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

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Some Erik Davis news, and a question


Erik Davis (Twitter portrait)

Erik Davis,  who wrote about Robert Anton Wilson in his excellent book High Weirdness, has posted "PKD's Divine Interference" in his Substack newsletter, substantial excerpts from his long essay on what happened to Philip K. Dick about 50 years ago, "when Philip K. Dick glimpsed a delivery woman’s Christian fish necklace and launched into the extraordinary series of bizarre experiences and events that the author referred to as '2/3/74'.” 

Also, this announcement from Mr. Davis: "Come study "The Psychedelic Universe" with me and my PhD crony Christian Greer at the University of Amsterdam this summer: a two-week in-person immersion seminar on 'Global Perspectives on Higher Consciousness'." More details here. 

My question

Separate from the above, I recently located and transcribed an article by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, "Come Back Lyndon," for the Robert Shea collection I am working on. It was published in in the July 1971 issue of The Organ, an underground newspaper in California I mentioned recently.

The piece, which draws on the "Illuminati Mythos" in Illuminatus!, has this last sentence: "Do not, O Illuminati, leave us out here in the twilight with no more for host than a sincere Coca Cola machine." I don't understand the sentence. Am I reading it wrong? Is there a wrong word or a missing one? Or do  I just  have poor reading comprehension skills? 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

RAW on the hypnosis of 'reality'

Prometheus Rising,
one of Robert Anton Wilson's best-loved books, has a passage that is one of my favorites:  

"When the Russian mathematician, Ouspensky, was first studying with Gurdjieff, he had great trouble understanding Gurdjieff's insistence that most people are machines and totally unaware of the objective world around them. Then,  one day, after World War I had begun, Ouspensky saw a truck full of artificial legs. These artificial legs were being sent to the frontline hospitals, for soldiers whose legs had not even been blown off yet, but whose legs would be blown off. The prediction that these legs would be blown off was so certain that the artificial legs were already on their way to replace the natural legs. The prediction was based on the mathematical certainty that millions of young men would march to the front, to be maimed and murdered, as mindlessly as cattle marching into a slaughterhouse.

"In a flash, Ouspensky understood the mechanical nature of ordinary human consciousness." 

This is from the Hilaritas edition of Prometheus Rising, and it's certainly one of the RAW books you should buy and read, if you are a RAW fan. 

This passage comes to mind when I think about the current U.S. presidential election, which, if all goes badly, will gives us a Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden rematch.

We are sleepwalking toward an election that many Americans dread. The Republican Party could select at random any sitting Republican governor of any U.S. state, drawing names from a hat, and would have a candidate who would seem to have more apparent common human decency, and apparent connection to reality, than Donald Trump. Similarly, in the minds of people who aren't fanatical supporters of the Democratic Party, any sitting Democratic governor would be better than Joe Biden.

I probably don't have to defend my characterization of Trump for most RAW readers. If you really need a refresher, see "Who Can Best Destroy America?" by the philosopher Michael Huemer, which I offer because Huemer cannot be dismissed as a partisan Democrat, and because getting to know Mr. Huemer's Substack seems worth  your time. 

As for Biden, Prop Anon and Paul Graham have been doing a pretty good job on X of chronicling Biden's apparent indifference to the situation in Gaza, but given the culpability of Hamas and the complexity of the situation in the Mideast, I also will point to another recent example that there seems to be something wrong, "Secret Service Had to Adjust Tactics to Avoid Bites From Biden’s Dog," a story from the New  York Times (similar news reports are available elsewhere.) 

My link gets you behind the Times paywall; read the story and see if you think most Americans would allow their local mayor to treat employees at City Hall this way, for months at a time.   Biden allowed his dog, Commander, to bite Secret Service agents (i.e., his bodyguard, for non-American readers) 24 times, and that figure is not a typo. (In fact, for  reasons cited in the Times piece, 24 apparently understates the situation). In many cases, these were serious injuries. In one incident, tours of the public portions of the White House had to be interrupted, so the pool of blood could be mopped up from the floor first. Biden only finally sent away the dog when news reports became too embarrassing. There's also a wonderful quote from a White House PR sycophant, Elizabeth Alexander, that stands out, even in the annals of political lying: “The president and first lady care deeply about the safety of those who work at the White House and those who protect them every day." 

I see postings on social media from various left wing British fans who I'm fond of, and often they will post about some supposedly terrible British politician. I think there may be some sort of regional/cognitive  bias at work here -- I assumed Oklahoma politicians obviously seemed like the worst in the U.S. until I moved to Ohio -- but I think I can defend the proposition that national U.S. political figures seem obviously worse than comparable Brits. In your face, limeys, we have the Olympic gold medal worst politicians in the western world! USA! USA! 

Jill Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander, who wants you to know that "The president and first lady care deeply about the safety of those who work at the White House." Duly noted, Liz! 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Hilaritas podcast features Vincent Murphy on artificial intelligence

The latest episode of the Hilaritas podcast, released today, featured RAW fan and AI enthusiast Vincent Murphy.

"In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with RAW Lucubrator and Guerill-AI Ontologist, Vincent Murphy," says the show's blurb. 

Available at all of the usual podcast places, but the official site with the show notes is here.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Beethoven's Ninth: Big in Japan

Masaaki Suzuki in December 2023. Creative Commons photo by Jiewei Xiong, details here. 

Tyler Cowen's podcast series, "Conversations With Tyler," has a new episode up, an interview with Masaaki Suzuki, who has recorded a huge amount of Johann Sebastian Bach's music. Suzuki is a conductor, organist and harpsichord player and is the founder and leader of Bach Collegium Japan. 

Given Robert Anton Wilson's interest in Beethoven in general, and in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in particular, I thought I would share this bit:

COWEN: What do you think of the hypothesis that Japanese audiences — they have a special interest in iconic works such as Beethoven’s Ninth, and there’s an insistence that they hear the best or experience the best, and single out very particular things. Do you think that’s true?

