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

Monday, May 31, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and reading group, Week 34

Venus of Willendorf

Chapter Three: All I Want Is Love

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger 

There is a closing of the lips and a sustenance from the suck. We draw desperately from life, hoping for nourishment, accepting whatever flavor comes into ourselves. Meditate deeply upon the nipple, the phallus, the sun and the stars and you will still not understand but your mouth will make the motions. How blessed we are to drink of the milk of the stars above, who we, in English, name the Milky Way. 

Two is the first number most of us know. Two eyes, infinite and dark, looking down upon us like a Zeta Reticulan’s or two fiery pink nipples flooding our vision and the taste of life sustaining fluid. Flared before our eyes life a moth’s wings, life unfolds in its static glory.

I’d like to think the Grand Old Man was someone who was greeted in the afterlife with Simon Moon’s “ultimate perversion” of diving into a literal barrel of tits.  Something like my paradise with feelings like milk-white flesh and rubies, ink-and-paper whispers and infinite pinpricks. Many and more things are stored in our oldest memories. 

Chapter Three made dreadful, diagnostic sense to me from the initial reading so many years ago. Like a whip across the face, I understood. I had wandered around as an automaton. Ridiculously, I had thought I operated independently while being played like an ill-tuned piano. As someone who has always had what, in retrospect, is a story-worthy oral-fixation, all the neuroses, macro- and microcosmic, made sudden sense. There is nothing, then there is two- if one is lucky, then there is nothing once again. Or there are multiples- I haven't passed the gate truly and do not know what lies beyond. 

I love talking and drinking. I often try to drink water while reading to my students and end up choking. I don’t want to take a bite of life but I want to imbibe and spew it. One of the best parts of swimming is not caring if you are wet. The trick of baptism is immersion, to cloak yourself entirely in the liquidity of a new reality. The breast, by being so invitingly soft and malleable, is a fleshy representation of the fabric of whatever-it-may-be. 

Suffice it to say, I appreciate my wife and what she has written, unread by the author, at my request. Paradise is located betwixt two hills: 

lustrous and white, with their own gravitational pull. he speaks about them often, saying things like this is why men create art, or this is why men seek god. he turns toward them whenever there is strong emotion, anxiety or happiness or fear, and in the absence of stimulus, when he is bored. i joke sometimes that they’re his favorite fidget toy. at times he enters an almost trance-like state, free of base lechery, worshipping an emanation of a goddess. other times the tide-pull happens idly, when he is watching television or reading, and he is simply a being existing in orbit.

We all have to stare into an abyss, just some of us are sipping on the stars. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

A 'Sex, Drugs and Magick' mystery

I have been reading Sex, Drugs & Magick over the holiday weekend, and I've run into a bit that puzzles me.

In the "Interlude: Slouching Toward Bethlehem: The Story of Leonard" chapter, RAW writes about how he "left a good job in the city to work at slave wages on a small-town newspaper."

I'm having trouble fitting this with the known facts about RAW's life. "Small-town newspaper" doesn't really sound like A Way Out, the journal he edited after moving to rural Ohio, in the Yellow Springs area. Yet, I can't remember any other references to writing for a newspaper, and the references to a "small-town newspaper" in the quoted passage and 1-2 places in the chapter seem pretty specific.

I wrote to RAW biographer Prop Anon, and he's puzzling over that, too. "Trouble is RAW was not writing for any small town paper during that time," he told me. "He was moving around a lot and getting occasional pieces published in magazines." He wondered if Wilson "moved some facts around."

Maybe RAW was just referring to A Way Out in a rather poetic fashion, but being a newspaperman myself, I am curious about the passage. Can anyone weigh in?



Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Hilaritas Press publication schedule

Here's something Rasa said about the Hilaritas Press publication schedule on Twitter I thought was interesting, so I share it with you. This is from the Robert Anton Wilson Trust Twitter account:

The listing of Hilaritas Press publications was determined, mostly, by Amazon's sales rankings. We wanted to work on the more popular books first. That was pretty much the only consideration.

In light of that, here's the current Hilaritas Press publication list, with the books that have actually been published in boldface: 

1 ~ Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977)

2 ~ Prometheus Rising (1983)

3 ~ Quantum Psychology (1990)

4 ~ Email to the Universe (2005)

5 ~ Coincidance: A Head Test (1988)

6 ~ The Earth Will Shake (1982)

7 ~ The Widow’s Son (1985

8 ~ Nature’s God (1988)

9 ~ Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth (1992)

10 ~ Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death (1995)

11 ~ Ishtar Rising (1989)

12 ~ The New Inquisition (1986)

13 ~ Sex, Drugs and Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits (1988)

14 ~ Reality Is What You Can Get Away With (1992)

15 ~ Wilhelm Reich in Hell (1987)

16 ~ The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1997)

17 ~ TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution (2002)

18 ~ Natural Law, or Don’t Put a Rubber on Your Willy (1987)

19 ~ Chaos and Beyond (1994)

20 ~ The Starseed Signals

In the light of Rasa's explanation, it's interesting to see (for example) that Email to the Universe, one my favorites, did well, and that Cosmic Trigger II, another of my favorites, did relatively well but is only at the #9 spot. You can look and see if your own  personal favorites were hits. 

A couple of notes: the RAW Trust apparently does not have control of some of the fiction titles, so we don't see Masks of the Illuminati, the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy or Illuminatus!. Right Where You Are Sitting Now also is missing.  The Hilaritas list consists largely of titles originally published by New Falcon.

Note also that the list does not include Hilaritas Press titles by other authors such as Daisy Eris Campbell or Bobby Campbell. For a full look at what HP has to offer the RAW fan, please visit the website. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Is 'TSOG' a bad title?

Twitter is going through another spate of "reexamining RAW, what should we criticize about him?" and the remarks are all over the map; if you want to sample it you can look for  Ted Hand's account and follow various threads. (At times, the likes of Erik Davis and Prop Anon weigh in.) 

