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

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

RAW movie club

I have been finally getting around to slowly pursuing a neglected interest of mine. I recently watched  an old John Wayne "B" movie called "The Lucky Texan" (not brilliant cinema, but interesting to see a young John Wayne) and "Sherlock Jr." starring Buster Keaton (actually a good film, with good stunts).

I figure I may as well combine that interest with this blog, so I've decided once a month to watch a movie from Robert Anton Wilson's list of his favorite 100 movies.  The obvious first choice would be Intolerance the long silent film which apparently influenced Illuminatus! So I will watch it in the next few days and blog about it next week. As it was issued in 1916, it has long been in the public domain, so it should be easy for anyone who wants to watch it with me and post comments to find a free copy. (For example, the Wikipedia article linked to in this paragraph has a copy). Nearly three hours long, so I may need to watch it as a serial. 

Monday, April 29, 2024

Quote of the day

"If the world seems to be full of stupid, crazy and half-asleep people, that is because it is still dominated by Belief Systems. Whether this BS operates under the label of religion or cult or Political Correctness, it shuts off all brain functions except memorization and represents the suicide of intelligence."

-- Robert Anton Wilson

(Via Jim O'Shaughnessy on X).

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn

Extra History, a history series on YouTube, takes on "The Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley."

Hat tip, Tracy Harms. 

There's also a segment on the Illuminati.  

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Erik Davis revamps website and there's lots to read

Erik Davis

Erik Davis is busy touring to promote his new book Blotter (see the bottom of this newsletter for tour dates) but he also has announced a big revamp of his official website, which collects much of his work. 

"For the new website, we decided to downgrade the previous chronological orderings of the seven hundred-odd items it contains. Instead, we wanted to invite more thematic and synchronistic cross-connections, opening word-cloud wanderings and liminal trawls through the archive. Rather than hot takes, it is designed for cool descents into a rather labyrinthine underground packed with still glowing oddities, sigils, and gems," he writes.

Running a search for "Robert Anton Wilson" produces 27 different hits. I plan to listen soon to his hour-long talk on "Pulp Illuminations," described as "A talk I gave  ... about Illuminatus!, the occult, and the tension between high and low magic in the 1970s."

But many of the other pieces  interest me, too. If you are into Led Zeppelin, for example, you could do worse than to peruse pieces such as "Magic Men: Led Zep," which wonderfully evokes the band's effect on teens in the 1970s: "Over the hills and far away, in the longago pubescent dawn, my world was a half-dreamt thing built as much from Tolkien, Lovecraft, and Hunter S. Thompson as from the concrete chunks of reality that the usual suspects doled out daily."

Friday, April 26, 2024

RAW Semantics on RAW, Schrödinger and mind

Erwin Schrödinger in 1933

The new blog post at RAW Semantics, "Sum of all minds," is an "updated/extended (practically new)" piece that rewrites a post originally up in 2020. But in fact is is very timely, as it explains one of the aspects of Reality Is What You Can Get Away With, the new Robert Anton Wilson release from Hilaritas Press. 

When I bought and read Reality, one of the few RAW titles I had never gotten around to, I noticed that the phrase "The sum of all minds is one" (or a very similar version of the same phrase) recurs in the book. 

As Brian explains, the phrase originates with Erwin Schrödinger, the quantum physicist.  it also appears repeatedly in RAW's books. 

"When I first heard the quote, I was amazed, given that it came from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist – it seemed sort of mystical, and totally at odds with modern western definitions of a “mind” (noun) as a kind of metaphorical personal container of thoughts and experiences," writes Brian, who took the trouble to look up what Schrödinger wrote and then explains what it  might mean, discussing the term monism and how it relates to RAW's thinking. 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Emperor Joseph cantata seems worth checking out [UPDATED]

More Beethoven blogging: When I posted about the RAW-recommended Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis, I got an interesting anonymous comment (feel free to out yourself, if you like):

The Missa Solemnis is wonderful. If you're inclined to look in more obscure areas for Beethoven's work, give the Cantata on the Death of Joseph II a listen. He wrote it while he was still in Bonn, but he missed the deadline, so it wasn't performed. It's powerful. He recycled some of the music into Fidelio, and it includes the first version of what became (and evokes the reaction) "O Gott, welch ein Augenblick!"

Addendum: It was Gary McGath, he didn't mean to be anonymous, see the comment. 

This is an intriguing recommendation for a couple of reasons.

It's an early work. Hipsters (like RAW) like to bring up the late works, and many of Beethoven's "greatest hits" come from the middle period. I like all that, too! But I also really like early Beethoven, (and when I recently read a biography of Sviatoslav Richter by Karl Rasmussen  I discovered that Richter liked early Beethoven, too). I really like the third piano sonata (Richter does a great performance) and the first piano concerto (ditto for Richter) and I like The Creatures of Prometheus, an early work of ballet music. So I'm inclined to give the cantata a fair hearing.

And there's also a connection to the Illuminati, believe it or not.

