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

Monday, February 28, 2022

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, episode 71, Chapter 12

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger

The “Babe in the Blue Egg” spoken of by Crowley is Harpocrates, the Silent God. To me this indicates the difference between the individual and the whole; after all, according to Crowley, the universe is one joke by the General at the expense of the Particular. Accessing the neurogenetic circuit triggers joy for the reasons given by RAW: the symphony of life swells and diminishes as a part of the whole. In his Confessions, Crowley writes about the absurdity of sorrow and compares the experience of life to Beethoven: 

 “My mind became still; the impact of impressions ceased to obsess me, I became free of the illusion of the reality of material things. All events became equally indifferent, exquisite phrases in an eternal symphony. (Imagine listening to Beethoven with the prepossession that C is a good note and F a bad one; yet this is exactly the stand point from which all uninitiates contemplate the universe. Obviously, they miss the music.)”

It would seem that the great boon of sixth-circuit consciousness is a transcendence past the individual and into the collective. Of course, we need that individuality, that ego to effectively engage with the world- those who devote themselves to the sixth circuit are the mystics who renounce ordinary life and spend their time in contemplation or infinite exploration. The sadhus who abandon home and property or the legendary fakirs standing for years about a pillar would be classical examples of a sixth-circuit devotee. For the rest of us, we must figure out how to comport ourselves with the ineffable knowledge of continuity and ecstatic reckoning with our part in said continuity while still finding a way to pay the bills. 

That is why Harpocrates, Hoor-paar-kraat, is one half of Crowley’s idealized individual-god being, the other side being Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Horus. Harpocrates is the sense of the incommunicable, at least in the terms of everyday conveyance, that inhabits the “awakened” consciousness while Horus is the function of action that must figure out its individual will amongst the other notes of the symphony. Humanity is quite like a mushroom colony, the individual mushrooms sporting upon the earth are but parts of a greater mycelium network, concealed in the loam. 

Honoring both Harpocrates and Horus, commingling and cultivating awareness of the two consciousnesses is the task of the magician, different from that of the mystic. The mystic is welcome to ride the arrow towards the realms of higher consciousness, eschewing worldly matters and dross for the bliss of realms beyond the material, but the magician is tasked with the role of integrating the supernal and the mundane. The magician is neither allowed to write off the messages of dreams, drugs or other states of consciousness and return to the daily world free of the woolly and baffling messages of the Neurogenetic circuit- they must incorporate them and transform their numinous impracticality to something useful, sometimes to aid the individual consciousness in its laboring ascent towards…what? Past the animal-headed gods and the lush maidens of our collective unconscious, beyond the elegant AGCT code of DNA, there is something…design? Purpose? Perhaps. More questions and answers, hunchbacks and soldiers in a seemingly infinite parade leading…where? My bet is towards the stars, whether that is literal or metaphorical is unknown to me. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Sunday links

New Steve Fly album on Bandcamp

The new Supreme Court justice might be sensitive to civil liberties, as she is a former public defender, libertarians argue. Here is the Cato Institute, and here is Jesse Walker. 

Hurt the Russians with green cards? 

Podcast on Jack Parsons.  (It looks like it's on the usual podcast platforms, here is one link.)

William S. Burroughs reading from his work. 

Free ebook for Recomendo newsletter signups. The newsletter, a favorite of mine, also is free and features Mark Frauenfelder and Kevin Kelly. 

Saturday, February 26, 2022

RAW interviews Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake (Creative Commons photo)

This is yet another rediscovery by the hard working Martin Wagner: RAW interviews Rupert Sheldrake.

One point that I noticed when I looked at the Wikipedia article about Sheldrake: In the introductory paragraphs before the interview begins, RAW zeroes in on the magazine Nature for calling for Sheldrake's first book to be burned. The Wikipedia article says that the guy who wrote the Nature piece denouncing Sheldrake, John Maddox, admits that although he ultimately wrote that the book should not be burned, the headline and some statements played into Sheldrake's hands: "The publicists for Sheldrake's publishers were nevertheless delighted with the piece, using it to suggest that the Establishment (Nature) was again up to its old trick of suppressing uncomfortable truths."

Friday, February 25, 2022

Strange Attractor Press now on Patreon

 Strange Attractor Press is an independent press based in London, known for publishing many titles of interest to Robert Anton Wilson fans; it was the publisher, for example, of Erik Davis' High Weirdness, a book about Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick. My personal library also includes another Strange Attractor title,  Somnium, an excellent fantasy novel by Steve Moore. Strange Attractor also will publish the upcoming biography of Robert Anton Wilson by Prop Anon. 