I don't know what I'm supposed to say about this. It's one thing to say "he's capable of often getting his facts wrong." (I admitted as much when I wrote about The New Inquisition.)  It's another to say, "I'm so disillusioned to discover RAW isn't an expert on everything!" Doesn't that say more about you than it says about Robert Anton Wilson?  Many problems are solved by thinking of Wilson as "an influential and interesting writer" as opposed to "my personal guru." 

And many people who criticize RAW's politics have political beliefs that strike me as puerile, so much of this seems like a matter of taste. 

And I don't think RAW is someone you read for a balanced, scholarly treatment of feminism, but does that mean he can't criticize the "Beethoven is a rapist" college professor? 

I think some of Wilson's books are really, really good. Some of them are not so great, but have bits that I like. 

Perhaps it might be interesting to consider specific Tweets. Here's one:

I don't know Francis Jervis. The Tweet is referring to TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution. Setting aside "the Rand thing" (Robert Anton Wilson was hardly an Ayn Rand acolyte), what about the main point of the Tweet?

Presumably the claim is that the title plays off of Zionist Occupation Government.

Page 33 of my New Falcon paperback explains that TSOG stands for "Tsarist Occupation Government." That would fit with other RAW references to "drug tsars," as folks such as William Bennett were known. So if you want to be generous, you could say that RAW is referring to a common term in the "war on some drugs." It also seems germane to note that he wasn't known as an anti-Semite.

Having said that, I can't say I'm thrilled with the title, which seems to invite misunderstandings. I often have the impression that New Falcon didn't really edit RAW's books very much. That must have given Wilson a sense of freedom, but a good editor likely would have asked for a better title. Perhaps this illustrates the limitations of going without a real editor. 

Hilaritas Press eventually will get around to its own version of TSOG. Will it keep the same title? 


Thursday, May 27, 2021

'Maybe the Illuminati are behind this game'


"An out-of-print multiplayer card game that first appeared in 1994 is continuing to attract interest and unease online over its apparently eerie ability to “predict” major global events, from 9/11 to the election of Donald Trump, the coronavirus pandemic and the riot at the US Capitol on 6 January this year.

"Illuminati: New World Order was released by Steve Jackson Games and cast the player as a puppet-master pursuing world domination on behalf of their chosen mythic secret society, the game offering a choice of the Bavarian Illuminati, the Discordian Society, the UFOs, the Servants of Cthulhu, the Bermuda Triangle and the Gnomes of Zurich."

More here from the Independent.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

RAW on Lysander Spooner


Lysander Spooner

Jesse Walkers finds something interesting: An article by Robert Anton Wilson on libertarian writer Lysander Spooner. The piece is in an issue of WIN, a pacifist magazine.  (See pages 13-15). RAW writes, "It could be argued that his was one of the dozen or so greatest intellects ever to live on the North American continent, yet his books have been allowed to go out of print and the average student encounters his name, if at all, only as one of the leading Abolitionists." The issue of Win is dated April 1, 1971.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Liverpool Arts Lab releases new 'Bodge'


The folks at the Liverpool Arts Lab have released the new issue of the Discordian monthly Bodge. Lots of writing, some nice art, and an inspirational piece on how to start your own arts lab. Get your issue here.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 33

Craig Hargis, a fifth degree black belt in karate do 

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

An exercise in chapter 3 of Prometheus Rising calls on the reader to take a martial arts course for at least three months. I have had the great good fortune to study kenpo and tai chi with Mr. Gary Toppins and karate do with Dr. Craig Hargis. Dr. Hargis kindly consented to the following interview.

Eric Wagner: How did you get involved in the marital arts?

Craig Hargis: My dad was stationed in Japan after the war and was impressed by Japanese martial arts. He put me in Judo at ten years old and karate a couple of years later. Back then the words judo and karate were almost always used together and few people really knew the difference. There was always some karate included in judo self defense practice. 

EW: Why did you choose to focus on karate do?

CH: I did not really mean to leave judo, I was actually kind of talented in it.  It was just that karate increasingly absorbed my practice time. I practiced judo even out here until 1974 at LACC with Hayward Nishioka. Judo is really a sport, and real karate decidedly is not. That was the gravity of karate for me. 

EW: Whom do you consider some of your significant teachers?

CH: I define a teacher as being someone you directly ranked with. Mine would be Yoshio Kimura, Kiyoshi Yamazaki, and Ed Hamile and Ken Funakoshi. I was very lucky to find myself in Southern California where most of the important instructors visited frequently, so I at least met them. 

EW: Has practicing karate do affected other areas of your life?

CH: Mr. Egami, a great Shotokan master, said that, put simply, karate do is life and life is karate do. A karate man is always a karate man, though good ones hide that from others. What that means is that when you think of yourself, you think of karate first and most often. It is more than anything else your identity. Karate is all consuming or should be. People around you may (or should) have no idea how much karate influences everything you think and do.  I once heard karate defined as observing economically. You let life wash over you. 

EW: Texts like Karate-Do Kyohan by Gichin Funakoshi and Dynamic Karate by Masatoshi Nakayama seem very important to you. What do those books mean to you?

CH: Books are so much better than video. These books are symbols of continuity. They are things to which you return for a lifetime. A book can be held and carried. In many ways, the key books are karate itself. The young men in the pictures grew old and died but they have never changed in the book. The pictures and text combine to make an indelible imprint in the mind of what good form looks and feels like. The imagination can easily link still pictures in motion but can never extract terminal positions from video. Because you have met and known many of the authors the books keep karate forever young.

EW: What other martial arts books do you recommend?

CH: Shigeru Egami: Karate Do Beyond Technique. This is the best book on the emotional, spiritual, and mental reality of karate ever written.

EW: You recently posted on Facebook, “To my Karate friends. Of all the Japanese instructors, who did you find the most approachable, open, friendly and likable?” What provoked you to ask this question?

