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

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize cannabis

Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

Minnesota became the 23rd state to legalize marijuana when Gov. Tim Wald signed the legalization measure into law.  (It's also legal in Washington, D.C., with oddball restrictions, and my home state, Oklahoma, has medical marijuana that is so wide open it amounts to de facto legalization). 

Jacob Sullum at Reason magazine has the relevant details: "Adults 21 or older will be allowed to possess two ounces or less of marijuana in public, share that amount with other adults, keep two pounds or less at home, and grow up to eight plants, four of which are mature. Those provisions take effect on August 1."

The Democrats who control Minnesota have passed a big stack of bills, aside from legalizing cannabis; if you are curious, here is a list. 

Ohio, where I live, may have legal marijuana on the ballot; it's not clear yet. Ohio has relatively strict medical marijuana; there is a list of qualifying conditions and you have to submit medical records proving you have at least one of them. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

New from Hilaritas: 'Elevated: Cannabis as a Tool for Mind Enhancement'

A book announcement from Hilaritas Press, and this time it's not a Robert Anton Wilson reprint: "Hilaritas Press announces the publication of Sebastián Marincolo’s astounding exploration beyond medicinal use, beyond recreational use and into the realm of mind enhancement, Elevated: Cannabis as a Tool for Mind Enhancement. We think RAW would have loved this book (kinda one of our guiding principles around here: 'Would RAW have loved this?')"

Monday, May 29, 2023

'A Show for Claudia' announced

Claudia Boulton as Eris from Cosmic Trigger Play, photo by Simon Annand

A show to honor the late Claudia Boulton (19/04/1946 - 26/10/2021), celebrating her life and creativity, has been announced for 7 p.m. June 24 and June 25 at the Cockpit in London.

"If you were lucky enough to encounter this wild, wise and eccentric being during her life, then you know you have to be there or be square!

"In a theatrical experiment that Claudia would have adored, a group of her friends and fellow theatre-makers will live and work together for the week prior to the show, then come straight to The Cockpit to bring you - whatever the hell they cook up! All we know is it will fizz with all the theatrical panache and danger that Claudia was known - and loved - for.

"Likely to be in the mix: live performance, audio footage of her talking about her life, table-top puppetry and extracts from her autobiographical play The Woof, celebrating the wit and wisdom of our dearly missed co-conspirator."

More details here, including information on tickets. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Hilaritas podcast with Nick Tharcher

With the completion of Robert Shea Week, it's time to get caught up on other news.

On May 23, Hilaritas Press released its regular monthly podcast, featuring Nick Tharcher.

"Hilaritas host Mike Gathers chats with Nick Tharcher of Original Falcon Press about Reichian Therapy, tales from Falcon Press and other things in Episode 21 of the Hilaritas Podcast," says the official blurb.

On Twitter, the podcast got a nice endorsement from Joseph Matheny:  "Original Falcon is the only publisher I work with outside of my own imprint. That I have stayed with them for almost 20 years is a testament to their integrity. Love this conversation with Nick."

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Discussion: 'All Things Are Lights'

What "is" the "best" novel of Robert Shea? Opinions differ!

Eric Wagner loved Shike but was a bit disappointed by All Things Are Lights, as he says in the comment for this blog post

Mike Shea, in this interview, thinks that his father's favorite book probably was Shaman: "I think SHAMAN. He was really into that book. It was a book that let him really dig into the history, drive all over the country, and learn about the subject matter. He never got to do that with his other historical books."

My favorite remains All Things Are Lights (with the caveat that I still haven't read the second Shike  novel yet, I will read it in June). 

I do have one ally: the late Patricia Monaghan, Shea's widow, who told me in a 2011 email, "All Things are Lights is my favorite of Bob's books."

I told Professor Monaghan that I'm very fond of the book and that I think of it as a kind of prequel to Illuminatus! She wrote back, 

"I'm glad you like All Things, which is such a terrific book.  You are right in the 'prequel' idea in that Bob's interest in secret societies and such folded over from Ill! to All Things, but there was not direct connection.  What drove Bob as an historical novelist was an interest in the underdogs of history, the people who were 'lost' from a historical point of view.  (I keep thinking that Saracen should be made into a movie, now, with the rise in interest in the Islamic world--but of course Bob's Muslim characters weren't terrorists!  Well...they were...sort of....)  The Cathars were persecuted in what was really a land-grab by the French against the Spanish--in Languedoc today, you can still see, in bars, maps of France before and after the 'Albigensian crusade,' which make very clear that France exploded in size after grabbing that land.  Bob's last published book, Shaman, looked at the Black Hawk War from the Indian side.  That was his way--always to focus on the 'other' in any historical situation."

Here is a brief plot summary for All Things Are Lights: It takes place in the 13th century, mostly in France and in Egypt, with the characters also in Cyprus for a spell, and with brief discussion of offstage doings in other places. It begins in March 1244, with the final stages of the Albigensian Crusade, with the action in the last part of the book taking place during the Seventh Crusade ((1248–1254).

The hero is Roland de Vency, a native of Languedoc in southern France. He's both a troubadour devoted to the notions of courtly love and a knight. He is quite familiar with Islam -- he even has learned Arabic during a sojourn in Sicily -- and he doesn't believe any religion is any better than any other, an unpopular opinion in Catholic France. He gets involved in France's two  main crusades for personal reasons and not because he supports the aims of the wars. One of the main characters in the book is a member of the Knights Templar. He becomes Roland's best friend, and the reader learns a lot about the Templars, who are depicted sympathetically. Shea's book has a great villain, the Count de Gobignon, who uses his power to do terrible things, but who in his own mind is perfectly justified: He wants to rid France of heresy. He is thus a stand in for some of the main villains of history, such as Hitler and Stalin. 

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but in my subjective opinion All Things Are Lights is particularly well plotted. The end of the book has great dramatic tension, with most of the main characters unsure whether  they will live or die. 

As in Shea's other books, there's plenty of action, the historic scenes are colorful and well-drawn, and there is a strong love/romantic element. The fact that Roland is a troubadour allows Shea to turn up the dial to 11 on the romantic parts of the plot.  In fact, the novel states explicitly that courtly love is tied to paganism, and two scenes involving the main romance in the novel are set near pagan sites, in Cyprus and Egypt. And in fact, Shea ties courtly love to sex magick, which in Cosmic Trigger I, Robert Anton Wilson depicts as possibly the main secret of the Illuminati, who have to avoid the attention of the Inquisition, depicted in All Things Are Lights as  a major force in medieval France. 

This isn't the only idea that ties All Things Are Lights to Illuminatus! The title itself comes from Illuminatus! where Simon Moon says, in a lecture to Joe Malik,

"An Irish Illuminatus of the ninth century, Scotus Ergina, put it very simply -- in five words of course -- when he said Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt: 'All things that are, are lights.' "

While Shea never uses the "I" word, the Illuminati seem to be referenced pretty clearly in the text of All Things. At one point toward the end of  the book, Roland's Templar friend, Guido, shares some important hidden facts with Roland about a secret group within the Knights Templar: 

“Solomon’s temple harbors more secrets than you might guess,” said Guido. His voice was so soft that Roland had to strain to hear him. “I have permission to share some of that hidden knowledge with you. Roland, not all Knights Templar are merely what they purport to be. There exists within our order, another, secret order.”

