yankees, the most dominant team in baseball. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday links

Mug shot for Arthur Simon Flegenheimer, better known under another name. 

RAW Semantics on Trump conspiracy theories. 

Farm distillery  once operated during Prohibition. "Dutch’s Spirits is named after the New York gangster and bootlegger Dutch Schultz, who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the expansive underground moonshine distillery, although some local historians stop short of giving him credit."  

I assume if you read Illuminatus! you don't need an explanation of who Dutch Schultz is, but if you need a primer, this should help, hat tip Jesse Walker. 

A live look into coverage of the recent election

94-year-old woman with back pain treated like drug addict

Is California secretly libertarian?  And maybe libertarians should use referendums more, hat tip John Merritt.

A psilocybin playlist. 

Obituary for Joanna Harcourt-Smith. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

RAW quotes Jefferson Starship [UPDATED]

I've always listened to a lot of music, and a wide variety, too, including rock music and classical. Nowadays , I listen mostly to classical; in college in the 1970s, although I did listen to recordings of Stravinsky and Bach and other classical composers, I mostly listened to rock, including many Jefferson Airplane/Starship albums and solo albums made by members of those bands.

I now regret that and wish I had explored classical more in those days, but the upside is I can explain a reference to Jefferson Starship in The Starseed Signals.

At the end of Chapter 13, RAW quotes these lyrics, attributing them to the Jefferson Starship:

Hide witch hide the good folks come to burn thee
Their keen enjoyment hid behind a gothic mask of duty

RAW in fact gets the lyrics slightly wrong; he writes "Burn, witch, burn" instead of "Hide witch hide." 

In any event, he is quoting from the opening of "Mau Mau (Amerikon)" the opening track of the album Blows Against the Empire, released in November 1970 under the name Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship.  The songwriting credits for "Mau Mau" are Kantner, Grace Slick and Joey Covington. The album includes contributions from just about every San Francisco rock musician at the time and has a suite of songs on Side Two about hijacking a starship. Here is an interesting bit from the Wikipedia article:

"By Kantner's admission, the underlying premise of the narrative was derived in part from the works of science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, particularly the novel Methuselah's Children. Kantner went so far as to write to Heinlein to obtain permission to use his ideas. Heinlein wrote back that over the years many people had used his ideas, but Paul was the first one to ask for permission, which he granted. In 1971, Blows was the first rock album ever nominated for a Hugo Award in the category of Best Dramatic Presentation. Although it received the plurality of the vote among the five nominated works, the majority of voters elected not to issue the award that year."

Kantner (1941-2016) was the Jefferson Airplane's most prolific songwriter; he and Grace Slick had a daughter, China, who was an MTV VJ in the 1980s and also has worked as an actress. Here is a bit from Paul Kantner's Wikipedia bio: "Identifying as a political anarchist, Kantner advocated the use of entheogens such as LSD for mind expansion and spiritual growth, and was a prominent advocate of the legalization of marijuana, which he regularly consumed for most of his adult life." I don't know if he and RAW ever met, but they must have known some of the same people in San Francisco.  UPDATE: See the comment below from R.U. Sirius. 

Kantner co-wrote the tune "Wooden Ships," recorded both by Crosby, Stills and Nash and by Jefferson Airplane. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

New RAW biography finds a publisher

Prop Anon announced on Twitter Tuesday that his new biography of Robert Anton Wilson will be published by Strange Attractor Press. 

If you are familiar with Strange Attractor or can take a moment to look at its website, you'll likely agree it is a good fit for the book. It was the British publisher, for example, of Erik Davis' excellent High Weirdness. The range of titles is eclectic and unusual. The "About" section of the website says, "Strange Attractor Press is an independent publishing house, founded in 2003, based in London, UK and run by Mark Pilkington and Jamie Sutcliffe."

It is too early to reveal any other details, such as a publication date, although Prop says maybe 2022 or early 2023. I will share announcements as they become available. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Download a copy of 'Terra II'

There's a lot in The Starseed Signals about Timothy Leary's book Terra II. As far as I can tell, though, the Timothy Leary estate has allowed Terra II to go out of print.  (The bibliography of Timothy Leary's books on Wikipedia does not list Terra II but lists something called StarSeed, which I'm thinking must be the same work. Then again, the "His Works" at list the titles separately. So I don't know. )

If you are curious about Terra II, I wanted to point it is available for download at the Internet Archive, in a variety of formats. 

To reiterate my position on copyright, I am generally rather conservative about the issue: If something is commercially available, I don't think it should be posted. But if this is the only way to obtain Terra II (or anything else of scholarly or artistic interest) it seems to me making it available is a public service. It's possible someone might disagree with me, so it might be a good idea to go ahead and download and secure a copy of  Terra II, just in case.