CH: Curiosity. I meant to say "not the best instructor but simply the nicest and most approachable famous teacher."  Most are really quite friendly. CW Nicole writes in Moving Zen of a Japanese rough who tried to pick a fight with Nakayama Sensei on a subway. Nakayama got off at the next stop and Nicole wrote, "So Sensei left and the fool never knew how close he was to death."  I always loved that simple idea.

EW: You spent decades as a college and high school teacher. How did your martial arts practice influence your teaching?

CH: Just to be myself, be confident, and know that most of the students would like me. Also to try and get odd angles on a subject. You try to be open, and personable like a good karate instructor. Teaching a physical art is different than teaching a text – though arguably kata is a text.

EW: How has martial arts training helped you deal with life challenges?

CH: Life is a challenge, and you can't deal with it really. To try and defeat it is your death. The down side of karate is living too much in the past and relying too much on memory. It is lonely. The old Kung Fu series did a great job of demonstrating this. Back to life: You have to somewhat ignore it, let it go. You are immersed in water but you are not the water. Though of course you ultimately are water but not manifested as so. Life is standing in a stream of running water--sometimes deep, sometimes slow, and sometimes fast. But it always flows around you, over you but not through you. If the water flows through you it means you have drowned, died. But karate is in the end is a perfection in waiting or even in loneliness in that it cannot be shared, and very few know who you are. 

EW: Thank you very much.

I realized I had forgotten to ask Dr. Hargis about his rank, so I sent him a follow up query. He responded, “My permanent rank is godan (5th degree black belt, highest technical rank in traditional Shotokan).  Instructor title is Hanshi, International master instructor.” 

Dr. Craig Hargis with T Arakawa, Chief Instructor of JKF Wado Kai and Technical Director of the Japan Karate Federation and K. Yamazaki (Center) Technical Director of The World Karate Federation and Chief Instructor of JKF Ryobukai.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

When science fiction split over the Vietnam War

The F. Brett Cox book about Roger Zelazny I blogged about yesterday points to something interesting in the notes: The dueling ads that ran in the June 1968 issue of Galaxy, a science fiction magazine, opposing and supporting U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. 

Among the folks in the antiwar camp, I am pleased to see Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer, Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert Silverberg and many others.  I am also struck by how many writers I really like show up in the pro war camp: Robert Heinlein, R.A. Lafferty, Jack Vance, L. Sprague de Camp, Poul Anderson. Not a surprise to see John Campbell and Marion Zimmer Bradley in the "wrong" ad.  Some writers don't show up on either side (e.g., Frank Herbert for example), British writers apparently weren't asked to participate and Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea don't show up probably because the ad ran years before most people know who they were. 

Brett pointed to the ads to make a point about Roger Zelazny's public persona; although Zelazny was very approachable, attended science fiction conventions and was friendly to fans, he did not discuss his private life and also largely stayed out of politics (he was already famous in 1968 and doesn't show up in either ad.) 

The contemporary writer who reminds me of Zelazny in this regard is Neal Stephenson, another favorite of mine. I read Stephenson all the time, but I know little about his personal life or his politics. Jack Vance was fairly reticent for much of his life, but wrote a memoir when he was very old. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Roger Zelazny: Just thought I'd write this to apologize [UPDATED]

Years ago, when I was at a science fiction convention, I was seated at some event near a woman who complained about writer Maria Doria Russell. The woman explained that she had been trying to for years to write fiction, with little professional success. Russell (who, as it happens, lives in the Cleveland, Ohio, area, as do I) had explained in an interview that she had decided to try her hand at writing a novel, in imitation of her favorite writers. Her effort, The Sparrow, created an immediate sensation and won Russell a slew of awards. It was hard for the woman seated near me to deal with the fact Russell had succeeded so apparently effortlessly.

Another writer connected with Cleveland, area native Roger Zelazny, must have excited similar envy during his career. Zelazny became a successful and well-known writer quite early in his career, and that's one of the topics covered in an excellent new book about Zelazny, Roger Zelazny, by F. Brett Cox. Cox, an old friend, toiled on the book for years; I'll post a link to my article about the book when it pops up on my newspaper's web site later this weekend. [UPDATE: Here is my piece.]

Roger Zelazny is the sort of outstanding book I read very carefully; after finishing the actual text, I pored through the bibliography and notes and spotted a familiar name. An interview with Zelazny by D. Scott Apel, Robert Anton Wilson's longtime friend and partner, and Kevin Briggs, was listed as from a "privately bound thesis" published in 1980.

The interview is also published in a book, Science Fiction: An Oral History by Apel,  and in the interview, recorded in 1977, Zelazny describes how his name became known in the SF field. 

Zelazny at first sold some quite short stories to the magazines Amazing and Fantastic, to a brilliant editor named Cele Goldsmith who discovered him and many other prominent writers. After awhile, Zelazny wanted to see if he could sell to another market, so he dug up a longer old story, one he wasn't sure was any good. He had refrained from submitting it, he told Apel and Briggs, because "I felt I had overdone it, that I'd thrown in everything but the Martian kitchen sink, that I'd overwritten it, and that I'd made the character too introspective to be sympathetic." But, well, might as well throw it out there. "I wasn't really sure of that as a story, but I was prompted to submit it because I wanted another story to to send in that week."

The story was "A Rose for Ecclesiastes," and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction made it the cover story. It made Zelazny's name among science fiction readers.

The story came out as it was becoming clear that old-fashioned stories about humanoid races on Mars and Venus were not really compatible with the known science, so Zelazny decided if he wanted to write another such story and set it on Venus, he'd better hurry up. So he sat down and wrote "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" and sold it to F&SF, and it was another famous early story.

Zelazny began to feel guilty that he "might have offended an editor I liked very much," Goldsmith, who had been so supportive and bought his early stories, by publishing "Rose" and "Doors" elsewhere. 

So in much the same fashion I guess that somebody else might dash off a note of apology, Zelazny "decided to make it up to her by doing something at greater length  other than those novellettes, and putting a lot of thought and effort into it." 