The light filtering in through the narrow window was brighter now, and the prayer callers in the towers of Mansura’s mosques began their cries, reminding Roland that he was the prisoner of people who hated his kind, with good reason, and might at any moment decide to kill him.

Guido’s words made Roland want to draw back. He felt almost reluctant to hear more. He might, he suspected, learn things he would be better off not knowing.

“Guido, are you telling me that you are a heretic?”

In measured tones Guido said, “I am not a heretic. A heretic disagrees with the Church over this or that point of belief. I have left the Church far behind. I gave up everything when I joined the Templars - the little wealth I possessed, the love of women. I vowed to follow the orders of my superiors. I tell you in simple truth that I do not miss my past life. With my fellows, I have known, through the light imparted by my secret order, such bliss as no other Christians - except, I imagine, a few saints - have experienced on this earth.” He gripped Roland’s arm and stared into his eyes with a burning intensity. “Roland, I live in that state now, even as I talk to you.”

Roland looked deeper into his friend’s eyes and realized that what he was seeing was joy.

“You are a troubadour yourself, Guido,” Roland said. “You must know that those who practice courtly love attain the bliss you speak of. But we find it through the love of man and woman, not by giving up love.”

“Of course. But it is also possible to achieve the heights by constraining the appetite for physical love. There is one Light, but we need a window to see it, and in that window are panes of many different colors. Courtly lovers, Templars, Cathars, the masons’ guild, and many others have their representatives in our order. We have even forged secret links among Christians, Moslems, Jews, and men and women of other religions in far-off countries most people have never heard of.”

Roland was astounded. A secret organization of so many different kinds of people spread across the world, yet all sharing the same hidden knowledge of the inner light he had discovered as a troubadour - the vision made his head reel.

The book even has an indirect but clear reference to Discordianism. In Chapter 29, one of the main characters, Nicolette, who is married to the bad guy but the lover of Roland, goes off to an island to mourn after getting bad news. She finds herself in the ruins of an old pagan temple.

"She walked into the circle of columns and dropped to her knees on the marble floor. She looked for and found a carving that she and Roland had talked about the night they came here. It had fallen from the temple roof and showed a naked young man facing three naked women and holding out an apple to one of them. Roland had said the one receiving the apple was the Goddess of Love. She reached out and with her fingertips touched the smooth shoulder of the young man."

The apple is the golden apple of Eris, and the scene apparently depicts the Judgment of Paris, the mythological event that doomed Troy. Paris is completing the beauty contest by handing the apple to Aphrodite, thereby setting off events that will bring about the Trojan War, and creating two implacable enemies for Troy, beauty contest also-rans Hera and Athena.

In his "Historical Illuminatus" novels, Robert Anton Wilson has characters who apparently are ancestors of characters in Illuminatus! 

Shea is more subtle, but there's also a possible reference in one of the minor characters. We are told that Roland has a sister named Fiorela, and that she lives in Naples.  Roland mentions that she has married well, to "Lorenzo Celino, knight of the Holy Roman Empire. My mother writes that he is a thoroughly virtuous man, which is rare for one of the Emperor’s courtiers.”

Sigismundo Celine is a native of Naples, the main setting of The Earth Will Shake, 1982, Wilson's first novel in the series. All Things Are Lights appeared in 1986. "Celine" strikes me as an Anglization of "Celino." Roland also as a family resemblance to Hagbard Celine; both men are described as dark and with a prominent nose. 

If you enjoy All Things Are Lights, you will  want to know that Shea's two Saracen novels represent a sequel of sorts; one of the main characters, Simon de Gobignon, is Roland's son. The Saracen novels are set mostly in medieval Italy. In All Things Are Lights, the main Moslem general demand that King Louis promise a 20-year truce with the Moslem world as a condition of being freed, because the general needs time to deal with the Islamic world's main military menace, the Mongols; in Saracen, a flashback scene depicts the Battle of Ain Jalut, which as Shea says in an Historical Afterword in All Things Are Lights was one of the most important battles in world history. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Robert Shea audio

A photo from the Association for Consciousness Exploration in Cleveland, Ohio. From left, Timothy Leary, Robert Shea, Patricia Monaghan, Jeff Rosenbaum, Gillie Smythe. (UPDATE: Apparently the correct spelling is "Gilli Smyth," please see the comments.]

If you want to listen to Robert Shea talk, two audio recordings are available for purchase from the website of the Association for Consciousness Exploration, the organization I referenced in yesterday's blog post when I mentioned  how Shea and Patricia Monaghan met. They both cost $4.99 and there are two recordings available: "A Meeting with Robert Shea," an interview with Shea, also featuring Robert Anton Wilson, and "Magic in the Central Empire," a look at "the universe of Chinese Paganism." 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Patricia Monaghan, a writer you should know

Patricia Monaghan

Robert Shea's widow, Patricia Monaghan (1946-2012), was herself a noteworthy writer and scholar. She wrote more than 20 books, including poetry and nonfiction works on topics such as meditation and Celtic folklore.  She taught at Maybe Logic University and also was a full professor at DePaul University. She was a founding member of the the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. She and her husband, Dr. Michael McDermott, were the founders of The Black Earth Institute, "an organization dedicated to inspiring artists to serve the causes of inclusive spirituality, protecting and healing the earth and fighting for social justice." I can't really cover all of her achievements in a relatively brief blog post, so please see the Wikipedia biography.  It has a useful bibliography. 

Monaghan won the Pushcart Prize for "Physics and Grief," her excellent essay on coping with grief after Shea's death in 1994. Dr. McDermott kindly obtained a PDF for me that I am allowed to share with you. Please do  yourself and favor and read it if you haven't read it before. 

Here is a biographical tidbit I have just obtained. Robert Anton Wilson, in his essay about Shea in Cosmic Trigger 3, wrote that Shea and Monaghan met when they had speaking gigs at a pagan festival. He didn't actually gave the name of the group or the location, but I can finally confirm what I've long suspected: They met as guest speakers for the Association for Consciousness Exploration, in Cleveland, Ohio, the same place where I live. Here is Joe Rothenberg, ACE co-founder, in an email to me:

"They met at The Starwood Festival, an annual event started in 1981.  At that time the The Starwood Festival was presented by The Association for Consciousness Exploration, a partnership formed by Jeff Rosenbaum amd myself to help organize our friends and run the festival.  Jeff passed away in 2015 [actually in 2014] I continued the festival with the continued support of our friends. 

"About 3 years ago I organized the Rosencomet Project as a non profit to continue presenting the Starwood Festival. This will be our 43rd (

"RAW, Robert Shea, and Patricia Monaghan were supporters of ACE and The Starwood Festival and attended many of our events."

Patricia Monaghan was known for being a mentor to younger writers and scholars, and she was really nice to me when I emailed her to ask her questions about Shea. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Two literary legacies, two different approaches

Robert Shea died in 1994, Robert Anton Wilson died in 2007, and since then, their work has been in the hands of their literary executors: Shea's son, Michael Shea, and Wilson's oldest daughter, Christina Pearson.

It's interesting to contrast the varying approaches that have been taken.

