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

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Lennon-McCartney and Wilson-Shea


John Lennon, left, and Paul McCartney, top, with other members of their band (public domain photo). Robert Shea decided to grow a mustache to follow their example. 

Most Beatles fan likely will recognize that the John Lennon-Paul McCartney partnership, in songwriting and in running the Beatles, was a synergy that created something greater than what either could do on their own.

I would argue that the Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson partnership that created Illuminatus!, launching literary careers for both of them, was a similar happy partnership, even if they never collaborated again.

Here is a mailing comment Shea wrote to Wilson in his Golden APA zine:

"I was stunned by your comment [to] Kevin, wherein you say you brooded over why you couldn’t finish a long book and then, collaborating with me, finished one. You see, I’ve been going around telling people that I never completed a book project before writing Illuminatus! and it was my collaboration with you, and your example of joyful productivity that taught me how to write and finish novels. I never realized that Illuminatus! was a breakthrough book for both of us. I guess I sort of assumed that you had never before written a book simply because you hadn’t gotten around to it, whereas I, who had started a number of novels and never finished any, had a 'problem'.”

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Coming soon (I hope) my Robert Shea anthology

Robert Shea, with the manuscript of his excellent historical novel, Shike. 

As a comment to Sunday's blog post, Spookah writes, "Do you mean that you are putting together a Robert Shea anthology? If so, would that be just for yourself, or are there plans on getting it published somehow?

"One can only appreciate the efforts you make in keeping Bob Shea's work and memory alive, Tom."

I am in fact working on a Kindle ebook anthology of Robert Shea's nonfiction to be published by Anecdota Press, my imprint; see "Ebooks I've Published" at the right side of this page for my first two titles, Pause, Play — A Higher Consciousness Handbook, K.P. van der Tempel and War is the Health of the State, Randolph Bourne. 

I announced the Shea anthology in a posting on Maybe Day this year, but I haven't talked too much about it. The tentative title, unless I think of a better one, is Every Day Is a GOOD Day: The Nonfiction of Robert Shea, and the content is essays and interviews, not unlike many of RAW's books. ("Every day is a good day" is a slogan he often used in zines for The Golden APA, where many of his zines were circulated.) I'm doing this with the permission of Mike Shea, Robert Shea's son and literary executor, who maintains the official Shea website.  I have more than 65,000 words so far, and I feel like I'm getting close to having a finished draft. It will still need to be edited and I need to write an introduction and do some other bits, but I am hoping to be done in a new weeks.

It turns out Shea wrote quite a bit about anarchism and libertarianism, writing, science fiction, Illuminatus! and many other topics. I hope people will find the book interesting. 

Monday, October 2, 2023

Another RAW fan

The controversial antiwar writer Caitlin Johnstone apparently is a RAW fan, or at the very least is familiar with his work.

For example, here is the article "The Healthy Way To Hold A Conspiracy Theory" on her website, which cites RAW on reality tunnels. 

She recently moved websites, her latest website is here. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

A RAW home, and a mailing comment


Above photo posted on X by Adrian Legg,  who writes, "Bob's old residence address in Dalkey, County Dublin, looking splendid @RAWilson23."


I've been plugging away on my Robert Shea anthology, and part of that work is going through old issues of "Tlaloc Grinned," the fanzine Shea wrote for The Golden APA. (The title of the zine is an Illuminatus! reference; early in the trilogy a woman named Sasparilla "either saw, or imagined she saw, a sinister kind of tight grin, or grimace, cross the face of the gigantic statue of Tlaloc, the rain god.") Much of Shea's zines consisted of mailing comments, i.e. comments about zines written by other members of the apa (such as Arthur Hlavaty, founder of The Golden APA). (For more on the Golden APA and Shea's and Wilson's participation in it, please see this interview.) In one zine, Shea refers to "Tlaloc Grinned" as "The apazine of Pre-Columbian Pan-Secular Pagan Humanism." 

Anyway, when Shea died and Wilson wrote about him in Cosmic Trigger 3, Wilson recalled his visits to Shea's home in Illinois after Wilson had left Chicago.

So I thought I would share a mailing comment Shea wrote to Wilson in the January 1988 issue of "Tlaloc Grinned": "Chicago seemed more like home to us, too, with you visiting. I get more interesting, new ideas in a few hours of talking with  you than I get in six months of my day-to-day life."

Friday, September 29, 2023

What a space colony might look like



Given Robert Anton Wilson's enthusiasm for migrating into space,  I thought some of you might be interested in this great video of what the interior of an O'Neill cylinder would look like. 

I spotted this in a posting on X by the video's creator, Bryan Versteeg, who wrote, "The interior of an O'Neill cylinder. 1km in diameter, 10km long. Produced by resources from asteroids. Home to thousands.Structural design as referenced from the 1976 book, The High Frontier, by Gerard K. O'Neill.
Artistic interpretation my own. Music: Seine River by IamDayLight. Licensed from"

When I remarked to Mr. Versteeg that if he posted it to YouTube, I could share it on my blog, he obligingly posted it. See his X account for other cool stuff. 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Discordian event in New York City


News from Jesse Walker on X: "November 13 in New York: Come see Andrei Codrescu's new play about Kerry Thornley and the JFK assassination, then listen as he and I have a conversation about conspiracy theories, Discordianism, and whatever else seems apropos."

The play is Codrescu's "The Second Oswald" and the evening's event is at 7:30 p.m.  Monday, Nov. 13, at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery, New York City. Tickets are here.  You can also learn more about the Bowery Poetry Club. 