Strange Attactor has now launched a Patreon program, and exclusive items are promised to patrons who provide support. Details here. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

New Hilaritas podcast released on John Lilly

John Lilly

Hilaritas Press has released its monthly podcast, featuring host Mike Gathers, and this month's subject is John Lilly:

"In this episode, we chat with flotation enthusiast, consultant, and publisher Graham Talley on  physician, neuroscientist, psychoanalyst, psychonaut, philosopher, writer, and inventor John C. Lilly, MD, author of over 125  scientific papers and 19 books including Programming and Metaprogramming of the Human Biocomputer and two autobiographies, Center of The Cyclone and The Scientist."

Available at the link, and also from Podbean, Apple, Google, Spotify and TuneIn.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Lost Orson Welles film revealed

Orson Welles in "F For Fake." 

"A previously lost Orson Welles film, Two Wise Old Men: Socrates and Noah, produced for the fledgling home video market has been uncovered," an article at Wellesnet says. "Wellesnet was afforded the opportunity to watch Two Wise Old Men: Socrates and Noah, which contains separate performances by Welles on the Greek philosopher and the biblical patriarch. The total running time is more than 18 minutes with eight minutes devoted to Socrates and the remainder to Noah. As expected, it is a fairly simple production that relies heavily on the power of Welles’ voice ... The Welles estate is hoping to make the short film available to a wide audience. The work is being carried out by David Reeder of Reeder Brand Management, which handles licensing for the estate."

The article is by Ray Kelly, owner of the website, apparently a leading source of Welles information.

Another headline at the site that might interest sumbunall of you: "‘F for Fake’ restoration to have North American premiere at MoMA."

Hat tip, Jesse Walker. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Daisy Campbell, creative consultant

Daisy Eris Campbell

If you need to hire a creative consultant for help on a script or a project, Daisy Eris Campbell, author of the Cosmic Trigger play, would seem to be well qualified.


script consulting/deep structure/directorial eye/freak wrangling

*offer lasts until the wolf has left the door (or beyond if it's fun)."

Daisy's two excellent books, Pigspurt's Daughter and Cosmic Trigger the Play, remain available from Hilaritas Press.  

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, episode 70, Chapter 12

Scene from the movie Ishtar. 

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger 

In a February 15 comment on Tom Jackson’s blog post about the sixth circuit chapter of Prometheus Rising, Spookah (BFHN) said... 

Thank you Tom Jackson for opening the discussion on chapter 12, and for providing the links. 

The first exercize sort of links back to the Heinlein quote, along with the picture, on page 107. 

I’d say that we are maybe more used to comparing big city life with ant colonies, with the type of time-lapses found in Ron Fricke’s Koyaanisqatsi or Baraka now fairly common place. 

 Ex. 5: “see how long after reading this chapter you encounter an amazing coincidence”. 

So I read this chapter 12 on Monday afternoon. Then the same evening, I watched the last episode of the docu mini-series Capitalism (2014), which featured excerpts from the films Intolerance (the Babylonian part) and Scarface (the 1932 Howard Hawkes version). It so happened that I had watched Intolerance the previous week, and Scarface the previous day. 

Intolerance was a favorite of RAW, it gets a haiku in Email to the Universe, and he asked to watch it on the first week of the MLA 8 Circuits of Mind course. 

As for Scarface, a few hours before going to see it I was reading a few pages from Eric Wagner’s Insider’s Guide to RAW, including the lexicon entry for 23, which ends with this: “after reading sombunall of this book, you will probably notice a few more 23’s than usual. Perhaps a lot more. Just a coincidence, I suspect.” I did spot a 23 during the film, as a street number right above the main character’s head. 

Ex. 6: “What messages is your right brain trying to send to your left brain?” 

So far I came up with three possibilities. The first is that Bob Wilson really seems up to something here, and that I should keep on studying PR and doing the exercizes. 

Another is that Eric Wagner might already part of the Jungian collective unconscious, conspiring together with Ishtar and Al Capone in the mythical realm. 

The last one is wondering if I should start to worry, because it’s usually not a good sign when you think the TV is talking to you. 

 Intolerance also has a scene in the modern section where someone finds a quarter. I wonder if that scene inspired the quarter finding exercises in Prometheus Rising. For a few years a mall in Hollywood had an elephant design motif inspired by Intolerance, but they removed the elephants because the film Griffith directed before Intolerance, Birth of a Nation, contained so much egregious racism. Thinking of elephants makes me think of Heinlein’s “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants.” 

The coin flipping character George Raft played in the original Scarface became a cinematic archetype, showing up in the final dance sequence in Singin’ in the Rain and most interestingly in Some Like It Hot where an older George Raft responds to the trope. 

