Thursday, September 23, 2021

John Higgs on vaccine skepticism and RAW


A photo John Higgs posted at his latest newsletter offers a possible clue on the subject of his new book, which he will announce Oct. 5. Do we get to guess the title? My entry is "Bonding with The Beatles."

The latest John Higgs newsletter has an essay on Robert Anton Wilson and vaccine skepticism. I don't want to try to summarize it here, just read it, but here is one paragraph:

The miracle of vaccines, however, is not a story that social media is likely to promote. An issue here is that the success of vaccines is abstract and invisible, which makes them just the sort of thing that our brains are bad at factoring in. We are hardwired to pay more attention to the tale of a friend of a friend who had a funny turn after being vaccinated than we are the tens of thousands of unspecified people who did not die because they had their jabs.

John will announce details of his new book on Oct. 5, and there's plenty of other interesting news at the link. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

'Sex, Drugs & Magick' next at Jechidah

Apuleius Charlton's Jechidah blog has a new entry which will conclude the Ishtar Rising reading group. 

And there's an announcement that a reading group will follow for Robert Anton Wilson's Sex, Drugs & Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits. This is good news for me personally, as I wanted to re-read it and had delayed doing so to take part in the Ishtar Rising group. 

"I won't really know when we're beginning Sex, Drugs & Magick until I finish copyediting TSOG. Hopefully I'll have an update within a month," Apuleius reports.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Erik Davis news roundup

1. On Twitter, I pointed out the recent blog post on Philip K. Dick and The Beatles' "Paperback Writer" to Ted Hand and Erik Davis and asked if they had any comment. (Both are Dick scholars.) Ted said, "I wonder if there's any other information about Timothy Leary's thoughts on PKD." Erik said, "I have never heard the Paperback Writer claim, though I understand it was mostly a Paul song, and Paul's not so PKD. The Lennon/Leary story as far as I know is about Lennon wanting to make a film of 3 Stigmata after Leary turned him on to the book."

2. "Into the Weird," new talk by Erik Davis, now available on YouTube. 

3. Erik is hosting a new online gathering called "The Dharmanaut Circle." 

"The Circle is designed to be a safe and supportive place to explore and discuss experimental and heart-felt approaches to meditation, sensory awareness, psychedelics, and other modes of waking up in these dizzying times. The format will be largely the same as the SFPS: I will gab a bit, lead a guided wander through the sand-box of meditation, and host a healthy conversation. Figure two hours. Suggested donation is $33. You can sign up here."

4. Erik continues to write a Substack newsletter, Burning Shore. As with other Substack publications, some is free but you have to pay to get the full experience (and support Erik's work.) (The "Ask Dr. D." column is behind the paywall, so you'll have to pay up to find out what "Gonzo Philosophy, Gonzo Practice" refers to.)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 50

Shanghai, China. (Unsplash photo by Li Yang.)

Notes on Chapter 7

Chapter 7 of Prometheus Rising seemed rich and interesting to me when I re-read it.  Here are some comments; I get one more blog posting about the chapter, so perhaps in that other posting I can cover some of the points I missed here.

It's important to remember that the book dates to 1983; many of the observations it makes seem prescient to me.

Let me give a personal observation on an example of the acceleration of information in my own life.

I got interested in music pretty early. In the 1970s, when I was a teen and really started to work on building up my music collection, I started buying albums. It took up a lot of the income I got from allowances, working at fast food places, etc., but eventually through time I accumulated dozens of albums. The technology of LPs was replaced by a superior technology, CDs. In turn, CDs were replaced by MP3 downloads, which made it easier to expand my music collection. 

All of that has now been replaced by music streaming, which puts thousands of albums in everyone's hands. Many people simply pay $10 a month for Spotify or another music streaming service and are done with the whole business of having to "collect" music. I have a Spotify account and I've subscribed to it sometimes but I usually don't pay the $10 a month, because I've become an expert in the public library streaming services; between Hoopla Digital, Freegal, and Naxos Music Library (a classical music streaming service) and my own music collection (much of it stored the cloud) I just don't need Spotify.

When I was a teen, one of the family LPs was a recording of three well-known Beethoven sonatas. I probably read somewhere that there were actually 32 Beethoven sonatas, but it would be have expensive and difficult in my teens and my 20s to actually accumulate them and listen to all of them. Eventually cheap CDs came out and I was able to get a collection of early Alfred Brendel recordings. Now, thanks to streaming, I have various full sets bookmarked, which I can listen to without having to pay any money at all. And of course it isn't just the full 32 Beethoven sonatas; there are many modern classical composers, and I can explore them much more easily that I could two or three decades ago. 

The same acceleration of information RAW wrote about in the 1980s applies in other ways. In 1983, I was still scouring bookstores and making physical searches for more titles by RAW, Jack Vance and other  favorite authors. Now, except for a few particular titles that have gone out of print and are prohibitively expensive, if I want a book I can download it instantly to my Kindle, or order it and have it show up at my house within a few days.

RAW discusses the westward movement of capital; when he wrote those words, China was not the rapidly expanding economic powerhouse that it is now.  He wrote (this is apparently a passage from a revised edition), "As of 1997, it looks like the Cowboys [i.e. wealth in the western U.S.] are winning; which is what one would expect if there were a real 'law' behind Adams' East-West migration of capital." This was written before the rise of Google, Facebook, cryptocurrencies, etc. 

Referring to modern heirs of the 1960s consciousness revolution, RAW writes, "The same group is now leading the computer revolution; spearheading the drive toward Space Migration;supporting the Hunger Project, which will abolish starvation in our lifetimes; leading the Longevity revolution and the search for immortality, etc." This was written before the rise of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc. 

As I write this, my blood has mRNA antibodies in it. I have to go the store later, but thanks to the mRNA medical breakthrough, I'm not likely to wind up in the hospital even if I catch the latest variant of COVID-19. 

I'll write more about this chapter, but now it's time to hit "Publish" on the blog post that will make these words instantly available to anyone all over the world who wants to read them.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

From Illuminatus!

Post at the Robert Anton Wilson Fans group on Facebook, by Ben Predpelski, five days ago. 

Brian Taylor (in the comments) notes it also involves eating bats and self isolating, and provides this link. 


Friday, September 17, 2021

Tuning in to the other side

                                                              Tucker Carlson

As an exercise at the end of Chapter 6, RAW advises reading magazines that communicate political ideas you disagree with. And he also advised similar reading habits in this interview:

" I also read at least one periodical every month by a political group I dislike -- to keep some sense of balance. The overwhelming stupidity of political movements is caused by the fact that political types never read anything but their own gang's agit-prop."