I also want to take a moment to note that quite a few works by or about Timothy Leary are available at Hoopla Digital, the digital library service offered by most public libraries. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Prometheus Rising discussion and exercise group, Week Five

Are you doing the exercises? I'm trying -- as I wrote yesterday, I finally found my first quarter! Please keep addressing the exercises and share in the comments about how you are doing, or any suggestions you have about them for others. 

In my initial posting for the discussion group, I suggested that Prometheus Rising could be considered a self-help book, and that a common feature of self-help books is that they expect the reader to take action, rather than simply reading the book for pleasure or education. And I mentioned that my favorite such book, at least right now, is How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. (Again, I like the book, but I'm not endorsing all of Scott's political views, or everything he's ever said in his 77,000 Tweets.)

I got a lot of comments for the post (thanks everyone), but one rather late and quite long comment by phodecidus is one you might have missed. So the next section is phodecidus, not me: 



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 won't "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.


This is Tom again. If you have a favorite self-help book, share in the comments! 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Prometheus Rising, The Starseed Signals


I have finally completed the first exercise. When I went out on my morning walk Saturday, I discovered that an old quarter is embedded in the concrete in a sidewalk right in front of my porch. (It's pictured above.) Not what I was expecting -- when I followed the instructions and tried to picture a quarter in my head, I visualized a loose coin -- but I'll take it.

There's a large amount of clutter already on this page, and if I simply put up links for the new Prometheus Rising discussion and exercise group on the right side, there would wind up being a long list of links. So I am putting all of the links on a separate page; just click the link on the top right of this page. 

I also finally remembered to put up a link under "Official News" to the Hilaritas Press announcement for The Starseed Signals

I've been doing a post a day for several years now, and while obviously the quality of the posts vary, I've covered a lot of subjects and published in a lot of material, from other folks as well as myself. So I'm pretty confident that any fan of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea will have quite a bit to read. Intensive blogging will continue, including more coverage of Starseed Signals, but I probably need to pay more attention to organizing the site so people can find what they are interested in. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Quanah Parker, Comanche leader

Quanah Parker, the gentleman at right holding a spear.

Rasa and his helpers did a great deal of work on The Starseed Signals, but a couple of mistakes did slip through. The German actor mentioned in Chapter One is Conrad Veidt, not "Conrad Veldt." (He was Major Strasser in "Casablanca.")

Chapter One also has a reference to Quanah Parker as "the great Cheyenne war-chief," when in fact he was a Comanche. Wikipedia has much of his colorful life, which included having as many as eight wives at one time and helping to found the Native American Church, which uses peyote as a sacrament.

I lived for many years in Lawton, Oklahoma, where I worked for the local newspaper. Parker is buried in Comanche County, at Fort Sill. Parker and the Comanche tribe were settled in the Lawton area after being subdued by the U.S. Army, and it's still common for Lawton residents to interact with Comanches. I used to get my hair cut by a Comanche barber, and at the newspaper I worked for many years with a Comanche tribal princess.

Oklahoma, where I grew up, originally was "Indian Territory," a place where Native Americans were settled after their original lands were invaded and occupied. Native Americans from the eastern U.S. such as the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Seminoles etc. were settled in what became the eastern part of Oklahoma, while tribes from the Great Plains and western U.S., such as the Comanches, were settled in the western part. So, for example, I grew up in Tulsa, which originally was a Creek Indian town, named by the Creeks who settled there. The Lawton area is where Comanche, Kiowa and Apache people were sent. (The Apache leader Geronimo also wound up at Fort Sill.) Eventually, after the rest of the U.S. was settled, Indian Territory was opened up to white settlement, too.

Oklahoma's Native American heritage was highlighted in controversy over Sen. Elizabeth Warren's alleged Cherokee ancestry. Warren was born in Oklahoma City and grew up in Oklahoma. Without getting into the weeds of the dispute (DNA tests apparently do show some Native American heritage),  I think what was missed by people unfamiliar with Oklahoma is that because of its heritage, almost everyone in the state is Native American, believes he or she is Native American,  or wishes he or she was Native American. Claiming a Cherokee ancestor is particularly common, so Warren in a sense was simply an average Oklahoman. 

An anecdote: Years ago, while I was waiting to be fed at a buffalo burger cookout at Fort Sill, a beloved annual ritual in the Lawton area, a Comanche in line with me told he he could never figure out how the U.S. government could have forced the famously warlike Cherokees to move to Oklahoma. Given that everyone in Oklahoma had a Cherokee grandmother, he reasoned the Cherokees must have been an enormous tribe, much bigger than the Comanches, and very difficult for the U.S. Army to push around. 


