Psylocybin mushroom (Creative Commons photo). Source.
Friday, December 30, 2022
The Periodic Table of Energy is an unpublished book that apparently was a collaboration between Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson.
Prop Anon, who has been posting many RAW-related documents since completing his biography of Robert Anton Wilson, which is being brought out by Strange Attractor, has published an article on his Chapel Perilous website, "The Periodic Table of Energy--RAW's 1st article about 8 Circuits!"
Prop describes the piece as RAW's first piece on the Eight Circuit model, and the intro for the piece in the Berkeley Barb makes it clear that it's a collaboration between the two friends, Wilson and Leary.
The editor's note/intro to the 1975 piece from the Berkeley Barb, written by someone named Steve Long, says:
Wilson is currently writing The Starseed Signals, a book based on Leary’s scientific development from 1957 to the present: “I’m hoping to demonstrate that, as usual, the man most persecuted by society is its greatest genius,” he said.
Bob Wilson summarized The Periodic Table of Energy as follows: “The basic idea is that the human nervous system can evolve through 24 stages, turning on to new signals at each stage, tuning in to new gestalts, and therefore literally developing new circuits or new ‘brains.’ And the nervous system has been preprogrammed to through this evolution.”
Elsewhere, The Periodic Table of Energy excerpted in the Barb has been treated as an unpublished Leary book. Here is my 2012 post about the manuscript being auctioned off. Here is the Boing Boing piece, by Mark Fraunfelder, about the auction. You can read the press release about the auction,
I don't know who bought it, what happened to the manuscript, or if anyone is going to bring it out; I will make inquiries. Maybe Prop knows something?
Thursday, December 29, 2022
I don't know how history is taught here in Japan, but in the United States in my college days, most of the time was spent on the study of political leaders and wars -- Caesars, Napoleons and Hitlers. I think this is totally wrong. The important people and events of history are the thinkers and innovators, the Darwins, Newtons and Beethovens whose work continues to grow in influence in a positive fashion.
-- Claude Shannon, quoted in A Mind At Play
Spurred by listening to the recent Hilaritas Press podcast on Claude Shannon, the American mathematician mentioned in RAW's works, I spent the week reading A Mind At Play, the biography written by the two co-authors Mike interviewed in the podcast, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman.
Shannon essentially invented information theory and led the way for the digital age with his seminal 1948 paper, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication." Among other points, Shannon showed how all messages could be transmitted using the binary digits or "bits" used by computers, showed how noise could be eliminated from messages (it was previously assumed, the authors say, that noise in messages was just something you had to put up with), showed how files of information can be compressed and provided other insights. The authors also cover Shannon's other work, including many devices that showed how Shannon's mind worked and how he liked to amuse himself. (He invented a wearable computer to use in casinos while trying to win at roulette, an early chess playing computer and a flame throwing trumpet. One of Shannon's devices that amused me had a switch that was flipped to be turned on. When you flipped the switch, a hand would emerge and turn the switch off!)
I did my best to follow the authors' technical explanations. Next I plan to read another book dealing with information, James Gleick's The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, which apparently also has quite a bit about Shannon.
I can't help but notice how different Shannon was from another subject of a Hilaritas podcast, Buckminster Fuller. As Alec Nevala-Lee's biography shows, Fuller did have many interesting ideas, but he fibbed constantly about his biography and achievements, took credit for other people's ideas, exaggerated his successes and constantly sought fame and acclamation. A Hilaritas podcast with Kurt Przybilla covers some of Fuller's ideas and also transmits some of Fuller's self-serving BS, although to Przybilla's credit, he corrected podcast host Mike Gathers when Mike suggested that Fuller might be the kind of person who didn't worry about credit. (The podcast came out before the Nevala-Lee book, so neither the host nor the interviewee had access to Nevala-Lee's revelations).
Shannon simply pursued his own interests. He avoided publicity when he could and tried to avoid being turned into a guru.
After Shannon became famous, he wrote a piece called "The Bandwagon" in which he tried to discourage others from turning Shannon's information theories into all-purpose explanations for unrelated fields. And when Fortune magazine ran a piece on Shannon, with two opening paragraphs hailing Shannon's genius, Shannon protested that "communication theory is not in the same league with relatively and quantum mechanics."
It's also telling, I think, that Fuller apparently made up a story about Albert Einstein appreciating Fuller's genius while Shannon downplayed his interactions with Einstein, merely saying they sometimes waved to each other. Shannon worked for awhile at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where Einstein was the most famous scholar. According to one story, one time when Shannon was lecturing, Einstein wandered into the classroom, listened for awhile, whispered into the ear of a man at the back, and then left. When he finished his class, Shannon rushed to the back of the room to find out what the great man had said. Einstein had asked where to find the bathroom!