I recently listened to Ezra Klein's podcast interview with Tyler Cowen, and I was struck by how Cowen offered similar advice:

"I would say, have friends from all sorts of different idea groups, even if you really don’t like those ideas. And if you have a list of, oh, I won’t have a friend, you know, who’s a Nazi — like, fine. I don’t have a friend who’s a Nazi. But starting to make that list is actually, I think, a bad thing to do. Have diverse friends ... Spend your time building things, doing things, meeting people, going places. Don’t get too much into the complaining, about the right, about the left. Like, whatever you’re going to complain about, a lot of it will be correct. But it’s making you less productive and I would say stupider to be too much into the complaining, if I may complain about the complainers."

When I did my last blog post for the Prometheus Rising discussion group, I committed to take in material I usually avoid: "I also pledge to try to watch a couple episodes of Tucker Carlson's show, someone I've managed to successfully avoid for years. As he is Fox's top show host, it also will be interesting to compare his show with his MSNBC counterpart, Rachel Maddow."

I don't know what it's like in other countries, but in the U.S., politics has largely supplanted religion and any intellectual pursuit as a source of meaning and as a consuming passion. I am not crazy about politics -- I lean toward the Gene Healy theory that politics makes people stupid and mean -- but I sometimes think I'm the only American who doesn't constantly post endless political BS on Facebook.

In any event, I did watch two episodes of Tucker Carlson's evening news show on Fox. Just as Rachel Maddow has the flagship show on MSNBC, Carlson is Fox's top show host. I had to watch Tucker kind of the down low to avoid offending my wife, who watches Maddox almost every night; it would have been difficult to explain I was just trying to do an exercise in Prometheus Rising. 

Both shows are both entertaining and manipulative, with each zeroing in on the most risible actions and statements by the other side, and with plenty of sarcasm and wit by the hosts. Mostly because of the vaccination issue, I would say I tend to agree more with Maddow's views, but both are good at scoring points. I wish someone would do a  similar TV show to push Reason magazine style libertarianism, the political point of view I lean toward. 

It seems to me people in the U.S. might understand each other better if Democrats would watch some episodes of Tucker Carlson's show, and Republicans would watch a few episodes of Maddow's show. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Beatles were Philip K. Dick fans? [UPDATED!]

Philip K. Dick, paperback writer 

Martin Wagner posted this comment on my post a couple of days ago about the Beatles' Revolver album:

"Tessa Dick, the last wife of PKD, said in an interview with the German Spiegel, that John Lennon called her husband in the 1970s to tell him that The Beatles wrote "Paperback Writer" in his honor."

I was surprised to see that. Here is a bit more: 

"In an interview given to Der Spiegel in 2016, Philip K. Dick's last wife, Tessa Dick, said that John Lennon had called her husband during the 1970s and told him that Paperback Writer had been written in honor of him. Source (in German): [1]. Quote from the linked interview: "In den Siebzigerjahren rief einmal John Lennon bei ihm an und sagte ihm, den Song 'Paperback Writer' hätten die Beatles ihm zu Ehren geschrieben." ("In the 1970s, John Lennon called him [= Dick] to tell him that The Beatles had written 'Paperback Writer' in his honor.").

"Of course, we also have John's own quotes in the article that it's mainly Paul's song, but if you look at those quotes closely, you'll see John actually talks about the tune as being entirely Paul's, not the lyrics."


My old friend Brett Cox (mentioned in the Revolver blog post) once wrote a parody of "Paperback Writer" for a fanzine about a person who wants to publish a science fiction novel; from memory, I believe the first line was "Donald Wollheim won't you read my book?" Wollheim, a famous SF book editor, was one of Dick's editors. So perhaps Brett was more right then he knew? This reminds me of Robert Anton Wilson's bit  in Illuminatus! about Beethoven being a member of the Illuminati, which RAW apparently put in because he loved Beethoven and it was a good joke. RAW later read Beethoven biographies and discovered he was more right than not. 

Many of Dick's titles were first published as paperback originals (much like Illuminatus!, as a matter of fact) and the Philip K. Dick Award is given to the best paperback novel published in the previous year. 

Thanks for the tip, Martin! 

UPDATE: Martin wrote to me and shared this passage from Tessa Dick's memoir, Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright: "On another occasion, Phil took a telephone call from a man who said he was John Lennon, and he was in a hotel room in Canada with Dr. Timothy Leary. 'Yeah, sure, you bet,' Phil said. He did not believe it, but eventually the man convinced him he really was John Lennon of the Beatles and that he and Dr. Leary were both fans of Phil's writing. He told Phil that the Beatles song 'Paperback Writer' was about him."

I still don't know what to make of this, but the additional details are intriguing and seem to add to the possibility the claim is true. A possible date for the phone call would be 1969, when John Lennon recorded the song "Give Peace a Chance" in Canada. Timothy Leary was present. Details here. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Hilaritas 'Natural Law' book is going to be really good

Chad Nelson

I recently completed a stint as a volunteer copyeditor for the new Hilaritas Press edition of Natural Law, Or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy.

To do so, I had to agree to a  nondisclosure agreement, so I have to be careful to reveal few actual details about the book. I think it is known publicly that the book doesn't just have the original long essay but also adds other material, but I can't give any other specifics. I also don't know when the book will come out; I only know Rasa and the Hilaritas folks are working on it. 

But what I did want to record is that based on what I read, it's going to be a really good book. I am very excited about it, and I'm curious what the rest of you will think when it comes out. Chad Nelson took on the task of editing the book, deciding which additional material to add, and he did a great job. There is a lot of additional material, and it's all really good. 

I had expected a more political, more "libertarian" book based on the sources I was working with, but instead I encountered a rather strong RAW book, one aimed at all of his fans. 

In fact, I told Chad in an email, "I was actually kind of expecting a 'libertarian' book, but I suspect the title will have broad appeal to RAW fans."

Chad replied,"I too was expecting a "libertarian" book!"

Chad then gave me a RAW quote from the Natural Law essay which partially summarizes what the book became:

"If Ideologists ever convince me that this pragmatic, individualistic, scientific attitude is incompatible with libertarianism, then I will find some other name for myself and not use the word 'libertarian'anymore. I am not interested in Ideologies and don't give a damn about labels at all, at all."

                                                                                                    -- Robert Anton Wilson

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Why 'Revolver' is the best Beatles album for RAW fans


Inspired by a good book I just read, Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll by Robert Rodriguez. I am talking about the complete album released in Britain and later released in the U.S. not the truncated version originally released in the U.S. 

1. RAW fans as a rule are big music fans, and Revolver seems to me and many others the best Beatles album. (This has become conventional wisdom, but it was my opinion before I knew that.) 