That story was "He Who Shapes," which won a Nebula and turned into Zelazny's second book, The Dream Master. 

Apology accepted, or at least one hopes. Zelazny didn't mention Cele Goldsmith's reaction. If you look up the January 1965 issue of Amazing, Zelazny's story is listed on the cover, although the cover painting illustrates another story.  (Brett carefully records which two issues of Amazing the story was serialized in, typical of the care he put into the book).

The interview with Zelazny in Apel's book is quite good, and when I originally read it, I noticed Apel and Briggs based many of their questions on close readings of the authors, and the result was really good interviews. The book is still available on Amazon, and it's just 99 cents for a Kindle. The interview with Robert Anton Wilson is available also in  Beyond Chaos and Beyond, and a longer version of the Philip K.. Dick interview was published as a separate book, but as far as I know, the Oral History interviews with Zelazny, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber and Norman Spinrad are only available in Apel's book. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

John Higgs on William Blake


The Social runs an excerpt from John Higgs' soon to be released book on William Blake. A bit of it:

"There is now a long tradition of Blake being celebrated by authorities in ways that were, to those who understand his work, fantastically inappropriate. When the Labour and Conservative parties sing ‘Jerusalem’ at their party political conferences, they are presumably unfamiliar with the context of those words in the preface to the poem Milton. As they heartily bellow the lyric, moved by the stirring music, they seem unaware that they are calling for the revolutionary overthrowing of the ‘ignorant Hirelings’ of ‘the Camp, the Court, & the University'."

Here is another bit.

"His work is deep and rich and no matter who looks into it, they will always find their own prejudices and interests reflected back. Perhaps he is too big a mind for us to ever properly grasp, and we are doomed to always fail. Perhaps the best we can do is find our own version of Blake, and take pleasure in knowing how incomplete it will appear to others.

"We owe it to Blake, though, to at least attempt to get the basics right. Blake’s understanding of the world was profoundly different from not just his contemporaries, but from western philosophy in general. It is a perspective which, if grasped, offers us a vision of ourselves, our country, and the wider world which would utterly transform our future."

Read the whole thing. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Do you have repeat reading authors?

I have noticed one of my habits as a reader is that when I find an author I particularly like, I will go back to that person again and again. When I was on vacation for a few days, recently, I read another novel by one of my favorites, Janice Weber, called Customs Violation. (If you don't know her, she has had a successful career at a classical pianist and also a career as a novelist, with considerable success at both.) Customs Violation has several of Weber's trademarks -- sardonic humor, writing well about sex, discussion of classical music -- but notably, it also has a really good love story. I think it may be her best novel.

Anyway, some of the other writers I have been exploring for years are Jane Austen, Neal Stephenson, Robert Anton Wilson obviously (I will get to Sex, Drugs and Magick soon, one of the few RAW titles I have never read), Iain Banks, Richard Powers, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Vance, Lawrence Bloch and  Tom Perrotta. I suspect Ada Palmer may turn out to be one of those writers, too, but it's early in her career. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Vindication for Leary and Wilson?

Rick Doblin,  founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). (Creative Commons photo).

Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson argued for years that the government ought to permit research into the use of psychedelics for psychiatric purposes.

They aren't alive to see it, but there's been a big surge in recent years of research in the beneficial use of psychedelics. "The Psychedelic Revolution Is Coming. Psychiatry May Never Be the Same," a long article that recently ran in the New York Times, is a pretty thorough survey of recent developments. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

A couple of Orson Welles notes


Orson Welles 

A couple of notes for folks who, like RAW, are interested in Orson Welles.

The New York Times runs an obituary for actor Norman Lloyd, who has died at age 106.  The article includes descriptions of how Lloyd worked with Orson Welles in the 1930s, acting in a stage performance of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."

Also, there's a new book, A Light in the Dark: A History of Movie Directors by David Thomson that discusses Welles.  Here is Tyler Cowen's review: "One of the best attempts to make the auteur notion intelligible to the modern viewer, he surveys major directors such as Welles, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Godard and others.  Stephen Frears is the dark horse pick, and he recommends the Netflix show Ozark.  I always find Thomson worth reading."

Monday, May 17, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 32

Unsplash photo by Kevin Gent 

Chapter Three is the chapter that deals with the oral bio-survival circuit, the first circuit of the Eight Circuit Model. as developed by Timothy Leary and elaborated on by Robert Anton Wilson. 

Most of you will be familiar with the model and I am not going to try to paraphrase the main points in the chapter. But I thought it was a very interesting chapter in the way RAW worked out some of the implications of the their on the first circuit, and I wanted to offer a couple of notes.

Wilson writes for example of "the 'undeclared civil war' of the predatory criminal class in every 'civilized' nation" and I think that's a vivid description of how crime feels for many people in the U.S. Here in Cleveland, I think many people choose to live in the suburbs not because of "white flight" but because they want to feel reasonably safe, and it's much harder to do that if you live in Cleveland itself. (During a particularly horrible crime in 2019, a man and wife who ran a used car business were shot dead, their dog also was shot dead, and two of their cars were stolen from the lot.)

And in another section of the chapter, Wilson writes that "all schools of yoga -- Buddhist, Hindu or Sufi" all concentrate on "restoring natural breathing before trying to move the student on to higher circuits and wider consciousness."

I don't know much about Hindu or Sufi practices and I'm not an expert on all of the schools of Buddhism, but I can certainly confirm that in the Theravada Buddhism widely practice in southern Asia, usually offered in the western world as Insight meditation or as Vipassana, awareness of breathing is always the meditation technique that is taught and concentrated upon, both to produce calm and to generate awareness of the present moment.

I am sure we will be concentrating on the seven exercises for this chapter (up from three last chapter), but for now, does anyone want to offer any thoughts on the comments on this interesting chapter?  Or anything about getting started on the exercises?