I like the film Ishtar, and I enjoyed the condescending responses I got from people who had not seen the film but who “knew” how bad it “was” when I rented the video thirty odd years ago. I love how Neil Gaiman used Ishtar in Sandman. 

 People have different notions about the ordering of the sixth and seventh circuits. Leary usually saw the sixth circuit as the neuroelectric circuit and the seventh circuit as the neurogenetic circuit. Bob Wilson usually reversed these. Richard Rasa addresses this in the afterword to the Hilaritas edition of Prometheus Rising. I love Tim Leary’s comment, “This listing of possible future levels of human intelligence is necessarily tentative, suggestive, semantically fragile, and intellectually risky” (Flashbacks, pg. 386). 

In Quantum Psychology Bob uses the Leary order, but he renames the neurogenetic circuit the morphogenetic circuit inspired by Rupert Sheldrake. Bob commented, “Where Leary and Grof, like Jung and Freud, assumed the non-ego information, not known to the brain, must come from the genes, Sheldrake, a biologist, knew that genes cannot carry such information. He therefore posited a non-local field, like those in quantum theory, which he named the morphogenetic field” (pg. 191). 

In Schroedinger’s Cat Bob suggests that many people like to think of evolution as a Promethean struggle, but, really, one only needs to relax and cooperate with the DNA code. Following his observation in Quantum Psychology, I tend to think of this as cooperating with the morphogenetic fields. Promethean struggle makes me think of Beethoven’s music, and cooperating with the morphogenetic fields makes me think of Mozart’s. I had planned to spend most of 2022 listening to Beethoven cd’s when driving and then switch to Mozart as the year progresses, but a cd got stuck in the CD player yesterday. Perhaps I will switch to streaming Mozart piano concerti. One might see this as a synchronicity since the CD got stuck as I prepared to write this entry on this chapter which features Beethoven’s music so prominently.  

Parallel universes, rock music and RAW

If you are old enough you may remember "Novocaine for the Soul" by Eels. Eels were not one of my bands, but I remembered the tune from MTV when I looked it up. "Novocaine for the Soul" dates to the band's first album, Beautiful Freak, released in 1996.

John Higgs' recent newsletter led me to Eels, although not on purpose perhaps, as John did not mention the band. It's one of those bands where the  guy who sings and plays guitar and writes the songs, Mark Oliver Everett (aka "E") is the only constant from beginning to end, the only indispensable member. 

As John mentioned in the newsletter, American physicist Hugh Everett III came up with the idea of multiple universes/alternate universes in 1954 or so. At first, the theory did not catch on, but now it permeates pop culture, including comics and science fiction novels. 

Although Mark Everett has enjoyed success as a pop musician, his life has included more than its share of tragedy. 

Hugh Everett died in 1982, age 51, from a heart attack; the Wikipedia bio says that obesity, chain smoking and alcohol contributed to his premature death. It was Mark Everett who found the body. 

Hugh Everett was an atheist and asked that his ashes be tossed into the trash when he died. Everett's daughter and Mark Everett's sister, Elizabeth, committed suicide in 1996, asking in her suicide note for her ashes to be thrown out  to "end up in the correct parallel universe to meet up w[ith] Daddy." Mark Everett's cousin was a flight attendant who died aboard one of the 9/11 terrorist attack jetliners, the one that was crashed into the Pentagon. 

I knew the name "Hugh Everett" from the work of Robert Anton Wilson. In The Universe Next Door, for example, there's a glossary where Wilson writes the Everett-Wheeler-Graham model in quantum mechanics is "the Brownian 'form' of The Universe Next Door." 

Watch a BBC documentary about the Everetts, father and son. In it, Mark Everett admits he did not know his father was a famous scientist until after he died.  Here is an interesting Los Angeles Times article. 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

RAW recordings from Esalen


The Esalen Art Barn in 2005. (Creative Commons photo).

The Esalen Institute in California recently posted recordings of Robert Anton Wilson teaching and being interviewed there. Access them here.

Hat tip, Chad Nelson. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Rasa on the new RAW book

Rasa, who runs the RAW Trust and the trust's publishing imprint, Hilaritas Press, on behalf of RAW's daughter, Christina Pearson, worked closely on the new Robert Anton Wilson book, Natural Law Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw, with the book's editor, Chad Nelson. Rasa agreed to take a couple of questions from me about the new book.

See also my interview with Chad Nelson and the comments from the book's cover artist, Scott McPherson. 

How did the contents of NATURAL LAW Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw evolve as you worked with Chad on the book? What do you think of the book in its final, published form?