SUZUKI: Yes, Beethoven’s Ninth is very special here, especially in December. There are more than a hundred performances of Beethoven’s Ninth only in December.

There's more at the link, and classical music buffs will find the whole interview interesting. I link to both a video and audio links and a transcript, but simply as a podcast, it's available in all the usual places. 

Tyler is a careful and polite interviewer. He has been trying for awhile now to get an interview set up with Paul McCartney. I'm pretty certain Paul would not regret agreeing to the interview, but Tyler has not been able to land it. Can anyone help? 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Middleman cites 'Illuminatus'

 Confusingly, there is more than one band called Middleman. But I'm talking about this one, a new punk band out of London. 

The above video is for the new single, "Falls Apart," from the upcoming EP, John Dillinger Died for You. 

"The EP John Dillinger Died For You, the follow up to December 2022’s well-received Cut Out The Middleman, takes its name from The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and is being released 19th April on Evil Speaker Records."

More here, including a touring schedule. Hat tip, Nick Helweg-Larsen. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

A couple of thoughts on the Hugo Awards scandal

"Finnish weird" author Johanna Sinisalo (do you know that genre?) accepting her  Prometheus Award at the Helsinki Worldcon in 2017. Photo by Ryan Lackey. 

The Hugo Awards mess has now made the New York Times, and I thought about it as I was doing my grocery shopping Sunday, here are a couple of thoughts:

1. Andrew Jackson is not one of my favorite U.S. presidents, but I know a striking quotation  attributed to him: "One man with courage makes a majority."

Surely this seems like an example. There were at least five western fans heavily involved with the Hugo Awards in China: Dave McCarty, Ben Yalow, Ann Marie Rudolph, Diane Lacey (listed on the Worldcon Hugo Awards page) and Kat Jones (outed in the investigative story referenced in my Feb. 16 post.) Surely if just one of them had called bullshit on the process, threatening to resign and go public (and back it up if necessary), the whole censorship regime would have collapsed in ruin. (Diane Lacey has now had a change of heart, as I wrote on Feb. 16. She must wish she had said something earlier, and in fact she has apologized and become a whistleblower).

Dave McCarty, who has apparently deleted  his Facebook posts on his role in the Chinese Worldcon, still has a gratuitous slap at libertarians on his Facebook "favorite quotes" section. As much as libertarians disagree among themselves about hot button issues such as global warming or immigration, you'll have trouble finding many libertarians who (a) support censorship and speech codes and (b) fear finding themselves in the minority in a disagreement. Maybe a libertarian on that Hugo committee would have saved Mr. McCarty;s reputation. On the same page, Mr. McCarty brags about  "being the administrator for the 2014, 2016, and 2018 Hugo awards," but by some oversight, he leaves off 2023.

2. I haven't seen anyone point this out, but surely the victims in the Hugo scandal include Chinese science fiction fans, who must have been very excited to see the World Science Fiction Convention come to China for the first time.

R.F. Kuang, the obvious front runner for the best novel Hugo until McCarty and Company deleted her book from the Hugo ballot (she already had won Nebula and Locus awards for Babel) was born in China. Her family came to the United States when she was four, so she's an American, but wouldn't it have been exciting for Chinese fans to see a writer from China win the Hugo? 

Chinese fans also have to read about their Worldcon being an infamous disaster that makes another Worldcon in China currently unthinkable, and surely that must sting, too. 

I was involved, by the way, in a science fiction award being given to a Finnish writer in Finland. A few years ago,  I nominated The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo for the Prometheus Award, and it actually won.  By a nice coincidence, the 75th Worldcon was held in Helsinki in 2017, and our representatives for the Prometheus Award were able to publicly present the award to Sinisalo at that convention.  Yeah, not a Hugo, but still a pretty cool occasion. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

'News democracy' website explains 'Illuminatus!'


Harriet "Hattie" Brewis, eating a sandwich in between scoops (official portrait on X). 

The Illuminati, and the Illuminatus! trilogy, get a writeup in a new article, "Who are the Illuminati and why are they taking over TikTok?" The piece at the Indy100 website includes  a discussion of Discordianism  and how it gave rise to the trilogy.

I did feel a bit uncomfortable with how writer Harriet "Hattie" Brewis, the "chief reporter at Indy100," treated the trilogy. After describing the Discordian pranks of Wilson and Shea, she writes, 

"Wilson and Shea became so invested in the whole endeavour that they penned a series of three novels titled ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’, which pinned some of the great mysteries of the time on the Illuminati, including who killed President Kennedy," she wrote.

"Among the most far-fetched theories they put forward was that Weishaupt (the society’s original Bavarian founder) had assassinated George Washington and assumed his identity as president of the US," she wrote.

Brewis obviously did a lot of research for her piece, but I did wonder whether she quite internalized that all of this was satire, and not meant to be taken seriously.

You can read her other stories here, such as "Taylor Swift's message to Travis Kelce after the Super Bowl leaked in new audio."

The Indy100 is a project of the Independent, a British newspaper. The idea is that readers pick what the top stories are. The site is billed as "The News Democracy." 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

New book by Alan Moore and Steve Moore will be out soon

A new book has been announced that will please some of my friends: The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic by Alan Moore and Steve  Moore, out on Oct. 15, hardcover $50 in the U.S. 

When I forwarded a press release about the book to Gregory Arnott, he told me, "I've been waiting on this for sixteen years. I feel like I've received life changing news."

I assume most of the people reading this blog will know who Alan Moore is, the English author of the novel Jerusalem, and various famous comic books such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta. Steve Moore (no relation to Alan), who died in 2014, also was a comics writer and writer; his novel Somnium is one of the best fantasy novels I ever read. In the afterword of the 2017 edition of Somnium, Alan calls Steve "my oldest, best and strangest friend."

