Welcome to the online reading group for Natural Law: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw, published by Hilaritas Press. It is written by Robert Anton Wilson; the anthology is edited by Chad Nelson.
The original long essay, Natural Law: Or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy, was published as a short book in 1987 by Loompanics Unlimited. The Hilaritas Press book Natural Law: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw reprints the original essay but adds 12 additional pieces: nine essays, an interview and a work of short fiction. All 12 additions were selected by Chad Nelson.
In this reading group, we are covering the Hilaritas Press book. The format is the same as other online reading groups on this website: There will be a blog post, written by me or by a guest blogger, and everyone else is invited to post in the comments. The comments for this blog are moderated, as otherwise Google is apparently happy to let in all sorts of vile spam, but as a rule I approve legitimate comments.
New entries for the online reading group will be posted weekly. Today's entry covers the material in the front of the book, before Robert Anton Wilson's words begin, including John Higgs' piece on Maybe Day and Chad's introduction.
A note on the available texts: As a rule Hilaritas Press books are published as trade paperbacks and as ebooks, but unfortunately in the case of Natural Law, there have been some stubborn glitches. There is still no Kindle, and when I bought an ePub from Barnes and Noble, the text was messed up when I tried to read it with the Nook app on my phone. Barnes and Noble wound up refunding my money; I was able to verify that the text works at the Barnes and Noble website, but I wanted to be able to read it on my smartphone. I cannot say whether the ebook works on an actual Nook ebook reader, or whether the book works on Kobo, etc. Rasa has promised me an update on the ebook situation when he has news, and I'll post any news promptly on this blog. For now, your best option may be the paperback.
Here are a few annotations:
Cover: The cover is credited to Amoeba, i.e. Scott McPherson, who has done all of the covers for the Hilaritas Press editions of Robert Anton Wilson's work. The cover puns on the Zen koan, "Who is the master who makes the grass green?" mentioned in Wilson's writings, including in this passage in the Natural Law essay:
Every perception is a gamble, in which we see part, not all, (to see all requires omniscience) and “fill in” or project a convincing hologram out of minimal clues. We all intuitively know the obvious and correct answer to the Zen koan, “Who is the Master who makes the grass green?”
But the cover also is an attempt to make the book attractive to the general reader, as opposed to people who are already fans of Wilson; see this blog post for more information.
After the title page and after the page with the usual publication information, such as the ISBN and copyright notice, there's a photo of Robert Anton Wilson, taken by Duncan Harvey in January 1986 at Chelsea Old Town Hall in London, England, when Wilson was in town for a talk.
The story behind the photo (and the other photos of Wilson taken by Mr. Harvey) is interesting; Mr. Harvey was on assignment for a magazine, but the magazine went out of business and Mr. Harvey was not paid; he was able to sell some of his work to Wilson's British agent.
In 2014, during the Cosmic Trigger play and festival in London, (i.e., the Daisy Campbell adaptation of Wilson's first Cosmic Trigger book, available as a book from Hilaritas,) Harvey handed writer John Higgs a thumb drive with a bunch of photos from that 1986 shoot, digitized from photos the photographer found in his attic; Higgs mentioned the incident in a blog post that included some of the photos, and the photo that John identified as his favorite is the one used in the book.
John also emailed me at the time to give me access to the photos and suggested I interview Duncan Harvey, and I did, and you can read the interview and see more of the photos.
A couple of pages later, we come to the "Warning: The Attorney General has determined that this book may be hazardous to your dogma" page, which echoes similar statements at the front of other Robert Anton Wilson books, such as TSOG.
Then we come to the first four lines of a poem by A.E. Housman, "The Laws of God, The Laws of Man," full poem here. (This is also the poem with the lines, "I, a stranger and afraid/In a world I never made.") The poem is appropriate to discussing the purported "natural law" that Wilson takes on in his essay, and the citation shows off Wilson's wide reading. And if you check out the whole poem, it fits well with Wilson's emphasis on intellectual freedom. Housman (1859-1936) was a famous poet and a noted scholar of the classics and professor of Latin.
Next comes Chad Nelson's "Acknowledgements," which includes Victor Koman, a libertarian science fiction writer and the publisher of KoPubCo.com, which sells books by Koman and by Samuel Edward Konkin III, who put out the publication in which the "Natural Law" essay first appeared. See the website for a list of the issues of "New Libertarian" magazine which include articles by Wilson. The website also offers copies of Koman's Prometheus Award winning novels and a Christmas book for children, The Legend of Anarcho Claus, that explains Agorism, the libertarian philosophy espoused by Konkin.
After the Table of Contents, we get John Higgs' piece, "Happy Maybe Day," published in the Guardian newspaper on July 23, 2009. I think John does a masterful job of explaining model agnosticism without lapsing into jargon or cliches -- there's no reference, for example, to "reality tunnels." Notice how John subtly alludes to "the map is not the territory."
And then we get Chad Nelson's introduction, which also discusses model agnosticism and which explains the criteria he used in choosing the pieces for the book that supplement the title essay: "While the additional entries in this volume represent, for me, the best of Wilson's aggravated case of agnosticism and tie in nicely with Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy, I realize that they are also simply some of my personal favorites which I am grateful will now see the light of day, thanks to the good folks at Hilaritas Press," he writes.
Next week will be the first of two blog entries on the Natural Law essay.