2. This is the Beatles album with the song "Yellow Submarine," which of course inspires Hagbard Celine's submarine in Illuminatus! (As I have written elsewhere, it was Shea and not Wilson who apparently was the Beatles fan.) Howard and his friends in Illuminatus! make sense of the lyric about friends who "live next door." Most people can't live "next door" to a submarine.

3. Between "Yellow Submarine" (with its dream of freedom) and "Taxman," Revolver arguably in the most libertarian Beatles album.  

4. The album also has "Tomorrow Never Knows," one of two Beatles songs inspired by RAW's friend Timothy Leary. The "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream" and other lyrics are taken from a book, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner. The tune is primarily written by John Lennon, who picked up the book at a London bookstore. 

5. The album jumps around to different sounds, giving multiple music points of view, analogous to RAW's technique of multiple viewpoints in his novels. "Taxman" and "She Said She Said" are hard rock albums with a heavy guitar sound, but "Eleanor Rigby" uses a string octet and "For No One" has a French horn solo by Alan Civil, a prominent classical musician. "Love You To" features all Indian instruments, with George Harrison playing sitar. 

Some tidbits from the book: "Got to Get You Into My Life," a Paul song, is an ode to marijuana; the Rolling Stones had recently put out an album called "Aftermath," so when it was time to name the new Beatles album, Ringo suggested calling it "After Geography." 

The sessions for Revolver also resulted in the single "Paperback Writer"/"Rain." As my friend Brett Cox has pointed out, "Rain" could be described as the first "alternative rock" song. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 49

The Golden Gate bridge in California. photo by Maarten van den Heuvel.

Chapter 7

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger

All is changing. 

What happens when we build a binding circuit inside our minds and that which is outside our minds refuses to be bound? Confusion and Chaos. 

As any Erisian knows, the best proof of the Goddess is "who do you think put all this chaos here?" 

I hate to be cynical, but there's not as much here as there is in other chapters of Prometheus Rising. Not in this day and age. Geography is a forgotten subject and California isn't a great example of progress. What is the West and the East in the days of the Internet? Knowledge moves in tangling webs- true knowledge, if there is such a thing, remains occult and speaks from two sides of the same mouth.

Citizens United doesn't negate Wilson's and Henry Adams' arguments but it does render them obsolete: who cares once the battle has been won? Illegitimate wealth and power have been absolutely enshrined and until the impossible happens, they will remain. Every time I remember that corporations are people, I die a little more inside. There is nothing to be done until that decision is undone. For all that John Roberts is lionized for not siding with the extremist bench, he should still be drawn and quartered for his treason against all free peoples. 

For further reference read John Higgs' "Growth" chapter from Stranger Than We Can Imagine. A man got killed for attempting to demonstrate the second exercise in the chapter (allegorically, at least). 

Information-doubling and Jumping Jesus were fun theories in the nineties, but after we've passed 2012 it just seems the more we are exposed to, the dumber we become. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

RAW's 'Scientific and Experimental Magick'

One of the mysteries involving Robert Anton Wilson's "lost" book, The Starseed Signals, finally published by Hilaritas Press in 2020, is what happened to the material in it. 

Reading it revealed that much of it was repurposed into Cosmic Trigger 1. 

And now the indefatigable Martin Wagner also has revealed part of the answer: Much of the same material in the book was used in a long, dense article on the Eight Circuit model, "Scientific and Experimental Magick," published in Gnostica in January 1975, and now reprinted by Martin on his website. The intro for the article says, "This article is taken from his incredibly popular series of lectures at the Gnosticon 4 last September," but if you've read The Starseed Signals, you also should recognize a lot of it.

For example, these striking sentences in the article also are found in the book:

Jacques Bergier has suggested, somewhat whimsically, that the Parisian radio station which broadcasts a one-hour transmission on French civilization once a week may be an earthside analog of magick/religious/UFO phenomenon. That is, some central “station” may be broadcasting a one-hour transmission on Cosmic civilization. Space-time relativity considerations make it not unthinkable that the Transmissions received on Earth in the past 30,000 years—by shamans, yogis, alchemists; Buddha, Jesus, Joseph Smith, Bohme, Blake, Crowley, Mary Baker Eddy; flying saucer “contactees“; etc.—are part of the same educational project. These Starseed Transmissions (as Dr. Leary calls them) suffer a great deal of semantic noise in passing through the nervous system which receives them, but remain strikingly identical in emphasis.

The Book of Mormon, Crowley’s Book of the Law, the Judeo-Christian Bible, the Upanishads and Vedas, etc., when closely and dispassionately studied, appear very much to be the same signal with encrustations of local prejudice, ignorance, bias and distortion.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Tyler Cowen decides to SMI2LE

Tyler Cowen

It's an easy criticism to say that the space colonies and dramatic life extensions forecast by Robert Anton Wilson haven't arrived yet, but readers of this blog will notice that I like to point out indications that SMI2LE isn't dead, it's just not moving as quickly as predicted.  I recently mentioned Balaji Srinivasan and Zoltan Istvan; here is another example. 

Tyler Cowan has a project called Emergent Ventures, funded by donations, a "fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center" which "seeks to support entrepreneurs and brilliant minds with highly scalable, 'zero to one' ideas for meaningfully improving society." 

Tyler periodically announces Emergent Ventures grants on his Marginal Revolution blog; the latest announcement was published Sept. 10. It lists 13 winners; I want to quote what Tyler says about two of them:

"BeyondAging, a new group to support longevity research."

"Nina Khera, 'I’m a teenage human longevity researcher who’s interested in preventing aging-related diseases, especially those related to brain aging. In the past, I’ve worked with companies like Alio on computation and web-dev-based projects. I’ve also worked with labs like the Gladyshev lab and the Adams lab on data analysis and machine learning-based projects.'  Her current project is Biotein, about developing markers for aging, based in Ontario."

Here is an article on SMI2LE, and if you follow the link and read the whole announcement at Marginal Revolution, you will see some of Tyler's other announcements arguably promote increases in intelligence. There is a grant to "Zena Hitz, St. John’s College, to build The Catherine Project, to revitalize the study of the classics" and a grant to "for a project to make the Great Books on the web easy to read." I have bookmarked the blog of Sam Enright,  a university student studying in Scotland; some of you may enjoy Enright's blog post, "A Beginner's Guide to Miles Davis." 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Memorial site for L. Neil Smith


A memorial site has been set up for L. Neil Smith, the libertarian science fiction writer who died August. 27. Relatives, friends and fans are posting photos and links. The above is Bobby Campbell's illustration for the article on Smith I wrote for New Trajectories 2; Bobby gave me permission to post it at the memorial site. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Bobby Campbell to release new art and comics soon


This might be a good time to sign up to be a subscriber to Bobby Campbell's Patreon account.   If you hurry up and sign up, you'll get a limited edition postcard later this month with original art.  I'm a subscriber, so I'm looking forward to mine. 

