Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Happy RAW birthday, new interview

Today is Robert Anton Wilson's birthday, and Martin Wagner at Robert Anton Wilson Fans Germania celebrates by posting an interview from late in RAW's life, "Throwing Shoes Down The Rabbit Hole With Robert Anton Wilson, An Interview by Rev. Dr. Shé D’Monford," giving answers that mostly are not terribly serious. A couple of Q and A's: 

I wouldn’t put it past you to do that or at least create a rumour that you have. However, we can lay one rumour to bed here and that is: ‘Robert Anton Wilson is dead’… In fact he is still ‘really living!’ Apart from living, what are you doing now?

Wilson: Teaching courses online through the Maybe Logic Academy. That’s at www.maybelogic.org

What is your aim with the online school?

Wilson: To use Internet to accelerate evolution and of course to annoy people who already think evolution has reached its peak.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Episode 65, Chapter 11

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger 

I’ve been looking forward to writing about Chapter 11 since the nascent planning stages of our Prometheus Rising group. I vividly remember this chapter and how it “opened a door” for me to understand some of the experiences I had had since beginning practicing magic. After rereading the chapter, I realize that Wilson (and many, many other writers) is correct…the ineffable doesn’t lend itself to translation…also, most of my experiences with neurosomatic consciousness are intensely private. Talking too much about one’s personal experience with the fifth circuit is akin to telling someone else about your dreams…unless you’re Coleridge or Steve Moore, you’re probably not going to come up with anything of interest. 

Some notes on the chapter: the drawing at the beginning of the chapter is not by Aleister Crowley but rather Lady Frieda Harris, though it was executed according to Crowley’s specifications. Crowley’s remarks on pranayama come from The Book of Lies and Book 4, Part 1 respectively. To disagree with Uncle Bob, I think that Crowley’s Liber E provides clear enough, if overly ambitious, instructions for pranayama. The years when I regularly practiced pranayama were some of the most productive in my life- and while I never achieved a regular regimen of an hour each day, for some time I practiced it for around forty minutes morning and evening. After fifteen minutes I would almost always feel a “shift” inside myself and would spend the remainder of practice blissfully snorting and blowing away. I think resuming pranayama will be the main exercize I follow from this chapter, and hopefully my sinuses will cooperate. 

When I read this chapter the first time I wasn’t particularly struck by the material on Christian Science and faith healing. While Mary Baker Eddy was a fascinating woman, and I always think of her when I stumble on ice, my exposure to people who really, really believe in “laying on of hands” and possess, in my opinion, an unhealthy reliance on homeopathy did not set me up to have much sympathy for such ideas. Today’s pandemic of anti-scientific thinking in the face of a global crisis has alienated me further from such beliefs. What would have appealed to me was Wilson’s sober-minded exploration of the Dark Night of the Soul and the unpleasant side of the fifth circuit and his whizz-drunk recounting of Hassan-i-Sabbah’s pleasure gardens. While I had read about the Old Man of the Mountain in other places and in Wilson before, I love his luridly detailed recreation of history. (And, I must say that I am incredibly skeptical of the level of detail added by Wilson or whatever historian Wilson was using as a source. While I’d like to believe that Sabbah had some time-released-fun-pills, I doubt it.)  

Wilson’s remarks about Hassan-i-Sabbah and whatever philosophies he liked to group under “tantra” appealed to me enough to soon try the third exercize from this chapter and explore Sex, Drugs, and Magick which would lead to some experiences that would greatly affect my own comprehension of reality and pleasure. Again, this is mostly highly personal experimentation that isn’t comfortable to write about nor would it be interesting to read. That said, I think it is time to begin thinking about beginning the Sex, Drugs, and Magick reading group on Jechidah- I’m thinking the new group will most likely begin February 28th, which should give me time to finish up some other projects before moving on to something else. Let me know what everyone thinks! 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

YouTube course on Prometheus Rising

 Eric Wagner's excellent post last week for the Prometheus Rising online discussion group drew a bunch of comments, including one from Spookah that shared some news I had never run across before: An online course on Prometheus Rising hosted by YouTube, presented by the Virtual Reality Mystery School. 

