Sunday, October 17, 2021

Did the U.S. crackdown on drugs harm the economy and science?

Robert Anton Wilson used to write about the research inspired by LSD and other hallucinogens and argue that the banning of research was a major attack on science. You may have thought his claims were a little too much, but it's hard to disagree that repression isn't very good for innovation. 

There's now a very interesting essay, Higher than the Shoulders of Giants; Or, a Scientist’s History of Drugs, at a blog called Slime Mold Time Mold, which argues that passage of the Controlled Substances Act and the creation of the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration) caused the well-known stagnation in the economy and technology since the 1970s. 

The thesis may seem kind of out there, but the essay demonstrates that  coffee helped fuel the rise of science in England and that cocaine helped generate important science in Germany and the U.S. It also documents the well-known influence of LSD on music (i.e., the Beatles, but also the Grateful Dead and many others) and Silicon Valley (I'm sure many readers of this blog have heard about Steve Jobs and LSD, and the popularity of the drug among people involved in the computer revolution in California.)

Via Sam Enright, who writes, "A very intriguing argument that the slowdown in growth post-1970 is due to the Controlled Substances Act, and that cultures tend to see periods of artistic and intellectual flourishing after the introduction of new drugs. An excellent post."

I can't find any credits for who writes Slime Mold, but it seems very interesting. Lots of science writing. And in case, it seems very likely to me RAW would have been interested in Higher Than the Shoulders of Giants. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The art of Leosaysays

One of the things I was struck by when I read New Trajectories 2, the big zine put out by Bobby Campbell for Maybe Day this year (still available for download here) was the high quality of the art, including the art of Leosaysays.

Leosaysays has now updated the portfolio of his official website, and invites you to check out more of striking art. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Thursday, October 14, 2021

William Shatner's SMI2LE experience


William Shatner moved to tears after his Blue Origin trip to space. (Blue Origin photo)

On Twitter, RAW Semantics writes, "Easy to be cynical, of course, but the experience he describes: S.M.I².L.E. encapsulated in many ways."

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Steve 'Fly' Pratt on the Pandora Papers

The leak of the Pandora Papers inspires Steve Pratt to think about how the revelations link to what Robert Anton Wilson wrote about the banking industry:

"Today, 23 years after RAW published Everything Is Under Control, the latest findings from the Pandora Papers seem to confirm aspects of these pre-existing banking and finance conspiracies, operating in the present day (2021)."

On Twitter, RAW Semantics comments, "I also sometimes wonder what RAW would make of the reportedly increasingly used new-generation online data-warfare technology in a conspiracy/finance/gov context (SCT/FB/algorithm stuff etc)."

Everything Is Under Control is one of the few RAW titles I haven't read; it's nice to have something to look forward to.

Fly is at pains to explain he isn't "banker bashing." See the whole post. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

News from Valerie D'Orazio


Valerie D'Orazio has often written about Robert Anton Wilson, as chronicled on this blog; here are a couple of updates.

Val recently completed a mini art-journal of art pieces; above see a couple of pages, and see this thread for more. 

She also has posted an archive at her Fantasy Merchant blog, linking to much of her previous work. Look at the Go Ask Valis and the Butterfly Merchant blogs for material on Robert Anton Wilson, Philip K. Dick, the "Daily Eris" etc. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 52

A 1636 portrait of Galileo. 

I have been trying to work on some of the exercises for Chapter 7.

The first exercise asks us to compare Greece in the Fourth Century BCE, Rome in the First Century CE, Southern Europe at the beginning of the Renaissance, England 1600-1900, New York 1900-1950 and California today.

All of those could be described as times when the arts flourished, when much of the literature we still read was produced and when wealth was accumulated. 

The Fourth Century B.C. was the time of Plato (about 428 BC to about 347 BC), Aristotle (384-322 BC) and (my favorite) Epicurus (341-270 BC). It was the century that Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, greatly extending the geographical area reached by Greek culture and the Greek language.

I guess one way of comparing the various periods is to note that each time and place included people who extended what was allowed to be thought. New York during the period cited by RAW was a center of modernism and modern California was a home to heretics such as Timothy Leary and RAW.  By and large, the periods/places  cited by RAW were periods of free thought, or as RAW puts it in the exercises, "relatively Open Societies." They have been times and places when religion did not have total sway on society. 

