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Monday, March 14, 2022

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, episode 73, Chapter 13

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger.

In response to my last post, Tom Jackson commented on February 23, 2022,  

"As I've written earlier, I have been concentrating on Bach this year, as I don't know Bach's music as well as I know Beethoven's and Mozart's. 

"Still, as you note, Beethoven looms large in this chapter and the previous chapter. If I take time to listen to Beethoven again, should I concentrate on the later sonatas and string quartets, do you think?"  

(Comment at 2/20/2022 post

Great question, Tom. From a Wilsonian perspective, the Ninth Symphony seems the cornerstone. After that, the Hammerklavier Sonata, Op. 106 shows up repeatedly in Bob’s writing. He also occasionally refers to the Third, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Symphonies, as well as the late string quartets. 

From my perspective those all seem like important works. Rafi Zabor has really helped me gain more insight into Beethoven’s music over the past 17 years. I love Solomon’s recording of the Piano Sonatas Op. 106, Op. 109, and Op. 111 and Artur Schnabel’s recordings of the Piano Sonatas Op. 109, 110, and 111. I love Furtwangler’s 1942 recording of the Ninth Symphony. I love Horenstein’s recording of the Missa Solemnis and the recordings of the late quartets by the Budapest Quartet and by the Takacs Quartet. 


 Some people have suggested updating the exercises in Prometheus Rising. I generally prefer to do the exercises the way Bob suggested, but on June 6, 2021, I wrote the following to Robert Anton Wilson scholar Michael Johnson of 

"Exercise 3 in chapter 13 of Prometheus Rising asks the reader to “Read Brain/Mind Bulletin for any recent year, and observe that similar healings are reported regularly and attributed to endorphins in the brain.” Since this publication ceased publication years ago, I would really appreciate it if you would create a new exercise for our Prometheus Rising study group at We plan to start chapter 13 in March 2022. You combine the unique combination of a deep knowledge of Wilson’s work and a strong background in brain science. I suspect you could come up with a great substitution. (I think of Coltrane playing chord substitutions in 1959.)"

 Michael kindly wrote back: 

"I suspect you assume more knowledge about neuroscience on my part than I possess. Having said that (<---I feel a jerk typing that phrase), and not having read that chapter of PR in a long time, I suspect my response would be too demanding and long. The mystery  of healing and endorphins has gone supernova since RAW wrote that (his PhD diss).  

 "Among many other things, I'd include readings from articles and books on: 

"-How the dopamine system was linked to positive placebo effects, but dopamine is NOT as simple as most people think. There are many other neurochemicals that make us feel good. Levodopa for Parkinson's increases dopamine in brain, but doesn't bring on pleasure or happiness; it makes us feel lousy. Dopamine=pleasure/happiness is too widely believed and too simple. Other                                neurotransmitters that contribute for feeling good: e endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, glutamate, and GABA:And it's just really, really, RILLY complex. 

 "-Current neurobiological explanations for placebo has to do with action in the dorso- lateral and medial-ventral areas of the PFC (pre-frontal cortex) overriding signals from the amygdala: I'd call on the readers to read a basic article on what the amygdala does, and then, maybe, read pp.60-62 of Robert Sapolsky's Behave, but preferably, pp.20- 80 of that book, which will go on to be one of the great            non-fiction books of the 21st century, I predict.  

"-There's a lot of stuff now on oxytocin and touch and activation of the immune system, as you may know. Oxytocin is not dopamine, and carries its own social problems, mostly the down-sides of its ability to foster the in-group "us" feeling. Strong "us" feelings tend to amplify strong "them" feelings, and you can see where that goes. Just watch a goddamned Dump rally. 

"-Since RAW wrote, a lot (A LOT) of words have been written on the Nocebo effect: how negative emotions can effect health. This would have to dovetail with at least a soupcon of info on the dizzying complexity of the immune system. T-Cells "talk" to neurons. .. Bacteria in the gut probably has something to do with the emerging "Psychobiome." Etc, etc, etc, etc. 

" -RAWphiles really should know basic stuff about RAW's favorite drug: cannabis. I'd recommend reading chapters 6 and 7 from Julie Holland's The Pot Book, "The Endocannabinoid System" and "Anandamide and More", pp.52-72. The endocannabinoid system predates vertebrate life and is implicated in a host of healing pathways. Anandamide is the analogue to THC, but it's endogenous. 

"Dinner time. I could write another 8000 words on this but I hope you get the picture. Like I said, since PR: supernova."

 Thank you, Michael! I bought the two books Michael recommended, and I have started reading Behave. I did not know about Konrad Lorentz’s Nazi past which I learned about from Sapolsky’s book. 


Eric Wagner said...

For you Crowley fans, a new "Better Call Saul" ad features a building with 418 on it.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Wilson's use of the Hammerklavier in "Schrodinger's Cat" was really impactful the first couples time I read the trilogy. I like how Michael says he doesn't know much and then points to all of these fascinating resources. I'll have to look into The Pot Book chapters.

Oz Fritz said...

Thank-you Michael and Eric. Quite an amazing and informed neuroscience update. Earlier I asked about the relevance of the theory that the right hemisphere of the brain handles more creative, nonlinear functioning with the left hemisphere dealing with rational functioning. I would guess that the mystery of brain functioning in general has gone supernova since the advent of PR

From a 2019 essay on the Harvard Health blog:
"But for more individual personality traits, such as creativity or a tendency toward the rational rather than the intuitive, there has been little or no evidence supporting a residence in one area of the brain."

The idea that negative emotions adversely affect health implies that positive emotions can benefit health. This seems worthy of experimentation; I instinctively agree. It recalls Gurdjieff's claim that "impressions" classify as "food." Receiving an impression such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony maybe produces an emotional reaction good for health?

Likewise, some impressions we could perhaps avoid for the sake of health. Some impressions seem like junk food. I restrict my morning news intake.

Synchronicities: I listened to the last two movements of Beethoven's Ninth Sunday evening, the night before this posted.

I read The Red Badge of Courage mentioned earlier. This seems the most Proustian prose I've read outside of Proust. Crane published before Proust so suspect he influenced him. The protagonist's friend in the book is named Wilson. Wilson seems about the only friend who survives along with our hero. Wilson ends up capturing the enemy's flag.