"The Virtual Reality Mystery School (re)connects people with the world’s heritage of spiritual, esoteric and mystical philosophy and practice, through a sharable VR experience. From ancient wisdom to modern science’s cutting edge, to make the most of now," the About section explains.  

There's a playlist of 18 different videos

"This series started out as a group-reading and discussion but quickly turned into a fully fledged course on RAW's classic work 'Prometheus Rising'.

"This series was created by and recorded at VR Mystery School (https://vrmystery.school) and contains:

"- The full text of Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson

"- Dissection of the subject matter by Alley Wurds (https://linktr.ee/elephantwords), Bachelor of Philosophy & expert on RAW's eight-circuit model

"- Questions from & discussion with the audience"

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Illuminatus! the musical?

Ben Graham (Twitter photo)

An amusing followup to yesterday's David Bowie discussion: My post generated some chatter on Twitter, and writer Ben Graham remarked, "As a personal OM project a couple of years back I was trying to push a story that in the late 70s Bowie had bought the film rights to Illuminatus! and was determined to make a musical version in which he played Hagbard Celine."

Friday, January 14, 2022

David Bowie remains a big rock star and fascinating person


David Bowie (Creative Commons photo by Adam Bielawski)

People have wondered for awhile whether David Bowie, the talented and fascinating British rock star, might have been interested in Robert Anton Wilson.  Here are a few sentences from Oz Fritz, who wrote about Bowie in 2016 after the sudden news arrived of Bowie's death from cancer. (In spite of his stardom, Bowie has managed to keep the news of his illness private, so the news was a terrible shock. But despite having no warning, Oz wrote a very substantial article, as you can see.)

I recall someone in the online Crowley course RAW gave posting a rumor or anecdote that David Bowie had been seen at a RAW talk in the LA area in the early to mid '70's. I never did discover the actuality of that, but it seems plausible. Bowie lived in LA at that time and traversed similar experimental territory with RAW. They both practiced qabala and magick and both used it in their artistic expression.

Bowie also appeared completely dialed in to the space migration, extra-terrestrial intelligence, Starseed Transmissions gestalt that RAW and Leary were promoting in the '70s ..... [Much more at the link.]

I have thought about Bowie again this week, after running across "Hunky Dory Turns 50," about the album sometimes seen as one where Bowie found his stride. 

Hunky Dory is the album that includes "Changes." When I looked up the album on Wikipedia, I discovered that it has a song, "Oh! You Pretty Things" that "reference the teachings of the occultist Aleister Crowley and his Golden Dawn and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, particularly with the lines 'the homo superior', 'the golden ones' and 'homo sapiens have outgrown their use'."

The Hunky Dory article also mentioned something else that's interesting: 1971 apparently is considered a year that provided the peak of classic rock:

"The classic rock era arguably launched in 1971, seeing the release of a multitude of iconic LPs. Specifically, these foundational and ground-breaking albums ranged from the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers to Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain; and from Joni Mitchell’s Blue to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On; and from Carole King’s Tapestry to Led Zeppelin IV. As the year ended—on 17 December—a 24-year-old British singer-songwriter David Bowie released Hunky Dory, a record whose musical versatility and genius rivals any of the Beatles’ late ’60s catalog."

There's a book about this, Never A Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth.

I am not a David Bowie expert but I have an old friend, Gary Shindler, who actually is, and so I asked Gary if he could help me by giving me his list of the top five Bowie albums. Gary kindly obliged, so exclusively for this blog, here is Gary's list:

1. Scary Monsters
2. Man Who Sold the World
3. Station to Station
4. Low
5. Aladdin Sane

"His catalog is vast and simplifying it to five albums isn't easy," notes Gary, a fan of the Hunky Dory album. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Blog update

After doing some research on who "Tommy Robinson" is, I have unpublished today's blog post on the Psychedelic Future Party.