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Listening to the Oz Fritz episode of the Hilaritas Press podcast made me want to re-read Masks of the Illumnati and the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy once again, as Oz apparently has recently done. There's discussion of Kabbalah, an interestingly topical oddity in the Cat books, a book recommendation, and talk about Oz' interest in Bob Dylan, among other topics. Not too much about Oz' work as a recording engineer and producer, but I had the feeling listening to the podcast that Oz could talk for hours about different topics. I do wish there had been a bit more discussion about Oz' interest in music.
Next month's episode is anarchist writer Wayne Price discussing Peter Kropotkin.
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
I often get books for Christmas (because I ask for them.) This Christmas, I got three titles by asking my wife and my son to give them to me. What fascinates me is that all three of the books are connected to this blog.
John Higgs' book on the Beatles and James Bond has not yet been published in the U.S., so my wife ordered it from the Book Depository, which ships books worldwide from Britain. I am eager to read it. It turns out to be a pretty hefty book, about 500 pages.
The back cover has endorsement quotes from Salena Godden, Jeremy Deller and Stuart Maconie. I kind of know who Salena Godden is because she has been associated with John Higgs and the British Discordian crowd. I have no idea who Jeremy Deller or Stuart Maconie are. Presumably when a literate British person hears that Jeremy Deller or Stuart Maconie have endorsed a book, he or she will possibly feel an irresistible lust to read it. I wonder who will be quoted in next year's American edition?
I put up a blog post announcing Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots by J. Christian Greer and Michelle K. Oing earlier this year, and now that I have it, I can finally read it. It is about "Japan's oldest pilgrimage route," and it includes many collages in color. It seems like an unusual book. More information about the book at the link.
Speaking of Christian Greer, here is an announcement on Twitter from Berkeley Alembic: "We're extremely excited to announce a new 5-part seminar with @erik_davis and J. Christian Greer: 'Expanded Minds: Spiritual Wisdom from the Psychedelic Underground'." More information here. One more bit about Christian: "His forthcoming book, Angelheaded Hipsters (Oxford University Press), explores the expansion of psychedelic culture in the late Cold War era."
Finally, I have a new copy of RAW Memes by Richard Rasa, which collects together many of the memes Rasa has produced. On the pages facing the memes are additional extracts of RAW prose. Apparently the reader is supposed to figure out the patterns Rasa used in assembling the book, so this should be a test of my RAW scholarship.
Also, fortunately, by its nature this is a book that can be read in bits, and I have other distractions now. For one thing, I am trying to finish a biography of Claude Shannon, A Mind At Play, that I got interested in after listening to the Hilaritas Press podcast featuring the two authors, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman.
My main Christmas gift some years ago was a big hardcover, the Oxford Classical Dictionary. It had little connection to this blog. It was an expensive hardcover, and soon after I got it, they put out a new edition!
Monday, December 26, 2022
Unsplash photo by Benjamin Child
The latest piece we are all reading as part of are ongoing reading group reads both like an essay which is deeply engaged with Buddhism, and one that takes on the "Buddhism industry," at least as it's practiced in the West.
I've taken instruction in mindfulness meditation, and there's a lot of emphasis on technique: How to sit, ow to focus upon the breath, how to perform the walking meditations. (Mindfulness meditation basically comes out of the Theravada Buddhist tradition in south Asia; RAW seems more familiar with the Zen Buddhism that is prevalent in more northern areas of Asia, such as China and Japan). RAW's essay seems to offer a critique of such instruction:
There is probably nothing funnier than the attempts of an Occidental adult to learn contemplation. He generally sits tensely (in the full lotus position, of course), screws up his face as if he were doing a problem in triple integral calculus, and slowly turns purple.
If you ask him what he is doing, he says he is trying to "force" his "mind" to stop thinking. A dog has more sense. He simply sits down, or more often lies down, and contemplates. He often does not think he's doing anything special, and he is not trying to become a Buddha. He simply contemplates.
This is pretty amusing and also maybe a little unfair; in mindfulness instruction, the instructors usually tell their students not to worry about whether they are sitting in the correct position, and they usually students to relax and not to judge themselves over whether they are "doing it right;" when your mind wanders, you are supposed to calmly focus upon your breath.
But perhaps RAW has a point; it's easy to get caught up on the awareness of breath technique. Perhaps the instructors should emphasize alertness and paying attention, and then simply say that watching your breath in one possible technique. RAW argues here that focusing on the techniques of meditation practice means that you wind up focusing on the "road map" rather than the journey.
I've had trouble maintaining a meditation practice. I know that other people say they get great results; I eventually get bored and feel like I'm not getting enough out of it.
The discussion that "In the highest contemplation, there is no consciousness of 'I'" toward the end of the essay sounds like a reformulation of the Buddhist doctrine of no-self.
I guess I am curious what other folks who have tried studying how to meditate will think of this essay.
This is another early piece, published in The Realist back in 1959. Next week, we take on "Don't Be Afraid of Black Magick," which was published in 1977.