The RAW Trust controls the vast majority of Wilson's titles. And as you likely know if  you are reading this blog, the publishing imprint of the RAW Trust, Hilaritas Press, has done a series of carefully edited definitive reissues of Wilson's work, with most of the titles republished by now. This has essentially been Rasa's main job for years, bur he has been able to obtain help from a small army of volunteers to help with the copyediting chores and other duties.

Wilson of course has remained a cult figure, and there are a number of RAW Facebook groups. There are RAW Twitter accounts, including one maintained by Bobby Campbell, and the RAW Trust account. There are blogs such as my own and RAW Semantics, websites, and other internet presences that I am likely forgetting. Steve Pratt supports interest in RAW across multiple platforms. Daisy Campbell has mounted live theater productions. I really can't list everyone who is active. 

So, in other words, there is a built in infrastructure to support Hilaritas, not just with volunteers to assist Rasa, but a kind of decentralized publicity network to let folks know that reissued and new RAW titles are out there.

While Robert Shea continues to have fans, such as myself and Arthur Hlavaty, there isn't really a Shea network out there. There aren't social media efforts devoted to Shea. There are no rap musicians along the lines of Canadian rapper and RAW fan Noah23, who take their name from Robert Shea and advertise him in their work. 

So Mike Shea has taken a different approach. He has maintained the official Robert Shea website, providing a place for people interested in Shea.

Moreover, he has generously released all of his father's novels on the internet under a Creative Commons license. You can read every one of Shea's solo novels for free, from sources such as the Shea website, Project Gutenberg and the Internet archive, among other places.

It seems to me that Mike's approach has worked well and has been logical, considering the situation of Shea's literary legacy. Mike has made a priority of providing readers access to his father's work.

I should mention that Shea's work remains available at least somewhat in public libraries, both as books sitting on the shelf and in digital editions. lluminatus! is available as an ebook to borrow from the Libby public library app, offered by many libraries. Hoopla Digital, offered by many libraries, has an ebook of Shaman, and a couple of his short stories. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Illuminatus! Who wrote what?

The Eye in the Pyramid came out in fall 1975 as a Dell original paperback. While at this point it is impossible to know in detail which parts of Illuminatus! were written by Robert Shea and which by Robert Anton Wilson, a fair amount is actually known about how the work was written. They took turns writing sections, with Shea producing much of the "melodrama" and Wilson much of the satire. Robert Shea's parts were rewritten by Wilson so that the work had a uniform tone. Shea wrote the Atlantis section. Wilson supplied the Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos material, the occult material, the references to James Joyce, the signs from the Midget, and, very likely, the Burroughs cut up technique.

Wilson and Shea were both very familiar with anarchism/libertarianism, both knew Discordianism well, both knew Chicago and New York well, both were ex-Catholics familiar with Catholic priests. 

The editors at Dell trying to get the work published found Shea easier to work with than than Wilson; for example, Wilson resisted dividing the work into three volumes. See this interview with Dell editor David Harris: "Wilson was not much interested in cooperating with any of my ideas until I put it to him that I was his only friend in the company, and that if I dumped him his manuscript would be put on a shelf to die. (Actually, I think I said that it would be tossed in the East River.) He finally agreed to the three-volume idea, and I got it into the schedule not long before I left Dell, which would have beHen October of 1974."

Here is more detail and some citations from interviews on how Illuminatus! was written.

Here is Wilson on who wrote what: "In general, the melodrama is Shea and the satire is me; but some of the satire is definitely him and some of the melodrama is certainly me. 'When Atlantis Ruled the Earth' is 99% Shea. The sections about Simon Moon, Robert Putney Drake and Markoff Chaney are 99% me. Everything else is impossible to untangle. The celebrated Blow Job on the beach, for instance, is almost all Shea ... "

When asked whether the Lovecraft/Cthulhu elements in Illuminatus! come from Shea or Wilson, Wilson responded, " It’s me.  I went through a period in the early 1960s when I kept having the Lovecraft horrors every time I took peyote."

As for Shea, he also says (in an interview for Outworlds), "The use made in Illuminatus! of Lovecraft’s material is largely Wilson’s contribution." 

I don't know of a Shea interview that goes into detail on who wrote what, but this comment, also from the Outworlds interview details the process of cutting that Illuminatus! went through: "The original manuscript was about 1,200 typewritten pages, and we were asked to cut about 200 pages, which we did, screaming in agony all the while. This didn’t do any mortal, structural damage to the novel. It did cost us some good writing and some funny bits. A lot of what was cut was occult information in the appendices. Also When Atlantis Ruled the Earth was originally a complete screenplay-within-a-novel. Now it’s down to a summary."

About the collaboration process and Wilson rewriting Shea's portions:

CCN: Well, I want to touch upon your thoughts about the Internet a little bit later, but one thing I want to talk about since we mentioned Shea is that just to get into the mechanics of a writer, how did you collaborate?

RAW: Well, different writers have had different techniques. What Shea and I agreed on is to write alternate sections, and then I, how shall I phrase it? I persuaded Shea to let me rewrite his sections in order to make the style more uniform. So there are many sections that are almost all Shea in content, but they’re still me in style if you know what I mean. Like, one of the longest sections that’s almost all Shea is the movie about Atlantis… …yet the style is me. I rewrote the thing to get it into the style of the rest of the book, and I added a few key things like the idea of the fur bristling as an expression of emotion and a few other things like that. I also come up with the clouded lenses and I was trying to figure out how people who didn’t have our concepts of sin or mental illness would describe somebody whose perceptions they couldn’t understand, so I came up with the metaphor of the clouded lenses.

The interview also is interesting because of Wilson's comments on the Bride of Illuminatus sequel, which apparently didn't get very far: "Well, anyway, we decided we could do it, and we got started and then Shea died of cancer which was…the major tragedy of the last couple of years of my life. He was my best friend I think.  So I’m finishing it on my own…."

Monday, May 22, 2023

Robert Shea's novels, a reader's guide

Robert Shea was largely known for co-authoring Illuminatus! but before his death he wrote a number of historical novels, with the first, Shike: Time of the Dragons published in 1981, and the last, Shaman, appearing in 1991. Others were in the works when he died in 1994. 

All of his novels have been released under a Creative Commons license by Mike Shea, Robert Shea's son, and there are various places on the Internet where you are free to download them as ebooks. My suggestion is to use Project Gutenberg if you want to read Shaman or the two Saracen novels, as they are probably a bit better copyedited than any other editions. Otherwise, you may try the Internet Archive or the Amazon Kindle marketplace or the copies posted at the official Robert Shea website.  

If you want to read an actual book, some of them have been reprinted as new books by Mike Shea, available from vendors such as Amazon, and there are used copies available. is probably the best place on the Internet to find cheap used books. 

While All Things Are Lights is my personal favorite and the one perhaps that has the most themes in common with Illuminatus!, the novels are generally similar in quality and style. They are tightly plotted, with nonstop action and a hero that has James Bond qualities of competence in dealing with his enemies. There is usually a strong element of romance and a fair amount of sex. You get a colorful, detailed sense of what life was like at the time and place of the setting. Shea was not above altering the details of history a bit to advance his story, but the books generally are historically accurate.

Perhaps one way to choose which book to try would be to pick the one that covers a period of history that fascinates you. I'll link to the Wikipedia entries, but you might want to avoid them if  you want to avoid spoilers. 

