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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." 



Eric Wagner said...

I love Michael’s essay.

Brian Dean said...

I agree with that (the quote from RMJ on works of artists/geniuses). H.P. Lovecraft, another obvious example, I always read with just pleasure, rather than "guilty pleasure" (if I do feel guilty, it's because I should be washing the dishes).

On a different kind of "cancel culture", I've sometimes wondered what RAW thought of the people of Liverpool effectively cancelling The Sun newspaper (Murdoch's UK rag) - the earliest substantial example of the modern variety of "cancel culture" that I can think of.

Oz Fritz said...

RAW didn't consider Crowley "sick." In Lion of Light he writes that he intends to challenge that pre-judgement others have made.

RAWS seems empathetic to less severe human flaws as evident by his Cosmic Schmuck principle and emphasis on forgiveness.

Oz Fritz said...

In "Appendix Peh" from An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson Eric Wagner asks RAW:
"I was curious in the year 2000 with your recent bout of studying Pound and Joyce, has your perspective on Uncle Al changed?

RAW: No, not really. I still regard Uncle Al as one of the most fascinating, humorous, instructive, entertaining, illuminating and puzzling characters who ever lived. I still can't figure him out. But then I knew Timothy Leary fairly well, and I still haven't figured him out either. I suspect that beyond a certain level, people reach a High plateau beyond which you can't understand them until you're on that plateau too."

Of course, Uncle Al refers to Crowley. RAW didn't consider Leary "sick" either though he has come under criticism from others regarding his human flaws.