I support allowing a wide variety of political views on this blog -- I cannot recall censoring a blog comment for political reasons and I've allowed comments from right wingers, left wingers, libertarians and so on -- but I'm really not comfortable with racism or ethnic hatred. I did not detect it in the party manifesto I posted this morning, but I'm just not comfortable with Tommy Robinson's views, or at least some of them, now that I've had a chance to understand who he is. (He's not a household name over here, i.e. in the U.S.)

And just to be clear, I don't like racism whether it comes from the right or the left or anyone else. So whatever one thinks of opinions I express here or anywhere else, I am attempting to be consistent. I apologize if I gave offense. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Help sought as Kirsty Hall battles cancer

Many of you will know Ian "Cat" Vincent from his prominent role in the RAW fandom community in the UK, and as an author and magician; he's often mentioned in this blog. Cat's wife, Kirsty Hall. is battling cancer, and although the cost of medical treatment is covered by the NHS, there are incidental expenses with getting treatment a considerable distance away from where the couple live. So a GoFundMe has been set up; it very quickly met its goal, but no doubt additional help would be welcome. (The account was created only three days ago -- I'm a bit slow to note this, but I only spotted it yesterday.)

Here is some of the announcement:

"Because this is a rare kind of cancer, treatment will take place in the specialist cancer centre at St James' Hospital in Leeds. This is an hour away from her home in Hebden Bridge, which is a trial for a disabled couple with no personal transport. Fortunately the hospital has a small hotel floor where Kirsty and Cat are able to stay for free during the week. The treatment itself is also free but there are a lot of incidental expenses, mostly weekly travel (a taxi one-way costs around £50, so they will potentially be spending around £600 on that alone) and daily meals (there are no cooking facilities in the accommodation). There have also been a lot of expenses involved in preparing to stay away from home for so long. It's all mounting up, so any help would be very gratefully received.

"Please only give if you can genuinely afford to, Kirsty and Cat know it's been a tough time for many folk and don't want people to put themselves into any financial hardship."

More here.  Cat has a Twitter account. And Kirsty does, too

Monday, January 10, 2022

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Episode 64, Chapter 10

Cover of the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger 

Exercise 5: “James Joyce said he never met a boring human being. Try to explain this. Try to get into the Joycean head space where everybody is a separate reality-island full of mystery and surprise. In other words, learn to observe.” 

 I have spent a lot of time trying to get into the Joycean head space. I wrote my master’s thesis on the influence of Finnegans Wake on Masks of the Illuminati. When I interned with him, the poet B. H. Fairchild recommended the audiobook of Dubliners where a different Irish actor or writer read each story. I got that audiobook and listened to it over and over again in the car as I finished my master’s degree and at the same time finished writing An Insider’s Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. I also listened to a cassette of Joyce reading from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake which also included other voices reading Joyce’s two books of poetry, and a cassette of Irish songs that included a short version of “Finnegan’s Wake”. I continued listening to this set of Joycean metaprogramming tapes after I got my master’s degree as I continued working on my still unfinished book on Joyce and Wilson. (I plan to finish a rough draft in 2022.) I would mix in some Wilson tapes as well.  