Here is the news release from Top Shelf Productions, I will put artwork from the release at the bottom of this post:

LOS ANGELES, CA (February 16, 2024). Internationally celebrated publishers Top Shelf Productions (USA) and Knockabout Ltd (UK) are proud to announce the publication date of the long-awaited THE MOON AND SERPENT BUMPER BOOK OF MAGIC. Born of the longstanding creative partnership between legendary writer Alan Moore (From Hell) and his creative and magical mentor Steve Moore (no relation), this celebration of magic and the occult has been meticulously under development for nearly two decades and is brought to life through a combination of prose, illustration, and sequential art from five incredible artists. This veritable grimoire of the magical, the mystical, and even the macabre will be on sale in October 2024.

The secrets of the celebrated Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels (sorcery by appointment since circa 150 AD) promise to be revealed in THE MOON AND SERPENT BUMPER BOOK OF MAGIC. This clear and practical grimoire of the occult pairs the knowledge of the proprietors of the aforementioned Grand Egyptian Theatre with illuminating visual delights from artists Kevin O’Neill, John Coulthart, Steve Parkhouse, Rick Veitch, and Ben Wickey. Unprecedented in its scope and splendor, this tome is full to bursting with illustrated instructional essays, activity pages, biographies of the great sorcerers, and forbidden knowledge sure to tantalize even the most disillusioned of adults into believing in magic once again.

“One of the great honors of my publishing career has been to work with Alan Moore on so many monumental projects, like From Hell and Lost Girls,” says Chris Staros, Editor-in-Chief of Top Shelf Productions. “THE MOON AND SERPENT BUMPER BOOK OF MAGIC represents an amazing capstone, created by Alan and Steve, and brilliantly brought to life by five unforgettable artists. It’s been a privilege to watch those magical minds spend years building this grimoire, and I’m proud to join Knockabout in finally sharing it with the world.”

THE MOON AND SERPENT BUMPER BOOK OF MAGIC (ISBN 978-1-60309-550-1) will be available in fine bookstores and comic shops in October 2024.


Written by Alan Moore & Steve Moore

Art by Kevin O’Neill, John Coulthart, Steve Parkhouse, Rick Veitch, and Ben Wickey

Book design by John Coulthart

ISBN 978-1-60309-550-1 | 9" x 12" hardcover | 352 pages | $49.99 (US)

Co-published by Top Shelf Productions & Knockabout LTD (UK)

Available everywhere books are sold in October 2024

Friday, February 16, 2024

More on the Hugo Awards mess

Significant new information finally has emerged in the Hugo Awards mess I blogged about on Jan. 23.  As I explained in that earlier post, several nominations were deemed "ineligible" for the award, including Babel by R.F. Kuang, which had been the frontrunner for the best novel Hugo. 

Much of the blame for what happened has been put on the Hugo Award administrator for last year's Chinese Worldcon, Dave McCarty, who has refused to discuss what happened, but there were other Western fans on the Hugo committee. On one of my social media sites, Bluesky, I wrote (on Jan. 28), "I don't know Dave McCarty, but I'm puzzled why the other North Americans on the Hugo committee -- Ben Yalow, Ann Marie Rudolph, Diane Lacey -- have not received any pressure to explain what happened."

Well, one of that trio who had been cooperating in the coverup, Diane Lacey, apparently finally had enough and broke the code of silence, releasing emails that show, as everyone suspected, that the Hugo Awards committee engaged in political censorship. Here is the resulting investigative story by Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford, posted on File 770 and elsewhere. Here is Diane Lacey's apology letter.  There's other stuff at File 770, including one of the fans now implicated in the scandal, Kat Jones, whining about being outed and demanding special treatment.  Jones was actually the Hugo Awards administrator for this year's Worldcon in Scotland; the embarrassed committee has now announced that she has resigned. .

There's been a lot of comment, including this followup blog post by SF author John Scalzi.  (I have a posting in the comments). 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Joseph Matheny on Vayse podcast

"Some rare art transcends reality, some even rarer art seems to create a new reality altogether - the work of Joseph Matheny does both of these things while embracing the trickster spirit inherent in the magickal traditions in which his work has its roots."

Podcast and lots of show notes here.  The podcast is widely available from various other services and apps. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

UbuWeb has become an archive

One of my favorite Internet sites, UbuWeb, is no longer updating its online collection of avant garde art but apparently will persist as an archive. 

When I checked the site recently, it was dated 1996-2024, and it said, "As of 2024, UbuWeb is no longer active. The archive is preserved for perpetuity, in its entirety." There's not much else explaining what happened, but the About section has a good one-sentence explanation of what it's about: "Founded in 1996, UbuWeb is a pirate shadow library consisting of hundreds of thousands of freely downloadable avant-garde artifacts."

There isn't a lot of Robert Anton Wilson material on the site, although it does have this interview and this panel discussion from a convention devoted to the work of William Burroughs. If RAW fans look hard enough, they will likely find items that interest them, such as this collection of old recordings made by Aleister Crowley. 

My favorite part of Ubuweb are two collections of contemporary classical music, The Avant-Garde Project and the Wolf Fifth Archive. Much of those two collections are out of print LPs. The UbuWeb version of AGP is not complete, but try this.

I always meant to offer some live recordings of music to the site, too late now. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

New books: Oberon Zell, Neal Stephenson

Oberon Zell (friend of RAW, founder of the Church of All Worlds, interesting Hilaritas podcast guest) has a new book out, Hystory's Mysteries: Turning Points That Changed Our World.

From the publisher's blurb:

"Atlantis, Lemuria, the Garden of Eden, are these merely myths and fantasies of paradise lost, or actual places that have somehow disappeared from the face of the Earth?

