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Monday, April 3, 2023

R. Michael Johnson's excellent essay for the new 'TSOG'

I wasn't really sure I was going to buy the Hilaritas Press edition of TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution and Other Everyday Monsters, as I already has the New Falcon edition. What tipped me into making the purchase was the additional pieces by Bobby Campbell, Steve Pratt and R. Michael Johnson.

All of these guys step up to the plate and deliver. Bobby's piece is about the title. I agreed with all of his comments. Steve talks about how TSOG is a favorite of his among Robert Anton Wilson's works. This might be a good time to mention Steve's book,   Fly On The Tale of the Tribe: A Rollercoaster Ride With Robert Anton Wilson, which discusses the unfinished RAW book outlined at the end of RAW.

And then there is R. Michael Johnson's piece, "Notes on Wilson, Vico, Language and Class Warfare," a long essay. I learned a lot about Vico and RAW's attitudes toward class, but also learned about other points in RAW's writing. 

Michael has a deep familiarity with the writings of Robert Anton Wilson (he once told me that he reads Wilson every day), but as his piece makes clear, he also has carefully read the writers who influenced Wilson. (Eric Wagner has nicknamed Michael "Dr. Johnson" because of his erudition). As a result, when Michael offers an opinion about an aspect of Wilson's writing, he often seems authoritative. 

A couple of examples: Michael mentions Alan Watts' remark that the Roman Empire never fell, and that claiming otherwise was the "biggest blunder" of historians. I have never felt I really understood the point.  Michael posits that the system of control of the rich over the less rich has persisted since the empire "fell," and hints that was what RAW was referring to. Michael also documents RAW's remark, in a letter, that the footnotes in The Widow's Son, a favorite of many RAW readers, was in part "my attempt to document that Wattsian intuition."

Here is a good sentence from Michael's essay about RAW's use of conspiracy theories: "In fact, RAW, widely linked to 'conspiracy theories' and named as a conspiracy theorist himself by some, probably only took very seriously conspiracy ideas that were linked to some aspect of Class Warfare, or to rival gangs seeking power in a society. Other than that, conspiracy theories for Wilson were mostly for learning about other peoples' reality tunnels, and one's own ability to both entertain the conspiracy as possibly having some truth to it, while always staying agnostic about it all ... " Location 3008 in the ebook, I can't give a page number as I don't have the paper edition, but it's in the section that talks about Buckminster Fuller and Noam Chomsky. 

I am hoping that Michael can be persuaded to write additional pieces for Hilaritas editions. I also hope someday to hear or read all of his interview with Wilson, which so far has only been offered up in tantalizing snippets. 


Eric Wagner said...

I loved, loved, loved Michael's essay.

michael said...

Thanks for the very kind words and notice, Tom!

I thought it was ultra-generous of Hilaritas to indulge with me the length of this essay.