Robert Anton Wilson has said that when he made Beethoven a member of the Illuminati in Illuminatus!, he did it as a joke, not realizing until later that there was an actual connection: “Actually, a few things that I thought I invented did turn out to be true, oddly enough. The one I still remember is Beethoven’s link to the original, real, historical Illuminati. I invented that as a parody of right-wing books on the Beatles serving Moscow – but hot damn years later I found, in a bio of Ludwig, that he had several associates in the Illuminati and the Illuminati commissioned his first major work, The Emperor Joseph Cantata." (Joseph II had his faults, but he pushed many liberal reforms, so the radicals of the time liked him.) 

Jan Swafford's Beethoven biography goes into considerable detail about Beethoven's Illuminati connections and the cantata. 

As with other Beethoven work, even relatively obscure compositions, it's easy to find recordings of the cantata on streaming music services, and I've bookmarked one to listen to during the next few days. 

UPDATE: Eric's comment reminds me that I meant to cite him as my on-call Beethoven expert, and I just forgot. I will blame getting old. Eric told me he has a CD of the piece and said, "I recommend listening to the Emperor Joseph Cantata at least a few times."

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The MC5 honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The 2024 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, and standing alongside Cher, Foreigner, Peter Frampton and the other new members of rock music's pantheon are the MC5, the band mentioned in Illuminatus! I blogged about recently.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

R.U. Sirius on the Hilaritas podcast

Well, this looks interesting! The Hilaritas Press podcast released today features R.U. Sirius.

Official blurb: "In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with writer, editor, & vocalist/lyricist Ken Goffman (aka R. U. Sirius) about Psychedelic Transhumanism, Singularity, and more.

• • •

"Ken recorded this podcast about two weeks before the passing of his longtime partner Eve Berni. All of us at Hilaritas Press and the RAW Trust give our love and deepest condolences to Ken and all who knew Eve." 

The official site has related links, although per usual this podcast should be widely available at the usual apps. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

True Clown Stories succeeds with Kickstarter

 The Kickstarter for the Peakrill Press publication of  True Clown Stories, featuring James Burt and other writers, has succeeded, raising £972 versus a goal of £900. I publicized the launch of the campaign in March. 

I participated in the campaign with a small pledge, so I'll be getting a digital copy of the book (estimated delivery June) while others will be getting a variety of prizes, including a physical copy of the book (estimated delivery July). 

It's interesting to click on Community, and see who backed Peakrill Press publisher Dan Sumption. While most of the backers, 41, came from the United Kingdom, there were nine from the United States, and one apiece from Australia, Finland, Guatemala, Malaysia, Portugal and Switzerland.

Burt and Sumption collaborated on the Mycelium Parish News  You can sign up to get very short stories by email from Mr. Burt.   

I enjoyed one of the recent stories, "Lovecraft in Brighton."  I had never heard of Ann Quin, referenced in the story, but she was a real writer, formerly more prominent. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Raymond Chandler and RAW


I have been meaning to read Raymond Chandler for years, and not just because he was one of Robert Anton Wilson's favorite writers. (In this interview, RAW says, "My favorite writers are James Joyce, Ezra Pound, H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler.") I was also  interested because I like mystery novels in general, and because an old friend of mine has read every one of Chandler's books.

So,  finally, I checked The Big Sleep out of the library and read it. I really enjoyed the book. Such good sentences! Chandler's prose, with many funny wisecracks, has a sense of immediacy and vividness that hold the reader's attention. I can also see how Chandler must have influenced later writers, such as Lawrence Block in the Matt Scudder series, which I have been re-reading.

After I read The Big Sleep, I was curious about Chandler's influence on RAW. Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson is very good about tracing literary influences on RAW, and I keep a Kindle of it on my phone for reference. When I looked at the book, it reminded me that RAW wrote about Chandler in The Illuminati Papers.  The piece Eric references is "Infinite Cruelty," and it asserts that Chandler "created the unique literary form which is his and his alone, although more widely counterfeited than any other technique but Hemingway's." Eric also finds other RAW quotes about Chandler's influence in Wilson's style and Wilson's way of telling stories.  Wilson: "All my fiction tends to follow the Chandler mythos of the skeptical Knight seeking Truth in a world of false fronts and manipulated deceptions.  (Of course, this is also my biography, or that of any shaman.)"

RAW apparently read Chandler over and over again, and I certainly want to read more. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Saturday links

Cosmic pancake delivery

R.U. Sirius on Eve Berni:  "Eve attended many gatherings of "The Network" ...  a group that gathered around Robert Anton Wilson in the 1970s. Is there anyone in the coolest byways of the second half of the 20th century that Eve didn't have some interactions with? Even Bowie and Dali... It's fair to say that she confounded Bob. Hail Eris!" I reported her death Tuesday. 

 U.S. to withdraw troops from Niger. Did you know they were there? 

Jesse Walker on why it's unlikely the government will cut off NPR funding. I selfishly like NPR because I like having classical and jazz radio broadcasts available everywhere I go. 

