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

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Scholars conspire to hold Miami academic conference

Jesse Walker, presenting his paper at a conspiracy theory conference. (Facebook photo). 

Jesse Walker has a report on Reason magazine's website, "This Just In: Conspiracy Theorists Not Quite as Kooky as Previously Reported," which debunks many of the "facts" that people believe about conspiracy theories.  For example, there's little basis for thinking that right wingers traffic in conspiracy theories more than anyone else does.

Jesse's piece is a report on the second International Conspiracy Theory Symposium, held a few days ago at the University of Miami. Here is one highlight:

"My favorite paper of the weekend was 'Presencing, Immersion, & Community,' in which T. Kenny Fountain and Chandler Jennings of the University of Virginia examined conspiracy theories through the lens of religious studies. Conspiracy beliefs, they argued, can resemble 'religious and aesthetic experiences often valued as meaningful and even pleasurable,' making conspiracism 'more contiguous with ordinary experience than the literature often suggests.'

"Much of their paper draws on the thinking of Tanya Luhrmann, an anthropologist whose work explores, in Fountain and Jennings's words, 'the processes by which invisible spirits or gods become tangibly real to religious believers.' This is not just an individual process, they note, but a social one: Believers develop a paracosm—a 'private-but-shared imaginative world.' And while a conspiracy belief is not the same thing as a spiritual belief, a similar process can be seen in conspiracist communities. Indeed, it can be seen among all sorts of groups built around immersive experiences, from literary storyworlds to video games."

And here's an interesting bit: Jesse is working on a history paper called ""The Great Groomer Panic of 1968–70: Birchers, Discordians, and the Sex Ed Wars," which he will "publish eventually." When it becomes publicly available I will share the link, as it is very interesting. 

Now, I have a challenge for readers of this blog: What is the obvious omission in Jesse's article? Is there a conspiracy behind it? My answer in the comments!

Monday, March 27, 2023

Notes on 'Love and Let Die'


I really meant to do quite a bit of writing this weekend, but I just could not stop reading John Higgs' Love and Let Die, his book about the Beatles and James Bond. I've read many books about the Beatles over the years, but John's is the best. 

I don't have time to write a full review, but a couple of notes for the sort of people who likely read this blog:

Robert Anton Wilson is mentioned once, late in the book, in a section where Higgs discusses Wilson's notions of neophilia and neophobic. "The Beatles were a classic example of a group of neophiliacs," Higgs writes. The book has an index, but strangely, RAW's name is omitted from it.

Most serious Beatles fans will know that the lyrics of two Beatles songs written by John Lennon were related to Timothy Leary: "Tomorrow Never Knows" has a lyric derived from  The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner, and "Come Together" originally began as an intended campaign song for Timothy Leary's run for governor of California.

But I was surprised to find out about Leary's influence on "All Things Must Pass," the title song of George Harrison's acclaimed solo album, and a song that, like many of the songs on the album, were written while Harrison was still a Beatle. Higgs says the lyrics for "All Things Must Pass" are largely taken from Leary's translation of the Tao Te Ching. Sad to say, but Harrison really was kind of a plagiarist for some of his songs. The details about "He's So Fine/My Sweet Lord" are kind of shocking; I had just assumed Harrison vaguely remembered the song from when he was young, but Harrison's plagiarism actually apparently was intentional.  

Here is Tyler Cowen's review. 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

New Discordian zine


News from Bobby Campbell on Twitter: "Check out Disco Rd 2! A wonderful Discordian zine put together by  @Leigh_Wright_. Featuring all sorts of glorious chaos, including a bit of my own." 

Bobby's art is depicted above. Here is the download link for the 23 page zine.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Steve Pratt releases 'Deep Scratch Remix'

Steve Pratt has released Deep Scratch Remix, his book examining the effects of AI and technology on creativity, and also has released the companion music album. 

Blurb for the book:

"In the face of the ever-growing capabilities of language models, generative AI, and the ability to convert text to images, code, music, and video (and vice versa), one must ask: what is art now? Is it any good? If I experiment with these tools will my reputation be scrambled?

"In 2023, the effects of large language models on cognitive and technological processes are being felt by us all, creeping out from TV news headlines and a flurry of articles, plus the masses of output itself. Artists, musicians, and DJs have experienced the negative impacts of digital tech innovation and regulation (or deregulation) over the past 30 years, and LLMs are like jet fuel to the fire. A large portion of illustrators, painters, digital visual artists, and writers are already feeling the financial repercussions of being replaced by those who do not value the original creators so much, some of whom are my good friends and associates. Digital advertisements, populist political mudslinging, and the wasteland of un-social media are quick to adopt cheaper, automated solutions. They’ve been going down this route for over 25 years."

Steve has a website for both projects. You can listen to the album at the Bandcamp link, but I also have  embedded it, above, so you can check it out.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Nov. 7 publication date announced for RAW biography

Illustration from Prop Anon's email newsletter. The cover of the new book has not been revealed yet. 

The new biography of Robert Anton Wilson has a publication date, and it's this fall.

Chapel Perilous The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson by Gabriel Kennedy (e.g. Prop Anon) will be out on Nov. 7, MIT Press announced. The 304 page book will have 12 color illustrations and 24 black and white illustrations, and will include a foreword by Grant Morrison and an introduction by Douglas Rushkoff. The cover has not been revealed yet. The book will be published by Strange Attractor/MIT Press. Prop/Gabriel writes, in his email newsletter:

"I am very proud of this book. I think that it will help forward the burgeoning “RAW Studies” scene that has developed since Wilson’s death in 2007. I scoured a litany of special collections archives, conducted a ton of interviews, and took deep dives into the trenches of research libraries, with the help of many independent scholars, while writing this book. During this time, I was also given a grand tour of my own Chapel Perilous while the world also fell into this perilous chapel from which we all have not yet risen. I hope this biography of RAW, a man who faced down the horrors of Chapel Perilous and came out the other side a better person, can help others do the same when confronted by the abyss. Mostly I think Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson will appeal to those who’ve never heard of RAW before and wanna read a great story about an exciting artist as much as it will satisfy the RAW fanatic who already knows a lot about his philosophy and wants to know more.

"Buy the ticket! Take a trip! Down the murky realms to Chapel Perilous!

"Pre-Order Here!"

Pre orders also are available at Amazon and other book outlets. 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

New Hilaritas podcast: Eric Wagner on Ezra Pound

The new Hilaritas Press podcast, released today, features guest Eric Wagner discussing a key influence on Robert Anton Wklson: The poet Ezra Pound. Mike Gathers returns as host. As usual, the official site for the podcast has links for more information. This is a topic Eric knows a lot about, and I expect to be listening soon. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Who's your favorite Beatle? Your favorite Bond?

Yes, I know I am the only sentient creature in the Milky Way Galaxy who likes this album. 

Freed finally from having to read books nominated for the Prometheus Award (I'm one of the nominating judges), I have now begun to read other books, such as John Higgs' Love and Let Die, his book about the Beatles and James Bond. The first Bond movie and the first Beatles record ("Love Me Do") were both released on Oct. 5, 1962.

Of course, the Illuminatus! trilogy reflects the impact of Bond and the band from Liverpool. The character of Fission Chips is an obvious Bond parody, and Hagbard Celine is the captain of a golden submarine, just like the song. 

For many years (and I don't know if John talks about this, I'm not very far into the book), people have been asked to name their favorite actor portraying Bond and their favorite Beatle. There is naturally debate over the best Bond film and the best Beatles record. Here are my picks. 

My favorite Bond is Roger Moore. Perhaps this is related to his Bond movies coming out when I was a teenager, but I liked the tongue in cheek approach he took to the role. But my favorite Bond movie is You Only Live Twice. My favorite Bond villain is Christopher Walken, in A View to a Kill. My favorite Bond theme song is "Live and Let Die." 

I have changed my favorite Beatle over the years. As a teen, I liked George Harrison, perhaps because I viewed him as an underdog and because I thought All Things Must Pass was better than the other early Beatles solo albums. I then decided John Lennon was the interesting one. I finally settled on Paul McCartney, as it became more obvious to me he was the top musical force in the Beatles. I also thought he seemed more like an adult family man, and he was obviously the one former Beatle who worked the hardest as a solo artist to make music and explore his talents as widely as possible. 

My favorite Beatles album is Revolver. I mostly listen to Paul McCartney via a playlist of my favorites, but if I have to pick a favorite album, it would be a dark horse, Red Rose Speedway. Yes, I know nobody else likes it. I also like Electric Arguments

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

New edition of John Higgs' KLF book: Another sheep and more words

Cover for the new edition

 In his latest newsletter, John Higgs announces a new edition of The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds, which came out in 2013. It's the Higgs book of particular interest to Robert Anton Wilson fans. Here is something I wrote about the book in 2012:

"It's strange to say that a book about a British pop group is one of the best short introductions to the work of Robert Anton Wilson, but it's also true. JMR Higgs' KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money discusses the group but puts it in the context of the band's biggest influence, the Illuminatus! trilogy and Robert Anton Wilson.

"So it's a pop biography that has lucid explanations of reality tunnels, model agnosticism and Discordian philosophy. I also learned about the history of Ken Campbell's stage production of Illuminatus!"

You don't have to be a KLF fan to enjoy the book. 

Here is John's announcement about the new edition, only available in hardcover and coming out in July:

"The ‘new material’ mentioned on the cover is a 13,000 word author’s commentary, which takes the form of footnotes spread throughout the book. In these new footnotes I look back on the text after ten years to see what I make of it now. It’s kind of like a director’s commentary on a DVD, but in book form. Hence the second sheep on the book cover. The same big old sheep as before is still up there at the top of the page, unchanged, but there is now a new little lamb underneath, acting as a sheep represention of the footnotes.

"This new edition is a big handsome hardback. The book has gone from being a self-published ebook, to a paperback, to a hardback. It’s the life cycle of a typical book, but entirely the wrong way around. This seems somehow fitting, given the subject matter. One pleasing thing about it being a hardback is that the list price of the book is now… £23."

More at the link, including links to preorder. The new hardcover-only edition will only be published in Britain. (When I asked about this on Twitter, John replied, "Sorry Tom, US publishers still seem to think that the American public have no interest in a book about the KLF.") And note that "hardcover only" means just that: No cheaper ebook. 

Of course, books published in Britain can easily be ordered and shipped to the U.S. I've had good results with the Book Depository, an online British bookstore that has free shipping. 

My 2012 interview with John about the book is still interesting. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

New audio release from Antero Alli [UPDATED]


Filmmaker, author and (it turns out) musician Antero Alli, currently dealing with advanced cancer, is busy releasing new works.

The Discordian Salon, just released, is available as a CD or a digital download.  It includes stories about meeting Robert Anton Wilson, but that's not the only feature of the recording. Here is a description:

"The Discordian Salon opens with ‘Companions of the Flame’, a siren call from The Haunting Songs (featuring Antero on guitar, and Sylvi Alli on vocals, piano, accordion and lyrics). You’ll hear Antero’s rare Experimental Piano Solos (performed in the dark as blind improvisations), and his Spoken Word Performance Poetry. Join him at the mysterious Illuminati gathering in The Cosmic Trigger Effect hosted by Robert Anton Wilson. Here Antero sees a UFO, meets Greg Hill (author of Principia Discordia), and learns how to play Five-Card Katma with his unpublished Discordian Tarot deck.

"It features Antero’s first ever public recording of his solo piano experiments, something he’s kept private for over fifty years. Asked why he plays in the dark: ‘I only want to play what I’m feeling, and seeing the keys gets in the way.' Asked why he’s kept them private (until now): ‘I’ve had so much of my work exposed and consumed by the public, I needed a sanctuary from the world, a dimension outside of time and space, and my music gives me that.’ "

In more news, it turns out that Last Words, issued in January, will not be Alli's final book after all. Sacred Rites: Journal Entries of a Gnostic Heretic is listed as "coming soon" by Original Falcon Press. Announcement on Twitter: "COMING SOON! "Sacred Rites: Journal Entries of a Gnostic Heretic" -- my next and final book. Documenting  eighteen years of ParaTheatrical ReSearch through my private ritual journals and twelve of those who have trained with me."

You can get the latest news at Antero Alli's Twitter account, and see the official web page for more news, including a March 26 film screening in Portland. 

UPDATE: I would not ordinarily ask for this, but if you are on Twitter, would you please RT Antero Alli's announcement on Twitter, and maybe also the @RAWilson23 posting on Twitter? For obvious reasons, I want Mr. Alli to benefit from the attention to the new release and the upcoming book while he can. (I don't actually know him, he's kind of a friend of friends, but it seems the right thing to do). I will try to spread the word on Facebook. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

An upcoming interview (or 'interview') with Jonathan Swift

While there is work being done on the "longevity" and "space migration" parts of SMI2LE, the Timothy Leary formula for a future that features longer human lifespans, intelligence increase and space migration, it seems to be the intelligence increase part that seems to be advancing rapidly, in the form of artificial intelligence.

Jonathan Swift was one of Robert Anton Wilson's favorite authors. If I remember correctly, when RAW was living in Ireland, he made a point of reading all of Swift's work. 

Now blogger and economics professor Tyler Cowen has announced he plans to interview an AI version of Jonathan Swift as part of his "Conversations with Tyler" interview series. I don't know how well the interview will turn out, but certainly we live in interesting times. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Did Heinlein invent TANSTAAFL?

The paperback edition of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress I read as a teenager. 

The acronym TANSTAAFL — "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" — features in Robert Heinlein's classic libertarian science fiction novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which won both the Hugo Award and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Robert Anton Wilson referenced the phrase in his Schrödinger's Cat trilogy. Wikipedia explains,

" 'Tanstagi', an acronym standing for 'There Ain't No Such Thing As Government Interference', is the motto of the Invisible Hand Society, an originally fictional organization invented in the Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy. The acronym was deliberately intended as a reference to Robert A. Heinlein's TANSTAAFL principle.

"The Tanstagi principle is meant to imply that the invisible hand of the free market applies to government as well. In other words, contrary to traditional ideas of laissez-faire capitalism, government interference in the free market is impossible, since governments are inextricably a part of the market as a whole. 'Government' is not a separate institution—it is a word used to describe the actions of a large number of individuals subject to the same (at least qualitatively) pressures as everyone else. Both of these ideas are part of what is known as 'economic Taoism.'

"While it was first introduced in a novel, people claiming to be members or know of chapters of the Invisible Hand Society have occasionally appeared in editorial pages and on the Internet." 

As many of you likely known, the phrase "invisible hand" was made famous by Adam Smith

But did Heinlein come up with the phrase behind the acronym TANSTAAFL? Apparently not, according to a blog post, "Who Said TANSTAAFL First?", published by David Boaz at Cato at Liberty, the blog of the Cato Institute.

Boaz credits Heinlein with popularizing the phrase — "I’d say that Heinlein’s book generated the buttons and bumper stickers produced by the early libertarian activists" — but says research shows Heinlein did not originate it. 

Noting that the phrase also has been attributed to Milton Friedman, Boaz notes that the Quote Investigator has traced the phrase "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" back to a 1938 newspaper article titled “Economics in Eight Words.”   Evidence suggests the unsigned piece was written by Walter Morrow, editor‐​in‐​chief of The Southwestern Group of Scripps‐​Howard Newspapers, Boaz says.

"Heinlein just might have read one of the 1938 newspapers in which the 'Eight Words' article appeared," Boaz suggests. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

A really good short video on 'Illuminatus!'


I have featured  @amoebadesign videos on Illuminatus! before, but I do not remember seeing this one  recently posted on Twitter. Take a couple of minutes and watch.

More here. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Hilaritas releases 'The Walls Came Tumbling Down'

Hilaritas Press has released its new edition of The Walls Came Tumbling Down, Robert Anton Wilson's screenplay, and as usual there are extras to reward RAW fans for buying the new edition. Here is the announcement from Rasa: 

"This month Hilaritas Press has published the new edition of RAW's The Walls Came Tumbling Down, a mind-bending screenplay that seems fitting for our bizarre times. We have also included in this edition a foreword by Gregory Arnott, an enlightening story about "tumbling" from Bobby Campbell, and we were delighted that Alan Moore gave us permission to publish his eulogy for Robert Anton Wilson that he delivered at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, March 2007. Once again, Scott McPherson from amoeba created a dazzling new cover using a special 3D graphic technique called clayrendering.

[Gregory often has written for this blog under the name Apuleius Charlton].

"And now, a lovely excerpt from Alan Moore's eulogy...

“Robert Anton Wilson limped out through the wall into the fire, into the simultaneous party of eternity, into the splendid, timeless funfair of a life that he has somehow managed to survive with thirty-five books weaving his ideas in their spectacular diversity, weaving his luminescent consciousness into the intellectual DNA of our painfully slow-developing society and dancing somewhere with his wife, back when he could still dance and she was still alive...” – Alan Moore, author, occultist, and anarchist

I've already bought my copy; it's one of the few RAW books I haven't read.