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Chapter 2, Exercise 3, Prometheus Rising

I am responsible for starting Chapter 3 of Prometheus Rising in tomorrow's blog post, for our online exercise/reading group. But to wrap up Chapter 2, and in light of the fact that Eric Wagner says this is a "do the exercises" effort, I thought I'd do a blog post on Exercise 3 of Chapter 2. That is the "why is it here" exercise for "any household object."

The object I chose was an old book club edition of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Ada, a used book which I had for years and finally got around to reading in 2017. Here is what I noticed :

1. My parents are readers, and ultimately I have this book because I saw it on their bookshelf for years growing up and eventually they let me have it. It says "book club edition" and I don't think they belonged to a book club, so I don't know how they got it.

2. When I was in high school, one of my English classes assigned me to read Despair by Nabokov, and it made me a lifelong Nabokov fan. 

3. When I really get into an author, I like to keep reading titles by him or her. I hung on to the Nabokov book for years, keeping it in my possession in two states, because I suspected I eventually would get around to reading it.

4. As to the "here," I keep books I particularly like in a bookshelf in the living room. I particularly liked this Nabokov novel, so it's in that bookshelf, sitting near books by the likes of John Higgs and Neal Stephenson.

5. Vladimir Nabokov had a best selling book in the 1950s with Lolita. This turned him from a literary writer, probably not too well known to many Americans, to a successful and widely-distributed author, hence the book club edition of Ada that wound up in my parents' home in Tulsa. 

6. Nabokov became a cosmopolitan, internationally-known author after his family left Russia after the Russian revolution of 1917. Perhaps he would have become a Russian author, known mostly to Russians, if the Germans had not opted to help Lenin travel from Switzerland in a journey back to Russia. (Nabokov spent his final years living in Switzerland).

7. Book clubs were invented as a way to distribute cheap editions of hardcover books through the U.S. mail. I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club when I was in high school. My copy of Ada is a book club edition.

8. The invention of paper and of printing with movable type and the rise of manufacturing allowed inexpensive books to be distributed to the masses.

9. I was not very athletic or very good as sports as a kid, so I developed the habit of reading a lot and obtaining books, hence the fact I always have had lots of books in the house, such as the Nabokov novel, despite the fact I am always discarding books to keep them from overrunning the house by selling some of them to a used bookstore.

10. I married a librarian. She did not think it was absurd to transport many boxes of books from Oklahoma to Ohio.

11. The subtitle of Ada is "Or Ardor: A Family Chronicle" and the first sentence refers to Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. So the book, at least in its current form, would not exist if there had not been a famous Russian writer named Tolstoy.

12. Written Russian dates back to the invention of a Slavic alphabet by two missionaries, the "apostles to the Slavs," Cyril and Methodius. They invented an alphabet for the Slavic language, and the modern form of that alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, is still in use today for Russian. 

13. Cyril and Methodius were ninth century missionaries from the Eastern Roman Empire, e.g. the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire existed because a Roman emperor named Constantine, who had become a Christian, won a series of civil wars and founded a "new Rome," at the site of Byzantium, which became known as Constantinople. The strategically-placed city flourished, and when the western Roman Empire fell, the eastern empire survived.

14. Russia takes its name from the Rus, Vikings who colonized lands to the east of Scandinavia, going down big rivers in their longboats and eventually assimilating with the local Slavs. From the Rus evolved the county we know as "Russia." So because of the wide-ranging Vikings, we have "Russian literature" and "Russian writers" such as Nabokov. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

More on the new RAW Semantics post

Tony Blair

Has everyone had time to read the new RAW Semantics post I mentioned yesterday, "Meta-/Milton & RAW"? It is is difficult to summarize, but Brian takes on RAW's analysis of language, and the two main classes of statements, statements that can be verified and statements that cannot. 

Along the way, Brian discusses how Robert Anton Wilson regarded New Age philosophy -- “Ten percent good ideas, ninety percent bullshit” -- and discusses the 10 percent RAW regarded as useful.

 And he goes back to Tony Blair's arguments for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and shows how absurd they were when subjected to linguistic analysis. An example:

5. Simple Distortion

“Only Saddam can avert this war…”

A basic cause-effect distortion. A war is averted by the aggressors deciding not to attack. Such a decision can be caused by many things – eg a preference for avoiding mass slaughter.

I'm not doing it justice, but Brian's post is interesting, take some moments and check it out. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Tramping about, a professor stumbles over RAW and znore

Alas, the discovery of Robert Anton Wilson by Canadian English professor Tim Conley (pictured) has not propelled RAW to fame in academic circles. (Publicity photo from Brock University) 

The good news: An English professor specializing in literary modernism includes your work in his new book about James Joyce. The bad news: He puts you in the chapter about crackpots.

The Varieties of Joycean Experience is by Tim Conley, professor of English Language and Literature at Brock University, Canada, where Dr. Conley spends much of his time "tramping about" works of "international modernism and contemporary literature." The book came out in December and it's the kind of book that will set you back $40 for the Kindle. The hardcover will cost you $125.

Dr. Conley must have worked really hard on his chapter titles. Robert Anton Wilson and znore, the blogger and author,  both appear on Chapter 10, "Hysterical-Exegetical: Petitions Full of Pieces of Pottery." This is the chapter that concludes the book, a publisher's blurb explains. The chapter discusses "what makes an interpretation untenable, and why do Joyce’s works inspire far-fetched and even crackpot readings?" RAW's essay, "Coincidance," from Semiotexte, is cited as "perhaps the greatest send-up of deranged readings of Joyce." Znore's insights receive similar treatment. 

Znore chooses to be amused rather than offended. He sent me an email to call my attention to the book, writing, "We're last on a long list of oddballs and lunatics with deranged views of Joyce. The professor does sort of redeem these types of perspectives in his final paragraphs. I can't really make out if he is being generous or patronizing. He doesn't seem to entirely get it, but I can't be too sure. It's pretty fascinating, I think."