What Tyler Cowen is nostalgic about. I miss the Borders bookstores, too. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Prometheus Award nominees announced

[Again. the connection with this blog is that the only literary award, that I know of, that Robert Anton Wilson or Robert Shea ever won was the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Also, Robert Shea was an active member of the Libertarian Futurist Society. This is the official press release, minus the last sentence,which has contact information for questions. Anyone  with a question can simply ask me in the comments. -- The Management.]

The Libertarian Futurist Society, a nonprofit all-volunteer international organization of liberty-loving science fiction/fantasy fans, has announced five finalists for the Best Novel category of the 44th annual Prometheus Awards.

In brief, here are the Best Novel finalists, in alphabetical order by author: Theft of Fire,  by Devon Eriksen (Devon Eriksen LLC); Swim Among the People,  by Karl. K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press); God’s Girlfriend, by Dr. Insensitive Jerk (AKA Gordon Hanka) (Amazon); Lord of a Shattered Land,  by Howard Andrew Jones (Baen Books); and Critical Mass, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton).

Here are capsule descriptions of the Best Novel finalists, explaining how each fits the distinctive focus of the Prometheus Awards:

•  Swim Among the People, by Karl K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press) — The fifth novel in Gallagher’s Fall of the Censor series (following Captain Trader Helmsman Spy and three other previous Best Novel finalists) continues the struggle between a freer polity of planets and a much larger interstellar empire that maintains totalitarian control by censorship, the suppression of history, destruction of older books and other memory-holing to cement power. This sequel focuses on how a subjugated people on a reconquered planet can continue to pursue and preserve knowledge while resisting an occupying authoritarian regime through voluntary covert organization. Of fresh interest: an exploration of a previously unrevealed society of Jewish culture, maintaining its customs in hiding for centuries; and an early discussion of liquid democracy, as parliamentary candidates seek enough support from some minimum percentage of voters to get a seat with no restrictions on party or geography.

• God’s Girlfriend, by Dr. Insensitive Jerk (AKA Gordon Hanka) (Amazon) — Subversive and satirical, the fifth and final novel in the Gaia’s Wasp series (and sequel to 2023 Best Novel finalist A Beast Cannot Feign) offers a mixture of unorthodox libertarian provocations and Christian eschatology amid taboo-smashing clashes of two cultures: Earth humans and Wyrms, human refugees from another planet. The story revolves around the rising tensions and increasing likelihood of nuclear war between Earth governments, desperate to preserve their power, and the Wyrms, genetically modified to resist disease and political-psychological control. As Wyrms settle Western Australia’s desert, building a radically free colony to survive the End Times, Earth’s rulers scheme to avert social collapse from the loss of millions of the world’s most productive men emigrating to this “Galt’s Gulch.” The novel raises thorny questions about coercion, consent, sainthood, morality, masculinity, femininity, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

• Theft of Fire, by Devon Eriksen (Devon Eriksen LLC) — Taking place mostly on an asteroid-mining ship diverted to reach what may be hidden alien technology, this chamber-sized space opera is set within an anarchocapitalist-style frontier where industrialization and colonization have spread throughout the solar system. Both formal and informal contracts are central here, with free-market innovations and alien artifacts unleashing vast wealth and progress as independent Belters conflict with enforcers hired by corporate elites. Conflicts (and sexual tensions) develop between the ship’s stubborn captain (a resourceful loner operating as an occasional pirate) and the robot-protected, super-smart, pintsized SpaceX heiress who has taken over his ship and locked him out of its computer controls. Notable for the originality and plausibility of Leela, an A.I. character, the novel offers a complex portrait of the pros and cons of its free-wheeling future while offering insights into agency, ethics, free will, contracts, property rights and other human rights.

• Lord of a Shattered Land,  by Howard Andrew Jones (Baen Books) — This epic sword-and-sorcery novel, first of a projected trilogy, revolves around Hanuvar, a grief-stricken former general risking his life to free the enslaved remnants of his peace-loving, free-trading people as he finds allies and travels through a brutal empire filled with human and inhuman dangers. Rather than seeking revenge, Hanuvar embraces a libertarian ethic of non-aggression while striving to avoid harming the innocent. Woven into its rich, far-flung narrative are more than a dozen key scenes underlining the meaning of freedom and why it motivates so many to try to achieve it for themselves and others. Loosely inspired by the conflict between imperial Rome and Hannibal’s defeated Carthage, the saga illuminates the deep passion for liberty while underlining the evils of slavery, the horrors of mind control, the cruelties of tyranny and the temptations of absolute power.

• Critical Mass, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton) —  Set in the inner solar system, this fast-paced sci-fi thriller follows engineer-entrepreneurs striving against the odds to use space-mined materials to build infrastructure in space for commercial development. Heroic characters risk their lives in an audacious mission to complete a space station, allowing construction of a nuclear-powered spaceship and rescue of stranded crew members on the distant asteroid Ryugu. The resourceful band must achieve their goals amid shortsighted opposition, censorship, shifting alliances and international tensions of Earth governments. Unusually realistic in depicting the perils of living and working in space, Suarez achieves a high level of plausible engineering speculation. Government is shown as the problem and cooperation through free enterprise as part of a space-based solution to problems on Earth. Included is a plausible depiction of the creation of a functional, private, decentralized currency beyond the reach of Earth, relevant in this era of inflationary government fiat money.