And what of the famous legends of a great and universal Deluge that are found in so many ancient cultures? Could there really have been a vast global inundation that drowned entire populations and submerged settlements throughout the world, to be enshrined in legend by the few survivors whose descendants repopulated the world?

What's the connection between King Arthur and the Amazons of Wonder Woman? What happened in 56 BCE that changed all of Western history to follow, including the rise of Christianity?"

Also, a new novel has been announced from my favorite living author, Neal Stephenson. Polostan is the first volume of a new series.  It's out on Oct. 15.

"The first installment in Neal Stephenson’s Bomb Light cycle, Polostan follows the early life of the enigmatic Dawn Rae Bjornberg. Born in the American West to a clan of cowboy anarchists, Dawn is raised in Leningrad after the Russian Revolution by her Russian father, a party line Leninist who re-christens her Aurora. She spends her early years in Russia but then grows up as a teenager in Montana, before being drawn into gunrunning and revolution in the streets of Washington, D.C., during the depths of the Great Depression. When a surprising revelation about her past puts her in the crosshairs of U.S. authorities, Dawn returns to Russia, where she is groomed as a spy by the organization that later becomes the KGB."

Monday, February 12, 2024

Jesse Walker on music conspiracy theories


Singer Taylor Swift. Even if you don't follow pop music closely, perhaps you have heard of her. Creative Commons photo by Ronald Woan, details here. 

As I noted recently, the recent death of MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer was a reminder of the amusing conspiracy theories about music that are a feature of Illuminatus!, including the claim that the popularity of the Beatles was a Communist plot. 

Jesse Walker, no stranger to conspiracy theories or to pop music, has a new piece out, "Taylor Swift Is Just the Latest Subject in a Long History of Pop Conspiracy Theories." I don't want to spoil Jesse's best lines by quoting from it, just read it.  Illuminatus! fans may particularly enjoy it. 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

A 'Magic Flute' explainer

Scene from a production of The Magic Flute, I can't remember which one. 

As I've written earlier, Mozart's opera, The Magic Flute, has elements from Freemasonry. Some productions depict an eye in the pyramid. I know that Robert Anton Wilson loved opera, but as far as I know, he did not write about the opera. But here is what Robert Shea wrote in a fanzine after going to see a production:

Last September, Yvonne and I saw the Lyric Opera’s production of The Magic Flute. I’m becoming more and more of a lover of Mozart’s music, and this has certainly done much to hasten the process. Of the libretto of Die Zauberfloete, no less an illuminated being than Goethe declared its “high meaning will not elude the initiated.” Besides the music, I was entertained by the sets, which were, of course, full of pyramids. One pyramid had the word “WEISHEIT” over its entrance, which I at first misread as “WEISHAUPT.” At the end, an orange sun arose and appeared centered in a gigantic triangle. The evening would have been complete if the sun had opened a bright red eye and winked at me. Highly recommended, in whatever form you might have access to it. Die Zauberfloete was first presented in Vienna on Friday, Sept. 30, 1791, fifteen years after the founding of the Bavarian Illuminati and six years after its suppression by edict of the King of Bavaria. 

Gramophone magazine has an article discussing the opera and rating various recordings of it. 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Too bad RAW did not get to see this

Robert Anton Wilson would feel vindicated:

"We’re thrilled that Lykos Therapeutics has announced the FDA has accepted – and granted Priority Review to – the first New Drug Application for a psychedelic-assisted therapy. Congratulations to the Lykos team and collaborators who made this possible!"

It's a treatment for people with PTSD, surely more proposed treatments will follow. 

More here. 

More here, too. 

Friday, February 9, 2024

New book about psychedelic history

R. Michael Johnson sent me a note about a new book that may interest sombunall of you, so I am passing this on:

"FYI: Benjamin Breen, History prof, who is really good on drugs in history, has a book out sombunall RAW fans would be interested in. I've exchanged a few emails with this guy; he's really interesting. His new book is Tripping On Utopia, and perhaps the main thesis is Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, Lilly and not Boomers - were interested in psychedelics in the 1930s and 40s. I mean, it looks like Margaret Mead was an earlier "psychedelics expert" way before Leary. What if Mead had gone public about how transcendent psychedelics could be? She wanted to, but decided not to. Why?

"I'm still waiting in the HOLDS line at the library to read it. He said he read a lot about RAW via the Leary stuff and I'm not sure how much RAW content is in it until I get hold of it. 

"My guess is this is twice-removed deeper than all the CIA-LSD-hippies/academics/infiltration narrative. Like, Lee and Shlain's Acid Dreams is quaint research to this guy." 

I also have the book on hold at my local library in the Cleveland area, so perhaps I may know more soon.

Here is the publisher's page for Tripping On Utopia.  Note that the "Lilly" is Michael's note is John Lilly, and Cary Grant also is mentioned.

Benjamin Breen is an associate professor of history at the University of  California at Santa CruzHere is Professor Breen's Substack newsletter.  It looks very interesting. And you can also look at his website.  The book was reviewed in the New York Times a few weeks ago. 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Social media update

The logo for Mastodon. It's a social network I like, but I wish a few more people would go over there. 

Social media is connected to running a blog; I (and other bloggers, of course) use social media to promote my blog posts, and social media in turn generates news and story ideas for me.

If anyone is interested, I am currently active on Facebook, on X (@jacksontom), on Bluesky ( and on Mastodon (

I never "got" Instagram and I hated Threads when I tried it. 

I like Mastodon, but it doesn't seem to be catching on. I like its friendly vibe and decentralized structure, so I am sticking it out hoping for the best. It could be great, it just doesn't have enough people (or active RAW fans). Bluesky seems to be picking up momentum and has come out of beta, i.e. anyone can join, an invitation from a current member is not needed anymore.