The books: 

Shike, essentially two novels that tell one story. The two are Time of the Dragons and Last of the Zinja. The setting is medieval Japan and China at the time of Kublai Khan, which means that you also learn a lot about the Mongols. Wikipedia entry. 

All Things Are Lights. The action takes place during the reign of Louis IX, king of France, also known as St. Louis, (1214-1270). There's a lot in the book about courtly love and about the Templars. The setting is mostly medieval France. I'll lead a discussion of the book later this week. I can't find a separate entry for this work on Wikipedia. 

The Saracen. Like Shike, these are two novels that tell one story, with Land of the Infidel followed by The Holy War. The setting is medieval Italy at the time of St.  Thomas Aquinas, a little after the action in All Things Are Lights. While the main character is a Muslim warrior, one of the other main characters is the son of two of the main characters in All Things are Lights. Wikipedia entry. 

Shaman. This one has a Native American hero and is set in the time of the Black Hawk War, no Wikipedia entry. The action takes place in the Midwest, which in 1832 was an American frontier. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Welcome to Robert Shea week!

While I launched this blog to promote the work of the great American writer Robert Anton Wilson, I have always had a soft spot for Robert Shea, particularly since I finally read his novel All Things Are Lights years ago. I have made an effort to use this blog to promote Shea as well as his Illuminatus! co-writer, and as I happen to believe the cliche that actions are more convincing than lip service, I am today beginning a whole week of posts specifically about Shea. 

The Wikipedia biography of Shea covers his life pretty well, and you  should also look at the official site maintained by Shea''s son, Mike Shea. I have links to "Robert Shea resources" at the right side of this page. I am hoping that at least some of this week's posts will help you learn a bit about him, but here are a few "fun facts" about Shea:

• The basic idea for Illuminatus!, i.e., writing a novel based on the various conspiracy theories that readers mentioned on the Playboy Forum, was suggested by Shea when the two friends, who both worked at Playboy magazine, were having drinks in a Chicago bar. The two remained close, by the way, throughout Shea's life. 

• Shea obtained a book contract for Illuminatus! by contacting his old friend, Bob Abel, a book editor at Dell books. 

• While he was not particularly interested in the occult, he was interested in mysticism and specifically was very interested in Zen Buddhist. For  years, he did Zen Buddhist meditation every day. 

• Like Wilson, Shea was interested in Discordianism.

• After his involuntary departure from Playboy after a mass layoff of employees, Shea began a successful career as a writer of historical novels. He was still working very hard at a novelist when he died at age 61 in 1994, from cancer.

• Shea's third wife, Patricia Monaghan, was a very good writer in her own right. She taught at Maybe Logic Academy and also was a professor at DePaul University. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Wayne Saalman's 'The Journey Across Forever'

Wayne Saalman wrote two books for New Falcon,  The Dream Illuminati and The Illuminati of Immortality, which featured introductions by Robert Anton Wilson.

Saalman's new nonfiction book, The Journey Across Forever, is dedicated to RAW. The dedication says, "This book is dedicated, in memoriam, to Robert Anton Wilson, my spiritual and literary mentor, whom I had the honor of meeting only once, but whose writings have influenced me in too many wonderful ways to count."

Describing the book, Saalman says,

"The launch date is June 30th. Discussed are topics such as the Afterlife, reincarnation, karma, the paranormal, UAPs, Hermeticism (The Golden Dawn), alchemy, shamanism, psychotropics and so on.

"I relate some interesting experiences I have had and offer insights gained over the decades.

"Some of the literary figures I have met and interacted with over the years are RAW, Timothy Leary, Dr. Christopher S Hyatt, Terence McKenna and Ken Kesey.

"Colonel John B. Alexander - author of UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities and Reality Denied, among others - wrote an extensive introduction to this book.

"Whitley Strieber has endorsed the book and I will be interviewed in the near future by him for a podcast."

Friday, May 19, 2023

RAW Semantics begins 'book club' discussion on 'No Self, No Problem'

The Kindle version is just 99 cents.

The RAW Semantics blog has posted a discussion of the The No Self, No Problem Workbook by Chris Niebauer, and everyone is invited to weigh in with a comment, or even to email Brian a contribution to be posted. Brian says there is "no hurry" to jump in, and I myself won't be able to take part for a few days, as I am busy gearing up for "Robert Shea Week" on this blog, which begins Sunday.

Brian explains:

"Niebauer’s book wouldn’t be my first choice on 'no self', but the low price and RAW-friendly themes (it has an accessible pop-psychology style, right/left brain model, head 'exercises', deconstructions of abstractions, etc) make it quite attractive as a starting point for discussion. We can include both books in the series – Niebauer’s No Self, No Problem (2019) and his follow-up, No Self, No Problem Workbook (2023). The first book mentions Korzybski, talks of 'belief systems', of confusing map with territory, etc, and points to the 'left brain' as main culprit in creating an illusory notion of self by turning its dopamine-addled pattern-recognition machine 'inwards', like an A.I. gone rogue."

Brian does have some reservations about mixing Buddhism with pop psychology and he also goes into discussion of "no self," but it's best to read his post for yourself. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

An Igor Stravinsky concert: Where are the young?

Igor Stravinsky in the 1920s (public domain photo). 

And when I ask, “Where are the young?” I mean, where are the audience members who appear to be under 60 years old?

I’ve loved Igor Stravinsky since I was a teenager, so I made a special effort to attend the all Stravinsky program provided on May 15 by the Rocky River Chamber Music Society at a church in Rocky River, a western suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. A group of local musicians performed, including several members of the Cleveland Orchestra. It’s worth noting that all of the performances of the Rocky River Chamber Music Society offer free admission. (Robert Anton Wilson was a Stravinsky fan; see for example this interview where he likes " the less popular and more experimental stuff by Stravinsky.")

The show included L’Histoire du Soldat (sometimes performed as the Soldier’s Tale), minus the actors and dancer but with narration, e.g. it wasn’t just the suite version; the Octet for Wind Instruments, the Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo, and two very short pieces. So it was a pretty good dose of Stravinsky. I particularly enjoyed the performance of violinist Peter Otto, the first associate concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, but everyone did well.

I noticed that when L’Histoire du Soldat ended, I was at first the only person who was applauding. If you know the piece, you can’t miss the ending, a drum solo that gets very loud as it concludes. It’s not a really obscure piece, but maybe it doesn’t get played on classical music radio stations very often, or maybe Stravinsky just isn’t a really popular composer, despite his fame.

When I looked around at the concert, I noticed that everyone seemed to have grey or white hair. I’m 66, and a lot of the people present seemed older than my wife and myself. I saw hardly anyone who looked younger than 60.

It’s not an original observation to note that classical music audiences tend to be older, but Igor Stravinsky was a giant of modern classical music, and all-Stravinsky programs aren’t exactly common. The greater Cleveland area has a number of college level music schools, including the Cleveland Institute of Music, Baldwin Wallace University, Cleveland State University and (not far to the west) Oberlin College’s Conservancy. Almost none of these young people were interested in attending a Stravinsky concert featuring members of the Cleveland Orchestra? The population of the Cleveland metro area is about 1.7 million; it doesn’t have any younger people who might be interested in Stravinsky? Yes, it would be a pretty good drive for many places on the east side of Cleveland, but there are plenty of people on the west side, too. We have a pretty well-known classical music radio station, WCLV, so it’s not hard to maintain an interest in classical music in our area. 