Rasa: A couple years ago I started thinking about expanding RAW’s short book, Natural Law, Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy, with essays that I thought might fit the book's theme. Given that the occasion of RAW writing this long essay was in a Libertarian forum, I thought to search for words from RAW that might be in a similar vein. I found a lot of material. RAW once said in an interview that he wrote “thousands” of articles. That may be true. I found a lot of cool stuff: an interview RAW conducted with Doris Lessing, published in New Age Journal in 1983; an interview of RAW, titled "Illuminating Discord," in New Libertarian Notes/Weekly 39, 1976; quite a few articles by RAW in A Way Out, the School of Living magazine RAW edited. Paul Krassner, a couple years before he passed away, told me that I was welcome to use any of the articles RAW wrote for The Realist, so I started collecting those. I found a few good articles from The Berkeley Barb newspaper. RAW archivist Martin Wagner was helpful in getting a lot of stuff together, but at some point, one of the other Hilaritas Press projects started to jell, so I put Natural Law to the side, until I had the thought to ask Chad Nelson if he might like to spearhead the project. Chad had been communicating with the RAW Trust and Hilaritas Press for several years… offering to help, suggesting some cool ideas. Chad was thrilled with the idea, and so I passed on all of the stuff I collected, and he went through it all, and began collecting even more material. 

I decided at that point to reread Natural Law, and both Chad and I agreed that the essay was less about politics and more about Model Agnosticism. Chad then started looking at all the essays with that thought in mind, separating them into two piles. He thinned down the Model Agnosticism pile to what we ended up using in the book. I read through all of Chad’s selections, really enjoying them, and wondering only what order to use in arranging them in the book. Chronological order ended up making the most sense, for the most part. We were using writings from 1959, 77, 78, 84, 87, 88, 90, 99, but, deciding to change the final work in the collection, Chad had the great idea of including a piece of fiction from 1972.

As for what I think of the book, well, it’s hard to be completely objective, but I was very impressed with Chad’s selections, and reading through the whole book once it was assembled, it just felt really solid to me – info-rich and very entertaining. 

What were you attempting with the latest Scott McPherson cover? It seems like a break from previous covers, and Scott has said he was trying to reach out for a wider audience for RAW's books.

Rasa: I wasn’t attempting anything with Scott’s cover for Natural Law. Christina and I are totally thrilled with the ideas Scott creates, mostly without a lot of prior input from us. With the first couple of book covers that Scott did for Hilaritas Press, he would send us a number of very different ideas for the cover of each book. We would usually ask him to use parts of one cover, and parts of another, as we sometimes really liked the fonts he chose on one, but preferred the background art from another proof. We immediately saw that Scott had a brilliant understanding of how to translate RAW’s work into a great graphic representation. And so with later covers, he had a good idea of what we liked enough that he was usually making one design, and sending us a few versions with slightly different colors and fonts. I think it was only with The Starseed Signals that Scott and I went back and forth a number of times with different cover ideas, each of us offering evolving thoughts. We were both thinking to have Bob and Tim on the cover somehow, but we we’re never quite happy with each new iteration. Finally, Scott put Tim inside of Bob’s crystal pyramid, and that just looked perfect. 

With Natural Law, Scott’s cover was a complete surprise, and a delight, when it arrived. I got immediately the reference to “Who is the master who makes the grass green,” probably in part because I chose that paragraph from the book for part of the text on the book’s back cover. I thought it was a wonderful, very bright, clean and inviting cover design. I think all of Scott’s cover design’s draw the reader in in different ways. This one seems very light and innocent, inviting you into a pleasant soothing image, and then you read the title – I think that creates a very pleasant moment of cognitive dissonance as a smile begins to appear on your face… “don’t put what, where?” 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Side project now complete

I wanted to briefly report that I have a completed a side project -- Bryan Caplan's Life Advice, a miniblog of 10 reprinted blog posts from an economics professor whose personal advice I admire. There's also a handy link list of the 10 at the upper right of the site if you want to see what Professor Caplan has to say about being happy, or appeasing others.

I got a bit of pushback about the blog from relatives and friends about some of Professor Caplan's political views, which are referenced in some of the posts, but the blog is really not meant to be political. I wanted to collect some of the better advice posts, in a place where they would be handy for me and anyone else who would find them useful. I appreciate getting permission from Professor Caplan and his publisher, the Liberty Fund, for permission to reprint them. A collection of Caplan's advice blog posts will soon be issued as a book, as I report at the blog. 