Sunday, December 25, 2022
Unplash photo by Sixteen Miles Out
Some links, as you celebrate the day:
Short clip (about a minute) of Joseph Campbell on feeling the rapture of being alive. Similar to what RAW writes about oceanic experiences?
Browse Steve Fly's books. Available for use of that Amazon gift card you may have received.
Saturday, December 24, 2022
A recent photo of Nick Herbert, posted at his blog.
The New Yorker runs a piece on "The World-Changing Race to Develop the Quantum Computer," by Stephen Witt, and my favorite "hippie physicist," Nick Herbert, pops up in the narrative:
"But Clauser had also demonstrated that entangled particles were more than just a thought experiment. They were real, and they were even stranger than Einstein had thought. Their weirdness attracted the attention of the physicist Nick Herbert, a Stanford Ph.D. and LSD enthusiast whose research interests included mental telepathy and communication with the afterlife. Clauser showed Herbert his experiment, and Herbert proposed a machine that would use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light, enabling the user to send messages backward through time. Herbert’s blueprint for a time machine was ultimately deemed unfeasible, but it forced physicists to start taking entanglement seriously. 'Herbert’s erroneous paper was a spark that generated immense progress,' the physicist Asher Peres recalled, in 2003."
Hat tip, Joseph Matheny. I guess I should make the RAW connection explicit: Nick Herbert is mentioned in the first Cosmic Trigger book.
Friday, December 23, 2022
Thursday, December 22, 2022
Robert Anton Wilson as a Pokemon, posted on Mastodon by @firstname.lastname@example.org
Elon Musk's tenure as Twitter boss has been notably rocky, disappointing his supporters and making his foes gleeful. A thread I spotted on Twitter from Anosognosiogenesis@pookleblinkyappears to apply the Snafu principle to Musk:
"Robert Anton Wilson's SNAFU principle: communication is only possible between equals. The powerful are surrounded by yes-men who filter all information to them to minimize their discomfort.
"This is one reason billionaires don't understand *anything* about anything."
Speaking of Musk, sort of, I have been experimenting with using Mastodon, which has become the alternative social network of the moment. If you care to follow me, I'm @email@example.com
Mastodon intrigues me because it is decentralized, operated from a bunch of different servers, so in theory one person or one corporation can't take it over and impose his/her/their will on everyone. (You don't log on to "Mastodon," you log in to your particular server hosting your account.) But at least so far, I don't see it as a viable alternative to Twitter.
I tend to use Twitter as a kind of headline service and to follow people who I think are particularly interesting.
As far as I can tell, most of the Mastodon users are left wingers who are mad at Elon Musk. So if you want to read endless denunciations of Musk or Donald Trump or read a lot about trans issues, it's a good site.
But Mastodon has little on many topics I'm interested in. For now, I'm going to have to continue to use Twitter to follow what's going on in the world of Robert Anton Wilson fandom. There are a few RAW postings, but not a lot. I also can't use Mastodon to follow news about my favorite sports team, the Cleveland Guardians. I searched and searched, and all I could find were a couple of general baseball feeds.
And many of my favorite Twitter folks haven't migrated to Mastodon yet. Prop Anon is on Mastodon, and so is John Higgs, but many other folks aren't there, or have set up Mastodon accounts without actually being active.
Perhaps as Mastodon grows, it will become more comprehensive in its topics and more useful. And I did manage to find a libertarian server (or "instance"), liberdon.com, to host my account.
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
John Higgs takes on AI art in his latest newsletter, arguing that most of it is not very interesting, and then writes about an artist named Dave Green who uses lucid dreaming to make interesting images using AI. John does not mention surrealism, although I wonder if this is part of the inspiration here.
John also points to a recent interview where he mentions he is "working on four books at the moment," but doesn't offer any clues on what they are about. More information to come, I'm sure.
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
The above cat, Munchkin, recently relocated from East Timor to Virginia, on the East Coast of the U.S. He's been reunited with my friend Rob Pugh, a RAW fan, and Rob's wife. Apparently, twice a year, it is possible to transport a cat from East Timor to the U.S., so long as you are willing to pass through Portugal.
Rob's wife works for the State Department and was earlier this year stationed at the U.S. Embassy in East Timor. She was transferred back to Washington, D.C. She and Rob thought it would be easy to take their cat along, but it didn't work out that way, Rob reports:
"When we got to the airport in June, despite the many assurances from the airline, they refused to let our cat board with us... long story short, after months of logistical, bureaucratic and other obstacles, we just got back last night from a week and a half of 30+ hour flight times, from returning to Timor and hand carrying her out through Singapore, Dubai, Portugal... "
When I asked for more details about what happened to the cat when the couple tried to board with it back in East Timor, Rob added:
"After a few frustrating hours at the airport, the Mrs and I called it and decided we weren't getting on the plane, returned to our empty government housing and spent 3 weeks, to no avail, trying to figure out an exfil/extraction from Timor to the USA. Due to the requirements/vagaries of government regulations, after three weeks we had to call it and leave our cat there while we tried to figure out a way to get her out of the country. Very luckily we had in the couple months prior frequented the only animal boarding, supply, feed store in *the entire country* and were able to board her there while we had to come back to the states. There are, literally, no - zero - none pet relocation services companies in the country (see again, developing country/third world) and we spent the last four months contacting multiple companies in Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, the USA to try and find some way to get her to the US. To no avail. There are limited flights out of Timor, and the countries they go through - Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia - all are heavily restricted wrt animals. But twice a year there are flights run through Portugal (former Portuguese colony) that served as our Plan B. After 4.5 months, Plan B was now Plan A, and once navigating more bureaucratic State Dept nonsense, we went back this month to hand carry her out. It was, tbh, just a nightmare. But it all worked out, and now our 'family' is reunited."