Many other projects are on the way, including "THE MAGNIFICENT MULLAH NASREDDIN HOOJA
6 page comic starring the sensational Sufi satirist" (scheduled for release Sunday) and "AND BOB'S YOUR UNCLE 6 page comic about 'The Headless Way' meditation assigned by RAW in his Quantum Psychology Class." Other projects are on the way, see this post. 

Subscriptions start at just $1 a month, so it won't break the bank to support Bobby. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Jesse Walker dates the Leary letter

From the Berkeley Barb

Yesterday when I posted the link to the RAW letter to Timothy Leary I noted that there was no date for the letter but that it referenced the Bicentennial (e.g., British friends, 1976, the 200th anniversary of when we threw off the yoke of the British monarchy). Jesse Walker wrote to me saying that the letter apparently dates to 1975:

"He refers to the saucer-TV contact possibly happening in 'late 75,' which makes me think the letter is from 1975. (People were already talking up the bicentennial then.) Or possibly a little earlier -- but he wrote up that saucer-TV stuff for the Berkeley Barb in '75 (see page 14 of, and that's also when Wilson and Leart were working on the Periodic Table of Energy (I assume that's what "PTofE" stands for)."

Thanks, Jesse!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

RAW writes to Tim Leary about 'experimental theology' and other matters


Robert Anton Wilson explains, "The bison in our illustration is named Tennial. He's our mascot, Bison Tennial, and also our bicentennial mascot." 

A letter from Robert Anton Wilson, undated, to Timothy Leary about various matters, preserved at the Internet Archive. Hat tip, Sean Howe. (No date on the letter, but the bison, above, suggests 1976). (UPDATE: Please see this follow up post, where Jesse Walker dates the letter to 1975). 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 48

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger 

I had forgotten the vicissitudes of getting magazines by snail mail. The cover of the new issue of The National Review arrives with nothing inside.  Either intentionally or accidentally most of the magazine did not arrive in my mailbox. Oh well. I must admit it pleased me to have such an easy excuse not to read the new issue. The Skeptical Inquirer still hasn’t arrived. I suspect it will take me at least a year to finish these four exercises. 

I enjoyed reading Fate magazine. I read a nice article on pets on the Titanic, and it pleased me that one author still believes in the Priory of Sion. I wonder what Bob Wilson would have made of the debunking of that conspiracy. 

About fifteen years ago doing the exercises in this chapter I bought a copy of Scientific American. It had an article on how researchers had burn victims play a skiing video game, and playing the game lessened the patients perceived pain as they vividly imagined the intense cold of the world of the game. This pleased me because some of my fellow teachers at the time perceived videos as worthless. 

I have had a number of discussions with intelligent Muslims recently. I forwarded Bob Wilson’s interview with David Bohm to some Muslim friends, and they really liked it. This year I heard more references to Ramadan than ever before. Even Weight Watchers had an article on how to follow the WW plan during Ramadan this year. I don’t remember Weight Watchers ever mentioning Ramadan before (and I first joined Weight Watchers back in 1978). 

I have little desire to “find a victim and explain the universe to him or her, until they are able to escape you” at this time. I may not repeat this exercise this time around. 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Attic Dwellers review Illuminatus!

The Attic Dwellers ("We are Tig & Eric - Hosts of a Public Access Style Variety Show Filmed in an Attic (Movies | RetroGames | PopCulture)") do a review of Illuminatus!, about five minutes. On Twitter, RAW Semantics writes,  "Take Kurt Vonnegut, dose him up with more acid than a human being can handle, send him on a road trip with Jack Kerouac...  and make it the length of Lord of the Rings." Quite a fun review of Illuminatus!" There's also brief discussion of Masks of the Illuminati and Schroedinger's Cat. Posted in 2019, about five minutes. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Illuminatus!, Hassan i Sabbah and Barry Longyear [UPDATED]

 The Prometheus Award, usually given out at a science fiction convention, was awarded in an online ceremony this year in a cooperative venture with Reason magazine, and the above video of the event, two hours long, has two parts. The first 15 minutes features the award being given to Barry Longyear for  his novel, The War Whisperer: Book 5: The Hook, and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award being given to F. Paul Wilson for his short story, "Lipidleggin." That's followed by a panel discussion, one hour and 45 minutes, featuring Longyear, Libertarian Futurist Society president William Stoddard, Reason book editor (and RAW expert) Jesse Walker, and Reason magazine's editor, Katherine Mangu-Ward.

Illuminatus! is brought up twice during the panel discussion. At one point, the panelists describe which books got them interested in science fiction, and Jesse mentions that Illuminatus! was an important influence for him.

The Hook's major plot point involves using targeted assassinations of leaders trying to mount invasions as a method of self defense (as opposed to killing mostly-innocent people in huge numbers) and at 1:31 in the video, Jesse asks Longyear if that was inspired by Hassan i Sabbah, the historical figure discussed in Illuminatus!  Longyear gives a rather long and rambling answer and appears to confirm he got the idea from learning about Sabbah, although unfortunately he does not cite his source. (He admits he is not very good at keeping track of such things.)

Interestingly, Jesse traces where the Hassan i Sabbah element in Illuminatus! comes from. According to Jesse, Sabbah featured in a 1930s book which was a source for William Burroughs, and via Burroughs RAW learned about Sabbah.

Jesse did not identify the 1930s, book, but the Wikipedia entry on Burroughs' Nova trilogy explains, "The Nova Trilogy (as well as a passage in the book on the cut-up technique named Minutes to Go) feature the character Hassan-i Sabbah and his final words Nothing is true—everything is permitted. Burroughs was introduced to Hassan through Betty Bouthoul, who had written an extensive book on the assassins titled The Master of the Assassins (French title Le grand maître des Assassins)."

UPDATE: Jesse clarifies the 1930s book he had in mind was Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, available in English translation.