During my periods of Joyce obsession I have read Joyce’s books over and over again along with many books about Joyce. I had Finnegans Wake study groups from 1985 to 2021, and I watched a bunch of films about Joyce. I used to have a party on January 6 each year where we would watch the 1987 film The Dead. Joyce’s story “The Dead” takes place at a party for the Feast of the Epiphany around January 6, 1904. I took Bob Wilson to see that film in 1988. My last real period of Joyce obsession came in 2011 as I prepared to give a talk at the 22nd North American James Joyce Conference in 2011 on the question of whether Joyce included references to the Oz books in Finnegans Wake. I finished reading the Wake four times and Ulysses once that year. Of course, I think of Joyce a lot and read a bit of Joyce even when not in one of these obsessive Joyce periods. I did finish rereading Dubliners and two books on Joyce as I did this exercise over Christmas break 2021-2022. I also read a bit in Brenda Maddox’s Nora: A Biography of Nora Joyce. I have tried to read that biography since it came out in the 80's. I still have about 230 pages to go. At one point she refers to some of Joyce's letters to Nora as "even worse than Ulysses". Now, she meant their sexual explicitness, but I kept hearing the voices of many of my professors calling Ulysses the greatest novel ever written, so "even worse than Ulysses" could refer to every novel every written. Perhaps I should have "even worse than Ulysses" printed on the back of all of my books. On page 296 Maddox writes of Harriet Weaver’s generosity towards Joyce, “Miss Weaver’s largesse, some have argued, also impoverished world literature by allowing James Joyce to waste his lyrical gift on the bad joke of Finnegans Wake.” She does not provide any citation with the identity of these “some”. I know that Finnegans Wake frustrates many readers, including many of Joyce’s admirers such as Vladimir Nabokov.  

I guess this Joyce obsession has helped me to observe. It seems like looking for quarters [meaning] everywhere, in every person and every situation. Bob Wilson told me he loved Edna O’Brien’s description of Ulysses as a day where nothing, and everything, happens. Certainly, everybody seems “a separate reality-island full of mystery and surprise”. February 2, 2022, marks the centennial of the first publication of Ulysses as well as Joyce’s 120th birthday. Small pockets of our culture will “Try to get into the Joycean head space” this year. Hopefully this will bear some positive fruit for our troubled world. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

An initiation with Betty Boop

 At the end of every year, Jesse Walker does postings on his blog on the best 10 movies of 10  years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, etc. They are always fun to browse.

For 1931, Jesse listed "Bimbo's Initiation" as the year's best movie, with the comment, "Betty Boop: Final Secret of the Illuminati."

So naturally, I watched it (above, just under six and a half minutes) and I was surprised to see this short film, released about a year before Robert Anton Wilson was born, depict many of the themes in his works about secret societies, initiation and individual initiative. Some of the scenes are reminiscent of incidents in RAWs works, such as the upside down room Sigismundo finds himself in The Widow's Son. And see how the plot matches this RAW quote: 'The ultimate weapon has always existed. Every man, every woman, and every child owns it. It's the ability to say No and take the consequences." And Bimbo undergoes an underground journey, which as RAW wrote in Ishtar Rising is one of the recurring themes of his books. 

Check out the cartoon and see what you think! And I wish I knew if RAW ever saw it. 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Tips on listening to Bach

I plan to spend a lot of time this year listening to Bach. I'll listen a lot to some of my other favorites, too, such as Beethoven, Mozart, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. But for them, and for some composers I like, such as the Russian Futurists, I feel relatively up to speed. I've heard all of the Beethoven symphonies, for example, all of the string quartets, all of the piano sonatas. I've missed many of the most important Bach works, and I plan to fix that.

To that end, the updated Gramophone list of the 50 best Bach recordings seems useful, not just for suggestions on specific recordings, but to get a sense of what the major works are, so that you can explore other recordings. (I already have some favorite artists Gramophone's list doesn't seem to mention.) Gramophone has similar lists for Mozart and for Beethoven. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

RAW Semantics on that ubiquitous RAW quote


A particular quote from Robert Anton Wilson (from Email to the Universe) has been getting a lot of use on the Internet during the pandemic, and in a new post, RAW Semantics takes on what Brian considers a misuse and misunderstanding of the quote. (I'm not sure if Brian has any particular meme in mind, but I hope the above will serve as a representative example.)

Brian offers a meme of his own:

in his post, Brian cites a RAW quote which would seem to favor vaccination as a tool for dealing with potentially deadly diseases.

For more on how RAW  apparently felt about vaccinations, see this earlier post. 