I can't top Rob's story, but by happenstance I was involved in a much more modest cat transportation effort over the weekend.
A volunteer transportation outfit called Imagine Home needed to move a newly-adopted cat from Michigan to New York, so a relay of volunteers moved the cat from point to point. My wife and I took possession of the cat in Elyria (west of Cleveland) and transported it to Mentor (east of Cleveland).
My wife and I took possession of a cat named Smoke from these folks.
Smoke sitting in the back seat of my wife's car.
My wife and I in Elyria, Ohio, after we've taken possession of Smoke.
Monday, December 19, 2022
The rock band The Doors. Maybe the best thing about the band was that it took its name ultimately from the wonderful William Blake quoted cited at the beginning of RAW's essay. Public domain photo, source.
I tend to classify Robert Anton Wilson's work in terms of three main periods: The early years (when he wrote for Paul Krassner's The Realist and other publications, middle period "classic" RAW (including Illuminatus! and Cosmic Trigger, and the later period of books such as TSOG.
But "Sex Education for the Modern Liberal Adult," tends to suggest that not too much should be made of such classifications, as it is sharply written and just as good as anything written during the "classic period."
And it, and the other pieces selected by Chad, make me wonder how much other really good stuff is out there, as piece by piece, it seems to me that Natural Law Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw is as consistent in quality as Email to the Universe, which I regard as an exemplary collection.
"But to see your own blood draining out ... " I never minded giving blood (which I stopped doing after I was made sick from hepatitis by eating a doughnut, from a shop which had employed someone who was sick and thus managed to spread it to quite a few people), but when I had a nosebleed recently, it was startling to me!
I love the sentences about how millions of "cycles, epicycles, rhythms, and processes" make up our day to day existence, including such things as spring, summer, fall and winter. I confess that moving from Oklahoma to Ohio has reinforced by loathing for cold weather. But there's also something to be said for the sharply drawn four seasons in the northern part of the U.S.
The church's loathing of sex inspired the same sort of strong dislike in me that it inspired in RAW, although in fairness the modern church seems much more sensible than the early church, when loathing of the body was much worse. (There is apparently controversy over whether the early Christian scholar Origen castrated himself. St. Paul's statement that it is "better to marry than to burn" would seem to suggest that lust is unnatural or sinful.)
"A Zen master once summed up Buddhism in the one word, 'Attention'." This is another example of how RAW understood Buddhism rather well; this is a good one-sentence summation of mindfulness, which is essentially the practice of Theravada Buddhism.
The remarks about the "oceanic experience" seem to suggest a kind of mysticism that does not conflict with science. Are we "all stumbling into this experience constantly," as RAW asserts, or do only some of us do? For an essay that's only a few pages, this seems like a remarkable manifesto.
Footnote: I should not that I re-read this chapter on my smartphone, using the Nook ebook I purchased from Barnes and Noble. As I wrote a few days ago, the inexpensive ebook does seem to work now.
Sunday, December 18, 2022
My cat is sick and I'm not going to do the long blog post I had planned, but here is Martin the deer visiting Rasa. (More here).
Saturday, December 17, 2022
Friday, December 16, 2022
The Hilaritas podcast on Claude Shannon, which I listened to yesterday, is a lot of fun and focuses on Shannon's quirky sense of humor. (I am sorry that his plans for his own funeral were not put into effect.) It features Shannon biographers Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman; I am sure I will read their book, A Mind At Play.
The next episode comes out soon -- Dec. 23 -- and will feature Oz Fritz on the use of magick in Robert Anton Wilson's fiction, so I'll be tuning in.
Thursday, December 15, 2022
If you have held back from participating in the ongoing online reading group for Natural Law Or Don't Put a Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw because you could not afford the trade paperback, I have some good news: A good, cheaper ebook version is finally available.
There is still no Kindle version because of weird copyright issues the Robert Anton Wilson Trust is still trying to sort out. (For more on this, see this blog post and Rasa's comment.) But now for about $9 you can buy a Nook ebook from Barnes and Noble, and read it on your cell phone or tablet using the Nook app.