The Best Novel winner will receive an engraved plaque with a one-ounce gold coin. An online Prometheus awards ceremony, open to the public, is tentatively planned for mid-August on a date to be announced, once the winners are known for both annual categories, including the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.


Seventeen 2023 novels were nominated by LFS members for this year's award – a near record, the highest number in this century and the most since the first few years of the award in the early 1980s.

Also nominated: Futureproof, by Stephen Albrecht (Hybrid Global Publishing); Queen Wallis, by C.J. Carey (Sourcebooks Landmark);  The Long View, by Mackey Chandler (Amazon); Liberty’s Daughter, by Naomi Kritzer (Fairwood Press); Prophet Song, by Paul Lynch (Atlantic Monthly Press); Julia, by Sandra Newman (Harper Collins’ Mariner Books); House of Gold,  by C.T. Rwizi (47North);  Victory City, by Salman Rushdie (Random House); Trail of Travail, by R.H. Snow (Rosa de Oro); Black Hats, by Steve Wire (Plaintext Publishing); Hacking Galileo, by Fenton Wood (Amazon); and Misplaced Threats, by Alan Zimm (BookMarketeers).

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently given in sf. The Prometheus Hall of Fame category for Best Classic Fiction, launched in 1983, is presented annually with the Best Novel category.

For more than four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor voluntary cooperation over institutionalized coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, and/or critique or satirize authoritarian systems, ideologies and assumptions.

Above all, the Prometheus Awards strive to recognize speculative fiction that champions individual rights, based on the moral/legal principle of non-aggression, as the ethical and practical foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, civility and civilization itself.

All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for all categories of the Prometheus Awards, while publishers and authors are welcome to submit potentially eligible works for consideration using the form linked from the LFS website’s main page.

A 12-person judging committee, drawn from the membership, selects the Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel. Following the selection of finalists, all LFS upper-level members (Benefactors, Sponsors and Full Members) have the right to vote on the Best Novel finalist slate to choose the annual winner. 

Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction/fantasy fan interested in how fiction can enhance an appreciation of the value of liberty and recognition of the dangers and evils of tyranny and the abuses more prevalent under centralized and coercive powers of the State.


For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit For reviews and commentary on these and other works of interest to the LFS, visit the Prometheus blog via our website link. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Small press distributor crash won't hurt Hilaritas

The latest release from Hilaritas

A New York Times story, "Hundreds of Small Presses Just Lost Their Distributor. Now What?," says that many small presses are being hurt by a company named Small Press Distribution suddenly going out of business. The news leaves "the presses scrambling to retrieve their inventory before the books were destroyed and wondering if they’d ever be paid the money S.P.D. owed them for past sales," the article says.

As a book  lover I liked small presses in general, but the news left me wondering how the demise of S.P.D. would affect one small press in particular, Hilaritas Press. So I asked Rasa, and he assured me Hilaritas is fine.

"Well, that’s not good news, but it does not affect us at all. We use Ingram, a powerhouse in the industry, and we also publish most of our books with Amazon as well. Ingram supplies all the ebook sellers but Kindle, and they supply brick and mortar stores around the world. We also publish through Amazon just because we get about twice as much in royalties from sales on when the book is published through KDP.

"Recently, Ingram decided to not charge any fees for uploading files. That’s pretty wonderful for us. We are counting every penny, and if we had typos to correct, we always had to pay $25 to upload any new file. That would be $50 to upload the print and ebook corrections. They also used to charge for the initial upload of any file, so now that they got rid of those fees, we feel a lot better about that one expense being gone."

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lionel Shriver's 'Mania'

"Reading is an act of submission."

-- Lionel Shriver, Mania, page 268. 

I have certainly submitted to the charms of Lionel Shriver. Our best living libertarian novelist has a new one out; let's see if Lionel Shriver can contrive to lose the Prometheus Award again. The new one is Mania, a dystopia in which libertarians have been reduced to a tiny underground of folks who dare not declare their ideas openly. 

In Shriver's novel, equality has been reduced to insisting that all idea of intelligence, merit and competence should be tossed out and no one should be allowed to pretend to being smarter or better than anyone else; "Mental Parity," as the movement is known, is billed as the last great civil rights crusade. But although Mania is "political," it can also be read as  a novel about getting along with people who have political opinions different from your own; there are also some good criticisms of libertarians, and people who have the "libertarian" mindset. 

I've now read three Shriver novels; I plan to read more. Wish me luck in trying to get an interview with Shriver.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Eve Berni has died

Art by Eve Berni, posted on X by Ted Hand

We are sorry to have to pass on bad news, but Eve Berni, the longtime partner of R.U. Sirius/Ken Goffman, has died.

Posting on Twitter/X late Monday night from @StealThisSingul: "I am sad beyond words to report that my partner of 26 years (Jacqueline) Eve Berni has left us. She died at around 1230 pm today in Marin General after many years of poor health and about a week of extremely poor health. I'll share some details soon. I'm in a state of total shock, deep sadness and some relief that the extreme suffering of the past week or so has ended.