Andrei Codrescu is an interesting guy, if you don't know him, check out the Wikipedia bio.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Secret photo of Illuminati gathering

 That's what I thought when I saw the photo, anyway, although ProPublica says, "The annual Grove festival kicks off with a highly produced ceremony in which an effigy representing worldly cares and concerns is burned."

It's from a ProPublica article about Clarence Thomas and "Bohemian Grove, a secretive all-men’s retreat in Northern California."

Hat tip, Prop Anon on X.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

New RAW meme


From the RAW Semantics X account. 

The quote  is taken from one of the better RAW interviews, at least in my opinion, not withstanding the unfortunate bit where he criticizes Bob Dylan. It's the 1976 "New Libertarian Notes" interview, which I made available on the Internet, thanks to Mike Gathers, who made it available to me, and Jesse Walker, who made it available to Mike. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Latest John Higgs news

John Higgs has released the latest edition of his newletter. 

Lots of news and you should read the whole newsletter for  yourself, but here is some of the news relevant to this blog: The new edition of the KLF book remains available for mail order -- you can have an autographed copy shipped to the states, for example. Higgs has recorded an audiobook of his Timothy Leary biography, and that will be out very soon. 

And there's this news, too: "Both The KLF and I Have America Surrounded will be getting proper US releases next year, including audiobooks - more news on that soon."

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Robert Anton Wilson mentioned in Harper's magazine

The current issue of Harper's Magazine has a long, interesting article, "The Golden Fleece," by Joe Kloc, about pulp collector Gary Lovisi and his wife, and Kloc's search for an old pulp magazine with a romantic story behind it. It's worth reading.

Kurt Smith tipped me off about the piece because of this passage:

"Gary and his wife, Lucille Cali, live in Gerritsen Beach, a working-class neighborhood in the southeast corner of Brooklyn, just three miles from the open waters of the Atlantic. Their brick row house sits at sea level, not far from the local Knights of Columbus lodge and the childhood home of the neighborhood’s only canonized son: Robert Anton Wilson, a science-fiction author elevated to sainthood by Discordians, or worshippers of Eris, the Greek goddess who sparked the Trojan War."

Kloc's first book is coming out next year, it sounds like it will be a good read. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Hilaritas podcast with Lon Milo DuQuette

The Hilaritas Press podcast is out today, and it's an interview of magician and author Lon Milo DuQuette, who contributed a piece to  the new Robert Anton Wilson book, Lion of Light. 

"In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with Lon Milo DuQuette. As Mike says, 'it’s my great pleasure to chat with man who wrote the introduction to the new Hilaritas publication of Lion of Light;  musician, teacher, and author of over 20 books on Aleister Crowley, Magick, Kabbala, Thoth Tarot, and things that bump in the night, Lon Milo DuQuette'.”

Mike has said on social media that this may be his favorite podcast so far. It's number 25, so there's been a bunch. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Discordian doings in Brighton, England


Announcement via X from Ben Graham: "Discordian hi-jinx in a Brighton pub on Sept 29! Featuring Richard Norris (DJ set and Q&A), Kermit (DJ set from Black Grape / Ruthless Rap Assassins legend), Daisy Eris Campbell, God's Teeth & The Interstellar Tropics and loads more! Tix at "

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Russian cover of 'Prometheus Rising'


This was posted on Facebook by Eddy Nix. I don't have a cover artist or any other information, but the caption said, "Prometheus Rising. Russia 2008."

At the post, Mike Gathers commented, "Excellent. Once upon a time, I collected these. The foreign covers were so much more interesting than New Falcon."

I asked Mike if he posts those foreign covers, and he sent this link to his covers collection at the Robert Anton Wilson Fans site that Mike founded. (Note the links to "cover art galleries" at the top of the page.) Unfortunately, the link to the international gallery is not currently working, but other galleries may be viewed. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Scott Apel to write new 'Chaos and Beyond' intro

Scott Apel will write a new  introduction of Chaos and Beyond, Rasa has announced. Hilaritas Press is putting out a new edition soon of the book Chaos and Beyond,  an anthology, originally issued in 1994, of material from the Trajectories newsletter put out by RAW and Apel. It's mostly pieces written by RAW, but there are also contributions from folks such as Arlen Wilson and Timothy Leary.

I asked Scott about this and he said he doesn't know yet what he's going to write about.

"All I have so far is an epigram, an introductory quote, from Blazing Saddles:

Mayor Johnson: “Goddamn it, I said ‘Order”!”

Howard Johnson: “Y’know, Nietzche says, out of chaos comes order.”

Olson Johnson: “Ah, blow it out your ass, Howard.”

So an auspicious start, anyway.  😁"

Beyond Chaos and Beyond, the 2019 book Apel edited, is kind of a companion book to Chaos and Beyond. Here is the review I wrote when it came out.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Jesse Walker to write foreword for new RAW book

Author and pundit Jesse Walker (at the Laurie Anderson exhibition at the Hirshhorn museum in Washington, D.C. )(Facebook photo). 

After Monday's post, in which I reproduced a Facebook post by Rasa on the upcoming Hilaritas Press book on Robert Anton Wilson's politics, Jesse Walker revealed some news on X: 

"I guess the cat's out of the bag that this book is in the works and that I'm writing a foreword to it. My comments quoted in the linked post are the short version of what I'll be saying, or of part of what I'll be saying."

Monday, September 18, 2023

Rasa, and Jesse Walker, on RAW's politics

[This is a post by Rasa, on Facebook on August 8 in the "Robert Anton Wilson Group," on RAW's politics, that I thought would be worth sharing. The Management.]

Hilaritas Press is working on compiling a book of essays RAW wrote on politics. The working title is, "RAW Politics." We've been having a lot of discussions about the topic, and I'm making this post because today someone again tried to say RAW was a "Right-Winger."