I am less enthusiastic about Facebook and X, but that's where the people are, and I don't think I can give them up. Facebook has many fan groups devoted to Robert Anton Wilson. X has many people I am interested in who haven't migrated to Mastodon or Bluesky. If you want to try X, and if you read this blog, you may want to consider following @RAWilson23, @RAWSemantics, @TheRAWTrust and @RAWarchives, and maybe me, too. If you do try X (or you want to improve your experience), I suggest using curated lists of accounts and following those lists, rather than relying on X to tell  you what to read.

John Scalzi has a recent post on social media that is worth reading, although I do still find X more useful than he does. Mike Masnick has an article out on why he is excited about recent developments at Bluesky, i.e. users can choose options on content moderation and can choose from various algorithms. 

As as I do like Mastodon, here is a useful guide for beginners. And also, here is the official website. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Hidden ancient texts are coming to light


There's been a big breakthrough in the efforts to decipher and read the library of charred scrolls that were left after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. 

Nat Friedman, the Silicon Valley person who funded efforts to use AI to finally decipher the previously unreadable scrolls, posted about the latest breakthrough on X/Twitter, here is some of his post referring to the above image:

"This image was produced by @Youssef_M_Nader, @LukeFarritor, and @JuliSchillij, who have now won the Vesuvius Challenge Grand Prize of $700,000. Congratulations!!

"These fifteen columns come from the very end of the first scroll we have been able to read and contain new text from the ancient world that has never been seen before. The author – probably Epicurean philosopher Philodemus – writes here about music, food, and how to enjoy life's pleasures. In the closing section, he throws shade at unnamed ideological adversaries – perhaps the stoics? – who "have nothing to say about pleasure, either in general or in particular."

"This year, the Vesuvius Challenge continues. The text that we revealed so far represents just 5% of one scroll.

"In 2024, our goal is to from reading a few passages of text to entire scrolls, and we're announcing a new $100,000 grand prize for the first team that is able to read at least 90% of all four scrolls that we have scanned.

"The scrolls stored in Naples that remain to be read represent more than 16 megabytes of ancient text. But the villa where the scrolls were found was only partially excavated, and scholars tell us that there may be thousands more scrolls underground. Our hope is that the success of the Vesuvius Challenge catalyzes the excavation of the villa, that the main library is discovered, and that whatever we find there rewrites history and inspires all of us."

More here.

I have become very interested in Epicureanism. Much of the ancient writings about the philosophy have been lost, but as Friedman writes, his efforts are recovering some of it; as he notes, there is speculation that much lost ancient literature can be recovered. See this article, "Can AI Unlock the Secrets of the Ancient World?", written by Ashlee Vance and Ellen Huet.

The above image is copyrighted, and I am normally very cautious about using copyrighted images. However, I have linked  to Mr. Friedman's posting, which included the image and which has been reposted about 17,000 times and which has had more than 21 million views.  So I hope my use is acceptable. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Bill Maher, and RAW on his old show

Reason magazine has a new interview up with Bill Maher, billed as "the last liberal." The topics include marijuana and cancel culture. 

This gives me an excuse to once again post Robert Anton Wilson's only appearance on national TV (that I know of), a May 23, 1996, appearance on a half hour segment of Maher's old show, Politically Incorrect. Wilson is funny and in good form. He was only invited as a last-minute substitute for the ailing Timothy Leary (who died a few days later). The other guests were Michelle Phillips (of the Mamas and the Papas), David Cross and Bob Guccione Jr. 

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Wayne Kramer, who helped 'Kick Out the Jams,' has died


Wayne Kramer in 2018. Creative Commons photo by Frank Schwichtenberg, details here. 

Wayne Kramer of the band the MC5 have died. The New York Times article notes:

"Its debut, 'Kick Out the Jams,' a live set recorded at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit in 1968, is considered one of the most influential albums of its era, and inspired generations of musicians, including the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Queens of the Stone Age.

"Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine said on Instagram on Friday that Mr. Kramer and the MC5 'basically invented punk rock music'.”

The band had various connections to rock history. Fred "Sonic" Smith, the other guitarist, was married to Patti Smith, the writer and singer. John Sinclair served as the band's manager. 

But of course none of that is why I mention Mr. Kramer here. 

As the title of my post notes, "Kick out the Jams" is referenced in Illuminatus! That occurs in the first novel, when Joe Malik meets John Dillinger, and Dillinger explains that rock music is another way the Illuminati exert power:

Dillinger laughed. "Yes," he said. "I'm the president of Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus Inc. You've seen them— 'If it's not an LBJP it's NOT an L.P.'?

"Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus?" Joe exclaimed. "My God, you put out the best rock in the country! The only rock a man my age can listen to without wincing."

"Thanks," Dillinger said modestly. "Actually, the Illuminati own the companies that put out most of the rock. We started Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus to counterattack. We were ignoring that front until they got the MC-5 to cut a disc called 'Kick Out The Jams' just to taunt us with old, bitter memories. So we came back with our own releases, and the next thing I knew I was making bales of money from it. We've also fed information, through third parties, to Christian Crusade in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so they could expose some of what the Illuminati are doing in the rock field. You've seen the Christian Crusade publications—Rhythm, Riots and Revolution, and Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles, and so forth?"

In Illuminatus!, the Justified Ancients of Mummu were the first anarchists, the group battling the Illuminati. And the Christian Crusade was a genuine right wing church in Tulsa, where I grew up, and the publications John Dillinger cites are real books. I visited the church once and knew a kid at school who went there. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

R. Michael Johnson's '23 Riffs' on RAW and Crowley

Over at the Jechidah blog, Oz Fritz has a blog post up on the first portion of R. Michael Johnson's long piece in Lion of Light, "Appendicitis: 23 Riffs on Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, Psychedelics, Intuition, and Everyday Metaphysics."  

As the title suggests, the essay actually is 23 separate short pieces, although they are related and refer to each other. The piece takes up about a quarter of the book, and Oz remarks that Michael originally submitted a longer piece.