"I love her so much."

From Ted Hand: "RIP Eve Berni, the amazing partner of  @StealThisSingul and an accomplished visionary artist. I will have to dig for the photos I took of her work. Here is a sample from her Facebook page. I will treasure my time hearing her stories about Jacques Vallee and Uri Geller."


Monday, April 15, 2024

Kicking out the Jams at the Rock Hall


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."

Illuminatus!, Wilson and Shea

Sunday we had visitors from out of town, and much of the day was spent visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, kind of a ritual in Cleveland if you have guests. One is the displays (in a section on rock and roll from the Midwest) had a couple of artifacts from the Detroit rock band, the MC5, and above is the photo I snapped of it. 

At the bottom is a jacket worn by the band's drummer, Dennis Thompson, around 1970, but at the top you can see painting of what was supposed to be the original cover for "Kick Out the James," the band's debut. A placard at the museum says, "This painting was the original artwork for the album but was rejected by the label."

Is it just me, or is that an Illuminati all-seeing eye on the painting? 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Satanic panic and RAW

Although I can't remember it ever being discussed by RAW fans, one of the best things Robert Anton Wilson ever did, at least in my opinion, was to speak out loudly and clearly against the 1980s "Satanic panic" which sent quite a few innocent people to prison. In "Trajectories" pieces reprinted in Chaos and Beyond (recently released by Hilaritas Press), RAW wrote angry denunciations of the McMartin preschool case, prosecuted in supposedly progressive California by a Democratic district attorney, Ira Reiner, and other Satanic panic cases. (See the pieces "Sex, Satanism and Sodomized Dogs" and "1994 Update" in Chaos). 

I am old enough to remember these prosecutions and I thought they were bullshit, but as RAW writes, there were plenty of true believers. This Wikipedia article summarizes many of the cases. Also, shoutout to Dorothy Rabinowitz, who was a brave voice of sanity at the Wall Street Journal. 

The New York Times has now published an obituary for one of the villains in the Satanic panic, Bennett Braun. Hat tip to Jesse Walker, who spotted the obit and quoted this memorable sentence: "I began to add a few things up and realized there was no way I could come from a little town in Iowa, be eating 2,000 people a year, and nobody said anything about it."

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Two great Beethoven works

[I love to read Robert Anton Wilson quotes that discuss Beethoven, and the short piece below was new to me. The below also seems pertinent considering the use of Beethoven in Reality Is What You Can Get Away With. The only problem is while I have listened to all of the Beethoven piano sonatas, all of the symphonies, all of the piano concertos etc., I had not listened to the Missa Solemnis. I am fixing that now with a Szell/Cleveland Orchestra recording. The below is from Robert Anton Wilson's column in New Libertarian, Volume Four, Number Eight, December 1990-February 1981, and thank you again, Chad Nelson -- The Management]

Art and Morality

I was once denouncing Alfred Hitchcock to an Oxford intellectual. (There is a great deal I admire in Hitchcock's work, of course.)

"Oh," said the Oxfordian in that tone the English always use in talking to Americans who dare to have opinions about art, "you believe in art as Moral Uplift."

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do. In fact, to reveal the full abysmal depths of my heresy, I think the greatest art only comes from hearts and minds enflamed by a passion for the sublime in all dimensions, including the moral dimension.

Beethoven considered his greatest works to be the Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony, and many intelligent musicologists agree with him. I don't think those towering Matterhorns of music could have been composed without a great passion for Utopia. After all, the Missa ends up with voices crying out for Peace, and the Ninth with a hymn to human brotherhood.

Friday, April 12, 2024

RAWs 'Reality Is What You Can Get Away With'

So, I finally finished the new Hilaritas Press edition of Reality Is What You Can Get Away With. It's one of the few Robert Anton Wilson books I had not read before. The main body of the book is in the form of a screenplay, with two prefatory pieces by Wilson and a new introduction for 2024 by Joseph Matheny. 

It did not seem  much like a conventional screenplay, more like a montage of many of Wilson's concepts and ideas. For me, and perhaps other people quite familiar with RAW's work, it seems like a useful and inspiring summary, with a satisfying ending. Some of the depictions of the female characters do not age particularly well. Matheny, in the new introduction, hopes that somebody finally will attempt to make a movie out of it.  If that happens, it would be really interesting to see if people  new to Wilson manage to make any sense of it. I liked the book and felt like I got my money's worth for the purchase, but it probably doesn't rank as one of the most important RAW books for me. 

I liked the new Joseph Matheny introduction quite a bit, and I'm going to explain a couple of  his sentences for the sombunall of you who may not know his work well. He writes, "This work can be read as a novella  disguised as a fully functional movie script .... looking at it in this way inspired me to write a novella disguised as a movie treatment (the work that precedes a script) many years later." 

There's no further explanation, but it's a reference to Liminal, the first book of Matheny's Liminal cycle, which I recently read and enjoyed. It's $3 on Amazon. I read it as a digital horror story; it's been described as a "mind virus." I plan to read the other two books in the trilogy soon. 