Epicurus in his time was quite a radical figure. His school included women and slaves as students, not just men. He taught that the gods were not to be feared, that nature ultimately consisted of atoms and the void and that there was no afterlife. Epicurus taught at his private home and garden and said it was best to "live in obscurity," i.e. not get much notice from the powers that be. 

RAW's third exercise suggests "reading the denunciations of Galileo by the orthodox of his time." I ran out of time to do research at the library by the time this blog post had to be written, but the Wikipedia article about Galileo  has quite a bit of information about Galileo's troubles with the Catholic Church, and it links to related articles that give more detail, such as Galileo's Letter to Benedetto Castelli defending Galileo's opinion that the planets revolve around the sun and arguing that the church should not be allowed to decide scientific matters; Wikipedia says, 

"Likewise, Galileo accepted that the Bible was infallible in matters of doctrine, but he agreed with Cardinal Baronius's observation that it was "intended to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." He also pointed out that both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas had taught that scripture had not been written to teach a system of astronomy, citing St. Augustine's comment that "One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon. For He willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians."

In another exercise, RAW asks us to "Read the denunciations of Beethoven, of Picasso, or Joyce by those who knew in advance what music, painting and novels should be." 

One of my favorite Beethoven anecdotes concerns his "Razumovsky" quartets,  middle period quartets which to my ear do not sound terrible radical, but which did move the art of the string quartet forward. An Italian violinist named Felix Radicati asked Beethoven if the pieces could really be considered music, and Beethoven replied, “Oh, they are not for you, but for a later age!”

Robert Anton Wilson was not a best selling author during his lifetime, but he has retained a loyal following years after his death. Should we think that perhaps his writings will come into vogue at a later age? And was he fortunate because he managed for the most part of "live in obscurity?" 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

New documentary about the KLF

There's a new documentary about the KLF, Who Killed The KLF? The Hollywood Reporter has a review, penned by John DeFore.  Here is the lead paragraph:

"A decades-long art prank the world briefly mistook for a pop band, The KLF were far more interesting than they might’ve seemed to music lovers who avoided rave culture like a drug of dubious origin. The British duo had world-conquering hits, staged some colorful happenings, and then disappeared, leaving bemused onlookers to wonder, as Chris Atkins’ doc puts it, Who Killed The KLF? While the bandmates themselves don’t deign to participate here, Atkins has obtained enough previously unheard audio interviews to make sense of their story. It’s quite a ride, even for viewers who don’t know the difference between 'What Time Is Love?' and the contemporaneous Haddaway anthem without 'Time' in its title."

Saturday, October 9, 2021

RAW on Ayn Rand

An apparent image of what appears to be an apple. Unsplash photo by Chris Dez

The latest Martin Wagner discovery is "Objections to Objectivism." It's a detailed critique of Ayn Rand.

Much of it discusses what is happening when a viewer gazes at an object that seems to be an apple, and I found it easier to follow than the "chair letter" mentioned yesterday. Excerpt:

Again, let us be country-simple here. The objects, events, experiences, of the non-verbal level appear, in the light of modern science, as creations of our nervous systems, just like the verbal level. That is, the space-time event which we call “an apple” exists evidently somewhere outside our skins, and, according to the most reliable (useful) equations, has a structure which can best be visualized or imagined as superimposition of waves of energy. The objective “apple” which we perceive does not contain this energy structure, which is known to us only by scientific and mathematical analysis and experiment; the “apple” of perception—the object—is manufactured by our senses and brain as they integrate various stimuli coming in from the energy-apple somewhere out there.

The invisible apple, the apple that we don’t see, the mathematical physicist’s or chemist’s “apple”, of course, contains the vitamins, flavor and other properties that make apples desirable to us. The visible apple, constructed by our nervous system, may not contain these needed elements—i.e., it may be a plastic or other artificial device designed to look like the invisible energy-apple that we really want.

Now, just as the objective apple (manufactured by our lower nervous system) is more dynamic than the word “apple” manufactured by higher levels of our nervous system), the external, invisible energy-apple appears still more dynamic. Every electron in it, for instance, is nonidentical with itself from second to second. (Every point has a date, in the Einstein-Minnkowski space-time manifold.)