When I was a college student at the University of Oklahoma, I didn’t hang out with music majors, and yet I knew people who listened to Bach and to jazz (and not just the popular 1970s “jazz fusion” bands). Where are those younger listeners now? 

I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen to the audience for classical music, the audience for jazz, even the audience for blues. Will the audiences for those genres of music go away, or will apparently esoteric forms of music always have an audience? 

(Cross posted (in slightly different form) from my Substack newsletter)

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

'Reality Tunnels' book coming soon?

Dr. Richard Waterloo has been working on a book about reality tunnels, and on  his Twitter account he's been posting promotions and teases for it. Above is a cover prototype, and in a recent Tweet, he gave a glimpse of the book from a salesman's reality tunnel, e.g., "Written by a renowned philosopher and packed with engaging stories, mind-bending thought experiments and practical exercises ..."

I follow Dr. Richard Waterloo on Twitter, so I'll pass on any publication announcements. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

What happened to Robert Anton Wilson's lost plays?

An interesting tip from Jesse Walker: An early biography of Robert Anton Wilson,  dating to a 1971 issue of Journal of Human Relations, handy screenshot of the biography above. I would call attention to "He has written two plays, 'unpublished, unproduced, unknown, unmourned'...."

So, what are they? Are they lost because RAW didn't bother to save many of his papers, or could they be sitting in some kind of archive or library somewhere? Will the upcoming Prop Anon RAW biog shed light on this? 

Incidentally, "Anarcho Technocrat" and "Transcendental Atheist" are Wilsonian descriptions of himself I don't recall running across before. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Review: The Scythian Empire by Christopher Beckwith


[One of my favorite blogs, Astral Codex Ten, has a book review contest, and this year I decided to enter it with a review of Christopher Beckwith's The Scythian Empire, the most interesting books of ancient history I have read in years. There were hundreds of entries, and over the weekend, 12 finalists were named. I'm not one of them, so I'm one of the losers in the contest. This means I am now free to post my review here. I know there's no direct connection to this blog, but it seems like the kind of interesting book that might have interested Robert Anton Wilson or Robert Shea. -- The Management.]

Every so often, a history book changes the way we think about a certain era. The World of Late Antiquity, a slender, heavily illustrated book by classicist Peter Brown,  gave a name for a fascinating period of history, juxtaposed between “ancient history” and “medieval history,” when public baths and chariot racetracks in Constantinople, the New Rome, stood near large Christian churches. Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire offered a new answer to the perennial “Why did Rome fall?” question, substituting climate and plague for the older answers that emphasize Germanic invasions, high taxes or widespread lead poisoning. 

Christopher I. Beckwith’s The Scythian Empire: Central Eurasia and the birth of the classical age from Persia to China, although scholarly and aimed largely at fellow linguists with a specialty in Asia languages,  also offers an interesting thesis that might well attract many nonspecialist readers. 

The Scythians don’t get much press. Other nomadic horse archers who built big empires, such as the Huns or the Mongols, get a lot more books written about them. But Beckwith wants to change that with his monograph published in early 2023 by the Princeton University Press. 

It’s not as if the Scythians are completely obscure. Anyone with a reasonable acquaintance with ancient history will be aware of them. Herodotus wrote about them, and other historians described their battles with foes such as Alexander the Great.

Beckwith argues that the Scythians pioneered the effective use of horse archery using powerful compound bows and possessed an empire spread across much of Asia. Seen in this light, the Scythians were the precursor of better-known empires founded by nomads, such as the Hunnic empire of Attila, or the Mongol empire founded by Genghis Khan.  

The success of the various horse archer armies would seem to challenge the “Western way of war” thesis of classicist Victor Davis Hanson, which emphasizes the superiority in ancient times of armies that relied on hand to hand fighting by heavily armed foot soldiers. The Eastern Roman Empire shifted largely to a reliance upon cavalry after having to deal with the Huns, and mounted archers played a large role in the Emperor Justinian’s reconquest of North Africa and Italy for the eastern empire. Certainly the outcome of the Battle of the Nedao, which ended the Huns’ hegemony over much of Europe, must have been a relief to the Roman Empire as the Hunnic empire fell apart after Attila’s death.

But despite their innovations in mobile warfare, the Scythians apparently lack a publicist. There’s no compendium of alleged Scythian wisdom comparable to books such as Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.

But beyond warfare, Beckwith argues that the Scythians have not been given their due in classical culture. In his account, the Scythians largely began ancient philosophy in Greece, India and China, originated monotheism,  helped to create  the Persian Empire that was conquered by Alexander the Great, and created the first Chinese empire, creating “China” as an entity. It was the Scythians, Beckwith contends, who were behind the Classical Age in much of Europe and Asia.  

The Scythian Empire is not the first time Beckwith has penned a book that attempts to rewrite the standard historical narrative. For example, in Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia, published in 2017, Beckwith wrote about Pyrrho, the Greek philosopher who traveled with Alexander the Great’s army, which reached India. Pyrrho met Buddhist teachers and Buddhism had a large influence on Greek philosophy, Beckwith contends. I plan to hunt up some of Beckwith’s other books and read them, too. His Empires of the Silk Road sounds like it has much to interest people like me who are not academics. 

But the new book on the Scythians seems like an especially bold attempt to change the usual claims about ancient history. Beckwith says that while the ancient Greeks “developed a very brilliant culture,” it is inaccurate to suggest they did so in isolation, nor did the Chinese create their culture “out of nothing.” The influence of the Scythians has been unfairly omitted from the record, he argues.

Beckwith, 77, is a distinguished professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. He specializes in Asian languages and knows Chinese, Tiberan, Aramaic, Persian, Japanese, Greek, Koguryo (an ancient language of Korea) and likely other languages,  

He is working on a forthcoming book on Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. 

Beckwith lays out much of his thesis in a brief Introduction. Beckwith's revisionism starts on page 1 of his book, which states that before the large empires of the Huns, the Turks and the Mongols, Scythians created “the world’s first huge empire,” stretching from the Danube River in Europe to north China. He also asserts a Scythian cultural hegemony in the same Introduction:

“Studying the earliest known teachers of philosophy, who were all Scythian emigrants living outside Scythia, unexpectedly reveals the specific philosophical ideas that produced the Age of Philosophy, the hallmark of the Classical Age.”

Above all, Beckwith contends that the Scythians had a huge but largely unrealized influence on culture, religion and political systems over a very wide area of the world. He argues, for example, that the reason most religious people belong to a monotheistic religion can ultimately be traced back to the Scythians. 

Beckwith contends that the Scythians were monotheists, with an overarching creator god who made the world and was the “boss” of local, lesser gods. The Scythians invented feudalism and had a parallel political system in which a great king ruled atop a system of lesser kingdoms who owed fealty to the leader of the empire. The Persian empire inherited this system, and various tribal groups from the region originally occupied by the Scythians brought feudalism to western Europe when they occupied the former western Roman Empire, he contends. 