I'm curious how Reality fits in the RAW canon for everyone else. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Book notes: John Higgs and John Dickson Carr

John Higgs on X/Twitter: "Finally! It's only taken 12 years, but The KLF will be published in North America and Canada on July 9th, thanks to @BlackstoneAudio, on audio read by me as well as paperback and ebook." 

Pre-orders are here.  I don't have information yet about what edition of the book is being published in North America, i.e. whether it's the second edition with the additional footnotes. Quite a lot about Robert Anton Wilson in the book, which is really interesting even if you aren't particularly a KLF fan. 

Also, The Crooked Hinge by classic mystery writer John Dickson Carr is available on Kindle this month for $2.99. Robert Anton Wilson recommended it thusly in Sex, Drugs and Magick: "Before dropping witchcraft and the solanaceae drugs, it is worth mentioning that John Dickson Carr has written a detective thriller, called The Crooked Hinge, revolving around a revival of witchcraft in which the members drink belladonna and imagine they are flying around on broomsticks or copulating with demons. Carr cooked this plot up before the current occult revival -- his book was published in 1937! It's still reprinted frequently in paperback and is worth your time. The surprise ending is a lulu." Hat tip to Gregory Arnott for reminding me about Carr. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

RAW on pornography

[The below ran in New Libertarian, Volume Four, Number Seven, April-June 1980, as part of a collection of short pieces, entitled "Miscellaneous Heresies." With the Hilaritas Press version of The Sex Magicians out soon, I thought it might be topical. Big thanks to Chad Nelson for making a number of issues of New Libertarian available to me. -- The Management.]

Amid the Alien Porn

Libertarians, of course, oppose censorship of pornography, on the same grounds that they oppose all other forms of censorship. In my reading, however, I have yet to encounter in print a libertarian who will admit that he or she likes pornography.

This is moderately odd. Kinsey discovered, back in the 1940s (and the Kinsey Institute confirms that there has been no change in this matter since then) that those who like pornography tend to be more intelligent than average, and to be better educated. Kinsey guessed that the reason for this was that intelligence is intimately connected with imagination and fantasy (creativity).

Such a correlation is supported by the Kinsey Institute study of imprisoned sex offenders in the 1960s, which found that these men respond less to pornography than ordinary men. Probably, this is because they are, like most convicts, lower than average in intelligence (which is why they get caught).

My own experience is that criminals in general are emotionally and semantically unintelligent (with a few exceptions). That is, they are more like children than like adults; and this is especially true of sex criminals. 

In other words, the Kinsey studies seem to confirm that those who do respond to pornography are less likely to be emotionally imbalanced; more likely to be semantically adept (verbal: rational); more imaginative and creative; less likely to be criminals.

There are only two explanations,  then, why libertarians never say they personally like pornography. The first explanation is that they are, as a group, less intelligent, imaginative and creative than average. I doubt this very much, on the basis of my experience with libertarians. The other explanation is that they are ashamed of liking pornography, i.e. that they are as subject to hypocrisy about sexual matters as most people in our society are. 

-- Robert Anton Wilson

Monday, April 8, 2024

John Sinclair memorial service

 From Steve Pratt: "The Memorial For John Sinclair will take place on Tuesday 9th April (13.00 EDT)

Streamed / hosted by Richard Blondy."

Second link.

Getting this up earlier than usual. All sympathy for Steve for his friend and Radio Free Amsterdam colleague. Sinclair was the manager of the MC5, one of the few actual existing rock bands mentioned by name in Illuminatus!

Science fiction news

Frederik Pohl, center, with Donald A. Wollheim and John Michel, in 1938. Public domain photo. 

As there is considerable overlap between science fiction fandom and Robert Anton Wilson fandom, I thought I would share a couple of interesting news items.

Another exclusion

The main villain in last year's Worldcon censorship scandal, Dave McCarty, recently flew from the U.S. and tried to attend Eastercon, a science fiction convention in the United Kingdom. File 770, the science fiction news site, reported on March 30 that McCarty was refused admission when he tried  to buy a membership at the door. When he tried the next day and refused to leave, he was escorted away by security. 

I learned about this via Ansible, the monthly newsletter of SF fan Dave Langford, who used the headline Exclusion Act for the news item. This refers to an historic moment in fandom. When the first Worldcon was held in New York City in 1939, attended by about 200 people, "In addition to its groundbreaking role as the first of its kind, the convention was noteworthy for the exclusion of a number of politicized Futurians by convention chair Sam Moskowitz; those excluded were Donald A. Wollheim, Frederik Pohl, John Michel, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Cyril M. Kornbluth, and Jack Gillespie, an event known to fannish historians as "The Great Exclusion Act.' " More at the link, see also here. 