Friday, October 8, 2021

RAW Semantics on the Kurt Smith letter

The latest RAW Semantics blog post weighs in on a letter Robert Anton Wilson wrote to Kurt Smith.  Brian writes, "It contains some wonderfully lucid passages that clarify parts of Bob’s whole approach and philosophy in a way that I haven’t seen elsewhere."

RAW's customary wit and humor is there, but I must confess I don't follow the argument that a chair being seen by a viewer is not a chair but a "space-time event." I get it it that the person is seeing in image of the chair in his brain, and that seeing it does not capture all of the features of the chair, but I still think it's a chair. RAW says he used to argue about such things with Robert Shea, and I wonder if this is one of those instances when I would have agreed with Shea.

The more important issue is that I want to complain, once again, that RAW's voluminous correspondence with Shea has not been preserved. In Cosmic Trigger 3, RAW expressed the hope that all of those back and forth letters would be published. Unfortunately, neither man did a good job of preserving their papers and allowing such a book actually to be written. It's mind-boggling to me that both of them made so lilttle effort, but it is what it is. (I've tried asking their literary heirs. RAW and his family moved constantly from place to place, so I'm sure it's a factor. I don't know Shea's excuse -- he lived in the same home for many years.) 

I still hope, somehow, those letters might be found and published. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Robert Anton Wilson podcast featuring Adam Gorightly

 The "Where Did the Road Go?" show: "Seriah hosts Greg Bishop and Adam Gorightly.  The discussion begins with iconic writer/philosopher Robert Anton Wilson and Discordianism- and quickly goes... a lot of places!"

More information here. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

New John Higgs book announced


When John Higgs said he was about to announce a new book, I looked at the visual cues and suggested the title might be Bonding with The Beatles.

I was in the general neighborhood. John's new book is called Love and Let Die. 

From the press release:

"The Beatles are the biggest band there has ever been. James Bond is the single most successful movie character of all time. They are also twins. Dr No, the first Bond film, and Love Me Do, the first Beatles record, were both released on the same day – Friday 5 October 1962. Most countries can only dream of a cultural export becoming a worldwide phenomenon on this scale. For Britain to produce two on the same windy October afternoon is unprecedented.

"LOVE AND LET DIE is a story about two opposite aspects of the British psyche exploding into global culture. It is a clash between working class liberation and establishment control, told over a period of sixty dramatic years. It is also an account of our aspirations and fantasies, and of competing visions of male identity. Looking at these cultural touchstones again in this new context will forever change your understanding of the Beatles, the James Bond films, and six decades of British culture."

More from John at the link. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

'Immanentizing the Eschaton' book available

From the latest John Higgs newsletter: "In previous newsletters, you may recall mention of a wild, strange and transformative pilgrimage from the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset to the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Accounts of this journey by some of the 69 pilgrims involved have been collected by Jeff Merrifield and form a new book called Immanentizing The Eschaton. It is required reading for those who suspect something important happened on that journey, and also those who were there but who are still trying to get their heads around what happened. Currently you can only get the book from Jeff directly, who you can reach by emailing mythologies23 (at) gmail dot com. His book on the underground temples of Damanhur, however, can be found on Amazon."

I wrote to Jeff and asked for relevant details, he wrote back with terms for people who live in the UK: "I've just had a new delivery of copies. It's £14.99 and I'll send it post free and signed. Best way is to pay through PayPal ( and if you use the payment to friends facility I don't pay a fee on your moneies. Make sure you put your postal address on the order.  If you are averse to PayPal, drop me a line and I'll send you my bank details for a direct payment."

OK, but what about Americans, etc.? "Postage world wide would have to add £4.99," he told me. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Prometheus Rising reading and discussion group, Week 52

By Apuleis Charlton
Special guest blogger

I’ll admit, I’ve never quite grasped the fourth-circuit. It seems dreadfully boring to me- and perhaps that is a sign of my imprint. I am an individualistic person who dislikes the constraints of society, intensely in some circumstances, and who strongly prefers to be left to their own devices. At the same time, that could easily describe a large swath of Americans or humans today. Perhaps when dealing with a “societal” circuit, the data will become dated quickly as society changes. I certainly don’t think that repression is the same issue today as it was in the seventies/eighties. Jerry Falwell is regarded by most “sane” people as a demagogue and hyper-moralist and few people outside of the church communities or the Republican Party can even begin to wrap their head around Evangelical Christian’s desires. 

