The Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1978. (By Nomo michael hoefner http://www.zwo5.de - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16491922)
By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger
Exercise one for this chapter reads, “Make a list of ten areas where your thinking-feeling is conservative. Guess how soon the world will change so totally that those ideas will seem not merely conservative but irrelevant (as the theological debates of 300 AD now seem irrelevant)” (pg. 255).
1. I prefer books made of paper to books on a computer screen.
2. Well, now I started googling “conservative ideas”, and I have started going down the rabbit hole of what “conservative” means. I consider learning languages valuable. Graduate schools seem to have deemphasized languages in the last seventy years, and other levels of U.S. education have as well.
3. As U2 said, I believe in love.
4. Russell Kirk says, “Conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.” This reminded me of the following passage from Wilson’s The Widow’s Son:
The “fourth soul,” or emerging brain, perceives the invisible web of connections between all things; but it is no more infallible than the rest of the brain, or the gut, or the liver, or the gonads. It merely works without effort, unlike the more primitive parts of the brain, which is why meanings seem to flow into us, when this is activated, and we forget that we are still creating the meanings. We imagine we are “receiving revelations,” and hence we do not take responsibility or exercise any prudence or common sense. This is why there are so many “holy fools” and so few holy wise men. (pg. 339)
This passage surprised me when I first read it. I didn’t think too much of prudence at the time, but prudence and common sense do seem valuable to me today. Crowley calls the Eight of Disks Prudence, and that card tends to make me think of this Wilson passage.
5. Saving money seems like a good idea to me.
6. I love my grandkids.
7. 1939 seems like the greatest year in film history.
8. I think movies have gone downhill since 1974, the year of Celine and Julie Go Boating.
9. I love the music of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.
10. I love acoustic jazz.
So, how long until these ideas “seem not merely conservative but irrelevant”?
1. Marshall McLuhan saw a similarity between the invention of movable type by Gutenberg in 1450 with the invention of the computer. Few people today prefer to read handwritten books rather than printed books, although we may prefer them as art objects and look at Medieval texts in glass cases in museums. In one or two hundred years paper books may become rare, especially after a climate change apocalypse.
2. Perhaps we will learn more about language acquisition in five hundred years, or perhaps we will have telepathy (or extinction).
3. Human sexuality and marriage customs will certainly change. We see love differently in 2022 than Dante did seven hundred years ago or Ovid did two thousand years ago, but their ideas of love still resonate will current beliefs. Perhaps in 2300 years “love” will have lost its meaning, or it may become something very new I can’t begin to understand.
4. Prudence may seem irrelevant in a Bucky Fuller like utopia where no one worries about eviction or getting their next meal or getting their kids’ teeth fixed. Maybe in 1500 hundred years.
5. See number 4.
6. Like number 3, ideas about love will change, and perhaps they will change utterly. As Billy Holliday sang, “You don’t know what love is”.
7. Films like Gone with the Wind have troubling racism. The Wizard of Oz seems unkind to little people. Animals get shot in The Rules of the Game. The women in The Women seem too concerned about men. Gunga Din supports colonialism. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington neglects political realities. Silk Stockings improved Ninotchka. William Goldman wrote movingly about 1939 as the greatest year in film history in Adventures in the Screen Trade, but Mr. Goldman, alas, has died. For decades I have asked my film history students what they consider the greatest era of film history. I don’t think any of them suggested any time before 1970. Of course with new technology movies don’t seem nearly so important to our culture, so these discussions might seem irrelevant in sixty years.
8, See number 7. Most of my students hated Celine and Julie Go Boating the one time I showed it to a class. I didn’t even plan to show it, but I had a copy of it on my laptop and no other technology worked that week.
9. Well, I have Beethoven playing right now. Bach, Mozart and the Big B seem irrelevant to most people today, and perhaps in 250 years they will seem as irrelevant to almost everybody as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd do today.
10. As with number 9, most people don’t listen to jazz in 2022, and even fewer listen to acoustic jazz. In one hundred and fifty years this may seem irrelevant. We will see.
Exercise 2 in Prometheus Rising, chapter 17, asks the reader to “Make a list of ten areas in which your conceptualizing is radical. Guess how soon the world will change so totally that you will seem conservative in those areas” (pg. 255).
1. I have mixed feelings about hard work. I recognize the value of hard work, and I know that it can accomplish a lot, but I also value going with the flow. When I first visited Europe in 1985, I arranged my trip to visit Ingolstadt, Bavaria, the birthplace of the Bavarian Illuminati, on July 23, the anniversary of the beginning of Robert Anton Wilson’s Sirius experience. The train from Munich to Ingolstadt passed Dachau, and on the next day I visited the concentration camp at Dachau. Over the gate of the concentration camp hung a sign reading “Arbeit Macht Frei,” work will set you free. I had a sense that I had a life purpose to unlearn that sentiment.