Murder in China

The fallout over the Hugo awards, which has cast a shadow over last year's first-ever Chinese worldcon, isn't the only scandal on the Chinese science fiction scene. The new adaptation of The Three-Body Problem, currently airing on Netflix, apparently was delayed when the Chinese businessman who brought it to Netflix was murdered by one of his employees. The New  York Times has the story.  See also this Hollywood Reporter article for background. 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Notes on the website: New link, comments policy

1. I have added what I hope will be a useful link to the "Robert Anton Wilson Resources" links collection at the right side of this page (scroll down a bit).

I have tried to put the most important links at the top. The topmost link is the official Robert Anton Wilson page, which seems appropriate. The second link is, the absolutely invaluable collection of RAW articles, interviews and other material, at the site founded by Mike Gathers.

Now listed third is a new link, "English archives, RAW Fans Germania," a collection of pieces discovered and published by Martin Wagner. There is little, if any overlap, between the two archive sites, so if you are looking for something you should check both sites.

I have deleted a couple of dead links for Robert Anton Wilson Resources, although probably I should prune a little more.

2. Also, as long as I'm talking about his blog, I should say something about comments moderation. 

I would prefer not to moderate the comments, but Google (the company that provides Blogger, the blogging platform I use) is apparently not very good at screening out spam from the comments. Several  years ago, I reluctantly began moderating all the comments as my site became more popular and I began attracting lots of spam in the comments. I didn't want readers to have to wade through junk to have to read legitimate comments, and I also wasn't thrilled about some of the stuff I was inadvertently hosting.

So I went to comment moderation, meaning that I have to approve any comment before it posts.

I try quite hard to check for comments every few hours, and for example I check for comments to approve when I get up in the morning, but there can be times when life happens. I got an angry email a few months ago when I was busy trying to help my 90-year-old mother fly to Ohio for a family funeral. A comment had been posted the day before, and I still had not approved it. The pressure of the funeral and helping my mother had taken me away from my usual tasks. I immediately approved the comment and explained that situation.

I routinely check for comments several times a day, and comments usually get approved within a reasonable time, but sometimes Life Happens. If I don't approve a comment promptly, please be patient and do not take  it personally. 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Philip K. Dick's grave in Colorado


Author Philip K. Dick, who died in 1982, is not buried in California as you might expect, but in Riverside Cemetery in Fort Morgan, Colorado, in a grave with his twin sister. 

My friend Tracy Harms, who used to live in Cleveland, now lives in Colorado (where he used to live when he met RAW years ago), and he discovered by accident that the grave is nearby. So he went there and sent me the photographs, giving me permission to post them on the blog. 

Here is a photo in context with other Dick family stones.

A closeup view of the headstone from above. Tracy explains, "There were a score of small items that had been left at the twins' stone. Most are visible here along the top of it." 

Addendum: I forgot to give the location of the grave -- Section K, Block 1, Lot 56. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Hilaritas releases "Reality Is What You Can Get Away With'


Hilaritas Press has announced the official release of Reality Is What You Can Get Away With. As I reporter earlier, there were a few bugs in the print edition that had to be ironed out; Rasa says the book is ready to be purchased everywhere now. 

Note that Scott McPherson has returned as a cover artist for Hilaritas RAW releases:

"We are euphoric that our cover designer for mosbunall of our Hilaritas Press titles, Scott McPherson of amoeba, agreed to come out of a hiatus and make this very cool new cover for the book. Once again he captured the essence of a RAW title beautifully."

Rasa's newsletter mentions that work on an Hilaritas edition of The Sex Magicians is coming along nicely, and that the Hilaritas edition of Timothy Leary's Terra II should be out soon. 

Note also that the newsletter has a wonderful photo of a young Joseph Matheny and RAW, in Nina Graboi's garden. Joseph mentions Graboi in the recent podcast as a mutual friend who arranged for Joseph to be RAW's chauffeur. Take a moment to look her up, she was an interesting person. Matheny wrote the introduction for the new edition, as he discusses in the podcast, which I recommend. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

John Barth has died


A photo posted on X by Giles Goat-Girl. The men from left are Donald Barthelme, John Barth, Robert Coover (still alive), John Hawkes, Kurt Vonnegut, Walter Abish, William Gaddis and William Gass. (Source). 

John Barth has died. The New York Times promptly ran a long obit. I read The Floating Opera in college more than 45 years ago, but I haven't gotten around to any Barth since then. 

While I cannot claim that Barth and Robert Anton Wilson knew each other, there are a couple of connections.

RAW was a Barth fan  (From this previous blog post):

"I can't answer Arthur Hlavaty's question about what John Barth thinks of my novels, but I can easily answer his second question. I enjoy Barth's books enormously. I think his Sabbatical covers the malaise of our time better than professional spy-thriller writers like Ambler and Le Carre have ever done. Just because one is never sure if the CIA killed the man on the boat or is trying to kill the hero, Sabbatical leaves one with precisely the sense of uncertainty and dread that has hung over this nation since democracy was abandoned in the National Security Act of 1947 and clandestine government became official.

"Sometimes I find it astounding that we have lived under fascism for 40 years while continuing the rituals of democracy -- and that hardly any 'major' novelist has tried to grapple with this issue. I salute Barth for his subtlety and the eerie atmosphere he creates in describing our increasingly Machiavellian world. To be brutally frank and eschew false modesty, I think only Mailer, Pynchon and myself have captured the terror of the situation as well as Barth did in that book.