That person posted a link to the 1969 article RAW wrote (or at least we think he wrote it. He used the pseudonym "Ronald Weston"), and the person asked, "Are you sure you are in the right group?" – implying that RAW was an anti-socialist (the guy's words) right winger. Not only did RAW change his opinions on a lot of things over time, but that article in particular was interesting for a number of reasons having to do largely with changing definitions and changing political realities.

It is useful to note that when interviewed years later, RAW had this to say...

• • •


Are there any existing political systems you admire?


Scandinavian socialism. I found the Scandinavians to be about the most admirable people in Europe. clean streets, a low crime rate, a general air of high civilization - luxuries for all and a total absence of slums, poverty, and ugliness. They seem very happy and productive, with one of the most way out futurist movements in the world. They're the California of Europe.

I hate to sound like a Marxist, which I'm not, but the reason you haven't heard about Scandinavian Socialism is because the media of this country is controlled by rich people who are scared shitless of socialism. They want Americans to think there's only one type of socialism, Soviet Communism, which is the kind of place where dissident scientists get thrown in lunatic asylums, all of which is true. Americans are paranoid about Russians but Scandinavians regard them with amusement; they're those backwards people who think that you can only have socialism by putting all the poets and painters in jail. The Scandinavian

• • •

In a discussion I had with RAW fan and Libertarian book editor for Reason Magazine, Jesse Walker, I asked him specifically about that "I am a Right-Wing Anarchist" article. Here's what he said:

• • •

So: Before Bob had a writing career, he went through Trotskyist and Randian phases. In the early '60s he mixed Tucker/Proudhon-style individualist/mutualist anarchism with ideas from Wilhelm Reich and other sources; he was a pretty doctrinaire anarchist at first, in ways that I suspect made him wince when he looked back later, and then he moved toward the more agnostic approach that became a big part of his general worldview. He mixed in other influences as well, from Fuller to Pound to Brooks Adams.

He stopped calling himself an anarchist for a while, then embraced the word again. He went through a period of supporting gun control, but eventually formed the Guns and Dope Party. In the '90s he presented anarcho-mutualism as his social ideal while suggesting that Scandinavian social democracy was the best real-world system available. (Around the same time, of course, the Scandinavian countries started adopting a bunch of market reforms. They're arguably more deregulatory than the U.S. now, but they also have a more generous safety net, which is a combination he'd probably appreciate.)

In one of his early Realist articles he called himself a "socialist." (A libertarian socialist, but he used the s-word.) In Prometheus Rising, he commented that "as indust-reality has spread, socialism has followed in its wake" and then noted in parentheses that "the author, being up-front about his prejudices, admits that he does not like it." By the end of the '80s, on the other hand, he was writing like a labor militant. (I can't help suspecting that the excesses of the New Left provoked a bit of an anti-left backlash from him, and then the excesses of the Reagan era pushed him in the opposite direction -- if not in his underlying philosophy than at least in who was annoying him the most at the moment.)

Through many of those shifts, from the '70s through the '90s (and maybe later), he spoke at libertarian gatherings. I ran into him at a Libertarian Party convention in 1993, where he was giving a talk and I was present on behalf of a now-defunct magazine. I asked him how close he felt to the party these days, and he replied that it depended on which segment of the party we were talking about. This particular convention, he added, was basically being run by the local chapter of NORML, so he was cool with them.

All in all, he wasn't that far from what people would call a left-libertarian these days. But that's an easy phrase to misunderstand, and it papers over the different ways he used "left" and "right" over a long career. If you want a single word to describe his politics, I think "mutualist" would be incomplete but accurate.

• • •

Here's a link to the full Dare interview:• • •

When I asked Jesse specifically about that article, "Why I am a Right-Wing Anarchist," he said,

As far as "Why I Am a Right-Wing Anarchist" goes, I agree that the title can mislead people -- the fact that it upholds pre-Columbian Native American societies as an ideal should indicate that this wasn't some sort of Randian argument. But I don't think he was making a joke when he used the word "right-wing"; this was, after all, just a few years before he wrote in SEX AND DRUGS that he was "a spokesman for an extreme right-wing libertarianism that prides itself on being more radical than left-wing anarchism.”… Better to figure that he had a quirky definition of "right-wing" in mind at the time and that he later discarded it.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Jesse Walker on pirate preservationists

I was a Kinks fan in the sense that I bought this album, Misfits, when it came out in the late 1970s, and a few others, but Jesse Walker is a much more serious fan that I; see his article. 

Jesse Walker has a really interesting article in the October issue of Reason magazine, "The Pirate Preservationists," now available online, about collectors who go beyond what is commercially available when collect TV shows, music from a favorite artists, etc. Jesse argues that while "piracy" has a bad name, such collectors often preserve work that otherwise might be lost.

I'm guessing that Robert Anton Wilson fans can relate. Even in RAW's lifetime, Email to the Universe drew on articles posted on the Robert Anton Wilson Fans website founded by Mike Gathers, and recent posthumous RAW books have used materials gathered by the likes of Mike and Martin Wagner. 

People who follow classical history, i.e. ancient Greece and Rome, know that only a tiny percentage of work written by classical authors has survived to modern times. But those kinds of losses have happened much more recently; here is an interesting bit from Jesse's piece:

"Preservation is a constant war against decay, a war where the losses outnumber the victories and the victories are only temporary. According to the Library of Congress, roughly 70 percent of silent-era movies are now gone completely and another 5 percent survive only in part. The library's list of lost sound recordings includes commercial releases by musicians as popular as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Ethel Waters. The vast majority of NBC's pre-TV newscasts have disappeared; they're rumored to be rotting in a landfill in New Jersey."