Lest you doubt my research skills, I will mention that Jesse's official biography states that he lives in Baltimore with his wife, two daughters and a rabbit. I can now reveal through extensive investigative journalism that Jesse's bunny rabbit identifies as female and is named "Kiki." 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Friday images


It's Friday, the end of the work week for many of us, so please relax and enjoy these images. Above, a new meme from Rasa that captures a key part of RAW's philosophy. Below, a photograph of Mozart's Masonic lodge in Salzburg, posted by @amoebadesign on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

RAW, Sinclair Lewis and JRR Tolkien


Sinclair Lewis 

Among the various famous American writers who became prominent in the 1920s, I particularly like Sinclair Lewis. I have read many of his books, including most of the famous ones (still need to get around to Arrowsmith) and also many of the lesser-known ones (I am apparently the only person on Earth who thinks Work of Art, a novel about the hotel business, is a great book.)  Some of his books are available free at sites such as Project Gutenberg, including Babbitt and Main Street. I'm a member of the Sinclair Lewis Society and I get the group's newsletter. 

Robert Anton Wilson records in Cosmic Trigger II that he read Sinclair Lewis when he was young; I don't know if he continued to read Lewis as he got older, as I do. 

But here's something you might not have guessed: Sinclair Lewis was an influence on J.R.R. Tolkien.

Citing a 1977 biography of Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter, the fall 2019 issue of the Sinclair Lewis Society newsletter says that Tolkien told an interviewer the word hobbit "might have been associated with Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt. Certainly not rabbit as some people think. Babbitt has the same bourgeois smugness that hobbits do. His world is the same limited place."

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

L. Neil Smith has died


L. Neil Smith

Libertarian science fiction writer L. Neil Smith has died; he was 75 and was often mentioned in this blog because he was obviously influenced by Robert Anton Wilson. My piece in New Trajectories 2 was about him. 

You can read the report on File 770.  The family has set up a memorial website.  The Libertarian Futurist Society website has a tribute.   You can read Sean Gabb's reaction.  My interview of El Neil is still available. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, week 47 photo by Lorenz Lippert 

When I re-read Chapter 6, I was struck by Wilson's comment that "Whatever threatens loss of status, and whatever invades one's 'space' (including one's ideological 'head space') is a threat to the average domesticated primate."

It seems to me that this explains current politics pretty well. Democrats want to raise the status of groups that have been excluded from the mainstream of American life, and Republicans often seem driven by resentment that their base has seen a decrease in status. 

I've spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to apply the first two exercises to myself. I already try to read a wide variety of viewpoints; I feel like I have to, as covering politics is part of my job.

The difficulty for me with the first two exercise recommendations is that I don't really consider myself a liberal or a conservative. I identify more as a libertarian than anything else, with an emphasis on peace and civil liberties. So what should I be reading to enter other people's reality tunnels? 

As an experiment, I've put together a Twitter list of authoritarians -- warmongers, left wing extremists, etc. There really isn't a unifying theme, but it will force me to consider points of view from people I otherwise would tune out. [Update: I tried out my new Twitter feed Monday and I was disgusted by some of the Tweets, so apparently seeing the other person's point of view is a work in progress.] 

I also pledge to try to watch a couple episodes of Tucker Carlson's show, someone I've managed to successfully avoid for years. As he is Fox's top show host, it also will be interesting to compare his show with his MSNBC counterpart, Rachel Maddow. My wife watches Maddow regularly, so I've seen quite a few of her shows. Will the nature of the emotional appeals for the two shows be similar, or will they seem different?

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Transhumanist manifesto

Balaji Srinivasan (Creative Commons photo)

I try to be alert to signs that the SMI2LE formula endorse by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson is still endorsed by people today. (Remember, it stands for "space migration, intelligence increase (or intelligence squared) and life extension.") 

I have just finished listening to a long podcast (three hours and 45 minutes) of an interview with Balaji Srinivasan by Timothy Ferriss. Srinivasan is an influential guru on crypto and the internet, and the interview caused something of a sensation when it came out in March, but I only just now got around to listening to it.

About two or three hours in, Srinivasan to my surprise began talking about his enthusiastic support for space migration and life extension. Ferriss asked him who to listen to to find out more about those ideas. Naturally I was hoping Srinivasan would mention Robert Anton Wilson, but instead he recommended Zoltan Istvan, who ran for president in 2016 as the leader of the Transhumanist Party.

How close is the platform of the Transhumanist Party to SMI2LE? Well, here is the Transhumanist Bill of Rights:

Presented to the United States Capitol on December 14, 2015 by Zoltan Istvan, founder and US Presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party

Preamble: Whereas science and technology are now radically changing human beings and may also create future forms of advanced sapient and sentient life, transhumanists establish this TRANSHUMANIST BILL OF RIGHTS to help guide and enact sensible policies in the pursuit of life, liberty, security of person, and happiness.  

Article 1. Human beings, sentient artificial intelligences, cyborgs, and other advanced sapient life forms are entitled to universal rights of ending involuntary suffering, making personhood improvements, and achieving an indefinite lifespan via science and technology.

Article 2. Under penalty of law, no cultural, ethnic, or religious perspectives influencing government policy can impede life extension science, the health of the public, or the possible maximum amount of life hours citizens possess.

Article 3. Human beings, sentient artificial intelligences, cyborgs, and other advanced sapient life forms agree to uphold morphological freedom—the right to do with one’s physical attributes or intelligence (dead, alive, conscious, or unconscious) whatever one wants so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Article 4. Human beings, sentient artificial intelligences, cyborgs, and other advanced sapient life forms will take every reasonable precaution to prevent existential risk, including those of rogue artificial intelligence, asteroids, plagues, weapons of mass destruction, bioterrorism, war, and global warming, among others.

Article 5. All nations and their governments will take all reasonable measures to embrace and fund space travel, not only for the spirit of adventure and to gain knowledge by exploring the universe, but as an ultimate safeguard to its citizens and transhumanity should planet Earth become uninhabitable or be destroyed.

Article 6. Involuntary aging shall be classified as a disease. All nations and their governments will actively seek to dramatically extend the lives and improve the health of its citizens by offering them scientific and medical technologies to overcome involuntary aging.    

Tom again: Article 4 seems prophetic in light of current events, and Srinivasan is known for noticing early that COVID-19 might turn out to be a big deal.  Srinivasan is on Twitter.  You can also find Istvan on Twitter. 

Zoltan Istvan (official photo)

Saturday, August 28, 2021

RAW's 'Letter from Ireland'


On Twitter, the Robert Anton Wilson Archives (e.g., Martin Wagner) reproduce a 1985 "Letter from Ireland" published in Playboy magazine which reports on how Irish politicians use ambiguity to be as progressive as possible with laws regulating sexual practices without openly defying the Catholic church. Excerpt:

"Similarly, divorce is illegal here in all cases, with no exceptions. However, it takes only £50 (about $60) for a round trip ticket to England, and English divorces, although frowned on by the Church, are legally recognized here. The law, in effect, says: You can't get divorced in Ireland, but for the price of the ferryboat ticket, you can get divorced in England and come back to Ireland a single person in the eyes of the law, if not the church."

