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

Monday, April 26, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and reading group, Week 29

Downtown of Berea, Ohio, where I live and write this blog. (Creative Commons photo by science fiction writer and NASA scientist Geoffrey Landis, who also lives in Berea.) 

I spent Sunday morning doing the second exercise in Chapter Two of Prometheus Rising. (I had already done the first, which is "buy a computer if you don't already have one and re-read Chapter Two" -- I already own two laptops and a smartphone which obviously is a third computer, so I didn't feel a need to buy another one, but I did re-read the chapter.)

The second exercise is the one where you sit in a room where you won't be interrupted for half an hour and think "I am sitting in the room doing this exercize because" and list as many reasons that you can think of. RAW specifies that he wants you to come up with specific facts, not metaphysical speculations. 

One of the things I realized as I did the exercise is that I was sitting in a particular place at a particular time, e.g. in my living room in Berea, Ohio, late Sunday morning. Obviously I did the exercise in my home because I live. But I did it at a particular time I had to find a time when I would not be interrupted. So the particular time relates to the fact that my wife is a night owl and likes to sleep in late, and I know that I will usually have some time in the morning to myself (it's usually when I write my blog posts.)

One of the other things I figured out was that the reasons I was sitting in a particular room of a particular house in a particular American city was a mix of reasons that I have in common probably with everyone reading this blog entry (e.g., the factors that led to the writing and publication of Prometheus Rising, such as Robert Anton Wilson becoming friends with Timothy Leary and Robert Shea) and reasons that are particular to me (I used to live  in Oklahoma but I married a Cleveland girl). 

And the list of reasons why I was sitting in my living room late Sunday morning, April 25, 2021, in fact goes on and on. I completed the exercise and as I have been sitting here writing this, I have thought of more reasons!

Anyway, here are some of the reasons for sitting why I was sitting in the room in Berea, Ohio,were:

• On a whim, more than 10 years ago, I decided to create a blog when I could write down thoughts about Robert Anton Wilson.

• I read a sentence written by Tyler Cowen which said most blogs fail if they don't have regular entries, at least once a day. I decided to do a blog entry each day and discovered it was something I could do.

• I discovered there were other very dedicated Robert Anton Wilson fans, and I began getting comments and emails from some of them. This led me to continue the blog, which led me to launch online discussion groups of various Robert Anton Wilson books, and after some of the obvious titles had been covered such as Illuminatus!, we got to Prometheus Rising. 

• One of the reasons we did Prometheus Rising was to promote the Hilaritas Press republication of the title. 

• Hilaritas Press exists because RAW's daughter and literary executor, Christina Pearson, was able to launch a successful small press because she found a reliable and talented person to do much of the actual work, Richard Rasa, who was such a RAW fan he also would be willing to work for almost no money.

• Richard Rasa became a RAW fan because he was a guitarist for a rock band, Sweet Smoke, that was based in Europe. While in Europe, he met an attractive young German artist Marlis Jermutus, who was smart and interesting and the two became close. He also met the members of the band and jammed with them.

•  The rock band actually did not have a need for a sitar player, Rasa's main instrument when he first met them. However, when Rasa returned for awhile to the U.S., he decided to learn guitar. By coincidence, members of the band had a big fight with their rhythm guitarist and fired him, and they suddenly needed a guitarist and asked Rasa if he was interested.  So, ultimately, Hilaritas Press published Prometheus Rising because a rock band most of you have never heard of had a fight many decades ago. (See this podcast for details.) 

• Ultimately, Prometheus Rising was published because an eccentric from Brooklyn, N.Y., named Robert Wilson, who had held a succession of different jobs but wanted to be a professional writer, found success in the 1970s with the Illuminatus! trilogy, which allowed him to launch his writing career and publish many other books. 

• Because a man named Hugh Hefner came up with the idea for a men's magazine in the 1950s, "Playboy" magazine was born and became a success. Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson met because both became editors of "Playboy" magazine and became friends, as they had similar interests. One day, in a Chicago bar, Shea joked about writing a book that would treat all of the crazy conspiracy theories held by Playboy's readers as if they were real.

Illuminatus! was actually published because Shea had a friend at the Dell book publishing company, coincidentally also named Bob, Bob Apel. Shea wrote Apel a letter pitching some book ideas, and Apel liked the idea of a book about the Illuminati,  so Wilson and Shea were able to sell Illuminatus! as a book to be published by Dell. (See my blog post, "Three Bobs and the origin of the Illuminatus! trilogy.")

• I read Illuminatus! while in college in Oklahoma in the 1970s and became a RAW fan, buying his books for many years afterward and eventually launching a blog. I cannot remember why I decided to read the first book in the trilogy; I may have run across it and decided it looked interesting. But I also realized I was a "libertarian" in political orientation when I was in college, and one of the libertarians I met on campus may have recommended it.

• I could in theory have found myself sitting in a room in Oklahoma in 2021, doing the exercise, as I lived for most of my life in Oklahoma. I wound up in Berea, in the Cleveland area, because I married a woman from the Cleveland area and moved up here.

• I was sitting in a room in Berea, a suburb on the west side of Cleveland, because my wife has lived for most of her life on the west side of Cleveland, and she wanted us to buy a  house in that area. My wife has lived on the west side of Cleveland for most of her life because when she completed her master's degree in library science at Kent State University, she was hired to do cataloging for a library on the west side of Cleveland. She could have been hired instead by a library on the east side, or in the Akron area, for instance.