It seems to me that "pirate" is a term that takes in widely differing activities; collecting an article that otherwise might be lost seems wildly different, to me, than distributing a bootleg copy of a book available from Hilaritas Press. 

Jesse's article is illustrated with a photo of Jesse's music collection. I can figure out a lot of it, but what is the "Illuminatus Hi-Fi Companion" from DJ Sun Woo Kong? 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Brian Dean's book on framing

I have just finished Brian Dean's book, Lazy Person's Guide to Framing: Decoding the News Media, issued this year in a newly-revised edition. 

I enjoyed the book and it's an easy, quick read. I am of course somewhat familiar with Brian's thought via the RAW Semantics blog and his X account, but it's nice to have much of it in one place. The book seeks to popularize George Lakoff's work on framing, i.e. the metaphors and points of view that people  use to understand the world, and to attempt to impose their ideology on others. The book also can be read as being about reality tunnels, and Robert Anton Wilson is quoted in several places. (Here is Brian's own explanation of the book).  Much of the discussion comes from the point of view of Brian's left politics (which I understood better after reading the book) but you can use the techniques Brian talks about to analyze anyone's opinions, including Brian's. 

Here are a couple of my favorite passages from the book:

"It seems obvious, but needs repeating: We don't all think the same -- only a part of our conceptual systems can be considered universal. So-called 'conservatives' and 'progressives' don't see the world in the same way; they have different forms of reason on moral issues. But they both see themselves as right, in a moral sense (with perhaps a few 'amoral' exceptions.)" [Emphases in original.]

[On how a small element of truth can lead to distortion:]

"With repetition and reinforcement, the irrefutable small 'truth' becomes the main focus -- the primary frame through which we perceive the larger issue. But it's not an accurate or honest representation of the issue. It's like a small stain on the corner of a large carpet -- you don't even notice the stain unless somebody points it out. But if you repeatedly focus on the stain, it may become an obsession -- your primary mental category for the overall appearance of the room is 'stained carpet.' The stain becomes the overriding frame, the tiny truth that's out of proportion." 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Thursday, September 14, 2023

What is your favorite RAW interview?

I've long thought that an interview of Robert Anton Wilson by Scott Apel and one of Apel's friends, Kevin Briggs, was one of the best interviews of RAW. It's not posted on the Internet, but it available in two of Apel's books: Beyond Chaos and Beyond, and Science Fiction: An Oral History

So when I loaned a copy of Beyond Chaos and Beyond to a friend of mine, Tracy Harms, I was curious what Tracy would think of the interview. On X, Tracy posted, "Yesterday I read an interview with Robert Anton Wilson and it reminded me how delightful he was.  So many fun, optimistic, enlivening ideas.  We miss him." And to me, Tracy wrote, "The opening interview was a lovely reminder of his contributions."

Both books remain available; Beyond Chaos and Beyond has a lot of RAW material and biography of RAW that Apel wrote; for Kindle, it's about $5. Science Fiction: An Oral History is only 99 cents for Kindle, and you also get interviews with C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick, Fritz Leiber, Roger Zelazny and Norman Spinrad. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The new Scott Adams book on framing

Rob Pugh writes to tell me he is reading the new Scott Adams book, Reframe Your Brain: The User Interface for Happiness and Success and reports that much of it reminds him of what Robert Anton Wilson wrote about reality tunnels. (I am often not a fan of Scott Adams' politics, but Rob knows I liked a previous book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.)

Rob writes, "I'm in the middle of the new Scott Adams' book 'Reframe Your Brain' and (sadly) it took me about half of the book to realize 'Oh, he's changing reality tunnels using language.' I'd long categorized 'framing' in the political/spin category and didn't give it much thought. But he's basically using Sapir-Whorf linguistic to change channels on reality tunnels. IMO/YMMV at least. The next chapter that I'm about to start is literally called 'Reality Reframes.' It's an interesting and possibly useful book, I think, so far.

"I've never run across any direct Adams/RAW links, but given he goes on about his hypnotist bonafides, there's probably at least some NLP/Bandler'esque overlaps."

I got a followup email from Rob the next day. In a passage of the book, Adams writes, "I can see a valid argument for either optimist or pessimism about the current state of the world. I don't know which filter is more accurate, but I do know one makes me feel better than the other. So I choose the happy-making one."

Rob posits, "This is a just another way RAW said 'I prefer to create for each hour the happiest, funniest, and most romantic reality-tunnel...' "

Rob does not mention it, but it sounds like the Adams book could be a companion for Lazy Person's Guide to Framing: Decoding the News Media by Brian Dean, which is sitting in my Kindle reader, waiting for me to get to it. Here is Brian's pinned post on the book at the RAW Semantics blog. I am not suggesting that Brian is interested in Scott Adams' book, only that they (apparently) tackle a common subject. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Did RAW revive interest in Crowley's magick?

Aleister Crowley in 1925 (public domain photo). 

When I read the Illuminatus! trilogy back in the 1970s, when I was in college in Oklahoma, I didn't know anyone who was seriously into magick or Aleister Crowley. I did know quite a few libertarians; in fact, all of the people I knew who read the book were libertarians, and so I was under the impression that libertarians were the core audience for the book. Of course, there are plenty of libertarians who have read the trilogy, and read other work by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, but I did not realize how many RAW fans really were more into magick than political philosophy. When I began this blog in 2010, I assumed that most of the people who bothered to read it would be libertarians, and I was surprised at the number of people I encountered who identified with the left instead, or who were into magick.

While my views about RAW's audience have shifted, I am still capable of surprise. I am reading Lion of Light because I am taking part in the ongoing online reading group at Jechidah, so I duly read the pieces by Lon Milo DuQuette and Richard Kaczysnki, and a couple of passages caught my eye.