Friday, November 6, 2020

Footnote on Paul Segall

The Starseed Signals, which I am still slowly reading, has quite a bit on "Paul Segall, a PhD candidate at UC-Berkeley, who has been involved in life-extension research for fifteen years," including a long passage in Chapter 11 which quotes him for pages and pages, based on what Wilson says was a three-hour interview.  Of course, this befits the "life extension" part of the SMI2LE formula of Timothy Leary, e.g. space migration, intelligence increase and space migration. 

This made me curious about what happened to Segall. Was he still alive and doing his research? Would he perhaps be available for an interview?

The scientist named "Paul Segall" who is easiest to find on a search engine is a Stanford professor of geophysics who is an expert on volcanoes, obviously not the same person. But eventually I found the sad news that the Paul Segall in the book died in 2003, age 60. See this article, I also found this obituary, and this press announcement. It's not clear whether he was cryonically preserved; I could not find an official obituary, does anyone have more information?

Incidentally, while it is easy to point out that SMI2LE has not advanced as quickly as Wilson predicted, work on all aspects of it continues. The "space migration" part is pretty obvious if you have heard of folks such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos; work on artificial intelligence is much in the news, and I run across interest in life extension at libertarian websites and blogs. For just a couple of examples, see this blog post at Marginal Revolution, and see also this one. 

At the time of his death, Segall was chairman, co-founder and CEO of BioTime Inc. The name of the company was changed last year to Lineage Cell Therapeutics, a cell therapy company that is publicly traded. 

I cannot find a photo of Paul Segall that isn't under strong copyright, so I have a screenshot of the website for the company he founded. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Bobby Campbell's 'Psychonaut Comix' No. 2


If  you need a distraction from the current political anxiety or some inspirational moments, try Bobby Campbell's just-released second issue of  "Psychonaut Comix." I enjoyed these and the one with Timothy Leary is topical. Get your copy here, and consider supporting Bobby on Patreon. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Marijuana legalization passes in four states

A marijuana shop in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize marijuana. (Photo on by Alex Person.)

While most attention in the U.S. naturally is fixated on who will be elected president, which party will control Congress etc., there was a development Tuesday of interest to many RAW fans and/or libertarians: The "war on some drugs" suffered setbacks at the polls.

Marijuana legalization was approved as a ballot measure in four states: New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota.  

The pandemic probably prevented further wins from taking place; some states require large numbers of signatures to get a measure on the ballot, problematic when people are being advised to avoid crowds. The Politico story linked to above notes that "the pandemic derailed a medical marijuana legalization effort in Idaho and doomed recreational legalization initiatives in Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma." In fact, COVID-19 also prevented legalization from advancing in Ohio, where I live.

Before Tuesday, marijuana was legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia: the 11 are Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Vermont a few weeks ago became the first state where legalization came from the legislature, rather than a ballot initiative.

Politico says "about 1 in 3 Americans now live in states where marijuana is legal for anyone at least 21 years old." Of course, many others live in a state next to one where pot is legal, and can drive across state borders. 

In addition, de facto legalization seems to exist in Oklahoma, my old state, where apparently anyone who wants a medical marijuana license to buy marijuana  can obtain one. I am relying on anecdotal information for that assertion, but the number of marijuana shops in the Sooner State is startling, and the state has even legalized temporary licenses for out of state visitors. I don't know how many states are like that. Ohio has medical marijuana, too, but you have to have a dire illness and medical records to prove it; not that many people qualify.

In addition, Oregon voters legalized psilocybin. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

New short video from Adrian Reynolds references Philip K. Dick


Blather: The Series - Rutger Hauer from LeftLion Extended on Vimeo.

The video is quite short, take a moment and check it out. 

Explaining the video he sent me, Adrian Reynolds writes, "I did a series of pieces for Nottingham magazine LeftLion that ran in its print edition for 2 years, called Blather, with artist Corrina Rothwell. It feels like now, and has light to go with the dark.

"They're the basis of short films, the first of which went live today. There's a Black Iron Prison theme, and another reference point. The violinist mentioned was inspired by a real musician whose playing made my heart soar while waiting in a bank queue."

He added, "James Pyle did a great job working with her [Corrina Rothwell] style as animator and director, and his imagination takes it somewhere special."

Adrian also sent me this photo of "a ramshackle recording studio/boxing gym, created from what had been a factory or warehouse a century old or more" in Nottingham. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Prometheus Rising discussion and exercise group, Week Four


By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger

Wilson’s preface seems to be perfectly apropos to the moment in spacetime identified as November 2, 2020 CE (according to the Gregorian reckoning). The quotes that preface his preface “Screw the government!” and “Screw the middle class!” speak to the increasing strain on the tattered remains of the social contract. (To an extent: is there even a middle class to screw anymore?) And while I don’t expect a Biden victory tomorrow (or later this month, or next month, or…) to make me in love with our government, there’s the distinct chance that many of us will hate our government even more, somehow, over the next four years. What a damn mess. 