When I returned that afternoon to Munich I had a deep sense of despair about the human condition after visiting the camp and contemplating the Holocaust. I wandered Munich, listening to oom-pah-pah bands in the park and eating a giant soft pretzel, observing naked frisbee players. I visited Munich’s rich English language bookstores and even looked copies of at Robert Anton Wilson’s books, trying to find some way of dealing with the nightmare of history. I later walked past a theater showing Ingmar Bergman’s film of Mozart’s Magic Flute. I saw I had just enough time to watch the film and run to the train station to catch my midnight train to Vienna. (I just wanted to get out of Germany.)
With my limited understanding of German, I could barely follow the German subtitles for the Swedish language film, but the film restored my hope in humanity. The story of a secret society of Masonic adepts trying to aid the world set to Mozart’s music gave me hope. Plus I thought the singer playing Sarastro looked like I might look in the future. (Now I don’t think so.)
In the uncut version of The Trick Top Hat, Wilson writes:
Those who had particularly keen memories of the future – those who could see the transformation into Immortality and Higher Intelligence that was before them – imagined that this could only be accomplished through what these primates called Promethean Struggle. They loved to dramatize themselves as heroic contestants “fighting” every step of the way from the primeval ooze to the first upright ape, “battling” mightily toward the steam engine and the Age of Abundance, etc. That all this was programmed into the DNA on every planet, and that all they had to do was cooperate with it, was a concept too humiliating to their primate egos.
“It steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time,” wrote one of their cleverest primate philosophers; but they did not dare to believe him. They were sure that if they stopped struggling, they would slip back into amoebahood again, or something worse. (pg. 247)
Dr. Wilson here refers to Charles Fort as “one of their cleverest primate philosophers.” In Quantum Psychology Wilson renamed the neurogenetic circuit the “morphogenetic system”: “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).
Keeping this in mind, I reframe the passage from The Trick Top Hat as that we just need to cooperate with the morphogenetic fields.
2. I do not consider death inevitable.
3. I think space industrialization can help humanity.
4. I consider the music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago very important.
5. I consider the writing of Rafi Zabor very important.
6. I consider the writing of Robert Anton Wilson very important.
7. I suspect the writing of Ibn ‘Arabi has great value.
8. Paying attention to dreams seems valuable to me.
9. I like E-Prime.
10. The writing of Robert Heinlein seems important to me.
Bob asks the reader to, “Guess how soon the world will change so totally that you will seem conservative in those areas.”
1. Bob Wilson and Bucky Fuller thought we might have a post-work economy by the 1990’s. I suspect it will take at least a few hundred years to move to a world where hard work no longer seems so central. We may never get there.
2. Perhaps we will all die. Perhaps medicine will radically improve in the next century.
3. Perhaps we will reap the benefits of space industrialization in the next sixty years.
4. Most years I look at the voting for the downbeat Hall of Fame. Of the members of the Art Ensemble, only Lester Bowie has gotten voted into the Hall of Fame. I think much of Art Ensemble’s music seems less radical today than it did fifty years ago.
5. Hopefully more people will recognize the value of Rafi’s work during his lifetime.
6. Perhaps Bob Wilson’s work will have a Renaissance in the next few decades.
7. Many people value Ibn ‘Arabi’s work already. Much more of it has gotten translated into English in the last forty years. Perhaps he will become a popular as Rumi in the next fifty years, or least have a significantly greater profile in the West.
8. People have paid attention to dreams throughout history (and probably before it). With Freud people started looking at dreams in some new ways. I suspect we will learn more and more about dreams in the coming century, just as we have learned more and more about the brain in the last thirty years. Perhaps people will learn new things from Finnegans Wake, Joyce’s prophetic vision of the world of the night.
9. I’ve written, talked, and thought mostly in E-Prime for about thirty years. I no longer have the evangelical zeal for it that I once did, but I still find it a valuable tool. Perhaps it will seem a conservative practice in eighty years, or it may take centuries.
10. Many science fiction fans grew up on Heinlein, especially people my age and older. I have encountered some younger Heinlein fans. His vision of a world impacted by changing technologies and the changes in people’s behavior affected by these technological changes seems relevant in 2022. However, some of his ideas about men and woman seem very outdated to some readers. He gets ignored by academic writers on American literature, but he seems central to writers like Bob Wilson and Phil Dick. Perhaps my ideas about Heinlein’s importance already seem conservative to some.