(Update: Getting a divorce was legalized in 1995 in a referendum in Ireland, although it was not an easy, fast process. Then in 2019, the law was liberalized in another referendum.)

Friday, August 27, 2021

Thursday, August 26, 2021

'Hang on to what they can't take away and don't worry about the rest of it'


Robert Anton Wilson in 2004 was not in great physical shape and was mourning the death of his wife, Arlen. He had to be persuaded to give an interview when James Nye flew from the United Kingdom. But in this interview which popped up again on YouTube this summer, he is positive and cheerful and has good things to say about maintaining a good attitude toward life,  how to read Illuminatus! and more. About 11 minutes.

Nye also has a Ken Campbell's Meaning of Life interview, close to two hours long. 

Email to the Universe has a 1994 interview of RAW by Nye. 

See also RAW Semantics on Twitter, where I found out about this interview. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Pip's 23 Haiku

Pipzi on Twitter; I thought she was Welsh, but it says Orkney

I was happy to see Pip Williams' "23 Haiku" in New Trajectories 2; I liked her haiku in the first issue and I sometimes see her work as I follow her on Twitter

Here are a couple I liked:

                                           he suffocated
                                           a wave of zen literature
                                           broke over him

                                           cops pepper spraying
                                           the eye in the pyramid
                                           for seeing too much


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

'Ishtar Rising' discussion continues


Over at Jechidah, the Ishtar Rising discussion group led by Apuleius Charlton has reached Chapter Five of the book.   There is discussion about Robert Anton Wilson's attitudes toward Catholicism and adultery, so join in! 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 46 photo by Sarah Kilian

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guess blogger

I tried advertising online for an educated Marxist, an intelligent Moslem and a Japanese businessman and the results were mostly of a sexual nature. 

This chapter seems to be where we are getting into the more complex structuring behind our reality tunnels. Wilson does a fantastic job dissecting how the first and second circuits inform and shape our third circuit and how the third circuit’s sophistication is bent towards justifying the imprints of the earlier two. Things have been messy up until now, but now they’re going to get tedious. Now we have to listen to each other, ugh. 

As I mentioned in response to Eric’s previous post, the “exercizes” at the end of Chapter 6 were ones that I took to heart. I now have a compulsion to read things I know I’ll disagree with. However, I’m almost positive that the manner in which I read these publications is not in the spirit of Prometheus Rising. If we were able to better ourselves and our understanding of reality by being exposed to ideas we disagree with, then everyone on the internet should be an enlightened soul at this point. The nature of the discourse has changed rapidly in the twenty plus years since Wilson revised his text. 

Much of the publishing game online seems to run on outrage to generate website visits- “getting clicks,” as it were. This doesn’t lend itself to circumspection and well planned arguments. In today’s climate we often need to ask ourselves if a point is being brought up in good faith or as an obfuscation. Credibility is easy come, easy go. This is wild west logic, where the fastest hand often wins the day. Then again, one could argue that there are a variety of credible sources of different political persuasions or ideological vantages online and that the nature of human discourse has always been less-than-desirable. (History will back up the idea we’ve always been this way. Perhaps the internet has exaggerated certain trends.) As Wilson notes: “So-called ‘future shock’ has always been with us, since the semantic circuit began functioning somewhere in pre-history. In a symbolizing, abstracting, calculating species, all times are ‘times of change.’ The process is however accelerating faster as time passes, because the symbolizing faculty in inherently self-augmenting.”

I would say the greatest use of these exposure exercises isn’t simply to understand where other’s viewpoints come from but rather to help us become more rigorous in our understanding of our own way of thinking. While the internet is a constant source of entertainment, annoyance and distraction, I have been exposed to ideas I would never have conceptualized on my own and this odd dialogue has led to me considering my values and behavior more often. 


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Oz Fritz on the vaccines

A vial of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine

Speaking of Oz Fritz, he  has an article, "Navigating the Pandemic Lockdown With Literature, Magick and Science," in New Trajectories #2, the massive zine Bobby Campbell put out for this year's Maybe Day, July 23. (You can still download your copy here.)

The piece had a comment on the COVID-19 vaccines I have been meaning to highlight here:

"Though still very controversial, the most obvious breakthrough in Science concerned the rapid development of new vaccines, some of them using a messenger RNA Covid simulation code to stimulate antibody response, the first deployment of this particular new vaccine technology. I am personally awed by the medical science response to the invasion of alien entitites (Covid) inimical to  human life. Within a relatively short period of time,  they figured out how to cleanly reboot our immune system to deal with it. Or to it seems to me. I know many people who are skeptical and consider this view naive. Tme will tell."

I appreciate Oz' caution and modesty in expressing his opinion (we are all still learning about the disease and the vaccines, and it's best to remain open to new information).  But I also agree with his opinion and think it's likely to turn out well. Almost everyone who has been hospitalized for the delta variant during the ongoing surge is unvaccinated; the vaccines can't keep everyone from getting the virus, but for most people they seem to keep the illness manageable. This seems to me, too, like a great success for science that ought to be celebrated more. 

I got vaccinated with Moderna is March and April, basically as soon as people my age in Ohio were allowed to get it. I know I could still get the virus, but I don't worry about it much. As Scott Adams wrote in July, "If you are unvaccinated, you are in the middle of a deadly pandemic. If you are vaccinated, it's Wednesday."

In any event, everyone should grab a copy of Bobby's zine. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Oz Fritz on Thomas Pynchon


Robert Plant autographing a Led Zeppelin album for a policeman in 1982, posted on Twitter Friday in honor of Plant's 73rd birthday.  When I saw it, I thought, "I wonder if Oz Fritz has seen this." Note the number of Robert Plant's jacket. 

Oz Fritz re-reads Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon and he has a new blog post up as a result: "Bleeding Edge, Pynchon & Robert Anton Wilson."

Oz is involved in an ambitious reading project: "I have a personal project rereading all of Pynchon to see what themes or memes run throughout his entire oeuvre, a project that got delayed for over a year.  My plan was to read them in order of publication, next up on the list would have been Mason & Dixon until my favorite You Tube reviewer, The Book Chemist, a big TP fan, called Bleeding Edge his personal favorite."

Another reread is the offing to meet Oz' ultimate goal: "The depth of this novel is profound.   I've only given a tip of the iceberg glimpse of what can be found there.  I have to read it again myself for further research to fulfill my ambition of writing a book about the magical worlds of Thomas Pynchon and Robert Anton Wilson."