If you want more of znore's "deranged views," see his book, Death Sweat of the Cluster: Selected Essays from Groupname for Grapejuice. I bought two copies, one for me and one for a friend. (Read my review here, Professor Conley!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

A British 'Guns and Dope Party,' with good manners

John Stuart Mill (with his daughter, feminist Harriet Taylor)

You will recall that RAW invented the Guns and Dope Party, a libertarian party uniting the signature libertarian issue of the right (guns) with that of the left (pot). Although in the end, it seems to me what the party really stood for was "live and let live." 

The other day on Twitter, this caught my eye:

British politics is hard for an American to follow. I'm not claiming it's crazier than American politics (I don't see how that could be possible), I just don't follow it closely enough to understand it. I thought I kind of got the UBI and cannabis bit, but I was puzzled by third element of the new British party. So I asked "Why Good Manners?" and Brian explained, "To my mind, a tongue-in-cheek stereotype of 'conservative' Brit values -- just as 'gun nut' seems stereotype of U.S. 'NRA conservative'."

It's possible that the British may not always be able to make out how Americans think, either. In Cosmic Trigger, describing his job at Playboy magazine, RAW writes, "My job was editing the letters in the 'Playboy Forum,' and also writing the italicized replies in which the Playboy position was stated. This position is straight old-fashioned mind-your-own-business John Stuart Mill libertarianism, and (since that is my philosphy as well as Hefner's) I enjoyed the work immensely."

I noticed that in Daisy's Cosmic Trigger the Play book, this is changed to, "I take the mail and write the Playboy official response to it. Straight-up do-your-own-thing liberalism."

I wondered why Daisy had made the change. Should I read something into it?  I don't think John Stuart Mill wrote about cannabis, and I'm not sure about a UBI, either. Pretty sure he had good manners. I asked Daisy if she remembered why she made the change. 

"Hmmm no. Does he not say 'do your own thing' elsewhere in CT? Does seem an odd change. Maybe I thought the actor would trip over that many words. But I'm surprised I changed mind-your-own-business to do your own thing. And i suspect the switch from libertarianism to liberalism was a typo on my part... Hmmm one for the 2nd edition changes list!" she replied.

Well, no, I don't know that a fine writer like Daisy should change it. That wasn't what I meant. But I was still curious. "Thought maybe John Stuart Mill was unpopular," I wrote. 

"Clearly not popular enough!" she replied. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Kate Alderton on prepping to play Arlen

Kate Alderton

I enjoyed all of the recent Journey to Nutopia "RAW Power" show (available as an on-demand video), but the highlight for me were the scenes from Daisy Campbell's Cosmic Trigger play, particularly the bits featuring Oliver Senton as Robert Anton Wilson and Kate Alderton as Arlen Riley. Watching those scenes are useful are background for reading Daisy Eris Campbell's Cosmic Trigger the Play book, which I recommended the other day.

But as I thought about that performance, I wondered how Kate Alderton prepared for the role. Oliver Senton obviously had many hours of video and audio of Robert Anton Wilson to study, but the situation hardly was the same for his co-star. I asked Kate Alderton about this, and she kindly replied:

"It was a real joy to return to Bob and Arlen for the Nutopia RAW night – I’ve missed them! 

"Preparing for Arlen was a curious challenge: there’s so much stuff out there about Bob, and  I read and re-read everything he wrote about her, but there was so little on the net.

"At the time, I found one or two photos of her in her 60’s (there are a few more now I think!), her poetry, the David Jay Brown interview and the Gonzo Sociology tapes.

"It felt so rare to find someone whose presence is that quiet in the sea of digital content we swim in every day. Every piece of the puzzle I found felt like a real jewel. I listened a lot to the Gonzo tapes to get a sense of her. Daisy wrote Arlen with such a grounded warmth and humour, and with such depth of relationship between her and Bob- it felt easy to lean into that. 

"I’m not sure if anyone who actually knew Arlen saw the live production. The Nutopia night was the first time lots of you folks across the pond were with us. That’s also the first time I’ve performed Arlen’s poetry - which I love - and I was so grateful to Christina for her words on the night."

You can read Kate Alderton's biography (she's been in quite a few TV shows, movies and stage plays) and follow her on Twitter.  

Monday, May 10, 2021

Prometheus Rising discussion and exercise group, Week 31

Photo by Judith Browne on Unsplash 

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger 

Tathagata said he had many names and none of them meant anything. It isn’t time to talk of the atman yet, so I will talk about the worthlessness of names.

Tonight I have meditated upon the Hapsburg eagle, the sigil sent to me by the Illuminated Bobby Campbell, Illuminator in the tradition of the monks, artists, and wastrels of Old. Appropriate it is then, that he would send me a symbol of an old and illustrious house to contemplate. One side of the perfectly folded paper is printed in computer ink and sealed in raised sigil of Only Maybe, the other seems to be done in lead. What had led the piece to be here in my house at this point? 

Exercise 4:

Not that long ago, on the Maybe Logic forum that fruited in the summer of 2012, another disappointing Apocalypse, I  met Bobby, asking if he was the illustrator of the excellent New Falcon editions of The Historical Illuminatus! Chronicles. I never expected to make his acquaintance years later at a small sci-fi convention with the redoubtable publisher Tom Jackson. Yet, I did; and now the paper is in my hand. 

An ancient symbol of an infinitely powerful family, gifted with Freud’s divine prosthesis, and the value of the object in the lead lines on the back, tracing the precisely laid ink surer and more craftily than genealogies. There is effort and consequence, personal meaning. Lead has been considered the lowest element, here it is as holy and poisonous as cancerous quicksilver. The smears of poison rock are more meaningful than precision. 

Paper comes from China, printing from Germany, or so the common knowledge goes. My hands are formed of silly men and women who frolicked, fucked and fought across God’s green earth for hundreds of years. One body of naked apes accrued enough power to fuck themselves into jacked-up-jawed oblivion. Their sigil is in my hand and it represents an order of fiction about another incestuous family, the Merovingians. Bobby Cambpell is perhaps the cleverest and best of RAW’s keepers. 