And regular blogging will continue here; I have news and a short interview lined up already. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Wednesday links

P.J. O'Rourke

RAW Semantics (briefly) reviews Natural Law: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw on Twitter. "I grok RAW best thru his *BOOKS*, & I found NL absolutely essential (& fun). Take a weekend & read it properly."

RIP P.J. O'Rourke.  I loved his comment that he supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016 because Clinton would be "a bad president within normal parameters." 

Rob Pugh on getting into shape. 

RAW on the CIA. 

"Fresh Approaches to the Overdose Crisis" (Cato panel discussion.)

Monday, February 14, 2022

Trying to promote 'Natural Law'

I've been trying to figure out what I can do to help Hilaritas Press sell copies of the latest RAW title, Natural Law: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw. It's an excellent book and I want to see it get a fair chance. (If you arrived late to this blog, the book reprints the long title essay, long officially out of print, but the bulk of the book consists of pieces never assembled into a book before. See my interview with the book's editor, Chad Nelson.)

I'm still coming up with ideas, but one thing I did Monday was buy a copy of the book on Amazon and send it to Tyler Cowen, the prominent public intellectual I've mentioned before on this blog. If Tyler actually read the book and liked it, the potential upside could be huge; a mention on his popular blog Marginal Revolution, would really be helpful. The worst case scenario (and probably the most likely one) is that Tyler never says anything. I suspect many publishers and authors send him books. But then, I will have helped the RAW Trust sell another book, so it's still OK. 

I might be willing to buy another copy and send it out if I get a good suggestion about who else might be likely to read it and reach an audience with a recommendation. And if anybody else wants to try buying a copy and giving it out as a review copy, please post a comment here. All comments to this blog must be approved (it's the only way to prevent prostitution ads and other unsuitable spam from being posted here), so if you try that two weeks from now or a month from now or whatever and post a comment here, I will see it.

I would ask the folks who do RAW-related podcasts to consider seeking an interview with Chad about the book. If you bought the book and liked it, please consider plugging it on social media or your blog or whatever. I'll continue to post about the book here. 

Does anyone have any other suggestions? 

A few years ago, I bought a copy of Illuminatus! and sent it to Ted Gioia, and that worked out rather well. 

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, episode 69, Chapter 12

Edward O. Wilson (Creative Commons photo)

Well, Chapter 12 is kind of a mind expanding chapter, don't you think? Last night I watched the Super Bowl, which featured a team from Ohio (where I live) versus a team from California (where Eric Wagner lives.) I suspect Eric is happier with the outcome, but it was a good game. And then after the game I re-read Chapter 12, and I was impressed with it as one of the better chapters, from a reading standpoint, in Prometheus Rising. (As Eric has explained, one of the main points of this chronologically long reading group is to do the exercises, not just to read the book.)

Chapter 12 also is a rather topical chapter, too.  I say that because the famed biologist E.O. Wilson died on Dec. 26. The first exercise suggests reading Sociobiology by Edward Wilson, and while I haven't had time to do that yet, I would suggest taking advantage of the opportunity to read the New York Times obituary for E.O. Wilson. (As part of my digital subscription, I am allowed to share 10 links a month to get readers behind the Times' paywall.) 

I suspect E.O. Wilson may have influenced one of my other favorite writers, Richard Powers, but if you read the Times article by Carl Zimmer (whatever you think of the Times' politics, there's still plenty of journalism talent there), it seems likely that some of E.O. Wilson's ideas influenced RAW: 

“The organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA,” Dr. Wilson brashly declared. He then explored a huge range of behaviors, showing how they might be the product of natural selection.

E.O. Wilson also is described in the obit as a "a self-described 'congenital synthesizer'," which sounds a lot like RAW, and there's quite a bit in the obit about Wilson's interest in ants; see the first exercise, and the references to insects at the beginning of The Universe Next Door. 

Robert Anton Wilson was interested in many topics. His interest in science seems to particularly run to physics, as his interest in quantum mechanics makes clear, but as this chapter illustrates, he also paid serious attention to biology. 

Addendum: The New York Times paid little attention to Robert Anton Wilson while he has alive, but did publish a nice obituary when he died; you can read it here. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Is the CIA spying on Americans?

The CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia

Here's a little bit of Illuminatus! style news: The CIA apparently is spying on Americans, but there isn't much known about the program.

"New spying revelations prove once again Edward Snowden was right" is an article from The Week. And you can read the New York Times article, "CIA Is Collecting in Bulk Certain Data Affecting Americans, Senators Warn."  It does its best to provide some of the murky details, e.g., "The Central Intelligence Agency has for years been collecting in bulk, without a warrant, some kind of data that can affect Americans’ privacy, according to a newly declassified letter by two senators.