I particularly liked #21 and #22 of Michael's pieces, about alien contact, see also Nick Herbert's "Nick Meets the Galactic Telepaths." 

I thought this passage was striking (in item #8):

"How refreshing to just admit some of your favorite artists -- and here, we must consider, I postulate, Crowley as some sort of species of Religious Virtuoso -- were 'sick.' RAW was fantastic at separating a person's Work from their illnesses or fuck-ups. Other examples come easily to mind: Ezra Pound's antisemitism and support for Mussolini; Wilhelm Reich's extreme paranoia; Picasso's politics; Jung's unsavory assumptions about 'race'; D.W. Griffith's racism, etc. If RAW were alive today, he would have some exceedingly interesting things to say about 'cancel culture,' I hazard. No matter how screwed up some artist or thinker was, the Work remains. Let us take pleasure in the Work; all else is secondary. I humbly ask the Reader to ponder the merits of RAW's position here." 


Thursday, February 1, 2024

John Higgs on being careful about what you write

John Higgs (photo by Isaac Higgs)

John Higgs has released another newsletter, and in one section of it, he has an essay, "Be Careful What You Write," that reminds me a little bit of RAW's "Cosmic Schmuck Principle." 

Here is the principle, articulated in the title essay of NATURAL LAW: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw:

"The Cosmic Schmuck Principle holds that if you don't wake up, once a month at least, and realize you have recently been acting like a Cosmic Schmuck again, then you will probably go on acting like a Cosmic Schmuck forever; but if you do, occasionally, recognize your Cosmic Schmuckiness, you might begin to become a little less Schmucky than the general human average at this primitive stage of terrestrial evolution."

John's argument is that writers can trick themselves into thinking something is true, by the act of writing:

"I did learn something useful from writing that piece, though. While I saw it as a bit of a lark as I was writing it, I found that afterwards I stood by it and believed in its argument - regardless of whether anyone else did. It fitted my prejudices and baggage and I found it convincing. This taught me to be careful as a writer, because when you write something down, you trick yourself into thinking that it’s true.

"Normally you have a whole mess of differing thoughts and contradictory ideas sloshing around in your head, and the amount of credibility you grant them varies from day to day. The act of writing something down turns a fluid and changeable notion into something definite and fixed, and this seems to trick the mind into thinking that it’s true. You no longer have to worry about it anymore. You just stand by it.

"This effect can be positive. Practices like writing affirmations and journaling can be helpful for these reasons. But in the world of social media, it can send you very wrong indeed. Much is made of the impact of algorithms on people getting lost down increasingly extreme rabbit holes of belief, but I suspect that simply typing your opinions down is also a significant factor."

More here. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

New documentary on James Joyce's 'Ulysses'

A new documentary from the BBC, "James Joyce's 'Ulysses' ", is being screened at various film festivals. Here is a review praising the film from the New York Sun.  It was directed by Adam Low. "Mr. Low has assembled a murderer’s row of Anglo-Irish authors —   Salman Rushdie, Colm Tóibín, Howard Jacobson, Eimear McBride, and Paul Muldoon all hold forth on Joyce’s genius."

People in the UK can watch the movie here. I haven't been able to figure out yet how people can watch it in the U.S. 

Of course, Robert Anton Wilson read the novel over and over again and often referenced it. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Books about RAW, some suggestions

I got an email recently from a fellow named Stefan Ciric, who reads the blog and who mentioned that he has had trouble finding books about Robert Anton Wilson, and did I have any suggestions. Here were my suggestions (lightly edited):

An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, Eric Wagner, is a book of criticism and discussion by Eric Wagner, who knew RAW well. I keep a Kindle version of it on my phone for ready reference. If you buy it, be sure you buy the second edition, which is updated.

Beyond Chaos and Beyond edited by Scott Apel is a collection of RAW's writings for a newsletter RAW and Apel put out, but it also has a long biographical essay on RAW by Apel. I don't know if you are into ebooks or prefer paper, but the Kindle is not very expensive.

High Weirdness by Erik Davis is a three-part book, on Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick, focuses on weird experiences each of the three had in the 1970s. This is a really well done book.

The KLF by John Higgs is an offbeat book about a band that was heavily influenced by RAW, and it is the Higgs book which discusses RAW directly (RAW claimed to have never heard of the band, which is pretty odd.) If you read it,  you might want to read the updated hardcover that came out this year. 

Fly On The Tale Of The Tribe: A Rollercoaster Ride With Robert Anton Wilson by Steven Pratt focuses on the book that RAW outlined at the end of TSOG but apparently never actually wrote. Pratt knows a lot about both RAW and writers such as James Joyce. 

As far as upcoming books, Eric Wagner has completed and is revising Straight Outta Dublin, which focuses on James Joyce and RAW, but has not announced a publisher. I am hoping for some news in the near future. The Gabriel Kennedy biography of RAW, Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson, is scheduled to be issued in August by Strange Attractor Press. In a related vein, I am currently editing a collection of short pieces by Robert Shea, which I think will shed some light on Illuminatus!.

Since I wrote back to Stefan with the above, I have thought of a couple of other books not about RAW at all, but explore topics he was interested in. How the Hippies Saved Physics is all about the physicist friends RAW mentions in Cosmic Trigger, such as Nick Herbert. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford is a good biography that pays attention to Beethoven's connections to the Illuminati. Any biography of Timothy Leary would provide information about a key influence. Inventor of the Future by Alec Nevala-Lee is the definitive biography of Buckminster Fuller, another influence on RAW.  If you read James Joyce you will notice how Joyce influenced RAW. 

For most of these, I have not given a link; you can Google the titles, and also search the website, as I wrote about most of these. 