Here is Oz' thesis: "Pynchon hardly seems alone as a postmodern writer transmitting didactic Hermetic information.  Robert Anton Wilson experiments extensively with similar, but different techniques.  Other such novelists include James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, Malcolm Lowry, and William S. Burroughs." (A footnote to this: I wondered if Oz knew that Pynchon was a student of Nabokov's when Nabokov taught at Cornell.)

I haven't read Pynchon, but the approach of exploring a writer intensely sounds like what I do: I've read pretty much all of Robert Anton Wilson's work, but I've also read all of the fiction of Jane Austen and Tom Perrotta and all of Jack Vance's science fiction. Still working on reading all of Neal Stephenson's work, but I've read thousands of pages and most of his books. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Prometheus Awards ceremony online Saturday

                                                       This year's Prometheus Award winner 

Science fiction writers Barry Longyear  and F. Paul Wilson and Reason magazine editors Jesse Walker and Katherine Mangu-Ward are among the writers who will be featured during the 41st Prometheus Awards ceremony, scheduled online at 3 p.m. Saturday Eastern Daylight Time.

The awards presentation will be about a half hour and will be followed by a panel discussion that also will feature William Stoddard, president of the Libertarian Futurist Society, and moderated by Chris Hibbert, a longtime LFS stalwart. Full details and Zoom link are here.  

If you miss the live event, a recording will be posted later. 

Many readers will know who Longyear and Wilson are; I've linked to  their bios. They are prolific writers who have piled up many awards and seen their works made into movies. If you are a RAW fan, you likely know Walker, the author of two excellent books, Rebels on the Air; An Alternative History of Radio in America (2001) and The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory (2013). He's Reason magazine's book editor. Mangu-Ward is the editor of Reason and has written many fine articles. Stoddard has a long involvement with the Prometheus Awards and is an excellent critic. 

I expect an interesting discussion and I'm not just saying that because of my own involvement with the Prometheus Award; if this was a panel discussion at a science fiction convention I was at, I'd make a point of attending. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The bong of Avon?


I'm reading The Little Book of Cannabis: How Marijuana Can Improve Your Life by Amanda Siebert, and I came across this passage in Chapter 3:

"Even William Shakespeare, one of the world's greatest dramatists, is thought to have used cannabis. This is the conclusion South African scientists came to in 2001 when they discovered traces of cannabis in clay tobacco pipes at Shakespeare's residence in Stratford-upon-Avon. While it's certainly a controversial point that most academics will contend with, not least because of Shakespeare's love of word play, the Bard does mention 'a noted weed' in Sonnet 76. Some believe he is referring to cannabis."

There are articles about this, including this one. Interesting, but I'm not totally convinced  yet. Kind of a big maybe.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

'Lost Doctor'


The Lost Doctor project explores if Ken Campbell  had played Doctor Who. Promotional video here. 

You can follow the Twitter account for news.

See page 6 of this issue of Bodge for an explanation. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

RIP Boom

Professor Vadim Batitsky, who wrote as "Boom" on the "Boom's Dungeon" blog. 

Because classical music was important to Robert Anton Wilson, I've taken the position at this blog that occasional posts about art music are not off topic.

Over at my music blog, I have a post up about my favorite classical music critic, a blogger who recently died. So if you care about the topic, maybe take a look?

I think RAW might have been interested in Boom's blog if he had a chance to read it, although I can't prove it; Wilson died in 2007, and Boom began his blog, "Boom's Dungeon,"  in 2009. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 45

The online edition of National Review. 

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

Well, I finished my month of meditating “for two fifteen-minute sessions a day for a month.” I saw two people who “always manage to upset you or make you defensive.” They could still press my “territorial retreat buttons.” I guess one month didn’t do it, at least for me. Bob said that he intended the exercises in Prometheus Rising to loosen the imprints. I think they do that, but more profound change may call for something more. In The Illuminati Papers Bob says, “Want to contact Higher Intelligence? It’s easy, really” (pg. 3). I misremembered that as saying, “Brain change is easy.” I think about how asana means “easy pose”. Many yoga asanas do not seem easy. When brain change goes well, it often seems easy. I know that when I lose weight steadily, it seems easy. I find myself in that “zone” where I lose weight without much apparent struggle. I have trouble reentering that zone though. I think of Catullus’s poem “Odi et Amo” which Pound translates: 

I hate and love. Why? You may ask but 

It beats me. I feel it done to me, and ache. 

Bob says something similar about bravery and cowardice. The brain-body system as a whole acts without the conscious mind’s control. In Schroedinger’s Cat he talks about quantum causality, how the whole system causes changes in the whole system, and domesticated primates tend to take too much credit and too much blame. 

After decades of martial arts, Weight Watchers, ballet, yoga, therapy, etc., I still struggle with the first circuit. During the first eight months of lockdown last year I lost 78 pounds. Then during the holidays I fell off the wagon, and I have struggled to get back on. I feel like Gene Kelly in Brigadoon. I found this magic place where I lost weight in an easy fashion without much struggle. Now I don’t know how to find my way back. Hopefully it will not take me a hundred years. 

Speaking of immortality, if I do live another hundred years or more, I want to do a lot of reading. For chapter six of Prometheus Rising Bob tells the reader to subscribe to some magazines. In the 1980’s I didn’t consider myself a liberal or a conservative, so I didn’t subscribe to the first two magazines at that time. I did subscribe to Fate and The Skeptical Inquirer. In 2021 myself I find myself much more of a liberal politically. Some people might consider me conservative in some areas: I prefer books made of paper to ebooks, I prefer jazz and classical music, etc. In any event, I have subscribed to all four periodicals in the first four exercises of chapter six this year. I find it interesting that in the age of next day deliveries, magazine subscriptions still sometimes take months to process. I have one issue of The National Review, two issues of The New York Review of Books, and three issues of Fate sitting here to read right now. The Skeptical Inquirer has not started to arrive yet. I suspect these four exercises will take up a big chunk of my reading time for the next year or so. 

I have read two issues of The National Review so far. They have a variety of authors but the writing tends towards conservative, Catholic viewpoints. Most writers seem anti-Trump and anti-Democrat. I find it interesting that many people today know Robin Williams’s impression of William F. Buckley from Aladdin, but they have never heard of Buckley, the founder of The National Review. 