"The C.I.A. kept censored the nature of the data when it declassified the letter. At the same time, it declared that a report about the same topic, which had prompted the letter, must remain fully classified, except for some heavily redacted recommendations."

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Martin Wagner gets it Donne again


John Donne

If you've read the excellent Robert Anton Wilson anthology Email to the Universe, you may remember "Sexual Alchemy," which mentions Wilson's theory that English poet John Donne had references to Tantric sex in some of his works. Martin Wagner's latest discovery, "John Donne & Sex Magick," makes the case for occult references in some of the poems. "We are certainly not in the vicinity of proof positive here, but I believe that my thesis has been shown to be plausible and not at all absurd," Wilson writes, and I agree he made a good case. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

'New Dawn' piece explains RAW's theories of reality

"Robert Anton Wilson & Guerrilla Ontology," a piece by Jack Fox-Williams, a piece published in the magazine "New Dawn" and available online, provides a well-researched article on RAW's theories on reality tunnels, guerilla ontology, model agnosticism, etc.

It explains why it's useful to avoid being locked into a particular ideology. "How can we stay open-minded, questioning and pragmatic in today’s world? Guerrilla ontology may provide the answer."

About Jack Fox-Williams, a bio below the article explains, "Jack Fox-Williams graduated with a BA Hons degree in Philosophy and History from Goldsmiths University, London, in 2014. Since then he has worked as a freelance writer in Cornwall, England, focusing on philosophy, hermeticism and alternative science. He is currently working on a book about the relationship between the history of science and the occult."

Thursday, February 10, 2022

William Blake news

 Kirkus takes on John Higgs' William Blake Vs. the World, which will be released on May 3 in North America:

" Besides offering perceptive close analyses of Blake’s work (including the art that illustrates this volume), Higgs locates him within the turbulent political and religious contexts of his times: French and American Revolutions, the rise of industrialism, anti-Catholic rioting, the Enlightenment’s privileging of reason over imagination, and the advent of Romanticism. He ranges into theories of consciousness and the meaning and significance of imagination to unravel Blake’s fundamental idea 'that we live in a mental model of reality, rather than reality itself' ,,, An appreciative, well-informed portrait."

More here. 

Also, a film of the Blame Blake event

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Two good interviews: Stewart Brand and Christopher Walken

The famous NASA image Stewart Brand put on the cover of one of his Whole Earth catalogs. 

I want to share a couple of interviews I read recently. 

Tyler Cowen recently interviewed Stewart Brand, the California counterculture legend who founded The WELL, put out The Whole Earth Catalog and did other interesting things. It's an inspired decision and the interview is a very interesting look at the California culture that RAW was a part of. I would have liked some questions about the early days of California cyberculture, but the interview does cover how taking LSD influenced Brand. 

He still has lots of interesting ideas:

COWEN: In what year will we bring back the woolly mammoth? What’s your point estimate?

BRAND: Certainly in this century, I think we’ll have what looks like and acts like woolly mammoths back. I would like to see them back in large herds in the Siberian and in the northern Canadian steppes, doing their old job of eating the grass and therefore causing the grass . . . grazers make grass. The so-called mammoth steppe, which was once the world’s largest biome, reaching all the way around the North Pole and the Arctic and sub-Arctic.

Another interview which is simply fun is the just-published New York Times interview with Christopher Walken:

Is it right that early on Zen was an influence on your acting? In the ’70s when I was young and everybody was meditating, I probably went through my Zen phase. I tried meditating, but I would get into position and breathe and then my cat would walk in the room and run its tail across my face and that would be the end of my meditation.


Sometimes I do things just to amuse myself. I’ve played scenes pretending that I was Elvis or Bugs Bunny or a U-boat commander. I just don’t tell anybody.

Is that really true? Somebody said to me once, “The truth is good, but interesting is better.”

He also likes to drink coffee and read the paper when he smokes pot. Alas, the interviewer doesn't ask if Walken ever heard the song "Hackensack" by Fountains of Wayne. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Buckminster Fuller biography out in August

In a 2019 blog post, I reported that a new Buckminster Fuller biography was in the works from Alec Nevala-Lee, an author (and RAW fan!) who wrote the excellent book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlen, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

I can now follow up by telling you that Nevala-Lee's Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller will be released on August 2.

Here is some of the description from the publisher's  blurb:  "Inventor of the Future is the first authoritative biography to cover all aspects of Fuller’s career. Drawing on meticulous research, dozens of interviews, and thousands of unpublished documents, Nevala-Lee has produced a riveting portrait that transcends the myth of Fuller as an otherworldly generalist. It reconstructs the true origins of his most famous inventions, including the Dymaxion Car, the Wichita House, and the dome itself; his fraught relationships with his students and collaborators; his interactions with Frank Lloyd Wright, Isamu Noguchi, Clare Boothe Luce, John Cage, Steve Jobs, and many others; and his tumultuous private life, in which his determination to succeed on his own terms came at an immense personal cost."