What have I forgotten? RAW obviously had a lot of interests. [UPDATE: See Spookah's comment, below, for books by Adam Gorightly and Timothy Leary that I have blogged about here but forgot to mention.]

I asked Stefan to tell me a little about himself, he wrote (in part), "I'm a 30 something year old man, interested in many things, and for some years I've been also interested in reading, mostly about philosophy, psychology, religion or spirituality and things of that kind. I can't remember where exactly Wilson came under the radar, but I know I was hooked on his work pretty much immediately, his humor, humility, general style and attitude really got me."

Monday, January 29, 2024

A good 1986 interview with Arlen and Robert Wilson

The above is an excellent interview, dating to 1986 in Ireland but only posted a few weeks ago on YouTube, apparently by Martin Wagner. It is noteworthy for including Arlen Wilson, and is  nicely timed for the release of the Hilaritas Press edition of Chaos and Beyond, which has some of Arlen Wilson's writing.

The video was called to my attention by Oz Fritz, who writes, "I saw this amazing video with RAW and Arlen shot in their home in Ireland in 1986. It's the first footage I've ever seen of Arlen and it reveals a dynamic with their marriage. In some ways she's the opposite of RAW. It's mostly her for the first 20 minutes then RAW joins in. Lots of great stuff - he talks about what's behind Prometheus Rising; they talk about Bob Geldolf and Live Aid, E.J. Gold and much more. The interviewer, Faustin Bray (a friend of a friend) asks some really good questions toward the end."

There are also a couple of nice bits that shed light on Illuminatus! And Arlen says that she stopped reading RAW's books in manuscript and waits for them to be published because he is sensitive to feedback. And you also hear discussion about a quote from one of RAW's books that offended Arlen, although RAW defends it. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

New book on Wilhelm Reich

A new book which takes a fresh look at Wilhelm Reich will be released in the spring: Wilhelm Reich versus the Flying Saucers: An American Tragedy, by James Reich. (The author is no relation of his subject.) Here is part of the book blurb:

"The convenient myth of Wilhelm Reich is that he 'lost his mind' in the early 1950s, if not before, and that the last seven years of his life and work — the orgone and radiation experiments, the cloudbuster, and flying saucer intrigues — present an embarrassment. Even the counterculture that embraced Reich, not least William S. Burroughs, Norman Mailer, and filmmaker Dušan Makavejev, tended to distort his theory. The psychosis attached to Reich by his detractors was the culmination of decades of scapegoating by psychoanalysts, Nazis, communists, and conservatives. But Reich’s environmental and Cold War preoccupations and his slow-burning fascination with UFO phenomena were not signs of a madness incipient since his break with Sigmund Freud. They anticipated and reflected much in the American psyche."

More here.

Hat tip: Joseph Matheny on X. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

At least four more RAW books coming from Hilaritas

Hilaritas Press apparently is working on at least four new Robert Anton Wilson titles.

The small press publishing imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust already has issued a title this year, the new edition of Chaos and Beyond. 

And Rasa recently provided me an update on two books that are pretty far along, a new edition of RAW's Reality Is What You Can Get Away With and a reprint of Timothy Leary's Terra II: The Starseed Transmission.

During the recent podcast featuring Scott Apel, timed to promote the new release of Chaos and Beyond, the podcast host, Mike Gathers, discussed two more RAW collections that are in the works, one focused on politics and one on magick.

At about two minutes into the podcast, Mike explains that Rasa deserves the credit for what Hilaritas has done, then mentions that he himself did play a role in putting together last year's Lion of Light. 

"We're working on a new one now," Mike says. "Cuz there's no shortage of stuff that we can pull out of magazines and put into print. We're looking at a politics book and a magick book and there's probably a  half dozen good ideas."

I don't know anything else yet about the "half dozen good ideas," although there's apparently been some discussion about a book that consists entirely of interviews, see below. 

There's a good discussion in the podcast about RAW's failure to maintain copies of many of his short pieces, forcing RAW fans such as Mike (who founded and Martin Wagner to collect such material. 

It's also known that Hilaritas is looking to reprint The Sex Magicians; see for example my interview with Rasa last year. From that interview:

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."

If you look at the Hilaritas Press home page, you can see that the initial plan was to put out new editions of many of RAW's titles. Despite the fact that everything on that list has been published except for Reality Is What You Can Get Away With, it doesn't look like the well will run dry anytime soon. 

Natural Law Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw originally was conceived as a "politics book" but eventually went into a different direction, see this interview with Chad Nelson, e.g., "We shelved several of the more overtly political tracts and focused exclusively on Wilson's writings on model agnosticism. The project really became fun when we made that pivot explicit. Wilson scholars know how much model agnosticism underlies his worldview, so the idea that there would be a newly published book of essays and interviews spanning five decades where we get to see him riff on that theme very directly, over and over again, in a variety of different ways, was one of the coolest moments for me."

Friday, January 26, 2024

A bit of news on the new RAW biography

Robert Anton Wilson (from the RAW Experimental website)

Prop Anon reveals a new detail about his new RAW biography: "The bibliography for Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson is currently 32 pages long."

This is a good example of why I am excited about the new biography: Everything I have learned suggests that a great deal of research went into the upcoming book, scheduled to come out August 6 this year. See this website for available details and preorder information.

No cover reveal yet (I checked). I'll provide updates as they become available. 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Writer Ben Graham releases fiction

Ben Graham (photo from Substack)

Writer Ben Graham  has put out a new issue of his newsletter, The Urban Spaceman, and he announces that he's issuing part one of  his upcoming five-part novel as a new short book:

"I have a new book out that you can buy. Electric Tibet is the first volume of American Underground, my projected 180,000-word psychedelic odyssey through the twentieth century’s magical counterculture. It’s written in the form of five interconnected novellas, and I’ve decided to self-publish the first as a kind of white label ‘underground edition’ to raise interest, generate critical feedback, and hopefully give me a bit of financial help while I finish the project.