I have started reading an issue of The New York Review of Books. I remember in 1999 they still allowed free access to their archives online. I read all of the available articles there by Joseph Kerman and Charles Rosen that summer. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

RAW interviews David Bohm


David Bohm

A really good discovery by Martin Wagner: Robert Anton Wilson interviews David Bohm, the famous theoretical physicist. Quite interesting. A couple of bits from Bohm:

"If you take a holistic view and try to apply it everywhere and refuse to think of any alternative, you will make mistakes. In fact, it was the mistakes of the medieval holists that led to the rebellion against them and the rise of mechanistic philosophy in Bacon and Newton. Now I think we see again in our time that the limitations of the mechanistic view are becoming obvious, so we need a new development of holism again. But the problem is never in any particular model per se. The problem is that models are thought, and thought is the past and can prevent us from fresh thinking now. No model is equal to the whole universe, because the only thing equal to the whole universe is the whole universe. No thought can grasp the whole, because thought is a part, not the whole. So we need to use each model where it is useful and replace it, without regret, when it is no longer useful."

"However, my best guess is that as we go along we will see more and more that these models are not mutually exclusive. We will see, I think, that the universe is like music, and that there are always at least two themes interwoven."

Saturday, August 14, 2021

New video on RAW, maybe logic and reality tunnels



The video, about 16 minutes long, is well done. It's from TheoryInk (I could not find any information about the creator.) Some of TheoryInk's other videos also might be of interest.

Hat tip: Bobby Campbell. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

'Blame Blake' tickets on sale


"Dave Lee’s ‘We Are All in Chapel Perilous’ is a poem consisting of a few minutes’ magickal agitprop about how to help each other avoid getting sucked into horrible belief systems, complete with crayons and sharpies for the audience." (Via Twitter)

Link for tickets and more details about the event, starring John Higgs, who has a new book, William Blake vs The World. "Poets, performers, playwrites, singers, music makers, mages and painters."

Thursday, August 12, 2021

RAW semantics on RAW appreciation

Brian Dean's latest RAW Semantics post "Déclassé / 'small change' / The Leftovers" is "a sort of personal appreciation of RAW" and I was particularly charmed by it.  He  talks about RAW's particular appeal, and also tries to explain why RAW never became a really famous author. One bit:

"When on fire (which seemed often), RAW produced striking insights in every paragraph – not just one or two per book. But those insights, like his books, appeared difficult to categorise and 'market' in the way that most respectable publishing houses and mass media like to categorise and pigeonhole. Spanning multi- topics, genres, gestalts and 'tones' they seemed – and still seem – inexhaustible as well as uncategorisable ('generalist'? Certainly not specialised)."

Another bit: "Many of us now miss RAW’s style of commentary on current events (in 2021 or even 2046) – we crave that particular flavour and level of weirdly unpredictable, high-information genius, even when it takes the form of 'small change' – disposable one-liners, spontaneous chimerical humour, original capsule reviews (of various books or films, etc) that were probably never destined for the New York Times cultural review section."

I like the New York Times (I subscribe), but yes, there is so much not covered there. When I search the archives, I can find no evidence that any of RAW's books ever were reviewed by that newspaper.  The paper did run a pretty good obit. 

Brian also talks about RAW's prose mix, "the structure of conceptual-takes – juxtapositions of genres and belief systems, notions, impressions, observations, metaphors, logical arguments, cosmic ironies and down-to-earth opinions," and throws down a challenge: "(It seems that certain other genius writers do something similar in novels – but if you can name anyone else who does the same thing as RAW does with ideas, outside of fiction format, please let me know!)."

Beats me, although reading that sentence made me realize why I like certain other writers. Kevin Williamson, the conservative-libertarian, has a wit similar to RAW's and a willingness to defend unpopular people and ideas, although he doesn't have RAW's range of interests and he doesn't entertain so many unconventional ideas. Tyler Cowen has a range of interests that rivals RAW's but although he is a good writer, his prose is not as sharp or witty.

And when I write the previous paragraph, I can see the marketing problem that RAW's publishers have. If I call Kevin Williamson a "witty, iconoclastic conservative-libertarian writer," that's not entirely fair, as it doesn't capture his cultural interests (he has written drama criticism and written about music). But it's also not a terrible capsule description, either -- I can describe his appeal in a sentence. Tyler Cowen is harder, but if I describe him as a "libertarian-leaning economics professor who  thinks for himself and listens to a wide range of ideas," I do cover quite a bit a lot of ground. (Many of Cowen's main critics are libertarians who resent the fact he can't be counted upon to regurgitate the same old stuff.)

How do you define, in one sentence, a writer who is deeply interested in James Joyce and Ezra Pound, but also H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Heinlein, and also in quantum mechanics, and also in 19th century individualist anarchism, and in magick in theory and practice, and in Beethoven, and ..... I cannot come up with a few words to describe Robert Anton Wilson, although I think Brian captures his prose style nicely. Other people have talked about this, but it's worth mentioning again: You can shelve RAW's novels in fiction, but where do  you shelve his nonfiction books? Any decision is likely to feel arbitrary. 


At the end of his post, Brian goes off topic to recommend the HBO show The Leftovers. I haven't bothered to watch it, but I've read the book. I've read all of Tom Perrotta's books. In fact, I like the books so much I'm afraid to watch the TV and movie adaptations, although I admit I did see the movie version of Election and liked it. In general, I am frightened of adaptations of novels I admire. I liked The Accidental Tourist and I generally like Jane Austen productions, but I hated the movie version of Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley and I thought the movie of Elinor Lipman's excellent Then She Found Me was terrible. So in theory I should watch all of the Tom Perrotta adaptations, but I'm afraid to! I'll just read the books over and over, I guess. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

'You Are Not the Target' update

An update on Laura Huxley's book, You Are Not the Target, discussed Monday: Jesse Walker pointed out to me that the Internet Archive has a copy which can be borrowed by creating a free login. I created an account and verified that I was able to borrow it for an hour.  Jesse remarks, "The lending library at is a great resource for this sort of thing."

(As far as I can tell, you can keep borrowing it until you've read it, but you can't borrow it during somebody else's one-hour borrow.)

There's quite a bit of Robert Anton Wilson material at the Internet Archive.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

On the Heaven's Gate leaders not being RAW fans

Heaven's Gate founder Bonnie Nettles

In my Saturday blog post about Bobby Campbell's recent Heaven's Gate piece, I wrote, picking up on something Bobby pointed out, "And it turns out the two leaders of the Heaven's Gate cult once walked out of a Robert Anton Wilson lecture in 1978 in Houston (I wonder what triggered the exit?)"

On Twitter, Brian Neal responds:

Certainly, as pertains to No. 1, the Heaven's Gate leaders were not very good at listening to views they considered unwelcome; Bonnie Nettles, pictured above, died of cancer 12 years before the group's mass suicide. When a doctor told her the cancer had spread, "Nettles stated that the doctor was ignorant and believed, along with Applewhite, that she could not die, as they had to ascend together," her Wikipedia biography says.