Of course, Robert Anton Wilson was a huge admirer of Buckminster Fuller, references to Fuller fill Wilson's books and Wilson interviewed him, an interview reprinted in Right Where You Are Sitting Now. 

Monday, February 7, 2022

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, episode 68, Chapter 11

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger

Wilson writes during Chapter 11: “[m]any have turned on the neurosomatic circuit due to prolonged illness, especially if they grow impatient with doctors and resort to self medication and/or faith-healing. The bathroom of Nietzsche, according to Stefan Zweig, looked “like a pharmacy shop,” due to the large number of drugs and medicines with which the philosopher treated his chronic migraines. Gurdjieff employed cocaine, hashish and yoga techniques (probably including pranayama) to treat the incessant and increasing pains resultant from his war wounds and two car accidents. The “harshness” of these two philosophers, their contempt for ordinary human suffering, their visions of the superhuman state beyond emotion and pain, all probably derived from neurosomatic Turn Ons alternating with acute pain. That is, they experienced the whole of evolution from the lower circuits to the full development of neurosomatic bliss, and were expressing chiefly contempt for their own relapse into less-than-blissful consciousness.” 

As someone who has been trying to engender the state of being that Leary and Wilson code as the eight-circuit model and monkeying around the Tree of Life for the past fourteen years, I don’t think that I have much problems triggering the fifth circuit; it is the transition back to less-than-blissful consciousness that still haunts and binds me. Therefore, my main exercises, that I am merely laying the foundation for, have been driven towards balancing the blissful and less pleasant modes of consciousness/who I am right now. Pranayama and the other techniques discussed in the chapter work well for getting on the ride- I am now chiefly concerned with maintaining the thrills and chills of fifth circuit consciousness when I find myself stuck in the realm of the terrestrial four. 

(I don’t mean to propose that I have fully explored or understand the fifth circuit, just that I am familiar with some aspects of it. I am, as I mentioned during my last post, unable to get over my third circuit priggishness to really grok the self-healing abilities that Wilson speaks so highly of in this chapter.) 

After the first four-five years of studying occultism and Wilson, I turned myself over to the analysis of a practitioner of psychosynthesis who diagnosed me with ongoing existential pain. As someone who was quite happy to pretend I had overcome the existential crisis of adolescence, I was disappointed to hear this. But he was correct. So I followed the techniques of psychosynthesis to try to bring together the disparate parts of myself or my selves and weave them into a workable whole. The success or failure of this effort is still being decided as my life progresses. One technique, which I have never forgotten but have neglected, is “simply” (somehow) meaningfully grounding the experiences of the “higher” realms of consciousness into the more prevalent world of everyday consciousness. Like most magical/mystical practices, you can read about examples of grounding techniques, but experimentation and innovation are always going to be your best bet for success. The inspiration for what I need to do to synch up my different states of being came from comments left by Oz while I was kvetching about the internet and information-overload during some of my more recent posts. 

Aside from pranayama, one of the techniques that Crowley is absolutely sincere about is the efficacy of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram which he calls “the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise.” It is generally one of the first things a student of ceremonial magic learns and therefore can easily be overlooked as “basic” or even dull. That is the arrogance of a little experience…forgetting that without basics, there is very little to build or stand upon. Oz’s gentle reminder that techniques like the Lesser Ritual are quite effective when employed regularly served as a jolt from an acceptance of the “horror” of the modern world to a reminder that I have been neglecting the most important measures of making sure I am up to the task of dealing with the day-to-day. Performing something as rudimentary as the Lesser Ritual regularly is like brushing my teeth, as my psychosynthesis teacher would say; it doesn’t feel like much at the time, but boy does it make a difference. 

Like Nietzsche and Gurdjieff, people can confuse Crowley’s philosophy with “harshness.” I have never understood how, despite their many uncouth jabs at conventional life and the clusterfuck of society, people interpret  the works of writers like Crowley as anything other than an overly-honest attempt to do some demonstrable good for the rest of the human race. Crowley, Nietzsche, Gurdjieff were acutely aware of the pains and miseries of quotidian human existence; there would be no reason for the Herculean efforts to overcome that existence otherwise, and endeavored to free who they could from their “mind-forged chains.” Aside from chronic migraines and war wounds, we all bear the brunt of the sheer inconvenience of existence. Reading the works of these philosophers and holy men can help us diagnose our problems and articulate why the everyday world isn't that much fun. Yet, it simply does not do to ignore the constant emphasis on practice along with theory. That’s what I’m trying to remind myself right now -- being a student doesn’t end. 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Substacks of possible interest

The Erik Davis newsletter includes an "Ask Dr. D" section for paid subscribers. 