Note that Brian does not address mandates in general, noting, "Like laws in general, some mandates make sense to me; but others don’t...." 

I think I've read that in Britain, masks are not required for children when they are at school. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Peter Quadrino goes to Dublin

The view from Vico Road

"This past summer, in the midst of a breakup from a long-term relationship and needing to go far away, I embarked on my first ever trip to Ireland. I ended up spending much of the past few months in and around Dublin."

So writes Peter Quadrino, aka PQ, who many RAW fans will recognize as a blogger who has been immersed in the works of James Joyce for many years. You'll want to read his latest blog entry, "So This Is Dyoublong?" Living inside the World of the Wake, Part 1"

"I grew up in New York City where famous sights like the Manhattan skyline, Verrazano Bridge, and Statue of Liberty were familiar aspects of home. An out-of-towner visiting a place like New York City for the first time would instantly recognize many of the landmarks and sights from the background or setting of the worlds of NYC-based films and tv shows. With Joyce's Dublin though, the city is not merely the setting for Finnegans Wake---so much of the book is about the landscape itself, the ecology, the littoral life of the coastal zone, the street grid and its voices, the layers of historical events that shaped the place. Dublin in the Wake becomes the universal city, a city rendered into text with so much mythical depth and detailed density it makes you contemplate all cities."

"On days when I wandered around in what seemed like a James Joyce theme park (a phrase I'm borrowing from former Dublin resident Robert Anton Wilson), casually walking down Westland Row, past Finn's Hotel, down to St. Stephen's Green, past the Shelbourne Hotel, over to King Street past the Gaiety Theater, back towards Grafton Street, up past Trinity College (all places that appear throughout Finnegans Wake) and then along the River Liffey, the river of life, the universal river Joyce anthropomorphized as Anna Livia Plurabelle in the Wake, I'd stop to stare at the varying ripples along the surface of the waters ... "

More here. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Forthcoming book on Terence McKenna, top psychedelic books

Terence McKenna

Writer Graham St John is working on a forthcoming book about Terence McKenna, Terence McKenna: The Strange Attractor (MIT Press, 2023). On Twitter, Erik Davis writes that St John is "currently writing what I have no doubt will be the definitive book on Terence McKenna."

Mr. St John also has written an article on "The best books on psychedelics and culture,"  which lists Davis' excellent High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies as one of the best books. Davis says St John's book Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT also belongs on the list. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Chapter 10, episode 63

The  exercise I find the most interesting in Chapter 10 is this one:

5. James Joyce said he never met a boring human being. Try to explain this. Try to get into the Joycean head space, where everybody is a separate reality-island full of mystery and surprise. In other words, learn to observe.

This seems closely related to the previous exercise:

4. Accept this book, if not in whole at least in general outlines. Assume you have been brainwashed. Try to learn as much from every human you meet about their separate reality-tunnel and see how much of it you can use to make your reality-tunnel bigger and more inclusive. In other words, learn to listen. 

I did some searching, trying to find the source of the claim that "James Joyce said he never met a boring human being." 

Sylvia Beach, born in America, was a bookseller and publisher in Paris; she was the first publisher of Ulysses and also gave Ernest Hemingway early support. She is apparently the source for the statement:

“As for Joyce, he treated people invariably as his equals, whether they were writers, children, waiters, princesses, or charladies. What anybody had to say interested him; he told me that he had never met a bore.” — Sylvia Beach

For the next week, I am going to try to get into other people's reality tunnels, by listening to them and observing them, with an attempt to learn from them rather than instantly judging their opinions. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The good news of 2021

I'm sure you've been hearing a lot of complaints about how bad 2021 was, so, via John Higgs on Twitter, here is "99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2021." Written by Angus Hervey and featuring these sentences about energy and climate change: "Doom and gloom however, is never the full story. Underneath all of that, the tectonic shifts of the energy transition continued, driven by a simple piece of economic logic: it is now cheaper to save the world than it is to ruin it."

