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Thursday, August 24, 2023

New reading group: Lion of LIght [UPDATED]

A new online reading project for a Robert Anton Wilson can now be announced. Following a suggestion from Spookah, Gregory Arnott and Oz Fritz have agreed to lead a reading group on the new Robert Anton Wiilson book published by Hilaritas Press, Lion of Light.

The discussion will be hosted at the Jechidah blog, and the weekly postings will begin after Labor Day. Labor Day is Sept. 4, so it's probably a good idea to hurry and get a copy of the book, if you don't have one already. Gregory and Oz plan to alternate on doing the posts, and everyone else is invited to contribute to the discussion in the comments.

It's hard to imagine a more promising reading group, or a better opportunity for people who are interested in Robert Anton Wilson to learn about a key influence on Wilson. Aleister Crowley obviously was a major influence on RAW.  Oz wrote a foreword for the new book, "Five Footprints of a Camel." Gregory wrote an afterword in the book, "Enduring Magical Biography." 

In addition, Oz has read every available biography of Crowley, and I know Gregory has read more than one.  I have been reading Perdurabo, the biography of Crowley written by Richard Kaczynski (who also contributed a foreword to the new book), and it has an endorsement from Oz at the front. (The version of Perdurabo I am reading is the revised and expanded edition; Oz wrote a review.)

Please consider taking part in the new reading group. 

UPDATE: There's now a post at Jechidah discussing the reading group. 


Eric Wagner said...

Thank you for letting us know.

Rarebit Fiend said...

I think I've read most of the biographies, though I'll maintain that Crowley's "Confessions" is still the best coverage (at least, the parts covered therein) of his life. I never minded Crowley's blinds and jokes and always liked to try to take my crooked hero by his crooked word. You just have to know when he's lying. And when his lies hint at a deeper truth.

I haven't read Charles Cammell's treatment of Crowley's life and would really like to. Perhaps that's something I'll do while we're going through Lion of Light. I'll probably do that as well as rereading Symonds' slanderous biography, which I now have a beautiful vintage copy of thanks to Confluence.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty interested in the new book (and of course, as always, in to the reading group).
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.
And I have never read something about this issue from RAW himself and I can hardly imagine he wasn`t aware of that and its even harder to conceive he wouldn`t have cared about it.

But maybe I am just not aware of any texts about.
What are your thoughts about that?


Spookah said...

That's fantastic news!

Richard Kaczynski is of course also the guest on the last Hilaritas podcast.

I liked how in The Eye in the Triangle, Regardie often brings a psychoanalytical bend on his interpretation of Crowley's character and behaviour. Especially valuable considering that he actually knew and worked with him.

Oz Fritz said...

D.M.S., I'm not aware of RAW making many judgements on Crowley's morals or lack thereof. In general, RAW seems less concerned with a person's character than with the work they do or the philosophy they espouse. Michael Johnson addresses this tendency briefly in his Afterword in Lion of Light. We are all human and it seems none of us live up to our highest ideals unless those ideals aren't that high to begin with. Crowley once said, "let he who has not sinned cast the first stone", or maybe that was the other guy?

Lvx15 said...

Alas, for some reason I’m unable to sign in there to comment.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

@Lvx15, can you clarify where you are having trouble signing in?

Rarebit Fiend said...

Hey D. M. S.,

I feel like I should also drop in my two cents. As far as responding to the redditor goes: it does come down to the fact that I am (and Wilson was) very, very fond of Crowley as a person. I think he was an incredibly flawed person who was also capable of espousing some of the most fascinating and enlightening views on this side of creation. His works and practices improved my life and my understanding of my existence.

Crowley changed and struggled with himself; for example, he was able to beat heroin multiple times before his asthma caused him to take it up again. And even while he was on heroin he wrote some of the best works of his lifetime. Crowley was a dramatic guy who probably had all sorts of undiagnosed emotional issues...he said and did dramatic things. But he meticulously recorded most of them and made sure that no one would mistake him for a (non-Thelemic) saint.

My guess, from what I've read of Wilson, is that Crowley was, at the very least, self-aware, something I think he and I both value greatly. He does address Crowley's egregious, contradictory and baffling behavior a few times...but I think he loves the parts of Crowley he admired more than he hated the ones he deplored. You have to remember that, for Wilson, Crowley's desire to not be seen as a saint, but rather to be remembered warts-and-all counted as something incredibly admirable.

Crowley was a product of his times and was about as imperialistic and priggish as they make them when he wanted to be. But Hume had racist views, Rousseau was sexist and even Voltaire had his problems...I'm not going to stop admiring them and living by whatever parts of their lives and work inspired me. If we throw out everyone who didn't have views that align with our own, it's not going to leave a lot of people who don't live during our times and under our circumstances. Am I excusing Crowley's shittiness? I guess you could argue that, but I also try to make sure to point out that he was mad, bad and dangerous to know. And he lied, constantly. (But that also kinda endears me to him since he could lie with style.)

Today, there are readers who would say that parts of Wilson's writings are incredibly sexist, politically naive or egotistical, even racist, because things have changed and our attitudes have evolved. (Neither man was afraid to be crass, at all, at all.) There are plenty of people who believe both men were unhinged...I guess you have to decide whether you believe in what they wanted to share. I do...I think that Crowley truly wanted a better world and when he was able to transcend his own prejudices and ego he was capable of feeling very deeply about existence and articulating that. I guess it goes without saying I very much believe the same about Dr. Wilson, whatever anyone else might be able to produce from his writings.

I’ve always thought the following passage explained how Wilson felt about geniuses and their moral shortcomings pretty well, and it also ties into what he saw underneath it all, specifically Crowley at the end:

Rarebit Fiend said...

“Eduard Einstein and Lucia Joyce were led in, wearing straitjackets, moving with the mindless jerkiness of chronic schizophrenia.

You'll desert my mother, Eduard said accusingly to Albert. You never loved me. All you love is your goddam equations. You are a monster. You live in your head and don't love anyone. Oh I think I shall go mad.

Oh, no, Einstein said sobbing suddenly.
You see, Crowley said to Babcock. Now it's his turn for the Nun stage of I.N.R.I. Death on a White Horse.

Lucia Joyce lifted her skirt flirtatiously, showing a blue garter. Go, damn you, she shouted at James. Hide under the ground. I know you're watching us. Watching, always watching. You know everything -- men women boys girls -- and you see through it all don't you? You live in your head and don't love anyone.

Shite, Joyce said, sobbing in his wine.

And there's another candidate, Crowley said airily.

You rotten bastard.

It's bloody beastly buggering bleeding hell to be the child of a genius, Eduard Einstein mourned. Don't I know it, Lucia Joyce agreed.

I am HE, Crowley chanted suddenly drawing their attention again. The Bornless Spirit having sight in the feet Strong and immortal fire Who hate that evil should be wrought in the world He that lightning and thundereth He whose mouth ever flameth He from whom is the shower of life on Earth A true initiation never ends.” (Masks of the Illuminati, Chapter V)

We all have to decide what we can abide by in our heroes or those we study. I’m not trying to convince you one way or another, but this is my best attempt to answer your question.

Lvx15 said...

@Tom problem at the other blog... I'll figure it out eventually.

Rarebit Fiend said...

@Lvx15- I don't know what's up with the site right now. The default setting only allowed Google accounts to comment, but you have one of those. I'll do my best to make sure you have access.