• My wife is not an Ohio native but is from Pennsylvania. She came to Kent State because the school offered her a graduate assistant opportunity. So I was in Berea because of a decision made in the 1970s by somebody at Kent State University's library school.

• Ann and I met through Single Booklovers, a club created so that people seeking a partner could meet other people by writing letters to them (it was created before the internet and email, although when I met Ann we quickly switched to email). So I was sitting in Berea because a couple in Pennsylvania decided to start the organization in 1970.  (I can't find any evidence Single Booklovers still exists.)  

• We are living in this particular house because a woman I never met had serious illness more than 15 years ago and died at a relatively young age in 2003, leaving her sister and her husband as the guardian of two children. The couple already had two children and had to sell the house I live in now and move to a location that could accommodate six people comfortably. 

This is really only a partial list, as I was able to think of other reasons, too.


Eric Wagner said...

Terrific post. Thank you for starting this blog and for keeping it going.

BFHN said...

I also did the exercize on the 23rd, last Friday. I started by reminding myself how much of a cosmic schmuck I was, and why. I came up with reasons mostly along the lines of me not thinking enough before speaking, or perhaps sometimes lacking humility.

Then I moved on to the Right Where I Am Sitting Now exercize. Even though I did not recall some forgotten memories or anything of that order, I did connect some dots. Or perhaps looking at it 'backwards' gives a different perspective. I even became kind of emotional eventually.

One interesting point is that I think that my first exposition to RAW was through the Maybe Logic documentary, which in fact did NOT change my life at all. I should watch it again now and see if the ideas exposed therein simply flew me by then. Maybe I just was not ready yet. But despite the lack of ontological shift at the time, it seems that I felt there was more to Bob than I could get from the docu.

So a year or two later I was scouting bookshops around Europe trying to find a copy of Illuminatus! When I got one and read it during further travels, it attracted comments from the right type of strangers: “Oh this is great stuff, and just wait ‘til you get to Schrödinger’s Cat, man!” dixit Dave in Pahoa, Hawai’i; not to mention Matt and his Crowley shirt in Wellington, NZ.

I also had the great synch of finding John Higgs’ book on the KLF in a Bali bookstore one or two days before finishing Illuminatus!, which provided me with some valuable context. From then on, there was no turning back. So in a way, it looks as if I was supposed to get to RAW one way or another, sooner or later.

My moving to another country than the one I was born in was also heavily indebted to my fascination for the psychedelic rock band the Brian Jonestown Massacre, whose leader Anton Newcombe has spent the past 30 years referencing all types of occulture lore, including 23s and Tim Leary. I also owe Anton my discovery of Sweet Smoke, as well as the very seat I am sitting on Right Now, since it used to belong to a friend of his through whom I also got my flat here in Reykjavik.

What I really like about your post Tom, is that apart from the physical reasons as to why you live where you live, everything else also concerns us indirectly, since without your blog we would probably not be doing this exercize right now on our own. So, following with Eric here, thank you for this post and for keeping this blog!

Oz Fritz said...

Really great report, Tom! The reasons for doing the exercize seem like they could branch out infinitely. I notice multiple connections between seemingly random events conspiring to get us in a particular room at a particular time to do this exercize. Hard to express how it amazes me that all kinds of things occurred to bring this about, if one thing had been changed, who knows what would have happened? This seems difficult to articulate, the gratitude for things happening exactly the way they did to bring us to the present moment. Like the Earth ending up exactly where it did in the sweet spot to propagate and sustain biological life. A few degrees either way and life as we know it wouldn't exist, or so I've been told.

Agustin Reyes said...

I think this exercize was and remains my favorite. I have done it more than any of the others. At one point I hallucinated this exercize to read '"I am sitting in this room doing this exercize because..."and list as many of the "why's" as you can think of, instead of causes. I felt like a rather young child doing the 'why, why, why?' game, which gave a new appreciation for that line of questioning. The difference between that and the word causes is subtle, but it was fun. I have made several attempts at talking to people about this book, going as far as buying several copies, and giving them to people - usually co-workers - in the hopes that we could talk about it, as we are now on this blog. As such I will give my heartfelt thanks here and now for your post and this blog!

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Thanks to everyone for their comments. The exercise turned out to be really interesting, all of the various factors that brought me here.

If it isn't too personal,BFHN, what brought you to so many different places around the world?

BFHN said...

@Tom Jackson: not at all, thank you for your question.

Most of the travels I talked about were part of a long but fairly classic backpacking trip while in my twenties, where I spent a year homefree, living on my savings. No Direction Home, or something. I did learn that I need a minimum of comfort eventually, setting foot in a new place twice a week became tiresome after half a year. To this day, I am still sort of looking for a balance between my tendency to accumulate stuffs (mostly in the form of records and books), and a slight discomfort, or guilt of sorts, at owning so much material possessions.

More recently (but obviously pre-Plague), I had been traveling pretty regularly for much shorter durations over Europe, often for music or cinema-related festivals, either to give a hand or simply to enjoy as part of the audience. I eventually developed meaningful relationships with places such as Finland, the Netherlands, or Poland. I also like Scotland a lot. I am at the point where I do not even understand anymore the concepts of borders and nation-state, finding them incredibly backwards (that's a personal opinion) and totally irrelevant in a 21st century concerned with global warming and interconnectedness (that's harder to argue against).
We all are inhabitants of Spaceship Earth and denizens of Universe, after all.