Scythian monotheism gave rise to Zoroastrianism, the first world religion, and also influenced the shift to monotheism in ancient Israel, Beckwith contends. On page 59, he writes that Scythian military forces opposed to polytheism plundered the temple of Aphrodite in what is now Ashkelon, in modern Israel, and says that Scythian campaign “is surely connected to the sudden shift by the polytheistic Hebrews of Palestine to Heavenly God monotheism, a movement led by their prophet Jeremiah and his contemporary King Josiah at precisely this time. The campaign gave the Hebrews firsthand knowledge of the Scythians.”

Beckwith says that the Scythians conquered Media, at that time a decentralized collection of various peoples, imposing the Scythian language, dress, weaponry and style of warfare, much as the Romans converted areas such as Gaul and Hispania into Latin speaking Roman provinces. The Scytho-Mede empire was then succeeded by the Scytho-Mede Persian Empire of Cyrus, Darius and their successors. Beckwith argues that the Persian empire that attacked Greece and was later conquered by Alexander was essentially a successor state of the original Scythian empire of Eurasia, relying upon Scythian cavalry and Scythian horse archery tactics for much of its power. 

Similarly, in China, Scythians conquered a section of what would now be considered modern China. Beckwith says the first Chinese emperor, Ch’in shi huang ti, was a member of the Scythian royal line, descended from royalty from both his mother and father.

Much of Beckwith’s arguments depend on his formidable linguistic skills. 

He says, for example, that in various languages across much of Asia, including in China and Persia, the name of the Scythian royal line, variously given as Aria, Ariya and Harya, was used as the name of the legitimate, local line of kings. Beckwith says this term for royal rulers was so influential it was even used by peoples who did not speak a variant of the Scythian royal language, much perhaps as the term for a Roman emperor, Caesar, was adopted by rulers with no actual connection to the Roman Empire, such as the Tsars of Russia.

It is perhaps worth emphasizing that Beckwith is not using Aria as an ethnic name, or referring to “Arian” peoples. Here is the relevant paragraph spelling that out (page 126):

“Thus the word was originally innocent of any ethnolinguistic, national, or other meaning, as shown by the fact that Aria Ariya Harya (and its dialect variant Hara) was borrowed and used as an epithet by many peoples of all kinds in much of Eurasia, including the Chinese, Koreans, Türk, Togon, Tibetans, and others who were hardly ‘Iranian’. It has long been accepted that the word did not have its modern ethnolinguistic meaning ‘Iranic-speaking peoples of Iran and other Iranic-speaking countries’ until middle Persian times, over half a millennium after the word’s first attestation and its diffusion around much of Eurasia by the Scythians.”

Beckwith also uses linguistics to back his claim in Chapter 8 that the capital of Media, rendered in English as Ecbatana, and the capitals of two important early Chinese states all had the same name, given to the city by its Scythian rulers. In different languages, and separated by thousands of miles, the royal capitals of Media, Chao and Ch’in all were named Agamatana, he says.

Beckwith also credits the Scythians with creating philosophy as an intellectual discipline. He asserts, “The single most shared feature of Classical culture in all of the nations that experienced a ‘Classical Age’ is the appearance of philosophy in the strict sense, with a capital ‘P’.” 

He then asserts that in Greece, the Persian Empire, India and China, the first recorded philosophers were all Scythian. In order of chronology, he says, they are Anarcharsis the Scythian, who taught in Athens; Zoroaster, largely behind the official religion of the Persian Empire; Gautama the Scythian Sage, also known as the Buddha, and Gautama the early Taoist, also known as Lao Tzu, credited with authoring the Tao Te Ching. In other words, Beckwith asserts that the founders of Buddhism and Taoism have the same Scythian name. He even allows for the possibility that they could be the same person, although he says that is unlikely. 

“Each one was arguably his adoptive culture’s earliest Philosopher,” Beckwith asserts.  

And all of them apparently were Scythians, he says, even if “each is usually treated as if he belonged to a much later dominant local tradition, if he even existed.”

The discussion about the rise of the Classical Age in widely separated cultures recalls the book On the Origin and Goal of History by Karl Jaspers, which was published in German in 1949 and translated into English in 1953. Jaspers coined the term Axial Age for the changes that took place across a wide geographical area during the Classical Age. Beckwith says that Jaspers’ book “to some extent remains a brilliant tour de force.” The flaw of the book, Beckwith argues, is that it doesn’t offer a good explanation for why such changes took place across much of the Earth at about the same time. Beckwith says The Scythian Empire supplies that explanation. 

It is difficult for a layman to know how often Beckwith is correct with his assertions. Aside from the difficulty of having to learn old Tibetan and various Chinese, Semitic and Iranic languages to check his work, he is breaking new ground with many of his claims and we’ll have to wait for other scholars to weigh in.

Even a layman who doesn’t know Latin can follow debates over aspects of Roman history, such as the argument over whether the army of the later Roman Empire was weakened by using so many barbarian soldiers as recruits; scholars who do read Latin have been debating the issue for many years in various books. We may have to wait for years for any sort of scholarly consensus to form on the Scythian Empire and its effects. 

The Wikipedia article on Pyrrhonism has a subsection on “Similarities between Pyrrhonism and Indian philosophy” which brings up Beckwith’s Greek Buddha book and which covers some of the debate about Beckwith’s conclusions about the influence of Buddhism on Pyrrho and Greek skeptical philosophy. Some of the people who disagree think other strains of Indian philosophy had a larger influence. The debate hasn’t lessened my eagerness to read Greek Buddha. 

I can only report that by any standard, Beckwith is a serious scholar. He is a MacArthur Fellow, e.g. the “genius grant.” The number of languages he can read is mind boggling. He is a “distinguished professor” at Indiana University, where by all indications the administration is proud of him and wants to keep him happy. He has a Ph.D. in “Inner Asian Studies,” complementing his master’s degree in Tibetan and his bachelor’s in Chinese. He has numerous awards and honors.

Much of the discussion in his book can be followed by anyone with an interest in ancient history, although the detailed discussions about how a word evolved from the Iranic Scythian language into languages such as Tibetan and ancient Chinese will force many of us to take the professor’s word for it.

When I tried to describe the book to a friend of mine, he asked if the book’s thesis of a huge Scythian empire is “plausible.” Given the existence of the historically attested Hun and Mongol empires, it does seem at least to be possible. 

At the end of the day, I can only report that I like to read history for fun, and that I majored in journalism, not Tibetan. The Scythian Empire is the most interesting history book I have read in years. It’s great entertainment, the linguistic discussions notwithstanding. 

As you may have gathered, Beckwith is not afraid to offer an opinion on many important points in world history. Here are some of them:

• The Hsiung nu, sometimes identified as Huns, were not Huns but were Scythians.

• Much of the Arthurian legends of Britain come from the Ossetians, an ethnic people descended from the Alans, who in turn were descended from the Scythians. I have no idea if this is credible, but it is certainly known that the Romans stationed auxiliary cavalry units in Britain, a Roman province for centuries. 

• A central Eurasian myth about a newborn hero being abandoned in a basket or cradle, floating in a river and being raised by a dog or wolf inspired many later stories, including stories about the early years of Cyrus the Great, Moses and Romulus. 

• The names of the Don, Dnieper and Danube rivers all come from the Scythian word for “river.”