"As I’ve written on the back cover blurb, Electric Tibet is an occult reimagining of the January 1967 Human Be-In in San Francisco that gave birth to the Summer of Love. It's available as a paperback or ebook and is roughly 34,000 words long. I’d love to hear what you think of it. You can get both versions exclusively from my Big Cartel site. More information on American Underground can be found here."

Ben has more at his newsletter, including a link to his recent piece on a classic Donovan album. 

More information about Ben here. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Hilaritas releases Scott Apel podcast

The Hilaritas podcast this month features writer D. Scott Apel, Robert Anton Wilson's old friend. Apel was also the person who handled the actual publishing behind RAW's "Trajectories" newsletter. Here's the blurb: "In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with Scott Apel – writer, movie lover, and long time friend of RAW. Scott was the original editor and publisher of the new Hilaritas Press release of Chaos and Beyond: The Best of Trajectories. Scott also created Beyond Chaos and Beyond, which Scott describes in this episode."

I plan to listen to this today. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Hugo Awards are dealing with a big scandal

The Hugo Award is the oldest and the most prestigious award in the literary subculture of science fiction. But the awards given out at the last year's Worldcon, held in Chengdu, China,  have come under a cloud. 

R.F. Kuang's Babel, which won the Nebula Award and the Locus Award and which seemed to be an obvious front runner for the Hugo, was not even a finalist. And now it has emerged that the book was not a finalist, not because it failed to get enough nominations, but because it was ruled "not eligible." No explanation has been provided for the ruling.

Best fan writer nominee Paul Weimer also was ruled "not eligible," and Xiran Jay Zhao, a nominee for the Astounding Award (i.e., best new writer) also got the "not eligible" treatment, also without any explanation. The Kuang controversy is getting the most attention, but these are also important awards. 

Here's John Scalzi's blog post about the mess. He has links for those who want more. And  here is the report on File 770, a blog which covers science fiction news. In the latter article, note the shameful non-answer given by  Dave McCarty, identified as "a Chengdu Worldcon vice-chair and co-head of the Hugo Awards Selection Executive Division," when File 770's Mike Glyer asked for an explanation. 

There was a long delay in releasing the actual Hugo numbers, which doesn't exactly feel like transparency, either. Since there's been no explanation for what happened, we can't immediately assume Chinese Communist censorship, but the situation doesn't look good. (Scalzi: "I will note that at this point everything is at the 'what the hell?!?' stage, and the rumors and speculation are just that, rumor and speculation. With that said, something sure seems hinky here, and no one is very happy about it.")

There have been other controversies involving the Hugo Awards in the past, but this already feels like the worst ever. 

R.F. Kuang has posted a statement, and she says, "I wish to clarify that no reason for Babel's ineligibility was given to me or my team. I did not decline a nomination, as no nomination was offered." And here is Paul Weimer's response. 

People who want to read Dave McCarty being an jerk and refusing to answer questions ("Folks asking for more are not going to get it from me") can look at his Facebook post.  (This is his "explanation": "After reviewing the Constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible.")

For the record, McCarty denies Chinese officials were involved: "Nobody has ordered me to do anything. Nobody is changing decisions I have made. Folks can ask Helen how well I take orders and if she thinks I would have stayed on if such were happening.

There was no communication between the Hugo administration team and the Chinese government in any official manner."

Monday, January 22, 2024

The ManKind Project

My brother-in-law, Kevin, died suddenly on Nov. 28. He was a great guy, the death was very sudden and unexpected, and I am still trying to make sense of what happened.

For some weeks before he died, Kevin had mentioned that he was involved with a group called The ManKind Project. It apparently involved going off  on retreats. I didn't really get a clear sense of what the group was about.

I have been reading Lion of Light, the new RAW book on Aleister Crowley that Hilaritas published last year, following along with the online reading group at the Jechidah blog. As I was close to the end, I recently went ahead and finished the book, reading the R. Michael Johnson piece, and then read Rasa's bit about the cover and the biographies at the back of the book about the contributors.

I noticed this sentence in the Mike Gathers bio: "He currently works coaching men in creating a meaningful life while volunteering as a leader and administrator in the ManKind Project."

This spurred me to do a bit more research, and I discovered there's a Wikipedia article about the group. 

If you look at the article, there's a section called "New Warrior Training Adventure," which purports to describe the retreats that the group holds. It says, 

"MKP states:

The New Warrior Training Adventure is a modern male initiation and self-examination. [...] It is the "hero's journey" of classical literature and myth that has nearly disappeared in modern culture.

"MKP states that those who undertake this journey pass through three phases characteristic to virtually all historic forms of male initiation: descent, ordeal and return."

There's also a graphical representation of the hero's journey, a public domain image, which I reproduce at the top of this blog post.

To my surprise, the details of the initiation process and the hero's journey sounded very familiar to me, through reading the works of Robert Anton Wilson, who spends quite a bit of time describing initiation processes, both inside masonic organizations and outside them.

To be clear, I still don't know much about The Mankind Project, and I express no opinion about the group. But I have become curious about it. 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Watch the Cosmic Trigger play slideshow

 A slideshow of images from Daisy Campbell's Cosmic Trigger play, while the "Eight Circuits Song" is sung. See the YouTube link for full credits, but a couple of snippets:

"All images are from the Cosmic Trigger Play and supporting events at Camp & Furnace in Liverpool and The Lost Theatre, London in November 2014 and The Cockpit Theatre in 2017."

"Music: Eight Circuits Song from the play (prison scene with RAW visiting Tim Leary), performed by Occult Hardware Labs ft Jethro Skinner & Oliver Senton (written by Rob Burnham, Fayann Smith and Daisy Campbell)"

The video was made to promote the Hilaritas Press book that published Daisy's play. Everyone should buy it and read it! Here is my review.