Wilson’s references to the original form of Prometheus Rising as a doctoral dissertation on the “Neuro-Sociological Circuits” and his recounting of editing the book to only introduce Leary partway through the book in progress speaks directly to the head-change accounted for in the recently published Starseed Signals. While I’ve seen a lot of reviews or asides about The Starseed Signals mention that it is “dated,” what manuscript from 45 years ago wouldn’t be, the process of creating the model of neurological circuits is extremely relevant to our journey through Prometheus Rising. 

Personally, I’m inclined to suspect that RAW’s sentiments in his preface about his “over-optimistic predictions” are correct; insofar as while we have not arrived at the shining future Wilson boldly predicted, there are signs of progress and human tenacity. The collaboration between SpaceX and NASA is truly inspiring, even if Higgs’ assessment of Mars colonization proves to be entirely correct. Life extension isn’t doing too hot and tomorrow will really demonstrate our amount of intelligence or lack thereof. I’m not feeling hopeful about an increase of intelligence. 

Granted, we now have a sizable chunk of the vast sum of human knowledge at our fingertips, but the human mind has proven woefully inadequate to dealing with the challenge of the information deluge that is the Internet. Instead of bitching about Gen X, I instead will bitch about Gen Z, the first generation of minds completely warped by glowing screens. Working with the new generation, I see a lot of hope for growth, and a lot of dismal stupidity. Twenty three year old Internet Marxists seem to believe that a Trump reelection, “because the Democrats are no better,” will usher in the societal revolution to usher in a communist utopia with an economy based on OnlyFans and fanart commissions. Disturbingly, I’ve witnessed members of the younger generation discussing how Stalinism is a viable political philosophy simply slandered by the capitalist West. My eyes can only roll so much before I sever an optic nerve. 

And while I’m sure that Paideia was a fine college, alternate education isn’t the leftist dream that it was in the late Seventies. Now alternate education means further social stratification through charter schools and defunding our already woefully underfunded educational system. Are kids smarter today than they were in 1997? Doubtful. Teacher’s hands are so tied by Common Core standards, testing, parental “concerns,” and societal animus against them that we’re lucky to be able to teach anything aside from platitudes, how to tie your shoe, and basic math. 

I would very much like to be floating in a L5 Lagrange space station right now, toking blissfully in the light of the earth and the shadow of space, alas that RAW’s world didn’t come to fruition according to his original schedule. Instead of reaching for the stars like Leary dreamed humanity would be doing, our society resembles the wilderness brutality of The Edge. 

In my own wilderness, I haven’t found  a single quarter yet, although I did have a curious dream a couple nights ago about an old man spilling dimes into my hands. I’m not sure what to make of that. 

I guess we can make fire out of ice, but can we build a better world on its current foundation of blood and shit? This week we’ll perhaps get to see how quickly a nation can sink. Readers, keep rising, and when things get awful retreat to the high ground. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

John Higgs on 'Illuminatus' and QAnon

 Issue No. 23 of John Higgs' newsletter has news about the new paperback and audiobook editions of The Future Starts Here and the availability of signed books from his website, but there's also a section about how the QAnon conspiracy theories can be discussed by referencing Illuminatus! You will want to read all of John's mini-essay, but here is one paragraph:

Wilson's most famous work The Illuminatus! Trilogy (co-written with Bob Shea, of course) was a satire based on the idea that all conspiracies were true. It's not a book I usually recommend to those curious about Wilson - it's very much a product of its time, and not all of it has aged well. It was written by two staff members at Playboy magazine in the years before second-wave feminism broke through, for example, so it's easy to have issues with it now. But it's still a powerful thing, in terms of its impact on readers. It can rewire people's minds to prevent them falling for bullshit - their own, in particular, but other people's as well.

I have criticized the depiction of women in Illuminatus! (for example here) but having said that I love Illuminatus! and I read it over and over again. I don't know how much of a weakness is really is that the work is "very much a product of its time." Many fine works are a product of their time, as this writer argued in a piece written in 2015 or 2016:

Truly great books tend to have two things in common.

First, they are utterly of their time. They are so absorbed in their specific world that it is inconceivable that they could have come from any other time or place. They can define how we think about that period of history. Think of the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, or Jane Austen, or Charles Dickens.

And secondly, they transcend their time. They are universal, and capture something fundamental about the human experience. They speak to all people in all places at all times. Think again of the same work by Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

Of course, only time will tell whether Illuminatus! in the long run manages to "speak to all people in all place at all times" as the referenced works do but Illuminatus! is still fresh for me.

By the way, the passage I've just quoted is John Higgs, in the introduction to the Hilaritas Press edition of Cosmic Trigger, released on Feb. 23, 2016.