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

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

New Erik Davis book and an April book tour

In my Erik Davis news roundup the other day, I managed to miss he has a new book out  and is about to embark on a new book tour. 

The new book is Blotter: The Untold Story of an Acid Medium, which Davis says is " is illustrated with over one hundred images drawn from Mark McCloud’s epic blotter archive." 

The book is out April 2, and Davis writes, "This pleases me, because while I dig all my books, I am particularly proud of this one. As an author, it’s pretty tough these days to stake out some unmarked territory in the landscape of psychedelic discourse, and the history and analysis of LSD blotter as both a carrier medium and an artistic medium is some fresh and funky ground. Blotter also gave me a rare opportunity to develop a conceptual apparatus to think about an entire print culture that only a few serious heads — notably Carlo McCormick — have heretofore bent their minds to. To top it off, it also may be my most entertaining book (though Led Zeppelin IV might be tough to beat)." He is hoping you will consider a preorder.

The April book tour takes Erik to an online appearance, and also to Berkeley, Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, Cambridge (in Massachusetts), New York City, Berlin, London and Amsterdam. Dates for the book tour, more on the book and more information about upcoming appearances can be found in a recent Substack newsletter. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

New interview with Rupert Sheldrake

If you've read The New Inquisition by Robert Anton Wilson, you know that there is quite a bit of ink about Rupert Sheldrake and his theories. 

Infinite Loops -- the podcast of investor, philanthropist and RAW fan  Jim O’Shaughnessy -- has a new episode up, an interview of Rupert Sheldrake. Available at the link and you can also download a transcript.

Early in the interview, after a discussion about Sir John Maddox and his denunciations of Sheldrake:

Jim O’Shaughnessy: There's a wonderful book, I don't know if you've read it, by Robert Anton Wilson, called The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science.

Rupert Sheldrake: Yes, I have read it. Yes. I mean it is a very good account of this thing. I mean, it is not just me and it's not just Maddox. It's a much bigger issue really as Wilson points out.

Hat tip: Mike Gathers. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

What did RAW think of 'Casablanca'?

Theatrical release poster for Casablance, believed to be public domain, via Wikipedia.

When I look at the list of Robert Anton Wilson's 100 favorite movies, supplied to me in 2014 by Jesse Walker, one thing jumps out at me: My favorite movie is missing. My personal favorite is Casablanca, which of course is a favorite for many other people, too.

The list is described as RAW's "personal and eccentric list," so maybe he was just trying to avoid cliche selections, but I'm still curious what he thought of the movie. I thought perhaps Scott Apel might know; Scott has written books about movies and would watch films with RAW. But Scott says, "As for Casablanca, I can't recall ever discussing it with RAW. I love it, but I have no idea how he felt about it (as opposed to the movies we did discuss regularly, like Silence of the Lambs, and -- of course -- Citizen Kane). Sorry I can't help you out there."

It seems odd if RAW never held forth on a classic famous movie (see the recent discussion at Marginal Revolution). Can anyone weigh in? Then again, I've always been surprised there is no evidence RAW was  interested in Twin Peaks

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.