• The practice of referring to certain peoples as “barbarians” is intellectually lazy and reeks of a double standard. He writes, in Endnote 184, “Did ‘weak’ and ‘innocent’ Chinese, Romans, etc. conquer huge empires by accident, or by kindness? There is no excuse for the continuing demonization of early Central Eurasian peoples as ‘barbarians’ rather than as people (with the good and the bad) as everyone else.”

There are 190 endnotes in small type at the end of the book, and many of them are just as interesting as the actual text of the book, so this is a book you will read with a finger or a bookmark stuck in the back.

Beckwith is a “big picture” historian in more than one sense (he says the early Scythian empire stretched for thousands of miles from southeast Europe to Mongolia and northern China) and in one of his endnotes, he criticizes historians who stick to narrow controversies: “Many modern historians do not want wide-ranging history that explains things beyond (or even including) their own narrow specializations. However, the world is not simple. It is complex on many levels, not only the close-up level of institutional or ‘bureaucratic’ history, the field of most academic historians today. Yet their studies are hardly meaningful without being placed in a broader context, and it is doubtful that one can do so by attempting to base it solely in bureaucratic-level materials.” 

Physically, the Princeton University Press book is a handsome volume which has the features one might expect in a book of this type, including diagrams and tables, illustrations, maps, and reasonably brief Introduction and Prologue chapters that lay out the book’s thesis for nonspecialists. There are endnotes, appendices, a long list of references and an index. There are no suggestions for further reading, although it’s strongly implied that anyone interested in The Scythian Empire should hunt up Beckwith’s other books, such as Empires of the Silk Road.


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Antero Alli event in Portland

"Escape from Chapel Perilous" 

Announcement from Antero Alli: ""From Ritual Into Theatre". On Sunday 6/11, 7pm, at PerformanceWorks NW (PDX), I will discuss Paratheatre as a relevant practice to performers, singers, actors, dancers, and those practicing their own ritual traditions.  Free to all."

The event is in Portland. More information here. 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

A couple of announcements

Two interesting upcoming events:

From the Discordian folks at the Liverpool Arts Lab:

"On May 23rd we will complete the latest in a series of ritual walks to re-enchant the city and strengthen our relationship with the land. Its always a joyful experience with poetry, story-telling and some daft rituals. We’d love you to come along."

More information here.

The event in Liverpool UK obviously requires access to a particular time and space, but here is an announcement for Twin Peaks fans: The folks who do the Weird Studies podcasts are offering an online course on Twin Peaks, cost $120, details here. I've often wondered why RAW wasn't a Twin Peaks fan. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

The RAW Semantics book club [UPDATED] [UPDATED AGAIN]


Brian directs our attention to a book on sale for practically nothing as a Kindle: "Chris Niebauer's 192-page 'No Self, No Problem Workbook' - going for £0.79 or $0.99 on Amazon Kindle format. He uses a left/right brain model, has lots of fun head "exercises", and, like RAW, deconstructs abstract generalisations and group fictions, etc." [UPDATE] Note that he's actually talking about the workbook version of the title. There are actually two very similar titles, and I bought both; both are dirt cheap. 

It sounded interesting so I bought it. Certainly the doctrine of "no self" is important to Buddhism, and I'm pretty sure Alan Watts wrote a book on it, e.g. The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

Here is some of the publisher's description for Niebauer's book: 

"While in grad school in the early 1990s, Chris Niebauer began to notice striking parallels between the latest discoveries in psychology, neuroscience, and the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, and other schools of Eastern thought. When he presented his findings to a professor, his ideas were quickly dismissed as “pure coincidence, nothing more.”

"Fast-forward 20 years later and Niebauer is a PhD and a tenured professor, and the Buddhist-neuroscience connection he found as a student is practically its own genre in the bookstore. But according to Niebauer, we are just beginning to understand the link between Eastern philosophy and the latest findings in psychology and neuroscience and what these assimilated ideas mean for the human experience."

Update: The idea of an online book club has been floated on Twitter.  If you aren't on Twitter and you want to indicate that you would take part, perhaps leave a comment here. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Can technology help with the blizzard of information?

Brian Dean has written about the complexities of dealing with new forms of media and online news. 

It seems to me that one of the problems of dealing with all of the online "stuff" out there is  that there is so much of it, and there's only so much time for reading. 

Can artificial intelligence help with the sorting process? 

A new service calls News Minimalist "uses AI (ChatGPT-4) to read the top 1000 news every day and rank them by significance on a scale from 0 to 10 based on event magnitude, scale, potential, and source credibility." You can sign up for a daily email newsletter. 

More here. 

Perhaps other similar projects will start popping up, too. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Has 'life extension' arrived?

The SMI2LE formula endorsed by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson calls for space migration, intelligence increase and life extension.

You could argue that space migration is on the way, given that space exploration is becoming cheaper with the SpaceX reusable rockets and all of the new advances in AI would seem to argue for increased intelligence (even if following politics convinces you people actually are getting dumber.) But where is life extension?

That's arriving, too, according to Lifespan: Why We Age—And Why We Don’t Have To by Harvard Medical School professor David Sinclair. 

Here is a summary from Richard Hanania: "Sinclair, a professor at Harvard Medical School, all but guarantees the reader immortality. Again and again, he tells you the end of aging is coming. And not only that, it’s coming soon. And not only will we stop aging, but we’re probably going to reverse aging any second now, if we can’t already."

Hanania's piece is mostly about how he plans to apply Sinclair's advice, but Scott Alexander has written a long book review. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Rasa offers a 'Lion of Light' update

Rasa has put up a post in various groups on Facebook to provide an update on Lion of Light, the upcoming Robert Anton Wilson book on Aleister Crowley that's based on a lost RAW manuscript that Martin Wagner discovered in the Harvard library. 

The post includes a RAW quote most of us have not had the opportunity to read before:

Those who want to invoke the word “coincidence” to cover the rags of their ignorance are welcome to do so. Some of us have a new word lately, synchronicity, coined by no less than psychologist Carl Jung and physicist Wolfgang Pauli – and I’ve read their books and must admit I came out as confused as I went in; as far as this brain can comprehend, coincidence is meaning-less correspondence, and synchronicity is meaning-ful correspondence, and if that makes you feel superior to the custard-headed clods who still say coincidence, you’re welcome to it.

– Robert Anton Wilson, Lion of Light

Rasa also discusses possible cover images for the book, including the one, above, that was submitted by Chris Mazur; to Rasa's surprise, the Mazur cartoon image was quite popular when he showed possible covers to RAW fans and asked for feedback. (I'm not at liberty to share some of the other proposed images, but put it this way, they were more like what you would expect.) 

Monday, May 8, 2023

A virtual gallery of RAW book covers

I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to see all of the book designs by Scott McPherson, aka amoeba design, for editions of Robert Anton Wilson's work published by Hilaritas Press. In my mind, it was a series of pictures hanging in an art gallery. But perhaps this is better: A virtual art gallery, posted on Twitter and available to everyone, that shows off the book covers. 

Sunday, May 7, 2023

My blog on a Subreddit and other social media points

In a comment for a recent post on D.W. Griffith's movie Intolerance, Bobby Campbell wrote, "Also, anyway! I actually popped in here to say that I've set it up so that posts will be auto posted over on the maybelogic subreddit:

"With twitter circling the drain I figure it might be smart to diversify."

I checked the site out, and mostly it has entries from this blog, but there is other material, including a recent post on how the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once relates to the eight circuit model. 