DuQuette: "Ordo Templi Orientis is now arguably the largest and most influential magical order in the world. In the first 15 years since our local lodge in Newport Beach officiated scores of Degree initiations. Of the new initiates I interviewed in those  years at least 75% told me they had been initially drawn to magick and Aleister Crowley because they had read The Illuminatus! Trilogy and the works of Robert Anton Wilson."

Kaczynski: "In the late 1970s, when I dove into the sci-fi con and pagan festival circuits, one or both of Wilson and Leary were frequent guests of honor. To me it seemed like more of the attendees had come to Crowley's magick through The Illuminatus! Trilogy than all of the aforementioned 'establishment' authors combined." [Kaczynski says that in 1974, the occult "establishment" was Israel Regardie, Francis King, John Symonds and Kenneth Grant.) 

So it sounds like the revival of Crowley's magick is another way Illuminatus! has influenced the culture. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Oz Fritz on Duquette, Kaczynski and 'Do what thou wilt'

Lon Milo Duquette (Creative Commons photo by Alan Corcoran,  source.)

The second post in the online reading group for the new Robert Anton Wilson book,  Lion of Light,  has gone up. Oz Fritz covers the history of the phrase "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," discusses the Lon Milo Duquette and Richard Kaczynski pieces in the book and even provides a nice anecdote about Brian Eno, so check it out. The information about Jimmy Page's interest in Aleister Crowley also interested me.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Was Mozart the world's greatest achiever?

Mozart in a portrait dated to 1781, when he was 25. (Source). 

Today's blog post will be in honor of the fact that RAW loved classical music. 

On his blog, Tyler Cowen makes the case that Johann Sebastian Bach was the greatest achiever of all time: "I’ve been reading and rereading biographies of Bach lately (for some podcast prep), and it strikes me he might count as the greatest achiever of all time.  That is distinct from say regarding him as your favorite composer or artist of all time."

Tyler lists a variety of criteria in his argument, including quality of work, being better than contemporary rivals, staying power over the centuries, overcoming obstacles, and so on. (The whole post, not terribly long, is worth a read.) One of the criteria is "consistency of work and achievement," and that's certainly true. Like most people who are into Bach's music, I listen to a wide variety of music -- cantatas, keyboard pieces, concertos, pieces for solo organ, work for solo violin and on and on. It's all really good. 

I certainly don't want to diminish Bach in any way. But it still seems to me that one can make a case for Mozart, who seems at least as amazing as an overachiever. Perhaps I am influenced by the fact that I have lately been obsessed with Mozart's piano concertos and listening to them every day for days, but I think a good case can be made for Mozart.

Brilliant Classics has issued a complete box set of all of Bach's music. It comes to 155 CDs. But the Brilliant Classics boxed set of Mozart adds up to 170 CDs! 

Yes, Mozart's early music, written when he was a child, is not not as interesting as his later work, and the music that is played the most was written late in his life. For example, among the 27 piano concertos, the last eight are the ones that are most often played, and recorded over and over again.

But consider also, that Bach lived to be 65, and Mozart wrote more music despite living to be only 35! 

And if you compare works written while an adult, the consistency of quality for Mozart is very good. 

Bach got to live 30 more years than Mozart. During the time he was alive, Mozart wrote furiously.   In 1788, Mozart completed the famous last three symphonies, 39, 40 and 41, and 1788 also included Piano Sonata Number 15, Piano Concerto No. 26, Piano Trio No. 4, Piano Sonata No. 16, Violin Sonata No. 36, Piano Trio No. 5, Divertimento in E-flat and Piano Trio No. 6. 1791, the year Mozart died in early December, obviously was not his best year, but it still included two operas, the last piano concerto, a clarinet concerto, much of the Requiem and many other works.

If you listen to classical music radio stations, you'll notice Mozart as the composer who is probably played the most, fulfilling the same role that Led Zeppelin plays for classic rock stations. 

It is painful to think about what Mozart could have written if he had just five more years and lived to age 40. It is mind boggling to think about Mozart living into his 60s, like Bach, or even making it to age 56, like Beethoven. 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

New Bobby Campbell newsletter


Bobby Campbell has released his latest occasional newsletter, and it underscores how he's had a busy and productive summer: A new episode of "Buddhafart," his excellent "Living in a RAW World" essay for Maybe Day, and other bits.

There is also an intriguing announcement: "Additionally, a top secret new project has popped up on the horizon, prompting a frenzied explosion of pre-production activity, and a vague notion that everything has been building towards THIS :)))"

Thursday, September 7, 2023

C.J. Stone on the revised Higgs KLF book [Now with an exclusive update!]

The KLF and Tammy Wynette, performing a KLF song inspired by the Illuminatus! trilogy. 

Of all of John Higgs' excellent books, the one he wrote on the KLF, The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds, arguably is his weirdest and certainly is the one that discusses Robert Anton Wilson the most.

So when Nick Helseg-Larsen sent me a link to "Footnotes to a Discordian Fable," a review by Christopher James Stone of a new edition of the book, I was interested.

As you know if you regularly read my blog, Higgs has issued a new edition of the book, updated with thousands of words of footnotes. I had a better idea of what the new edition is like after reading Stone's review. 

I'll let you read the review for yourself (you should read it), but a couple of things. Stone has a comment about John's career which seems insightful: "This is part of Higgs’ genius: his ability to identify neglected stories that need to be told."