As I wrote earlier, when I bought the Nook book some weeks ago, it would not display correctly on my phone, and I wound up having to ask Barnes and Noble for my money back. (I don't know if the file would have worked on the Nook reading tablet, which I don't own.) Rasa continued to work on the problem and finally got it fixed. I bought it again the other day, and it reads fine on my phone. I'm happy to now own both the paper book and the ebook, and to have a copy of the book I can carry on my phone.
I hope the release of the corrected Nook ebook will make it possible for everyone to afford a copy of the book.
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Bobby Campbell's latest newsletter features new art that I liked (pictured above, paraphrasing Buckminster Fuller?) and while I knew some of his news from following Bobby on Twitter, this was new to me:
"I’m eyeing up a 2023 release of my first full graphic novel: OKEY-DOKEY - The Dream@wake Sutra. Which weaves together the Agnosis! & Buddhafart comix into a 244 page Tale of the Tribe."
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Hilaritas Press has announced the release of RAW Memes, a collection of memes by Richard Rasa built around Robert Anton Wilson quotes.
RAW came up with many memorable epigrams, and I've always enjoyed Rasa's memes and have often featured them here. I've put the book on my Christmas list.
Rasa says, "When Hilaritas Press was launched, I was rereading Bob’s books, and making note of my favorite quotes. To advertise our new editions, I started using those quotes in illustrated memes. At the time of writing this, Hilaritas Press has published 20 books. I’ve created a couple hundred memes for Hilaritas Press, the RAW Trust and Flying Lasagna Enterprises. The memes in this collection of RAW Memes are my favorites."
Monday, December 12, 2022
By Chad Nelson
Special guest blogger
I thought about steel manning the case for natural law, but realize I cannot do a competent job of it. The extent of my homework was to re-read Rothbard’s chapters on the topic in Ethics of Liberty, but it only left me with more questions. I turned to a Clarence Thomas web search hoping to find something more basic. Thomas’s belief in natural law was a point of controversy during his Senate confirmation hearings in 1991, albeit one that took a back seat to the Anita Hill allegations. It’s telling that one can find a litany of academic articles attempting to explain natural law, but very little in the way of a Cliff’s Notes version. Why does it take a law review article to explain something that’s supposed to be so self-evident nobody in their right mind would deny it? Furthermore, why don’t its proponents lead with actual examples of natural law? It ought to be the easiest way to make the case. If these “laws” are so timeless, cross-cultural, and intuitive, surely citing a few of them would give dimwits like us the lightbulb moment we need to recognize it.
After an admittedly weak effort to become a “metaphysical wizard…like Konkin and Rothbard” (p.54), I’m still left thinking that natural law is “ontological spaghetti” (p.45). I’m not clueless about it. I generally understand what its advocates are getting at. It just doesn’t seem possible to ever arrive there. Indeed, natural law seems only able to exist as high-level abstract theorizing. A fun thought exercise, but lacking “real world” applicability, it becomes worthless. Recognizing this, RAW uses his essay to "bring his adversaries down from out of the clouds” as Oz noted in last week’s comments. Or, as RAW puts it, “To come out of our heads…means to come to our senses, literally…” (p.83)
One of the more effective strategies RAW employs is to detribalize, as when he compares and contrasts some of the claims of competing natural law cultists: Mormons, Catholics, Objectivists, feminists, ecologists, Mayans, Aztecs, Nazis, Druids, libertarians, etc. No ideology is spared. These examples are endlessly amusing of course, but if you’re self-aware, they also make you wonder which of your own absurd beliefs might land you on this list.
If we can barely find agreement among today’s tribes on what is “natural,” how can we ever move backwards in time to evaluate generations past? Can’t we find one such law to put to the test? Says RAW, “about the only rule all tribes agree on is the one that says people who criticize the rules should be burned, toasted, boiled in oil or otherwise discouraged from such heresy.” (p.46) (An interesting aside: heresy “comes from the Greek, heiress, to choose…” (p.62))
The funniest parts of the essay for me come out this smorgasbord of cultural skewering. The whole thing has the feel of a George Carlin special. Indeed if Carlin was “the dean of countercultural comedians,” RAW may well be one of the school’s co-founders. I imagine RAW would have a comedic field day in 2022 given how many more competing natural law cults have arisen.
I found the most interesting line of RAW’s thinking to be his juxtaposition of scientific and natural laws. Natural law advocates are fond of claiming to have discovered the “Science of Justice” (Spooner), so it’s nice to see a philosopher with laboratory experience and scientific know-how confront the claim. Wilson says the claim stems from their misunderstanding of “laws” of the scientific variety, which, if we are being precise, are more appropriately termed approximations, current best guesses, models, etc. Yes, some prevailing scientific laws may be so reliable that we may take them for granted, but as we know, paradigms shift. Besides, scientists, unlike natural law cultists, never resort to burning, toasting, or boiling each other in oil for questioning or seeking to revise what we know. Err...
Perhaps natural laws are like scientific laws in that way though. Not quite universal, but so darn close that questioning them is reserved for only the nuttiest among us.