Inside the folded slip is a business card/theological debate and a faux tarot card for Eris. Like the lightning, the moment comes and goes, but one wonders truly...where did all this Chaos come from? A piece of paper rests in my hands. An infinity of slack-jawed power can’t be summarized in a doodle. But ideas can. What good does mealy mouthed prophecy do? 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Review: Cosmic Trigger the Play [Updated]

As I get older -- I'm 64 now, look at that, the same age as the Beatles song -- I simultaneously feel closer to figuring it all out, and to feeling like I am more confused than ever. 

So I'm not sure how much stock you can put in my opinions. But I'm about as sure as one could be about such things that Robert Anton Wilson would have been delighted with Cosmic Trigger the Play by Daisy Eris Campbell, published by Hilaritas Press, which as  many of you know is the publishing imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust.

The book is the text of the play Daisy wrote and staged, adapting RAW's Cosmic Trigger. The play has been performed in the United Kingdom but not, at least so far, in the United States. So the book is the closest that many American RAW fans can get to finding out what it would have been like to see the play. Crucially, the book features color photos showing what many scenes in the play looked like. And it's also helpful, if you still haven't seen it, to watch the recent video of the "RAW Power" showed hosted by Michelle Olley, which featured material from the play, including scenes of Oliver Senton playing Robert Anton Wilson and Kate Alderton as Arlen Riley, Wilson's wife. (Senton has naturally gotten a lot of attention for the role and he's recorded two audiobooks of the first and second Cosmic Triggers, but Alderton also is really good.)

The play does adapt the story of Cosmic Trigger, with Wilson meeting Leary and running his magickal experiments, as all the time he passes through Chapel Perilous and moves toward the worst crisis of his life, the murder of his daughter, Luna. Seeing Wilson through Daisy's eyes made me think about whether I have been going through an initiation, and what Wilson's ideas mean to me. Daisy makes modest changes in events and facts (she apologizes in the text of the play for any "Irish facts" that might offend RAW experts) but as adaptations go it's pretty accurate.

That description, however, does not really get across Daisy's gift for coming up with scenes that are surrealistic and magickal. One scene uses "typewriter letter-cushions distributed on one bank of the four-sided audience to create a surreal typewriter." 

And appropriately for an adaptation of Wilson, Daisy has fun playing with the boundary between fact and fiction. At one point, Daisy appears in the play, portrayed by the play's stage manager, and then another character enters, "Real Daisy," played by Daisy.

The play also is funny in many ways. The play shows Wilson and Shea flying to London to see a stage performance of the Illuminatus! adaptation by Ken Campbell, Daisy's father. When they arrive on the set, they are met by an actor, who according to the stage directions is "naked and covered in blood." The actor exclaims, "Mr. Wilson? Mr. Shea? This is the greatest honour. Your book has completely changed my life." Shea replies, "So I see."

And as if to underscore that this is Cosmic Trigger viewed through the prism of Daisy's reality tunnel, her dialogues of Americans in the United States features plenty of British slang. Did everyone in the British audience realize that few Americans would use the expression "tits up," or that it is unlikely Arlen would ask her husband to "keep an ear out"? [UPDATE: Daisy informs me Alan Watts did use the expression "tits up." We'll keep an ear out for any other mistakes in this review.]

Few Wilson fans will feel unmoved if they take the time to read this book, exploring a key moment of Wilson's life. 

The book also features an introduction by the writer Ben Graham, which usefully explains how Daisy's play helped spawn an ongoing Discordian counterculture in Britain and revive interest in Wilson. The introduction even has a drawing by Graham, a "Mycelium Mind Map" with lines showing connections between various esoteric interests and personalities. Many connections lead to John Higgs, on the map as in "real life."

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Piano version of 'The Rite of Spring'

I know that Robert Anton Wilson liked Igor Stravinsky. So I guess this falls into, "Something I wish I could have asked RAW about, if I met him."

Stravinsky's ballet score "The Rite of Spring" is of course one of the most famous classical pieces of the 20th century, but I wonder how many people know that there is an absolutely beautiful arrangement for two pianos?

If you like Stravinsky, see this post, too. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Film about the last words of Dutch Schultz

Another great Jesse Walker discovery. Here's Jesse:

"A good experimental film I watched last night, based on Dutch Schultz's last words (and reportedly inspired by William Burroughs's Schultz screenplay, though it isn't an attempt to film it).

"It is, of course, 23 minutes long."

Wikipedia explains, "Gerrit van Dijk (5 December 1938 – 4 December 2012) was a Dutch animator, film maker, actor and painter."

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Robert Anton Wilson recruitment flier for joining the Illuminati


On Twitter, Adam Gorightly releases another amazing Discordian document: A Robert Anton Wilson recruitment flier to join the Illuminati. Dated 1968, well before Illuminatus!

"You are hereby invited to join the most powerful, unscrupulous, dangerous and mind-blowing non-existent secret society in the world," RAW writes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Maybe Day 2021: Bobby Campbell strikes back!


[Last year, Bobby Campbell organized a series of Maybe Day activities for July 23 and they were a big success. If you go to Bobby's Maybe Day website, you can still download the excellent New Trajectories zine Bobby put together and get other goodies, such as Mike Gathers' publication on the Eight Circuit model. And considering all of the great things our British friends have been doing, it was gratifying to see American RAW fans step up. And I really felt Mr. Campbell deserved a lot of credit. 

Now Bobby has returned with an announcement: Maybe Day is back! Below are a few words from Bobby. -- The Management.]

"...and being humus the same roturns."

JJ, FW, Pg. 8

MAYBE DAY 2021 is a virtual celebration of the lives and ideas of Robert Anton Wilson.

There will be a maybe logical bonanza of content that goes live on July 23rd 8:08 AM EST at

We'll be putting together another edition of the NEW TRAJECTORIES zine, a collection of video presentations, a live panel discussion,

and whatever else we dream up in the meanwhile!