There's also an anecdote about John, not really related to the review, which illustrates the determination and drive which also has been a part of John's success. John and Mr. Stone, who have become friends, travel to Stonehenge and are knighted by "King Arthur," a biker turned Druid who is the subject of a book by Stone and an unproduced screenplay by Stone. "He vowed to remain in the stones till dawn. It was an awful night, raining constantly, and I soon gave up and sat in the car. Higgs remained true to his word and stayed out all night. When he finally joined me after dawn he was shivering with the cold and dripping wet. We turned on the engine so that the fans blew out a stream of hot air."

In the review, Stone reveals that one the structures of the book is that it focuses on five topics, conforming to the Discordian Law of Fives, e.g. "Bill Drummond, Robert Anton Wilson, Ken Campbell and Doctor Who." but then lists only four topics. Is this a joke that I'm not getting, or did the reviewer make a mistake? Update: After I asked about this on the Social Media Platform Formerly Known As Twitter, Stone wrote: "Ah yes, how could I have missed that? The fifth element is Alan Moore, the comic book writer. He's mentioned earlier."

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Notes on 'Perdurabo'


I thought I would offer a few notes on Perdurabo, the biography of Aleister Crowley written by Richard Kaczynski. 

I wanted to get background of knowledge about Crowley before reading the new Hilaritas Press book by Robert Anton Wilson, Lion of Light: Robert Anton Wilson on Aleister Crowley. I think Perdurabo succeeds in providing good information about Crowley's activities and beliefs, his Book of the Law and his belief that he was a prophet for a new creed. I read the "revised and expanded" edition, which runs to 720 pages, including the notes. It took me awhile to finish it. 

I should  note that it's also a pretty good read; whatever you think of Crowley's character, or the way he treated other people, there was seldom a dull moment in his life as a magician, mountain climber, poet and a person who apparently had dozens of sexual relationships. If you like name-dropping, you also will like this book: Crowley had relationships with or at least ran across many different famous people. And so you read about Crowley's feud with William Butler Yeats. You read about how one of his lovers had a teenage son, Preston, and that Preston and Crowley loathed each other, and eventually Kaczysnki reveals that "Preston" is Preston Sturges, the famous Hollywood film director and screenwriter. And so on and so  on. 

But while I generally enjoyed the celebrity portraits, one of them displeased me. At one point, Crowley had dealings with Walter Duranty, the infamous New York Times reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his articles about the Soviet Union; Duranty is known now as the perhaps the most famous liar in journalism. He is best remembered for suppressing the truth about how Stalin starved to death many residents of Ukraine. The Wikipedia article gives a  useful summary and how the current situation with Russia and Ukraine has not lessened awareness of the matter, or criticism of the New York Times. Kaczynski covers all this by writing that when Crowley met Duranty just before World War I, "Years would pass before he [Duranty] would be acclaimed for his coverage of World War I and the rise of Joseph Stalin." This seems a little bit like writing, about the young Adolf Hitler, "Years would pass before he would be acclaimed for his pioneering work in dealing with anti-Semitism."

Speaking of politics, as I read the book I kept in mind the comments of D.M.S. on my blog post announced the new Lion of Light reading group; D.M.S. wrote, "I would like to know more about RAWs views on the more ugly sides of AC, his sexism and racism (as well as misusing other people, losing his own will to a heavy addiction and sometimes being just a plain asshole) as it has been documented in many ways.

"I am having a hard time just to focus on his spiritual work and 'Ignore his morals, ignore his political views, ignore his very clear lack of understanding for most people' as an admittedly well written post an reddit says."

Most of D.M.S.' accusations seem true about Crowley's ugly sides, although the book does document that he became a heroin addict because he was given heroin by doctors to treat his bronchitis and asthma, which troubled him much of his life (bronchitis is part of what killed Crowley at age 72 in 1947.) And to give Crowley his due, he sacrificed his wealth and much of his time and energy to a single-minded dedication to learn what he believed he had discovered. Apparently he really was sincere.

The only comment from D.M.S. which puzzled me was the reference to Crowley's "political views." Insofar as he had political views (I could not make out after reading a book hundreds of pages long if he ever voted or had a favorite political party) it seemed to me he had little use for fascism, Nazis or Communists. Perdurabo documents that Crowley was booted out of Italy by the Fascist regime (a big setback, he had established an Abbey of Thelema in Sicily) and that Crowley responded by writing anti-Mussolini poems; that Crowley denounced the "peace in our time" pact that sold out Czechoslovakia and temporarily delayed World War II, and that Crowley wrote a scathing letter to a pro-Nazi Thelema follower in Germany, denouncing anti-Semitism, and that Crowley referenced "Murder and terror in Soviet Russia, Concentration Camps and persecution in Germany (Page 498). Crowley's political views were one of the few items of his personal life that did NOT bother me, as opposed to, for example, his cruel treatment of women and the often callous way he treated other people. But  I am not an EXPERT on Crowley (as RAW sometimes spelled the word) and Crowley may well have had repugnant political opinions I am just not aware of. 

Much of Crowley's misbehavior can be explained (but not excused) by his single-minded dedication to his mission. I read a biography of Prokofiev, the Russian composer, a couple of years ago, by Harlow Robinson, and the biographer remarked that Prokofiev treated other people as if he assumed the most useful thing they could do in their lives would be to support him in writing as much music as possible; Prokofiev was likely correct, but that does not excuse how he treated everyone, Robinson wrote. Crowley had a similar belief about his own importance. 

Kaczynski recently announced on Facebook that an audiobook of Perdurabo is on the way; no details yet, but he has promised to post updates. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

'Lion of Light' reading group begins


The Lion of Light online reading group has begun at the Jechidah blog. Lion of Light is the new Hilaritas Press book of Robert Anton Wilson's writings about Aleister Crowley 

As per usual for online reading groups here or at Jechidah, everyone else is invited to join in by posting comments. There are two blog posts so far at Jechidah, one to announce the reading group and the first actual entry, posted last night to further discuss the group and to cover Mike Gathers' "Editor's Note" in the new book, which provodes the story of how the book came together. Future postings will go up each Sunday, with Gregory Arnott and Oz Fritz alternating.