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Books Read, 2021

As I do every year, I'm going to list the books I finished during the year. 

It does lean heavily toward libertarian-themed science fiction, as I am a judge for the Prometheus Award, but I would claim that I read pretty widely. Some of these are re-reads. 

Pretty much all of the nonfiction I read in 2021 was at least pretty good.  I liked the Znore so well, I bought another copy and gave it to a friend. 

I strongly recommend four novels, some old, some new: Situation Normal, Leonard Richardson, a new science fiction novel by an author I really like. I think at least some RAW fans might like it, please see my review. Customs Violation, Janice Weber, literary fiction by another favorite writer, she is always funny and she always writes well about sex and classical music; Citizen of the Galaxy, Robert A. Heinlein, which I somehow missed until now, could this be Heinlein's greatest juvenile? Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro, my first by the Nobel-winning writer, but it won't be my last. 

A lot of the fiction I had to read for the Prometheus Award was mediocre, although I liked some of it. Most of the nominees really worth reading are covered in the link to my Situation Normal review. 

1. Death Sweat of the Cluster: Selected Essays from Groupname for Grapejuice, Znore.
2. Braintrust: Requiem, Marc Stiegler.
3. The Pursuit of the Pankera, Robert A. Heinlein.
4. Situation Normal, Leonard Richardson.
5. Storm Between the Stars, Karl Gallagher.
6. Ready Player Two, Ernest Cline.
7. The War Whisperer: Book Five: The Hook, Barry Longyear.
8. The Age of the Infovore, Tyler Cowen.
9. Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth, Robert Anton Wilson.
10. Who Can Own the Stars?, Mackey Chandler.
11. Heaven's River, Dennis E. Taylor.
12. S.S.O.T.B.M.E. Revised: An Essay on Magic, Ramsey Dukes.
13. The Byzantine World War, N.J. Holmes.
14. Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, Scott Horton.
15. Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade,  Anthony Kaldellis. 
16. Eight Perfect Murders, Peter Swanson.
17. Cosmic Trigger the Play, Daisy Eris Campbell.
18. Customs Violation, Janice Weber.
19. Roger Zelazny (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), F. Brett Cox.
20. Memory Layne, Bob Adamov.
21. Sex, Drugs and Magick, Robert Anton Wilson.
22. Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Avi Loeb.
23. The Probability Broach, L. Neil Smith.
24. Mozart: The Reign of Love, Jan Swafford.
25. Drug Use for Grown-Ups, Carl Hart.
26. A Desolation Called Peace, Arkady Martine.
27. War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, John Dower.
28. The Little Book of Cannabis: How Marijuana Can Improve Your Life, Amanda Siebert.
29. The Hilaritas Press 'Natural Law' book, mostly never collected "new" material,  the manuscript of which I helped proofread. Edited by Chad Nelson. I'll let Hilaritas announce the final title, but it's a great book.
30. Scratch One Flattop: The First Carrier Air Campaign and the Battle of the Coral Sea, Robert Stern.
31. Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock and Roll, Robert Rodriguez.
32. 2050: Psycho Island, Phil M. Williams.
33. Citizen of the Galaxy, Robert A. Heinlein.
34. Bewilderment, Richard Powers.
35. Epicurus and the Pleasant Life, Haris Dimitriadis.
36. The Book of Dreams, Nina George.
37. Epicurus and His Philosophy, Norman Wentworth DeWitt.
38. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro.
39. A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny.
40. The Age of Caesar: Five Roman Lives, Plutarch.
41. Epicureanism: A Very Short Introduction, Catherine Wilson.
42. The Ruins of Ambrai, Melanie Rawn.
43. The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar, Peter Stothard.
44. 1942: The Year That Tried Men's Souls, Winston Groom.
45. The Carols of Christmas, Andrew Gant.
46. Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, Bryan Caplan.
47. Triple Cross, Marc Stiegler.