RAW: “[N]atural law in [George] Smith's sense would be akin to an absolutely Newtonian scientific prediction and would be equivalent to a kind of practical science, like saying, ‘if you jump off a tall building without a parachute, you will get hurt.’
"One trouble with this unexpected and incongruous intrusion of pragmatism into metaphysics, as I see it, is that it takes the spooky religiosity out of Natural Law, opens the matter to debate and discussion, examination of real details of actual cases, how to gauge probable outcomes, etc., and thus approaches real since, almost. This tendency seems to me a step in the right direction, but it relinquishes the metaphysical Absolute Truth that people like Rothbard and Konkin and other metaphysicians are seeking. That which is placed in a practical sensory-sensual space-time context is no longer absolute, but becomes a matter of pragmatic choice, tactics, strategy and the relativity that obtains in all empirical judgments.” (p.31)
(Another interesting aside: This study of human action, praxeology, is a central component in Rothbard’s and other Austrian economists’ philosophy, and comes from the Latin for the “customary way of doing things — i.e., the tribal game-rules.” (p.18))
After all is said and done, we are left with the conclusion that natural law is just a way for men to “rationalize their own prejudices.” (p.44). A word that appears frequently throughout the essay is “word” itself: “word-and-symbol hypnosis," “webs of words,” “word-play,” “snarl words,” etc. This is obviously no coincidence -- much of this debate over revolves around language, and how we map it to “sensory-sensual experience.” RAW shows that when coupled, “natural” and “law" happen to be two words that “do not correspond to any real territory.” (p.5)
Sunday, December 11, 2022
My AI-produced movie poster for Illuminatus!, see this blog post.
If you missed it, Rasa posted a comment this weekend to provide on update on the efforts to make Illuminatus! into a TV series: There's nothing to report now, but efforts are continuing.
Rasa wrote, "There are machinations underfoot, but alas, nothing that can be reported on.
"RAW's daughter, Christina, laughs often about the fact that trying to get Illuminatus! to the screen has been an ongoing effort for decades. She is optimistic about the current efforts, but realistic enough to know that you just don't know until you know, and even then you have to see the credits roll before you really believe it."
Saturday, December 10, 2022
Friday, December 9, 2022
I don't know anyone happy with politics these days, but Robert Anton Wilson, who generally had little good to say about modern politics and modern politicians, was an optimist about how advances in technology can make life better. That's one of the themes of Cosmic Trigger 2, and of course it's reflected in his writings elsewhere.
In a remarkable article for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson discusses ten big technology breakthroughs during the past year. Thompson wrote on Twitter, "Genuinely some of the most inspiring and interesting reporting I’ve done all year," and it seems hard to disagree.
Thursday, December 8, 2022
[If you read this blog, you can probably guess I have a soft spot for underrated writers. I not only promote Robert Anton Wilson here, I also write about Robert Shea (who can use more help than Wilson, as far as I can tell). I did a website devoted to George Alec Effinger years ago that I need to revive.
Another writer I like is R.A. Lafferty. A story I nominated for the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, "Primary Education of the Camiroi," has bee named a finalist. The members of the Libertarian Futurist Society will vote on the award next year, and a winner will be announced in a few months. Here is the official press release -- The Management.]
2023 PROMETHEUS HALL OF FAME AWARD FINALISTS ANNOUNCED
HEINLEIN, LAFFERTY, LEWIS, LONGYEAR AND PRATCHETT RECOGNIZED
The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for the 2023 Hall of Fame Award for Best Classic Fiction.
This year's finalists – first published between 1945 and 2000 - include novels by C.S. Lewis and Terry Pratchett, a Robert Heinlein novelette, an R.A. Lafferty story and a collection of linked stories by Barry B. Longyear.
* “Free Men,” a 1966 novelette by Robert Heinlein first published in his collection “The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein” and later collected in “Expanded Universe,” offers a strong defense of freedom and American ideals. The novelette focuses on the aftermath of an invasion and U.S. occupation after a nuclear “20 Minute War” and how a small band of heroic but practical guerrilla fighters survive, adapt and resist tyranny at great cost.
* “Primary Education of the Camiroi,” a 1966 short story by R.A. Lafferty reporting on a fact-finding trip by an Earth delegation to study education practices on the planet Camiroi. The story offers a scathing and satirical critique of the top-down approach and lack of rigor in public/government education, arguably more relevant now than when it was first published. Besides incorporating flashes of Lafferty’s deadpan original voice and distinctive brand of humor, the story shows how to train youth to be competent and capable adults – rather than serfs – who can accept liberty and its concomitant responsibilities.
* That Hideous Strength, a 1945 novel by C.S. Lewis (Book 3 of his Space Trilogy), revolves around a sociologist and his wife who discover a totalitarian conspiracy and diabolical powers scheming to take control of humanity, in the guise of a progressive-left, Nazi-like organization working for a centrally planned pseudo-scientific society literally hell-bent to control all human life. Its cautions about the therapeutic state and the rising ideology of scientism (science not as the value-free pursuit of truth, but as an elitist justification for social control) seem prescient today.