Gregory and Oz both contributed to the new book. Both have spent many years reading RAW and also studying Aleister Crowley. The new reading group is an excellent opportunity for RAW fans, people interested in Crowley and people who like magick.

The "read inside the book feature" at Amazon's page for the book will let you read Mike's piece, so if you don't have the book yet, you can order it and get started in the meantime. You don't have to buy the book from Amazon, of course; see the other options at the bottom of this web page. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Ebooks on sale that might interest sumbunall of you

I like to buy cheap ebooks, and I sometimes note ebook sales here; recently I posted about sales for an historical novel about James Joyce and Richard Kaczynski's Perdurabo, which I'm currently reading. 

A couple of new sales that caught my eye: In the U.S., Enochian Vision Magick: A Practical Guide to the Magick of Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley by Lon Milo DuQuette is available for $3.99 at the U.S. Amazon, (I checked, and it's not on sale at Barnes and Noble.)

British readers may want to know  that John Higgs' William Blake Vs. the World is just 99 pence at the Amazon UK.  Unfortunately, there's no corresponding sale in the U.S.; on Amazon, the ebook is a pricey $18.99. 

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Hilaritas readies book on RAW's politics, and other publishing news

I heard from a couple of different folks that Hilaritas Press is working on a book about Robert Anton Wilson's political writings. I also heard reports that a RAW book on magick might be in the works.  I wrote to Rasa and asked for an update on Hilaritas' immediate plans. and he kindly took time to respond, as is his wont. 

About the reports on planned new titles, Rasa wrote, "Yes, we are working on a few ideas. The 'RAW Politics' book (working title) has been picking up speed with Mike Gathers, Chad Nelson and Jesse Walker all working to get a collection of RAW articles together."

About other possible books that haven't been announced yet, Rasa wrote, "Two books that we’ve been thinking about for a while are also on my mind recently: Playboy’s Book of Forbidden Words, and The Sex Magicians. I just last week scanned Forbidden Words. RAW obtained the copyright for that book when he left Playboy. 

"Mike Gathers had a couple ideas for compilations of RAW essays for a few other books: RAW on Magick and RAW Interviews are in that list. We’re still thinking about those."

Meanwhile, if you look at the Hilaritas list on the publisher's home page of the 21 publicly-announced RAW books officially announced by Hilaritas, 19 have been published and only two remain: Reality Is What You Can Get Away With and Chaos and Beyond. 

Rasa gave me an update on those, too, explaining that they have been last because of technical difficulties:

"We are still trying to figure out how to get permission to use the Hollywood stills that RAW put into Reality Is What You Can Get Away With – The  Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences no longer has ownership of the original photos, so that’s been a hassle to track down current owners. Christina is working on that copyright usage. 

"The other book, Chaos and Beyond: The Best of Trajectories, was a bit of a hassle because, like all the old New Falcon titles, we didn’t have the original files, so we had to use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) versions. Chaos and Beyond was one book where RAW used a lot of the goofy fonts that came with early Mac computers. That drove the OCR software nuts, and so I have not been eager to tackle that reformatting, but just last week I had the thought to ask Scott Apel, the book’s editor and publisher, if he had the original files, and Praise Eris, he did! So this week I’ve been slowly going through that book, working on a newly formatted version. I’m guessing that will be our next book to release."

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Peter Lamborn Wilson's RAW obituary

 This is via Chad Nelson, who writes that while doing research, " stumbled upon this on JSTOR. I thought it was pretty good! I know PLW published another RAW obit, but this one was news to me.

"The citation in case anyone wants to find it on JSTOR is Spring 2007 Fifth Estate, Volume 42, Issue 1(375), 56 pages." 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Ishmael Reed the Illuminatus

Ishmael Reed in 2019 (Creative Commons photo, source)

Jesse Walker sends me a bit from an interview with Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo and other books: 

Q. Have  you ever received an honorary degree or grant or award for your writing?

A. I haven't received an honorary degree or grant, but I was recently made an honorary pope by the Bavarian Illuminati (for the writing of Mumbo Jumbo) which, according to the sealed papers I received in the mail, was founded in 1090 A.D. by Hassan i Sabbah. They read the book and don't think it was "muddled," as one of the "Sister" critics thought. (I get my strongest criticism from some of the "Sisters." I guess this is because they want me to improve and do better, god bless them.)

I asked Jesse for a citation, and he replied,

It originally appeared in the June 1974 issue of BLACK WORLD, and it was reprinted in the books SHROVETIDE IN OLD NEW ORLEANS and CONVERSATIONS WITH ISHMAEL REED. I should probably add that he is interviewing himself.

Your query prompted me to look up whether that issue of BLACK WORLD is online, and sure enough it is:

I have posted on the connection between Illuminatus and Mumbo Jumbo, see this post, and also see this post. 

Jesse also asked me to post the query he made on X, looking for a Reed essay, here is is:

1. In my memory, I first learned of Zora Neale Hurston in an essay about her by Ishmael Reed, then dug up TELL MY HORSE at the library. But the only Reed essay about Hurston that I can find is...his intro to a reprint of TELL MY HORSE, which couldn't have led me *to* the book.

2. That intro was reprinted in Reed's book AIRING DIRTY LAUNDRY, which I've read, but it didn't come out until 1994, years after I encountered TELL MY HORSE. She is mentioned in some of his essays—and in MUMBO JUMBO—so it's possible I went digging after reading one of those.