I can certainly relate to Bobby's comments. I woke up yesterday and turned on my computer and discovered that when I go to Twitter on my browser, I am no longer allowed to see my lists. No explanation, no way to figure out why some people have access to their lists and I don't, just a random change without explanation that makes Twitter harder for me to use, like the recent ban on Substack links that may or may not be in effect. I still admire what Elon Musk has done with space travel, but I wish he had never bought Twitter. I can still access my lists on the app on my phone, and my Linux laptop apparently can access my links via an app called MasterDeck, although MasterDeck says this is likely only until Twitter finishes destroying its relationships with third patty app developers. 

There was hope that Mastodon would serve as an alternative to Twitter. I duly created an account (@jacksontom at the server) and I'm still trying to log in sometimes and support the effort, but it seems safe to say that Mastodon has failed, at least so far, as a Twitter alternative. It hasn't built up a very large base of people, and many of the more interesting accounts I follow have kind of given up and don't post very often. I don't even see posts and articles about Mastodon anymore.  I sometimes look at the RAW pages on Facebook, but I'm not a huge Facebook fan. 

So I'm still stuck with Twitter as a way to find news for this blog. Does anyone have any suggestions? Like, is there any easy way to get my lists back that I have missed? 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Adam Gorightly on three Discordian books

Adam Gorightly has a new piece up at Historia Discordia which discusses three Discordian-related books. They are Jailbird: The Dreadlock Recollections by Kerry Thornley, put out by the SubGenius Foundation; Stalking The Great Whore: The Lost Writings of James Shelby Downard, which Adam has published and which includes a forward by Adam, and Antero Alli's Last Words: Towards an Insurrection of the Poetic Imagination. Adam says that's Alli's last book, but in fact since then Alli has released what is apparently a final last book, Sacred Rites.

More information on the three books at the link. Here is a little bit on James Shelby Downard.  And here is Adam's explanation. 

Friday, May 5, 2023

RAW and other topics on the 'Vayse' podcast

There are more interesting podcasts out there than I can really keep up with, but I did want to recommend the latest Vayse podcast featuring Mark Pilkington, who runs the Strange Attractor Press and also is a writer and does music. Official site here with commendably detailed links and show notes, but you should also be able to find it on your favorite podcasting app. 

Toward the end of the podcast, Pilkington and the show hosts, Peter C Hine and Stephen James Buckley, talk about Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger book and how influential it has been on many of the show's guests. Pilkington also talks about the upcoming RAW biography by Prop Anon (e.g. Gabriel Kennedy) that Strange Attractor will be putting out this fall, and promises that it will be very thorough and based on a great deal of research. 

There is also interesting discussion about Pilkington's UFOlogy book, Mirage Men (it sure sounds like it would interest anyone who enjoyed Adam Gorightly's book, Saucers, Spooks and Kooks, I was disappointed  Pilkington did not mention Adam). Other topics include Pilkington's adventures in making crop circles and Pilkington's strong recommendation of a book called Chameleo by Robert Guffey, which Pilkington calls a great Fortean book. 

Go to the show notes for links,  relevant social media accounts, etc. 

Hat tip, Tracy Harms. 

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Robert Shea Week, May 21-27

 Robert Shea Week will be May 21 through 27. I ordinarily focus on Robert Anton Wilson, but I write periodic blog posts about the other Illuminatus! author, whom I also think deserves attention, and later this month I'll write a series of posts.

I mention this because one of those posts will be an invitation to discuss Shea's novel, All Things Are Lights (you might recognize the phrase from Illuminatus!) and I wanted to do one more reminder about that, for anyone who might want to have time to read it and join the discussion. 

I am currently reading Shike Book One: Time of the Dragons, Shea's first historical novel. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Erik Davis guests on Ezra Klein's podcast

Erik Davis. Creative Commons 3.0 photo, source. 

Many of you will know writer Erik Davis for his interesting book High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies, which offered profiles of Robert Anton Wilson, Philip K. Dick and Terence McKenna; he has written other books and has a Substack newsletter, please see the Wikipedia article for more information. 

Davis has now appeared on the latest episode of The Ezra Klein Show, a well-known podcast by the New York Times pundit, to discuss  "weirdness" and artificial intelligence. From the show blurb: "We discuss how Silicon Valley’s particularly weird culture has altered the trajectory of A.I. development, why programs like ChatGPT can profoundly unsettle our sense of reality and our own humanity, how the behaviors of A.I. systems reveal far more about humanity than we like to admit, why we might be in a 'sorcerer’s apprentice moment' for artificial intelligence, why we often turn to myth and science fiction to explain technologies whose implications we don’t yet grasp, why A.I. developers are willing to keep designing technologies that they think may destroy humanity and more."

I've linked to one place to listen to the show, but it should show up on your favorite podcasting app. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Oz Fritz on 'The Walls Came Tumbling Down'

Oz Fritz is hoping someone will step up and make a movie out of The Walls Came Tumbling Down, the Robert Anton Wilson book/film script recently published as a new edition by Hilaritas Press. In the meantime, we have the new book, with RAW's helpful explanation on how to read film scripts, and Oz' new blog post, which offers an insightful and detailed analysis of the book.

For example, Oz correctly notes that "Death, in a variety of forms - literal, metaphorical, symbolic - revolves in and out through the screenplay," and writes in a later paragraph:

"When death comes around, all your walls come down. Might as well get used to it ahead of time. The 'borderless or other-wordly consciousness' his characters frequently stumble into is called the Bardo by Tibetan Buddhists. The Bardo describes the weird territory between lives, the space after death and before rebirth. The first serious scientific effort to map this territory in the West, and enter the Bardo before Extremum Vitae Spiritum Edere (giving up the ghost) gets documented in the The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Leary, Metzner, and Alpert who all met at Harvard University - where Michael Ellis works in RAW's film. All three authors get name-checked in a single breath in an allusion to their book. (p.86); Leary becomes a minor character and obvious influence."

For those of you who take the trouble to buy the book and read it, the long Oz Fritz blog post is a nice bonus. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

John Higgs on magic and the monarchy

The Green Man, from a stained glass church window in Wales, Creative Commons photo, source. 

With a British coronation apparently looming (I don't pay much attention to such things), John Higgs has a particularly interesting essay in his latest newsletter, focusing on the role of magic in the British monarchy, and the "people's magic" that could act as a counterweight.

If I tried to quote all of the interesting things John says, I would wind up reproducing pretty much the whole essay, but I'm guessing quoting the opening paragraph will get some of you to read it:

"When the invites to Charles’ coronation were revealed, there was a minor kerfuffle about the amount of magical, supernatural or pagan imagery involved - especially the figure commonly known as the Green Man. The fuss reminded me of that scene in Casablanca, when Captain Renault closed down Rick’s bar. 'I am shocked, shocked, to find that gambling has been going on in here!', he explained, just before being handed his winnings. Monarchy and coronations are as magical and occult as things get, and to pretend otherwise is always going to be funny."

John also has some short bits on book recommendations and his ongoing tour to promote his excellent Love and Let Die book, here is my review.

Possibly related: Tyler Cowen (who also strongly recommended Love and Let Die) has posted a revisionist review of the Wings album, At the Speed of Sound.  I participate in the comments.