Please LMK if you'd like to contribute in any variety of ways :)))

I've set up a discussion thread to help facilitate communication & collaboration:,39131.0.html

You can contact me there or at

Approximate deadline for submitting zine content is July 1st

& July 15th for video presentations.

Also! In the spirit of Discordians sticking apart, do please feel free & encouraged to create & post Maybe Day content using your own ways and means.

A decentralized and self-organizing Maybe Day would be just the thing to keep the lasagna flying onward and upward to ever greater glory.



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

1978 interview with Wilson and Shea

While doing some research into Eldridge Cleaver, Jesse Walker stumbled into a 1978 interview with Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea (mostly Wilson) that appeared in 1978 in Weird Trips magazine. There's a lot of discussion of topics covered in Cosmic Trigger and The Starseed Signals. This is a substantial interview not available at the Robert Anton Wilson Fans site. Thanks, Jesse!

Wilson: "What we've done in Illuminatus! is to give several versions of reality and let the reader decide which one is the most believable. And then people ask us which is the real explanation. Our answer is we don't know any better than anybody else. Everybody should think for themselves."

Monday, May 3, 2021

Prometheus Rising discussion and exercise group, Week 30

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

I hope all goes well. On February 2, 1984, I went into Books, Etc. in Tempe, Arizona, thinking of James Joyce’s birthday. I picked up a copy of Finnegans Wake and opened it at random. I saw the line “Please stop if you’re a B.C. minding missy, please do. But should you prefer A.D. stepplease” on page 272. The side notes had a musical staff with the notes B, C, A, and D. I thought, “Hey, I can do this,” and I bought my first copy of Finnegans Wake. At the time I interpreted it as meaning “Please stop if you have a past oriented B. C. mind, please do. But should you prefer the future, A. D., step right up.” 

At the beginning of May 1982 I bought my first Robert Anton Wilson book. The cover of Schroedinger’s Cat: The Universe Next Door had caught my eye repeatedly at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. It had a woman’s face superimposed on a cat’s face. I had read a positive review of Wilson’s The Illuminati Papers by Spider Robinson in Analog Science Fiction Magazine, and I really valued Spider’s opinion. He argued that we really needed optimism like Bob Wilson’s in the wake of John Lennon’s murder. I had also read the Neal Wilgus interview with Wilson in Science Fiction Review. I read The Universe Next Door and enjoyed it. I lived in Tucson for the summer, but my family visited my grandparents in Scottsdale in June. I stopped by the One Book Shop and bought Schroedinger’s Cat II: The Trick Top Hat. I loved that book, and I became obsessed with Wilson’s writing for the next 23 years (and then some).

I had forgotten that chapter two of Prometheus Rising mentions Radio Shack. Tempus fugit, time flies. As a kid I remember building a rudimentary robot with stuff from Radio Shack. Now I sit here typing this on my MacBook Pro with two iPads and an iPhone on the table next to it. And I don’t even particularly like Apple products. My dad worked for IBM for over thirty years. I worked at IBM three summers during college. I fought kicking and screaming against switching to Apple products ten years ago at my high school, but now I’ve gotten used to them. As Bob said, “The brain is an organ of adaptability.” 

I just got done doing my daily tai chi. I’ve done it most days during the past year of lockdown. It has made me aware of the changing relationship of the earth and the sun as I do tai chi at different times due to the changing weather. I try to orient myself to avoid the sun getting into my eyes. I like to practice at about 63 degrees. Living in Corona, California, that means going out early in the morning in May. It meant going out at the warmest part of the day during winter. (I realize our winter doesn’t seem cold compared to much of the world’s winter.) 

Martial arts takes us into chapter three of Prometheus Rising. I took a little bit of karate and judo back in the 1970’s. In the fall of 1985, after reading Prometheus Rising, I thought about taking kung fu to do the exercise from chapter three of taking a three month course of martial arts. However, I felt like a bit of a pacifist at the time, so I took yoga instead. I didn’t get serious about martial arts until the year 2000.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

RAW reviews the McKennas


On Twitter, Erik Davis reproduces a 1976 book review in the Berkeley Barb, and I in turn share it with you here. Erik writes, "Robert Anton Wilson reviews the McKennas' Magic Mushroom Growers Guide in the Berkeley Barb, 1976." (Follow Erik on Twitter, and the Twitter account links to his Substack.)

In the review, RAW complains about the price but otherwise gives it a favorable review, saying that it provides a way to "avoid the hazards of the black market." He also has a recommendation: "The only thing wrong with this book, aside from the price, is that they forgot to mention you should always absolutely in every case whatever the circumstances play Beethoven's Ninth during the third hour of the mushroom experience. With earphones and your eyes closed. Then o dearly beloved may you find the Gold of the Philosophers, the Stone of the Wise, the Medicine of Metals, the Rosy Cross, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness, Io Pan Io Pangenitor Io Panphage Hagios Hagios Hagios IAO."

Saturday, May 1, 2021

John Higgs news, featuring Neil Gaiman

John Higgs has issued his latest newsletter, and particularly interesting this time is the online event for the launch of his new book about William Blake:

The online launch will be on May 27th at 7:30pm, and is hosted by the British Library. It features me being interviewed by Robin Ince, readings from Salena Godden as the Voice of Blake, a look at original Blake manuscripts with the British Library curator Alexandra Ault, and an extra special reading from the shining soul that is the poet, rapper and President of the Blake Society Kae Tempest.

If that's not enough, there will also be contributions from those imagination-soaked authors Neil Gaiman (in New Zealand) and David Keenan, talking about what Blake means to them.

When you are dealing with Blake there is always the pressure to go the extra mile and make something worthy of his name. As online book launches go, this is something well worth your time and I hope you'll join us. It's free for British Library members and people who buy the book, and a fiver for everyone else. You can book tickets and find more details here.

More here, including more British events in connection with the launch of William Blake Vs the World, out on June 1.