"Oh, yeah, I like Barth's other books, too. Sabbatical just happens to be my favorite."

That's from a letter RAW wrote to a Shea zine. And here's something Shea spotted, writer and critic John Gardner comparing RAW and Barth ("reprinted" from an earlier blot post):

 The American novelist John Gardner, author of fiction such as The Sunlight Dialogues and Grendel, also wrote books of literary criticism and writing. He was only 49 when he died suddenly in 1982, in a motorcycle accident. Robert Shea used to read a lot of literary fiction, and books about writing, and he noticed that Gardner had praised Robert Anton Wilson. 

In his newsletter No Governor issue No. 9 (I have all of them available via a link on this page, on the right, under "Robert Shea Resources"), Shea writes, "I've been reading On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, a very fine writer whose life was cut short a few years ago by a motorcycle accident. (Some time I must vent some of my feelings about motorcycles). To my surprise and pleasure I ran across a nice compliment to two of my friends, one being our own BobW, on page 94. Talking about science fiction (and tell  your snobby friends John Gardner refers to it is "sci-fi") he lists a number of writers he likes and winds up with, 'One finds a fair amount of literary merit in Algis J. Budrys' Michaelmas or the work of Robert Wilson whose novels (for instance Schroedinger's Cat) out-Barth John Barth without sacrificing the primary quality of good fiction, interesting storytelling.' One could do worse than out-Barth Barth. I look forward to the day when a literary critic remarks that some work by John Barth 'almost out-Wilson's Robert Anton Wilson'."

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Eric Wagner on Joseph Kerman

[Today is the birthday of musicologist Joseph Kerman. Eric Wagner, who has a particular interest in classical music and Robert Anton Wilson's interest in it, penned this short tribute to Kerman. The online reading group Eric led on Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets remains available on the right side of this page. The Management.]

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

“Reviewing a PBS program on intelligent dogs, a television columnist jokes that while some dogs may be smart, his lhasa apso always breaks down in the middle of the “Rach 3.”

    • Joseph Kerman, Opera and the Morbidity of Music, pg. 26

In the winter of 1990-1991 I reread Erich Leinsdorf’s The Composer’s Advocate. Leinsdorf recommended Kerman’s The Beethoven Quartets, so I checked it out of the library. It blew me away. I read all of Kerman’s books. I keep coming back to them again and again. From 2000-2021 I taught high school music history, and I used Kerman’s textbook Listen for the classical music section of the course. It also helped with the world music and jazz sections. I feel so grateful for Kerman’s critical intelligence and humor. I keep returning to writing as I discover music new to me or get deeper into music I thought I knew.

Kerman also turned me to a lot of other writers on classical music, especially Charles Rosen. No matter where my life has taken me over the past thirty-three years, I keep finding fresh inspiration in Kerman and Rosen’s writing. They make me listen to music with fresh ears and to dig deeper into how music fits in with all the other aspects of life. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

John Sinclair has died

 Art of John Sinclair by Bobby Campbell.

John Sinclair has died. The Detroit Free Press has posted an obituary. If the New York Times does an obit, I will  update this post with that paper's, too.

I promised to try to run a guest post on Wednesday, so I'm doing two posts today, as opposed to my usual one-a-day policy. 

Robert Anton Wilson on modern anxiety

"I see mass hysteria as part of the Future Shock of our accelerated social destabilization as 'life as we know it' vanishes and gets replaced more and more by 'life as we used to read it in science fiction.' Naive people have grown terrorized by text  books, by pop music, by games, and even by schoolteachers (the most inoffensive persons around) .... the whole modern (or post-modern) world seems incomprehensible, and therefore sinister, to millions of our citizen. If you want to grok what these ordinary beer-and-hotdog Americans feel when they see a Gay Pride parade on TV, try to imagine your own reaction to a Cannibal Pride parade. I do not mean that Gays should 'go back in the closet,' or that any other genies should or can go back into their bottles. I just mean that the world has begun to freak out a lot of ignorant people."

[From Robert Anton Wilson's introduction to the 1996 edition of Reality Is What You Can Get Away With, which I have been slowly reading while I wait for Hilaritas to announce the official release of the book (again, Rasa says the ebook edition is fine, and that's what I'm reading). I have slightly edited the excerpt to make it a bit more of a stand-alone quote. It may date from close to 30 years ago, but it seems contemporary to me. -- The Management.]

Monday, April 1, 2024

Latest Bobby Campbell news

Bobby's official website is back. 

Bobby Campbell has issued a newsletter and reports that his official website has been reclaimed "from the wilderness of the internet."

Lots of other news, including my interview with him last year at this blog, a Team Human event with Mitch Horowitz and Douglas Rushkoff, Bobby's involvement with the Lost Doctor series, a look back at Maybe Night,  issues of Buddhafart, other comic updates, the new Omnibus 777 digital comics bundle and Bobby's reopened Weirdoverse Gift Shop. Read all about it.