* Circus World, a 1981 collection of linked stories by Barry B. Longyear that imagines how Earth’s circus troupes have evolved on a far-distant planet into a circus- and magic-defined culture without a government but with strongly individualistic, voluntary and cooperative social norms and only One Law, designed to make it nearly impossible to impose government regulations or other legislation, that helps the planet’s citizens peacefully cooperate in resistance against coercive human invasion and statist tyranny.
* The Truth, Terry Pratchett’s 2000 novel, first nominated in 2001 for a Prometheus in the Best Novel category, is part of his satirical but historically informed Discworld series. With his usual tongue-in-cheek style, this novel focuses on politics and the development of newspapers, when a struggling scribe who’s the son of a privileged family conceives the notion of producing his newsletter with a new printing press. All too timely in its focus on misinformation and its theme of freedom of speech and press, the novel portrays how journalists report the facts (or not) and communicate “the truth” amid pressure from competing political factions.
In addition to these nominees, the Prometheus Hall of Fame Finalist Judging Committee considered three other works: The End of Eternity, a 1955 novel by Isaac Asimov; “The Trees,” a 1978 song by Neal Peart and Rush; and “Or Give Me Death,” a 1955 short story by Donald Westlake.
The final vote will take place in mid-2023. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at a major science fiction convention and/or online.
Nominations for the 2023 Hall of Fame Award can be submitted to committee chair William H. Stoddard (firstname.lastname@example.org) at any time up to Sept. 30, 2023. All LFS members are eligible to nominate. Nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse; they must explore themes relevant to libertarianism and must be science fiction, fantasy, or related genres.
First presented in 1979 (for Best Novel) and presented annually since 1982, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, civility, and civilization itself.
The awards include gold coins and plaques for the winners for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame), and occasional Special Awards.
The Prometheus Award is one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.
The LFS welcomes new members who are interested in science fiction and the future of freedom. More information is available at our website, www.lfs.org and Prometheus blog (lfs.org/blog/).
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Photo by Christopher Burns for Unsplash
If you pay any attention to technology news, you will know about ChatGPT, the new artificial intelligence writing program. You can learn about it at the website, and you can register at the site and try it out.
Here's what I got when I asked it about Robert Anton Wilson:
RAWIllumination.net: Is Robert Anton Wilson a great writer? Will he be remembered 100 years from now?
ChatGPT: Robert Anton Wilson was a prolific and influential writer, known for his books on topics ranging from philosophy and religion to conspiracy theories and the counterculture. He was a master of the written word, and his work continues to be highly regarded by many readers. It's difficult to predict exactly how he will be remembered 100 years from now, but it's likely that his writing will continue to be studied and appreciated by future generations.
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
Given all of the current hysteria over gay people and trans people, I thought this Tweet from Jesse Walker was interesting: "I spent much of the last few months working on a long magazine feature about some big things the Rufo "groomer" crusade gets wrong. It'll be out later this month. There is almost certainly material in here that you have not seen before. Reason makes this work possible."
I've put the graphic on this post that Jesse used. Jesse is hoping you will contribute to the Reason webathon.
Monday, December 5, 2022
A committee of five presents the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (John Trumbull painting).
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
So says the Declaration of Independence, which evokes natural law (i.e. in the previous paragraph it mentions "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God.") Natural law posits that there are "values intrinsic to human nature," as this Wikipedia article explains. These notions are what Robert Anton Wilson is taking on in his essay.
I wonder if my American readers think it is "natural" to drive on the right side of the road, and my British readers think it is "natural" to drive on the left side? Here is something interesting: "In the UK and Australia, people tend to turn left when entering a building. In the US, they turn right. It’s important to remember if you’re booking a trade show booth." (Source, third item).
A few annotations:
Loompanics, Page 3. Boy, did this publisher push the envelope. "According to Gia Cosindas, Amazon.com, eBay, and Google refused to allow Loompanics to advertise on their sites, since some of the books' content violates their editorial guidelines. Specifically, Google wrote, "At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain 'the promotion of violence [and] drugs or drug paraphernalia."
New Libertarian, Page 3. The Samuel E. Konkin III magazine. For back issues, including the "Natural Law debate" issue, Vol. IV, No. 13, that Wilson cites, go here. And I quite liked The Fractal Man, J. Neil Schuman's novel about Konkin.
Samuel Konkin III
"politics remains such a depressing paleolithic and murderous spectacle," page 9. See also Gene Healy on how politics makes everyone dumber.