3. But it's possible that he really did write an extended essay about her that was not the TELL MY HORSE intro & that I'm just doing a bad job of finding it. So I put the question to Twitter: Do any of you know of this article that I think I'm remembering but might be imagining?

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

RAW Semantics releases hours of 'new' RAW audio [UPDATED]

The RAW Semantics blog announces the availability of audio recordings of Robert Anton Wilson, apparently not available anywhere else:

"Finally got around to digitising several hours of old RAW cassette tapes. Please check out the resulting MP3 files below. I’ve looked everywhere online to see if these talks/interviews have previously been uploaded (eg at or or Youtube. I also checked commercially available RAW recordings). As far as I can see, the digitised tapes below seem 'new' to the Internet (please let me know if I’ve overlooked anything)."

There are more details at the blog post and the comments are interesting. Note that you can stream the audio at the blog post, but you also can download the files for offline listening. 

UPDATE: Some of the audio has been removed -- see the comments -- but there's still a lot that most people likely have not heard. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Twenty Years of Marginal Revolution

George Mason University professors (and bloggers) Alex Tabarrok, left, and Tyler Cowen, in 2020. (George Mason University marketing photo).

While it's not directly related to this blog, I thought I would note that the Marginal Revolution blog has now celebrated 20 years in operation. Here is an interview (including a transcript) of the site's two bloggers, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok.

When I launched this blog, back in 2010, Marginal Revolution served as a model. For example, Tyler remarked somewhere that for a blog to be successful it must post frequently, at least once a day, and I've always tried to have one post a day, in spite of the fact that this blog has a rather narrow focus. There isn't always breaking news n the world of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea fandom!

And while there isn't a huge overlap what's covered in  Marginal Revolution and what I write about here, there is some. For example, here is a recent post by Alex on why the recent UFO craze in the news media is silly. Tyler often writes about classical music. And while these guys focus on economics, you never know what they will write about. Here is Alex's tribute to the greatness of Sinead O'Connor.  And if you missed my earlier post, here is Tyler on John Higgs' Love and Let Die. 

In the interview referenced above, Tyler mentions that the search box at his blog is an underrated feature because of the huge number of topics that blog has covered. I think that might be true of RAWIllumination, too. This blog has been around since June 2010, and I've covered a lot of RAW-related topics. Sometimes I have searched for information on Google, only to find that the answer to my question is an old blog post from this blog that I've forgotten! 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Aleister Crowley on reality tunnels

I am still plugging away on Richard Kaczynski's biography of Aleister Crowley, Perdurabo, and there's a passage where Crowley seems to anticipate the idea of reality tunnels and of switching from one reality to another.

Chapter Eight, "Singer of Strange and Obscene Gods," relates that Crowley wrote a book that was a "collection of devotional poems to the Virgin Mary" (although it had decidedly unpious hidden messages). But it says that it's just as well the hidden messages were not noticed, because "Crowley's intent was not to blaspheme" and that he was attempting to write from the mindset of a good Catholic.

The book quotes Crowley as saying, "I do not see why I should be confined to one life. How can one hope to understand the world if one persists in regarding it from the conning tower of one's own personality?" 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

This year's Prometheus Award ceremony



As Robert Anton Wilson was a big Heinlein fan, and as perhaps some of you are, too, I thought I would post this year's online Prometheus Award ceremony. Who knows, maybe a few of  you are interested in the Prometheus Award. Australian writer Dave Freer won this year for his novel Cloud-Castles,  Robert Heinlein won the Hall of Fame Award for his story "Free Men" which I nominated. I posted the full official announcement earlier. 

If  you watch the video (about 52 minutes), Freer gives a charming acceptance speech, and folks also show up from the Heinlein Trust and from the Heinlein Society, with various bits of news (apparently all of Heinlein's works are being translated into Chinese.) So I did think the ceremony was interesting when I watched it live last week.

The Libertarian Futurist Society blog also has been running posts about the ceremony. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Arlen Riley Wilson's radio plays

In Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth
, a book that's a big favorite of mine, Robert Anton Wilson writes (from the "She Was Raised In A Convent" chapter), "Sometime in the mid 1950s, when I was still working as an engineering aide, I discovered that radio drama was not dead -- at least on one New York FM station."

RAW relates that radio dramas were still being produced in England and the New York station rebroadcasted them. One of them was an Orson Welles series, The Lives of Harry Lime. "The Great Round One also occasionally wrote some of the scripts, but a stable of writers did most of the stories and, after a while, I began to notice that some of the yarns I liked best were attributed to one Arlen Riley."

The Wikipedia article on the show has useful background information (RAW gets some details wrong, and the series was a prequel to the 1949 movie The Third Man) and you can listen to all 52 episodes at the Internet Archive.  (You can download all of them too; the Archive says they are in the public domain.)

Jesse Walker has been digging into this and has identified "Blue Bride," one of the episodes you can listen to at the Internet Archive, as having been written by Arlen Riley. "She is identified as the author on this German-language site (with a different date and title, because Germany, but if you run it through Google Translate you'll see it is clearly the same story)," Jesse wrote to me.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Hilaritas podcast interviews Crowley biographer

Richard Kaczynski

The latest Hilaritas Press podcast, released August 23, fits well with yesterday's announcement of a new book discussion group for Lion of Light.

"In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with Crowley biographer Richard Kaczynski, author of the recently updated Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley and The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley. Richard has also recently written the Foreword for the New Hilaritas Press edition of Lion of Light: Robert Anton Wilson on Aleister Crowley."

The podcast website has the usual helpful links to obtain more information and you can access the podcast from there, although you should be able to also find it on your favorite podcasting app. Kaczynski's official site is worth a look.