It seems to me that if Robert Anton Wilson were still with us, he would have a Substack newsletter. With the help of Scott Apel, he used to have a newsletter  called Trajectories. The Substack system is ideal for a writer who has a dedicated following.

We'll never know what form a RAW Substack would have taken, but I have noticed a number of Substack newsletters put out by RAW fans; here are ones that have come to my attention:

The Magnet -- I have a paid subscription to this one, done by Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing fame. 

Burning Shore -- The Erik Davis Substack. 

Octannual Manual -- The John Higgs newsletter, recently moved to Substack. 

Dank Philosophy -- Dr. Richard Waterloo's newsletter. He has a work in progress about reality tunnels. 

Mitch's Newsletter -- The Mitch Horowitz newsletter, with no content yet. 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Friday, February 4, 2022

Bobby Campbell announces newsletter


Comic book artist, Hilaritas Press illustrator and Maybe Day organizer Bobby Campbell has deactivated his Patreon account and is moving in a new direction:

"I switched things up a bit :)))

"I'm swapping out my Patreon account for a free quarterly email newsletter and am going to try Kickstarter (or something similar) to fund occasional print projects, rather than charging a nebulous monthly fee through Patreon."

Sign up here. The first issue of the newsletter will go out in March.

Follow Bobby on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

John Higgs news and new essay

Cover for Russian edition of one of John Higgs' books (trying to avoid spoilers, read the newsletter)

John Higgs, in his latest newsletter (he's gone Substack) has a great essay, "Invasion of the Multiverses" which talks about Hugh Everett's invention of the alternate universe idea and how multiverses have taken over popular culture. John never mentions the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy or Robert Anton Wilson, but his essay is a great backgrounder on both the trilogy and on RAW's concept of reality tunnels. I'm a fan of John's work anyway, but the piece seems especially good to me; if John ever does a collection of his best short pieces, I would think this one would have to be included.

Also, some news! John's William Blake book, William Blake Vs. The World, previously only offered in the Old World, will be published in the U.S. and Canada on May 3. 

John also recommends a podcast.  My wife and I enjoyed the first episode. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Eric Wagner on the 'Ulysses' centennial


James Joyce's grave in Zurich.  Photo by Jacques Bopp on Unsplash

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

In 2011 the North American James Joyce Conference in Pasadena, CA, had a Ulysses reading group and a Finnegans Wake reading group. I don’t recall seeing anyone besides myself who attended both events. The Joyce scholars who seemed to me the “Big Guns" (Shelly Brivic, Tony Thwaites, Vincent Cheng, etc.) attended the Wake meeting but not the Ulysses event. A number of grad students from local universities attended the Ulysses event. They all seemed to own their own copy of the revised edition of Ulysses. I don’t recall seeing any grad student sat the Wake event. The Ulysses event took place at the Huntington Library. The Finnegans Wake event took place in Albert Einstein’s library at Cal Tech. Ailing Joycean John Bishop attended the Wake event via Skype. 

I just finished watched Ken Burns and Lynn Novak’s documentary on Ernest Hemingway. Some people consider Hemingway the dominant author in English in the twentieth century. Others think Joyce had a bigger impact. McLuhan thought Joyce prefigured the radically changed technologies of the twentieth century and beyond. Perhaps our current world resembles the works of Robert Heinlein, Robert Anton Wilson, and Philip K. Dick more than the world of Hemingway and Joyce. 

I write this on January 31, 2022. February 2 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the publication of Ulysses. The Washington Football Team plans to announce its new name on the same day. I don’t see any connection between the two events, but I plan to celebrate both. I have loved Washington’s NFL team since 1971, but its name has bothered me for years. I liked when it changed its name to the Washington Football Team. I have read Ulysses thirteen times at this point. Bob Wilson told me to read it forty times. I don’t plan to do that anytime soon, but if I live beyond the age of 111, I may well read it a few more times. I may even reach forty. In his essay “Brain Books”, Bob Wilson wrote: “Nobody has really entered the 20th century if they haven’t digested Ulysses.  And if they haven’t entered the 20th century, they’re going to fall pretty far behind pretty soon, as we enter the 21st.” 

UPDATE: RAW Semantics comments on Twitter.  Was RAW kidding about the 40 times? 

Eric Wagner is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson