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

Friday, May 31, 2024

Bobby Campbell's 'Historical Iluminatus!' artworks

Bobby Campbell has published "The Secret History of Sigismundo" online, illustrations meant to convey some of the elements of the three "Historical Illuminatus" books by Robert Anton Wilson. As Sigismundo Celine is the ancestor of Hagbard Celine, the artworks (previously published as illustrations for the novels, and then in Bobby's RAW Art) are posted to lead into Bobby's new Tales of Illuminatus! project. 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

William Egginton's 'The Rigor of Angels'


The names suggested as an interview guest for the Hilaritas podcast in my recent blog post mostly are familiar to me, but the one offered by Lvx15 in the comments was a surprise: "William Egginton who’s most recent book hit on model agnosticism from several very RAW angles, quantum mechanics, literature and philosophy."

Since the name was new to me, I looked it up. Egginton is "is the Decker Professor in the Humanities, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, and Director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of multiple books, including How the World Became a Stage (2003), Perversity and Ethics (2006), A Wrinkle in History (2007), The Philosopher’s Desire (2007), The Theater of Truth (2010), In Defense of Religious Moderation (2011), The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World (2016), The Splintering of the American Mind (2018), and The Rigor of Angels (2023), which was named to several best of 2023 lists, including The New York Times and The New Yorker. He is co-author with David Castillo of Medialogies: Reading Reality in the Age of Inflationary Media (2017) and What Would Cervantes Do? Navigating Post-Truth with Spanish Baroque Literature (2022). His latest book, on the philosophical, psychoanalytic, and surrealist dimensions of the work of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, was published in January 2024."

That most recent book is called Alexander Jodorowsky: Filmmaker and Philosopher, although I suspect Lvx15 actually is referring to The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant and the Ultimate Nature of Reality, released last year. Here is the publisher's page on the book.  And here is a bit from the New York Times book review by Jennifer Szalai: "The Rigor of Angels explores nothing less than 'the ultimate nature of reality' through the life and work of three figures: the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges; the German theoretical physicist and pioneer of quantum mechanics, Werner Heisenberg; and the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Egginton, a literary scholar at Johns Hopkins, brings these three very different men together in one book because they all shared something unusual. They resisted the temptation to presume that there was a reality, out there, that was completely independent of our attempts to know it."

The Wikipedia bio of Egginton has links to many of the pieces he has written for the popular press. He is on X.  And speaking of quotes that remind us of RAW, see this Tweet. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Our ally, Jim O'Shaughnessy

Jim O'Shaughnessy (from the O'Shaughnessy Ventures website)

Robert Anton Wilson fandom could use a few more people like Jim O'Shaughnessy, people with a big following who are trying to promote Wilson's work.

On May 26, O'Shaughnessy posted an excerpt from Natural Law, Or Don't Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw on X (e.g., Twitter). It's one of my favorite Hilaritas Press publications; much of the book  had not been anthologized before.

As of today, the post had 6,421 views and 13 retweets. O'Shaughnessy has about 177,000 followers. 

Compare with a May 24 posting on X from @RAWilson23, a must-follow for RAW fans. The posting publicized  the news about the new Tales of Illuminatus! comic book adaptation, the most recent big news concerning RAW. It has 409 views and 5 retweets. The account has about 6,100 followers -- quite good, but dwarfed by O'Shaughnessy.

The quote O'Shaughnessy, posted was this:

"I am not interested in Ideologies and don't give a damn about labels at all, at all. I am interested only in what makes the world a little more reasonable, a little less violent and somewhat more free and tolerant than it has been in the past. 

"What I am writing about, in fact, might better be called life-style than politics. As Tim Leary once said, the only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours, since it all comes down to territorial brawling in the end. The questions that I pose are basically matters of lifestyle and almost of taste: are we to be self-governors or are we to be ruled by ghostly abstractions from other worlds? Do we dare to trust our own judgments, fallible though they may be, or do we look for super-sensory Authority to decide hard cases for us? Are we willing to learn from others, and from the unique experience of each day, or do we have an abstract blueprint that we never revise? We all have brains which use rational programs to decide cases that can be decided that way, and which also use other circuits loosely called feeling and intuition and memory, and all of these, including reason, can be self-deceptive at times, but if we have a sense of humor and lack a sense of Papal Infallibility, we don't make too many gross errors (most of the time); will we use that bundle of cells in our skull, or will we mechanically look up the answer in the rule book? Are we going to be individualists eventually, or must we always rely on metaphysical abstractions that look suspiciously like theological tabus in disguise? 

"As I say, these are questions of attitude and life-style, not of party politics and Ideology. But they all resolve to the one basic question that separates the sheep from the goats in every generation: are we learning and growing every hour, or are we still enthralled by verbal abstraction, by Ideal Platonic Horseshit that never changes?"

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Do you have a suggested guest for the Hilaritas Press podcast?

Actor Nick Offerman (Creative Commons photo

Mike Gathers does an excellent job as the host of the Hilaritas Press Podcast. Each podcast is released on the 23rd of the month, and you can browse the 33 episodes so far at the Hilaritas website. It's available on many podcasting apps. 

Mr. Gathers is asking for suggestions on future podcast guests. I'll offer my ideas here, and you can chime in with your suggestions in the comments. Please provide contact information, if possible, or explain how to track the guest down.

Here are my suggestions: Brian Dean (the guy who does the RAW Semantics blog and who wrote about RAW in his book on framing, Lazy Person's Guide to Framing: Decoding the News Media); RAW expert, writer and musician Michael Johnson; Prop Anon (I assume they have thought of him and are waiting for the RAW biography to drop this fall); Mike Shea (Robert Shea's son, executor of Shea's literary estate, I've interviewed him for this blog); actor Nick Offerman (who once said in a NY Times interview he wants to portray Hagbard Celine in an Illuminatus! adaptation), Jim O'Shaughnessy, widely-followed personality, big RAW fan and prominent philanthropist, as I write this he just posted about Alfred Korzybski; author Erik Davis; Daisy Eris Campbell, who did the Cosmic Trigger play; Steve "Fly" Pratt, author and musician; Kate Alderton, British actress who portrayed Arlen and an active Discordian,  and author Alan Moore. I've never been interviewed, either. Apologies to the obvious people I have missed. I'm sure I'll think of a couple of people once I hit "publish." I had another good  name, but the person wants to remain in the background. 

Whom did I miss? Put your suggestions in the comments, please. 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Libertarian wins Libertarian Party nomination

Chase Oliver, left, with Mike ter Maat, the Libertarian Party's vice presidential nominee. (The signs refer to Ross Ulbricht). 

Given that the Libertarian Party has been in the hands of a right wing faction that likes Trump and is socially conservative, it wasn't obvious that the party would nominate an actual libertarian this time, and I was pessimistic. But the nominee picked Sunday, Chase Oliver, was the one backed by the Classical Liberal Caucus, the traditional libertarian group I generally agree with. Oliver has an official website where you can read his platform. 

On Twitter, Jesse Walker wrote, "Look at that: There are still enough libertarians in the Libertarian Party to nominate an actual libertarian for the presidency. Congratulations to Chase Oliver."

Bonus libertarian content: Ayn Rand denies she wrote a blueprint for the Illuminati to take over the world.  

If you can't access the clip, you can watch Ayn Rand on the the old Phil Donahue show in 1979, and the bit with Ayn Rand being asked about the Illuminati appears at about 4:50. 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Will AI narration of audiobooks by Wilson and Shea become common?

Tyler Cowen has just released a free audiobook of his latest book, GOAT: Who is the Greatest Economist of All Time and Why Does it Matter. Downloads of various editions of the book are here. 

In  blog post announcing the new audiobook, the author writes, "The voice is excellent, can you guess how it was done?  My wife and sister thought it was me. I heartily thank OpenAI for their assistance in this matter." You can check out the audio sample at the link; the use of an AI voice does work well. 

Does this mean that surviving audio of Ernest Hemingway can be used to make audiobooks of his novels? 

Or, putting the question closer to home, there is plenty of audio of both of the authors of Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Does that mean that AI Wilson will be used to narrate new audiobooks, and AI Shea will be used to narrate audiobooks for Shea's historical novels? 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Hilaritas podcast features Devaraj Sandberg


The Hilaritas podcast released on May 23 features Devaraj Sandberg.

"In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with body based therapist and author Devaraj Sandberg about Wilhelm Reich, Reichian therapy, accelerationism, and more," says the official blurb.

Sandberg has a Substack.  He has written a number of books, including fiction that has been compared to Illuminatus!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Bobby Campbell on 'Tales of Illuminatus'


Bobby Campbell (with a statue of Merlin at Medieval Fantasy Mini Golf in Ocean City, N.J.)

Yesterday's big announcement about the new Tales of Illuminatus! comic adaptation of the Illuminatus! trilogy naturally left me wanting to know more, and despite the fact that he's a busy guy, comic creator Bobby Campbell immediately agreed to an interview. (Please see the blog post for a link to what's available so far, and see Bobby's comment in the post). 

For more on Bobby, see his official website and  his X/Twitter account. Please see also my big interview with Mr. Campbell that ran in November last year.  Of course, Bobby is the force behind the annual Maybe Day celebration that takes place on July 23. I met him at the ConFluence SF convention in Pittsburgh a few years ago when Bobby and Gregory Arnott and I organized RAW-related events there, and both of those guys were great to hang out with. Go meet Bobby in September at the Small Press Expo if you can! 

In the interview, Bobby mentions that he is waiting to find out what the audience is for his big new project. This is where you come in, gentle reader! I will do my best to publicize the project, but if you have a social media account, a blog or some other platform, please spread the word, both now and when regular episodes start to appear. And please preorder/buy the print editions. Bobby is generous to a fault, and he would not ask anyone to spend food money on his project, but if you can, please provide support. You'll hear more about the Kickstarter here when I know more. 

I did my best to cover the basics in their interview and I will share more news about this project as it becomes available.

-- Tom Jackson

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: How did the new "Tales of Illuminatus!" webcomic come about?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: Simply enough, Nick Helweg-Larsen, who I've known for 20 years, as an old school Maybe Logic Academy alumni, revealed himself as the media rights holder for the Illuminatus! Trilogy, and reached out just to talk about various possibilities, from which Tales of Illuminatus! slowly but surely emerged.

I was very hesitant to get involved at first, worried about working on a non creator-owned property, and intimidated by the sheer magnitude of the overall project, but once that little spark of potential worked its way into my imagination, it spread like wildfire. "And then we could do this! And this! OH! AND THIS!"

RAWILLUMINATION: This is billed as the "official" adaptation, does it have the blessing of the RAW and Robert Shea estates?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: Since I had a pre-existing relationship with the RAW estate, the first thing I did after talking with Nick was run to Christina and Rasa and make sure I had their blessing, which I indeed do :))) TBH I don't think I've ever interacted with the Shea estate, even when I did the Shike covers that was done through New Falcon, though I have a very favorable opinion of Mike Shea!

I know that contractually/legally we are all good with everyone, and that the RAW & Shea estates will share in the profits, thus "official" in that sense, but I don't think I can claim that anyone necessarily sanctions the full extent of my buffoonery!

RAWILLUMINATION: Who will the main artist be, and who will write the webcomic? Is that you for both, or are you bringing other folks in?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: I will be the main writer and artist for the series, but I also have the titanic Todd Purse joining me for at least the first issue, and ideally for the whole run. I also have Dan "The Man" Robinson from The Headies recording some music for us.

If I'm planning for success, I'd say my intentions are to bring in the entire luminous cavalcade of visionary geniuses that comprise my rolodex, in one way or another. I'd love for this thing to be a circus, but! I'm the only one I can ask to work for free, so you may be stuck with mostly me for a bit, while the thing grows into something beyond my great expectations.

RAWILLUMINATION:  How large will the July 23 episode be? What is the timetable to complete the project?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: I'd rather underpromise and overdeliver, so I'll say the Maybe Day episode will be a few decidedly info-rich pages! Followed the next week by a few more, and the next week by a few more, and so on, and so on! This is definitely going to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

The timetable for the first issue is pretty locked in though.

The weekly episodes begin on July 23rd and will run until around mid October.

Pre-orders for the first print issue will be open from July 23rd - August 23rd.

The first issue will be sent to the printer on the last week of August and pre-orders will ship by the second week of September.

Tales of Illuminatus! #1 will debut on Sept 14-15 at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland and will then be available for sale everywhere in print and digital editions :)))

After the first set of weekly episodes run out there will most likely be a production break.

Depending on the success of the first issue and various other pending opportunities, we'll have to play things somewhat by ear, but my goal would be to start back up with new episodes and the second issue pre-order campaign by no later than Dec 21st, AKA MAYBE NIGHT.

There is absolutely a chance that things work out such that we don't require a production break at all, and the series continues to grow in leaps and bounds until we complete all 23 issues over the course of five years, but it's likely to be more messy than that.

The great, soon-to-be-answered, question is...

Is there an audience for this???

RAWILLUMINATION: Will the webcomic be free, or will there eventually be a subscription? What are the plans for publication in other forms?

BOBBYCAMPBELL: The plan is for the webcomic to be free and supported by pre-sales of the print issues done via Kickstarter. Ideally growing a large enough back catalog that the series becomes self-sustaining.

I'm not crazy about the subscription model, I don't like being a part of someone's monthly bills, I'd rather sell a real, high quality, physical object!

The print issues should look magnificent. We're doing them oversized, like magazine size, rather than comic book size. Giving the pages some space to breathe. Like a 1970's issue of Conan the Barbarian. 

The end goal would be three graphic novel collections, recreating the trilogy of books in comic book form, and then ultimately a giant-sized omnibus edition collecting the whole darn thing.

RAWILLUMINATION: How far did the previous comic book adaptation get? Is it still available in some form?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: The original comic book adaptation made it completely through three issues, which covered the first three "trips" of the novel, and I believe they had enough of the fourth issue to publish an ashcan edition (like a preview or demo), but I've never actually seen it.

The first three issues are absolute treasures and can be easily and affordably ordered from a number of places online.

I know Mark Philip Steele popped up a while ago and was offering a free PDF download of the first issue, but the official link has gone private and requires permission to access it.

From my own time in the trenches, I can only tip my cap to Mark Philip Steele and company for their brilliant compressing of Illuminatus! down into the comic book medium. The whole first trip in 32 pages!? It's ultimately an exercise in problem solving and there is so much truly great work in those comics.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

''Tales of Illuminatus' announced


Bobby Campbell has announced Tales of Illuminatus, "The official comic adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea's Illuminatus! Trilogy."

Read an introductory section here.  The webcomic adaptation will be continued on July 23, i.e. "Maybe Day." 

That's all I know at this point, although I suspect more information will become available. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

RAW's radical approach to reading his fiction

Today I  will reveal to you my favorite sentences in the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy.

I have  the original mass market paperbacks, and in the front there is a sort of brief preface which says in part (this is from the third volume, The Homing Pigeons):

"The three volumes of the Schroedinger's Cat series can be read in any order desired.

"That is, this volume can be read before or after the volumes called The Universe Next Door and The Trick Top Hat or between them. 

These volumes may also be read before or after the three volumes of the Illuminatus! trilogy and before or after Masks of the Illuminati."

There are other interesting sentences that follow, but I want to focus on those three sentences for a moment.

Like many of RAW's works, the SC novels (now available as a shortened one volume work -- I don't even know if my favorite sentences survive in this edition, which has cuts) was published as works of science fiction.

Trilogies are a big tradition in science fiction and fantasy. Examples that come to mind include Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and N.K. Jemisin's more recent Broken Earth trilogy. I'm pretty sure none of the those authors ever suggested reading the books out of order.

There is a narrative bit in the three SC novels which make it clear they seem to be written to be read in the "correct" order, although I don't want to mention it, lest it be a spoiler. If you've read the books you know what I mean.

On the other hand, the books also can be read as variations on alternate universes. They do  not seem to read as chronologically linear works that all take place in the same universe, as the other trilogies I mention seem to be.

RAW is inviting the reader to do his/her/their own "cutups," approaching his fiction from different angles.

Illuminatus! is a work I read over and over again. Maybe next time I should start, perhaps, with The Golden Apple? And should we, as readers, try to think of an interesting way to read all of RAW's fiction out of order, either just the titles he mentions or also including the Historical Illuminatus! books? Or an useful sequence to read them in order, or as a mix of the two approaches? 

I guess it's a synchronicity, but as I was working on this blog post, I saw a Tweet by Joseph Matheny, quoting Jean-Luc Godard: "A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order." 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

RAW movie club: The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart (as detective Sam Spade) and Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon. 

Continuing my project to watch movies on Robert Anton Wilson's list of his 100 favorite movies, I decided that next I will watch The Maltese Falcon, No. 85 on the list.

RAW writes quite a bit about the Knights of Malta in his books, for example in Coincidance and in Everything Is Under Control, and in Coincidance, he writes that the group "inspired part of the plot of The Maltese Falcon." 

I'll watch the movie in the next couple of weeks and write about it in early June. I wanted to pick something that would not cost anything if anyone else wanted to watch it, too, and it is currently available free on Tubi (with ads), which is the way old people like me used to watch old movies on TV. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Portrait of RAW


Caption on X (from @RAWilson23, i.e. Bobby Campbell): "New jaw dropping Robert Anton Wilson portrait by the great Dimitri Drjuchin!

“The Return of Mr RAW”

18 x 24 Acrylic on Wood

Come see it at his solo show "The Past Is The Present Is The Future" at c5bk opening June 8th in Brooklyn NY."

Sunday, May 19, 2024

I guess I'm reading it wrong


I have been reading Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults and Coverups by Robert Anton Wilson ever since I noticed it was available for $3 for the Kindle (it's still on sale as I write this.)

When I posted about finding the sale, Eric Wagner wrote, "Bob seemed so excited about this book when it came out. He did not want the reader to read it from cover to cover. He wanted it to function like it had hyperlinks, jumping from entry to entry."

I did jump to other entries when I read the entry in the A's about Hiram Abiff, and I expect to  do more  jumping. I also looked ahead to the Beethoven entry.  But I have mostly been reading it from the beginning, enjoying RAW's voice as he writes about various oddities. I don't want to miss anything!

This is not the first time I have read a reference book the "wrong" way. Years ago, I read the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, a one-volume work. (It has been updated quite a few times, although apparently not recently). My then-wife made fun of me for reading it from the start to the end, saying it was weird to do that with a reference book, but it was really interesting. The only bummer was all of the entries where I had to read about a musician dying young because of drugs (or booze). 

UPDATE: I should mention that I am generally interested in the different ways people read books. I commonly read two or three books at the same time. A friend of mine once wrote that she has a low tolerance for suspense, so when she reads a novel she looks at the ending before starting at the beginning. Another friend very rarely re-reads books, something I do all the time. I just finished re-reading Tolkien's The Return of the King, and I've been re-reading Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder books, in order. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Discordian documents

"Discordian Guerrilla Ontology advert for the release of the Illuminatus! Trilogy." Source

Grouchogandhi, K.S.P., apparently an association of Adam Gorightly, likes to post Discordian material on Twitter/X. Above is one such document and below is another. Both of these are from the Discordian Archivesd.  Follow on Twitter. 

"Anti-Illuminati Discordian business card created by Arthur Hlavarty." Source


Friday, May 17, 2024

Why Beethoven went deaf: Lead poisoning?

Beethoven in an 1819 portrait by Ferdinand Schimon. 

One of the most amazing achievements in the history of classical music is that Beethoven continued to compose great music after he went completely deaf. Given RAW's  interest in Beethoven, I thought I would share an update on the topic: The deafness may have been the result of lead poisoning, caused by drinking too much cheap wine.

Here is the article: "Locks of Beethoven’s Hair Offer New Clues to the Mystery of His Deafness," (as usual, I get you behind the paywall with a gift article.) The article concerns testing carried out on some of Beethoven's  hair:

"One of Beethoven’s locks had 258 micrograms of lead per gram of hair and the other had 380 micrograms. ... A normal level in hair is less than 4 micrograms of lead per gram."

Also: "David Eaton, a toxicologist and professor emeritus at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, said that Beethoven’s gastrointestinal problems 'are completely consistent with lead poisoning.' As for Beethoven’s deafness, he added, high doses of lead affect the nervous system, and could have destroyed his hearing."

More at the link. The article is by Gina Kolata, who writes about medical topics for the Times. 

The Times is not perfect and it gets a lot of criticism. It has areas where I think it is weak. But it also continues to produce really good journalism and still has many really good reporters. The Internet has done a lot of damage to newspapers, but it also has made it possible for me to read the Times all the time; I used to only read it occasionally, when I was out of town and could buy a copy. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Oz Fritz on Finnegans Wake, the Book of the Dead and the Bardo

Oz Fritz has a new blog post up, "Joyce, Crowley and the Book of the Dead," which argues that the Egyptian Book of the Dead is a big influence on Finnegans Wake (Oz does a good job of documenting that this assertion is true). 

There's also a lot of discussion about the Bardo, a topic Oz often returns to. Oz doesn't use labels on his blog posts, but if you search for "bardo" in the text box on the upper left, you'll get pieces that will tell you more. The first post that popped up in my search was "How to Conquer Death on the Internet Part II," and the first subsection in that post is entitled, "What Is the Bardo?" 

At the end of the new post, Oz writes, "Stay tuned for the next episode which will go into some of the Bardo/Book of the Dead influences found in the work of Robert Anton Wilson who was deeply influenced by both Joyce and Crowley." We'll be reading, Oz. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

I enjoyed the R.U. Sirius episode on Hilaritas Podcasts

R.U. Sirius (portrait at Hilaritas Podcasts episode page).

I have not listened to every one of the Hilaritas podcasts, but I've listened to almost all of them, and the recent one with R.U. Sirius/Ken Goffman was a highlight for me.

I particularly liked the anecdotes about Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson and the discussion of Timothy Leary's books. 

Ken is hoping some of you will check out his Bandcamp page and listen to his music (as is usual with Bandcamp, you can play  the songs before you decide to buy them). 

As usual, the official podcast page has links to some of the topics Ken and Mike Gathers discuss.

Listen here, or just use any podcasting app. 

The podcast ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Ken talks about his memoir, Freaks In The Machine, which was about to be published when sudden changes at the publisher put the project in limbo. I asked for an update and was told today, "I'm afraid Freaks In The Machine is still in limbo. I also feel at this point it needs to be freshened up." It sounds interesting, but I guess we will have to wait. 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Maybe Day celebration will return this year


It's time to start getting ready for Maybe Day, which will be celebrated on July 23.

Bobby Campbell, who organized the four previous celebrations of the work of Robert Anton Wilson, has announced that Maybe Day will return this year. Bobby also put together the first Maybe Night event last December.

"Let this serve as still another clarion call for RAW and/or Erisian art, video presentations, writing, and whatever else besides!" Bobby writes.

Please see this link for more details. Bobby also has helpfully included links to past Maybe Day celebrations. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Dennis Thompson, last member of the MC5, has died

Dennis Thompson, back in the day. (Creative Commons photo, source.)

I wasn't planning to do another blog post on the MC5, the rock band mentioned in Illuminatus!, but I caught the sad news that the band's drummer, Dennis Thompson, had died. Here is the New York Times obit. 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Timothy Leary patron Peggy Mellon Hitchcock has died

Peggy Hitchcock and her friend from Tibet. (Source). 

The New York Times reports on the death of Peggy Mellon Hitchcock, who supplied Timothy Leary with his mansion in Millbrook, N.Y.:

"Peggy Mellon Hitchcock, the energetic scion of a storied wealthy family who funded Timothy Leary’s psychedelic adventures — and famously helped him find the spot to do so, at her brothers’ estate in Millbrook, N.Y. — died on April 9 at her home in Tucson, Ariz. She was 90."

Another bit (the obit writer, Penelope Green, clearly had fun with her task):

"Mr. Leary and Ms. Hitchcock fell into an on-again, off-again love affair. (She described it to Robert Greenfield, Mr. Leary’s biographer, as 'a swinging door relationship.') Ms. Hitchcock had been dating Allen Eager, a jazz saxophonist who was also a heroin addict, Mr. Greenfield wrote, and when her mother heard that she was involved with Mr. Leary, she exclaimed: 'Oh thank God! She’s going out with a Harvard professor!' ”

Full obit here (if you read it, you get to find out about her other interesting friends, including the Dalai Lama.)

She was very wealthy, and when I read the article, I daydreamed about what I would do if I'd had that kind of money. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Steve Fly releases AI powered 'Flai' music album


As AI advances, bringing a form of "intelligence increase" to all of us, the ways that it is being put to use continue to increase.

Steve Fly (Steven Pratt) has released a new album, Flai, on Bandcamp. Steve did the words, but the music is made with the help of Udio, an AI music generator. 

As with other Bandcamp albums, you can listen to Steve's new album before deciding whether you want to buy it. 

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Matt Cardin on Chapel Perilous [UPDATED]

Matt Cardin has an essay up, "Initiation by Nightmare," which discusses the nature of Chapel Perilous, and how his thoughts on the matter were influenced by Robert Anton Wilson and other writers. Here's a bit:

"We’re all playing with fire, those of us who actively perturb consciousness, and also those of us who have such perturbations forced upon us by powers outside our ken or control. In the words of the weekly closing narration from a classic horror television series that I enjoyed in my youth, 'The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us.' What I didn’t understand as an adolescent was that this is not mere poetic speech, nor is it mere aesthetic or intellectual entertainment for those drawn to the dark side of fiction, film, philosophy, and spirituality. This is deadly truth."

It's a really interesting essay. It's a reprint from his 2022 book, What the Daemon Said: Essays on Horror Fiction, Film, and Philosophy, with "a few multimedia enhancements" for the online version in his Substack newsletter.

Cardin's brief bio says he is a "cosmic horror author, former English professor, pianist, and college VP."

Hat tip, Tracy Harms. 

UPDATED: Note Matt Cardin pointing to another essay in the comment below. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

RAW (and Lakoff) on reality


Posted on X by @RAWsemantics with the comment, "The exquisite fit of #RobertAntonWilson's philosophical 'transactionalism' to the philosophy of 'experientialism' described in 'Metaphors We Live By' (Lakoff & Johnson). Just one example."

Monday, May 6, 2024

RAW movie club: Intolerance

Scene from Intolerance. Did Babylon really have huge statues of elephants? It sure looks impressive. 

It's a really long movie, so I was relieved it turned out to be excellent. The Wikipedia article about the movie lists four different major versions of the public domain film. I watched the Kino version, 197 minutes long, which has a soundtrack. I checked it out from Hoopla. Finding a free version to watch online is not difficult, there's one at the Internet Archive. 

The influence on Illuminatus! apparently consists in the way it uses separate plotlines and switches abruptly from one to the other. There's a modern plot about poor people being abused by the rich and by the system. Another plot depicts the life of Jesus, another shows Belshazzar's Babylon  under attack from the Persians, and another shows the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in France in 1572.  The common theme is intolerance, not just religious intolerance, but the kind of intolerance that results in Prohibition and various moral crusades and moral panics. 

I wasn't particularly looking forward to the life of Jesus stuff, and the actor playing The Nazarene, Howard Gaye, is kind of stiff, as if he's affected by the pressure of playing the Son of God. But the scenes from the New Testament are some of the best bits! The wedding at Cana is depicted, with the first miracle of Jesus being an  intervention to make sure there's plenty of good wine for the wedding celebration. There's also a great depiction of the incident in which Jesus saves a woman from being stoned to death for adultery. 

Although it dates back to 1916, in some ways Intolerance is more modern than I expected. A long movie with big crowd scenes anticipates many epics that came after. The plot about the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre depicting one religious faction killing people in another faction is unfortunately currently relevant. (While the plot depicts Catholics killing Protestants, Griffith shows that previously Protestants had carried out an attack on Catholics, and shows how one massacre becomes an excuse for another.) The jumps from one plotline to another are reminiscent of a recent film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, which to  tell you the truth I didn't like all that much. 

And there were other surprises. I did not expect the intensity of the violence. Some of the depictions of women in  Babylon were sexier than I expected. I was also surprised by some of the crowd scenes. The huge sets in the Babylon scenes are really impressive. I did not expect such as "wow" factor from such an old movie. 

Lots of critics of course have written about the movie. I couldn't find what Jesse Walker thought of it at his movie review site. The Wikipedia article says Pauline Kael considered it the greatest movie ever made. 

Here is the entire review from Scott Sumner, one of my favorite bloggers: "Intolerance (US, 1916) 3.5 This rating doesn’t mean much as it’s both a great film and a deeply flawed film. Today, 1916 seems like ancient history, and thus this historical epic has an additional layer of meaning for 2019 viewers, as compared to what people saw in 1916. On the other hand, the images are less astonishing than they would have appeared to 1916 audiences. That trade-off is sort of a microcosm of life. Has any other major director ever produced a very liberal film immediately after producing a very conservative film?"

Some of Robert Anton Wilson's themes come up in the movie. It shows why Prohibition is wrong and doesn't work, and it depicts how the system is cruel to the poor. 

In June, I'll pick another movie from RAW's top one hundred and watch it and blog about it. As with Intolerance, I'll announce my choice for anyone else who wants to take the opportunity to watch it, too. 

Robert Anton Wilson's 'Everything Is Under Control' ebook sale

I have a habit of going through Amazon's monthly sale of Kindle books that are $4 or less, and when I went deep into the "see all results" I finally found my reward: A $2.99 sale of Robert Anton Wilson's Everything Is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-ups, a rare example of a RAW book I didn't already own. So I snapped it up. 

This is listed as a "limited time" sale, so I don't know if it will be on sale all May.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Jason Louv on 'Cosmic Trigger'


The 200th episode of Jason Louv's Ultraculture podcast is devoted to Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger. Here is some of the description:

"In this special edition, Jason Louv revisits Robert Anton Wilson's 'Cosmic Trigger' — a pivotal book that explores the frontiers of magical and mystical thought. This episode delves into the utopian visions and relentless optimism of the early days of the Magical Revival, qualities that Jason passionately seeks to reignite in today's occult circles.

"In this episode, Jason not only reflects on the book's impact on his own journey into the realms of magic and consciousness expansion but also discusses how its predictions and philosophies are more relevant today than ever. With discussions ranging from space colonization and intelligence augmentation to the philosophical implications of extended life spans, this episode is a profound reassessment of a future that's slowly turning into reality."

It's actually a broadcast of a piece Louv wrote in 2014; I posted about it then.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

RAW and the green grass

 The above image is via Brian Dean from RAW Semantics, who writes (on X), "From right at the end of chapter 6 of The New Inquisition, where RAW writes about Schrödinger's 'the sum of all minds is one' (see my latest blog scrawl). Bob then adds: 'Did you get it that time?'  (Non-plural implies non-local in this context)."

I asked Brian if he made the meme, and he answered, "Yes, with some help from AI of course. I fed it a ridiculously convoluted and not very specific prompt, expected nothing - and it returns this, complete with a sage who looks like RAW. Quite spooky, as if it read my mind!"

See the comments here for further discussion  of the latest RAW Semantics post. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Background on the new 'Prometheus Rising' hardcover


After I published yesterday's surprise news about a Prometheus Rising hardcover (I had no idea it was on the works and learned about it when I saw a social media announcement), I decided maybe I could learn more. So I asked Rasa how it came about and if more hardcover editions of Robert Anton Wilson's titles were in the works. Here's what he told me: 

"We might offer hardcover editions of other titles, but this was an unexpected offer from Ingram that made this release possible. We are busy with other projects, but Ingram offered to do some of the leg work if we would publish the best selling book from our catalog, Prometheus Rising. We know that’s one book that people often go back to, to do the exercises or to just re-read, so making a hardcover seemed like a cool idea. We’ll keep you posted on future plans."

Thursday, May 2, 2024

New hardcover edition of 'Prometheus Rising'

Hilaritas Press has just announced that a hardcover edition of Prometheus Rising is now available, from the usual book channel, such as this one.  RAW fans can still get a paperback, audiobook or ebook, but this is now an additional option. The above video, only about half a minute long, aims to offer an idea of what you'll be getting.

If you check out the video and look closely, you'll see copy on the flaps on the book jacket. Rasa explains:

"On the inside flaps of the new hardcover's jacket is a bit of text from Cosmic Trigger II. In his description of the 8 Circuits, RAW used the same placement of Circuits 6 & 7 that he used in Prometheus Rising. That differs from Tim Leary's version, but it should be noted that Leary said Bob's Prometheus Rising description of the circuits was better than his. See the Hilaritas Press's edition for an afterword that goes into that issue in detail. 

"Here's the text from Cosmic Trigger II that we added to the new hardcover's inside flaps."

 • • •

Circuits 1 to 4

Leary distinguishes eight types of intelligence. The first four are:

Bio-Survival Intelligence: seems mostly genetic and tells an animal or human how to find the nourishing and “supportive” and how to avoid the predatory or toxic.

Emotional-Territorial Intelligence: tells an animal how to read the body-language of another animal and know what the other animal is feeling (and, hence, what it will probably do next.) 

Semantic Intelligence: is based on genetic potential and early imprints but mostly is learned slowly, over years, from peers and instructors. It allows us to understand one or two symbol systems (or even several if we are clever) and perhaps to create a symbol-system of our own, sometimes.

Socio-Sexual Intelligence: allows us to manage our social and sexual relations in ways that keep us reasonably happy or at least out of jail.

Circuits 5 to 8 

Leary’s other four types of intelligence, which are rare in our society, are: 

Neurosomatic Intelligence: the “wisdom of the body” holistic physicians talk about;

Neurogenetic Intelligence: access to the “collective unconscious” or “species mind” where archetypes like the inward-turning spiral or King Kong are stored and, when activated, trigger leaps of intuition; 

Metaprogramming Intelligence: the capacity to turn on and tune in to each type of intelligence as needed; and

Non-Local Intelligence: which enables one to endure “mystical” experiences without coming out of them as a raving loony.

This description of the Eight Circuits of Intelligence, aka, the Eight-Circuit Model of Consciousness comes from Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

John Higgs book news: The KLF and the Leary bio

Cover for the new American edition of John Higgs' biography of Timothy Leary. 

Some welcome book news from John Higgs in the latest newsletter: Two of his books of most direct interest to Robert Anton Wilson fans are about to finally be published in the U.S.

As I reported earlier, The KLF finally is going to be published in the U.S. and Canada. Quite a lot about Robert Anton Wilson in the book; it's a really weird and a really interesting book, even if you aren't particularly a KLF fan.

"I’m delighted to report that it will be published by Blackstone on 9th July, in paperback, ebook, and as an audiobook, read by me," John writes. "This is the original text, incidentally, not the 10th anniversary UK edition with the meta-commentary. That would be too bewildering for a book in its first printing. It is the ideal version for forcing on people with no interest in The KLF but who really need to read it nontheless." Here is the pre-order link.

"Not only that, but my first book I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary is also going to be republished in the US, thanks to Open Road. It will be available in print, ebook and audiobook, again read by me, from July 30th." No preorder link yet, but it should be up soon, he says. 

John also recommends a must-see play in London, "This Is Memorial Device," based on a David Keenan novel. He also reports that two Beatles podcasts are ending and discusses his Dr. Who book.