So what happened after the publication of Prometheus Rising? To return to my favorite dead horse, the dissemination of information has warped our previous understanding of how a society should or can function. Writing at the end of the eighties, Thomas Pynchon notes in Is It Okay to Be a Luddite? that whatever the implications of the world wide web, it will mean more of the right information will get to the right people. If you take out the word “right,” I agree with Pynchon. As humans are bombarded by signals from other vantage points, we seem to enter into interior-negotiations with ourselves over whether we will be more affected by these “outside” signals or the “inside” signals of our daily lives. 

For example: the Conservative fear and hatred of Hollywood. Conservatives can recognize that the external stimuli of film, television, music etc. is alluring and disruptive to the insular communities that they desire. By importing different views of life and society into the living rooms of “average” citizens, even when those views are rendered as a weak, virtue-signalling subplot that is easily missed or ignored, the entertainment industry is an agent of chaos that brings the immorality of coastal society to small-town, “real,” America . Therefore, even something as milquetoast as Captain Marvel can be interpreted as a radical-feminist screed looking to upset traditional masculinity. 

I wouldn’t say that their fears are entirely unfounded. The way we consume entertainment and whatever we mean when we say “culture,” has a direct impact on how we view society in the “real world.” Thirty years ago, the most your average, “well-informed,” non-Jewish person would have known about Orthodox Jews would be that the men have little curls of hair and the women cover theirs. Last year, the whole nation was educated in Orthodox beliefs as we examined the community's relationship with COVID-19. Those who bothered to read or watch the news could hear debates about why people in Orthodox communities didn’t want to take the vaccine or stop gathering for religious events, despite medical science. Similarly, outside of occult circles, the Yezidi were unheard of in the West until around 2014 when coverage of the Syrian conflict forced them into news stories. We learn, or at least have the opportunity to learn, more about the world and different peoples than ever before. 

The blunt description of the Princess of Disks is quite humorous to someone who has studied tarot extensively. The Princess of Disks actually represents the sublime degradation of matter, the end point of the process described over the entire tapestry of the tarot, and the all-important function of destruction and rebirth. In a way, I read Wilson’s summary of the circuit in this chapter as the building of a tidal shelf, but it is rather a structure that is being destroyed and rebuilt in perpetuity. The fourth circuit changes to the consternation of those of us who were imprinted earlier than these heathen children.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

That number, again

 Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme

"The assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE ('the Ides of March' by the Roman system of dating) is the most famous political murder in history ... after a futile attempt to fight back, Caesar pulled his toga over his head and took the twenty-three dagger blows that killed him."

Introduction by Mary Beard to The Age of Caesar: Five Roman Lives, a new translation of Plutarch I am currently reading. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Beethoven 'Tenth Symphony' to be released soon

Some of Beethoven's notes for a planned 10th symphony. 

With the use of artificial intelligence, a group of musicologists have put together a Beethoven "Tenth Symphony," using fragments the composer left behind when he died. 

It will be easier to form an opinion on what to make of this after it's released,  but for now, there's a clip at the end of the article to listen to, a little over three minutes. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Bobby Campbell on almost everything


Bobby Campbell is one of the nicest people I know. Fortunately, he is also interesting, and quicker on his feet than I would be if I had a bunch of rapid fire philosophical questions tossed at me by Gerry Fialka, who interviews him for an hour and 40 minutes.

It turns out that if someone is interviewed for that long, you can learn a lot about him. If you watch, you will learn what Bobby has in common with Frank Zappa, how we should deal with Ezra Pound these days, what Bobby liked to do with $20 bills when he was younger, what Bobby would call his autobiography, how Robert Anton Wilson shaped his behavior, why he is optimistic, and many other topics. 

I inferred watching the video that Gerry Fialka seemed to know something about Frank Zappa; I'm a Zappa fan and I read the Barry Miles biography a few years ago. Well, it turns out that Fialka is an artist, writer and filmmaker who used to work with Zappa. The interview with Bobby is part of Fialka's interview series; there's also an interview with Steve "Fly" Pratt I need to get to.