For a New Liberty, Page 10. For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard, an anarcho-capitalist tract, was a big part of the libertarian surge in the 1970s. I had a hardcover copy, when I discovered libertarianism while in college from Illuminatus! and other sources, and it was very influential. I would guess that many serious libertarians have read it; I'd be surprised, for example, if Jesse Walker or Chad Nelson said they had not read it. Rothbard, by the way, was a strong peacenik, like RAW (he was a big influence on the late Justin Raimondo, the founder of Antiwar.com), and that allows many of us to overlook his other sins. (In fact, Raimondo wrote a book about Rothbard.)
"all three at once," Page 17. This business about "the hide of the Easter Bunny" is really funny; did you catch that RAW also is making a joke about the doctrine of the Trinity?
Simon Newcomb, Page 22 -- Simon Newcomb (1835-1909) was an accomplished mathematician and a very smart guy, but just as RAW mentions, he did argue that airplanes are not possible. (The Wikipedia article, buttressed by footnote 23, says that "When Newcomb heard about the Wrights' flight in 1908, he was quick to accept it," so in Wilson's terms he behaved like a scientist, not as a dogmatist: When he received new evidence he accepted that he was wrong. (I cannot resist repeating the famous saying of Arthur C. Clarke: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
"Doubt everything. Find your own light." Page 23. This seems like a rather free translation. In What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula, the last words are given as, "Transient are conditioned things. Try to accomplish your aim with diligence." The Fake Buddha Quotes website also wonders where this version of the the Buddha's last words came from.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Page 53. One of Robert Heinlein's most famous novels, published in 1966, is a favorite of science fiction fans (it won the Best Novel Hugo) but also is a favorite of libertarians (it was the first novel to win the the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, from the Libertarian Futurist Society, in a tie with Atlas Shrugged (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Fahrenheit 451 had to wait another year). I read it as a teenager and am overdue to read it again; Tyler Cowen re-read it in 2017 and found that despite his low expectations " it nonetheless holds up very well and in fact has aged gracefully."
Arthur Hlavaty, Page 56. The prominent science fiction fan and critic, read his fanzines! And here are some top quotes, and here is a useful biography. Arthur also founded The Golden APA, which had both Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea as members, see my interesting interview with him about it.
"I am writing in defense of personal choice here (if you haven't guessed that already); I merely object to having personal choices proclaimed as new religious revelations which we all must share or be damned," Page 57. RAW's version of libertarianism, and also another comment on what he sees as the irony of debating natural law with libertarians.
John 8:7, Page 63, the "admirable remark" which Wilson says "ought to be burned into the backside of every moralist, with a branding iron," is (in one translation), " So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
psittacine, Page 68, birds of the parrot family.
Next week: More on the Natural Law essay, featuring guest blogger Chad Nelson.
Sunday, December 4, 2022
I've been mentioning Prop Anon a lot in these blog posts recently. There's a reason for that. He's been posting a great deal of material about Robert Anton Wilson, now that he's finished his upcoming biography of Wilson.
One of his latest projects is that he's been posting material from Wilson's Maybe Logic Academy class on conspiracies. Access the postings at Prop's Chapel Perilous website.
Saturday, December 3, 2022
There's been no news on the effort to turn Illuminatus! into a TV series since the attempt was announced in 2019, and now one of the people who was working on it has a new job.
Hunter Gorinson has been named president and publisher of Oni Press/Lion Forge, apparently an indie comics outfit in Portland, Oregon, more here. He had been listed as an executive producer for the planned Illuminatus! adaptation, as you can see from the other link.
Does anyone have any updates on the Illuminatus! TV show? I've heard notbing since 2019.
Friday, December 2, 2022
The above photo was posted by Rasa on Facebook; it shows Mount Shasta, near where Rasa lives. Can we speculate that one of the inspirations for the great job Rasa does running Hilaritas Press is that he lives in a beautiful part of the country? (One of the albums from Rasa's music group is a live album from Mount Shasta.)
Rasa lives in Weed, California, named of course for local pioneer Abner Weed.
After I mentioned to Rasa that I was reposting the above photo in my blog, he sent me a bonus photo below, for the readers of RAWIllumination.net, showing a view of Mount Shasta from his living room window. This is a World Exclusive not published anywhere else!
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Robert Anton Wilson took science fiction seriously and had high praise for the science fiction authors he respected. See this interview, for example, where Wilson said, "The novels that get praised in the NY Review of Books aren't worth reading. Ninety-seven percent of science fiction is adolescent rubbish, but good science fiction is the best (and only) literature of our times," and praised Ursula K. LeGuin and Robert Heinlein.
It seems like the battle to give science fiction a decent amount of respect is still being fought. Science fiction great Greg Bear died on Nov. 19, but there's been no obit for him in the New York Times. Instead, the Times runs obits such as "Melody Miller, Trusted Aide to the Kennedys, Dies at 77" and "Jason David Frank, Who Starred in ‘Power Rangers’ Franchise, Dies at 49."
I don't understand the Times' criteria for obits. The obituaries are often the best pieces in the paper, but the criteria baffles me. The paper did run a nice obituary for Robert Anton Wilson.
Tuesday, November 29, 2022